Thursday, June 24, 2010

Memoir: White Woman's Rock

White Woman's Rock, Coshocton County OH

by John A. Roof

It was the summer of 1961, in mid July.

The excitement of summer vacation had worn off and the celebration of fireworks for July 4th at the Coshocton fairgrounds had come and gone.

All there was left to look forward to was the coming of August, the dreaded Hay Fever Season, and then the start of school.

Summers back in the 50’s and early 60’s were the greatest time to be a young boy. There seemed to be adventures everywhere you looked. You could leave the house in the morning and, as long as you were home for dinner, all life was grand. But fail to show up with hands washed for dinner and the dreaded mother of "You're grounded!" would come alive.

This July day was going to be super because my best friend, John Unger, from Chestnut School, was going to spend the day with me. He showed up and brought a friend of his along, Rex. I had a couple of my friends from Sycamore School there with me, John Zing, and Barry Ackerman. This was going to be a great day.

At first, we hung around the house trying to decide on what great adventure, or trouble, we could do or get into.

"Lets go to the bulk stations and throw rocks in to the swamp."

"No. How about going to the river?"

"No. Mom will find out and we will get in trouble."

Then out of the clear blue sky, someone suggested we hike to White Woman’s Rock and have a picnic and fool around the rock climbing on it. It was not that far. White Woman’s Rock was where a white woman jumped to her death into the river with her baby, instead of allowing the Indians to capture and make them captives (or worse) of the Delaware Indian Nation. This was back in the 1770’s.

"Yeah!" We all yelled. What a great adventure!"

We all went running home to make sandwiches and grab our WW II army surplus canteens and backpacks. Every boy back then would spend hours in the army surplus store looking at and drooling over all the items left over from WW II. I remember I had saved my allowance for a whole month so I could buy an ammo belt and canteen. My Father had recently taken me to join the boy scouts so, of course, I thought of myself as the next Sir Edmund Hillary or some other great explorer. We were off, but first I told my Mother where we were going and she reminded me to be home in time for dinner.

We walked over the bridge that crossed the Tuscarawas River, and then up the road to the highway crossing that led to Lake Park. We talked all the way. John and I were the oldest. Someone always seemed to come up with a story that was supposed to make you scared, and afraid to leave your house, but it never worked.

John and I shared the dreaded Hay Fever and that's all we talked about. There were only a few more weeks before we would suffer from Hay Fever. If ever there was something bad that a young boy back then did not want, it was Hay Fever. You would sneeze forever, your eyes would swell and water and itch, and you always had to have five or six handkerchiefs with you -- and sleep was impossible. John and I were not looking forward to this yearly war, because it cut your summer vacation off by a month.

As we walked past Lake Park, we could see the people and kids swimming. The road was narrow there by the lake, so we had to be careful not to get in the road. About a half mile past the lake, we could turn off the main road. Then we would turn off at Mills Creek and head for Bouquet’s Camp. There, we could refill our canteens and rest for a while before the final few miles to White Woman’s Rock.

Coshocton County had natural water springs all over, and Bouquet’s Camp was clearly indicated with both a marker and a basin to water horses, from the old days when there were horse and buggies. Sadly, these days, most people just drive past ignoring this historical site.

Now the final assault. Two more miles and we would be there. When we arrived, we ran down the steps, dropped our packs and canteens, and raced to the top of the rock -- another ritual that all boys back then had to do -- be the first to the top of anything! We could see the Walhonding River.

I've wondered for years how the woman could have jumped that far holding her baby. Some years later, it was explained to me that the river had changed its course, due to all the floods. But I always thought, back then, that this woman was a great jumper and she could have gone to the Olympics.

We fooled around at the rock, read the sign and all the names carved into the rocks and trees, then settled down and ate our sandwiches. After a brief rest, we climbed down the back of the rock and headed to the river. Now we all knew that if our mothers knew we went to the river, there would be a week's grounding, but we were here now, and we were in charge.

There was a small island that the river had made and it was easily reached by wading across a very shallow, narrow stretch of water. Our mothers would know if we did this, because our shoes would be wet. It was decided that we would take our shoes and socks off, roll up our blue jeans, and wade across to explore the island. Maybe we would find a treasure or something of value.

We all reached the other side, sat down, and put on our shoes and socks. Then we stood and began to look for a way through the undergrowth. Suddenly, there was a loud scream from one of us. "Anaconda! Run!" We turned and looked and there was the biggest water snake we had ever seen! It must have been five, six or twenty feet long! (Well, maybe eighteen inches).

Anyway, we all ran back across the shallow stretch of water to the safety of the rock. Once we reached the other side, caught our breath, and felt sure we had put a good distance between us and that Anaconda, we looked down at our wet shoes. There was going to be hell to pay for that.

We climbed to the top of the rock, grabbed our packs, and began the long walk home. We had spent much more time at White Woman’s Rock than we had planned. Someone played a dirty trick on us and made this day way too short. Now we had gone to the river and that was a 'no-no'. We were going to be later getting home.

We headed for Bouquet’s Camp. We were all hot, tired, dirty, hungry, and our shoes were wet. We all looked at the sky and knew we were in deep trouble. We reached Bouquet’s Camp, filled our canteens, and headed down the road. Just then, I saw a car coming down the road towards us. We were saved -- it was my dad. Mom had sent him looking for us. He stopped and smiled and asked, "You boys need a ride?"

Dad took all of my friends to their houses, waved to their parents and smiled. When we reached home, I thought for sure I was in deep trouble, but nothing was said. My meal was in the oven staying warm. My Mother placed it on the table and never said a word. It was some years later that I understood what had actually happened that day.

John and I suffered though that summer of Hay Fever and we began the seventh grade that fall. I remember all the times we had back then. Those were great adventures and my friends were the best. Now I cherish those memories of times long ago.

About the Author

John and Betsy Roof
John Roof graduated from Texas Tech in December, 1973, with a BFA in studio painting.

Bill the Calf and the Ride Down the Road

The Walk: Short Stories of a Teenage Boy in the 60's

Visit John's Website

John and his wife, Betsy, live in their home amid  the wildflowers and fruit trees in Staples, Texas, where they are accomplished artists and photographers.  They also love to build and restore antique furniture together.

He's one of the nicest and most regular guys you'll ever want to meet.

John is fond of saying, he has found his garden ...

"Writers soon learn that easy to read is hard to write." ~CJ Heck


CJ Heck said...

Rick Edmund (from Facebook page)
Hi Cathy,
I enjoyed John's article and tried to post a comment but it needed a "profile". I remember going to White Woman's Rock, but I wasn't as adventuresome as John and his buddies. But Jack Kinney and I would drive to the coal strip area and drive on the roads the big trucks would use doing the week. I always had a shovel and burlap bags to help us get unstuck!

CJ Heck said...

Jodi Hammond Brandewie (from Facebook page)
My dad loved teaching his grandkids about all the Coshocton landmarks like White Woman's Rock. Such good memories for me and my kids.

CJ Heck said...

Thank you, Rick, and Jodi, for reading John's piece. He really did do a good job with it. Yes, I remember going to White Woman's Rock and Boquet's Camp as a teen, and then taking my 3 daughters there when they were growing up. Coshocton has some great places to visit -- also the caves and waterfall you have to hike to in Roscoe Village! We used to picnic there and play in the stream, again my kids enjoyed it too.

Robert Cosmar - Astrologer said...

Coshocton in the 50's and 60's was a special place. We felt safe and were surrounded by friends and shared tons of memories with each other that are forever our own and John captured them perfectly.

Ms. Marcia said...

I was looking up White Woman's Rock online because I want to hike there over Thanksgiving when we gather in Coshocton......what a treat to read this story! And to find you again!!! Marcia (Loos) Storm

Anonymous said...


Loved this article, enjoy all things regarding Coshocton history. It has been a long time since I have been to Bouquets Camp or Whitewoman's Rock. When I mentioned Whitewoman's Rock and street to my husband he was a bit taken aback until the explanation was made. Would love to read more and more from you. Thank You Tammy Lahna