CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

February 15, 2008

THE YOUGHIOGHENY RIVER CRAWL


SCRIPTURE: Exodus 7:21 The fish that were in the river died, the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink the water of the river… (KJV)

REFLECTION: I find surprising revelations emerge in news-feature work. One occurred during an interview with a local artist who was commissioned to do a painting for Wesley United Methodist Church in Connellsville, PA. Interestingly enough, the artists last name was Rockwell—but his given name was not Norman. It was William, and he lived in the Appalachian Mountain woodlands.

Rockwell grew up in the same small community he’s grew old and died in. There a creek runs through his land.

In earlier days one of the businesses along the creek in Dunbar was a stockyard related to railroad transport of livestock.

Rockwell told me the story of a springtime competition: who would be the first one in the creek each spring?

“Ah, yes,” he added. “We all did the Youghiogheny crawl.”

The what? The Youghiogheny crawl? Turns out it was a special swimming stroke, an adaptation to the conditions of this creek.

“The stockyard used to dump stuff into the river,” he said. “We developed an arm stroke that would push the gizzards and intestine parts out of the path while we swam. It didn’t kill anyone, either.”

Well, the fish hadn’t died. But the river must have stunk, and the water must have been undrinkable. But kids figured out how to swim among questionable debri.

The Youghiogheny crawl. We hear new information each day!

Kids are warned against swimming in polluted rivers today. And many rivers are polluted, including the Ganges River in India. A recent AP article said Among believers, the river has many names: The Pure. Destroyer of Sin. Light Amid the Darkness of Ignorance. But mostly they call it “Ganga Ma” — Mother Ganges — and they worship it with a blinding intensity.

They worship it despite the islands of garbage that float down its path, and the tons of chemicals dumped in it. They worship it despite the one billion liters (quarter of a billion gallons) of sewage poured into it every day, spreading illness among the 350 million people — some one-twentieth of the world’s population — who live in its watershed.
For Hindus, the Ganges is a living goddess, capable of washing away sin.”

Yet millions of people fill the city of Allahabad, India, annually. They gather for a Hindu festival that pays homage to the river. Like the boys of Dunbar, they immerse themselves in the pollution.

With a certainty, the ruination of the Nile River was a life changing event for the Egyptians. Perhaps we should be concerned. Those of our rivers and lakes that are not already polluted to non-drinkability are fast becoming ruined. When will we take notice, or will we continue to swim in the waters to our detriment?

PRAYER: Lord, we need to take heed of the message that our environment needs care. Let us reverse the situation rather than swim in the pollution. Amen.

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