Monday, October 15, 2007

Haw River Memories

When I die, I want my ashes to be scattered in the Haw River.

(Photo by Dave Horne)

In the first years of our marriage, Laurette and I rented an old post-and-beam farmhouse that stood on 1,100 acres in Chatham County. You could only get to it by a mile-long logging track that meandered between low rocky forested hills and along a creek. The place was wooded with beech, poplar, pine, oak, and understory dogwoods whose white blossoms glowed out of the spring twilights. Our teenage children were babies then -- two of them were born while we lived there -- and we had two young dogs who are now long dead.

If you followed the logging track past the farmhouse -- it was called Way Station Farm, and had once been a stage stop on the way to Pittsboro -- the track led down to the banks of the Haw, eventually fading off into the undergrowth. I followed it through the brush a few times to find the stone foundations and ruined chimneys of houses that had once been like the one we lived in.

In the four years we were there, I think we walked down that track almost every day, winter and summer, our shepherds making wide circles around us through the woods, our children usually in backpacks and the baby jogger. When we reached the river, the dogs would have a swim, and the kids would throw sticks for them into the water. Sam caught his first fish there, a small greenish catfish. We threw it back.

In spring and summer the ticks were ferocious, and we spent part of most evenings pulling ticks off the dogs with tweezers and dropping them into a small glass of rubbing alcohol. We checked the kids and ourselves, marking the day of every tick bite on the calendar in case of Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

But there were no mosquitoes, probably because every standing pool rippled with tadpoles that ate the larvae. What few survived the tadpoles were taken by the dragonflies that patrolled our yard, or by the quiet bats at dusk.

One spring the jungle of wisteria that was choking to death a nearby stand of loblolly pines bloomed so intensely that if you stood in the middle of it you could hardly take a breath, the sweetness was so overpowering. The bees and other insects were intent on the nectar, so that you could stand in the swarm without them paying you any attention.

In high summer the fireflies would settle in the trees after their dipping twilight mating flights and just pulse, their yellow glow contrasting with the thick icy white of the Milky Way. Late at night the whippoorwills would wake us up with their loud, repeating cries. In winter, you could often see the barred owl who lived nearby, and through the bare trees there were always a couple of turkey vultures circling in the pale sky.

Wouldn't it be a terrible waste if a place such as this were clearcut for a gated suburb? Don't you think places like this should be preserved for generations to enjoy?

I do. That's why I support Citizens for Haw River State Park.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post David. It sounds idyllic. Usually, your posts make me want to move into the city - this one makes me want to move farther away.

Anonymous said...

Sounds beautiful. I couldn't live in that house, though. My main concern when I move anywhere is that I have neighbors within screaming distance. I want to be close enough to someone that I can scream for help if ever the need arises. I could, however, camp there for a week or so!

Anonymous said...

What Anthony said.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link David! I didn't even know we had a state park in Guilford COunty. I really hope it gets the opportunity to grow!