Growing up in West Texas, as I did, I acquired the habit of looking down over the railings every time I drove over a bridge. The reason why, of course, was to see if there was any water in the arroyo or canyon or streambed or riverbed below—because more often than not, there wasn’t. If you did see some water, it was like a pleasant little surprise, something always to be remarked upon as you drove past. In Ohio, of course, there’s always water under the bridge, but it took me many years for my subconscious to pick up on that, because I was always looking.
February 2016. How long ago that seems, and how innocent those times were. Children played and built snowmen, while a Trump presidency was a distant and unlikely proposition. Not so crazy about today’s reality? Journey back with me a glorious twelve months and let’s explore a bit of southern Ohio from those bygone days of 2016.
When last we met, we were in the middle of a sunny but cold February 2016 excursion into southeastern Ohio, just a couple of miles from the Ohio River itself in Washington County, whose county seat is Marietta. Washington County is one of the more prosperous counties of southeastern Ohio—its per capita income is 25-33% higher than that of neighboring counties—but everything is relative. Central Ohio counties have incomes similarly higher than that of Washington County. You can find prosperity and poverty both along the Ohio River here.
I have such an odd memory. I remember things that I read or write extremely well, and I have a historian’s command of the irrelevant detail. But when it comes to my personal life, my memory is such an odd jumble. I can’t really compare it with someone else’s memory, of course, having experienced only my own, but it is so fragmentary, so impressionistic. My oldest memories are all just a few seconds long, if that: my mother outside the house trying to use a broom to keep water from the basement, rolling a Hot Wheel down a table (I don’t know if our house was completely level), pedaling a Big-Wheel-like contraption around my grandmother’s store/house, seeing something weird (a bat?) flying around in my bedroom, being in the back seat of our car when my parents spelled the word “i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m.” Things like that. Concrete or sequential memories are much rarer. I do remember one, perhaps because I learned a lesson. I remember watching “I Love Lucy” on television, then us turning off the tv and going somewhere. When I got back, I turned the tv on to finish watching “I Love Lucy” only to discover some other program was on. That was when I discovered that when you turned the tv set off, tv programs kept going. Well, they used to, my young on-demand, streaming darlings, they used to.
That is what you might expect for memories of someone 3-4 years old, but the thing is, that is the way all my memories are. That is the way my high school memories are—momentary, fragmentary, mixed up. That is the way my college memories are. Oh, I remember more things, but what is amazing to me is how much I have not remembered—whereas I can tell you with certainly the most obscure details about World War II, something I never came close to experiencing. In some respects I know more about the world I did not live in than the world I lived in. That’s reality giving me an atomic wedgie, that is. Continue reading
In which our intrepid hero ducks and cranes…
One of the things I like best about eastern Ohio is the surprises of slopes. Western Ohio is flat, often flat-flat, and its vistas cannot surprise. But eastern Ohio is full of hills, usually wooded, and sometimes quite large. As a result, if you are driving through eastern Ohio you are sometimes gifted with the pleasure of arriving at the top of a hill or ridge to see a wonderful expanse of countryside stretching out before you. All of a sudden, there it is.
In which our intrepid hero uncovers a little Lost City…
My opinions about mobile homes and travel trailers is decidedly mixed. While I like the idea of being a hermit crab, going around with your house on your back, taking all of your conveniences with you, I find that the practical reality is less than the ideal. Because of little things like plumbing and electricity, you aren’t really free but still tethered to campgrounds, and having to deal with things like hooking up sewage, etc., does not appeal to my lazy nature. Although I admit that they seem to be great for cooking meth in.
In which our intrepid hero puts another notch on his Rust Belt…
When I was a young child, my parents took me to visit a ghost town, the old mining town of Mogollon (of Spanish origin, now pronounced muggy-own) in far west New Mexico in the Gila Mountains. In the 1890s, Mogollon was a happening place, with thousands of residents who were involved, directly or indirectly, in the mining of gold and silver (the same mining that would give nearby Silver City its name). However, by the 1920s, many of the mines had shut down and an exodus followed. By 1930, its population was only around 200. When the last nearby mine shut down in the 1950s, the remnants of its population blew away like dust. When I visited the town, probably circa 1973 or so, it seemed to have been abandoned for a century.
That’s one type of ghost town. But there’s another.