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Published: December 13th 2008
We started our day of touring by going to the Emerald Mound, a Native American temple mound built by the Natchez and used from about 1250 to 1600. The mounds were used for ceremonies and sometimes the chief lived on top. Some local mounds were being used when Europeans came and they observed some of the ceremonies, including human sacrifices at the funerals of high ranking people. The mound was built by people carrying baskets of dirt until it was 770 feet long by 435 feet wide and 35 feet tall! It was flat on top, except for a few mounds built on top for platforms for buildings. There wasn't much to look at now, but it must have been something in its day! Next we drove to the Springfield Plantation, but it had recently been sold, so was not open for tours. Rich visited with a neighbor on his quad, who recommended that we go to the church down the road. It would be open. Driving back down the road, we stopped at Church Hill and went inside. Oh, it was musty and dank. The cemetery was supposed to have interesting headstones, but we didn't find any. There was a
boarded up store across the street. Rich thought it looked like a place to sit and pass the time of day with friends. We passed a chimney left from a burned down house that made us think of Chimneyville. We haven't seen any kudzu vines here. We thought they were all over the South. They are called the "foot a day" vine because they can actually grow that much in a day, or "the plant that ate the South". They were brought over from Japan and promoted by the government to farmers as a good plant for erosion control. Now they grow over trees and bushes and suffocate them. They are very hard to get rid of, but according to Wikipedia, they are good to eat, have medicinal uses, and can be used for cattle and goats to graze on. We continued on into Natchez along the Parkway and stopped for some pictures on a sunken part of the Trace that had eroded over the years from use. As we went on towards town, we observed that the grass was a bright spring green, and the creeks were all slow, brown, and sandy.
We stopped in at the Visitor's Center
in Natchez. It was the least useful visitor's center we've been to on this trip. We asked about hurricane impacts here. The volunteer said that it was Gustav that had caused damage in Natchez. Large trees fell. She had a huge live oak in her yard that split and fell, but missed her house. Rich wanted to drive to Natchez Under-the -Hill down by the river. It was once a place for gamblers, thieves, and roughneck sailors. Caves were dug in the hillside to hide stolen goods, and then they "caved" in and caused landslides. It has been somewhat restored. Now there is a riverboat casino tied up there. 😊 The Mississippi river is about a mile wide here. Natchez was a major port during the cotton boom. As a result, there are 500 antebellum homes in town. We drove around the downtown area and down the side streets and saw many lovely homes. We stopped to take some pictures of a fountain and a statue in a park, and a man standing by his truck started up a conversation with Rich about trucks. This guy had bought his truck from a Rhino truckbed liner salesman. The whole truck was
covered in the rhino coating. He said he had people stop him and ask where he had it done because they would love to have a truck to take hunting that you didn't have to worry about scratching up the paint! That led to talk about bio-diesel. The guy was converting his truck so he would have one tank with regular diesel and one tank for used vegetable oil from restaurants, not exactly biodiesel. He said that Mr. Diesel in Germany had designed the engine so that farmers could make their own fuel from their crops, especially using peanuts. Then he started talking about being a contractor from Bay St. Louis that was all but destroyed by Katrina and how many of those people had bought property in Natchez and wanted him to move up there and work on their places. Fuel was $2.75! The town was not exactly what we expected. Parts were run down, but other places were prospering. People were remodeling and fixing up places, but stores were empty. It was 70 degrees and we were in our shirtsleeves! Last, we stopped at Forks of the Road. It has a few park-type signs to show that at
one time, that spot was one of the largest slave sale centers in the country. Rich said the site deserved a much better commemoration. He suggested a perpetual bonfire to clean the earth, or at least a perpetual flame to preserve the memory of all those people who passed through this place.
We got back to the park and went to the office to pay for another night. Inside, there were deer antlers, nests, and an alligator skull on a shelf. Nancy asked, half jokingly, if there were alligators in the lake. YES!!! The skull came from one they killed there! AAAAAAHHHHH!!!! The ranger said that they hadn't ever heard of one bothereing anyone. A lot of the lake was away from any roads. Outside, there was a huge flock of vultures! We couldn't see anything specific that they were circling, but it was hunting season, so maybe they were anticipating. We drove across the dam and found cabins for rent. Also there were signs by the woods that said, "Hunters in Woods - For Your Safety, Do Not Enter". On the way back, we saw the spillway. It was made with baffles all the way down. They must expect
quite the overflow some times of the year. When we got back to the camper, Nancy decided to go looking for alligators. She took the camera and the binoculars and went down near the lake to scan for alligators on the sunny side. She kept a close eye out for snakes, too. The tan cat followed her all over the place, mewing with nearly every step. Nancy thought it would not be good if the cat got too close to the lake and "GULP!"
Since Nancy wanted to see an alligator, I cut her a switch from a tree and told her to head for the lake. About an hour later, I heard a knock on the door. When I answered it, there stood the Ranger with Nancy in tow. He said that she was tormenting the alligators by dangling her feet in the water and when the alligator swam up to bite her, she would hit it with a switch. He also said that the alligator didn't have a chance and it was unkind to tease them so. I thanked him for returning her and made her go inside and go to bed. I had to promise the
Ranger that I wouldn't let her do it again. We almost got kicked out of the park. She can be difficult sometimes.
Truthfully, Nancy was very careful, but Rich wanted to be sure, so he set Daisy on her trail (on leash) and they followed her around at a distance. She kept hearing rustling in the brush and wondering what it was. She only saw a deer on the other side of the lake looking back at her. The alligators are smart enough to stay away from people and wherever they are likely to be.
At bedtime, Nancy started to read the Thoreau book she bought on Cape Cod. It 's called MAINE. Once she started reading, she realized that it's a travelblog! He describes the flora and fauna, the people, the new things he's learning and wondering about. Fascinating! No photos though.
We slept with thoughts of alligators and slave sales on our minds.
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