MY BOYHOOD RANGED BETWEEN THREE SMALL TOWNS----SONDHEIMER,----- TALLULAH ----- LAKE PROVIDENCE,--- LOUISIANA.
I've come home to see my family and to let the area speak to me. It has done so----- said something which may be relevant to you and your hometown.
My sister Bobby Jean ---MD---she's agreed to come walk Sondheimer with me to check my memory about the extraordinary dramas that played here.
Our first stop is the "colored" cemetery---many of my friends--are buried here.
The old swimming hole---many happy hours with the gang under this bridge.
We visit the last black family living in Sondheimer---old friends---the lady, a one time patient of my sister. Her husband a childhood companion of mine. I told him I thought I could finally outrun him. He didn't think so.
So we raced again---He was right. What a joy to be with my friend again.
My relatives intercept our walk. On the right is "Little Charles", my nephew, a philosopher/farmer. He has mastered farming as well as my nephew Jeff has mastered alligators. He made time for a 2 hour interview---great story----will share in an upcoming blog. That's his son Byron---partner in the enterprise and the cyber technologist that makes their mega-machinery run. (Did you know that we no longer "drive" tractors----the "satellite/gods" steer them. And you will be astounded at the acreage 2 people can cultivate) The gentleman in red is Jimmy Stewart also a relative.
Here's where I lived for 17 years---house is gone---concrete porch remains--(center left) and guess who now occupies the site---a old acquaintance and maverick as mavericky as me---Bill. He acquired this tiny sliver of land between the roadway and the RR tracks ( about 50 yds wide) and settled in with his Airstream trailer. It is now 12 miles to the nearest store. He invites me to roam at will over the old homestead.
By standing atop his Honda, I am able to occupy the exact space where I slept for 17 yrs. Now I want to find something from my childhood.
I search around for a long time---finding only a small piece of our tar-paper roof.
A few steps away is the now abandoned railway---the forest is reclaiming it.
Driving toward the river we see many abandoned "project houses"---a story worth telling. FINALLY---(partially delivering on a post civil war promise) in-1943 and 44-under Roosevelt's new deal--the government apportioned 40 acres and a house to the blacks. (a separate project was made for the poor whites) I estimate there were a hundred of these farm sites in this project. Many were customers in our family store. after 1876 none of them were allowed to vote in our parishes (counties) until the 1960's when modern civil rights legislation was passed. I grew up unconscious of the terrible injustice going on around me. One by one in the past 50 years most sold out to the large farms. 40 acres is not a viable farm anymore.
Atop the 40 foot levee protecting delta farmlands. Now the Mississippi river is high--only a few yards from spilling over---but no one is worried----farmers keep close tabs on it's rise and fall---know what to expect. You are looking at a fragment of one of the world's great construction projects ---3,500 miles in length---40 feet high.
Here---on this exact spot---when I was 18 yrs old---I had a mystical experience. Did not know what had happened to me till much later when I read about them:
"Swiftly arose and spread around me
the peace and joy and knowledge
that passes all the art and argument of the earth.
And (suddenly) I know that the hand of God
is the elder hand of my own,
and I know that the spirit of God is the elder brother of my own
and that all men ever born
are also my brothers
and the women my sisters and lovers;
That creation is without limit
and Love is the reason for it all."
I've never had another---don't know what it meant--if anything--but I suspect that many people have them---and that they alter the experiencer in some good way.
Yes, I know, I am an avowed atheist---in this sense---that if there is a God--he wants us to live as though there were not---to fully embrace the experience of finitude (time and materiality) and become co-creators with him.
My hosts for 3 days are John Edward and Vicky--my niece--both very engaged and interesting people. They own this country estate near Sondheimer.
A picturesque, cozy "cabin".
With all the accoutrements
And guest every night I was there---all those folks are somehow related to me.
And the police come---and they are related too---meet Ryan---State Trooper---who gave me a sense of the balance of force and compassion required to maintain order in society.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: This is all I'm willing to write today----will pick up the story tomorrow perhaps. I know I've not lived up to my title yet (Amazing place) but bear with me. I will show you proof that this strip of land and it's people are amazing and have influenced your life. I will name drop to pique your interest, General Ulysses Grant----Theodore Roosevelt----Poverty point--- world heritage site----Billionaire Charles Wyly jr ----cover story Time Magazine 8/14/1994
John Rust, inventor who changed the face of the South, origin of shopping malls---Delta Airlines. When I finish--there is a larger point I want to make.