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Weekly e-Gram for members and friends of Dublin Community Church

July 6, 2012

WITHOUT A TRACE

Part of my Summer/Fall reading consists of the “Awakening Land” trilogy by Conrad Richter. The books are about Ohio Pioneers in the very early days of 1800. It follows the Luckett family who walks from Pennsylvania into Ohio and settles. The family does not possess any luck yet, does have grit and tenacity. But the other main character(s) in the trilogy of books are the forests and trees.

At every juncture of their pioneer lives, the huge trees are in their way. Literally. The mother goes mad, due in part, to the constant canopy of trees in the forest. There is never a clearing so that one can see the sky. The father hunts because of the forest. The youngest daughter gets lost forever because of the forest. The son takes up the life of a woodsman and can’t imagine the life of a farmer who clears the land and settles permanently on one plot of ground.

In one scene, we enter a rough town and our main character is astounded by the fact that this town has actually eliminated the tree stumps out of their main street. And one pioneer complains of the trace (trail), which is cut through the forest and allows other pioneers to move in. He leaves because of overcrowding; the forest for him is protection from other humans and the trace allows too many of them into his territory. He heads for the English Lakes or the French settlements beyond the big river.

Hard to imagine the sense of protection and isolation which the trees of that era caused. When the novel speaks of the “trace” it is referring to the Zane Trace, which cut a swath through the Ohio region early in the 1800’s. It was but a single wagon-width path, and followed Native American trails (and before that, probably deer trails) I know. I’ve seen it.

In Lancaster, Ohio, is a portion of that 200-year-old Zane Trace. It was preserved when a golf course was built around it. Other portions were through now-plowed fields next to the course. I think, though am not certain, that my house was on the road, which was on the path of the Trace a few miles away.

It always struck me as a marvel, that I could approach the 13th Tee of that golf course and walk right past a portion of that Trace which today is overgrown and relatively untouched. Over in Newark, Ohio, a portion of the ancient Hopewell Indian Mounds are preserved because they too are surrounded by a modern golf course.

There is a certain irony that the very history, which fascinates us and so bedeviled the pioneers and was sacred to the Native Americans, was preserved in part because of our love of golf and sculpting the land in ways that would have been unimaginable to our pioneer ancestors.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing

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