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The Haw

I'm goin' down to the river bank this morning. Way before the family is awake. Gonna lay me down at the foot of the waters. And spill out all my troubles for everyone's sake. -- Ari Hest, “The Weight”

Of all the places in North Carolina I'll think back on fondly some day, the Haw River is probably the one I'll miss the most.

And though I visited it often in early mornings while the family slumbered, I also visited it evenings when the sun went down auburn behind the pines and the whistle in the waters was met by peepers. And late nights when the crackle of a camp fire floated out over the shadows. In the dead of winter, under a bright, Carolina blue sky. In late summer, when passing storms had churned the river into a chocolate maestrom that threatened death and destruction, carrying whole pines over boulders submerged, deadly.

I rock hopped from bank to bank when the river was a mere trickle, and gazed down from the Bynum Bridge when it was a raging torrent. I traipsed the rocky paths along its shores, through field and forest, amazed by the giant Red Cedars and Hemlocks, the Loblollies standing proud and green; wondered about what it would be like to camp on those myriad islands where the stream parted around tough sections; looked for beaver tracks in the sandy patches; canoed up it and down it. I wandered among the ruins of the old hydropower equipment, coffer dams, raceways. I wondered how they built some of those things, what it was like when it was the backbone of a string of mill towns.

I wondered how the Haw manages to discharge so many abandoned automobile tires when floods are high, or why the dioxin levels are so high and no one yet seems to be held accountable. I wondered what it will look like when its banks are choked with luxury houses, as it seems they soon will.

Mostly, I came back, again and again, simply to enjoy a walk along the river.

I will soak my soul, let the river take control, the river take control. I know it's not too late, to let go the weight, to let go the weight. -- Ari Hest, “The Weight”


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