Beaver Falls and Mr. Drescher’s Gardens
With the Fleming Woods area and the woods and fields of western Wyoming being bulldozed for roads and homes, my attention turned, in the late fifties, to the woods and creek behind my house on Woodbrook Lane, originally called Benkenstein Drive. The majority of those woods are the steeply sloping sides of the creek valley. At the bottom is a creek that runs from west of Oregon Trail, going under the dip in Oregon Trail, all the way down to and across the Wyoming Golf Club, making its way eventually, to the Mill Creek. The area my friends and I roamed was the area between Oregon Trail and the end of Linden Lane. We had to be careful though, when going all the way downstream, because that was Jason Ackley’s territory, and he and his friends would chase us out if they spotted us.
Often, as I explored up the slopes, further and further, mostly on the north side of the creek, I would imagine Indians having once lived in those woods. The visions, in my mind’s eye, of teepees and buckskin dressed Indians stemmed from two prior events. First, I had seen a painting somewhere of an Indian village, nestled on a small plateau alongside a small creek, the hills rising behind it. There, in my woods was a spot exactly like depicted in the painting. To bolster my belief in this being the same spot, as depicted in the painting, was the fact that I had found two arrowheads in the creek bed, both in the vicinity of the plateau in my woods.
I realize this area of Wyoming is an area most have not seen, so let me paint you a picture of how it was in the late 1950s. To start with, these woods in many areas were on the very steep slopes of the creek valley. Just beneath one of the two main tributaries, the one running down from the end of Woodbrook Lane was a beautiful waterfall, perhaps six feet high. I had heard it had once been called Beaver Falls. On the north side of the falls was an area rich in gray clay, suitable for modeling. Just below the falls were two sets of concrete steps, one set running down each side of the slopes to the creek. Each set of steps led down to large concrete platforms where once a bridge spanned the creek. I never saw the first bridge there; I had only heard of it from older folks who had. When we first discovered this spot there were only the steps and the two bridge foundations.
Living up the slope on the south side of the creek, at the end of Hidden Valley Lane, was a German immigrant named Martin Drescher. According to the story, it was for his wife that Mr. Drescher built the steps, the bridge, and the trails winding through his beautiful gardens atop the hill behind his house. It was beautiful up there, as I can personally attest; having wandered his trails and gardens myself. There were benches to sit and rest on, and water faucets for watering the gardens. What I don’t know is whatever happened to the first bridge. At the time we first came to know this wonderful spot, there was no sign of it; not even wreckage.
As the western end of Wyoming grew, there became a need to run a sewer line down the hill to the main lines. Those were the worst days of my young life, as the excavators shoved their way down the creek bed, trenching it for sewer pipes, destroying the waterfall, and leaving in their wake, broken and shattered rock, and ugly manholes. One manhole is located directly below where the waterfall used to be. What was once a perfectly flat limestone ledge, with water flowing smoothly over it, is now a groove from the upper elevation of the creek bed, down to the lower elevation. It is now just a notch the water cascades through, and then pools around the manhole, before making its way downstream. Take that, coupled with the fact that more than a few folks decided they needed to build houses encroaching into our forest, on their pan-handle lots, and our haven was fast becoming too small for all the imaginary scenarios we had once dreamt up. Of course, I haven’t been back to visit the spot in over forty years, so I really can’t speak to the appearance of the creek today.
I have previously mentioned the first bridge in Mr. Drescher’s woods. The mention of a first bridge would suggest that there must have been a second bridge. Well, there was indeed a second bridge, and this one I did see. I believe it was John Cutting I was with when we approached the fallen falls, and stopped suddenly in our tracks. There, before our eyes, was the most magnificent, pole bridge, spanning the creek from Mr. Drescher’s old foundations.
After our initial shock, we ran down the slope to inspect the new construction. It was a marvelous bridge, the timbers hand cut with axe or hatchet, lashed together with hemp rope, and supported by four upright poles about three inches in diameter, obviously cut from the surrounding forest.
I looked at John and asked, “Who do ya think built it?”
John looked at me, and just shrugged his shoulders. Then, he looked up the cement steps to the north and asked, “Who lives up there, on this side?”
“Well, the steps stop about halfway up, but I guess if you follow the way they’re headed you’d end up at Ramsey’s house.”
“Think maybe Charlie built it?” John asked.
“I bet he did.”
As it turned out, John was right. The story is that Charlie did build the bridge, as a Boy Scout badge project, but that reason is hearsay. I never got the chance to ask him until after his bridge washed downstream during a heavy rainstorm. When I did see Charlie again, and keep in mind, he was several years older than me; I didn’t have the nerve to ask. I had heard by then that Charlie was steaming mad, and claiming someone had cut his lashings on his bridge, leaving it at the mercy of the raging creek.
Quite some time ago I wrote to both Charlie and the Drescher family, to get more details, but unfortunately, neither ever responded. So, that’s the story of Mr. Drescher’s gardens, atop the banks of my creek, as remembered by both me and Charlie Ramsey’s youngest brother, Steve.