by Bob Tarte
|Conus Mound, Marietta, Ohio|
Our second vacation in West Virginia in just four years threatened to turn into Groundhog Day as return visits to Grave Creek Mound, Blackwater Zoo, and the glitzy Hare Krishna cult complex at New Vrindaban were pencilled into the itinerary.
"Why don't we just do every single thing we did the last time we were here?" I groused to Linda. But planning the trip was my job, and I wasn't coming up with anything better.
As it turns out, nature abhors perfect repetition almost as much as it resents a vacuum. While Linda and I glided to Grave Creek Mound at Moundsville in the same tide of rain as our 1996 trip, a repeat visit to the Palace of Gold restaurant at New Vrindaban after sweating out hairpin-curve mountain driving was stymied by an unheralded change in operating hours. No curried vegetables for us. The joint was closed. Roaming the grounds during a brief let-up in the rain, we discovered that the two-story-tall stone statue of Krishna which had impressed us on the previous trip was mysteriously missing from its pedestal - three tons of granite temporarily removed for cleaning, perhaps? - so we couldn't even reacquaint ourselves with this grand effigy.
The situation at Blackwater Zoo just outside of Mineral Wells was bleaker. The privately owned collection of animals had impressed us last time around for the apparent health and happiness of exotic occupants including large jungle cats, large parrots, large geese, and a few tiny monkeys. But the clerk at the Hampton Inn informed us that the zoo had closed its gates in 1997 following an arson that killed birds and primates, the handiwork of local teens in search of a good time.
Thwarted by fate from mindlessly retracing our earlier steps, as we headed toward Moundsville immersed in yet another rain cloud, I was struck with a vision of how to make this trip different than any vacation we had ever been on before. Rather than straying across the entire state as we have done on trips to West Virginia, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Iowa, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and the somewhat state-like provinces of Ontario and Quebec, what if we limited ourselves to a thin ribbon along the river boundaries of the state? Such audaciousness had to be attempted.
Thus we began the day as planned by revisiting Grave Creek Mound, a 62-foot-high earthwork painstakingly assembled by bygone folks we call the Adena culture. "The construction of this mound took place from 250-150 B.C., requiring the movement of over 60,000 tons of earth," my official Grave Creek Mound coffee mug informed me. Turning toward a potentially more vital source of knowledge, I asked the curator of the Delf Norona Museum and Cultural Center located on the Grave Creek site, "Are there any other mounds we could see along the Ohio River between here and Parkersburg?"
"Just in Marietta, Ohio," she told me.
Frum's Restaurant in Ben's Run
Our epic 56-mile drive along the Ohio River in driving rain from Moundsville toward Parkersburg paid off with countless shoreline industrial vistas and a long lunch at Frum's Restaurant in the riverbank town of Ben's Run. We ended up in Frum's by following the directions given us by Eugene Carr, the 78-year-old owner of the Carr's Glass and Gift Shop in the town of Friendly a few miles north. Carr had contradicted the Grave Creek expert by directing us to an elongated mound up the hill in back of Frum's on the grounds of a large factory.
Frum's proprietor Dave Frum shared my interest in the mound phenomenon, confiding the unexpected information that "the mound builders were really tall. A couple of skeletons they took from around here stood almost seven feet high," he told us, beaming with pride, adding that these skeletons were on display in a museum at Charleston.
"From the mound behind us?" I asked him.
"Naw, that's something they just built a while ago," Frum said. "It's not a real one."
It looked real enough, though I'm no judge of mounded dirt, as a later experience in Chillicothe, Ohio proved. The Ben's Run earthwork was a 50-foot-long, 12-foot-tall mound festooned with "No Trespassing" signs and located near the edge of the property rather than defining the boundary line as an artificial berm should have.
"There used to be two mounds there," Frum told me. "There were two parallel walls a block or two long and about so high," he indicated moving his hand at waist level. "Maybe ten-foot high," he concluded. But these mounds had been gone for years, plowed under by a landowner in the days when obliterating precious prehistoric monuments was still a local fad.
"A fellow I knew when I was growing up excavated one of those mounds with a shovel," he said. "There were two figures buried inside it in a squatting position."
"I've seen that before," offered Linda.
"Well, he dug down just deep enough to get to the tomahawks they were holding in their hands." According to Dave, the fellow added these to the treasure trove of artifacts that filled the second story of his house. "He had all these pipes and stone tools and tomahawks hanging from the walls along with thousands of arrowheads and spear points."
As a young man, Dave himself had accumulated quite a few arrowheads he'd found along the riverbanks when farmers plowed their land each year. He'd shown these to just about everyone who came into his parents' tavern which predated Frum's Restaurant, including "three guys who hung around here for a couple of days. We found out why the night they held a gun to my mother's head and took $150 from our cash register, along with my arrowheads I'd kept up above the bar here in a shoebox with two antique pistols. Those things were probably worth a whole lot more than the money, if they'd held onto them."
Dave told us his father had just come from his job at a local factory and had $3500 in his shirt pocket, "the entire payroll for his shift." The men never found the money, though. They forced Dave, his father, and a couple of customers to lay face down on the floor, which concealed the money from their sight just long enough. "They probably would have robbed the people, too, but just then a car turned around in the parking lot. They saw the headlights and decided it was time to get going."
Minutes after the robbery, Dave's grandmother called to ask why they hadn't closed the bar yet. "You're missing Dragnet," the aunt had said.
"I told her, we just had a Dragnet of our own."
Following Dave Frum's directions, continuing toward Parkersburg we slowed down in the town of St. Mary's not five miles south of Ben's Run. One-half block west of Route 52, a mound that Dave assured us was authentic provided the anchor point for a small housing development appropriately known as Mound Manor. As we drove past the neatly manicured site, I wondered whether the any of the Manor residents had been plagued with ghostly activity or UFO fly-overs. It was a question I should have put to Dave. Haunted activity in the Ohio River valley, including numerous bug-eyed monster and saucer sightings, is the subject of John A. Keel's 1975 book, The Mothman Prophecies, my favorite credibility-straining UFO-read of all time.
When we reached Marietta, Ohio, located not too far from Parkersburg
on the other side of the Ohio River, I bought what appeared to be a definitive
guide to area earthworks called Indian Mounds of the Middle and Ohio
Valley by Susan L. Woodward and Jerry N. McDonald. It would surely clear
up the status of the factory-property mound/berm in Ben's Run, I assumed.
But the mystery only deepened. The chapter "Mounds and Earthworks Accessible
to the Public" was chock full of maps and diagrams, the sure sign of
an exhaustive listing. Yet not only the mound at Ben's Run was omitted,
but there was also no reference to the Mound Manor earthwork at St. Mary's,
leaving me to wonder if both were bogus. But why bother to fake even one,
unless the moundbuilding spirit in West Virginia simply cannot be denied.
The Marietta Mounds
Marietta, Ohio is the site of the first permanent settlement of the Northwest Territories continuously occupied by white people since 1780. The Campus Martius Museum chronicles the history and settlement of the region. Among its many treasures are an 18th century pair of boots, a pair of epaulets, a four-foot-tall wooden bucket, a stuffed turkey, a Conestoga "prairie schooner" wagon, a painting of George Washington as a Freemason, and other artifacts so numerous as to devalue the entire experience. The museum construction lovingly encloses the original wooden house of General Rufus Putnam, the first director of the Ohio Company of Associates, which administered the state's dissection into land parcels offered for sale to settlers of European background.
Museum docent Georgelene Hockenberry guided us through the house dressed in period garb portraying the General's wife, Persis Putnam. It was a strange experience gazing up at the roof of Putnam's house only to find the ceiling of the Campus Martius Museum looming above. Though expectedly rustic on the outside, the Putnam house was nicely furnished on the inside with its owner's original furniture, including beds that made our Danish-made pressed wood bedroom kit at home seem like a reasonable candidate for kindling. After the tour, Georgelene led us back to the main room of the museum to a huge three-dimensional table-top map depicting Marietta at the time of the westward expansion. In the heart of the present-day city just east of the Muskingum River once stood an impressive array of Adena embankments and mounds, plus a raised boulevard.
The first Marietta residents initially doted on the earthworks, then began plowing them under as commercial land values rose.
"And there's just one mound left," I suggested.
"There are actually three," she told me.
The Conus Mound forms the centerpiece of Mound Cemetary, established in 1801. The Latin name was conferred by the same batch of scholarly settlers who called their stockade residence Campus Martius, or Field of Mars, a signal to those aboriginals unlucky enough to remain in the area that the newcomers weren't to be trifled with. The rectangular Quadranaou Mound stands at the head of Sacha Via Park, and traces of the ancient boulevard can be detected along the brick boulevard leading to the park.
"The Marietta Public Library is built on top of the Capitolium Mound," Georgelene informed me.
"And you can still see it?"
"Oh, yes. You have to climb it to get to the front door. It's the only library I've ever been in where you have to walk up to get into the basement."
At the Mound Cemetary, a sign warning a "$500 Fine for Climbing the Mound" was posted at the bottom of a flight of stairs leading to the top of the Conus Mound. A second sign saluted the first settlers of Marietta buried in the graveyard, ironically failing to note the precedence of those residents who had built the mounds. Linda pointed out inscriptions on a few of the earliest gravestones noting that the deceased occupants had been "Killed by Savages."
I first thought that these sentiments taken together with the settlers' respect for the Conus Mound combined to form a depressing irony. Then I remembered that throughout the 19th century American earthworks were popularly ascribed to an unknown race, possibly Roman, possibly Atlantean, but decidedly not Native American. (Maybe Dave Frum's story of seven-footers alluded to lost continent refugees.) The Indians were considered far too primitive to have mastered the art of manipulating piles of earth, despite the fact pointed out in Robert Silverberg's The Moundbuilders that at the time of European colonizations, Native American chiefs in Florida still occupied command-view dwellings on top of rectangular earthworks their own people had constructed.
For what we thought would be a change of pace from keeping tabs on the dead, we temporarily abandoned the boundary rivers and took a daring, fleeting stab into the heart of West Virginia. We sped from Parkersburg to Charleston, stayed overnight in Champsville, where we found the second chiropractor of our trip for Linda, then poked south through looming striated cliffs until we reached the border town of Matewan, located on the the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River just across from Kentucky.
Matewan cheerily bills itself as "Stomping Grounds of the Hatfields and McCoys," and a pivotal revenge killing took place just outside of town. It was a reprisal for the stabbing and shooting murder of unarmed Ellison Hatfield by three members of the cantakerous McCoy clan on election day, August 7, 1882. Ellison's brother William Anderson Hatfield, the family leader known as "Devil Anse," took the three McCoys across the Tug Fork River, and with the help of some 20 other Hatfields and Hatfield sympathizers, tied the boys to mulberry bushes and shot them to death.
As we stood in the diminutive Matewan Musuem, Joyce, the docent, described the history of the Hatfield-McCoy feud, from the dispute over ownership of a hog that kicked off the 12-year dispute to the desperate and ill-conceived Hatfield raid on patriarch Randolph McCoy's house on Blackberry Creek in Kentucky that left two of "Old Ranel"'s children dead and injured his wife, "Aunt Sally."
Hidden between the lines of what seemed to be a vexing tale of backward mountain folk enmeshed in a culture of violence lies a more complicated story centered around economics, according to Altina L. Waller in her book Feud: Hatfields, McCoys and Social Change in Appalachia, 1860-1900. Waller blames the roots of the feud on Devil Anse's acquisition of 5,000 acres of valuable timber as a result of a lawsuit against McCoy-sympathizer Perry Cline. Cline never forgot the loss, and ultimately took advantage of the feud to even the score with Devil Anse. Working against Anse and with Cline by the late 1880s were the railroads, which sought a route into West Virginia through the Tug Valley. A national newspaper campaign assisted by railroad, mining, and timber interests painted the area as violent and lawless, though the majority of lawbreaking was commited by agents of these interests who sponsored illegal raids against the Hatfields. In the end, Devil Anse lost the land that the corporations coveted.
A far worse tragedy than the Hatfield-McCoy feud also took place in Matewan. The "Matewan Massacre" was a pivotal event in a series of labor-management conflicts in the feud region that came to be known as the West Virginia coal mine wars. "The violence and lawlessness that resulted from the 'wars' made the old feud days appear peaceful and idyllic," Waller writes. The story stunned me, mainly because I had never heard it before. It's part of America's "secret history" that's seldom spoken about and even more rarely taught in school, because it puts government and big business in a light so harsh it challenges basic democratic assumptions.
The coal mining corporations had unbelievable control over the lives of their employees. Miners worked long hours under grueling conditions and for their trouble were paid in scrip instead of dollars. The scrip was redeemable at the company store, where prices were so inflated, men often ended up owing more than they earned. (Tennessee Ernie Ford had it right when he sang, "St. Peter don't you call me because I can't go, I owe my soul to the company store.") Additionally, the miners had to pay for their own shovels, blasting powder, drill bits, and other tools that made their jobs possible. Their landlord was the mining company, too.
According to Jon Savage in Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginian Mine War 1920-21, the coal companies controlled the miners' choice of "homes and towns, churches, schools, and recreation centers; had provided doctors and teachers and preachers; had employed many of their law officers; had even selected the silent motion picture shows that were beginning to appear in theaters; had told them, finally, where and how they were to live and discharged those who did not conform."
When John L. Lewis brought the United Mine Workers of America to West Virginia, miners saw the promise not only of better working conditions and better pay, but also of "independence, power, freedom, justice, and prestige for people who felt they had lost them all." There was just one problem. It was the "yeller dog" contract each miner had to sign on condition of getting his job, and even discussing unionizing was grounds for immediate dismissal and eviction from company housing. The miners were infiltrated by members of the Baldwin-Felts detective agency, who prosecuted any transgression of the rules on the spot.
Sid Hatfield, a member of the prolific Hatfield family by adoption, was Matewan's chief of police. After Lewis came to southern West Virginia, Baldwin-Felts agents tried bribing Sid and Matewan mayor C. C. Testerman $500 to place Gatling guns on building roofs in case there was any trouble. The men refused. Later, when agents began forcibly evicting miner families, Hatfield and Testerman confronted them at the Matewan train station, informing them they were under arrest for acting without proper legal authorization. One of the detectives drew his gun, and after it was over Mayor Testerman, two miners, and the seven Baldwin-Felts men were dead. Though Sid had acted in self-defence, he was arraigned for murder but eventually acquitted. But the detective agency was primed for revenge. Sid was later charged with another crime. After a government guarantee of safe passage, the unarmed sheriff was shot to death on the steps of the Logan County Courthouse by Baldwin-Felts detectives, who reported planted a gun at his feet. The Logan police chief was conveniently out of town at the time. The killers were themselves arraigned and found innocent on the grounds of self-defense.
A huge uprising of miners followed this event. More than 10,000 armed miners declared war on the coal mining companies. Commandeering trains, they descended on Mingo County. The mining companies buzzed them in planes, dropping homemade bombs with little effect. World War I hero Billy Mitchell was brought in by the government for consultation on marshalling an air campaign against the men. Finally, in the face of overwhelming force from the U.S. military, the coal miners disassembled. It would be another 12 years before southern West Virginia was finally unionized.
Matewan wields sufficient notoriety to have recently lured a Japanese author to town to research the love affair between Jonsey Hatfield and Rose McCoy. His notion was to chronicle the feud from the perspective of a star-crossed romance. But this neat-as-a-pin town does little to exploit its past. You can take a Hatfield and McCoy walking tour, but without a printed guide one hillock and juniper tree looks like another. The intersection of Hatfield Road and McCoy Road on the edge of town is designated simply by a standard street sign. We discovered it by accident while trying to find our way around the flood wall. This imposing barrier is 2,350 feet long and ranges in height from six to 29 feet. It was constructed in response to 33 floods that occurred between 1949 and 1984 - the worst one in 1977 devastated the town - and its concrete panels are decorated with vertically fluted graphics of Tug Valley history. A street scene of Matewan in the 1920s is as close as the wall comes to depicting the Matewan Massacre.
The actual scene of the shoot-out isn't obvious from the center of town.
The present main street lies in back of the row of buildings that served
as the backdrop to the massacre. We needed directions to locate the brass
placque on the former front of the old Matewan National Bank building and
the bullet holes in the bricks marked with commemorative brass plugs. There
was a button you could push for a recorded recounting of the tragedy, but
with trains thundering by every few minutes while we stood there, I imagine
this small voice isn't much of an attention-grabber. If Matewan were located
in my home state of Michigan, its heritage would be shaken in your face.
There would be a neon-festooned walkway with blaring loudspeakers demanding
paid admission to see the bullet holes, miniature train rides clanging through
the streets of town, constumed Hatfield and McCoy impersonators, an official
Sid Hatfield Shoot 'Em Up Fudge Shop, and a Matewan Massacre Wax Museum.
That's the way to do history.
The Chillicothe Fake
Our trip out of Matewan took us north along the Big Sandy River through Kermit, Steptown, and Crum for an enjoyable afternoon's driving memorable mainly for the Pee Pee Gas Station on Route 57 and the 'T'-shaped bridge into Louisa, Kentucky at Fort Gay. According to an authority at the local Conoco service station, it's the only bridge in the country which has a traffic light and left-hand turn smack dab in the middle. This is possible because the bridge crosses two rivers, though I never quite worked out where the stem of the 'T' took - or stranded - a driver. All along our route to Huntington, steep granite hills (or small mountains, take your choice) rose abruptly from the river basin, instilling a sense of claustrophobia that dogged me throughout our trip.
In the city of Huntington, where the Big Sandy and Ohio Rivers meet, we capped our day with a visit to the Huntington Art Gallery, located, like everything else in the state, on a steep, winding mountain road. I was enthuastic about grabbing me a piece of culture, until the white-haired uniformed guard stopped us at the door, informing us that cameras were not allowed in the museum.
"Sometimes we'll make a special exception, but you're coming in with three," he complained with an expression of weariness as if we were pushing the boundaries of propriety. And sure enough, Linda and I each had a camera loop over our shoulders, and I was also carrying a camcorder. Clearly we had mischief on our minds.
"What's wrong with taking pictures? We're not using a flash," I told him. But potential strobe-light damage to the masterpieces apparently wasn't the problem.
"Well, what happens is we let people in here with a camera, and a picture of one of our paintings winds up in the background of their personal Christmas card."
"And the problem with that is..." I prompted him.
"It's a copyright issue," said a younger guard anxious to establish his standing on the right side of the law.
"It's not a copyright issue if it's on a personal Christmas card for personal use," I told him. "It's only a copyright problem if commercial use is involved."
"A copyright infringement," the white-haired guard clarified, ending the discussion. "I'll be happy to check your cameras for you and put them here behind the desk. You can pick them up when you're through with your visit."
"Aren't you going to give us a receipt for them?"
He winced and chuckled patiently. "I don't think we have to go all that far. You can certainly trust us." And why not? Linda and I were the nefarious ones.
I didn't pay much attention to the exhibits. I was far too annoyed. Not by our legal scholar of a guard, but because the on-premises Bauhaus Cafe touted in our tour book turned out be a half-dozen tables strewn in the corridor along with a blackboard-scribbled menu too limited in its fare to feed us lunch. Anyway, the cafe wasn't even open, probably by order of the local fire marshall who looked unkindly on table-strewn corridors. In our gallery wanderings, I did locate a kid's classroom equipped with a computer connected to the internet. I directed it to the Technobeat website, bookmarked it, and walked away in triumph. Score one for camera toters.
One of the highlights of our 1996 trip to West Virginia was a stop at Fenton Art Glass Company in Williamstown. The glassmaking facility wasn't merely fun, our promixity to flesh-searing furnaces and workers carrying orange-hot globes of molten glass gave the loosely-supervised tour an exciting element of peril. Blenko Glass Factory in Milton, a few miles east of Huntington, promised to equal the Fenton experience. My parents had spoken enthusiastically about their visit, and our guidebook, West Virginia Off the Beaten Path by Stephen and Stacy Soltis, indicated hours of fun.
"The factory offers a free tour, which includes a stop at an observation deck for a how-do-they-do-that, up-close view of the craftspeople," trumpets page 87. "There's also a funky and eclectic visitor's center next door, with a factory outlet on the lower level and a glass museum, military exhibit, and stained-glass showcase upstairs. The fascinating complex can consume the better part of one's day."
As it turned out, the fascinating complex consumed the better part of one hour. There was no tour of the factory. After entering the factory outlet, we ascended a set of stairs and were greeted by impressive stained glass panels that were not made at Blenko. The glass itself was fabricated at Blenko for artisans elsewhere to craft into complex designs. A wall of photographs greeted us, depicting various members of the Blenko family posing with second-tier celebrities, and, yes, we did see a rather mysterious military exhibit and some examples of glass, though nothing like the dazzling retrospective at the Fenton Art Glass gallery or the stunning museum-quality presentations at Corning Glass in New York State. As for the tour, a walkway led us to a narrow observation post which permitted us to view a dozen or so employees engaged in the glassblowing process. A former glass worker was on hand to answer our questions, but he soon grew tired of the attention and strode off.
On our way out of West Virginia and into Ohio, freeway signs for Pilgrim Glass Corporation blared "Glassmaking Demonstrations," but when we stopped at the facility in Ceredo, the woman at the factory outlet store informed us, "Nobody's working on the glass today," leaving me to wonder what else they might be doing at a glass factory. Linda, however, was bowled over by the admittedly impressive cameo glass objects on display. Layers of different color glass are fused together in vase, plate, bowl, platter, or lamp-base shapes. Then, artists cut through various layers to expose the colors they want to bring out, creating scenes ranging from an erotic portrayal of the temptation of Eve to a stiff tableau of silhouette horses posing in pasture. The best pieces were remarkable, as were the price tags of up to $7,500. More to my liking was the long path around the outside of the building to a public restroom marked by blue arrows stenciled on the pavement, and a black stray cat adopted by the staff who ate kibbles from a non-cameo styrofoam bowl.
My disappointed with the glass factories was mitigated by my anticipation of a fresh look at the former Mound City National Monument in Chillicothe, Ohio, now equipped with a brand new visitor's center and renamed Hopewell National Park. Ohio is home to the best earthworks in the country, including the snake-shaped Serpent Mound near Peebles and the Octagon Mound on the grounds of the Moundbuilders Country Club golf course in Newark. The Mound City Group consists of a 13-acre field containing 23 mounds surrounded by a rectangular earthen embankment. Like Grave Creek Mound and the Serpent Mound, Mound City radiates a feeling of strangeness, though this probably has less to do with invisible energies welling from the site than with the mystery of the exact purpose of the extensive formation.
It was a beautiful day in the late afternoon when we reached Mound City. A brochure in the visitors' center contained a checklist of over a hundred bird species that visit the site at different times of year. When I asked the ranger if any interesting birds were showing up, she told me, "We've been seeing a bald eagle the last few days. Your best chance would be down by the river just beyond the earthworks. You can follow the trail." Linda and I slowly headed that direction. We began walking the path that traced the outside perimeter of the rectangular embankment, then at a break in the embankment left the trail to wander inside the site. I stopped here and there to take photos of the mounds and permimeter at various alignments, but the view through the viewfinder couldn't convey the scope. One mound near the center of the group was named the Mound of the Pipes by archaeologists Squier and Davis who recovered some 200 effigy pipes beneath the soil.
Beyond the far wall of the structure, we picked up the path again, and a boardwalk took us to the Scioto River. Two women were leaning against the railing watching the water. I asked if they'd seen any sign of the eagle and one said, no, just a couple of woodpeckers. She didn't know to look for an eagle. Linda and I tarried a while, taking in the tranquility of the spot and scanning the sky for large birds. A turkey vulture flew over, but no eagle. On our walk back to the visitors' center, I marvelled at the fact that of all the mounds and earthworks that once existed in the Ohio Valley, hardly any remained. A fortunate set of circumstances must have conspired to ensure that the Mound City Group survived unscathed for 2000 years when most of the others had succumbed to the plow. Elated by the grandness, I barely noticed a sign that made reference to reconstruction at the site. But the closer we got to the visitors' center, the more those words began to gnaw at me.
Inside the building, I bought a book called America's Ancient Treasures, a guide to Native American sites across the USA, plus a couple of souvenir replica pipes in the shape of a raven modeled after a pipe discovered in the Mound of the Pipes.
"Now, I should warn you that this is just plaster of paris," the ranger told me as she wrapped them up.
"I understand. I won't smoke anything in them," I assured her. Then I asked her about the sign. "How much of what we see here is a reconstruction?"
Her answer shocked me. "Everything above the ground."
It wasn't quite that bad, but bad enough. According to Indian Mounds of the Middle and Ohio Valley, "In 1917 the Army constructed Camp Sherman, a World War I training and detention facility, at Mound City. Twelve mound were completely leveled, and all of the others except the largest were damaged in some way." Luckily, the mounds had previously been extensively surveyed, and "the floors of most of the mounds were left intact." By 1923, the mischief wrought by the military had been repaired as much as possible, and the restored site was declared a National Monument. Dirt was dirt, I realized, but the difference between the original construction of the site a basket of earth at a time and its rebuilding by bulldozer was the difference between a soul and the picture of a soul. I left Mound City vaguely depressed. Couldn't the Army had left these 13 acres alone and carved out their training area somewhere else?
Happily, the next day found us at the Cincinnati Zoo, where we watched manatees nudge each other underwater and saw a two-ton walrus trot puppy-like after a zookeeper, woofing for fish from her bucket.
[Copyright 2001 Bob Tarte]