I have gone back to my regular routine of running in White Clay Creek Preserve, near my home in Landenberg, PA.
Actually, walking and running. My sister wants to get in shape for summer, and due to arthritis and other painful issues, she can’t run. So we began walking together once or twice a week, carrying hand weights.
Below are some of the sights from the past week.
Today I walked with sis. We drove past this vineyard on our way to the parking lot.
Following are photos from today’s walk.
We walked along a section of the Penn Del trail and passed by the ruins (not pictured) of what once was the longest covered bridge in Landenberg. The bridge burned down in 1960 and was never rebuilt. The fire is generally thought to have been arson.
According to an author friend who is doing research for a new book on the history of Landenberg, the bridge in question was built in 1874, and was 75 feet long and 14 feet wide.
My online friend–he runs the Landenberg community Facebook Page–told the group that Landenberg once contained more covered bridges (a total of 10) than any other town in America.
Chester County, where my family has lived since the early part of the 20th century, was the county with the most covered bridges, and the state of Pennsylvania held more covered bridges than any other state in the Union.
As I have mentioned before, I get much of my inspiration for writing while running the trails next to the White Clay.
Following is a scene from my book, The Notice, which makes mention of the bridge in question, along with the small church and graveyard just down the road. The church, London Tract Meeting House, was built around 1730. (I can’t remember the exact date off the top of my head.)
London Tract Church is nicknamed Ticking Tomb Church, because one of the graves is said to emit a ticking sound. There’s a legend regarding this grave, but I can’t remember the details. It’s on google if you want to find out more.
The sophomore asked if I wanted to see the area where she’d grown up.
So we went for a drive. She directed me out Route 24 a little way, and then down various back roads, still in the late afternoon sun. We crossed into two other states and back before traveling down other creepy, overhung, winding roads and ending up back in the sticks somewhere.
We drove by her parents’ house. I thought it looked like a mansion, high on top of a hill. I asked if she wanted to see them, and she just laughed. She said no, they didn’t need to know she was here, not right now. I got the impression they didn’t get along but I didn’t ask anything else. We rode around for a while, up and down hills on snaky little twisty back roads bordered by a creek, with old, rusting guardrails alongside. We passed road kill in various stages of decay, being fought over by vultures. More vultures circled lazily, high above an open field.
We drove around for at least forty-five minutes, through woods and fields full of deer, cornfields and a few little churches, (none of them Catholic). We passed fieldstone houses and barns that looked hundreds of years old. A few stood so close to the road, it seemed they could have been touched by putting a hand out the car window. It was obvious some had once been inns or hotels. They were huge and rambling, maybe a little overgrown but still inhabited. Old structures stood in the middle of nowhere. Their fieldstone walls had been built up high, but now they were crumbling and not holding back anything anymore. We passed another strange sight. It was a fieldstone wall built into the side of a steep bank, with a tiny, arched, cave-like opening that may or may not have led somewhere.
Horses, cows and sheep grazed in meadows next to long stretches of thick woods. Pastures full of cows bordered neighborhoods on the tops of hills, with huge houses, much bigger than the ones in my neighborhood. I’d never been through such a place in my life. The whole area came across as a different world, but what really stood out to me were all the bridges. They were everywhere, coming one after the other around every turn we took, and they were all shapes and sizes. Some were ancient covered bridges, so old I was surprised they were safe. I asked the sophomore why there were so many bridges. She replied that there was no way in or out of the area unless you crossed the creek. It wound in and out and around, and you had to cross it to get through the actual town. When I asked her nervously if we were almost there, she just laughed and said we’d been through already. I asked her when, and she replied that it wasn’t really a town, just a wide place in the road. An old store stood there, along with a church and another ancient bridge.
I had no idea where I was. Up until then I hadn’t even known such places existed, especially that close to my hometown. Mom didn’t take us on vacations. She made it a point to expose us to what she deemed “culture,” and dragged us to New York City every summer to visit the Museum of Modern Art, the opera, science institutes, and off-Broadway plays. I hated every damn minute of it. I never complained, but unfortunately, with the exception of New York City, my only travels consisted of trips to the beach with Brad every summer. But I’m getting out. I’ll see the world…and I’ll forget her.
The area surrounding us seemed surreal. I was reminded of that painter Brad’s mom liked, the one who painted farms, a lot of barns, all in muted tones. The image of a huge pig flashed through my mind and was gone as fast as it came. We crawled down another winding road along the creek and then on through some kind of deserted little crossroad next to an old stone church and a graveyard. The place was enclosed by a fieldstone wall, half falling down. The gravestones slanted this way and that. Next to the road stood a tall stone with a plaque mounted on it. I pulled over hastily to read it, thinking it might tell me where I was, but the words that jumped out of the dimness were “Indiantown,” and “William Penn,” along with the date: 1683. Then the sophomore began talking about the graveyard. Apparently, one of the graves was haunted. She called it Ticking Tomb, whatever the hell that meant.
The words Mason-Dixon jumped out of her chatter, but all I noticed were the lightning bugs, flickering and flashing among the gravestones. Then I let out the clutch and we squealed away. The whole thing was giving me the creeps. As I sped on, she warned me not to turn off toward what looked like a place I could pull over. I need to take a leak. This place is creepy.
The sophomore told me to keep straight on the road, or else we’d come to a dead end where stood the ruins of another covered bridge. It was burned down by arsonists fifty years earlier, and never rebuilt. She said it would have taken us to the next state again if we could have driven that way another quarter mile. I went on straight, still needing to take a whiz. Then we came to yet another little one-lane bridge, looming in the dim light of dusk. It humped in the middle and I was almost afraid to go up it, not knowing what might be lurking on the other side. MaybeBilly Penn’s ghost, or some pissed off Lenape holding a hatchet.
My hair seemed to stand on end. I shivered, even though it was eighty-five degrees, as we finally went on. After the bridge the road narrowed even more. It became mostly gravel and I hoped Brad’s car didn’t get hit by tar chips. I can’t afford a new paint job. I navigated potholes, stepped on the clutch and shifted into low gear to get the Trans Am up a steep hill that was bordered on either side by high banks and more trees. They arched gloomily over the road in the twilight before it widened a little again, and we went down the other side. Where the hell are we? This place is creepy as shit.
I asked her if she knew where we were, and she laughed again as we continued on up another hill, passing more cornfields on the left and dark woods on the right. She told me to take the next right. Go out the back way; we’d be back on the highway in ten minutes. It was getting dark as I turned at the stop sign, and we went on down another stretch of road. It was perfectly flat, bordered on either side by nothing but meadows and cornfields and one old farmhouse, way back at the edge of the woods. Damn…what a place for a race. Wish I knew about this a few years ago when Ceej and that little punk bastard were racing. This place would have been perfect. That little stuck up punk…wonder whatever happened to him…
Her next words—something to the effect that the place had been known as the Flats for as long as anyone could remember, and that her uncle used to race his ‘68 GTO there before he went on to be killed in Vietnam—made my hair stand on end again. But then I saw the sign. Some state park buried out there in the boonies.
The above scene is told from the POV of protagonist Jason, who while a high school senior had a fling with a mysterious older woman known as the sophomore. (For more on the sophomore, please read book 3 in my series).
Though told from Jason’s POV, I wrote what I saw as child in my own hometown, and what I see today while running. Some readers grow impatient with my dreamy flashback scenes, but I want my grandchildren to someday read my vision of the town where their great-great grandparents lived.
Here are some shots from the past week or so.
This morning, sis and I drove home on the above road. (Sis didn’t really know it existed!) It’s one of my favorite places to run, since the view from the top of the hill is stunning no matter the season. Note the slight tinge of red buds in the trees.
Besides the benefits to my health, running also takes off any load of worry or anxiety I may be having. And it’s also a great way to get inspiration.
Below is an abandoned farmhouse nearby. We walked past it today. This is what it looked like last summer.
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