River dwellers put a good face on flooding

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April 16, 2008
— When Jim Cullen looks in his backyard, he sees a lush green lawn, and a seven sisters rose bush packed with pink blooms.

Well, really he sees the Rock River standing in his front yard, but the grass and the roses always do really well after a spring flood, he said.

Cullen lives at 1715 Joseph St., Janesville. His street, which is on the west side of the Rock River between Riverside and Traxler parks, is under 6 inches of water. So is much of his lawn.

Cullen was born in the house in 1948 and has lived in the neighborhood most of his life. Bad spring and fall flooding happens occasionally, but not often enough to make Cullen dislike living on the river.

“It’s quiet and peaceful,” Cullen said. “It’s so calm in the morning when you look over the water with your coffee. It’s hard to describe.

“And the floods, well, there are only a few days like this.”

Cullen said this flood is the worst he can remember since 1959 when there were 22 inches of water in the house. Water has come in three or four times over the years, he said, but he has raised his house on slabs, and that’s helped, he said.

Cullen knows the grass and roses will be well fertilized after the flood. But there will be surprises, too. In flood years, pumpkins, corn and other mysterious garden vegetables pop up from seeds washed down the river, he said.

He knows when the water recedes he’ll have extra yard work to do, but he doesn’t mind.

“Once you’re on the river, it’s hard to get away,” Cullen said.

Around the corner, Nick Fayle hopes he feels the same way in a couple years.

Fayle and his wife moved in July to 1722 Charles St., Janesville. Since then, his neighbors have explained his yard is the worst for flooding.

His fire pit is under water, and he’s been watching the level rise on a bench in the lawn. Gawkers drive by to take pictures.

It’s been a “bit of a shock,” Fayle said, but he still loves the house. It’s perfect for boating in the summer, and Fayle will take a little flooding for that privilege, he said.

“I can’t feel too bad about it,” he said, “because there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Fayle’s mother, Carolyn Fayle, has been visiting Janesville from Southampton, England. Tuesday was the end of her 10-day visit, and she wasn’t very impressed with Wisconsin weather.

“I’m thankful I’m going back to England to get some warm weather and sunshine,” Carolyn said, laughing. “You don’t get to say that very often.”

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