Sledgehammer

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She swung full force with her sledgehammer. The stone did not crack. “This profession is very physical,” she complained, and belted the outcrop again. Her knees sometimes turn black-and-blue when she carries samples down from mountains. She once handed a suitcase to a Greyhound bus driver who said, “What have you got in here, baby -rocks?” She was content to have them ride in the baggage compartment. A geologist I know in California would be unnerved by that. When conference room almere he travels home from far parts of the world, he buys two airline seats-one for himself and one for his rocks. We passed Limestoneville. We crossed Limestone Run and the West Branch of the Susquehanna, and now the road was running in a deep crease, a V with sides of about twelve hundred vertical feet: White Deer Ridge and Nittany Mountain-quartzites of early Silurian age, shed west from the Taconic Orogeny. There were quartzite boulders all through the steep woods but a notable absence of outcrops, of roadcuts, of exposures of any kind. In fact, with the exception of the limestones she had collected, we were not seeing much rock to write home about, and Anita was becoming impatient. “No wonder I never did geology in this part of Pennsylvania,” she said. “There are no exposures-just conference room amsterdam colluvium lying in the woods.” Multiple ridges were squeezed in close here. Characteristically, the interstate would yield to the country, to the southwestward sweep of the corrugated mountains, as it ran in a valley under a flanking ridge, biding its time for a gap. One would soon appear-not a national landmark with a history of landscape painters and lovestruck Indians, but a water gap, nonetheless-sliced clean through the ridge. Like a fullback finding a hole in the line, the road would cut right and go through. On the far side, it would break into the clear again, veering southwestward in another valley, gradually moving over toward the next long ridge. There would be another gap. Small streams had cut countless gaps. All within twenty miles of one another, for example, were Bear Gap in Buffalo Mountain, Green Gap in Nittany Mountain, Fryingpan Gap in Naked Mountain, Fourth Gap in White Deer Ridge, Third Gap, Second Gap, First Gap, Schwenks Gap, Spruce Gap, Stony Gap, Lyman Gap, Black Gap, McMurrin Gap, Frederick Gap, Bull Run Gap, and Glen Cabin Gap-among others.

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