Flat fields and plentiful rains—

this was, after all, called at one time

the Great Black Swamp—

meant ditches lined the fields and roads

to catch the runoff

and channel it safely away to

snaking creeks and rivers.


Mostly dry and benign,

these straight line gashes in the earth

could swell to muddy torrents,

rolling ribbons of brown,

eight feet deep after soaking rains.


Ditches for us kids were fun and work,

full of frogs, snakes, and even fish sometimes,

but also easily cluttered after a storm

with stones, branches, and litter

that had to be cleared,

especially from the large pipe

running under our driveway,

to prevent future flooding.


Many summer days we spent

hiking the ditches,

searching for specimens,

mud sucking off and swallowing our shoes,

or casting sticks or paper boats

when the water ran high,

to see whose won the race

from one end of the pipe

to the other.


Ditches also swallowed balls

tossed inadvertently

and regurgitated reluctantly,

and opened their jaws

for bike and car crashes,

the latter almost always

occasioning the arrival of a

friendly farmer with a tractor and chain.


Ditch jumping,

especially when the water was running,

was a childhood sport,

a running start and flying leap

to try to land high enough on the opposite bank

to avoid slip sliding down into the muck.


I suppose we were fortunate,

for all the time we spent slopping about

in ditches

full of fertilizer- and pesticide-soaked runoff,

and occasional septic tank overflows,

to avoid dysentery and

a host of infections

that would otherwise have spoiled

all the fun.

About stevenddorsey

I have been an avid writer for as long as I can remember. I enjoy composing poetry, lyrics, children's books and fiction for young adults. I have traveled the world extensively in my 25+ year career as an International Development professional and executive. I have lived in Europe, Latin America, and Africa. I speak Spanish and French. I married Rachel Miltimore in 1985. We have five children and five grandchildren. We currently live in Manassas, Virginia. We enjoy writing children's books together.
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