I woke to sunshine and, yes, the motel breakfast was very nice, especially in its presentation.
I went to two refuges today. The first was Tallahatchie NWR where I took a gravel road into the refuge (or what I think was the refuge as I am still confused about precisely where I was) to a dead end, on a road with water creeping pretty close to the road bed for a significant part of the route. I expected anytime to come on water over the road whereupon I would have had to turn around using the soft shoulders but never did fortunately. What I did see were several Red-tailed Hawks that flew from perches in the treetops when I approached. Turkeys Vultures were also abundant, feasting on dead armadillos.
|Tallahatchie NWR - MS|
|Tallahatchie NWR - MS|
(The famous Billie Joe McAllister Tallahatchie Bridge is/was 10 miles north of Greenwood; it "collapsed" since the song was written but has been rebuilt.)
Not far north of Tallahatchie was Coldwater River NWR. I rode into this refuge on a levee, with swamp on either side. These levees are broad gravel roads with long sloping sides. They appear very stable and certainly do the job of keeping water in its place.
A Jeep passed me going very fast...hotdogging on the levee. All the water lately is the color of cafe au lait...opaque and slow moving if it moves at all, with bald cypress and other hardwoods which tolerate wet roots. So much of the bottomland in western Mississippi has been drained for agriculture; thus, these refuges are important islands for birds in migration and for all resident wildlife. Some of the work on this refuge involves the 25 "retired" catfish ponds, which are now actively or passively managed for wildlife. Almost all refuges have a biologist who is responsible for activities such as (here on Coldwater River NWR) figuring out how best to optimize old catfish ponds for the benefit of wildlife.
|On the levee at Coldwater River NWR - MS|
For weeks, I had the idea to visit Oxford, Mississippi, the town famous for Faulkner and Ole Miss. So I went there, drove through the college on Fraternity Row and University Avenue and got out of town...quickly. It was very busy north of the college on one of those roads with several hundred commercial establishments and traffic moving to and from all of them.
Lee and I had visited Oxford one spring, and I had memories of a small southern town square. No doubt there still is a square and all sorts of charming, delightful areas in Oxford, but I just did not have the heart or will to figure it out. I pulled into a Starbucks but only sat in the parking lot considering what to do. Also, the motels were expensive. The college (the little bit I saw) consisted of large blocky modern buildings with broad concrete bases. Again, I knew there is more to Ole Miss but I'll settle for remembering the trip of long ago. I didn't even drive by Rowan Oak, Faulkner's home. I consider him a gifted author, his writings so completely a contrast to our screen culture. The effort it takes most of us to settle down enough to read a Faulkner novel is becoming rare. But I am inspired now after driving through Mississippi for the last few weeks. The trip Lee and I took (in a blue Porsche) was memorable for all kinds of reasons: one of which was a night in Cape Girardeau, a second was stopping in St. Louis so Lee could meet Howard Nemerov and the third was crossing the Mississippi River on a ferry. I couldn't discover that this ferry still ran or I would have taken it.
I found a way north out of town and stayed in Olive Branch, just east of Memphis. Dining options were limited so I had one more Mexican dinner where I was seated way too close to a couple of women at a bar, who were loud and drunk.
What I am figuring out is that if I do eat in restaurants, I need to choose items with as few ingredients as possible. Otherwise, it is a mish-mash of salty stuff that tastes great for the first five bites and then devolves into what it is: a non-nutritious huge portion of food. Applebee's has one good menu item which I've had several times: broiled salmon with a bit of artichoke sauce on top, boiled red potatoes and a mix of green veggies, including peas, spinach, zucchini and asparagus.
I worked late and when I got into bed at 1:00 in the morning, I was in bed-heaven. It was the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in; a choice of pillows, silky-smooth sheets and a comforter just the perfect weight. Or could it be that sleeping in a van for too many nights has affected my perceptions? No, this was really really bliss.....
|Coldwater River NWR|
(about what the whole Mississippi Delta looked)