On the Towpath
Black cinders crunch under
eight hooves in steady 1-2
Queen Anne’s lace and ironweed
along the remnants of the Erie Canal
My mother rides point on the palomino
and my pony’s short legs churn to keep up
past the crickets singing in the ditch
and the Jaite Paper Mill workers waving
from the concrete dock
The noon whistle chases us past
the aerators in the mill ponds
and a nod from my mom tells me
to gather my reins for a gallop
to settle and grip and whoop
A blur of cream and gold hindquarters
and speed through the undeniable green of summer
Draft 1998? On cream typing paper in navy fountain pen
Today’s poem is courtesy of my packrat habits, and a news article about The Cuyahoga Valley National Park (which was the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area when I was a kid) having some of the country’s best waterfalls.
I want to write more about this. The Jaite Paper Mill ran throughout my childhood, closing when I was about 12 or 13 (1983? 1984?). This ride (my mom and I) took almost a full day–down Highland Road to the Towpath, cut across a field to Stanford Road, then up Stanford to visit Clayton and Nina Stanford. Nina always had 40 cats running around, and incredible gardens. Clayton had retired from Terry Lumber and was my mother’s friend, though she was only in her early 30s and he was in his early 70s at the time. They were the last Stanfords on the road that bore their name.
After a visit, we’d ride up Stanford Road to Brandywine Falls, past the old man who lived in what is now the Inn (he once chased us with a shotgun). Then down Brandywine Road to the path cut by dirtbikes next to the Hike and Bike trail, and back up Highland.
That’s how I remember summer, 1979. From the back of my pony.