2013.08.28 A dusky hike at the Bean

Following is an account from 20 years ago of which I have absolutely no recollection. Did I really lead my wife and young children on a dusky walk along Bean Creek without a flashlight? Did I actually try to frighten them as darkness settled in? I know, it’s hard to believe, but here it is in print. 

I had a busy weekend playing with granddaughter Caroline and was left without the time or interest required to write something new.


The temperature was on the mild side. The moon was on the bright side. The children were on the ornery side and the parents were continuing a slide to the non-active side. So what better to do than suit up and head out for a moonlight walk along Bean Creek.

That’s what we did Saturday night. General busy-ness led to a late dinner and we had only an hour to kill before bedtime. Three kids along the creek at night? Don’t worry; it was only the dad who came home wet.

As we walked along Congress Street toward what in my mind is still the mill, Rosanna halted when she spotted what she thought was a lion on someone’s porch. It was a garbage bag, and I started wondering how successful a nighttime walk would turn out. No matter what might happen, I would likely be carrying Maddy on my back the entire way home.

Ben expressed some concern about meeting someone on the path in the dark, so I instructed everyone to walk quietly and pause every so often to listen for noises. We crossed over the former mill property by the old railroad bridge abutment and headed down into the dark woods, already wondering if we were lost. It’s an entirely different landscape at night.

We cleared the first hurdle—the little drainage stream coming out of Valentine’s swamp—then approached the little drop-off down to a stony beach, our newest fossil-hunting grounds.

Good old Dad dropped off the edge, pretending he slipped and fell. Good old Dad felt the water splash high as he encountered the unexpected puddle at the bottom. The creek had risen.

THERE’S always something to learn on a walk along the Bean. At night, it usually doesn’t come through the eyes. Sounds, smells, the feel of sudden temperature changes.

We were amazed at how loud little Morenci is at night. Everything looks rather placid until you halt to listen. Amid the car horns and engines, there’s a continual droning sound that apparently comes from M&S Manufacturing. There’s no such thing as silence in these night-time woods.

Ben was continually digging around in the undergrowth for a stick to throw. You know, toss it over into the trees and watch your sister jump a foot into the air. But it isn’t easy finding sticks in the dark and I don’t think Rosie ever flinched—at least not until we came to the Strange Noise.

It was a persistent chirping sound off to the left. It was sort of bird-like, but low to the ground and not troubled by us human visitors. I suggested it might be the sound of a skunk preparing to spray. That wasn’t a popular suggestion.

We pressed on along the path which took a curve to the left, bringing us closer and closer to the mystery. I’m sorry, but this brief tale has no surprise conclusion, no humorous outcome. We just kept on walking and never did find out what was over there in the trees.

I’m pleased to say that while everyone else ran down the hill past the noise, I was able to locate a stick which I threw off to the side of the path next to where my family was standing. 

I didn’t witness the reaction as I was still up the hill in the fading light, but my wife called me an unfriendly name once I caught up with them. 

That was good enough for me. It’s the little things in life, the simple pleasures, that make it all worthwhile.