LAUREL — Robert and Sharon Weldin bought their property near the confluence of the Clarks Fork and Yellowstone rivers in 2021 partly because of the river views, with water just 200 yards away.
Or at least that’s where it is supposed to be.
A couple of days ago, the channel came right through their property and caused damage they never could have expected.
"Everybody around here is shocked," Robert, an armed forces veteran, said. "One farmer has been here since the mid '60s, and he’s never seen anything like this before."
Robert saw the signs. He and his family started bracing with sand bags when they saw the flooding in Red Lodge Monday, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
"We had 20-foot long, 6-foot tall panels that were just gone," he said. "You couldn’t believe how fast and how high the water was."
His biggest concern was his animals: 11 goats, four horses, three dogs and the strongest of them all, a mule.
"Only two things survive a flood - cockroaches and a mule," he joked.
His nephews helped prove him wrong, leading them all to safety through rushing waters.
"We tried to stay on the road, remember where the road was," one of them said. "We had to bribe the mule with grain."
But while they were doing that, some of Robert’s chickens didn’t make it. You can tell how heartbroken it made him.
"I couldn’t save everything. I just had back surgery, spinal surgery. My wife and I can’t do everything," he said before walking away choked up.
The Weldins' house also took on several feet of water - a neighbor was helping Sharon salvage what they could Thursday morning as Billings carpet-cleaning trucks pumped water out of the first floor. But Robert knows all things considered, it could have been worse.
"I’m lucky," he said. "There’s a lot worse people off that lost everything, so I’m blessed."
Hard to imagine blessed looking like this, but this week has changed a lot of perspectives.