The Stomping Grounds

My stomping grounds was on the west side of town.

Not down by the river but on top of the hill.

My father had a thing about floods and moving every spring.

He knew the river and its treacherous ways.


On the front of the hill I could look down and see the whole town.

It was God-like.

I watched big iron trains as they belched sulfurous smoke.

It followed the staggering tracks, wheels squeaking,

cars swayed back and forth until it was out of sight.

In the distance I could hear the steam whistle as the train crossed the bridge

into West Virginia.


I watched barges shoved by paddle wheel boats up the river to Pittsburgh

Or down to Cincinnati.

Once I saw a war ship coming down the river from a boat yard in Pennsylvania,

it was a sight I never forgot.


I sat on the wall and watched the city streets in the distance, lined with giant trees.

The high school, the court house, the park.

On Sunday mornings the GONG of the big iron church bells echoed

to the top of the hill and gave me chills.


The property on the front of the hill belonged to the wealthy.

Doctors, dentists, factory owners all had built giant three story

Victorian homes. They rose like castles and peered down at the town.

They had wrap around porches with wicker furniture, stained glass windows,

and hand made iron fences wrapped around manicured lawns.


Further back were the common folks. They lived in plain houses made

for comfort. My father and grandfather built our house. It was warm and dry

and never failed to keep us safe and happy.

I learned at an early age the greatest things in life are not things.


On the hill I was taught how to work. I learned about love and death, about friends,

and sometimes enemies. It was the place I grew up, the place I called home.


Nellie’s poems are published in her book, Proof Of My Existence.