A Town And A Name - 05.22.00

The town that I was raised in from the time I was two years old was a small one. Located right in the middle of the United States, the population in the city limits was never higher than 800, and my class (whom I went to school with in the same building for the 12 years) never got larger than 32 people. There were a lot of good and bad things about living in the town, but one of the interesting things about it was its name; Weeping Water. Not only did everyone you meet give you a second take when you told them the name, but most of the time, people would never get it right the next time you saw them (instead calling it "Weeping Willow" or "Whispering Water" or something of the sort). One cool thing about it, though, is that it was the only city in the entire nation with that name.

The reason that it supposedly got its name was something that was ingrained in our heads from the time that we were small children in school. In fact, it was probably one of the first stories that we were told upon entering kindergarten and I can almost guarantee that nearly everyone who lives in the town still knows the origin of the name. As one might be able to guess, the name comes from Indian folklore (our school mascot was even the Indians, despite the non-P.C. nature of it) and the story was fairly simple. At some point during history, the men of the Indian tribe that used to live in the area were called into battle for some reason or another (my memory is a bit hazy on the fine details of it). When they went off to battle, nearly all of them were killed and the women and children that were left wept and wept. The tears from this weeping (as the story goes) formed the small creek which runs through the center of town.

Like more legends, it had a bit of magical realism to it, but it was that element of the story that made it so easy to remember. Not only did an action tie into the name of the town, but the action was directly linked to a physical piece of central geography in the town. It was just a creek, but it was one that had been there long enough that it had eroded a deep bed and two bridges were needed to connect the town together.

It was also this little creek that caused all kinds of surreal moments under just the right situations. Nearly every year from the time that I was old enough to remember until the time that I graduated, we'd have one storm large enough during the year that the creek would rise from its usual meter wide current to something that more closely resembled a small river. Due to the landscape outside the town, nearly all the runoff water from large rains would seep down and into the creek, causing it to grow out of control every once in awhile.

The earliest memory I have of a rather large flood taking place in our town was when I was about 7 years old. The creek had risen during the years before that, but during the summer when I was 7 years old, we had rain for several days, then a large storm that pushed the creek well up and out of its banks. Houses that were a block away had their basements flooded and at one point during the day, the supports to one of the two bridges gave away and the current pushed it downstream and jammed it underneath the second one.

People in the town thought for a moment that the strength of the current and the weight of the bridge underneath might take out the second bridge as well, leaving the town cut into two pieces with no other route to the other side except for a several mile drive out of the way. As it turned out, though, the water receeded and everything ended up being fine with it. When the water went down, though, there were much more surreal things that the water had left behind other than the wasted bridge.

One of these images made itself known in the railroad tracks that ran nearly parallel to the creekbed about one block away from them. At the time when the flooding was the highest, water from the creek completely covered the tracks, but when it pulled back, there were all kinds of fish flopping around on the ground, stuck between the rails. Not only that, but the city basketball court that was also nearby had been completely submerged as well. When the water went back down to a more respectable level, the entire thing had been covered with nearly a half meter of sloppy dark silt. Even the nets on the rims of the basketball hoops had sticks and other random things that had been washed downstream stuck in them.

As I mentioned above, the creek filled to its banks nearly once a year, but it never reached quite the same level that it did that one year. The bridge was replaced by a newer, stronger one and the town was left to find other things to talk about for awhile.