rockfall- by Dennis Thompsett

This is my sister Raye Thompsett doing her death defying act at the top of the Rockfall, back in the day. Both are much more dangerous than they appear here.

The Rockfall was a little way back in the Orchard. The East Hill's own Grand Canyon. But even grander because the grownups hadn't taken it over. And we all knew how they could squeeze the fun out of anything.

A little  stream that only ran  in the spring with snowmelt had, over the centuries, eaten up  the clay under the cliffs and great pieces of the escarpment had fallen down the hill.

Chunks of limestone as big as cars, as large  as houses, and as trully massive as government waste had fallen off the cliffs and down the hill and in the process denuded the claybanks, which after all these years were still embarrassed about it and still blushing a deep rose red.And it had been a lot of years falling. The RockFall hadn't changed much since I first saw it in the  '50's until I saw it last in 2012. It's probably been falling at the same glacial rate for centuries if not millenia.

Of interest to kids are the many 100 ton blocks of limestone  that hadn't quite fallen yet. They were separated from the escarpment by huge cracks but still hadn't decided to take the plunge  - like shy sky-divers clinging to the door of the plane. But they always seemed to be teetering.

Naturally that's where kids went first. To help. Because every kid knows that rocks never forget and never forgive, so it's wise to do them a good turn if you can. Like, if you find a stone in the water, throw it up on shore. A stone on shore, toss it in the water. Because rocks like change - the more rapid the better.  So we'd try everything to make that teeter into a totter. Then we'd give up and climb down and play underneath these teetering multi-ton blocks of unforgiving stone without a thought.

Oh I tell you there's no end of play in a dangerous place.

And no end of beauty, either. The little stream that had caused the RockFall by eating away at the limestone,  only flowed in the spring when it carried the snowmelt over the cliff and back to the bay. I remember going back there on a cold spring day when the spray from the waterfall had coated that tough little tree on the edge of the stream and it had frozen. The sun was shining through it and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen before. Or since.

A couple of helpful people, Sandra Mitchell Smart andJohn MacDonald went back in the Orchard to get me an up to date photo but they couldn;t find THE rockfall. Something that big and that old and that dangerous and that much fun had just been erased. It was just gone. Quick change OK. Bur not total DESTRUCTION.

So the lesson of the RockFall is simple but important: stay away from grown-ups. No matter what your age.

Photo: Teresa King

Digital Producer: Anita Church Lang


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