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"DEPOSIT FIREMEN'S PARK"
by Jessica Kuzmier
The creek ran through the strip of trees that marked the border of the land. It trickled with a lifeblood of minerals, and whatever debris man wanted to throw into the mix. Rocks grew higher along its bank, like someone's attempt at making a fort in the woods. This creek was a long descendant of those glaciers that had dragged through and left this bedrock here. A great-great- great grandchild of eons of generations, it rendered this place of change in such as way that was different. To me, if it weren't for the gnats biting at my face, I could stay here forever in the cool of the shade, watching the bobsled over rocks and boulders to whatever destination it sought. Here, in the DEPOSIT FIREMEN'S PARK in Deposit, New York, the Oquaga Creek had a healthy pulse. It was one of those moments that seemed to celebrate the ability of nature to sustain itself in a seemingly anthropocentric world.
For anthropocentric it was. Deposit is one of those towns along the borderline of New York and Pennsylvania in the Catskills, where before the Delaware River traffic has gone to sleep, along with all the rails and everything about it, man built up a world on the banks of free water transportation . On the streets of its downtown, a few people walked around the town, back and forth. It was silent in the re-emerging summer, as the heat that usually been here had taken its own summer vacation. Now it seemed it was back, and everything felt sleepy in the heat. The park, decorated with man's monuments of picnic facilities and ball fields, lay silent where the creek skipped happily. Perhaps that was why somnolence lay like a blanket of humidity around everything that I saw here, the skipping creek in direct contrast with the siesta of mankind's creation.
The park was decorated by outbuildings. They looked like someone's summer fishing cabin, or maybe remnants of one of those county fairs, buildings sitting right next to each other. Across the street, if you would want to call of that, was a parking lot, right along the creek. A short path decorated a small part of the creek's bank, but no further, like giving a child short leash. You could walk wild, hopping on some stones, but only go so far. I walked to the edge and stood on one of the biggest stones. It was like being the kid who got to the top of the jungle jim first. Looking across the water in either direction, I followed the water with my eyes as far as I could. I had more range than walking on the limited path, but little more. It was a small victory of freedom, giving rise to me the impulse to skip my way along the rocks far down the creek. Good adult I was, I contained myself and got off the stone of imagination before I let myself get carried away.
Even though it was a summer day, still in the midst of summer vacation, there was no one there. No children, no teenagers hanging out, nobody but ourselves. This was the kind of town park that was at once sort of the kind of place where you hoped the kids would go out and enjoy the day instead of hanging out on the computer or the television all day. At the same time, it the kind of place that people wanted to get cleaned up because kids who had nothing better to do would hang out and smoke cigarettes and drink. The graffiti on the abandoned railcars would lend an argument to that sentiment. There was no one around to give me any feedback, no way of knowing whether the kids were too plugged in to bother or if they were being kept too busy so they would stay away.
There were picnic pavilions, there were basketballs courts, a baseball diamond, and there were buildings all ready for the time for families, the 4-H club or the boy scouts to hang out and enjoy life there. A flag in half staff seemed to be in some kind of vigil, but yet it wasn't a sorrowful kind of watch. Rather, to me it felt more restful. This was the kind of the place though, that you would think would be where many people would gather, and yet, with the creek that seemed to go forever, the mountains in the background, and the accouterments at the ready remaining silent; for some reason, rather than isolation, it spoke to me of the open spaces that are so important for many people.
There were memorials dedications to people like Adolf Schaefer, whoever that was, and a president of the fireman's auxiliary. This parallel fraternity-or in many cases, sorority- was something I had never heard of in the sprawling crowd of suburban New York. It was only up here, in upstate New York where I learned about how all of the firemen's spouses coming together and providing refreshments for their firefighting mates. This memorial had the feel of Americana in a picture. Yet all this dedication really seemed to serve as a kind of museum as well, for some kind of life that had gone by. Maybe the auxiliary still existed, but in the emptiness of the park, it felt like a bygone era. But maybe it was just my personal impression. That is how it is sometimes with travel, when the only things that speak are the things that are more in the realm of imagination. One can only make the story up as it goes on.
A poster of a lumberjack race or festival from the past festooned one of the walls. I imagined huge trunks of trees being dragged into the middle of the soccer field and sinewy men and women cutting and splitting like postmodern Daniel and Danielle Boones. Volleyball nets that had been taken down rested on their poles, and soon, I found myself resting underneath a fruit tree that still had some of its bounty on it. This was a place full of unrealized recreation, but I was finding the most peace just standing still and wondering about the possibilities.
Online research later on revealed a site for Deposit itself, telling me how this place I had found was a handicapped fishing access along the Oquaga Creek. Trout fishing was good in Delaware County, and presumably, the fishing was good here as well. I found some information about a Lumberjack Festival in 2007, but 2008 seemed to be on hiatus. It was like the town hall had come up with a vote and decided on a new street lamp instead.
A sign on a pole seemed to convey these bygone days as well. Melting, its letters falling off, it looked like a cryptic letter from a criminal. Something about no dogs in the park, no loitering, something like that. I wasn't really sure. A cop driving by was the first life form we had seen other than the gnats.
We left the park, wending through the tiny streets until we found life once again. As though we had gone through some time warp, people appeared, walking on sidewalks and in their driveways. It was as though in the park we had been in some set for Life After People, and now had left the studio, to come back to real life. A time warp had led us back to civilization, leaving the still life we had visited behind.
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