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Cindy Woodall: Meandering with My Mutt

A summer’s walk along the canal


It’s late morning, and Noah and I are walking the D&R towpath in the Kintnersville/Upper Black Eddy area, the Delaware River on one side the canal on the other. The waters of both are high and mud-tinged given the recent heavy rainfall, and the river is churning and racing.

Along the canal a couple is out bird watching. Noah, who loves to meet and greet, approaches them in his typical Tigger-like manner, and I express my gratitude for their tolerance and patience in giving Noah a chance to say hello as it provides an opportunity to reinforce his training. They have been observing the antics of a mother wood duck and her little ones, and we get into a discussion about the uniqueness of wood ducks and how they are the only ducks in America that nest in trees (or nesting boxes, if available). After the chicks hatch, the mother covers and warms them for only one day before flying to the water or ground beneath and calling to her young. One-by-one they hop from the nest, landing safely below, sometimes after a drop of 60 feet or more. The mother remains with her progeny until they are able to fly at which point she takes off, eager I’m sure for some respite from child rearing.

Further along Noah and I reach one of the many locks that were built on the canal, this one with most of its structure wiped out by flooding. Nearby are wooden display boards providing information about the area. At one time a gristmill occupied the site, and during construction of the canal grinding of grain was substituted for the grinding of lime to produce hydraulic cement, a special type of cement that hardens under water. A small village grew up in the area, which became known as Narrowsville, named for the narrow gap between the river and the towering bluffs. Just as with canal transportation, the village has come and gone.

Rambling along and keeping a tally of wildflowers, I ponder their common names and how the monikers serve as descriptors of appearance, attributes, or use. There is monkey flower with its pale purple flower face that when squeezed resembles that of a monkey; fleabane, once thought to repel fleas; sneezeweed, in the past used in snuff; ox-eye daisy which resembles the eye of an ox. Then there’s smartweed, a nondescript plant that can be found everywhere. Unfortunately, it does not have the magical quality of enhancing one’s intellect. The name comes from its properties, as the plant has a sharp, peppery bite and the juices of the plant have the potential to make one’s eyes water.

We conclude our stroll, and Noah leaps into the back of the SUV, settling down and ready to get an early start on his afternoon nap. No rest for the wicked though. I’ll be heading out to my garden, an endeavor that promises hard work but also therapeutic benefits and tasty returns.

Cindy Woodall resides in Upper Black Eddy.

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