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Acts of God (and his henchmen)

“It’s beyond my control” may be the most perfect break-up line in movie history.

The film is “Dangerous Liaisons.” Having seduced Madame de Tourvel on a wager, Vicomte Sébastien de Valmont ends the affair abruptly with the repeated phrase “It’s beyond my control,” which is, of course, completely untrue. This is so unlike Agincourt, which has suffered, in hindsight, from an almost total absence of events beyond its control.

Tonight reminds me, as local weather coverage traces the path of violent storms across northwestern Minnesota. During more than one hundred and fifty years of Agincourt’s history, there must have been such tragedies beyond anyone’s control — fire, storm and flood; hail and Nature’s other furies — that changed the trajectory of human affairs.

When Gordon Olschlager offered the design of a courthouse in mid-century Brutalist style, I suggested he decide when the previous (second) Fennimore county courthouse was struck by lightening. Two months later, a small crate arrived holding an exquisite model of a courthouse beyond my dreams. And it was accompanied by a backstory I could not have imagined, including the 1966 lightening strike that consumed the former Richardsonian building.

Urban fires in the late 19th century were commonplace. Fargo’s CBD burned in 1893; Bismarck’s in 1898. So Agincourt was unlikely to have avoided a major conflagration. The question is when? And to what degree?

fire

tornado damage

Urban fires have lent themselves to amateur photographers and RPPCs; the on-line auction site that shall remain nameless is rife with them — and they don’t come cheap.  Floods , however, run a close second, and we know that the Mighty Muskrat was inclined to breach its banks in the low-lying part of Agincourt called “The Hollow.”

flood 03

Beyond fire and flood, there are other natural disasters to consider. Winds, for example, (tornadic and otherwise) and the stuff that might accompany them, like hail (from marble to grapefruit-sized). For the time being, Agincourt’s natural history needs my attention.


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