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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Red river running red

June 21, 1980

The river is low and red today.
Low from lack of rain and red from the clay stirred up by struggling wildlife.
Except for the never ending hum of traffic along River Drive, the river seems silent – thirsty birds refusing to sing, starving ducks too hungry to even squawk. Even the usually boisterous ten-foot high waterfall just down stream whispers instead of roars, adding its red grime to the already bloody surface.
One guy – a factory worker – blames the chemical company for the constant ticket of waste we see dripping out pipes along the Garfield side.
A fisherman with pole pointed out towards the center of the river like an accusing finger blames the politicians.
“We elect them to do something and they do nothing,” he said. “So we elect somebody else and they don’t do anything either.”
The cop – sitting in his running car with windows open and a half devoured hamburger in his hand – blames the “hippies and the peaceniks” and their talk of saving the planet. He’s not the routine cop that used to beat up hippies for kicks, but a one time hippie who says he got sold a bill of goods, given hope that we could all save the planet. So he gave up and calls our kind “Commies” just as his father once did to him. Then, he speeds off in a gush of smoke and tires spitting gravel, all of which settles eventually on the river making it run that much redder.
I finish my coffee and continue my jog, going back along the river, passed the abandoned car lots and the crumbling buildings, passed the high towers of the brick mills with smoke spewing out of their stacks. But I look mostly at the river bottom where car bumpers, gar tires and hold shopping cars show, all the detritus we never notice until the river gets this low.
Someone ought to clean it up, I think, but know it won’t be me.

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