Saturday, September 27, 2014

09-27-14 – Riding Shotgun – The River


a misty river morning seen through a dirty windshield

Maybe because I was raised on a hill a long way from water, I’ve always had a fascination with it. I love being by little rills, creeks, rivers and lakes. I’m sure I’d love the ocean, too, though I’ve only seen it once. I would NOT, however, choose to live too close to such things (except the rill). Maybe that comes from looking down from my hilltop home to see the whole valley covered with water.
One nice thing about working the dirt job lately, is getting a close and frequent view of the Ohio River. A lot of folks seem to think that the river was named for the state. Actually, it was the other way around. Some folks also believe that it’s owned by the state of Ohio, but it isn’t, though, and there lies a bit of irony.

The boundary with Ohio was settled when this neck of the woods was still part of Virginia. Many years ago, the western line of West Virginia was being re-discussed, and the state of Ohio coyly suggested that West Virginia was more than welcome to keep the river itself, and they would simply continue to claim whatever land lay beyond the low water mark of a certain year. The real reason was that they figured that West Virginia would have to bear the cost of any bridges spanning the river. With all the locks and dams that have been added over the years, the river is now higher and wider, so Ohio now owns about 20% of the river’s surface.

The last couple of years, West Virginia has been exploring the option of drilling for oil under the river. Immediately, the state of Ohio raised a howl that they were entitled to part of the money, if oil was found. A lot of folks, knowing the story about Ohio’s previous lack of interest in the river, were disgusted at Ohio’s behavior, but the governor of West Virginia graciously offered them 20%, their percentage of ownership in the current river. (I'm sure their governor wouldn't be that generous with us!) I’m sure that isn’t enough to satisfy those in Ohio government, but I haven’t heard of any plans to fight the percentage. Of course, I haven’t heard of them offering to put up 20% of the drilling costs, either.

With my current schedule, I get to see most sunrises on the river, which is interesting. Some mornings dawn as clear as crystal. Others are so foggy that you’d think it was the Thames, not the Ohio, with the fog filling the whole valley. Occasionally, that fog lasts until nearly 10 o’clock before the view of the river is complete. The other day, it was clear until nearly nine o’clock, and THEN a fog set in, drawing a opaque curtain closed at the shoreline. It has something to do with the temperature of the water and the temperature and moisture content of the air, so you’d think it would be somewhat predictable. However, the breeze can bring in moister or drier air in minutes and the water temperature can either rise or fall quicker than you might think, as northern water drains southward.

Some days, the fog lies only inches deep on the river, reminding me of the fuzzy angora sweater of a girl that I dated in high school. (I don’t remember her sweater being anywhere near as flat as the water, though!) One morning, I spotted beggar ticks sticking to the watery fabric, only to gradually realize that it was a gaggle of Canada geese floating on the current.

A decent-sized river is impressive somehow. It gives one an insight into power and peace, and time and timelessness. It can evoke feelings that even get put to music. I wonder how many songs are linked to streams. I can think of several. One that always comes to MY mind is “Ol Man River,” as sung by William Warfield in “Showboat.”

I enjoy watching the barge traffic as the big boats move materials up and down the river at very much a “wholesale” level. Huge tugboats move multiple loaded barges at a time. I’m rather impressed, though, by a much smaller tug that moves single barges to and from various docking points in roughly a two mile stretch of river. It seems too small for the job, but it labors away and gets the work done. Like most things in life, perseverance is the key, I guess.

I’d like to wet a line in the water sometime, but my days are too busy to allow it anymore. My life, like the river, keeps rolling onward, and nothing has the power to stop it. That’s why I try to grasp whatever little pleasures I can as I get swept along, since I won’t be passing by this way again. © 2014


Lady Locust said...

Funny to hear you say you don't want to live near a river. It was one of the things I wanted when looking for a place. Although, our little river does not quite match the scale of the Ohio:) Enjoyed the view.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

Show Boat is my absolutely favorite musical! When I was a child I would go to Muny Opera with my parents in St Louis and watch it under the stars while drinking the classic "orange ade" they would sell either at the concession stand or though walking vendors.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

I have never been that far west but it sounds interesting. I would call the rivers here creeks since you can't run a motor boat on them just canoes if the water is high enough. I grew up near the Maury which flows into the James. Now that river could get up and get nasty ugly so I would not want to live close to water after seeing what can happen.

M. Silvius said...

I knew there had to be some lovely sights on your rounds. I am glad you are putting up photos of what you see along the way. I have not had the chance to explore your neck of the woods but it is nice to see it from your drivers seat.

Sixbears said...

I've always been a water person, but I'm a mountain person too. At least here in NH I've the safety of living up high, but with access to good rivers and lakes.

I've fallen in love with the ocean, but think it's silly to own ocean front property. The sea will eat the land during a storm.

Your story about who owns the river reminds me of the Connecticut River between NH and VT. NH owns right up to the land on the VT side.

Gorges Smythe said...

Well, LL, I always wanted to live in a meadow at the head of a vally with a river at the very farthest, lowest edge of the property (but I never got it). I'm talking well out of any thousand year floods here! lol

Good memories and a good movie, Kathy!

I've seen whitecaps many times on the Ohio, SF, and six foot waves several times. Mainly, though, I just don't want to live in a flood plain.

I'm afraid my photos won't do many places justice, Michael. I'm the sort of fellow who could mess up a photo of a brick! lol

I figure that I don't want the water visiting ME, Sixbears; I'd rather visit IT! As for state lines, I guess everything comes down to politics.