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Mack Williams: Believe it or not, it floated

Mack Williams

I left off last week on the Dan River Walk Trail bridge, looking to where Tropical Storm Michael’s flood waters lapped only 20 feet from a performance amphitheater known as the Carrington Pavilion.
I crossed the bridge and looked down to where usually can be seen a paved walkway with a few people, some in pairs, cardio-walking. It reminded me of architectural artistic conceptions of new community spaces or buildings, always including a few people, some in pairs, walking by, giving it the “people” touch; but that day, I was the only “people touch” there. Looking down at only river water between the trees, I thought of the fabled “Sunken Bimini Road.”
The walk trail had essentially been reduced to several yards, the final few before the water covered with millimeter-depth mud. The almost razor-thin depth belied a treacherous nature. Stepping there to snap a picture of great blue heron tracks, both feet (mine, not the heron’s) began to slide. I righted myself only with the greatest concentration! This “river-sifted” silt’s lubricative properties rivaled those of Slick 50 or DW-40.
The adjacent highway was flooded, a nearby fire hydrant just visible above the water. With the surrounding river water, the hydrant’s offering seemed meager, the hydrant itself, superfluous.
The Dan River’s seemingly static boundaries had become “fluid.”
One third-story restaurant was safe, but the river was past window level of a first floor business. If the situation were reversed, another type of “marination” would have occurred.
The side of one church collapsed, exposing a line of pews, and up front, the church hymn board could be seen. I thought again of artistic architectural renderings; but this was a “real cutaway” of something built years ago, not a sketch for the future. Water was the culprit, not wind; so if you’re planning to build a house, and are worried about the Big Bad Wolf; brick is still the best choice (or granite, and you know from where it comes).
At night, parts of Danville were unusually pitch black, while other areas seemed brilliantly lit, due to greater contrast.
Driving along a certain pitch black section of Business 29, I worried whether it had become narrowed from a combination of a sodden cliff’s slipped mud to my left, and the risen Dan River to my right.
I’ll close this out with one of the strangest sights I’ve ever seen!
I need not remind you that wood floats; and that Noah’s “floating” Ark, due to “certain special conditions of weather,” finally wound up perched where it would not have been otherwise.
Years ago, I saw something unique and “antique” in a gap between two buildings on Danville’s Craghead Street resembling a railroad trestle minus rails, and a creek running below. I later learned it was an old railroad siding-trestle once used for tobacco warehouses, and that the rails had indeed been removed, but not the rest.
That record downpour from Tropical Storm Michael, besides playing havoc with roads, businesses, homes, and the Dan River, had magnified the little stream into a torrent. The “creek-become-river” lifted the trestle off its supports and transported it half across Craghead Street at an angle parallel to that of Norfolk-Southern’s main North-South Division just down the street, where there is a railroad bridge (that still works).
Visiting the “wreck,” this time the trestle, not the train (after all, it is Danville, Va.), I manage to scrounge a few mementos of rusted railroad spikes and nails, one “nail” the size of a tire iron (even curved a bit), and a two-foot piece of wood with enormous nails sticking out (like a Viet Cong booby trap).
Lastly, I made it a point to tell both the mayor and the local historical society that the old trestle should be preserved for the public’s education and enjoyment, and for protection from scavengers

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