Winter Landscape: Old Roswell Mill

by Daniel Beauregard

Today I went to Vickery Creek to hike the trail down to the old mill. Sunlight beamed through the branches and creatures scuttled unseen beneath a blanket of dead leaves. Every once in a while, frozen mud crunched beneath my boots, reminding me of Canada. I made a game of it, crunching every patch that fell within my reach. Sometimes I tricked myself into hearing running water as the wind bit through the peeling birches.

I got to the dam and stood there looking at itthe still, smoky water draining into the churn belowimagining I was the only one who ever saw the froth, feeling like a child peering into the depths of a taffy mixer. Two moving planesoppositesconnected by a wall forever in motion, the falling water completing its own invention: As above, so below.

Three girls stood on the other side of the bank breathing steam and taking photographs. Their presence jarred me into a scene: Through their lenses I saw nothing but myself standing high upon the other bank, waving timidly then moving on, wondering if below their layers they too, were beautiful.

Gnarled branches caught mist from the falling water, each passing second adding another coat of dust. Ice trapped the rocks in front of the waterfall in a green shell, which matched the color of the Chattahoochee in winterin summer its rushing waters eat away at the soft red clay of the bank and mix with the sand in its belly, turning it brown in a beautiful, less placid way.

Farther down the trail the old millbuilt in 1885 at the end of the cotton boomsat on the other side of the river. Crossing the bridge toward it reminded me of how in high school my friends and I skipped class and hid out in it, getting stoned and drinking beer until the sun went down.

The first time I went in I was twelve and there was no bridge. The redbrick, kudzu-covered skeleton hung on the banks and held a rumor of being haunted by the ghost of an old slave who’d been hung from the rafters in the basement, where the waterwheel turned. With young gumption two of my friends and I crept into the basement hoping to catch a sight of the ghostsomething to brag aboutbut in the corner was an old man sitting by a straw pallet, shaking, with his hands around his knees.

Not a ghost, just a man who frightened us, and we turned and ran as fast as we could up the hill toward the road. Back then we didn’t understand who he was or what he was doing there. We didn’t understand how some people must live.

I hope the old man knew back then that we were just kidsnot the ones trying to take it all away from himand that someday we would return and realize the river was both our home.

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