4. A Last Look
at the Anderson Earthwork By William F.
Romain 4000 Westbrook Drive #502 Brooklyn,
Modern man, the world eater, respects
no space and no thing green or furred as sacred.
The march of the machines has entered his blood.
-- Loren Eiseley,
The Invisible Pyramid
It was a gorgeous day. The sun was bright and
the air was crisp. I thought it was going to
be a great trip. I was wrong.
After loading our gear into the little Cessna
152, I looked over the maps one more time. I
figured that with stop-overs, the round-trip
flight would take about 5 hours. The plan was
for my wife Evie and I to fly from Cleveland
to Newark, take some aerial photographs of the
Newark earthworks, and then continue on to Ross
County - where we would photograph a few more
of the Hopewell earthworks.
I had just got my private pilot license a few
weeks before, and I was especially excited about
this trip. Archaeology and flying - it didn't
get any better than this.
I checked over the airplane, completed the
pre-takeoff checklist, and we taxied out to the
runway. The tower cleared us for takeoff, and
I gave it full throttle. Within moments we were
soaring skyward - climbing in the cold, dense
air at a thousand feet per minute. In no time,
we were at our cruising altitude of 2,800 feet
- winging our way southeast. Like magic, the
little airplane homed-in on the invisible navaid
signals that would guide us across the 110 miles
of airspace to Newark. Quickly though, my exuberance
turned to concern.
The weather was clear. However, as soon as
we leveled off we hit turbulence. Updrafts, downdrafts,
and wind shifts combined to make things very
uncomfortable. The little two-seater airplane,
more like a go-cart with wings, pitched and rolled,
and bounced up and down, up and down. Equally
bad, the headwinds were stronger than expected
- and our progress over the ground was agonizingly
slow. Worse yet, I could see from my wife's pale
white face - tinged with green, that she was
not having fun.
Some fresh air - gained by opening a vent in
the top of the windshield - seemed to cure the
worst of her symptoms. And, like the brave explorer
that she is, she elected to continue our adventure.
An hour or so later we made an interesting crosswind
landing at Newark.
The runway at Newark is narrow - only 75 feet
wide and it has trees and power lines at its
approach end. To Evie though, I think any solid
ground was looking pretty good. I left her in
the pilot's lounge with a good supply of quarters
for the vending machines - no fancy lunch counter
here - and I went back up.
Back in the air, I took what ended up to be
a mediocre series of photos of the Newark earthworks.
Part of the problem is that with one hand, you
have to aim and shoot through the open left-side
window of the plane - while the other hand operates
the controls - keeping the airplane in a slow,
steep turn without stalling, losing altitude,
or otherwise crashing. It's a bit like patting
your head and rubbing your belly at the same
time. I was sure that my wife had made a good
decision to stay on the ground.
Anyway, after a cup of coffee and some Cheese-Nip
crackers for lunch, we continued onward toward
Ross County. It was a bit smoother as we left
Newark and headed southwest. Off to our right
we could see the skyline of Columbus - some 20
miles away, while below us the shimmering waters
of Buckeye Lake quickly passed. Ahead loomed
the hills of the Appalachian Plateau and Chillicothe.
Twenty minutes later we landed at the Ross County
Not wanting to risk her life unnecessarily,
Evie again decided to wait for me in the pilot's
lounge. At least this lounge had a sofa and color
TV. I, on the other hand, was enthusiastically
ready to go back up in search of the Hopewell
earthworks. I had the plane refueled, checked
the charts, and took off. First Dunlap, then
Mound City, Cedar Bank, and Hopeton. I circled
Chillicothe a couple of times, flew over the
confluence of the Scioto River and Paint Creek,
and skimmed along the summits of the mountains
to the east of the city. Then on to High Bank,
Hopewell, and Frankfort. I was thrilled to fly
over and photograph the very same earthworks
that I had walked over, wondered about, and studied
so intently on the ground. I was having a spectacular
Then I saw it. While following Paint Creek,
at an altitude of about 2,000 feet, I looked
for Anderson. What I found was incredible. In
the space of a heartbeat, my soaring spirit was
shot through with the finality of what unfolded
below me. There was the Anderson Earthwork --
an ancient ceremonial ground being torn apart
by bulldozers. I lowered the flaps on the plane
and slowly circled - astonished at what I was
seeing. For almost two thousand years the Anderson
Earthwork had withstood the ravages of time and
the elements. Wind and sun and rain had not erased
the sacred geometric figure that once connected
the Hopewell people to their universe. Now, in
a matter of moments, the walls that defined this
sacred space were being ripped down and crushed
beneath the steel treads of tremendous yellow
Never again would this ancient figure -- this
legacy of our collective-past be seen. Never
again would anyone walk within the peaceful walls
of the enclosure, or experience the awe and mystery
expressed in the purity of its form. No amount
of regret would ever bring back what we as a
people had destroyed. In one fell swoop, humankind
had just lost 10 percent of the existing Hopewell
The flight back to the Ross County airport
took only about five minutes, but it seemed like
I told Evie about what I had seen, and we headed
north -- back to Cleveland. For the first time
ever, I was glad to leave Ross County. The destruction
was too great.
As we approached Cleveland, the sun began to
set. The metaphor was obvious. After a few more
moments, darkness fell - and all that was certain
were the small white lights that outlined the
runway of our airport.
It was a quiet ride home. Certainly, I had
seen more than I ever wanted to. As we drove
across the concrete covered ground, bits and
fragments of the words attributed to Chief Seattle
came to mind:
Every part of this earth is sacred
to my people.... What befalls the earth befalls
all the sons of the earth.... Man did not weave
the web of life -- he is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web -- he does to himself.