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  • Jane Wheeler

Road Trip Chronicles - Mississippi Swamp

I have a really hard time picking a favorite place I have been – they are all attached to some lovely or memorable memories.

I have driven through the Smoky Mountains eating chocolate with my best friend. I have seen snow on the Tennessee hills, the Ocean on the East shore, the Ocean on the West shore and the Gulf of Mexico. As I was pondering which adventure to write about I am going for the memorable now.

Mississippi. I was travelling on my own this time – I had told God He could navigate since I thought I would get arrested if I let Him do the actual driving. So on we went down the Natchez Trail Parkway – a highway that goes North to South right down the state. I came in from the North and was heading South. I was excited to see a “swamp” – I wanted an old fashioned swamp that you see on tv. Well I got my wish.

I saw this little park / rest area and I stopped in. I was the only car in the parking lot and was out stretching my legs. There was a sign pointing towards a trail so I took the trail to see where it led. I was delighted to walk into a fully treed area, with a designated “swamp” just like on tv. Some of the trees had the Spanish moss hanging from them just like you picture in your mind. The trail was fully groomed and seemed to circle the swamp. I stood on this little wooden bridge and just “listened”. The sound of the frogs and birds was almost deafening. The water was a great shade of disgusting green with no chance you could see what was in the water. The swamp was covered with “trees” growing up through it. There were also these little mini “stumps” growing up all over in the water as well – turns out those are called “knees” and are the roots of these trees – which are actually “ bald cypress” .

Apparently these cypresses can grow in the water and under the water – they have discovered a whole underwater forest in the waters off Mobile, Alabama in 2012. But I digress…back to the swamp.

I walked around the trail and loved it when I came to a posted sign “do not feed the alligators”. I can not tell you my delight at such a find! (seriously) I of course had kept my camera in the car since I was just out to stretch my legs. I took my time circling the swamp on the trail – I was the only one there – well me and God. I could feel Him grin as I discovered each “new” thing at this wonderful swamp. As I got finished the circle I could not stand it and ran to the car for my camera.

It started to rain so I grabbed the camera and went back to a spot where there was an abundance of “knees” and started snapping pictures. These knees reminded me of little “trolls” of the swamp – weird looking little things.

It was at that moment I saw it out of the corner of my eye – something was swimming about 10 feet off the shore in front of me. I looked up and it was an alligator! I fumbled with my camera to find the video mode and when I got back to the alligator I only got about 2 seconds of footage. I stood up to look around to see where it went and saw another figure swimming slowly in the eerie green water but it was hidden by the trees.

(Alligator is the "log" looking thing behind the tree)

I waited for quite a while watching to see if I could see them again but the rain was coming down now and reluctantly I returned to my car. I was ecstatic at just finding the swamp and then the alligator bonus!

I continued on my way and came to what appeared to be a huge lake. There were a couple black men out fishing off the end of this wharf. I stopped and headed out to check out the action. I walked up beside these two elderly gentlemen and asked them how the fishing was. The two fellows looked at me, then at each other and then back at me.

One said, “you ain’t from around here is you?”

Caught! - “Nope, I am from Canada,” I replied. Well this raised a couple of eyebrows and sure enough one of them said.

“I got a cousin in Toronto that you might know.”

We chatted a bit – it turns out it was a slow day for cat fish fishing and the huge lake was actually a man made lake as most of the lakes are down there apparently (I did not know). I was excited about my swamp story and told these two fellows of my adventure.

There was silence for a while and then one spoke, “ya know alligators can jump the length of their body out of the water. Dey come in close under the water so’s yo cant sees ‘em and then jump out right and grab folks. They pulls ‘em in under the water and rolls them so’s they can’t breathe. Dat’s how da kills folks. Ya’ll be best to be stayin' away from the edge of de water.”

Feeling a little sheepish I thanked them for that wonderful piece of advice and headed off to my car for more adventures.

I think I can still faintly hear those two black fellows laughing about that silly white woman from Canada who had the nerve to come up to a couple black folks and chat like it was normal and who kneeled down at the edge of a swamp taking pictures. The way I see it – the swamp made my day and obviously I seemed to make theirs and we will each be talking about that day for a long while to come.

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