Ponds, peaceful and lasting. Landmarks of long ago travels. Hiking cross-country and hiding out for an hour or two, near water with sounds soothing the restless heart. Some kids living near my place are hiding out along the stream that turns into Bynum Run from Wysong Branch, and not only do they indulge in Mountain Dew and Sprite, they chew Skoal too. Reminded me of steps taken many years ago when Harford County was ‘dirt road and Friday nights in town.’ Delta, Cardiff and Woodbine were the great northern wilderness and you only went there on the Fourth of July and never after dark.
Landmarks like the Gross trestle at Sharon crossing and the ‘train layout’ beauty along the Ma and Pa railroad paralleling Rocks Road. The trestle across Deer Creek abutted by pointed Port Deposit granite. Elegant and powerful, yet simple and often missed by hell-bent motorists.
Water, creeks, branches, runs, streams and marshlands all play strong and hard in my upbringing as youthful playgrounds and hideouts. Places to go to when there was no one around to play ball with or when I had to do chores. Hiding out was good for me, it left me alone with myself and I learned things people couldn’t show me. I didn’t like going home on those chilly nights in the fall. I couldn’t wait to get back next time, and if a buddy came along, that was even better. But I got the most out of streams and ponds by myself allowing my undivided attention to nothing in particular.
There used to be a stream west of the Francis farm, then at the foot of East Broadway near the outskirts of Bel Air. Tommy Broumel, Jim Rhinehart and I would hide out, camp out, catch a black snake, torment a snapping turtle or dip minnies. There was always something going on in a pond or stream in the late ‘40’s, early ‘50’s for us to get into. Long ago that little stream was bulldozed out of the way and reshuffled into oblivion, so there’s no going back there.
Whenever I pass landmarks of the past, memories of people I was with are vividly presented for review and thoughtful recall. It may be the spot on the curve in Rocks State Park where Tommy Stark lost control of his shiny new 1958 TR-3 roadster. We clipped off a telephone pole, flipped over on Route 24 and shot out over Deer Creek, ending upside down, and suspended by saplings growing along the bank.
Hot wires down all over the place and some lady yelling at us as we struggled to get out of the water and up the embankment. She was warning us not to get ourselves electrocuted. That was a tough night for both of us, not to mention totaling his new little sports car.
Every time I drive through the Rocks I can’t help but think of that August night and how lucky I am to be alive. Every time, it’s there, all the details. Not sad, just vivid.
Not too far south of that curve is a little pond on the East Side of Rt. 24 and for ages it has been one of the prettiest and most ecologically balanced bodies of water in the county. Still, today, it is thriving and beautiful in its proximity to the roadway as well as fitting into the landscape towards Seven Cedars. As I drive by it always brings to mind those things taken for granted: that haven’t been bulldozed out of the way or faded from view. Landmarks of the past, still surviving, still touchstones for old and new travelers.
These ‘natural scenes’ are the lasting pictures development hasn’t erased. Some memories survive, some don’t.
When I was a little kid, the Rocks seemed so big. The ‘King and Queen’s’ Seat so high, so far away. Today, like lots of places revisited, they are smaller and more approachable. They are still awesome as ever, but now are in a total view of where I live. Roll over the country roads, drive away from the center of town, and patronize the out of the way places. Try to find a dirt road to ease your mind as you slow down and take in something that’s slipping away faster than you think. Lots of people moved here for the very reasons that are endangered today.
I used to drive my dad’s car into the field where today my home sits. Sounds of the tires crisping over hay stubble or crunching stones along driveways long ago.
Sacred little spots affectionately called ‘parking places’ where high school rings were exchanged and sometimes returned, Times of promise and love. In a setting atop a ridge, with the sun going down and the moon already rising, brightly, what more could a couple of 17-year-olds want?
The road worn and weary went home, and next day in school was a blur but it was good. Some of the little ponds and roads are left alone and I’m grateful. Many of the hayfields are filled with retail lumber, plumbing and electricity, and I’m not so grateful.
“Slow down and double back once more, don’t need directions and don’t need a map. Cause I’ve got nothing on my mind, and my shoes are the only sound goin’ round,” goes the tune “Blow You Away” by the Supersuckers.
Is there such a thing as an urgent memory? Mine still blow me away.
Todd Holden spends more time around the place this time of year.