A muddy crick flows like molasses through Petersburg. Westerly breezes infused by pollen from creek bank honeysuckle are sweet enough to cause cavities. Winds in Petersburg, on misty summer mornings, sting nostrils with a salty aroma—a slight seasoning is in the air—the smoke from passing locomotives.
Burnt coal spewed into the atmosphere from the volcanoes of man, covering everything, even the wind which is bathed already with the scent of stagnant river.
The trains roll right alongside the banks of the Juniata River– for this is where the tracks were put down—along nature’s already beaten path. Like a line of black plug-in air-fresheners, they spill by like fallen pepper shakers.
The stagnant waters of the Juniata River are dotted will millions of tiny, floating islands—clusters of milky bubbles banded together to float as silver dollars in the river along which so many poor reside—the piss from thousands of brown and white spotted cattle—all grazing along where the railroad runs and the river that guides the trains originates.
Crick banks are black—no longer the soft muddy wooded areas along the muddy waterway they once were. Tons of coal has fallen from the locomotives passing through Petersburg forming a black beach of sorts, not good for burning nor sunbathing on, but swimming in the crick was fine even with the cow piss.
Here and there a tree has managed to set root at the base of the long coal pile running alongside the crick, right next to the sandy brown river—a rather large tree, one not trimmed by track clearers during the great excavation that took place when the iron rails were first put down here after the Great Depression.
It grows like a weeping willow although it is a horse chestnut.
This was my grandfather’s favorite fishing hole and we swung from a rope in this tree, barley missing his head.