Creek Don’t Rise?

RIP Elizabeth Edwards. You were a brave and brilliant woman, a model of grace under pressure.

Now to the main topic. As I was leaving Reiki today I said, “I’ll see you next week God willing and the creek don’t rise.” The volunteer who helps in the office said, “Did you grow up in Pennsylvania?” I said, “No, Old Saybrook.” She said, “Well, I heard that expression all the time as a child.” I agreed that I had, too, and racked my brain to figure out where I heard it first. It was probably from Mother, who used that sort of folksy language when talking to her sister and a chosen few others. She probably heard it from one of her colorful relatives, but I have no idea which one.

Larry said he’d heard the expression, too, and that John Wayne had used it one of his movies, but he said “the river don’t rise.” It is also more recently the name of the sequel to “When the Levees Broke,” Spike Lee’s HBO documentary on New Orleans five years after Katrina.

I always thought the expression referred to being able to return to a particular location, which would become impossible if the creek or stream rose. A guy on wikianswers (which I don’t normally use) said he’d heard something similar – that it referred to small rivers that endangered the potato crops. It could also be used in as a metaphor: That success will arrive with the acquiesence of the divine and no major obstacles.

I dug a bit further and got the shock of my life. The expression may have came from a Georgia man who was an “Indian agent.” He most likely meant it as Creek with a capital “C,” referring to the confederation of Native Americans who lived in Georgia at the time. These folks did in fact rise up during the War of 1812. Wikipedia, which I do not trust at all, has a battle raging over Creek vs. creek and whether the expression pre-dated the Georgia agent. If only he’d said, “God willing and the Cherokee don’t rise,” none of this confusion would have occurred.

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2 Responses to “Creek Don’t Rise?”

  1. Harv Goldstein Says:

    It had been explained to me only recently that the phrase refers to the Creek Indians.

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