The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 10:57 am Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Natchez Trace

By Linda Barnette

On one of our visits to Mississippi several years ago, John and I drove to Natchez.  I had always wanted to visit the famous plantations there, which we did and loved. Natchez was the wealthiest city in our country before the Civil War, and there are many old, well-preserved homes in which those people lived.

As the time came for us to leave, we noticed a sign giving directions to the Natchez Trace Parkway.  On a whim, we took that exit in spite of the fact that we did not know anything about it at all.  The road is 2-lanes, and the speed limit is 45 mph, not somewhere to go if you like interstates and lots of traffic at high speeds!  We stopped as often as we could and learned the history of this place.

The trace was originally created and used by Native Americans, probably as a trading path by several tribes in the area. Even before the Indians used the path, it was likely a trail that had been made by animals searching for a salt lick and food. It’s hard to imagine that bison roamed that area hundreds of years ago. Today the road extends all the way from Natchez to Nashville, Tenn. and covers 440 miles.

     The area remains remote and largely unsettled and is run by the National Park Service.  One can drive for miles without meeting either a person or another car. There are places where you can see sections of the original path.  One such place is what was left of an old tavern or inn where travelers used to stop for both food and lodging.

The most amazing structures are the Indian mounds.  The largest one is the Emerald Mound, which was built hundreds of years ago by the early Mississippian people and is now a National Historic Landmark.  It is huge, about 35 feet tall and 770 feet wide.  Most of the mounds were built around existing hills and used as ceremonial centers for religious and social events.  I had always heard that the mounds were used as burial places, but that is not true of the ones we saw.

When we wanted a meal, we had to exit from the parkway and take our chances that we would find a restaurant.  One time we stopped for a hamburger in Kosciusko, Miss.  I remembered that a Polish officer with a name like that had fought in the American Revolution, and the waitress told me that the little town was named for him.

In any case, we loved our adventure so much that we did it again a few years later!

I took a picture of the marker by the National Park Service, which reads as follows:

“Across the Parkway behind you is a portion of the Old Natchez Trace—a wilderness road that originated from a series of trails used by the southeastern Indian tribes. The Natchez Trace was politically, economically, socially, and militarily important for the United States in its early development. Among those that traveled this road were American Indians, soldiers, “Kaintucks,” postriders, settlers, slaves, circuit-riding preachers, outlaws, and adventurers.  The Old Natchez Trace serves as a reminder of those who contributed to events that shaped the broad pattern of our common history.”

Romance in Ruins

By Julie Terry Cartner

The old house isn’t there anymore. Time, and weather, and rampant vegetation have done their work, and all that’s left are two partial chimneys and concrete steps leading up to what was once a grand front entrance. It had been one of those houses, tall, imposing, somewhat terrifying, and achingly beautiful. It was built in a time when craftsmanship was valued over economy, and each doorframe, each window, and the eaves of the roofs were intricately carved by men who took great pride in their work. The Victorian home once dripped with gingerbread designs worthy of Hansel and Gretel’s witch’s house. A few shards of green Spanish tiling dot the hill where the house once stood, a poignant testament to the destruction of time.

The velvet curtains which once hung proudly in large bay windows are gone, as are the windows. The grand piano, the walnut icebox, the four-poster beds, all are gone, victims to age, decay or vandals. One cannot expect a deserted house to remain forever, and yet, somehow I did. In my mind’s eye, I could walk up the steps, open the massive oak door, and once again visit all the rooms of the house, treading softly so as to not disturb the ghosts which clearly dwelt there.

Once genteel ladies and proud gentlemen visited and entertained in the vast house, listening to music, bragging about their escapades, courting, and following the rules of a long forgotten society. I can almost hear the swish of long silk skirts and the tapping of canes as they danced and dreamed, as they laughed and loved. And once upon a time, they fled in terror, fearing for their lives, leaving the stately dwelling without a backward glance.

Fighting my way through underbrush, brambles, and vines, I imagine myself on the wraparound porch overlooking the blue and green waters of Long Island Sound. What it must have been like to be able to stand on that porch and watch the seagulls and terns dipping and waving, soaring and diving in the brisk wind. How magnificent to see the ospreys and the herons as they secured their dinners, and how majestic to watch the swans as they made their daily sojourn from the protected waters of the inland lake to adventure on the choppy waters of the sound. How exciting to see the old ships in full sail, rounding the point and heading towards the docks, fully laden and ready to disgorge their wares. Truly a different time and a different world, as clearly evidenced by the few remaining items scattered around the old foundation.

I stand, and I remember. This house, where so many ghost stories were spun, where lovers met in secret, where children dared each other to go through the doors, where brave adolescents practiced their chords on the grand piano, where adults who knew the story whispered behind closed doors, this house which added a rich layer to the town’s history, is gone, but the memories remain. Silent ghosts slip through the hanging vines and dangling branches of old trees and disappear into the nearby swamp. Trapped forever in the endless loop of time, the stories remain, ready to scare another generation of children.

Winter Hikes

By N. R. Tucker

Hiking in the southeastern United States (where I live now) is nothing like hiking in the Colorado Rockies (where I used to live). Winter is my favorite time to hike in the southeast. My top three reasons for hiking in winter are:

1. I can traverse six miles without feeling or looking like I’ve been through Dante’s Inferno. Well, most days anyway.

2. No bugs. The consistent reapplication of bug spray is not required. No spider webs across the trail. And no mosquitos.

3. There are very few people on the popular trails, so it’s a great time to check out the local landmarks.

There’s only one downside to hiking in the winter. Layers. I might start a hike with a shirt, light jacket, and throw – accessorized with gloves, scarf, and hat – but by the end of the day, I’m down to one layer and no accessories. If I don’t carry a full-sized pack, I have no place to put the stuff I take off. All in all, not a bad problem to have.

Regardless of my wardrobe issues, winter hikes in the southeastern United States are lovely. Don’t wait until summer to enjoy the outside.