In honor of the 4th of July a trip down Freedom Road.

The following description of going down Freedom Road from Mars Pa. was written over 10 years ago.  It was my attempt to give a feeling of the land that I have come to call my own, after inspecting many industrial plants for pollution, down Freedom Road.  I work for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for over 32 years as an Air Quality Engineer.  Most of that time I was living in Mars. This effort was sent to a supplier of tourmaline rough in South Africa as a reward? for services rendered.

In Honor of the 4th of July, A Trip Down Freedom Road.

I live on the last yellow brick road in Mars.  The hill leading down from my house is rather steep in places and undulates from almost a century of repairs and subsidence.  It can be a real joy ride when ice coats the land.  On this day the weather is wonderful.  The humidity and temperature are moderate, after a chilly night.  The Borough of Mars does not cover very much area and outside of Mars the development has been limited to a few homes and farms until the completion of an interstate highway into Pittsburgh.  Now along the main road leading west, the housing developments have grown like weeds.  On the tops of the hills and nestled in the valleys are retirement homes waiting for the affluent to gently pass through their doors.  Five miles toward the setting sun lays Cranberry.  A town that first grew to be a suburb when the Pennsylvania turnpike was completed a generation ago.   The original homes were modest, but now the land is being covered with moderate to expensive homes.  The roads are crowed with vehicles filled with commuters and shoppers for the newly constructed strip malls.  When we pass this obstacle, we pass on to Freedom Road and we soon leave the congestion behind.  This old road follows the natural contour of the land and a simple white church soon appears on the right.  Gravestones stand like sentinels that are trying to shield the church from an uncertain future.  The land  has been torn asunder and the rich green vegetation lays decomposing close to the church, but the island is still untouched.  Soon we leave this development and the road twists and turns.  We can see fields on the crest of the hills surrounded by dense forest. We are now on the edge of the valley of the Ohio River.  You can see outcroppings of rock as you descend into a tributaries valley.  After crossing a descending road that takes the ridges east of the Ohio to the north, you can see the elevated roadbed of a long defunct trolley line.  The valley is u-shaped and relatively flat for a couple of miles and then the road hangs on the edge of a steep rocky hillside as the stream descends deeper into the valley of the Ohio.  To negotiate the descent into the valleys new depths, the road takes a series of sharp bends that must be taken slowly and deliberately.The road continues to twist and turn and then descends on chiseled rock into the bottom of the narrow valley.  An old quarry can be seen, when the trees are not too green, across the valley.  A narrow road named quarry strikes toward the old workings and connects a few old homes to the outside world.  As Freedom road crosses a small stream, that ventures forth from a very narrow side valley, you can see a white church that is still used, nestled along the stream and sheltered by a few old homes and abundant trees.  For reasons steeped in history the Freedom road does not continue down the level road to the Ohio, but takes a sweeping turn and ascends a rocky face.  The road shows signs of subsidence and clings to the edge of the valley.  A stop sign at the top of the hill and a y-intersection should be treated with respect.  On the side of the road away from the steep hill a relatively modern cemetery sits and a row of houses press against the road.  We travel a mile or so and prepare to leave this side valley for the  openness of the hills around the Ohio River.  One finally glance, as we cross another stream, is rewarded with a view of a small shed set on high stilts deep in the valley.  It is of man, but somehow it seems to appear to be a natural for the valley.  The road is now lined with homes on both sides and you are warned of the coming descent.  As you descend straight down into Freedom, another cemetery faces west on an exposed hillside next to the road.  A cemetery to bring home the dead heroes from the civil war.  Nicely mowed it presents a park like setting for the edge of Freedom.  A more typical view of the valley is seen on the other descending side of the road.  Old wooden homes on small flat plots carved from the hillside, clinging to a decrepit life,  that really can not go on too much longer.   There really is not much left of Freedom proper except a main street that parallels the busy new highway and the multitude of rail tracks that lead to the largest rail switching yard in the Eastern United States.  Homes still sling to the steep hills with grass growing between the bricks on their streets from lack of traffic.  There is no commerce left in Freedom and each year another building seems to be torn down.  Freedom, named by dreamers, that left the settled areas of the valley for freedom, is disappearing into a passing blur, in the eyes of hurrying motorist.  It stands as a symbol of the old life in the valley to me.  A life that supported the railroad, steel making and a narrow band of industrialization that did not extend much away from the might Ohio.  There is no bridge for Freedom road to the cross the Ohio and we must join the flow of traffic going somewhere else on a different path.


About Bruce Fry

I was born in Summit, NJ in 1947 and graduated from Summit High School in 1966. I graduated from the Colorado School of Mines in 1970 and after spending another year in graduate school, I left to see the world of Brazil. After spending some more time discovering myself, I ended up working for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for 32 years as an Air Quality Engineer in the Department of Environmental Protection. I retired in 2007 and took up faceting gemstones again after a long hiatus that reached back to my twenties. I had started cutting cabochons when I was 13 and bought my first faceting machine when I was 15, but ran out of money and time until I retired. My great love in gemology is tourmaline and the collection presented here represents my effort to get as much beauty and variety in the colors of tourmaline as I can. I was particularly lucky in being able to get unheated cuprian tourmaline before copper was discovered in gem grade tourmaline from Mozambique.
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