There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings. The town lay in the midst of a checkerboard of prosperous farms, wih fields of grain and hillsides of orchards where, in spring, white clouds of bloom drifted above the green fields. In autumn, oak and maple and birch set up a blaze of color that flamed and flickered across the back drop pines. Then foxes barked in the hills and deer silently crossed the fields, half hidden in the midst of the fall morning.
Along the roads laurel, viburnum and alder, great ferns and wildflowers delighted the traveler’s eye through much of the year. Even in winter the roadsides were places of beauty, where countless birds came to feed on the berries and on the seeds heads of dried weeds rising above the snow. The countryside was, in fact, famous for the abundance and variety of bird life, and when the flood of migrants was pouring through in spring and fall people traveled from great distances to observe then. Others came to fish the streams, which flowed clear and cold out to the hills and caintained shady pools where trout lay. So it had been from days many years ago when the first settlers raised their houses, sank their wells, and built their barns.
Then a strange blight crept over the sea area and everything began to change. Something negative had settled on the community: mysterious maladies swept the flocks of chickens the cattle and sheep sickend and died. Everywhere was a shadow of death. The farmers spoke of much illness among their families. In the town the doctors had become more and more puzzled by new kinds of sickness appearing among their patients. There had been several sudden and unexplained deaths, not only among adults but even among children, who would be stricken suddenly while at play and die within hours.
There was a strange stillness. The birds, for example-where had they gone? Many people spoke of them, puzzled and disturbed. The feeding stations in the backyards were deserted. The few birds seen anywhere were moribund they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robbins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was no sound only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.
On the farms the hens brooded, nut no chicks hatched. The farmers complained that they were unable too raise any pigs-the litters were small and the young survived only days. The apple trees were coming into blooms, so there was no pollination and there would be no friut.
The roadsides, once so acttractive, were now lined with browned and withered vegetation as though swept by fire. These, too, were silent, deserted by all living things.Even the streams were now lifeless. Anglers no longer visited them, for all the fish had died.
In the gutters under the eaves and between the shingles of the roofs, a white granular powder still showed a few patches some weeks before it had fallen like snow upon the roofs and lawns, the feilds and the lawns, the fields and streams. No evil, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world. The people had done it to themselves.
This town does not actually exist, but it might easily have a thousand counterparts in America or elsewhere in the world. I know of no community that has experienced all the misfortunes discribed. Yet every one of these disasters has actually happened somewhere, and many real communites have already suffered a substantial number of them. A grim specter has crept upon us almost unnoticed, and this imagined tragedy may easily become a stark reality as we all shall know.
April Watson #W94003
16756 Chino Corona Rd.
Corona CA 92880
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