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Muskrat House

Muskrat House

After WWII was over, my family moved to a bigger house closer to a town. Rationing was finally a bad memory and my family was ready for a more “normal” life. With three children and one on the way, it was time for a more spacious home, one with electric lights. At that time most of the roads in the township were covered with cinders, the residue of coal that had been burned in the big power plant next to the DuPont plant in Deepwater. With war recovery efforts underway people were beginning to build new homes, Most of the lower portion of the state, though, along the Delaware River and Bay, would continue to be undeveloped for many years. There were small communities along the Maurice and Cohansey Rivers. The little fishing village of Fortescue stood along the Delaware Bay. The bigger town of Salem was humming with activity. Small communities stood along Alloway, Stow and Mantua Creeks. The place on Dunn’s Lane near Pennsville that my parents chose as our new home had two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room and a covered front porch. There was a smelly outhouse behind the house, reached by walking under a long grape arbor. I never did like the new house on Dunn’s Lane as much as the little place by the river. I could still smell the river and hear some of its’ associated sounds but I couldn’t see the water anymore. The call of the river was strong in my innermost self. I loved it when my Dad would take me on his shoulders and go for a ramble along the river banks. There, amid the smells of tarry blobs and wet mud, and the sound of rustling reeds and winging gulls, we would search for unusual animal and bird tracks, watch ship traffic going up and down the river, and finally, on a sand-gritted log, sit and watch the sunset. I asked many times where the sun was going when it dipped down below the horizon. In the summertime it would oftentimes look like a big, hazy red ball being swallowed up, little by little, by the trees and spires on the other side of the river. We didn’t often watch the sunset outside in the winter. It was too cold to sit out there for long when the wind would blow across the river with ice in its breath. During one cold winter I was taken by Dad on a trek to check his muskrat traps. While attempting to toss me across a half-frozen drainage canal he lost his footing and I landed, gasping, in the frigid water. Our long trudge home was made in a silence that was only broken by the loud chattering of my teeth. I never went “muskratting” again, but my father continued trapping muskrats for their pelts for many years.

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