My dad was in the hospital last week for a hip replacement and my husband, our daughter and I went down to see him one evening. Visiting hours were over and we were making our way to the elevators when I had to stop at the restroom. As I was catching up to them, I caught them looking out a window at the city sprawled out below and the river that winds through it. What a touching moment. Father and daughter standing close together sharing a conversation. In the few yards I had to cross to get to my happy family I imagined my husband pointing out certain landmarks or even talking about the river and the great floods that ripped through the city. It was a Hallmark moment…and then I got within earshot.
“And that honey is why they call it the shit crick.”
If you’re not from my area, Western PA, the term may be unfamiliar. Heck, maybe you have to actually live in my town or the neighboring towns to know the word. It’s a local term that refers to when waste removal was only as far away as the local creek or stream that ran through town.
I live in a predominately mining town region so the shit crick was also the sulfur crick, the acid mine runoff crick and the phosphorus crick. And we played in these cricks. I remember my mother telling me that she used to put her jeans on and then sit in the shit crick before school. She did this to make the denim tighter. I’ve fished, stomped, dug for crayfish, dammed up and swam in shit cricks. In the winter, I’ve skated on their frozen surfaces. My daughter does the same, although it’s a slightly less polluted version, as does my nieces and nephews. She’s following in the footsteps of her older brothers who made fish sanctuaries in the shit crick. (It can’t be that bad for the children; the fish lived there!)
I had to laugh hearing their exchange outside the elevators in the hospital. My husband did all the same things in the shit crick and it was a quaint, if yucky, part of growing up. It’s part of our heritage and I’d hazard to say it says a lot about the kind of people we are. We didn’t mind getting a little messy in the name of good fun. We knew that nothing worth doing was easy or neat and that getting your hands dirty was always worth it. We drew life lessons from those cricks that we weren’t even aware of. I think I’ve just coined a new phrase: shit crick philosophy. You heard it here first.
I’m glad my husband took the time to explain to my daughter about the shit crick and I’m glad that she gets to play in her own. I’m glad it’s a lot cleaner for her than it was for us, but nonetheless I’m glad she’s gotten to experience stomping around in the crick and coming home muddy and slightly smelly. And the next time she and her little cousins head on down to the crick, I think I’m joining them!