Monday, March 7, 2011

Life Flowed Beneath the Bridges

The Bonneville Dam was opened and the lands beneath flooded. A nation of Native Americans lost their land, their livelihood, their heritage. The river roared, and a nation was buried.

My son was in a show this weekend, Ghosts of Celilo Falls. The story is about the mighty Columbia River and the way of life that disappeared when progress came calling. A story I had been well aware of since moving here, especially after reading the book Winterkill by Craig Lesley. But I'm not writing about Oregon. I'm writing about the importance of the waterways that touch our lives.

Often I write of the creek that ran through our farm. There is something to be said for the honor of residing next to water. I'm sure those who live by the oceans, rivers, lakes and ponds understand what I'm saying. Perhaps we who have lived by the water, fail to realize the impact it has made on our lives until we are sixty-three, approaching sixty-four. Water, the source of life, the source of laughter, the source of memories.

In looking back over my mother's old photo album, I came across picture after picture of women in dresses and hats, men in coats, ties and felt fedoras fishing from the water's edge or lined up in a rowboat with poles in hand. Our families fished this creek that hugged our farm. Recreation as well as food source came from the Stillwater River. My history flowed with those waters. My history flowed beneath the bridges.

The old wood boards on the bridge floor creaked and moaned when cars drove across. Shhhhh. Listen. Close your eyes and try to imagine the sound as horses and wagons crossing, carrying my relatives generations ago. The creaking of wheels and the steady pace of the horse making a sound that echoed across the fields. Shhhhh.

We sat with feet dangling over the edge of the bridges watching for minnows darting among the rocks and moss. We watched the snapping turtle sunning on a rock. Small fish and crawdads made their way down the rippling stream of water.

"Don't go into the water," Dad always said. "There are leeches." Thus my feet never waded in the creek. Oh, how I would love to wade now.

When my father was young, they swam in the creek then deep and wide, long before the dredgers came to change the water's flow. Hard to believe that the shallow creek I remember was once deep and waiting for the Loxley boys looking for a refreshing swim after a day at school or after working in the fields.

I shared with my children this creek of mine. They grew up with walks to the bridge on every visit. Yet they cannot have the memories of the decades past. They cannot understand the importance of this water that flowed just as our lives did back that lane.

I cannot imagine our farm covered with water, our memories buried. I cannot imagine the stream in which we fished becoming a raging river. The bridges put asunder. Rich farm soil washed away. Memories drowned with no remnants left behind.

Life ran down the creek on Neff Road. A creek that touched the lives of those residing there.

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