Sometimes the voices in my head decide to take a break. When my characters stop talking to me, I walk. I've discovered this is a better option than eating every time my mind quiets.
Without meaning to, I found inspiration here along the banks of Joplin Creek. What use to be a meandering stream was once choked with pollution. Lead mining in the 1800's caused the town to rapidly expand and created all sorts of problems for the little creek. Unfortunately it became the designated receptacle to the city's sewer system. At the same time, unknown to city planners, various landowners along the waterway had added private dams. This caused the sewage to back-up in stagnant overflows bringing illness to the city.
An 1897 news report in the Joplin Globe stated: the stench alone had caused “an immense amount of sickness, and there is good reason to believe that one death resulted from it.”
The paper declared, “It is the plain duty of the authorities to jerk those dams out of the creek and to keep them out. It is also their plain duty to see that the sand is removed that chokes the channel up to and to see that is kept clear.” They reasoned if the creek were not kept clear of dams, then there “will be much loss of life…The city cannot afford to have its citizens killed off in this sort of a manner. Death comes all too soon without keeping a trap like this to stink people to death.”
As I amble down the walkway, I think I catch a whiff, just the barest scent, of sewage. I see litter here and there. The channel has been narrowed by vegetation growing on sandy shoals. Yet over a hundred years later, the stream still flows. The parks edging miles of it are well maintained and a haven for wildlife. During my walks I've seen hawks soaring overhead and a great heron standing statue-still on long, thin legs.
Yet it is in the pink blooms clinging to the embankment where I find my evening's inspiration...
It's time to go back and write.
I found my information on Joplin Creek on the Historic Joplin Page