Every night Lackawanna burns to the ground. In the morning it’s rebuilt and people feel as if the structures have been there forever. That night, it all happens again. I can tell because everyone here is so tired. We rebuild from the scraps and, of course, a whole lot of good stuff gets burned up. We're only left with what can be salvaged.
We had hints of this early on, maybe as early as third grade. Some kids knew for sure by fifth, but for the most part, parents and teachers tried to keep it quiet. Some of the families needed all of the hands they could get, and the kids, although they never would have understood, needed to be around to get the work done.
Swidden agriculture has been practiced for hundreds of thousands of years, but it happens only seasonally. Where we went wrong in Lackawanna was to try it every night. I’m sure it happened slowly -- probably seasonally at first. Burn the structures down with the fields and start the process of rebuilding. Somewhere along the way things must not have been going right for a few months, so they decided to try the phoenix approach again – off season. Then it became weekly and somewhere, maybe in the 70s, they started burning it all down every night.