Friday, March 14, 2014

Southwest Pennsylvania

I’ve heard the Monongahela rush through wooded glade

And smelled the richness of your soil as it’s turned by spade.

I’ve walked your verdant valleys and climbed your gentle hills.

Been told tales of “revenuers” hunting for “shine” stills.

A few of your farmers still walk behind horse and plow.

I’ve seen tired miners trudge home with coal dust darkened brow.

Pennsylvania, your rivers were gateways to the west,

Your wilderness was haven for those who were oppressed.

Your mountains rise as monuments to all who were slain

In lands purchased with sacrifice of blood, sweat, and pain.


I’ve walked the Youghiogheny, fishing her small streams too

Awed as bright morning light sparkles on blankets of dew.

I’ve eaten buckwheat cakes in golden-brown steaming stacks

And walked in fields that were cleared of trees by sweat and axe.

I’ve been to Ohiopyle and rafted waters white,

Visiting Fallingwater and Kentuck; homes built by Wright.

Your lands are rich with history’s strong cultural mix.

Your life blood still flows in your rivers and “cricks.”

You’re a diverse land born of your people and places,

A heritage that’s etched in your son’s hearts and faces.


I’ve walked the land at “the Point” where three rivers meet,

A land where the French and English trod with marching feet.

Great beehive ovens were built to bake huge piles of coke.

Steel was forged in your factories amid flames and smoke.

Mountain laurel grows with pale blooms and dark leaves.

I’ve watched women working their looms, making rag rug weaves.

Your daughters and sons dared to live in wild frontier lands

Carving homes and farms from the wilderness with bare hands.

The harshness of their world was deeply etched on each face;

Hunting, clearing, planting, fighting: all to claim their space.


I’ve watched the Chestnut Ridge turn from green to red and gold

And toured festivals where steam belches from tractors old.

I’ve read the words your patriotic sons dared to speak.

They fought for their liberty and to protect the weak.

I’ve fished for trout in brooks fed by icy mountain springs

And been scared by Ruffed Grouse, exploding with thunderous wings.


Pennsylvania, your streams chuckle and your rivers roar

Still keeping your covered bridges and small country store.

Your trails have turned to highways, your ferries are bridges

Building roads over and through thick glacial ridges.


I’ve been to Highland Games celebrating the Scots’ past

and worked factories where huge valves were poured and cast.

Your part in underground railway, helped to free black slaves.

Walking on your lakeshores, I’ve heard the soft lapping waves.

Osprey fly over your lakes with fish clutched in its claw.

I’ve eaten sandwiches piled high with French fries and slaw.

Germans, Irish, Polish, and Scots came to live and die.

They came to build their homes and shops, to work, sell, and buy.

They raised their children, passed on old ways while making the new.

Western Pennsylvania, all your children salute you.


I’ve climbed the steep hill crowned by Jumonville cross.

Finding love in those hills to raise children and taste loss.

I’ve watched storm clouds gather, then erupt with lightning streak.

The touch of your pale winter’s sunshine warms my chilled cheek.

I’ve driven the Wilderness Trail from Cumberland Gap

Through steep rugged lands where brave men came to hunt and trap.

Rivers that formed the Ohio were the settlers’ roads,

Local built flatboats carried them and their household goods.

Your small homesteads grew, fed by river’s trading flow

to become towns, earning wealth from above and below.


I’ve toured the forts of Ligonier and Necessity

Walking the woods where Indian’s voice rang loud and free.

In history, we rebelled at paying whiskey’s tax.

I’ve been to festivals where linen thread’s spun from flax.

The Quakers and Amish chose to make this land their own

Hunters and trappers carried knives with handles of bone.

Your religious liberties drew folk from far and wide.

Boys became men in your wilds as their mettle was tried.

Conestoga wagons and carriages plied your trails.

Peddlers and freighters hauled supplies in bundles and bales.


I’ve ridden rides at Idlewild and Kennywood Park

And explored your caves and caverns gloomy and dark.

Some folk have used crossing rods, dousing to find water.

Jugs, crocks, and bowls were formed by the hands of a potter.

I’ve been awed by beautiful barns, bathed in moon’s soft glow.

And been inside of grist mills once powered by streams swift flow.

Pennsylvania, rich with history and things to do

From your museums to aquarium and zoo.

Hayrides and sleigh rides and riding the Duquesne incline;

Bakeries, breweries, markets, and places to dine.


Views from Mt. Washington, stunning when Pittsburgh’s lights shine

At Amish farms, bright hued quilts hang to dry on a line.

Your mines delved deep seeking your veins of coal and iron ore

And walked through groves of chestnut, oak, elm, and sycamore.

Your inns gave provided respite along your roads and pikes.

I’ve watched smithies shaping rods into nails and spikes.

Your lands shaped your people and they reshaped your land

With pick, axe, gun, shovel, or whatever was at hand.

Western Pennsylvania’s shared your bounties in the past.

Your mark in history’s journal’s wide ranging and vast.

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