That sounds like a title for a creepy mystery novel but I mean it literally. I have spent countless hours walking along creeks and rivers doing little more than looking and thinking. There is just something fascinating about watching water move in a natural stream and all the natural life that flourishes in and around it. It is watching time flow by. I have also spent many hours fishing, boating, swimming, skating, and nearly drowning in creeks and rivers in Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota, but it is the little creek here at home that I have, for so many years, enjoyed the most. We call it a crick, of course, or rather THE crick when I was a kid, because as a source of entertainment, it was the best thing on the farm.
No toy or pastime can equal a creek in recreational potential for children. Our crick was a little small and shallow for swimming but perfect for wading. Children love to walk in water, — much more miraculously fascinating than walking on water. And in winter when we tried to walk on water, we were forever breaking through thin ice and have to retreat to the warmth of Dad’s workshop to dry our feet. We called our dilemma “leaky boots” but they didn’t leak. We just hoped that Mom would scold less if we blamed it on that.
Among the other games we played in or beside the crick, the most popular was something we called splashing. The idea was to have a good sized rock at the ready, and when a companion got close enough to the water, plop it in and drench him or her. Turnabout then became fair play, and everyone went home soaked.
Making dams and waterfalls was another favorite pastime. We would use tinker toys to fashion little waterwheels to spin in a gap in the dam where the water flowed more rapidly. The crick back then was teeming with fish, crawdads, turtles, and water snakes. Dad taught us how to catch snapping turtles— some of the best meat nature can provide. A neighbor made luscious meals out of the crawdad tails and we could seine up a bucket full quite easily. The part of the crick that runs through our property today is still spring fed and never goes completely dry, so down through the years it has supported even mussels. Of all this diversity, only a small amount survives today because of pollution. But some still remains, replenished by fish from the small river into which the crick flows about three miles downstream. One of my favorite pastimes in earlier years was watching these fish leap over a little dam I made as they moved upstream in the spring.
Today, there is much worry and rightly so over creek bank erosion. Where farmland or pasture runs right up to the creek, the water eats away the soil in worrisome amounts. I used to get terribly upset by that but I now wonder if mankind’s activity is only speeding up something that happens naturally. A creek always meanders as a bank in its outer bend washes away faster than at the neck of a bend. If a video of a flowing creek could be speeded up to where a minute would show the passage of a century, the creek would seem to be slithering along like a wiggling snake. Eventually the meanders are cut off from the creek into oxbows, as they are called. Then the creek makes another turn which becomes a meander and by the time eons have passed and new oxbows shaped, the old ones have transformed into rich bottomland soil or wetlands. The soil washed away during this never-ending process goes finally into oceans or lakes or old oxbows or sometimes earthworks built by prehistoric humans as is the case along our crick. Time passes so slowly in nature that it is difficult to judge what is calamitous and what is natural. The continents slide apart on tectonic plates to form new land masses. Mountains wear down and spring up someplace else. The creeks wear away one bank and then another and the oxbows so formed continue to support all kinds of natural life. Nothing goes away. Geology and biology just change form. Do humans cause calamity or merely speed up natural processes? I’ve walked beside my creek for over 80 years now and I’m still asking myself that question.