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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: River (08/31/06)

TITLE: The Devils Staircase
By Marilyn Schnepp


Helplessly I watched as inch by inch the river began to rise and spill over its banks. Soon it had crept through the underbrush, inched its way across the empty lot behind my mobile home, and then slowly trickled into my backyard. I watched as the tentacles of water lengthened into streams of rushing water within a minutes time, covering my lawn and brazenly attacking my "Welcome Mat" with swirls of gushing water.

It was time to go!

Scooping up Candy Lou, my little four legged companion in one arm, my purse and car keys in the other, I fled...leaving everything I owned to the raging waters of a river out of control, overflowing it's banks, and scarfing up everything in it's path.

This wasn't the first time the Coosa River had come to call. It had overflowed it's banks a couple of years earlier, but the residents had been given enough time to move their mobile homes to higher ground; but this time...the Coosa beat the Warning to the punch.

After the Coosa had finished ravishing the countryside with its flagrant disregard for boundaries, it took its good, old, sweet time retreating back into its own river bed. When I finally did get to return home, everything I owned was either gone, ruined or under six inches of mud. Everything! Clothing, furniture, luggage, typewriter, everything...

So, what does one do? Well, first you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, (in this case "mud yourself off") and get back in the race.

After all, this wasn't my first brush with adversity. I'd been wiped out before by a thief with a gun to my head who took everything I owned - except my life. And that belonged to God! And for some reason God spared it...not only because He loves me, but I believe He has something in mind for me to do.

Looking at the flood from a "rivers point of view", I can empathize with its desire to flow freely. In fact if I were the Coosa, and Man had erected seven dams, not one, two or three dams, but SEVEN dams to alter my natural flow stemming from my birthplace in Rome, Georgia, to the end of the line at the foot of the last cascading Waterfall in Wetumpka, Alabama - I'd also break out of my banks, bed and bonds to show Man my displeasure at being forcibly altered and detoured from my natural course.

Wetumpka, the indian word for "falling stream", is where I lived, and it lies at the foot of the last cascading waterfall where the Coosa River comes to an end. This waterfall is called the "Devils Staircase".

I finally left Wetumpka to begin a new job farther upstate. The day before we left Candy and I walked down to the river for the last time. Candy sniffed around looking for wildlife habitats while I stood on the bank of the Coosa overlooking the now peaceful and tranquil river. I watched it drift and flow lazily downstream, unaware that just around the next bend it would meet its Waterloo, cascade down the Devils Staircase, swirl into oblivion in the rocks below...and be no more.

Believe it or not, I suddenly felt a pang of sorrow, and yes, guilt - for even though it had been an uninvited guest to my home twice, my fellowman had curtailed its free flow with their dams, dumped it full of garbage and debris, and yet it still faithfully fulfills it's God given job on planet Earth...wending it's way through the land, giving fish a home, plants, trees and wildlife water, and people a more bountiful way of life.

Rivers have been called both a blessing and a curse. But I've often wondered; if the river wasn't altered by Man, was allowed to flow freely, would it still be considered a curse?

Plucking a blossom off a nearby tree, I tossed it into the peaceful waters of the Coosa River below, bid it a silent "farewell"...then turned and slowly walked away towards a new beginning.

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This article has been read 1122 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Donna Haug09/07/06
Looking at it from the river's point of view was a great twist to the topic. Good job.
Judy Burford09/09/06
I liked your story. You made me feel what you were feeling about the river. I surmise that you are a survivor, no matter what the situation. One of your stories I read had to do with your brother's wealth, and how that doesn't bother you. I can relate to that. My siblings all have more money than I do, but not nearly as much peace of mind. Have a great Sunday.
Jan Ackerson 09/11/06
One of my favorites of yours--if was so very, very realistic and full of atmosphere that I felt sloshy just reading it.
Joanne Sher 09/11/06
I loved your description here - I could definitely put myself right there with you. Great detail! You need to watch your possessives - especially it's vs. its - the first is a contraction of it is and the second is belonging to it. A very enjoyable read!! Loved your last paragraph especially.
Marty Wellington 09/11/06
Interesting take on the river topic. Could relate to the flooding since our family went through similar floods--only losing our farm crops and produce (not our home). You're so right about man altering the river--that's what has caused more flooding along the Missouri River, at least. Good job!
Suzanne R09/14/06
You had some great descriptions - this is one of my favourites: "I watched as the tentacles of water lengthened into streams of rushing water within a minutes time, covering my lawn and brazenly attacking my "Welcome Mat" with swirls of gushing water."

Ditto re the possessives e.g. 'Devil's Staircase' ... the staircase belonging to the devil. The only exception is its - think 'his, hers, its' - that's how I remember not to stick the possessive apostrophe in there.

Here endeth the grammar lesson. Back to the content - excellent - thought provoking (why DO we insist on making nature suit us instead of working around what would be naturally there?) and well written.
Shari Armstrong 09/14/06
The water does have a mind of it's own, doesn't it? After having seen Niagara Falls, it's even more amazing (and they've controlled it's flow also, to perserve the falls). Good job!
Edy T Johnson 09/16/06
(I thought I already commented on this, but I can't find it!) What an experience, to lose your home to the river. This story is filled with picturesque images, and I liked the final tribute paid at the end to the river, with the flower. It sounds like a beautiful site, but I'm relieved you don't live there anymore!