If you travel to the southern wild

–here are a few things you might see.

A revival taking place in a field set among pine barrens, cars and pickups parked on both sides of the road, a single strip mowed out of tall grass and a tall purple cross tilting over the bowed heads of those who came to be saved.

A spotted dog lying on top of a rusty pickup as it lazily makes its way around the dirt roads of a campground by Howard Creek.

Roadside shacks selling boiled peanuts and beer.

Oystermen raking the oyster beds of the estuarial waters of the bay, with giant rakes that look like tongs, from oyster boats that look like wide rowboats.

A sign at the Honey Hole Liquor Store that finally, after years of admiring it, you capture on camera.

A peacock silhouetted against the night sky, wings tucked under himself and head drooping, asleep in the branches of a tall pine.

Baby alligators draped on half-submerged logs in the Apalachicola River, sunning themselves.

Shuckers standing behind the bar –any bar, any restaurant– heads down, plucking up oysters from a trough filled with ice and, with a single deft twist of an oyster knife, severing the muscle that holds the shell clenched shut. 

Red or brown plastic trays at a restaurant –any restaurant– piled with a dozen, a dozen meaning fourteen or so, oysters and slid unceremoniously onto a table. No bed of shaved ice. No formal presentation. Just a plastic tray of oysters, a plastic tub of horseradish, a roll of paper towels, a plastic squeeze bottle of cocktail sauce and an array of deep south hot sauce.

Mailboxes in the shape of giant open-mouth fish, one after another, mounted on wooden posts along a sandy byway.

Houseboats, schoolbuses-turned-into-houses, trailers-with-additions-built-onto-both-sides, campers mounted on cement blocks, and sheds that function as houses, up and down the sides of the chocolate-milk water of the Apalachicola and all its tributaries.

Hushpuppies, deep fried pickles and gumbo on most every menu, along with iced tea that must be specifed as Sweet or Unsweet.

A yellow flower rooted in the mud of the river, somehow grown up out of it, blooming.

The night sky by a sea so free of human-made light that you can lean back and stare up at stars massed and glimmering overhead, threaded through the visible Milky Way, and remember that your spinning blue-green planet is held within in a universe that is one of countless universes.

A shooting star falling so slowly that you witness it break into trails of light, flicker out and disappear.

 

4 comments

  1. Karen · February 13, 2013

    Love this.

    I had never heard of sweet tea until I moved to the state I live in. I think it is the same as iced tea, but people here gave me blank looks when I asked…)

    Like

  2. Denise · February 15, 2013

    Most of us take pictures of what we see when we travel (and plaster them over the internet). I’ll take your gorgeous verbal snapshots any day. Images just as vivid, but I think they’ll stay with me longer.

    Makes me want to travel to that part of the country – and maybe practice some verbal snapshots of my own. Thank you!

    Like

  3. Nicole · February 15, 2013

    ah! you make me long for the south! (and you also made me quite hungry!)

    Like

  4. alison · February 16, 2013

    Karen, it’s ice tea for sure, but soooo sweet. And you have to pronounce it with the emphasis on the Sweet, as in SWEET tea. Same in MO?

    Denise, thank you! I am the worst camera person in the world, but I love my cell phone for the sole reason that, because it has a built-in camera, I now have some visual records of my life. Come to the Panhandle sometimes. . . it’s magic.

    Nicole, you *should* be hungry, especially because you know this part of the world well. (Paul Gant’s BBQ in the little trailer just before the Mexico Beach bridge: best bbq in the world.)

    Like

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