A Look Down And Back Into Liberty

OUTDOORS

December 22, 1991|By Bill Burton

Those of us who fish Liberty Reservoir these days think only of the bass and other fish that lurk below and how to catch them.

But it's different for some who remember the community that lies below the popular 3,100-acre reservoir.

Ellis Porter, a former state and Aberdeen Proving Ground wildlifeofficer, roamed those lands as a youngster before the dam was built to hold water from the Patapsco.

In a letter, Porter, who lives inBelcamp in Harford County, described what it was like to go home again by canoe. Accompanied by his wife, Edie, "It was a trip of stirring nostalgia," he said.

"Too bad, but we only fished for suckers inthe Patapsco back then," Porter added. "Now, I wish I had tried for bass. They were probably there, but we never thought about them then.We never thought they could have been there.

"Instead, we fished for suckers, our poles held by forked sticks."

So, now, join Porter in that recent trip as cool weather came to Liberty Reservoir. Following is his descriptive letter -- and incidentally, I would appreciate any other memories of life in the Liberty Reservoir area before the valley was inundated. At a later date, we will do a bit more on thehistory of Carroll County's big fishing hole.

Now for Porter's account, edited somewhat for space:

"As we paddled, I remembered theOakland Mills building that was down below. When I was a boy we had neighbors who were weavers there."

"I could still recall standing by the tall chimney at sunset; watching the swifts circle and dive into roost for the night. There were hundreds of them.

"Somewhere in an old scrapbook is a photograph I took as slowly rising water claimed the mill and that chimney.

"We fished the shoreline for some time when I seemed to be drawn to a secluded cove. It didn't look familiar, but I found what I somehow knew to be there -- the old roadbed leading to the mill and the town. I had walked it many a time. It wasa killer of bicycles.

"Now it was just a remnant taken back by the forest. That steep winding road had led to the old iron bridge thatcrossed the Patapsco.

"We fished more shoreline; caught and released some spunky bass.

"Again, I looked for a spot I had known so long ago. The open sage fields were grown over with trees, but the oldroad was still visible. We had always called it Tongues Lane -- and it tapered to a trail leading to the river.

"It is now littered with trash; it wasn't then.

"I used to walk that path with my red lantern, and our old dog on some mighty dark nights. I guess it was a mile or more from our house (Porter lived with his family on Deer ParkRoad across from Gray Dawn Farm) to the river where I would build a fire and fish for suckers.

"I got to know every inch of that trail," he continued in the letter. "It passed through an old abandoned farm. I caught my first muskrat there.

"The wind got up a bit, and Iknew my wife and I were in for a long pull to the landing. We passeda young fellow in a boat rigged with electric motors.

"He looked to be anchored about where the old sucker hole was many feet below. He was wearing a set of earphones, and I wondered if what he was listening to was better than what we were hearing.

"Probably not -- at least for us. We had geese calling, pileated woodpeckers and the sound of dipping paddles, and the wind in the trees.

"Little did he know that beneath him were once the most magnificent trees one could ever see. But they had been piled on trucks like corpses of fallen warriors and hauled away.

"He'd never know that below him flowed a beautiful green river that you could follow for miles, and see no one, no house. The great trees, the river, the rocks, a cathedral that is no more.

"As my wife and I stroked into the teeth of the wind I thought we'd had a pretty good day. We had seen deer, osprey, great blueherons, geese, pileated woodpeckers and many kingfishers. In the morning, we had a beaver swim around the canoe before slapping its tail and diving.

"We'd caught some bass -- not record fish, but good, healthy-looking ones, all of which we released with a salute for luck.

"It has been said that you can't go home again, and I guess that's true. I can't walk down to that old sucker hole by lantern light, but I can remember.

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