Scholla: The Tale of the Conch (An Introduction to a series of articles dealing with the canals of Pennsylvania.) June 30, 1947

There to my left, snuggling against the door which leads to my study there is a curious object. It serves me, as it served my grandparents, as a door-jamb, assuring the casual visitor an open welcome tot he sanctum. Its chalky surface is studded with hornlike projections converging to a funnel-shaped nose. Some callous hand sawed off the tip of the nose many years ago, revealing an aperture which resembles the mouthpiece of a bass horn. Its dorsal side reminds one of an ugly, prickly cone; a diabolical creature which infests ugly dreamlands.

I pick up the horrid thing and and turn it over in my hand. The touch of the smooth texture of the interior is reassuring ; there are no pointed spears or rough surfaces. Like the inside of an oyster’s shell, the lining of the conch’s house is as smooth as a mirror; unlike the color of the oyster shell, however, it is a soft pink, streaked here and there with a few ribbons of white. In one encompassing fold, the room of the conch shell wanders off into a mysterious cave where dark secrets are hidden from the eye of man.

The eye? Yes. But how about the ear? held to the side of the head the ancient conch whispers some of its secrets to the patient one who listens. There is the swish of the waves, the heave of the undulating sea; the brush of the fronds of seaweeds and an eerie rumble that seems to be the echo of distant thunder.

“Denizen of the ocean floor,” I ask, “how came you to dwell on hardwood floors, defying the winds which would slam my study door into the face of visiting friends?” I pause for an answer.

“List,” came the whispered caution from the cavernous depths of the shelled arcana. “Place your lips against the mouthpiece that man’s saw has formed at my proboscis. Blow shrill note against the sides of the Blue Mountains in Pennsylvania. Then hark! The echoes will tell you.”

I did as I was bidden. At first I could sound only roaring notes, such as the growl of an angry beast. Then, with the aid  of an agile tongue, I learned to trill staccato notes through the tubular tunnel. The echoes that came back from the mountains became articulate. I paused to listen to the story that they unfolded. The story came in brief installments as echoes always do.

So, too, Scholla which means “Echoes” will bring to its readers an extended series of stories recording the tale that the conch shell told Der Ewich Yaeger. It is the story of the early canals of Berks and neighboring counties. Readers will please be patient and realize that the atmosphere is not always conducive to the sounding of echoes. You shall have the story piecemeal, just as the conch shell tells it to your Ewich Yaeger.conch

Dr. Arthur Dundore Graeff, “Ewich Yaeger” the “Eternal Hunter”. On the 25th birthday of Scholla, 1963.

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