Yesterday, while driving in the rain, I found myself going over the Norway Bridge and over the Oakdale Bridge. As I crossed each bridge, I gazed at each dam in wonderment. I remembered an elderly neighbor recounting rare trips to Monticello and where he, his sister, and mother would ford the river before the lakes were created. My grandfather and great uncle would tell how they traded at Delphi because it had more stores, better deals, and they wouldn’t have to get wet fording the river.
In 1923, the Norway Dam was completed and in 1924, the Oakdale Dam was completed. With the closing of the spillway gates, Lake Shafer and Lake Freeman were filled. And the stories changed. No more did the stories contain who did what to whom while fording the river. The stories were now about going to Monticello on Saturday nights to purchase supplies or to the livestock auctions or getting the great deal on the first tractor.
Over ninety years those dams have done more for this community than holding back water to make electricity or providing a place for people to escape for a rest. They have provided incomes for people to feed their families. They have provided the counties with revenue to build roads about which we can complain when we hit a bump. They have provided schools with more than one room. They have provided memories that we would never trade.
And they can provide so much more, if they are allowed to operate as they have for the last ninety years.