Cold Spring Diary: A Walk in the Park

by David St.-Lascaux


Billion-year-old, Middle Proterozoic shoreline rocks, Pelton Pond, Clarence Fahnestock State Park.

15 March 2014

NATURAL HISTORY IS SPOKEN in tongueless rocks, and log signs, and also submerged at Clarence Fahnestock State Park’s Pelton Pond. Pelton’s open pit iron mine (Pelton is thus 50 feet deep) was flooded, and its shelter built in the 1930’s as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps’s national humanitarian jobs program during one of America’s reliable, relentlessly recurring depressions (artist Grant Wood documented fourteen as of the Great Depression of 1929-1939; the current one requires no corroboration), which employed, according to the sign at the pond’s shelter, 3.2 million men, for wages of “$30 per month.” The result is that a scar of mountain rill extraction is now invisible, transformed into a serene-surfaced reservoir.

Pelton’s shelter celebrates the dignity that the CCC restored to its participants, with two log plaques containing poems written by “enrollees,” including the famous, haunting, crepuscular (because this word must occasionally be used) “Taps,” written by Forrest W. Gaz, from Hinsdale, Massachusetts:

Day is done
Gone the sun
from the lake
from the hills
from the sky
All is well
safely rest
God is nigh

and the additional/alternate verse/version:

Fading light
dims the night
and a star
gems the sky
gleaming bright
From afar
drawing nigh
falls the night

… both bringing memories of Boy Scout camping – hatchets, chili and knotwork – in the early Sixties, and the anonymous Scout who played the evening bugle. Like the Scouts, the CCC instilled in a generation of American men an appreciation for the nation’s natural resources, collective teamwork, physical fitness and outdoor recreation.

OUR WALK AROUND Pelton instantly revealed the vandalous activities of an industrious beaver population, with a score of trees felled (the plaque stated that the CCC planted three million), their bases ringed by the tell-tale conic section gnawings of Castor canadensis. Whether this aquatic mammal is mathematically inclined (the trees’ paired cones contain imaginary circles, ellipses, hyperbolas and parabolas), it certainly could’ve (and no doubt would’ve) dammed Canopus Creek gratis. The nine-acre Pelton is said to be stocked with Rainbow Trout, which no doubt get fished out quickly given Pelton’s proximity to the Taconic Parkway and points south. A firsthand report will be forthcoming, if you can believe a fisherman.

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March 25: On the Horizon; How, Then, Should We Live?

Text and photo copyright © 2014

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