Monday, April 6, 2015

Not Too Pretty to Burn

On Good Friday, me and The Boy took a trip to Grand Gulf State Park. Grad Gulf is right on the river...maybe 20 miles south of Vicksburg. When I say on the river...I mean nervously close to the River. The water on Friday was up to the little two lane road opposite the park.

It won't surprise you to hear that my arch enemy took his most gruesome form on this lane a few years ago. I was in the car when Satan's House Pet crossed my path...the blackest, fattest, most ghoulish, ugggh...and it still gives me shivers.

There's not really a town here anymore. The first one was burned down by David Farrugut...Furragut, whatever, David Yankee, as part of the U.S. invasion of Mississippi during Lincoln's war.
It was burned in 1862...cause that's what they did. Then in May of 1863, they came back to seize the charred remains in order to use the gulf as a supply point for the invading army. Unfortunately for him and his...Georgia born, Gen John S. Bowen

had prepared the hills around what was left of the town. There Hoskins' Light Artillery, from Brookhaven, MS were splint between two small "forts."  Hoskins' gunners with 13 light pieces fought off seven US gunships, firing some 2,500 rounds into the Confederate positions...they even disabled one of the ships.

Sadly, it was barely a setback for grant. They just moved down river and landed unopposed and marched on Port Gibson ("Too Beautiful To Burn" - U.S. Grant. How cute.) where Bowen, severely outnumbered, was forced to retreat after a day's fighting.  Grand Gulf was evacuated.

I have to tell you...reading Bowen's CV is an exercise in excruciation for an unreconstructed Southron. He had predicted where the Yankees would attack and had repeatedly requested reinforcements from Pemberton in Vicksburg...DENIED. They weren't run out of Port Gibson...they were in an untenable position because of sheer numbers and had to withdraw. At the Battle of Corinth, MS...he had overrun a significant US position. Instead of exploiting the advantage...his commander Van &*&^&ing Dorn called a halt. At Champions Hill...Bowen led an attack that was on the verge of breaking the Yankee center but, AGAIN, he was not supported!

Taken prisoner after the fall of Vicksburg, Bowen died of dysentery after being paroled...32 years old. Did I mention that this Jedi was a Georgian?  Damn right I want me to tell you again? :)

While we're here...let's hear from Robbie Robertson. A Canadian who has gifted The South with genuine treasure. About the song...he said he wanted to express the dignified sadness he often encountered in Southerners. He had Levon there for guidance I'm sure but, it's Robertson's song and it is cherished.*

Up on the hill behind the "forts" is an old cemetery.

It's my favorite place on the park.

As an aside for C...we saw the most outrageously yellow little bird I've ever seen in my life there.

Not far from Grand Gulf...just off the Natchez Trace is the site of Rocky Springs. At one time there were 1,500 souls there...between the war and disease the town was abandoned by 1930. There is a church there...built in the 1830's. That's a rare specimen in these parts. It has a fabulous old cemetery. There are a couple of Confederate Veterans buried there but they very recent additions compared to the others. It's in the same style but possessed of a more grand decay. I was gonna take the Boy by there on the way home but he was passed out by then.

There's an old Dog Trot or Cracker House on the property. We have fantasies of building one of these on a sandy piece of property, shaded by Live Oaks, somewhere along the gulf coast one day.

This picture has global significance. Those are azaleas....they are swarming with Bumble Bees. I've read that bumble bees are disappearing around the world. Well, it turns out, they are disappearing to Grand Gulf, MS. There must have been 100 of these fat stingers buzzing around the various buildings. The Boy finally couldn't take it anymore despite my insistence that they weren't going to sting him. I think he was just sleepy.

Halfway there he had generously offered to let me listen to my "disc." Big Star Third.

"Does he sing like this for every song?"
"This the worst singing ever."
By the time we got to Jesus Christ he had settled in to it. Ha.

See Charity Chic  for an interesting post on that other Canadian. :)

More on Grand Gulf to come....


  1. Erik, love that first photo, that building looks almost as decrepit as some around our farm.......although I was a bit shocked to see someone staying in one that I had previously thought had been abandoned for years.....and a great Big Star track.

    1. I's uninhabited. At least, not regularly inhabited. I've got a good picture from the window inside but...this post was threatening to get out of hand.

      The Boy actually warmed to Third fairly quickly...I love that song.

  2. Superb selection of pics again Erik. I can almost feel the lushness, a sort of dripping heat and there with the devil too. And in those middle two photos of the cemetary so many black verticals... it's having a weird effect on me! The rocking chair on the porch, as well. I can almost hear it creak. Against a backdrop of black and yellow buzzing. I'm there.

    Oh and now I wonder what that yellow bird was too?! Ellie Mae Clampett doesn't get a look-in ;-)

    1. Did y'all ever get the Beverly Hillbillies on TV?

      He had black tips...I think. He was small, but not hummingbird small, and round...and yellow I thought it was butterflies at first.

      The cemetery is really striking.

  3. Perfect! Your photos often bring "The Band" to mind.


    Or am I being a trifle dogmatic?

    "King Harvest" probably just shades it over "Dixie" for me, but only because Robbie Robertson's guitar playing gives me shivers every time - and, of course, I'm just looking at it from the music point of view.

    I always wondered what the Southern attitude to "The Night They Drove
    Old Dixie Down" was, and now I know - well, I know what your attitude is, at least. (I could never understand what Joan Baez thought she was doing covering it - did that raise eyebrows? Certainly raised mine.)

    Big Star's "Jesus Christ" gets several outings every December in these parts.

    There's a terrific Twitter photo feed called "Abandoned Places" which I suspect you'd enjoy - they'd certainly love your stuff.

    There - am I forgiven for mentioning Randy Newman on my blog?

  4. You we're never in need of forgiveness. I would have banned you...AGAIN...without hesitation. Some of my opinion comes from weariness...not offense but, it's especially irritating when Southern music is used, seemingly in a complete fog of unawareness, for such purposes. Of course, your reaction was different and had great results.

    I've never come across anybody that had a negative reaction to it and most discussions about the song express a genuine appreciation for the sentiment.

    I'm in the Delta again...and I'm in the mood for abandonment.

  5. Have I mentioned that about five days before we left Australia, we found Godzilla laughingly chasing a frightened young brown snake around a friend's dining room?

    I will say brown snakes are a fuck sight prettier than cottonmouths (even if they are more poisonous). Brown snakes have a certain sleek dignity. Cottonmouths reek of damnation and pestilence.

    1. I don't even have to look...don't call it the Common Brown Snake. One of the most poisonous snakes in the world and in that neighborhood it's referred to as Common...lovely.

      The fiend that crossed my path that day had to have been pregnant. It gives them the grotesque bulge...and that means there were probably a pile of live little devils squirming around in her noxious belly. A belly full of demons!

  6. Beautiful pictures.
    And always an education.
    I, ahem, thought the song was Joan Baez - so now stand happily corrected.

    1. My Moma, for some inexplicable reason, prefers the Baez version and will argue with you about it like.

      It was nasty business along the river...and everywhere else these thugs went...they left Port Gibson and came here to Jackson. We got the nickname Chimneyville (that's all that was left) in the exchange but, it was Meridian, 80 miles east of here near the Alabama border, that they seemed to have taken special glee in destroying.

      Pictures are easy in places like that.