David Stewart Lamb


Written Memory


June 26, 2012


I spent the night of June 8th and the morning of June 9th, 1972 at Harney Peak Ranch Headquarters. It is on the east edge of Rapid City and located hard against Rapid Creek.
I, and the historic legacy of founder James Wood's 1870s Harney Peak Ranch Headquarters, survived for one very unique reason: It is located on the mile-wide delta of fertile topsoil washed from the Black Hills in geologic times.
This delta may be the widest floodplain point on Rapid Creek. In fact, the 1972 flood waters were close to one mile wide at the point on the night of June 8, 1972.
And, this is the reason I survived. It was also, as a result, the shallowest depth of the flooding that occured here. Two key factors create this unique situation.
Rapid Creek cut a deep, mostly straight channel down through the center of that black topsoil. Some of the Harney Peak Ranch buildings from the 1800s and early 1900s are just a few feet from that main channel.
That would not have saved the ranch and me without one other key factor. And that is the wide, meandering channel of Rapid Creek in Rapid Valley that still survives south of the ranch headquarters. It is known as the "Slough".
This wide, meandering slough took a great deal of the 1972 flood water. Rapid Creek is north of Harney Peak Ranch and this wide slough is to the south. As a result, I spent the night of the 1972 Flood on an island with only shallow water depth.
The old, original 1879 pioneer James Wood's Ranch barn and house just west of the "new" 1890s or Twentieth Century building experienced very little water.
The water depth at the "New" Barn wet only to the floor line. It was dry inside. The water depth at the "New" Harney Peak Ranch Main House was up to the top of the foundation: about two feet deep.
I spent the night trying to get as much equipment as possible up out of the water and trying to get what I could out of the Ranch House basement.
The great grace of the 1972 Flood night was that the Harney Peak Ranch Founation Quarter Horses survived as well. The story of that is the essence of animal wisdom.
Th horse herd mares circled around the younger horses with their strong rear flanks upstream. They stood like that all through the long night belly deep in the flood water.
But, their great insinct saved the whole foundation-bred herd that is still our great legacy today. They keep us mounted still.
The waters receded in that wide delta fairly quickly the next day. We lived because of ancient patterns that kept us all alive.
The one other grace was that I was completely unaware of the death and destruction passing by me that night from Rapid City.



“David Stewart Lamb,” Flood of 1972, accessed December 5, 2022, https://1972flood.omeka.net/items/show/449.