Four Mile Creek meanders through the woodlands of Northern Erie County Pennsylvania and empties into Lake Erie. Over the eon’s it’s slow moving waters has cut a large swath of land, and one of the more spectacular creations of the small creek is a mile long ravine called Wintergreen Gorge.
From Prehistoric until Colonial times the Gorge and creeks path provided a clear route to the Lake for both the local Native Americans and European Settlers. Ancient Indian war trails line both sides of the Creek, trails that were used by the Seneca Indians as they waged their war with the local Eriez Indians before the white man entered the area. Many intrepid amateur archaeologist and even professionals from the local Penn State Erie have found a rich stash of pre-Colonial Native American artifacts lining the paths and cliffsides of the small waterway.
My friend Tim grew up in a small house on the banks of Four Mile Creek near the thousands of acres that made up the Penn State Erie’s Wintergreen Gorge. Tim Randall grew up hiking and exploring the endless trails that crisscross the ivy covered cliffs of Four Mile. From the age of six onward there was hardly a day that passed that you would not find him with walking stick in hand on his way to have a new journey.
And many of his adventures were fruitful indeed.
He had found a treasure trove of arrowheads and discarded pottery near ancient Indian campsites, as well as early European coins and sword hilts. Perhaps the most spectacular discovery he made was an out of the way vale on the Westerns side of the Gorge far off any path that was covered in thick foliage and had hearty vines from which you could safely swing out into across the vale. In this mystic sanctuary it was hard to believe that you were less than a mile away from a major Interstate Highway and close to one of the largest cities in the State of Pennsylvania.
Most of the time in his journeys of exploration he had the constant companionship of a large Newfoundland Dog named ‘Dutch’. ‘Dutch’ was a birthday gift for Tim from his father on his 10th birthday. From that day the two were inseparable. Despite its formidable and imposing size the large black canine was the most gentle of creatures that I had ever encountered. With thick webbed feet, the dog is specialized for water rescue and there were numerous times while traversing the slippery smile covered slate of the creek bottom that Tim would fall into a nearby pool. Dutch would inevitably jump into the pond no matter the depth, to rescue his little master. Dutch lived a very long life and died at the age of 14 years. Needless to say Tim was devastated. Though many women had come and gone in his life, Dutch was his best friend and constant companion. Moreover, the loyal Newfoundland was a constant assurance of unconditional love in a life filled with turmoil and difficulty.
For you see, throughout his life Tim was in and out of trouble in one way or another. In Grade School he was the practical joker who held the attention of the entire class. He ended up many times in the principles office and there were many calls to his parents concerning his disruptive behavior. In his teens Tim moved from being the class clown to be the chief stoner, sampling any kind of illicit substance that came his way. Gradually his meager funds could not keep up with his veracious appetite for illegal pharmaceuticals and he turned to crime. First it was shoplifting and then it escalated into burglary. Sadly,when he was 17 he was sent away to a juvenile detention facility a few months after he was caught shoplifting at the local mall.
But even this close brush with the law did not stop Tim’s lust for mind altering pharmaceuticals. By his early 20’s he was dealing drugs and breaking into houses to sustain his addiction. At age 24 when Dutch died, his downward spiral seemed to escalate. In response, he ventured into harder drugs in order to find the release that he could no longer find in marijuana and LSD.
Wintergreen Gorge Ghost Child