Georgia McFarland


Written Memory


November 10, 2010


Interview Script of phone interview with Georgia McFarland, conducted by Heide Noblitt 11.10.2010
Q: Tell me about how your day started.
A: The day of the flood we were at the high school rodeo in Sturgis. Our sons were in the rodeo. There was a lot of rain that day, and I don’t even know how they had a rodeo because it was so muddy. This was in Sturgis. We started seeing helicopters landing over where the interstate is and we weren’t sure what was going on until later in the day when we got done. We found out they were bringing bodies to Sturgis because they had overflow and they couldn’t take any more in Rapid City. Then we heard on the radio that they were looking for people with horses to ride Rapid Creek to look for bodies, and since we had our horses in town for the rodeo, my husband Glen and my sons Mike and Craig and myself, we loaded our four horses up and went to Rapid. We were told to meet at the Elks Club. That’s where we were assigned who to go with and where to go. It was pretty solemn.
It was still not nice weather either that day. I think there were six people in each group. They had a leader and five other people. The other person who was in the [our] group besides the leader was a grandfather with a small son riding on the back of his horse. The boy was, I guess it would be, eight or nine years old. They were looking for the little boy’s mother who had washed away in the flood. You know, that just gives you shivers now to even think about this particular situation going on, with the grandfather looking for his daughter.
The leader had some long poles and they told us if we saw something that we thought might be a body we should poke these poles into that area and people would come up behind us and see what they could find there. It was pretty solemn. At one time my husband Glen looked over and he saw an arm and leg he thought was a baby in a pile of rubble. There was still a lot of water around that area. When he got closer, he found out it was one of those big baby dolls which was a relief for him but he said he’ll never forget seeing that - what looked like a baby underneath all this rubble.
The smell was really bad because so many homes had been destroyed and deep freezes had been tumbled out and thrown open. So at the time we were riding the smell was rotting meat because it was very hot that day. Every time you got close to where that was at you‘d think “I’m finding a body here.”
It was really a sad, sad day. That’s all I ever think of when I think of when I’m thinking of the flood. You hear other things every year, but I just remember that ride going down the creek area there looking for bodies.
We were staying with my mother during the rodeo because our ranch was sixty miles out at Enning, South Dakota. My mother was one that had to have a little radio or something all night long. It went off the air and when it came back on the air -I was sleeping in her room- the radio just said, “Canyon lake is no more” , very solemn , and then they went on to tell about it. So that’s how we first found out about it. We went on to the rodeo that day, but it had rained a lot that day. Even over in Sturgis. In fact, the water was up, the people next door from my mother, the water was clear up to their back door. And before we had gone to Rapid,…you know, a lot of other areas besides Rapid were affected, but not with the deaths like they were. My husband’s family lived about six or eight blocks from my mothers. They had to wade over there they couldn’t drive because the water was so deep. When he got over on Davenport St in Sturgis the water was rushing, he said he never did figure out what it was, but it knocked him down and the water carried him off about a block before he get back up on his feet again.
Q: On the radio, is that where you heard that they were needing volunteers with horses?
A: Right.
Q: And you were able to get from Sturgis to Rapid City?
A: Yes we were. We couldn’t get back to the ranch because those went out onto Highway 34 were closed. But we were able to go to Rapid City on the interstate and we went out right to the Elks Club because that is where they told people if they had horses to come. We had four horses in town that day.
There were a lot of people out there riding the creek. I don’t know who they were. That wasn’t a concern that particular day. You were just wanting to go and help wherever you could. I know they did find some bodies over in there, but we didn’t. The group that I was in with my husband, we didn’t find any bodies.
Q: Where did you report back?
A: When we got down to the end of the creek area-I think we probably rode about a mile from the Elks Club. When we got to the end of that, we didn’t have to go back into the Elks Club. We went on back and loaded our horses up at the Elks Club, but we didn’t have to report in. The gentleman that was the leader [of our group] was the one who reported what we found and things like that. We did see an area where some of the sticks were poked into the ground in piles of rubble - evidently from another group that was probably ahead of us.



“Georgia McFarland,” Flood of 1972, accessed August 17, 2022,