Volume IV, No. 4, Summer 1977



by Daniel Hough

Photography by Stephen Ludwig

River running free is the way of nature. More than a phrase, it is an action, a happening, a thought with a meaning. River running free is a remembrance of the past, a fact of the present and a hope for the future.

Osage Fork River in drought of 1953 Old photo by Ellen Massey

Through the four seasons the river flows, changing with the times of the year. Reflections of gold, red and brown signal autumn. Crisp breezes bring a rain of leaves to litter the surface with discarded foliage. Gray skies and the frosty banks of early morning warn of the coming chill.

Clear and cold the water runs as winter envelops the river. The water appears shallow with the bottom within reach, but the illusion is six feet deep. Dark blue and silent is its course as ice forms on the edges. A sheet of ice seals the top, twenty yards wide and an eddy long. The scenery seems lifeless but under the ice the river lives on.

The coming of spring renews all life and brings floods from early rains. Green buds and flower blossoms explode in color and fragrance, creating a myriad display of sight and smell. Insects and animals begin anew their fight for survival and the strong are the only victors. Refreshed springs surge with crystal-bright water and a storm's run-off rolls down a gully. Churning brown water boils against trees and rocks, creating whirlpools of trash, leaves and soil. As quickly as it has risen the flood recedes, continuing its path between green banks.

In summer a fiery sun burns the river, causing heat waves to shimmer across the surface and distort reality. The grassy edges turn brown and dry as the river dwindles to a stream. Soil and clay cook into rock, cracking and crumbling at a touch. In the driest weather the water vanishes underground yet follows the same path to resurface downstream. Less and less the river runs until rains replenish the source. Another season closes, another begins, while the river always flows.

River running free. Forever and always, without pause and without end. The way it has always been and the way it is now. The way the river should always be--running free.


Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.

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