Maybe it’s because I was born in a bend of an ancient river, a stream that starts as the Yadkin in the mountains and then, as it drops to the North Carolina Piedmont, takes the name of one of the Indian tribes, the Pee Dee, that once populated the area. Maybe it’s because, at the age of 4, I self-baptized by falling into the Pee Dee. Fortunately an adult cousin scooped me out before permanent damage could be done. Or maybe it’s because I still remember so clearly the day when I, a 5-year-old, watched in fascination as my 10-year-old brother, using his pocket knife, two forked sticks, and some sections of dry cornstalk, fashioned a flutter mill in the shallow edge of Cedar Creek. We watched as the clear water sparkled and hustled over the small rocks and turned the wheel, endlessly.
Whatever the reason, I have always been especially drawn to flowing streams. Maybe everybody is. As a small boy, I fished in the branch that ran through the woods behind our barn, catching small perch and horney-heads with biscuit dough on a homemade hook, but fishing was secondary. Just being in and around the stream was important to me, and I remember its pools, rapids, and eddies as clearly today as if I’d seen them yesterday.
This small stream attraction has stayed with me. During the years I was moving around the world, I always imagined I would some day live in the country again, and the place would be home to a creek or branch. So when retirement from the Army appeared on the distant horizon, I began to act. I bought rural land in the Midland area and made plans to build a house near one end of the tract. The opposite end, some distance away, held a sizable lake. Quite an attraction, but what really drew me was the creek. Swift water, pools, rocks, wildlife. I couldn’t ask for more.
After 19 years of living on the land I loved, with the creek I adored, circumstances changed. We needed to build a new house, handicap-accessible for my wife. We sold out, bought more acreage farther out in the county, and built the house we needed. Naturally, I would not have bought that particular property if it hadn’t had a creek. This creek, quite large, also has a tributary feeding it, and my house sits in the V formed by the juncture. The stream is the most significant feature of the entire property.
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The creek roars with unleashed power after storms, and I’m impressed. But I like it best when it runs quietly, murmuring over small rocks and granite ledges. The sight of the moving water is pleasant, and when it sounds as if it’s talking softly to me at the same time, I am doubly blessed. I no longer have the energy to follow the wandering stream bed through cuts and valleys, climbing over dead trees and pushing through brambles. If I was much younger, I might still do that. Or even construct a small flutter mill. But, no need. Just standing in one place and absorbing the stream’s personality as it flows by is enough.
I’m selfish about the creek. I think of it as mine. Only occasionally does the realization break through that it really isn’t. Ownership of what I’m looking at is a pleasant illusion, but the creek, like my life, is just passing through on its way to a distant location.
Well, enough of this chatter and two-bit philosophy. It’s late in the day, but the weather is pleasant and the light will linger for a while. I think I’ll walk down and look at my creek.