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On our recent writing retreat, the term “River Teeth” was part of a prompt. I can’t really remember the rest of the excerpt, but those words…River Teeth…. intrigued me.

The North Fork of the Kentucky River flows through Hazard, Kentucky. Most folks associate Hazard with “The Dukes of….”, an old television show from the ’70s. Actually, there are some similarities but they are not the same. Hazard, Kentucky is a bourbon-infused, coal mining town. At least it was, back in the ’60s when my husband was growing up there. His family’s house wasn’t far from the river.

I’ve come to believe that “if” a river could have teeth, it would be the river through Hazard. It almost devoured my husband as a boy many times over… playing on the rocks and losing his footing….skating on the ice and falling through a weak spot….sledding down the banks and landing in its icy waters. I imagine the river, teeth bared, patiently awaiting the next mishap.

The river swelled and almost devoured my husband’s family home several times. I’ve heard stories about entire household contents being dragged out into the sunlight to dry. Yet, today, as we drive through Hazard, the river looks calm. Perhaps her appetite has been satiated…for now. Still, there are left-overs. I see the remains of households, contents of sewage, remnants of lives, washing down the river. Grandmother, several grandfathers, sisters….even pieces of my husband….flowing away…consumed and digested.

I’ve come to accept and respect “River Teeth.” It’s part of a heritage. Part of a life. Maybe even a part of me.