May 19, 2007

Low bridge, everybody down


On a Friday evening, sunlight glances off the stone walls of the canal. Kids run along the towpath, tossing rocks into the water, racing ahead to get to the next bridge while young parents push strollers along the gravel path. My parents bring a bicycle built-for-two to the canal and pedal along, attracting looks from runners as they go past. Urban Sophisticate often runs along the canal when she is home for a visit and training for a marathon, and I go there in the evening sometimes with Signing Friend to take her dog for a walk. When I was a teenager, Outdoor Girl and I went canoeing on the canal, paddling along for miles. In the winter, the canal can be a smooth surface for ice skating.

When the canal opened in 1825, hailed by many as the engineering feat of the nineteenth century, the 363-mile long waterway was used primarily for transporting goods, although packet boats would sometimes carry a load of passengers as well. I've seen the boats in a museum downtown, so I can picture one moving slowly through the water pulled by mules whose hoofs would thud against the packed dirt of the towpath. As I stood on a bridge to take this photo, I could almost hear the call of the boatman yelling, "Low bridge! Very low!" warning anyone enjoying the sun on the roof to duck down.


Dr. Virago said...

Ooh! I *so* want to go running there!

Amanda said...

"I've got a mule, her name is Sal ... fifteen miles on the innominate canal."

Endless rounds of that song as a kid on field trips. Great memories!

PPB said...

...'cause we're comin' to a town and you'll always know your neighbors, you'll always know your pals if you've ever navigated on the innominate canal.

Or maybe it's you'll always know you're (as in you are?) hmm....must exegete the song.

my15minutes said...

I'm not a specialist in exegetical analysis of folk music, but I think it's "YOUR".

This photo belongs on a tourist brochure. It's fabulous!

Sarah Sometimes said...

that's a gorgeous pic and I want to be there.

We had rain last night and more rain today.

RageyOne said...

Very pretty photo. I like the reflection of the clouds and trees/shrubbery in the water.

Chip said...

that's one of our favorite walks. We almost did it tonight, but ended up walking around my parents' neighborhood instead.

I also have great memories of skating on it with my wife when we were much younger and without kids.

purple_kangaroo said...

Absolutely beautiful.

Now you've got that song going through my head. To those who were trying to remember, the way I learned the words was this:

I've got a mule, her name is Sal,
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.
She's a good old worker and a good old pal,
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.
We've hauled some barges in our day
Filled with lumber, coal and hay,
And we know every inch of the way
From Albany to Buffalo.

Low bridge, everybody down.
Low bridge, 'cause we're comin' to a town.
And you'll always know your neighbor,
You'll always know your pal,
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

We'd better get along, old pal,
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.
You can bet your life I'd never part from Sal,
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.
Get up there mule, here comes a lock,
We'll make Rome by six o'clock.
One more trip and back we'll go,
Back we'll go to Buffalo.

Low bridge, everybody down . . .

Camera Obscura said...

Ooh, how pretty!

The canals in Britain are still used. The ones down south of London have mostly leisure traffic -- little house-barges in gypsy colors -- usually with a dog on deck because the Brits love their dogs.

Our favorite pub was The Anchor at the lock in Pyrford; I have a painting from the viewpoint of the towpath alongside the pub looking to the lock, with a green house-barge tied up at the pub and an orange housebarge passing by on the canal.

Ampersand said...

Your photos are always so gorgeous. I love the colors where you live!!

cloudscome said...

I remember singing that song in fourth grade music class. I hated everything else about that class, ( we tortured the teacher and played recorders loudly and badly) but I loved that song!

That picture is really beautiful. I love the light and the colors. Evening?

jo(e) said...

I wondered if anyone would know the song -- I'm surprised that so many of you do!

Cloudsome: Yes, the photo was taken in the evening. That's when the light is the best.

Camera Obscura said...

Joe darlin',

I bet most of us even hear Tennessee Ernie Ford when we hear the lyrics.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I learned that song in elementary school in small-town Pennsylvania. I remembered the phrase in your title immediately!

Here in Bend we have 100-year-old canals built by Chinese workers. Now there's a big movement to cover the canals. Too much water lost to seepage, too much to evaporation. Ironically, in Portland, just 120 miles from here, they're exhuming the streams that were covered over when the city expanded. It changes, it changes.

Sarah Sometimes said...

I know the song because of the recentish Springsteen CD called The Seeger Sessions. Although I probably heard it when I was a kid. The song is very mournful on the CD--I don't know if other versions have that same feeling.

Jody said...

We've got this song in heavy rotation thanks to Bruce. I can't imagine any of Phantom's readers would miss the reference, because all of us surely went out and bought Bruce on the strength of her praise.

In Britain and France, you can rent barges for a week and take canal trips. I think I've heard you can do that on some of the old canals in the US, too, and I would love to. I lived near the Thames in England for two years and just adored the barges tied up alongside the river.

Gannet Girl said...

Such an exquisite photo.