I think a lot about time, always have. I think this stems from the fact that my grandmother was the youngest of eighteen children. Mimi’s father was 57 years old, and her mother was 47 in 1912, the year she was born. Mimi’s parents told stories about their parents, and this put her in touch with a much earlier time simply because her parents were old enough to be her grandparents.
They had a farm located on the ridge between the Sipsey and Mulberry Forks, and the rivers played a big role in their lives. Like many families of the time, Mimi’s family had a variety of crops and livestock . One of the things the women of the family were responsible for was collecting medicinal plants from the woods, especially plants that grew near the rivers. The Sipsey Fork had some types of plants, and the Mulberry Fork had others, and certainly there were some plants common to both. Mimi and her sisters would sell medicine plants every year to buy material for making clothes.
Mimi had a sister-in-law, Rinthey, who was a midwife and healer who knew how to properly dry and store the medicine plants the women collected. She was very skilled at using these medicinal plants for a variety of illnesses. People would visit Rinthey rather than going to a doctor.
They had a rhythm to their lives. Each season held a series of tasks and celebrations that marked time. Mimi thought it was important for her grandchildren to know about how things had worked when she was young. I’m sure she saw that we were losing information even as we gained modern conveniences.
She had a friend whose family lived on the Mulberry Fork. The family supplemented their income by moonshining, a very common practice at the time. Because of this, they were very cautious about who came and went. If you visited them, you came in by river. Mimi’s father would take her in a small boat to their land. Big dogs guarded the way into the family homestead. She and the girl would play on the valley that hugged the crocked river.
I was a teenager the first time I saw the old home place of Mimi’s friend. The wide fields had been sown with corn that was about a foot high, and it appeared blue when the sun hit it a certain way. The Mulberry Fork sparkled gold beside the corn. There was an old Native American fish trap in the water, and fish were funneling through it. The scene was breathtaking. In that moment I was a part of it.
In my lifetime I have seen this place change. The Mulberry Fork still runs through it, but once it’s time for the corn to be a foot high, the river does not sparkle. The cloudy turbidity prevents that. In the Fall of 2018 I kayaked passed this spot. I could not see through the water, . But, there are times when the water is translucent.
The Mulberry Fork needs to be restored. Tyson needs to properly maintain the River Valley Ingredients plant in such a way that there are no more direct releases into Dave Young Creek. A better physical barrier between the plant and the water needs to be built. We as a community need a way to monitor the water quality by a trusted means, and we need aquatic life.
Surely, the powers that be at Tyson have familial connections with water and land. Surely, they remember grandparents that fished and swam and paddled and grew crops and visited friends. Surely they want their children and grandchildren to be able to do the same.
If not, then Tyson and all companies like Tyson are going to restrict us into such a that we lose that sense of Time and the continuity that it gives. Are we going to see a complete break between what went before and what comes after? And if that happens, whose fault it that? We can blame Tyson; they deserve it. Mostly, I blame myself in not recognizing sooner that my grandmother’s legacy is something for which I need to fight.