Monday, February 13, 2012

Magnolia Wrap-up

"Are you here on your own behalf,
or have you come on behalf of a family member?"

--administrator of Magnolia's Assisted Living/
Senior Housing, upon meeting me Friday week.

So, I no sooner got back (on Monday the 6th), than the cold I'd been dosing with over-the-counter medications for more than a week got me good and proper; most of the days since have been spent hacking, muddle-headed, drowsy.* Finally seem to be mostly over it now -- at least I apparently no longer look about a hundred and ten -- and finally back at the desk with reasonable confidence that what I write and edit won't have to be redone by a clearer-headed future me.

Before I forget them, though, wanted to jot down a few odds and ends from the trip. Not exactly a 'vacation report' so much as a few highlights unconnected with the main purpose of the trip that I wanted to remember.

--One morning I saw something I hadn't seen in years: a flocking of hundreds upon hundreds of blackbirds. Cdn't tell what kind they were: certainly not starlings (because they were long-tailed). Think they were too large for cowbirds, so probably grackles (though a little on the smallish side for that) or just possibly redwing blackbirds (though I've never heard of the latter flocking like that). It was fascinating to see, and hear: they'd fly from tree to tree, making a chirping chatter all the while, gradually drifting from yard to yard. It looked exactly like a crowd trying to follow itself, full of swirls and gatherings and hesitations. I know some people have Hitchcockian moments at sights like this, which is a pity: it really was a wonderful sight. Something taking place around us that had nothing to do with us. Glad I went outside at the right time and got to see it; a half-hour later and they were gone (having gradually shifted off out of sight to the north and east).

--I also noted that Magnolia's crows are shy and furtive, avoiding people and largely keeping out of the town. They also appeared only in ones and twos, never in larger groups. I think all this comes with generations of crows knowing that any person who comes towards you is as likely to try to shoot you as otherwise. Pity.

--The neighborhood cat population, I discovered, is relatively friendly, expecting on the whole good things from strangers they meet. I spent some time each day at Williamson Street, this being one of my favorite places in the world that I only get to visit maybe twice a year. While there this trip I did mainly one of two things: either planting flowers (some iris by the back fence, some narcissus in the daffodil circle I planted last year, pansies and a rose bush between the largest oak and the smaller pecan trees) or hanging out with the cats. I never got to see my mother's favorite among all the neighborhood cats she feeds (and in fact have never done so in all the years that cat's been coming up, since it only appears pre-dawn and thenabouts), but I did establish good relations with three youngish cats who were well-disposed to my showing up, putting out a tasty snack, and then sitting on the bench by the back fence reading for a while. The first was a sleek little black cat (I have a great fondness for little black cats) with a v. solemn stare, the second a fluffy grey cat with a whitish mane, and the third who joined them occasionally a rangy yellow and white junior tomcat. The tomcat was happy to be petted as he was passing through; the others liked to plop down and sit near me but didn't want any petting, just hanging out companionably (and, of course, some treats to make it worth their while to come up). So it was nice to get my cat fix while I was away.

--In addition to visiting Dudneywood (where I not only got a good idea what their apartments for seniors are like but saw some v. strange ducks and counted at least eight turtles lurking in the pond, not quite as shy as the ones I'd seen in the Red River in Shreveport), I decided to drive all the way out Dudney Road and see just where it lead to. If you've ever wanted to turn left at an intersection where you'd always turned right, you know the feeling. Along the way I passed by Greer's Chapel, where I stopped and found the graves of the Wallers, some old family friends who'd been close to my mother's family when she'd been growing up; I only time I remember meeting them on their farm was when they pointed out their twenty-two year old cat -- just a regular looking calico who'd had her latest litter a year or so before. That was the first time I realized just how long cats cd live, given the right circumstances and some lucky breaks. I also in the same cemetery found the graves of what must be the original Dudneys, Eli (b. 1811, d. 1899) & Martha (b. 1827, d. 1900), along with the Ozmers (see below). Next time I'll have to do the same to the Warnock Springs Road or maybe the Burnt Bridge Road and see what I find

--As for Dudney, it eventually brought me out near Logoly (pronounced low-go-lie), once a mineral springs resort, then later a boy scout camp,** and now a state park. When I'd been in scouts it was abandoned, though we did go out to do some restoration work there towards the end of my scouting days (in the mid-seventies). I enjoyed a walk around the now-restored pond; a nice place to go for a walk in the woods. Maybe next time I'll go by the old Magnesia Springs instead.

--The last 'local sight' I saw in my little project to get to know my hometown better was the Ozmer House. I'd never heard of this before this trip, but while sorting through and throwing out some old newspapers my mother had come across a beautiful picture of "the historical Ozmer House" out by the college. This turned out to be an old dog-trot house built in 1883.***
Although the look was v. different, I was reminded of the Neely-Soames house here in Kent: the last of the original homesteads along the Green River only about a mile from here. There were once hundreds of houses like these in their respective areas, but now only these survive. I'd heard of dog-trot cabins before (from my creative writing teacher at SAU, Dr. Skelton). It took some searching, some driving down dirt roads with cow-guards, and some back-tracking , but it turns out to be easy to glimpse as you go by on the bypass; harder to actually see up close (finally just pulling over and walking the last bit). Worth the stop though, if you like this sort of thing. Which I do.

And that pretty much wrapped by my various little explorations. For this time around, anyway.

--John R.
current reading: THE PHANTOM OF THE TEMPLE [a Judge Dee book] and
MIDDLE-EARTH AND BEYOND, ed. Dubs & Kascakova.

*probably didn't help that I inadvertently took double doses of Nyquil for the first few days of that).

**even though by my time we went over at Camp DeSoto nr El Dorado instead, the campfire stories there were still about 'the Logoly Monster', which was less the local bigfoot or Faulk Monster than the amorphous center of any horror story you cared to tell. That is, everyone knew you were supposed to be afraid of it, without having any v. clear idea of what it was. Given how derelict McNeil (the nearest town to Logoly) is looking these days, it'd be easy these days to do a local variant of Lovecraft's Dunwich there.

***built by Henry (1851-1941) & Virginia (1853-1941) Ozmer, whose graves I'd noticed earlier that day at Greer's Chapel, along with those of what was presumably an earlier generation: George (1817-1854) and Nancy (1817-1887) Ozmer.

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