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Bales of Hay

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Since I became LEAD Agency's Tar Creekkeeper, recognized by the Waterkeeper Alliance for being her best advocate, I have struggled to get my vessel from one place to the next. Hiking it up and onto my Jeep since you might not have noticed, my height has made this a challenge, until yesterday.

There in my barn are the last remaining square bales from hay we baled back after the 2007 ice storm. They have lost their prime and have dried out to be so light as to allow the smallest of people to lift them with one hand. And as such are the perfect step stool to use to stand upon to lift that kayak up and on for traveling.

People don't value square bales like they used to. Boys earned their first real money during summers of the past by working the hay fields, lifting those fresh, heavy bales up and onto a truck. They got stronger by doing it and used it as prep for the fall's football season. Technology has changed and tractors lift and carry those bales that teams of football players would have difficulty getting huddled around to move.

But the remnants have become my new method of mounting kayaks to service.

This week these also are assisting in gathering samples for the scientific research Wellesley College is conducting here in the Tar Creek Superfund site and where her contaminants come to reside. The value to us all is that others coming with questions may provide answers we had not known to ask.

Dan Brabander has a long history at this site, having accompanied teams of researchers in the 2000’s who looked both at human health but also the substances lying in our environment that we know impact our health. He, as others who have worked here, we have learned, come to never forget us. You, by the way, in the amazing way you are you, have been part of the reason, too. When a community is open to meeting strangers and providing information, greetings on the sidewalk, casual conversations at a café. You are remembered. And our site gnaws at them, too. Respecting us impounds their need to come back to wrestle with their universities, colleges, foundations to fund work that can ease our load of toxins and help us have an environment that seasons bring joys to enjoy.

So this week, Dan has brought his team of female students: Iris Cessna, Alice Dricker, and Leslie Monzon and a former student, Claire Hayhow, who took her own vacation time from a job at the Silent Spring Foundation with actually another former researcher at our site. They are investigating for us the things that are required for life on this planet. Air, water and soil. They are exploring how we measure what and how much and how big particulates are that hang in the air we breathe. Samples are being taken at wetlands near chat piles, both of the plants that are thriving in them, but the sediment beneath and the water they release into our creeks. What about the orange staining on the trees we are now so used to seeing we don’t even see it anymore? They are XRF-ing it in the field checking for the levels of metals that reside ON our trees.

A fleet of vessels join us this morning as we lift off at Riverview Park with the Grand Riverkeeper boat, the Tar Creekkeeper kayaks, the 3-woman canoe, with Paige Hankins at the helm took off to take a core sample of the channel bar where Tar Creek meets the Neosho. Dan was with other researchers in those early years of this century and took a similar core there and brought it back to our other LEAD Agency office and laid it out on the floor of that building. It looked like a tiger-tail, with orange and black stripes, solid and tube like. And we are off to collect its sister this morning. With the cool morning, the rare coolness this morning, we hope to continue down to Twin Bridges to find the next one where the Neosho meets the Spring. I have heard it called almost a dike that is forming that may be helping to flood us in those high rain events. If we find it and can core it, Dan and his team can tell us what it consists of, and perhaps much more.

We are launching and would love for you to join us in future launches as we explore and try to better understand what lies beneath us, what we float upon, what our soils hold and what we are breathing.

In the meantime, be kind to strangers, they come back to find the answers to what harms us.

Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim

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