[This is an altered version of an earlier entry which was originally posted to an older and now defunct blog.]
Pleasant Hills, East Hanover, Manada Gap. Deep rumble of roadway spindling off behind us, a shup-shup-shup of mile markers flickering in the slipstream.
Union: not to be confused with Union City, up near Erie, which used to manufacture powdered milk until the plant shut down. Nor Mount Union, territory of my ex-wife’s extended family of stolid Mennonites and Methodists, near the start of the Standing Stone Trail with its Thousand Steps.
Frackville, which calls to mind the scourge and boon of hydraulic fracturing, but which was actually named in the 1860s after one Daniel Frack. According to an 1890 edition of the Frackville Herald preserved by Schuylkill County historian Lorraine Stanton, the town was home to a brothel known colloquially as the “horse shoe” or “the house with green shutters,” which was
…presided over by one Nellie Reilly, an exile from Shenandoah. This beautiful (?) siren with her hooked nose and crooked toes, elongated form, toothless gums and twisted back is assisted in her nefarious traffic by one ‘Dolly,’ a fille de joie hailing from the excessively moral village of Pottsville. However, on festive occasion when railroading is slack, other nymphs to pave are invited to partake of the feast and assist at the beer tap where lager flows in unlimited abundance, license or no license. [more]
Mahanoy City is believed to have been caught up in the violence perpetrated by and against the Molly Maguires, hard-eyed and hard-handed descendants of Hibernian “ribbonmen” who struck fear into the hearts of Protestant landlords in the 19th century. In Pennsylvania, the Mollies mined anthracite, black diamond hot-blasted into iron. Their story is one of labor, capital, gunfire, union busting, rebellion, infiltration, betrayal, revenge, and murder.
About seven miles away is Tuscarora State Park, Tuscarora meaning “hemp gatherers,” because of the Tuscarora people’s use of dogbane (apocynum) in sewing and rope-making and hunting. Apocynum is also an anti-diuretic, so they probably used it for that, too.
Delano. Quakake (“kwah-KAH-keh?” “kwuh-CAKE”? “KWEY-cake”?). Hazleton, where Nathan once bought a bag of deep fried peanuts and ate them, shells and all, over the course of two days. At the Unimart truck stop, I saw a trailer hauling carnival rides in the shape of paunchy dragons, one of which fixed me with a wary plastic gaze as the sunset ignited the mountains.
Drums, Nuangola, Mountain Top.
Sugar Notch and Ashley.
Wilkes-Barre, east of the Endless Mountains and home to the Mohegan Sun “racino.”
Avoca was named after the river in Ireland, or possibly the town. In “The Meeting of the Waters,” Thomas Moore wrote:
Sweet vale of Avoca! how calm could I rest
in thy bosom of shade, with the friends I love best,
Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease,
And our hearts, like thy waters, be mingled in peace.
Moosic. We stop for dinner at the Panera on Montage Mountain, which is advertised as a ski resort. From the interstate it is a sad, wet drive to the strip mall, where we stand in line with overstimulated teenagers who so clearly want to be bad, but have nothing better to do on a rainy Friday night in Moosic, Pennsylvania, than order broccoli-cheese soup at the Panera and slurp it sulkily.
Darkness over Lackawanna, “river that forks.” Names that conjure Sacred Harp songs in the dark: Lenox (“The year of jubilee has come…”) and New Milford (“If angels sung a savior’s birth on that auspicious morn…”).
Moonrise over North Knob, elevation 2,694’ and a remembered fragment of Gary Snyder:
dust kicking up behind the trucks — night rides–
who waits in the coffee shop
night highway 99
Sokei-an met an old man on the banks of the
Columbia river growing potatoes & living all alone,
Sokei-an asked him the reason why he lived there,
Boy, no one ever asked me the reason why.
I like to be alone.
I am an old man.
I have forgotten how to speak human words.
Great Bend. The name of the town comes from the sharp turn made by the river marked “Sasquesahanough” on a map by John Smith, he of Pocahontas fame. Sasquesahanough in turn from “Susquehannock,” an Iriquoian-speaking people whose name, like so many names given to native peoples by, was not the one they used for themselves, but rather a derogatory Algonquian appelation: “people of the muddy river.”
Deep night now, and the hills and waters fade into the slipstream as we cross the border into New York.
We raise Rochester by midnight.