“The Thundering Water”


Harriet Beecher Stowe, ordinarily given to deep thoughts about slavery, was moved to write thus:

“I thought of the great white throne; the rainbow around it; the throne in sight like unto an emerald; and oh! that beautiful water rising like moonlight, falling as the soul sinks when it dies, to rise refined, spiritualized and pure. …”

These are rather special thoughts to come out of a few minutes’ study of a waterfall, but that is the way Niagara affects people. Mark Twain, being somewhat more sardonic, moved off in the other direction. He once remarked that although it was wonderful to see all of that water tumbling down , it would be even more wonderful to see it tumbling up.

Lesser people have written worse things about the spectacle, but almost everybody writes something. People carry away their own memories of the place, which tend to be quite various.

It is the privilege of the elderly to believe that everything was better in the old days, and this writer’s fondest memory of Niagara goes back to the pre-automobile age. (Well, there were automobiles then, but there weren’t very many, and they had not yet begun to remodel American life.) Anyway, in those days one rode about the river above the Falls, and the islands, in carriages and took the trolley car down the gorge on tracks that ran just along the frightening water’s edge. Since the things that can impress a small child are sometimes unpredictable, let it be added that the high point of this particular visit to Niagara was a tour through the factory—upstream from the Falls, somewhere, near the river before the river becomes so scary—where people made shredded wheat biscuits. This was especially memorable because at the end of the tour we were all taken into a nice lunchroom and were given, for free, a nice dish of cereal with strawberries and cream.