MARTELL, Wisc. -- The Rush River at Martell is known for its trout fishing. But Wednesday's catch of the day was cows.
"We should have put floaties on them or something," said Pierce County farmer Tim Wiff.
Wiff's herd of pregnant heifers survived Wednesday's early morning six-inch deluge just fine in their pasture. The trouble came after sunrise when some 80 head of cattle tried to cross the swollen Rush River to get back to their barn for feeding - and floated away.
"You could see 20 to 25 cows all in a blob just flying with the current down the river and it was just shocking," said Doreen Smith, who watched, stunned, as cattle floated by.
With help from friends and neighbors, Wiff was able to round up most of the heifers that floated away. Some were found as far as three miles downstream.
"Most of them when they came on the trailer they looked fine. They looked tired. You could tell they've been out working to get out of the river."
Wiff says 10 to 15 heifers are still missing. He's hopeful more will be found alive, though he expects some will be found dead once the water recedes.
Still, Wiff considers himself lucky so many of his heifers came home. "We'll bed them good tonight and feed them and tell them to stay home," he laughed.
The flash flood caused some anxious moments for humans too.
Sue West strapped her disabled six-year-old son to her chest with a life jacket before wading through hip-deep water to escape her family's Martell home. She said a Pierce County Sheriff's deputy used a light to help guide her through the water. "The policeman was there and he was telling us to go slow, but of course I went as fast as I could."
West's basement quickly filled with water as the Rush River rose above the hood of an old Allis Chalmers tractor parked out back.
"He's been very calm through it all," said West as she gave her son Mick a wheelbarrow tour of the damage.
West added, "I wasn't scared at the time but an hour later I just started shaking, so I guess it was adrenalin and faith keeping me going."
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