Lois Gnuse always spent the weekends camping on the Missouri River with her family and husband, Don. They enjoyed jet skiing with friends. In the winter, they'd go four-wheeling in the mountains.
Then, "the first flood came," Lois said.
While the flood wasn't as damaging as the 2011 flood, it did stop the couple's camping adventures, and instead they upgraded to a weekend cabin.
Then the couple, who also had a side hobby of refurbishing and selling antiques, planned their retirement. They'd remodel their cabin and retire to it. They'd refurbish and sell the antiques out of the garage. They'd travel the world. That was 20 years ago.
In the process, Don had a stroke, leaving him unable to speak and partially paralyzed.
But the house was still remodeled, now made wheelchair accessible. Neighbors would spend time with Don while Lois went to school for her real estate liscence in Omaha, later deciding to manage property. All the while, the couple would spend time fishing, driving around the river, going for drives, on cruises and trips.
"We enjoyed life," Lois said.
Don later went to Good Shepherd Lutheran Community in Blair, and died in 2008.
But Lois hasn't left her home on the river, on Flying Cotton Loop, near Blair.
"It's all the memories," she said of what keeps her on the river.
While she enjoys visiting her neighbors and fishing, it hasn't all been smooth. In the midst of a flood on a Thursday night in the summer of 2011, Lois found out the power and water companies were shutting off energy that weekend. Gnuse went around to her neighbors, telling them they'd have to evacuate by Sunday morning. Power ended up going out Saturday night.
But she also got word out to church groups, family and friends, and Saturday morning, people began showing up with trucks, ready to help.
"By Sunday noon, there wasn't a stick of furniture," Gnuse said. To this day, she still becomes emotional remembering all the help she received.
From June 1 to about July 4 that year, Gnuse stayed in a camper at her daughter's. Then, she rented a house in Arlington until October. But she was ready to return to home on the river.
"I didn't like living in Arlington for six months (after having lived on the river)," she said.
Gnuse and her grown children put on waders and life jackets, tying themselves to each other, and went into the crawl space to find that water had reached just short of the floor boards.
But she moved back in, driving across farm fields to avoid flooded roads. Four years later, her yard and garden are once again flourishing.
Though she has since sold her jet skis, not able to maintain the upkeep, Gnuse doesn't fear another disastrous flood, and doesn't see herself leaving.
"I can ride my four-wheeler; I have birds; I have kitties," she said. She lives a carefree lifestyle, fishing and visiting the marina when she wants.
"I was raised on a farm," she said. "I'm kind of a country girl at heart."