"" Running Rabbit: Beargrass Creek Cleanup Video

Monday, June 13, 2011

Beargrass Creek Cleanup Video

Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky (1953-1971) Beargrass Creek was an integral feature of our neighborhood. It is the place we went for entertainment. It was the barrier which sorted out relationships and limited the scope of our roaming s.

Two events in my childhood had direct relation to the efforts displayed in the following videos. One, a flood which affected a score of homes within the Sutherland Drive/Dunbarton Wynde nexus. The flooding occurred during the night and a neighbor woke us asking for help in holding back the tide. We helped, but the water was too much and eventually we had to evacuate and allow it to break through the basement windows we were holding closed. Luckily it did not reach the first floor of the Englert's house, but the basement and it's contents were completely submerged. As I said, the same happened to every house at the bottom of the hill, (as we called that section of the neighborhood). Such are the vagaries of building on a flood plain. And, while the pumping station now has an amazing capacity to relieve the accumulation of rain water such as caused that flood, and to prevent the Ohio River from back-flowing into the creek and flooding; Beargrass Creek will flood again. Flood plains always flood again.

The second event from my childhood with direct relation to this clean-up effort is one of which I can not be proud. Though it became a teaching moment, and an action I never repeated, it was an action any responsible person would have not taken it the first place.

One afternoon my two closest friends, brothers, and I followed the creek over to Gardner Lane and found the bank had grown especially high just where a new apartment complex was under construction. Nearer to our homes the bank was only a few feet high during the normal water-level periods, here we stood twenty five to thirty feet above the water, (the actual distance may have been less, time plays tricks with such things). The construction site was littered with all type of debris, and, probably at my suggestion, we decided it would be fun to throw stuff into the water below. We settled on tossing a number of empty five gallon metal buckets, the handles would make them an easy item to fling, and though ours weren't the first to find the water below, we sent enough off that cliff to make you forget the ones that had fallen by accident. We hurled them with joy, receiving our expected reward as we watched them splash.

Now, I could invoke Arlo Guthrie here,

we took the half a ton of garbage
, put it in the back of a red VW
microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed
on toward the city dump.

Well we got there and there was a big sign and a chain across across the
dump saying, "Closed on Thanksgiving." And we had never heard of a dump
closed on Thanksgiving before, and with tears in our eyes we drove off
into the sunset looking for another place to put the garbage.

We didn't find one. Until we came to a side road, and off the side of the
side road there was another fifteen foot cliff and at the bottom of the
cliff there was another pile of garbage. And we decided that one big pile
is better than two little piles, and rather than bring that one up we
decided to throw our's down.

seeking an excuse, but his explanation wouldn't fit our intentions, and wouldn't excuse our actions any more than it did his. We were just three undirected kids on a mission of mayhem, content to ignore, or just plain ignorant, that we might be causing destruction while getting our cheap thrills.

Our enjoyment was ended in an instant when the construction superintendent discovered us. And, though he could have never chased us down with his feet, his call for us to stop carried the day with me, (Tony later scolded me for stopping, but the authority in his voice struck a nerve, imagine that, a punk who took orders. The super said he would have driven the neighborhood until he found us outside playing if we hadn't stopped. We were not impressed that he could/would have done that.), and when I halted so did Matt and Tony. He chided us, on the spot and then in his office, for what we had done and he let us know we were in big trouble. I still remember being shocked to hear that we could have caused damage to the life in the creek, that the contents of the empty buckets was toxic was a concept beyond my knowledge base at fifteen. I may have even asked, if it could kill, why would they use it to build homes. Such was my naivete, and gall. Plus, he explained that the damage would not go unnoticed and his firm would be fined if those buckets stayed down there. Again, a revelation to me.

Well, he took our names, which we gave him truthfully, and our addresses, again the correct ones. And he made us promise to return the next day and remove all the buckets or he would go to our parents and/or the police. We agreed to his terms and the next day Matt and I showed up as promised, (Tony ditched the cleanup saying he had to attend confession), and performed the work as required. We even hauled a few of the ones we did not throw down up the creek bank to the plateau so many feet above. But, at a certain point we tired, and felt we had completed our assigned task, and had undone our previous day's work, and let the super know that we were done. He saw that there were some remaining, and we told him how they were there before we arrived and we had already brought up some we had not sent down and I suggested he needed to let his workers know that they were not being careful enough, (some nerve I had), and he grudgingly agreed that we were off the hook. And, so with one final scolding we were excused.

I can't say that it cured me of the thrill of throwing stuff from great heights, (a story of ill-fame for another time), but that experience did give me a greater appreciation for conserving the environment and of how a careless act has larger consequences. And, that many of us, the workers and material designators too, had much to learn about unintended consequences back in the turbulent sixties. Not that even today, all these years later, I can feel worthy of preaching to the choir, so to speak. I probably do damage still without knowing the error of my ways. Such is my existence in so many respects. And, perhaps not just because I learned something the day I got caught in the great bucket caper, but because I do not have confidence that I am not naively just as dangerous today, that it warms my heart to see that the folks back there in Louisville are making an effort to keep the old creek running clean and low, and maybe, just maybe compensating for the actions of another kid like me inadvertently creating chaos while trying to get some satisfaction.

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