POWELL BUTTE — Sheila Davis stood in disbelief as she surveyed the damage the August flash flood did to her home of 22 years.
Every room in her house had mud 2 feet deep. A rock wall in her backyard was leveled. And a shed was knocked over and pushed 20 feet away from its foundation.
It felt like her whole world had crumbled. She was already recovering from a broken foot and still navigating the grief of losing her husband, a highway construction worker who was killed two years earlier in a hit-and-run crash on Interstate 5 near Aurora.
“I basically had a breakdown when I first came over the bridge and saw my house,” she said recently. “That loss triggered the fact that I really hadn’t gotten through my husband’s loss.”
Davis, 58, a dialysis nurse in Bend, had to face the destruction of the Aug. 8 flood each day that followed. Friends and family came by to help her box up belongings spared in the flood, but the mess on her property was overwhelming. Davis knew she couldn’t handle it by herself.
On this Thanksgiving, as Davis reflects on her life, she knows she was never alone.
Her supervisor at work, Heather Kerr, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Prineville, asked the congregation if it could help Davis. A few weeks after the flood, 17 members of the LDS Ochoco Valley Ward spent a Saturday clearing debris off Davis’ property.
The group, which ranged from teenagers to those in their 70s, did not hesitate to get dirty as they salvaged Davis’ belongings, mended fence posts and dug through the dried mud and rocks. Most of them were people Davis had never met before. She attends services at another church.
“They showed so much love and compassion,” Davis said. “I can’t believe how grateful I am. I couldn’t have done it alone.”
The help Davis received that day brought her to tears.
“I am just thankful for everything I have and everyone I know,” said Davis, who will spend Thanksgiving visiting friends in Bend, Powell Butte and Prineville.
Davis is still waiting, though, to find out if her house can be repaired. A friend of her late husband is a general contractor and hopes to fix the home between his other jobs.
For now, Davis has adjusted to living in her 300-square-foot RV that’s parked on her property. Outside the RV are two storage units and a port-a-potty.
“My life is down to this,” she said. “My life has been reduced to the fact that I’m living in my RV full time, which was a goal of mine, just not so soon.”
The flood damaged the structure of Davis’ 1,500-square-foot home, but not many of her belongings. Mud filled the exhaust pipes of her two Harley Davidson motorcycles, but they still run fine, she said.
Davis has been on leave from work since the flood and plans to return in January. She is taking the time to handle the aftermath of the flood and reflect on all she has been through in the past two years.
“A lot of stuff hasn’t really gone quite right since my husband was killed,” she said.
Her husband of 24 years, Ron Davis, worked as a project manager for Knife River and traveled across the region for work. He was working on Interstate 5 north of Aurora June 6, 2017, when a box truck rear-ended his pickup and fled the scene. Davis later died from injuries in the crash.
The box truck driver, Colin Michael Cook, was convicted and sentenced to more than 2 years in prison.
After the August flood, Knife River donated gravel to repair Sheila Davis’ driveway. It was another unexpected gesture, one she deeply appreciates.
“It has been really hard,” she said, “but I just realized how many people I have in my life.”
Lloyd Fletcher, a leader in the LDS Ochoco Valley Ward, helped organize the clean-up effort that brought church members to Davis’ home. Two church members brought their tractors. Others brought shovels and tools to clear out the debris.
“There was dirt everywhere,” Fletcher said. “It was underneath her house and her stairs and front porch. We spent a lot of time getting that dirt away from the house.”
Fletcher remembers how shocked Davis was to see the congregation clear away the debris.
“She said, ‘I can’t believe you are willing to do this’,” Fletcher said. “We enjoyed it, and we would do it again.”
Davis took a break earlier this month to volunteer at the Lord’s Acre Day in Powell Butte, an annual community gathering that features pies, cinnamon rolls and barbecue meats. It’s held to celebrate the tradition of tithing an acre of farmland to the church.
At the gathering, Davis helped make cinnamon rolls and pumpkin pies. She cut more than 100 slices of pie for those in attendance.
“When you are down and sad, the best thing you can do is give back,” Davis said. “It just fuels your spirit.”
It was a welcome distraction from the upheaval in her life. She was reminded of the supportive farm community she calls home, and how her neighbors are always there for her.
“Even in the midst of it all,” she said. “I’m still blessed.”