Save the Sharp Farm of Pocahontas County
History and heritage in Slatyfork, West Virginia.
The Author's Blog

The Ghost Waters' Wrath

Saturday July 29, 2006
By David Fleming

Click on photos for larger versions.

On a sunny day in mid-June, 2006, I wrote these thoughts down as I walked the Big Spring Fork streambed and the field of the proposed treatment facility. The field is the one in the background of this webpage (see the scene).

Stones of Big Spring Fork

There are thousands of sandy stone voices here that speak in unison. Some are big, some grandfathers, some just small children. In our years all old. All shaped by the dynamics of the flow. The big broken tree presently blocking the streambed is but another surprise this stream routinely yields. Strange that shrubs are flourishing right in the middle of the streambed. There is an uprooted tree, washed too hard and still trembling from what was clearly a recent and violent rush of water. On and off this Big Spring Fork is. Flowing at this moment though is only a breeze that carries the sound of the train whistle, down the valley from Spruce, some 12 miles away.

Tadpoles in the Big Spring Fork

Now downstream a bit, in this straight stretch there are few stones, just flat-rock streambed. The water must move so fast here. With red dust all over, it reminds of the historical floods on Mars from before our time. But this isn't Mars, and history frequently repeats here, as finally a small pool of standing tadpoled water attests.

Amongst the sparse stones here are massive State Road rocks. They once lined the bank but the Ghost Waters have pulled them to the streambed effortlessly. There is much cautionary evidence here, and I look behind me just to make sure the Ghost Waters aren't there; that I don't become the next streambed stone. Here is a half-buried deer leg bone in the middle, as if this deer didn't look back soon enough. Standing here, it is easily understood that the Ghost Waters can flood the facility, can swallow the pride and indiscretion of those agencies and people who would heedlessly construct in its domain.

It is a steep, violently cut climb up the bank to the field. Like the serpent's tongue, the Fork splits here. To the left, the main streambed. To the right, the undeniable channel which is the route of flood-raged waters—crashing straight into the field, the would-be facility.

Some Purples
Some Whites

There is a hearty and splendid variety of greenery and mustard grasses. This is a magnificent specimen of a Pocahontas County day-dreamy field. This field's flora conceal, however, the land's lay, the sinkholes and caverns under foot, the Ghost Water's domain. Presently, purples and whites spring forth to complement the now-expiring buds of the yellows. They are most joyful greeters on my walk through this field. Some deer spring up and run, snorting in unanimous disapproval of my presence here. The scent is an overpowering but undeniably splendid concoction of late spring blooms and growth. I strafe left with a respectfully wide berth around the forming sinkhole just ahead. It is a monster in the making no doubt. Standing here, I perceive that this is the delta of the inflowing Ghost Waters. Here, each step I take is of a different height and footing, and with utmost caution. Then I take a step which is too deep for comfort; I pause, ascertain, and realize the girth of its perimeter. So I swing right towards the small bit of higher ground to safety. I am in a minefield of holes. I take the advice of the deer paths. They surely know safe passage through here.

Guardian of the Field

I come upon a leafy and dead-wooded deposit of eddied floodwater remains, just left of the few square yards of high ground. I finally have a straight path to the tolerant Guardian of the Field. This overkeeper of the resting place of some fourth-generation Sharps is a large and splendid tree. It is ringed with leaning posts that date from the Civil War. From this vantage point it is easy to see, just as the red-winged blackbird narrates to me from its perch, that another flood channel cuts through and into the middle of the field, veering left to merge back into the main streambed which flows 'round field's left perimeter.

I take a seat at the Guardian's base, safely tree-shaded, cooled, and calm. Just me and the red-winged blackbirds that obviously enjoy their haven here. Now at eye level with the flora, I have their perspective. Each one peeks up and writhes 'round one another. After some time it becomes clear to me what stirs them. They are looking out for the doom of dozers.

Indeed everything in this field is presently unsettled and afraid. The cries to be spared of the impending facility become loud in the whispers of the grasses and songs of the blackbirds. My thoughts begin to dwell upon them, and with those of the people who hope so much for salvation from the heedless plan to take down this field, this Guardian. And I fear of all the damage that the New and Toxic Waters will do to this field, this stream system, this karst terrain. And I fear because of the inescapable wrath that, in turn, the Ghost Waters would inflict upon them.