The ritual must have worked because when I returned to the Falls of the Ohio a week later the greening of the world was underway. Small leaves were sprouting from the willow branches and many of the area’s trees were flowering. There was a palpable sense of pollen being everywhere and my airways felt irritated as if coated by dry inhaled dust. This is a dreaded time of year for people who suffer seasonal allergies. I was glad not to count myself as a member of that unfortunate club. As I walked along there were other marvels to behold. I came across a rare Sand Lotus blooming along the shoreline and wondered how long its seed had remained dormant until the absolute right conditions presented itself? Seeing this flower was worth the trip alone!
I returned to my outdoor studio and saw that the bottle tree had indeed dropped its leaves.
This, however, was not the only change that had occurred since my last visit. My outdoor studio had been discovered and some person or persons had constructed a crude figure from the Styrofoam I had collected here. A broken fishing rod stuck out from their creation’s body.
As is my habit, I began the day beach combing along the river’s edge and dumped some of my finds onto the sand. I would try to make something from the objects I had come across. Here is an earlier image of what would later become the figure I named “Phillip C. Nelson” after the words written upon a piece of blue insulating foam I found.
Before showing you how this figure turned out…I want to meander a bit like the Ohio River does. During the month of March, I’ve found three objects that at least have some references to where they may have originated. Because the river is so powerful…glued on labels usually fall off by the time they reach the Falls of the Ohio. Knowing where something came from can give you a sense of the journey it took to reach “here”. Well, let’s just see where this takes us and I’ll begin with the object I discovered that traveled the furthest down river.
First, I was amused to find this piece of plastic with a stylized finger image on it! It says its a thumb saver and I guess it functions something like a crowbar for stubborn thumb tacks so you don’t need to risk breaking a fingernail? I have heard of Beaver Falls before because it’s the Pennsylvania hometown of one of my boyhood heroes…Joe Willie Namath who is an American football Hall of Fame quarterback for the New York Jets. He brashly and correctly predicted that the Jets would win it all in 1969. Beaver Falls is in the so-called “Rust Belt” because this was once steel making country before economic hard times caught up with it. Beaver Falls has a population of approximately 8,900 people and is 31 miles Northwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania placing it near the origins of the Ohio River. Beaver Falls is actually located on the Beaver River which flows for six miles in a southerly direction before its confluence with the Ohio River. As for the savings and loan association…I’m not sure exist anymore because I couldn’t find more contemporary references to it. The fact it is giving away a customer premium that involves thumb tacks seems somewhat old-fashioned to me! Potentially, this object has traveled a great distance (approximately 560 miles) through time and space to reach me. And now for found object number two.
Buried in the wood chips, I recognized this as the delivery box for a newspaper. In this case, the paper is the Steubenville Herald Star which is still in business today. Steubenville is also in the Upper Ohio Valley and downriver from Beaver Falls. This town of approximately 19,000 souls is situated on the Ohio River which forms a border with the state of West Virginia. Steubenville’s claims to fame include being called the City of Murals for the 25 murals it boasts in its downtown area. It is also called Ohio’s Cookie Capital…I’m sure there is more of a story there. And it is the hometown of crooner Dean Martin who was also Jerry Lewis’ comedy partner. I estimated that this newspaper box traveled a bit more than 500 miles to reach here. Interestingly, Steubenville like Louisville is situated within a Jefferson County. Okay, on to the next item which hails from Camp Nelson RV Park and forms the body of my figure.
The blue insulating foam that forms the body of my figure came from Camp Nelson RV Park located in Lancaster, Kentucky. I have heard of Camp Nelson before because of its Civil War history. Back in the mid 1860’s it was a recruiting and training camp for African-American soldiers. Later it served as a refugee camp for freed slaves with some tragic consequences. Earlier in Kentucky’s history it was known as Boone’s Landing because it was a favorable river fording spot for Daniel Boone. It has been a recreational vehicle park since 1966. This piece of foam with its black marker info has traveled the most interesting and surprising route to reach the Falls of the Ohio. Camp Nelson RV Park is located on the Kentucky River. It has floated down the most torturous and convoluted stretch of water that makes estimating distance traveled nearly impossible. Eventually, it did float past our state capital in Frankfort and joined with the Ohio River somewhere between Prestonville and Carrollton, Kentucky. That’s a bit more than fifty miles upriver from us. Kentucky is rich in waterways and outside the state of Alaska…has more miles of flowing water than any other state. The little foam dinosaur is a child’s ink pad stamp and in my mind is a good symbol for the whole recreational vehicle industry especially since gasoline is over four dollars a gallon. Well, other than show you a few images of Phillip C. Nelson exploring his new home…it’s been instructive for me to learn where some of the junk I find may have originated. Every place and object has a story to tell.
Phillip C. Nelson seemed to enjoy exploring the driftwood field. And in case you were wondering what I did with some of those old cigarette lighters…this last view will show you. Thanks for tagging along on this extended journey with me! Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.