The last time I mowed the yard, I noticed with pleasure how the neat curved rows of soybeans came right up to the edge of the grass.

The last time I mowed the yard, I noticed with pleasure how the neat curved rows of soybeans came right up to the edge of the grass.

This was on the east side of our house, in a place that habitually floods, in spite of the field tiles that I know for a fact are under the ground, because my husband helped to put them there.

I suspect attempts to discourage that piece of land from flooding have been going on for almost as long as the land has been there, and nothing has worked yet -- although, as my husband has pointed out, with the attempts, we have a yard to the east; without the attempts, we'd have a dock.

This year, though, the soybeans were a decent size and still they held their ground -- literally -- creating an effect I hadn't seen in years: A sweep of solid green on the east side of the drive. Green soybeans in the field, green grass in the yard. Well, green grass if a person stood well back and wasn't too picky about distinguishing between grass green and weed green. The point is, everything over there was growing. Beautiful.

Twenty-four hours later, it was all underwater.

The storm began before dawn, and three inches of rain fell in a little more than two hours. Basements flooded, creek beds overflowed, roads were closed, and once again, a pond appeared where just a day earlier I'd stood to admire those healthy soybeans. For several hours even after the rain stopped the pond continued to expand, spreading inexorably over the driveway and across the front yard.

As usual, I wasted some time hoping the beans, and even our grassy weeds, would survive. What's a little water? I thought encouragingly. Plants are wiry. Plants are tough. They can stand up to things. Think of the redwoods, soybeans! Think of kudzu!

Two days later, the last of the water finally receded, leaving behind a muddy expanse of dead grass, dead weeds and dead soybeans. At least, they were black, they were soggy and they were prostrate in the field. I didn't need a coroner to determine their condition.

Well, I thought. That's that.

Sometimes farmers replant -- farmers are optimists, by both definition and necessity -- but even when a second planting grows, it's not the same. The new crop is shorter, paler and faintly resentful. The beans seem to know they were invited to the party at the last minute.

The section of field that floods isn't huge -- it's one bite from an extra-large pizza. Agriculturally speaking, no cataclysmic harm is done when rain once again creates a pond out there. But the lovely curve of crop is gone, and furthermore, some harm is done. The beans that perished were worth something, as was the labor that put them there.

Farming is always a gamble. The farmers bet that they can plant crops and keep them alive and healthy until harvest time. Meanwhile, the forces of nature, those pesky rascals, put their heads together to plot how they're going to thwart the farmers this year. Mayhem ensues.

Of course, it's not just farmers who go up against the forces of nature. Look at Katrina. Look at Ike. Look at any of the senators and governors and other once-powerful sad sacks who thought they had risen above nature's reach, only to find that they were in her grip all along.

In the end, the forces of nature can't be blamed. They just are. It's we who must do the replanting, the repairing, the restraining and the forswearing.

It's a pity about those beans, though.

Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer: E-mail her at mbartlett@thisweeknews.com

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