Jacob Beyerly. A woman was found with a chain draped around her neck, a man with a tomahawk, freshly inscribed with English initials, sunk in his skull like a log. Bierly is the name of the lawyer who filed papers for my divorce. About to swing his ax into a tree, Hannes Miller—three of his children married Speichers—was shot by an Indian. He was called Wounded Hannes, Crippled John, or Indian John until his death in Somerset. Some insist they can hear old trees shriek the instant an ax hits. The Northkill Amish moved west, seeking more and better land. I live near fields some of them farmed. By the 1850s, ridges around here were bare, trees baked into charcoal to fuel the iron furnaces. In 1955, my father, driving a feed truck for the Belleville Flour Mill, lost his brakes on Nittany Ridge. He shifted down, laid on the horn, flew off Centre Hall Mountain, thick with hemlock and rhododendron, and blared through Pleasant Gap without incident. In the ten miles I drive to work, I pass three prisons. The oldest opened in 1915, the year M. G. Brumbaugh became the last ordained pacifist governor of Pennsylvania. At Rockview, called the Honor Farm, inmates learned to prune apple trees and tend a Victorian glasshouse. I have seen guards on horseback beside dark-skinned prisoners swinging scythes in the ditch along Benner Pike. In 1939, my great grandfather was killed by a tree that fell the wrong way when he was logging on Jack’s Mountain. Around that time, the Klan in Pleasant Gap prevented white Catholics from building a high school in Bellefonte. Behind Rockview Prison, in a copse of hemlocks at the foot of the Nittany Ridge, an electric chair sits in a former field hospital. By the year I was born, the state had electrocuted 350 people there. Since then, three more died by lethal injection. The Dunkers never forgave Governor Brumbaugh for calling the National Guard to shoot strikers in Pittsburgh or for calling the Pennsylvania militia to arms during the First World War.
In fifth and sixth grade, on the way to Manor School I climbed a black wooden overpass that spanned the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Some mornings I stopped and stood in the wind roaring above hopper cars heaped with coal and iron pellets bound for mills along the rivers in Pittsburgh, and imagined flight. At the end of Peight’s lane, not far from where a horse and buggy accident killed my grandmother in 1948, I spied a Texas Eastern Transmission sign. This aluminum-sided shed is party to the fourth largest natural gas line in the nation, which runs from the Gulf of Mexico to New York City. How did that pipe snake in over Jack’s Mountain without my knowledge? When they clear-cut the right of way to lay pipeline over the Nittany Ridge in 2009, gas men left good lumber to rot, my handyman says. The Centre Relay Compressor Station stands on a former cornfield in Pleasant Gap. The pipe runs past Weis Market, recently built on a razed farm, and ends in gas storage fields at Leidy, under the Tamarack Swamp. I, who have never eaten grass out of necessity, drive home and cook my groceries on a gas stove. 1 Julia Spicher Kasdorf 1 Among Landowners and Industrial Stakeholders, the Citizen with Too Much Memory Seeks Standing to Speak of Recent Events in Penn’s Woods” is factual, to the best of my knowledge, except that my father’s feed truck lost its brakes driving off of Tussey Mountain into Stone Valley, instead of Mount Nittany into Nittany Valley.