28 June 2006

On the Susquehanna Banks

I grew up in Pennsylvania.  My father was a long-haul truck-driver when I was little and we moved almost yearly.  So I was very very familiar with North East and North Central and East and East Central PA.  People ask where I'm from, I tell em, the North Eastern Quadrant of PA.  I figure that covers most of my childhood.

I remember events and such by where I lived at the time.  That clues me in to my age and grade and gives me a year to cite.  Sometimes, people will remark on my memory.  It's mostly little tricks like that.  No real big mystery.

To finish my childhood years, we moved back into the house my grandmother last owned.  The house was an old home.  It went through alot throughout the years.

The town was the town my mother lived in as a young girl.  Catawissa was a small town, but I was a country girl, growing up in the boondocks.  So any town would have seemed odd to me.  It was constraining to have to be constantly aware of other households and not to roam about at will.

The town was bordered by water, in every direction.  There were seven roads in/out of town, each one crossed a bridge.  Some of the bridges were major, iron affairs, the grating whistling to a higher pitch the faster you drove.  Others were small covered bridges, the wooden planking rumbling as you bumped along the treads.  Railroad bridges with wide, sturdy concrete pylons squatted over Fishing Creek.  One-lane, short, flat concrete spans skipped over small creeks that had no discernable names.

Catawissa's main waterway was the Susquehanna River.  The northern and western branches joined just 20 or 25 miles south.  Wide and shallow in most areas, with the occassional deeper hole or pocket carved into the roots, under the banks, the Susquehanna burbled merrily over rocks or swept at a steady slow pace, providing varied grounds for fishing for all skill groups and ages.

Kids and teens would swim in favored spots.  The most popular was the Dam, on the eastern edge of town.  The town officials closed access off years back, but time was, it was a fine way to spend the summer.

I have many memories of the Susquehanna.  A long river with two branches, it seemes to meander through my life.  It made marks even before my time, that carried through into my childhood.  I grew up hearing and knowing the power of the Susquehanna.

In 1972, Hurricane Anges blew through, flooding homes, roads, fields, and street.  Dried up canals filled with rushing waters.  The devastation was truly amazing.  I was a baby, but my folks were visiting my grandmother (in the house in which I would later live).  The house sat on a hill that was on a larger slope.  We were just about at the top of the mountain, well out of the valley.  Yet the flood waters left muck along the porch and silt in the cellar.

Now, my brother lives in that area.  The lower portion of town is flooded.  The river hasn't crested yet.  There is nothing but rain in the forecast.  They predict it will be worse than Agnes of '72.

This 20 yr flood has been in the making for close to 35 yrs.  High water, my friends, is hell.  My thoughts are with you.

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