Oma Sue's Blog
Hi – I’m Sue Reyzlik. I recently realized my life-long dream of building a writing hut in the backyard. The writing hut serves as a creative space and home office for Oma Publishing. This blog will be intermingled with family history, varied experiences and insights on being a Grandma (Oma), creating my special backyard space, as well as, my “retirement” career as a self-publisher of children’s stories. And perhaps a little bit on the 32 years I served as Executive Director for Keep Fremont Beautiful and the wonderful people who are sharing this adventure.
In the last blog entry, I told you a story about how my brother, my Grandpa Joe and I made rafts out of Styrofoam container lids. We took the rafts out to the family cabin on Big Island to try them out – mine sank to the bottom on the first try. That failure had been in the back of my mind for the better part of six decades and when I started making up that story for Rai, a solution to the sinking problem came to me.
The second book is also based on real life experiences back in the 1950’s and early 1960’s – Platte River flooding on Big Island. Our family cabin sat right on the ground – or more appropriately right on the sand – just a few yards back from the river. Each winter the Platte would freeze and when the weather warmed, the ice jams appeared and forced the river out of its banks.
Each Spring, my Dad, Uncle and Grandpa would spend several days washing out the mud and muck left in the cabin. Our cabin was just a simple summer cabin with no drywall or insulation so the cleanup wasn’t awful. I think they moved the refrigerator and stove up on something to keep those appliances protected and out of the water.
There was an old hand pump at the sink and an outhouse in the backyard – so running water and contamination was always an issue – we never drank the water. We always brought pre-made Kool-aid and water with us from town.
One year the flooding was worse than in years past. More water (and mud) entered the cabin and ruined some cushions on the cabin furniture – as well as the fluffy quilts stored atop the cushions. None could be salvaged - all of Aunt Margaret’s quilts were thrown away!
I remember walking around the area and looking at how the landscape had changed. The river bank had been altered. The bank was much steeper now than in past years. A tree was left teetering on the edge – I wasn’t sure how it managed to hang on. Branches and debris were washed up against the cabin and tall sand dunes rose intermittently across the front yard. The flooding had been a big deal and something no one could control. We could only deal with the aftermath… the flooding made quite an impact on my impressionable mind.
I hate to admit this, but my brother and I had captured a little toad the summer before the flooding and we inadvertently killed it. We shouldn’t have tried to keep it captive. We were heart broken when he died. We conducted a funeral for “Toady” before burying him in the front yard of the cabin. I had carved a cross in a block of plaster at girl scout camp and we used that as a headstone. After the flood, there was no sign of the headstone – anywhere! That missing headstone made me even sadder.
The flooding on Big Island came to mind as I made up the next story for the three little frogs. As a child, I had witnessed the power of flood waters. I saw how landscapes were altered and how large and small things could simply be washed away. The second book became a saga of … “Tell Me A Story Oma Sue About Three Frogs Swept Away”.
I finished writing the Story in November of 2018 and completed the illustrations in early 2019. The book came out just as we, in Fremont and elsewhere in Nebraska, were dealing with historic flooding. For a time, Fremont was completely surrounded by flood water and hundreds of people were forced from their homes. Homes in the southern part of our community suffered the most devastation. It is only by hard work and determination that the remainder of our City was spared.
The flooding in 2019 was a frightening time and thankfully, it was a time of cooperation and compassion. I was very proud of my fellow “Fremonters” in how they handled the crisis and how they worked together to solve problems.
In a way, it was weird that I had written about a flooding event in the second book, but in a way, it was a natural fit… flooding is something that happened every spring when I was growing up and it stayed in my mind.
In the second book, the three little frogs were swept away – they couldn’t stop the force of the flood and had to go with the flow. When it was all done – they had to deal with being forced from their homes and find their way back.
Of course, they have an adventure along the way and make new and diverse friendships! Sounds familiar – doesn’t it?
It’s Fremont at its best – it’s the Fremont I know, and I write what I know.