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SCIOTO BLUES/BUI Roorback IF YOU MOVE TO COLUMBUS, Ohio, from Farmington, Maine (as I did three years ago to take a job at Ohio State), you will not be impressed by the landscape. It's flat there—as I write I'm back in Maine, escaped from Ohio for a third summer straight—and the prairie rivers move sluggish and brown. In Maine you pick out the height of flood on, say, the Sandy River by the damage to tree trunks and the spookily exact plane made by ice and roaring current tearing off the lowest branches of riverside trees. In Columbus you pick out the height of flood on the Olentangy or Scioto Rivers by the consistent plane attained by 10,000 pieces of garbage, mostly plastic bags, caught in tree branches. Always in the months after I moved, I was looking for a place to run my dogs, Wally and Desmond, who are Maine country dogs used to the unlimited woods. We started on a subsidiary athletic field at Ohio State—long, kick-out-the-jams gallops across mowed acres, lots ofbarking and rumbling—then leashes to cross Olentangy Boulevard and a parking lot, so to the Olentangy River (my students call it the Old and Tangy), where "the boys" swam hard just across from the Ohio Stadium, known as the Shoe, in which the football Buckeyes famously play. By the time the U. started building the gargantuan new basketball arena in the middle of our running field, the dogs and I had found Whetstone Park, a big urban preserve a couple of miles upstream, just across the river from Highway 315, which at that point is a six-lane, limited*access highway. Really, Whetstone's a lovely place, well kept, used in multiple ways, though not much in winter, always the sounds of 315 in the air like a mystical waterfall with diesel power and gear changes. There are athletic fields, a goldfish pond, picnic areas, tennis and basketball courts, an enormous and important rose collection in a special area called Park of the Roses, just one section (about three miles) of an all-city bike path, tetherball, speed bumps, a library branch (in satisfying possession of my books) and fishing spots on the Olentangy River. Which runs through Whetstone after a scary trip through a couple of suburban towns (Route 315 its constant companion), through a dozen new developments and several parks, past at least six shopping malls. Indeed, the detritus at its banks in Whetstone is emphatically suburban . Plastic grocery and other store bags of course dominate, festooning 66 · The Missouri Review the trees in various colors, the worst of which is the sort of pinky brown that some stores use in a pathetic attempt to imitate the good old kraft paper of the now fading question, "Paper or plastic?" The best colors are red and blue, because at least there's that moment of thinking you see a rare bird. Garbage bags are part of the mix, too, but heavier so lower in the trees. Plastic soft-drink bottles come next in sheer numbers. These things float best when someone upriver has put the cap back on before they're flung out of a car window. Or perhaps not flung but only left beside a car in a parking lot along with a neat pile of cigarette butts from the emptied car ashtray. Come to think of it, these bottles are probably seldom thrown directly into the river. Their walls are thin, so plastic bottles aren't always the long-distance travelers you'd think. Cracks let water in, and silt. The bottles don't end up often in trees, either, because they are light enough and smooth enough for the wind to knock them free. They are everywhere. Tires occupy their own category and come in two sorts: with and without wheels. Those with wheels are heavy, but float, so they end up high on logjams and in trees; those without wheels get caught up in the silt and mud and form strange, ring-shaped silt islands or, buried deeper, show just a little tread as part of a sand bar. Next...


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