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Published March 26, 2009, 12:00 AM

McFeely: 41's a big number, but ...

The punch to the gut came at noon Wednesday, when the number 41 became the most important number in our lives.

By: Mike McFeely, INFORUM

The punch to the gut came at noon Wednesday, when the number 41 became the most important number in our lives.

We shook it off and got back to work because that is who we are and what we do. I won’t bet against us, damn it, but that extra foot makes our job that much more daunting.

A 41-foot crest on the Red River in Fargo-Moorhead will visit Saturday and, like the lecherous relative who can’t take a hint, it’ll stay for two or three days.

Forty-one feet. Unheard of in the recorded history of the white man in the Valley. “Uncharted territory,” Fargo Mayor Denny Walaker said, deftly avoiding the use of the word “water” with “uncharted.”

Again, we and our newfound friends from all points of the compass responded as we’ve responded this entire, crazy week. We swore under our breath, popped four more Aleve and got back on the sandbag line, throwing more white and yellow sacks to top off miles and miles of homemade dikes with another foot or two of protection.

They told us to build to 43 feet, so we will build to 43 feet.

If they tell us today to build to 44, we’ll listen. We will not, under any circumstances, go down without a fight. How much do you have left in the tank, my friends? We need another day’s worth. Maybe two.

Reality is biting hard, though. Homes were inundated Wednesday in Oxbow, N.D., where boats were needed to rescue residents and some pets. Other neighborhoods in south Fargo were severely threatened. The insidious water was rising, ever rising, near homes in Oakport Township north of Moorhead even as neighbors banded together in a frantic effort to secure their dikes.

New phrases began to creep into the verbiage of city officials on both sides of the river. Fargo talked about contingency dikes. Officials on both sides of the river began mentioning evacuation plans. We’ll get the full scoop today.

That means things are getting serious.

Yet, on we fight. Volunteers – bless every last one of you who braved ice-slicked roads, blowing snow and subfreezing temperatures – some were pulling sandbags on sleds – to help us. Thousands of you, nameless and faceless to us, are giving Fargo-Moorhead a chance. I’ve already asked this, but I will continue to do so: How can we ever thank you?

We can do this. We can. I believe that.

But 41 feet …

Excuse me while I catch my breath.

Now if you’ll hand me the bottle of Aleve, I need to jump back in the sandbag line.

Forum columnist Mike McFeely can be heard from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or mmcfeely@forumcomm.com. McFeely’s blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/mcfeely