DON’T GO NEAR THE SLOUGH! That was one of the stern warnings of my childhood. Why it was called “The Slough” I have no idea—maybe it was to make it sound more ominous.
I came of age (the first time) on a street named Quincy in south Tulsa, Oklahoma. Quincy stretched across the city from north to south and paralleled Peoria Street, but it dead-ended just about a quarter of a mile past our house near the banks of the Arkansas River. The Slough was somewhere at the end of the street. I don’t know for certain because as an obedient child, I didn’t go down there. Admittedly, it had more to do with fear than obedience—not unlike much of my religious journey, but that’s for another essay.
What is a slough exactly? The dictionary gives us this:
1.) a swamp
2.) an area of soft, wet land
To my young, wildly imaginative, ever-wondering & wandering, day-dreaming mind, a slough was a steaming, smelly, boiling bog filled with mutant creatures of the reptilian sort, like that Creature From The Black Lagoon.
There were a couple of houses at the far end of the street near the slough. I imagined that toothless men lived there with their sharp-toothed dogs and their snaggletoothed womenfolk. They probably brewed moonshine and their eyes had no pupils. The only thing they seemed to be able to read was the old testament in the King James version.
To this day, when I hear braggadocious talk and chants of swamp-draining, I picture The Slough, and the slough-dwellers, and while they would be all-in for the metaphorical swamp-draining, they wouldn’t want anyone messing with their actual swamp.
That dictionary that I mentioned a few sentences back also explains that a slough is:
3.) a situation characterized by lack of progress or activity.
4.) a mental state of deep sadness and no hope
As I live through my second coming-of-age, I have to admit I’m far more afraid of slough #4 than I ever was of The Slough At The End Of Quincy Street.