A muddy creek carrying the stubble of erosion cuts through the tiny town of Petersburg, PA. Lumber rich woodlands were shaved of deep rooted trees—generations ago, clearing space for cattle, sprawling pastures, all-ears cornfields, irrigated acres of cash crop and backyards covered in green grasses and horseshoe pits.
The creek, named ‘Shaver’s Creek’, slowly scrapes at the fertile Appalachian valleys and reddish topsoil, carrying with it the runoff of chemical fertilizers from nearby farms.
Before the modern age of sanitation and community waste recycling facilities, it was Shaver’s Creek that flushed away the runoff of backyard septic tanks that replaced outhouses in Petersburg, long after the second great war, just before battles in the rice patties of Asia erupted.
Into the much larger Juniata River, Shaver’s Creek ran—down the Susquehanna River it’s waters converged with a new name until eventually reaching the Chesapeake Bay.
The native people of these wooded lands—those here as a result of ancient trespasses across frozen seas settled here as well—near Shaver’s Creek—arrow heads are found all along the bed of this sleepy stream, next to a lost horseshoe or two.
They were a people not of buffalo, but of deer. They carved totem and lived in wood houses and fed from streams so pure that none ever suffered thirst.
So much has changed along the Susquehanna and further upstream in a tributary called the Juniata, and the modest muddy feeder of a stream, Shaver’s Creek and beyond. Further and further back each drop goes, tracing roots to clouds. Some of the water winds through underground limestone caverns and flows as currents in a below sea level gulfstream, spinning in the form of black, underground water funnels, never to see the light of day or evaporation again—at least until the great mountains are moved from above.
Modern man, as tourist, visit such traps—on site- seeing boats—at places like Penn’s Caverns where for under $20 one can float atop the escaping, purified waters of the center of the earth and witness firsthand the existence of the blind, prehistoric fish, first written of by H.G. Wells. The fish are white with pink eyes—born blind with a thin layer of scales over what was to evolution, their eyes. Seeing in the pitch black waters nearly a mile below solid rock, is not possible.
In the days of when native Indians lived along Saver’s Creek, wind blew through Petersburg refreshed like the water from the caverns below. Infused with morning fog and creek bank honeysuckle, the skies were heavy laden with the shadow of wild turkey and the water was not only clear, it was drinkable.
When railroad workers settled this area, nearly all lost their teeth at the age of twelve due to cavities caused by the sweet morning breeze—they were not wise like the Indian who brushed with urine in a time before there was fluoride in the water. The air was intoxicating and due to the wild mushrooms that grow among the rotting logs of the forest, the breeze at times was hallucinogenic.
The caverns—the winds—the underground lakes—these temples of the totem carving people.
Metal horseshoes—pegs driven into the very heart of the land—A game to those who tossed iron horseshoes in Olympic fashion across the sands of yesterday, over a few beers—To the blind trout far below—an echo vibrates. To the fish—a vision in what is now cloudy, black water—a pulse that must seem like the light—so they search, again, trying to find the sky inside of Penn’s Caverns.