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Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Rather than being "unheralded," you might call Nancy Edmonds Hanson "reforumed." The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead hired her at 17, “launching the shyest teenager in all of darkest North Dakota on nearly 50 years of writing adventures.” She covered news and features there and wrote columns for most of the next 10 years. Since then, she's written, edited, advised, marketed and taught all over the place. Her work has turned up in North Dakota Horizons and many other magazines over the years, along with bookstores, where her guide to freelance writing was a long-term best-seller (among the fraction of bookbuyers who want to write); the regional book publishing and distribution business; public television; countless anonymous advertising and public relations venues, and — for nearly 25 years — in the classrooms of Minnesota State University Moorhead's School of Communications and Journalism. She's also a bona fide Photoshop wizard, has a photographer husband and chef daughter and is crazy about cats.

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Changing The Course

Does it seem that we’ve been fighting floods forever? Pretty close. Residents along the Red River have been wrangling Mother Nature every 10 or 15 years since settlement began. Inevitably, Mother seems to have the upper hand.

In between flood emergencies, we generally turn on each other. Fargo-Moorhead and its neighbors have been sharing vastly divergent opinions of the F-M Diversion Project for fully 10 years. Sometimes it seems as if the bickering will never end … can never be fully resolved. No local issue has ever drawn in more head-butting stakeholders — town and country, businesses and homeowners, two cities, two counties, two states and the Feds — or attempted to temper more sizzling degrees of personal and civic self-interest.

Yet the record does show it can be done. Victory has been achieved before … and by nearly the same cast of impassioned characters.

Sixty years ago, draglines finally attacked the course of the tangled river and straightened out at least a few of its legendary kinks. In 1959, Fargo-Moorhead tackled the issue of containing the Red’s epic rampage in a victory that holds some lessons — and some hope.

The Red has been soaking Fargo-Moorhead’s feet ever since the cities’ sketchy, sweaty birth in 1871. By 1882, they were fighting the first of the floods that arrived like clockwork through World War I. After taking a break in the Dirty Thirties, the sluggish river returned with a vengeance in 1943. St. John’s Hospital (now Prairie St. John’s) stood on the bank of an oxbow that reached to Fargo’s Fourth Street; it had to be evacuated.

The river’s path was different then. South of Main Avenue, it took a lazy westward loop from its current course to the edge of Island Park, then back to Second Street. A generous finger of Minnesota pointed straight to the brand-new F-M Community Theater on Fourth Street South.

To no one’s surprise, epic floodwaters returned in 1950 and again in 1952. Streets ran deep on both sides of the river, reaching 5 feet on Broadway. Water stood hip-high on the main floor of Dommer’s Boathouse near Fourth Avenue Southwest in Moorhead, the beloved spot where fun seekers had been renting boats and canoes for decades to enjoy the river’s calmer moments. Hundreds of homes and business were swamped. Utilities were damaged and destroyed. The cost to both cities was enormous.

The soggy cities dreamed of a solution. Though their physical footprint was a fraction of today’s (Fargo with 38,256 people and Moorhead, 14,870) and embraced a far shorter stretch of river, temporary dikes didn’t do the trick. Yet no one could see the way to salvation. Ideas were tossed out, like scrapping St. John’s Hospital (which had had to be evacuated) and rebuilding on higher ground. Then they were systematically shot down — impossible, impractical, unaffordable.

At last, frustrated city fathers spotted a glimmer of light in Washington, where in 1950, the Disaster Relief Act empowered the Federal Emergency Management Agency — FEMA — to help deal with flooding. The two cities, which been fighting alone, spotted an ally. As the clean-up began in 1952, Mayor Murray Baldwin and the City Commission appointed a committee to work with the Army Corps of Engineers. It submitted its plan just a year later. The goal: to straighten out the critical snarl in the river that inundated downtown and speed the water on its way north.

And the outcry was instantly ferocious. Almost six dozen occupied homes would have to be demolished on both sides of the river, along with businesses and facilities dating back to the steamboat days.

Moorhead feared the more easterly channel, bounded by an enormous permanent levee on the Fargo side, would back up water onto its dependably higher, drier ground. City leaders fretted that downstream landowners would sue them if the amended flow of floodwaters caused damage to their farms. The beloved boathouse and swimming hole would have to go. Even the proto-environmentalists of the day had their say, decrying the removal of 200 trees from the riverbank.

But flood-control proponents persisted through six years of often-heated squabbling. The break finally came in 1959, when the recalcitrant North Dakota Legislature passed a measure specifically permitting Moorhead to sue the city of Fargo for any damages that might ensue.

By July, Fargo Mayor Herschel Lashkowitz would preside over the draglines that dug a new, straighter channel about a quarter-mile east of what had been Minnesota’s western border. They worked through the summer. At the end of October, the river’s flow was permanently diverted into its new pathway, and the blip of age-old former riverbed went dry.

Grandparents among us today still remember the sight: a mucky, barren depression punctuated by the old dam. Crowds gathered to see what they could see — submerged skeletons, perhaps? Submerged treasure? A stolen safe had been long rumored to be ditched down below. Police investigated, just in case. But to thrill-seekers’ disappointment, they spotted nothing but a rusty bicycle and a few corroded oil drums.

Meanwhile, the Corps also dealt with less controversial obstacles north of the Veterans Administration. One of three small adjacent oxbows was eliminated outright with crosswise excavation. The other two were fitted with weir dams that permit normal flow from day to day but divert high water to a straighter, broader path.

But besting Mother Nature by epic engineering wasn’t the end of the story then, as it hasn’t yet been today. By straightening the rerouted the Red River — the historic border between two states — 22.5 acres of what was still legally Minnesota was marooned on the wrong side. Not until the U.S. Congress approved an interstate compact in 1962 did the boundary shift east to the new riverbank.

Clay County’s loss was the city of Fargo’s gain. Remember that … and thank the North Star State next time your children sled on the Dike East or you park your car in the big lot east of the Stage at Island Park.

Sixty years ago, we won one. Two cities, two states and the federal government succeeded in not only taming a fraction of Mother Nature’s power, but untangling their competing interests long enough to redraw the map. Odds are, we can do it again.

(Thanks to archivist Mark Peihl of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County and author Terry Shoptaugh, author of Red River Floods, for the research on which this is based.)

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Hello? Hello? Is Someone Listening?

Of all things, Russ and I were talking about bath mats. I’d just taken a shower downstairs, and I’d noticed that the mundane incumbent — already bearing the stains of years of feline hairball disposal — had begun shedding bits of fuzz and flakes of latex all over the tile floor. A trip to Target seemed to be in order soon.

When I logged into Facebook the next morning, the first thing I saw was an Amazon ad. For a bath mat. Not just any bath mat — the precise unusual shape the room required, in the perfect color and even the fiber content I had in mind.

Cue the music from “The Twilight Zone”!

We all know by now the World Wide Web tabulates nuggets of data from every move we make online … the sites we visit, the purveyors we follow, the people and events we mention, the answers we search for on everything from air fryers to eczema. But is someone listening, too?

Until last night, shopping for a new bath mat had honestly never crossed my mind — not in what we naively consider real life nor via Wi-Fi. I have never googled anything of the sort. I have never even typed those two words together until now — not in either email or a text. Bath mats just don’t seem to generate much conversation.

And no, we do not have Alexa or another so-called “personal assistant” device hanging on every word that’s uttered in our household. I’m even pretty sure our venerable microwave oven is too elderly to overhear us.

So … where did that ad come from? I’ve had the creepy feeling ever since that someone or something is eavesdropping on every word. Tin foil hats are not really my style. Otherwise, though, rational explanation of this cosmic-level coincidence eludes me. Tell me this: How many ads for unusually shaped off-white bath rugs have you noticed lately in your own newsfeed?

What next? First, of course, I ordered that perfect bath mat.

Then I resolved to never again think out loud about the bathroom.

When I shared this odd little story with several friends, they began showering me with their own weird synchronicities. We could explain many. Not all, though.

By now, everyone who’s even marginally tech-savvy has gotten used to seeing ads for books or music or shoes we’ve perused online pop up wherever we go next. We understand, at least vaguely, how Big Data and artificial intelligence logarithms enable the stalking. We’ve made peace with marketers gleaning sometimes-uncanny insights from our googling and browsing.

Click once; be tracked forever. We get it! If you’ve ever clicked on, say, a cat-lover’s T-shirt but dropped out before the “buy” button … you know for sure it’ll dog your cyber footsteps like a forlorn puppy.

Marketers are simply thrilled. “Artificial intelligence and marketing will make strides together,” one industry report crows happily. It goes on: “In 2017, marketing platforms collected and stored information such as site usage, browsing patterns, search history and content preferences to create customer profiles and behavior marketing strategies that help marketers create custom messages to address these prospects.” (It doesn’t mention if that data documents whether you prefer showers or baths. Yet.)

It doesn’t take an Alexa to pry open the doors of your private life. Our devilish devices already watch and listen to us. Smartphones are little tattletales. Next time you install an app, actually read the permissions before you hit “agree”: Chances are you’re giving it access to everything but your underwear drawer.

A year or so ago, tech experts revealed many so-called “smart TVs” — the kind that “learn” your voice, the better to respond to spoken commands — are always listening, even when you think they sleep. The recordings go … somewhere. A.I. is studying your speech, theoretically to serve you even better when you’re too lazy to reach for the remote to change the channel. While distant humans are almost certainly not listening to desultory conversation in your family room right now or spying on TVs that support Skype with their tiny cameras … they could.

Creepy? That seems to depend on your generation. To the majority of 20-something, the tech is amazing and cool. Digital since birth, they argue, “What’s not to like? It makes life easier.”

Some of us, though, are old enough to remember when pulling the shades and closing the front door guaranteed privacy. For us, it’s simply hair-raising. Self-aware gadgets so skilled at watching and listing drive shivers deep into the soul of anyone who remembers George Orwell’s “1984.” In that classic novel of a dystopian future ruled by Big Brother, the protagonist hides from the sinister “telescreens” that monitor him, even in his abode. Orwell wrote his prescient book in 1949, when TVs were still dumb little convex tubes inside huge cabinets with rabbit ears sticking up on top. Who (but he) ever dreamed they’d someday watch us back?

Paranoid? Perhaps. So let’s test it. A friend suggested we discuss the weirdest random topic we could imagine in front of my phone. How about old-time potato mashers? You’d be surprised how much we found to say about smashing boiled Russets. She even shared her mother’s favorite trick for getting them lump-free and creamy — squeezing the spuds through a potato ricer.

The next morning, several ads were featured on my smartphone, just like any other day … but with a difference. No, the kind of grandma-style hand masher we’d reminisced about wasn’t among them. But what did show up? A handheld appliance called the Dash Masha … and an electric rice cooker.

Close enough? I think so. Keep it to yourself.

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Turning Up The Heat

At a time when there’s so much to worry about — global war, the long-range forecast, the coming shortage of citrus fruit — it seems almost silly to mention the one threat that causes us most to get hot under the collar.

But here is it: the thermostat.

As outdoor temperatures crashed this week, the Hansons’ silent battle for the perfect indoor climate heated up all over again. Not since the heat of last summer has control of our indoor environment caused such serious discord at our normally serene address. But, once again, modern technology and the surreptitious urge to dominate have now brought us to the edge of passive-aggressive Armageddon.

Ground Zero is the dimly lit hallway where the thermostat quietly resides. It’s out of sight from every other corner. Yet whenever Russ or I come near, the whole house begins to sizzle or shiver from guerilla attacks to enforce our very different notions of the ideal indoor habitat.

You could say the difference is just a matter of degree. Russ regards the great indoors as an extension of his body temp. When he comes inside, chilled after hours of fiddling with the timer on the porch lights, he’s no sooner taken off his gloves than he dials up the thermostat to warm his frigid bones.

Like many human males, he considers the furnace as a sort of full-body electric blanket. This differs just a tad from his wife’s position — that our indoor environment is a giant, energy-sucking black hole into which we pour our monthly tithe to Moorhead Public Service.

I attribute our differences to the way that we were raised. He grew up in urban Bismarck-Mandan, where MDU piped natural gas, sight unseen, straight into his childhood domicile. I, on the other hand, learned the ways of the world one floor above the family coal bin.

If you, too, grew up in a house heated by coal, you remember the roar of a ton of dusty black bituminous tumbling down the chute to the basement. There it waited, dark and sulfurous, for Dad’s periodic trips into the stone-walled cellar to feed the roaring beast — the coal furnace, where the flames of hell danced and leaped behind the little glass porthole in the door.

The mere notion of a wall-mounted dial to control the heat was as space-agey as the Jetsons. If December winds rattled the single-paned windows on the northwest side of the house, he trekked into the shadowy cellar to stoke the fire and feed it shovelfuls of black chunks, ranging from the size of your head to the dust in the bottom of your pockets. He’d fish out the burned-out clinkers, still aglow, with long-handled tongs. At bedtime, he’d make a last trip to bank the fire and throttle the oxygen that fed it … then stir it up at dawn.

More sophisticated systems employed the flames to heat water in a boiler, which then circulated through radiators strategically stationed throughout the house. Radiators were a wonder: a modern convenience on which both snowy mittens and dampened dishtowels would dry in a flash, and which warmed many a chilled young backside fresh from a frigid sledding expedition.

Our house wasn’t that ultramodern. Instead, our coal furnace relied on the most basic of scientific verities: Heat rises. The coal-fired warmth rose through a register on the main floor, then continued upward to where the chilly bedrooms waited. No sissy thermostats reined in the scorching heat of a freshly fed fire or spurred the furnace to accelerate all on its own. Nor did the firepit let us forget its contributions. A backdraft of smoke, a dusting of soot, the vague perfume of sulfur — all reminded us from time to time of just who, or what, kept the North Country’s fierce wolfish winds at bay.

Childhood taught me climate control was very much a manual art. Too hot? Sit farther from the register. Too cold? Put on a sweater. They were the same hardy lessons that Laura Ingalls Wilder had written about scores of years before, still prevailing in the 1950s in our own little house on the prairie.

Today’s environmental give-and-take relies more on psychology than on the conscious effort of days of yore. At our house, it usually takes the form of guerilla incursions on the thermostat. Rather than adding or subtracting a layer of clothing, personal comfort too often relies on sidling past the dial, all innocent, and giving it an unannounced tweak.

If I hear the fan lurch up to speed, I can calculate Russ’s whereabouts with some precision. He’d tell you that he knows who’s been afoot when he spots ice forming on the kitties’ water dish.

Our seasonal psychological warfare generally lasts until the annual spring armistice. But it’s to no one’s real surprise that incursions resume as the mercury rises in midsummer. Then, though, it’s the sweaty husband who twirls the frosty thermostat ever lower … and the cold-hearted, cost-conscious wife who’s guaranteed to get hot under the collar.

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

Exactly 50 years ago, a new woman sat down in my spot at the family Thanksgiving table.

The stranger bore a vague resemblance to the chair’s previous occupant. She answered to the same name, took the same heaping helping of the same green bean casserole and knew where to put the roaster when she helped clean up after dinner.

While her appetite was about the same, her attitude was enormous. The achingly shy bookworm whom the family had packed off to Fargo-Moorhead 10 weeks before had seemingly shape-shifted to an altogether different species. Five decades later, she would realize they’d have traded this one to get their old daughter back in a New York minute.

But it certainly wasn’t New York. Home was still the same tiny hamlet in darkest North Dakota where she’d graduated from high school six brief months before. Yet their daughter, v.2, wasn’t the same one they remembered.

Have you, by chance, sent your own fledglings off to college in recent times? Are they coming home from a distant campus for Thanksgiving? Bank the homefires and batten the hatches! That first big family get-together after they’ve unfurled their wings is bound to blow up with a flap or two. You may think you know your kids so well … but guess who’s coming to dinner?

On Thanksgiving 1967, the dutiful 17-year-old who’d sewn her own tidy pastel cotton frock the night before graduation came home in bellbottom denims, fringe and beads, dragging otherworldly LPs to tide her over. Sedate and deferential when her parents sent her out into the world, she returned for the holiday weekend louder, revved up, spoiling for debates and virtually bursting with all the confidence and grass-green wisdom only three scant months on a college campus can impart.

Now that she’d seen the world (Moorhead, at least), her eyes had been opened to all the planet’s miseries and triumphs, contradictions and intellectual shocks. The self-styled scholar headed home eager to share her thoughts on absolutely all of it … a firestorm of newly formed opinions unlike any ever hinted at in that household.

If you’d been at that dinner, along with Grandma, Auntie Irene, Uncle Oscar and her bemused little brother, you, too, could have been battered at length by all she suddenly knew about … well, pretty much everything. The quaint, cozy slipcovers of humdrum home and family had finally been lifted from her eyes. Fresh from one quarter of History 101 and Basic Philosophy, she was personally thrilled with the vast new insights she possessed, and she couldn’t wait to enlighten all the dear simple folk she’d left behind in the hinterland.

The college girl’s parents would have put it rather differently: “Uff da! This kid thinks she knows everything!”

Grandma sadly shook her head but commented only on the hair the fledgling was growing out as fast as she could force it from her scalp. “Your poor hair,” she commiserated vaguely, and added, “You would look so much better with a normal hairdo,” patting her hairnetted steel-blue coif.

The collegiate escaped the fam the next night to meet up with a gaggle of classmates temporarily on leave from the Real World there in the hinterlands. Oddly, they’d changed, too. They all talked more. Boone’s Farm Apple and Strawberry Hill were prominently displayed in a neighbor’s rec room, along with exotic fare like taco chips. For so many who’d been barely hatched into the world, they were eager to reminisce about of the “old days” of their youth, while comparing tales of derring-do in the far-off Big City — Grand Forks, perhaps, or Valley City, Ellendale or Fargo-Moorhead.

Thanksgiving is famous for twanging family tensions, where friction between youthful all-knowing offspring rubs awkwardly against parents’ innocent assumption that they’re still in charge. If you haven’t seen your own little whippersnapper since you dropped him off at freshman orientation, it’s best to practice deep, calming breaths. Those familiar-looking aliens who’ll soon drag duffels of dirty laundry through your front door are going to face a shock or two themselves.

“Our house had gotten so much smaller,” our daughter recalls of her first Thanksgiving at home. “And you and Dad were … not as big as I remembered.”

Fresh from her campus in the Twin Cities, she remembers Fargo-Moorhead looking quaintly droll — pretty much as desolate as my old stomping grounds did back in 1967. “Everything was slower. Drivers had forgotten how to use turn signals, and everybody mostly looked alike.”

She points out, “I remember how pissed you were when I went out with my high school friends the next night and stayed out really late.” Darn right. When preferred to hobnob with her far-flung crew, all fascinated by sizing up how each had changed, than sitting on the couch reminiscing with Mom and Dad. She spent the remainder of her weekend doing what all college students apparently whenever they go home — sleeping soundly in her old bed.

On Thursday, if you secretly fear college has turned your kids into puffed-up know-it-alls, be reassured. Given the next four years of exposure to the universe of knowledge left to absorb, and realizing what a scant fraction they’ve mastered, their heads will eventually deflate. Humility will reclaim the upper hand. Remember, please, that — when you trekked home from school to tackle the ritual roast turkey — your parents thought the same of you. Yet their pride and patience prevailed. They sat back to watch you flap proud wings and crow on the edge of the nest.

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Warming Up To Winter

We finally turned our furnace on last Friday. It wasn’t the 32-degree high that did it; it was the 40-mile-per-hour gusts the night before that convinced us to start burning wattage in a more significant way.

Thirty-two degrees? Ha! In March, that would warrant running outside without a coat. The fully acclimated Minnesotan laughs at such measly reports after surviving many a winter. But now, after a warmer-than-average summer and an October of unearthly sweat-inducing days, the story’s a bit different.

That little boost of artificial warmth did feel — I admit it — pretty good. I’m so ashamed.

For one whose veins run with Viking blood, flipping that switch so early hints at weakness. Not for us, the sheepish donning of jackets when a random breeze blows on a run-of-the-mill day in autumn. Not for us, the breaking out wooly knitted hats when we can still see bare pavement. Though the first nippy clues to the coming season may redden our cheeks, we thrust icy fingers into our pockets and soldier on.

The first whiff of impending winter is a tonic for the Minnesota or North Dakota soul. Weird, right? Transplants who grew up where water in the bird bath doesn’t even freeze in February may gasp in shock and awe at their first taste of what’s to come. Oddly, though we North Country natives may complain, we privately revel in it. We were bred for times like these.

That’s why neither Russ nor I had touched the thermostat since August, when we wrapped up our — shall we say “heated” — summer-long battle over air conditioning, pitting subarctic comfort against common sense. We hadn’t given it another thought until that cheeky little Canadian clipper rattled the roof and shivered the siding late last week.

I was the first to cry “uncle.” I’d begun to waver the night before, when the speed-limit-exceeding breeze rattled the windows and puffed the wooden blinds out almost parallel with the floor. The next morning, when my breath fogged the bathroom mirror, I knew that it was time. Without warning my stalwart Nordic husband of my intent, I crept into the bedroom, which faces north, and … closed the window.

Does this sound like an epic surrender? Maybe not to you, if your genes encode tender memories of the tropics. For Russ and me, though, it was radical. That window, selected for energy efficiency and insulating power, hadn’t been slammed since it was first installed. Oh, it might have been angled now and then to keep out summer rains blown horizontally by a passing tsunami. But closed? Never! Until now.

We were, after all, raised in the true Nordic tradition of bracing fresh air. Especially at night, it was an article of faith in the houses where both of us grew up that the best sleeping took place igloo-style, in between flannel sheets deep under an Everest of bedding. If you’d peeked at the bunkbed where I slept away my youth, all you’d have seen was a human caterpillar wrapped within a cocoon of quilts and itchy wool blankets and, perhaps, a nose rising like a periscope from the pillow.

My grandparents brought their mystical Scandinavian faith in the curative power of fresh air when they arrived from Norway. It seemed to serve their iron constitutions well, while also providing a convenient rationale for the drafty homes of their day. Deep breaths of frigid air are good for you! Fresh! Cleansing!

Their faith in Nature didn’t quite rule out the comfort of gathering around the red-hot oil burner steaming in the central room, as it struggled mightily to heat an entire house. But it did keep you from dawdling while hopping over polar-cold linoleum to choose school clothes from the uninsulated closet … the true, original meaning of teen “cool.”

Today, those memories are (literally) frozen in time. Central heating has stripped away the “brisk” from breakfast on these dark near-winter morns. Eddie Bauer and Cabela’s have armed us to beat back the fiercest weather wrapped in uniforms of manmade fibers and goose-made down. Our cars not only start the first time we turn the key; they wrap us in computer-monitored year-round comfort as we sit on our heated seats, peer through frost-free glass and listen to hot music beamed down by satellite.

And yet, the call of that Viking blood whispers in our ears. Here in the southern reaches of Moorhead, our thermostat rarely breaks the 65-degree mark. We wear slippers and sweatshirts around the house. Now that the wind has moderated, the windows are open again. Otherwise, sound sleep is merely a dream.

The wisdom of our forebears still calls to us today: “There’s no bad weather — only bad clothes.” We keep it cool around here. Even our supersoft, comfort-craving modern social habits reflect what they understood so well. You can always put on a sweater when you’re chilly. But if the opposite is true, people look at you funny if you decide to rip off your shirt.

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Neighborhoods Show Their Age At Halloween

At other times of year, it’s not so apparent that our neighborhood is aging. Nothing moves on those short, frozen winter days but grumpy wool-wrapped critters of indeterminate age herding snowblowers. The grass groomers mostly seem to tend to their lawns early Sunday mornings, when I’m far too drowsy to care about whether whoever’s at the helm has wrinkles. Scouts and teen-age athletes still come ’round to pound on our door, peddling popcorn or pizzas or those ubiquitous blue coupon books.

But at Halloween, you can’t miss the truth: The whole neighborhood has gotten … mature? Seasoned? Face it — these days, we’re kind of old.

When Russ and I moved into this house 33 years ago, our enclave was a lively place. Bicycles lay strewn in driveways. Children shrieked and giggled. School buses poked along the street. Backyards were studded with swing sets, sandboxes and trampolines.

We were younger then. In those first years at our address, unbroken sunshine bathed the whole district, the trees mere broomsticks poking up through adolescent sod. While houses on those uber-desirable river lots across the street already had a few years on them, here on the dry side, ours were quite new. In fact, Russ and I watched most of the houses around us rise from the raw prairie. Our birdwatching was more or less limited then to distraught killdeer mothers frantically trying to protect their nests from the tractor-drawn mowers sent to scalp the empty acres a couple times a year.

Kids called most of these houses “home.” But as Hot Wheels on the sidewalk yielded to 10-speed bikes on the street, Nature had its inevitable way with the vicinity. Curbs became crowded with teenagers’ cars. Late at night, our bedsprings vibrated with the rhythmic bass blasted from their stadium-grade speakers.

Then came graduation parties in garages. Then came wedding invitations. Then the resident population thinned as offspring whom we’d watched grow up from our front window left home for college, eventually showing up only for occasional visits … with kids of their own.

It’s a long and subtle slide, like the farewell of autumn and the first hints of winter. We barely noticed from day to day … except at Halloween.

During our first years on this stretch of Rivershore Drive, we laid in a supply of candy fit to provision the Mongol hordes. Halloween was a major occasion! While Russ accompanied our daughter on her first rounds to gather trick ’n treat bounty — all the gooey gobs of glucose that nutrition mavens abhor — it was my job to man the barricades at home.

The little goblins numbered in the hundreds during our early years. Every chime of the doorbell meant another trip downstairs to the front door. At peak moments, I’d settle for the evening on the bottom step to save my knees and shoe leather.

That was in the 1980s. Even though the world still seemed a simpler and safer place, you could spot shadowy figures lingering at the end of the driveway … watchful parents dragooned into accompanying their young adventurers on the annual candy harvest. Sarah Ann Rairdon, the little girl who disappeared from Underwood, Minn., in 1985, was still in the news; Jacob Wetterling’s kidnapping dominated headlines of the day; the mystery of Jenna North still lay ahead. Moms and dads were on alert whenever their youngsters ventured out of arm’s reach. While we coached our kids to bravely walk up and ring the doorbell, we ourselves felt a kind of fear our own parents had never known.

But there really wasn’t much to fear here at Halloween. Rivershore Drive was lit like Times Square — curtained windows aglow, outdoor lights beaming, electric ghosts and jack o’lanterns and Snoopies and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles standing guard on nearly every doorstep.

And the crowds! We’d watch station wagons unload small herds of hopeful treat crews at the corner. They came to the door by sixes and eights, holding out plastic pumpkins or shopping bags or pillowcases already half-full of the kind of harvest that’s kept dentists in demand until this very day. I’d peek at them from the peephole in the door, then throw it open with a cauldron of Tootsie Pops or Hershey Miniatures in my arms. Sure, their faces would fall for a moment — they were hoping for full-size Snickers. Then they’d rearrange them in a parent-coached smile and dutifully murmured their thanks. After all, the paltry payoff did contain chocolate.

Why not make their dreams come true, you ask? We don’t like Snickers. On the other hand, we do favor Tootsies and Hershey bites … not that, in those days, there were many left at evening’s end for the home crew to devour.

The last few years have told a different story. Last time, the street was mostly dark. The sidewalks were deserted. We’d stocked up on treats, but waited in vain. By 6:30 p.m., we were nibbling them ourselves and had turned out the lights on the garage. Nada. The neighborhood had outgrown Halloween.

Of course, it’s not only that we and our neighbors have surpassed our salad days. Here on our stretch, the census of houses has shrunk by half, with flood control erasing the more elaborate riverside homes where kids’ dreams of Snickers were likeliest to come true. Meanwhile, today’s costumed candy crusaders tend to head for the climate-controlled comfort of trick-or-treating in the malls. The only creatures knocking on our door these days are the offspring of friends escorted by a beaming dad or granddad. Their motives lean more toward exhibiting their dear little munchkins than gathering sugary treats that Mom wouldn’t approve anyway.

What goes around eventually comes back around again. While quite a few of our longtime neighbors have moved to more convenient quarters, we do hear happy children’s voices visiting Grandma and Grandpa in the season of open windows and screen doors. And there’s a harbinger of things to come. One nearby home has turned over into new hands. Two supercharged youngsters are having the time of their lives chasing each other around their yard. More to come?

As our neighborhood continues its generational drift — replacing our peers with spry and youthful households perhaps our allotment of witches and devils, superheroes and Sponge Bobs, may rise again. I doubt, though, that they’ll ever again rival the bumper crops of kids from the era when our area was new.

On the one hand, that means no prospect again next Tuesday of greeting giddy Disney princesses and Transformers on our venerable front step.

On the other … our supply of Tootsie Pops may last past Christmas.

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Finding Peace in Unexpected Places

Sometimes it’s just too much. Mass shootings. Hurricanes. Nazis. Nukes. Juvenile name-calling by bullies in D.C. Eroding civil rights. Immigrant-bashing. Wildfires in wine country.

And then Tom Petty dies, and the petunias freeze.

It takes a strong stomach to keep up with the news these days. For the past — oh, 11 and a half months or so — I’ve been waking up to cheerful birdsong, cats curled up on the edge of the bed … and a vague feeling of doom.

Friends tell me they share that anxious buzz at random moments … when they catch sight of CNN, for example, or hear Limbaugh blare from the open windows of the next car at a stoplight, or feel the vibes of a news alert on the cellphones in their pockets. What now? What next? What the ….

Here’s something we all can agree on: This is no way to live. Since there’s little we can do in the short run to counter the chaos itself, I think we all concur that it’s time for radical action aimed at the near-subliminal heeby jeebies it sustains.

What’s near at hand? Here at the Hanson household, that’s the TV clicker. We’ve long resolved to break our lifelong habit of mainlining the news throughout our waking hours. After our daily dose of Charlie Rose, Nora O’Donnell and Gayle King, we’re tuning all broadcast dials to music — contemporary by day, classical by night. Not only does it soothe; it’s a breeze to fall asleep after dinner. As for Facebook and the like, the solution is easy. More cat videos! There’s nothing like a crazy kitten scared by a cucumber to ease the old blood pressure.

But given the escalating cacophony of bad news in recent days, even feline antics haven’t been nearly enough. Last weekend, it was time to unleash the ultimate diversion — megatons of sheer distraction guaranteed to drive all worries up into the cheap seats.

It was time … to clean the bathroom cupboards!

Every home, I suspect, has a cubby where even the bravest heart seldom dares to go. Maybe yours is the kitchen junk drawer or that one cobwebby corner of the garage where the Prince of Clutter reigns.

At our house, it’s the pair of overstuffed cupboards beside the bathtub. I can’t remember exactly when the River Styx began to puddle behind those innocent oak doors, but they’ve come to conceal an infernal flood of miscellany that defies organization and, even, reason. Wise occupants tiptoe past, loathe to grab the handle and disturb the overstuffed mystery that lies within … mostly because a load of it is bound to come tumbling out in your face.

That’s it! I could suppress my existential angst about the headlines with a herculean burst of elbow grease! And that’s how Saturday began.

Now, I was fairly fond of the mirrored medicine cabinet that hung in my parents’ powder room. Though ours was no model of neatness, it was self-limiting — four shallow shelves of a foot or so, just big enough for the toothpaste, Visine, Vicks VapoRub, Q-Tips and bottles of nail polish.

Ours is more generous. The built-in cabinets are nearly a yardstick tall by two feet deep. They accommodate many layers of future fossils — the kind of historic trove that in a thousand years could thrill archeologists like uncovering King Tut’s tomb. Cellphones from the dawn of time. Accessories that fit an electric shaver that must have been left behind when we moved to Moorhead 33 years ago. A colorful bouquet of free toothbrushes, along with enough dental floss for a dynasty on the Nile. Charging cords for electronic gadgets long departed from this mortal coil. My late aunt’s beloved green-eyed cat brooch, missing a good third of its paste jewels. A bottle of Baby Tylenol bought for the young ’un who turns 33 this Friday.

I can’t say exactly how long it’s been since I last excavated those cabinets, but I do seem to remember running Windows 95 at the time. Russ pulled two wastebaskets into the bathroom, a big one for routine discards and a smaller to gather pharmaceuticals for the police to incinerate downtown. I crawled up on the kitchen stool, the better to reach far corners, and dug in.

You can tell a lot about a family by what they stuff in the back of their cupboards. It’s a better test than for pinpointing the darker side of the owners’ genes. Me, I’m Norwegian; I was bred not to waste a thing. And I can prove it, there among the score of bottles of hair care products, each containing a dwindling inch or so in its bottom, plus the half-dozen push-up deodorant containers blessed with barely a scum of Secret deep inside.

Three more categories confounded me. We have gradually collected a bottle of every obscure nostrum that’s been touted by Dr. Oz — a single bottle of each, rarely finished, some barely begun, all dismissed to languish unmourned.

When Russ or I develop a painful owie, our first instinct is to run to the store for Band-Aids and salve. The result is an enviable assortment of big bandages, little bandages, round bandages, finger-shaped bandages and a few classics with Barbies and My Little Ponies. Did I mention elastic bandages? Those, too, along with flexible cold packs for freezing, a cache of Neosporin and rubs to soothe sore backs. I even found an ancient bottle of mercurochrome, possibly inherited from a grandmother who’s been gone since 1975. (She’s probably the source of the dicier spices pushed to the back of the junk drawer, too, but let’s not go into that.)

All that pales, though, next to our comprehensive collection of over-the-counter cold remedies. The contents themselves aren’t unique — standard Alka-Seltzer Plus and Ny/Day/ZZquil, along with throat lozenges, zinc, echinacea and miscellaneous heavily advertised elixirs and panaceas. What’s more unusual is that there seem to be no more than three tablets or a half-teaspoon in any of the boxes or bottles. Apparently our sure-fire cure for the common cold and flu is a restorative trip to Walgreen’s. It appears that we favor starting fresh for every infection … then pushing the left-overs to the back when our noses no longer drip. If there were a secondary market for odds and ends of over-the-counter meds, we could live off the proceeds of our low-rent pharmacy.

Those cursed cupboards consumed my whole Saturday afternoon. At last, detritus filled both wastebaskets to the brim. My sense of accomplishment was gargantuan. Not only that. The messed-up world outside hadn’t sent a blip through my mental radar even once.

Of course, the bad news came back, seeping in between the cracks by the time I went to bed. Yet a hint of hard-won well-being lingered.

Last night, I woke up again with that familiar frizz of anxiety nudging the edges of sleep. I got up to go to the bathroom. No, not for the plumbing. Instead, I opened cupboard doors and bathed my soul in the calm, well-ordered shelfscapes that lay within.

I wouldn’t call it peace, exactly. But at 4 a.m., it seemed to come close enough.

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Advertising Works … Sometimes Too Well

Yes, advertising works. Ads work if we love them. They work if we hate them. If we ignore them — but still are exposed to them often enough in the background — they’re still working exactly as intended … drilling their way into the back of our minds.

Don’t argue with me, please. A good share of my livelihood has been funded by those often-maligned but ubiquitous messages, which we who work in the media know keep the lights on and the fridge stocked with edibles. Ads make the wheels of commercial America go ’round. They govern our taste in toothpaste. They connect nonprofits with people who care. They keep us all in tune with what’s going on, not to mention how to make our teeth white as snow and our armpits acceptable in polite company. And without them, when would football fans ever get to go to the bathroom?

Regulators have long recognized advertising’s power, even if civilians tend to forget all about it. That’s not only why millions are dumped onto the airwaves as every election approaches. It also explains why political ads — not only broadcast, but in print, on billboards and in the mail — are firmly required to clarify who’s paying to indoctrinate us.

“I’m Glory Gesundheit, and I approve this message” — transparency and disclosure are what that familiar tag line is all about. It’s the reason broadcast spots, campaign postcards, newspaper ads and even yard signs carry that line of boilerplate in mouse type at the bottom edge: “Sponsored and paid for by the (Gesundheit committee and chairman).” They have to tell us — however cryptically — whose propaganda they’re hoping we’ll absorb.

The Federal Election Commission stands guard over national campaigns conducted through traditional media. States require disclosure, too — in Minnesota, the Campaign Finance Board; in North Dakota, the Century Code, as enforced by states attorneys. The FCC also gets into the act in open-air broadcast, mandating that all candidates for the same office pay the same rates for their airtime.

But here’s the problem. Campaign regulations have fallen a decade behind when it comes to how we really communicate in 2017. Traditional media that play by the familiar rules are fading fast. Today, most of us (seven in 10, according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center) use Facebook and other social media. FEC regulations don’t apply online, much less our naïve confidence that we know who’s talking to us.

My college students — every last Millennial among them — cite Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and lately Snapchat as their main and, often, only sources of news and information. Even the majority of my well-ripened Baby Boom peers check our newsfeeds for more than pics of each other’s grandkids, hilarious pet antics and hotdish recipes. We, too, are mainlining views of what’s going on in the world.

So that deep, wide vein of golden attention was destined from the start to be irresistible to those who want to infiltrate our thinking — our understanding of how our country works, of what matters most, of who’s the villain and who’s the savior.

Trouble is, the laws that have served us in the past do not apply to the Internet. It’s the wild, wild West out there. It’s up to us to screen who’s shouting, or whispering, in our ears.

Prompted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Facebook finally ’fessed up to something political observers suspected all along. It has admitted, so far, to collecting more than $100,000 of paid advertising from unfriendly foreign sources. In rubles, yet. Reversing his fervent yearlong denials, Facebook honcho Mark Zuckerberg not only now confirms that we were (and are still) bombarded with messages, viral posts and sponsored suggestions painstakingly aimed to shape our opinions and our votes.

It would be ridiculously naïve to think Zuck’s belated admission is more than the tip of the iceberg. What lurks below? Unless Mueller compels social media records to be opened, we can only guess. Clearly revealing who’s behind the paid onslaught is — as of now — absolutely optional.

Facebook and the like know us better than our own mothers. Since 2000, we’ve gladly embraced these all-powerful media to harvest every detail revealed by our online lives … while they were busy slaying the very media that we count on to disclose the truth. Their influence, say researchers at Pew, is remarkably consistent across all the categories that ad pros term “demographics” — young and old, urban and rural, high-school-educated and college grads, lower incomes and the folks with stratospheric bucks.

And more: We’ve made a devil’s bargain with these billion-dollar corporations. We’ve traded the nuts and bolts of how our minds work for free access to their bright, shiny toys. Thanks to the Internet, the dead-serious industry now called Big Data enables interest groups that pay to play to slice and dice us into chillingly specific chunks — not only by mundane demographics, but by what we think and who we hang out with. That’s earned Facebook and Google top spots among the most valuable corporations on the planet.

Fine, fine. That’s all cool … as long as it’s confined to Google AdWords shooting pitches at my personal screens for new mysteries, luscious knitting yarn and fashions for over-50 gals. It’s also OK with me that Facebook understands I’m a sucker for cat videos and ’60s rock music.

But it’s not OK — not at all — when social media profit from clandestine foreign players who seek to secretly pave a perfect propaganda path into my psyche.

Here’s the thing about traditional advertising: We all speak the language. We recognize that ads aren’t quite the same as gospel truth. A good shake of skeptical salt seasons us against the worst abuses. Even if ad messages do possess a potent power to seep into our souls while we barely notice — thanks to the magic of reach and frequency — we get it. They’re just ads. We understand that every persuasive little gem has been concocted, whittled and glossed up with the frank goal of selling us something.

But that immunizes us, a bit, when they’re on television, newspapers, radio, billboards. Online, not so much. Paid placements blur into the rest of what we’re reading and watching. Few bother to decode every message, and so the trolls’ sly news-like messages, unflagged, get repeated, reposted, retweeted by willing conspirators and gullible readers alike. Hot, juicy falsity becomes so ubiquitous that it fogs up what we understand as true.

Advertising in old media works. (Thank you very much!) When it comes to new media, we’re learning that it works even better. Until the Federal Election Commission and public pressure demand full disclosure of paid messages on social media and their sponsors — the same rules other media live by — beware that creepy feeling that you’re being watched. While online advertisers are free to secretly apply all the Internet can tell them about us, we’re only beginning to figure out the single fact we really know about them: When it comes to what’s going on, we’re mostly in the dark.

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — After Disaster, Forget The Rummage … Cash Counts

First, the hurricane. Then comes the second disaster — the blizzard of well-meant rummage.

I know you have only the best intentions. Me, too. We want to help the Texans who lost everything they own to Hurricane Harvey. But please, please put down those garbage bags of used clothes, stuffed animals and odds and ends from your pantry. They are literally more trouble than they’re worth.

The images of grief, loss and suffering wring hearts at a time like this, and the urge to help somehow can be almost overwhelming. That generosity is guaranteed to make we ourselves feel better … but the wrong kinds of spontaneous giving — and there are lots of them — only make the crisis worse.

If you want to really make a difference, donate cash.

That’s the best advice from seasoned disaster professionals in our own back yard. They’re watching their colleagues with boots on the ground in Texas and Louisiana. They’ve been there themselves in years gone by. They know how the relief and recovery process must proceed. And from their own experience, this is the most sincere advice they can give us: Leave your stuff in your own closet. Down at Ground Zero, it’ll only get in the way.

When the sky is blue and the forecast sunny, the rest of us barely spare a notion for the battle-tested disaster relief experts on standby to head to the heart of the storm. Only after a heart-breaking onslaught like Harvey’s (or Irma’s imminent arrival) does that reality come into focus: There are people — smart, brave, hard-working people — whose whole livelihood is based on knowing what to do in the worst of times. Like these.

The disaster that dominates tonight’s news isn’t their first rodeo. That’s how they know that piles and piles of miscellaneous sweaters, shirts, jeans, shoes, pillows, jackets, teddy bears, T-shirts, underwear, swimsuits, ties, board games, pajamas, Christmas decorations and whatever else is lying around in the basement or stashed in bottom drawers will ultimately help no one at all … not even those we see on TV who’ve lost everything they hold precious to those polluted, reptile-infested floodwaters.

Instead, the onslaught of donated stuff just gets in the way. It becomes a disaster in its own right. It sops up costly storage space and precious volunteers’ time that could be far better invested in more urgent pursuits. Or it’s pretty much ignored until it becomes a hazard.

On Sunday, CBS News chronicled bales of pointless donations blocking emergency access on Honduras airstrips after a hurricane. Other piles still rotted on an Indonesian beach years after a tsunami until they were finally doused with gasoline and burned. The former director of the Center for International Disaster Information in Washington told a reporter, “Generally after a disaster, people with loving intentions donate things that cannot be used in a disaster response, and, in fact, may actually be harmful. And they have no idea that they’re doing it.”

Of course they mean well, as they gather clothes with some measure of useful life remaining, along with this and that around the house that they think that they can spare. But once those semis full of stuffed trash bags and bulging tote bins have arrived, they present a tremendous challenge to relief workers. They need to be warehoused, sorted, cleaned, organized and distributed, and — amidst far more urgent demands like shelter, meals, assessing losses and practical matters of survival — that seldom happens. Even when it does, it’s a burden that gums up the system … especially when a rather embarrassing share of those donations turn out to be dirty, useless, worn out or requiring repairs that’ll never be made.

One of the best things about Americans is our open hearts in times of trouble. We want to help. We want to feel that thrill of doing good. Sadly, filling a box with our cast-off belongings seems to satisfy that sincere urge far better than the colder, more corporate kind of contribution — sending a check or, likelier today, logging onto a website to click a few keys, kicking into a relief fund.

Yet that helps most. Random cans of tuna and beans from a thousand food drives are less immediately useful than money to order groceries in commercial quantities to prepare meals for crowds of displaced families … who, after all, have no kitchens to cook those individual boxes of Kraft Mac ’n’ Cheese for themselves.

Too, the corps of trained professionals who arrive with relief organizations need to be equipped, housed, fed and paid. Recovery isn’t measured in weeks or months. It takes years. Long past the point when the immediate crisis has been forgotten by the national news, recovery workers will still be helping victims navigate through public programs and insurance snags, finding the tools and resources to finally rebuild a semblance of normal life.

We’ve experienced that right here. After the Red River Valley floods of 1997 and 2009 and the Minot disaster of 2011, good-hearted people all over the country streamed a deluge of well-intended miscellany in our direction. Managing all that stuff was, frankly, a nightmare. Relief organizations seldom bring this up out of respect for those kind, generous donors’ feelings … but tons ended up in the hands of salvage companies, at best, or piled up in local landfills.

If you want to help, give money. It’s as simple as that. Reputable public charities and faith-based organizations are already on the ground, and they understand how to apply every dollar where it matters most at this very moment.

And if you don’t have ready cash? Here’s an idea. Instead of piling up your odds and ends to fill a semi headed to Texas or Louisiana, lay them out in your own garage and sell them to eager bargain-hunters here at home. (And, afterwards, dispose of the left-overs yourself.)

Then go ahead and write that personal check. The disaster-relief troops at Ground Zero won’t have to ship it, store it, sort it, size it, clean it, organize it and somehow transport it wherever it might eventually do some good. You’ll feel terrific, knowing the minute it’s deposited, your gift will start to make good things happen.

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Flashbacks To The Floods

It seems wrong to think about ourselves when Houston is drowning … but how can we avoid the flashbacks?

While we agonize for Texans fighting for their lives, the news video is all too familiar in our own neck of the woods. Here in the Red River Valley, it brings back images we’d all rather forget — Fargo-Moorhead’s valiant fight against then-record waters in 1997; the devastation that followed a few days later in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks; and the all-time record crest in 2009 that nearly took us under.

Memory is a funny thing. Terrors that seem indelible do, somehow, fade and dull in the sunshine. The near-constant pounding and growl of crews building permanent dikes along the river has relieved bad dreams of days when the roaring Red threatened to erase our normal, everyday life for good.

Today, at the end of a dry, dry summer, we’d mostly forgotten those floods … until Hurricane Harvey. Our situation, though different in so many ways, was just as desperate as what we’re witnessing on the nightly news. This is what the weather can do. This is what our own weather has done, as recently as the days when today’s second- and third-graders were being born.

This is what it will do again.

But memory dims and becomes domesticated. Maybe that accounts for the ho-hum that’s come to surround the F-M Area Diversion for most of us in the communities it will protect. While critics strategize ways to torpedo the mammoth $2 billion plan to slide the torrent around the cities, we who live here have pretty much sat back while government leaders have done all the heavy lifting.

Perhaps we count on Moorhead’s and Fargo’s city-centric efforts to keep our front steps dry. Here in Moorhead, we’ve invested $105 million, along with the state of Minnesota, in an 11-mile system of earthen levees that stretches from north of the country club to 50th Avenue South. Two hundred forty-nine homes have been sacrificed to make way. We’ve built 12 new pump stations and 78 stormwater gates over the past eight years. If the city hustles to build clay dikes in front of the 80-some holdouts who punctuate that would-be impervious wall, we should be safe to a crest of 39.5 feet.

Fargo has been just as busy with its downtown floodwall and 20 miles of earthen dikes. Some 200 homes have been bought out there, moved or demolished, with many more still in limbo. South along the river’s twisting oxbows, the same kind of campaign has reduced formerly tiny Briarwood to open fields and is relocating Oxbow. Its goal, too, is to protect to FEMA’s 100-year flood level.

We like what we’re seeing these days. We aren’t required to buy flood insurance anymore (though some of us, prone to cross our fingers, still do). Those new floodwalls look good. On the south side, where we live, we barely remember the neighbors’ homes that lined the riverbank just seven years ago. We’ve come to rather like the open sweep of grassy dike across the street, where their kids so recently played with our own.

Secure, complacent — and saving a little money, to boot. What floods? Our cities have invested a fortune in thwarting the threat of once-in-100-years flooding … and most of us apparently figure we won’t be around long to have to worry about it again.

Except. Our climate is growing warmer, wetter and — yes — wilder. It’s a paradox that, despite the drought to the west, precipitation is trending upward. Horticulturists have bumped us up from growing zone 3 to 4. Storms are stormier. Though winter snows have been scant in recent years, the specter of 1996-1997 — 117 inches — will never fully melt from our imagination.

And now, Houston’s agony again demonstrates what “unprecedented” really means.

All the hundreds of millions already spent building our cities’ walls and dikes should indeed be adequate to protect us from Red River tantrums equal to those we’ve already witnessed. But what of the next?

That’s where the diversion — the megaproject most of us understand only dimly — comes in. It’s been chugging along since 2008, ironically begun a year before the worst flood in F-M history. The numbers are too big for the ordinary mind to really grasp. That goes double for the engineering. Weighing every conceivable alternative, local leaders agree the Corps of Engineers has chosen the only one that provides protection from the degree of disaster that we still can barely imagine. The unusual public-private partnership received formal federal approval a year ago, and the Corps at work on the first steps. Projected completion date: 2024.

If, that is, opponents don’t manage to sink the ship. Critics have attacked from every angle, raising often-valid points that have surely made the present project better. But the controversies have morphed into an impassioned quest that’s only gained momentum.

Everyone loves a good bout of David-vs.-Goliath, and the mission to sink the diversion has always been portrayed in just those terms. Some of the main players on the Goliath side surely have fed the furor — the word “arrogant” keeps coming up. Resentment squirts its bile in many directions: town vs. rural, wealthy vs. down-to-earth, small towns vs. the not-so-big cities that pass for a metropolis in these parts. But let’s examine the problem with how roles in this epic drama have been cast.

Take a closer look at what critics portray as the forces of evil. What I see right here around me in the middle of purported Goliath-land is something quite different than the looming, faceless, heartless force that’s been depicted. Instead of the monolithic villain that anti-diversion challengers feel they face, I see tens of thousands of people just like them. I see families living along this ruthless river who love their homes and need their livelihoods every bit as much as the valiant Davids upstream who are battling to protect their own.

This challenge belongs to all of us. None of us wins unless we press forward together toward a mutually acceptable solution. Watch the news from Houston. Listen to their stories. Feel their fear and desperation. Weigh the overwhelming odds against ever regaining “normal.”

And then let this one overwhelming truth consume you: What we’re seeing in Texas … that could all too easily be us.

Compromise, you guys! Persist in negotiation! Go for the mutual win. We’re all Davids here, and the real Goliath is the Red River itself. Give up a little to gain a lot. That’s where we’ll find our heroes.

It’s not a question of whether we’ll ever face the Red’s full fury again. It’s simply, “When?”