Iowa Writes

JEAN MARIE HALL
Life as a Creek


I am water and moss and sand and rock and mud. Water primarily, rock always, moss in late summer, mud along my banks, and sand when floods roll it down my path.

I don't know how old I am. I don't remember how or when a gush of water, rockslide or just plain erosion caused me to break away from my mother, the Turkey River, and find my own path in life. At first I wandered wide and shallow trying to decide where I wanted to go. But by and by, the soil under me washed away and banks began to form at my side and my fate for centuries was decided.

I am water and moss and sand and rock and mud. Water primarily, rock always, moss in late summer, mud along my banks, and sand when floods roll it down my path.

I don't know how old I am. I don't remember how or when a gush of water, rockslide or just plain erosion caused me to break away from my mother, the Turkey River, and find my own path in life. At first I wandered wide and shallow trying to decide where I wanted to go. But by and by, the soil under me washed away and banks began to form at my side and my fate for centuries was decided.

Animals love me and depend on me. Deer and turkey come to me for drinks. Birds come to drink too and they eat the bugs above me and the seeds on the weeds that grow on my banks. They decorate me with bright colors. Raccoons live close by and use my water to wash their food, persnickety as they are about that kind of thing. I used to have muskrats that would do their water ballet in my deeper parts and live in my banks. I haven’t seen them here lately. There have been possums and other animals, even an occasional nasty-looking snapping turtle.

If the water is just right in the spring, the fish called red horse swim down me. I have pools filled with minnows.

A hundred years or more ago, Indians crossed me or pitched their tepees beside me. Indian women carried my water to their cook fires and washed their clothes here in my water and on my rocks. Indian children played with twigs for arrows and sticks for ponies along my banks. They swam in me when they were hot. When they were teenagers, they flirted and courted beside me.

Later people built a wonderful bridge across me that took them in their vehicles down a road across the country. Under the bridge, I grew very deep and people came to swim in those depths and dived off that bridge.

Now I am old and lazy and just roll slowly along my path. For the most part, I am gentle although when winter snows melt, it sometimes causes me to become angry. One time when the big waters came I went a long way out of my path and caused a lot of damage to my banks and nearby trees. Giant boulders crashed down through my water. I left some of the trees bare-rooted and they will die. For that I am sorry, but I couldn't stop the big water.

One year I lost all of my water. It was called a drought, but when the rains came, I got well again.

The bridge is old and rickety and the people do not use their vehicles on it anymore. Many of the rocks that help hold it up have washed away. But sometimes the people walk across it or sit on it and just watch me. I think it brings them peace. Sometimes they even have picnics on it.

It's quiet for the most part but sometimes those same people bring children in the summer to paddle around in me. Those children don't mind getting moss between their toes. Sometimes the children come in the winter to walk timidly on my ice. I love to hear their laughs and squeals. It makes me feel young again.

Some people love my rocky bottom because I have fossils that tell of a time long, long ago, much longer than I can remember. They make me feel that my story is important and that I should keep rolling along this old path for many more centuries.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


JEAN MARIE HALL

Jean Marie Hall is a feature story writer and columnist for the Clayton County Register in Elkader, Iowa. Her column is entitled "Flora, Fauna and Folks." She has worked for this weekly newspaper for nearly twenty years.

This page was first displayed
on May 01, 2006

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