America through the Windshield--Getting to Know the First Americans travel blog

We are taking in the spring weather that continues to welcome us to Americus. FINALLY!! I have waited 29 years for a southern spring. Our last southern spring was in Columbia, Mississippi just 90 miles north of New Orleans in 1983. We moved to Baltimore at the end of that summer—no regrets just hated to wait so long for springtime days in Maryland. We have seen so many plants as they greet the warmer and longer daylight hours. Dependent upon the geographic orientation we have been delighted to see dogwoods budding with a few in full bloom. What a great sight to see along the roads alongside the many redbud trees that are sprinkled throughout the woods. As we drive we are seeing lots of wildflowers bursting forth along the roadsides red clover, wild yellow honeysuckle that smells almost like honey, even tiny purple violets are peeping out along with daffodils that are just beginning to sway their blossoms in the spring breezes. Even azaleas and golden bells (better known as forsythia) are opening up their flowers when protected from northernly winds. The pear and crabapple trees are in full bloom and already losing their frilly white petals. We will be attending a Cherry Blossom Festival this weekend—we have not yet seen any of these—we surely hope the weather cooperates. This festival is about two hours away. Another spring adventure that we are planning to view is the Peach Blossom Trail—a state highway and back roads that have thousands of peach trees lining a few of the highways in Georgia’s peach country. That should be breathtaking—we can hardly wait for this trip. The various types of peaches bloom for many weeks in March and April we should be able to see several varieties—again a couple of hours away.

Late March

It is now later in the month and no one is happy about the fact that the snakes are beginning to stir. We are adjacent to water; however, the water must be too cold for them. Several individuals have seen one or more in the last three or four days. Brenda saw two yesterday. The first one she saw was stretched out in the green grass adjacent to the paved road where she walks. At first sight she thought it was a piece of black rubber; but, when it lifted its head and began to slither away she moved quickly to give it all the space it needed to escape. Since the weather had gotten so much warmer and the grass on the roadside has gotten so high Brenda has begun walking on the pavement rather than in the edge of the grass—don’t want to meet any long fellows. Later on the same walk she also saw a dead baby snake as she walked down the road. He had been squished by a vehicle and he was multicolored, bad news. We believe he was a poisonous snake. Without needing to say more she is watching the grass and her feet on the pavement more closely these days.

Heidy and Andy enjoy being outdoors in the sun (mostly the shade for Andy). Heidy stretches her wire lead as far as she can and then stretches out. First one side then the other until crisp. Now that the dragonflies are out, they continue to hover around her and land on her. No bother to her; only, she cannot get a good whiff of them when she realizes that they are there. Maybe they think her to be a gigantic golden blossom.

The purple climbing wisteria have all lost their petals and in their place are the thousands of wild white honeysuckle blossoms that climb up trees, fences and other plants. If they weren’t so far back in the bushes Brenda would be tempted to get close enough to pick them and then pull out their stamens for that tiny drop of sweetness that is so tasty. The dandelions are also taking their places along the roads and in the ditches. Yellow blossoms are full with some already developing into the fluffy seed balls that fly away scattering their tiny seeds with a good puff of wind.

Brenda discovered another flower blooming today, a miniscule lavender flower with teeny petals like a miniature daisy. She spent several moments looking among the vines and leaves at the nearby old home place before she realized that the sweet smell was only a few steps away from the county road. The crumbling house is completely over grown with vines, weeds, new growth and old growth trees now sporting their spring foliage as it envelopes each feature of the building. It was the bloom of the Chinaberry tree.

Earlier this week Greg washed the RV top to bottom; he wanted to get the sandy and salty spray layer off after being so near the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. RVs cannot stay clean very long when the roads in the campground are dirt and with the plowed fields sending dust our way when these strong winds of March come blowing through on some days.

The water in the pond is so clear we can see the bottom of the shallow pond. We see most of the turtles and lots of the fish that are swimming or sleeping near the shore. Greg caught his first decent fish in our front yard pond. The small bass was about seven inches long. His fishing luck has not been very good, a bit discouraging would be a better description. He throws out a line two or three days each week. The turtles give him more attention than the fish. Greg discovered why all of the turtles head for the bank as soon as he throws out his line when he saw one of the neighbors feeding the turtles in the early evening. Maybe that’s why he’s been hooking turtles instead of fish!!

Greg has grown impatient with the brazen turtles. Earlier this week a turtle began crawling up the embankment searching for a handout while he was fishing. These turtles are now accustomed to coming ashore when they see a person near the water’s edge. However, the turtle that crawled up to Greg got an unexpected surprise when he was whacked on the head and directed to leave. A few days later Andy attempted to befriend a turtle he found under our first step. No whacks to the head this time, Greg thought this one might be a female looking for the best spot to lay her eggs. Silly Andy! He is always trying to make friends with every breathing creature he sees. A few days ago a turtle attempted to get a handout of seafood from Greg as he opened oysters. This one was a bit more aggressive than the earlier visiting turtles. He demonstrated his displeasure after Greg gave him a hard whack on the head. His response was a “h-i-s-s” . He was then the recipient of push to assist him in speeding up his return into the pond. We are not turtle friendly and do not want them to get too close to us or get anywhere near our pups. Their bites can be very painful, especially to Andy if he gets close to take a whiff and a turtle grabs hold of his nose.

Another feature of the Old South that we are enjoying is the few remaining beautiful Southern colonial homes that we happen to discover as we drive these seldom-traveled roads. These ancient manor houses always bring pleasant surprises to our excursions since their discovery is always unexpected. During our day trips, we have scurried past several colonial homes that are still reflecting the majesty of bygone days. A handful of the ladies we discovered have been along bumpy streets in unimpressive towns. These whistle-stop towns are decades past their prime. At the time of their incorporation, they were county seats with promises of grandeur. Now these tiny towns continue to serve as the centers of government. We have been extremely impressed with the restoration of a few of the truly ornate and monstrous county court houses. Community pride continues in remote corners of rural Georgia.

We have seen a few stately mansions standing watch over plantation properties, looking out over sod farms, peanut acres, pecan orchards, hay crops and even cotton fields. A few of these genteel edifices appear to be drawing their last breaths. They must be swaying when the winds blow across the red clay fields. It seems obvious their days are numbered. These long neglected homes are now the old gals that have seen better days. Resurrecting their beauty will only be feasible if a wealthy patron steps in to rescue the grand homes and their past secrets. Surely, their majesty now lives on in family diaries, photos and stories of better days.

These colonial homes cause us to think of the massive plantations of the 1800s featured in historical publications about the South. We sometimes share previously read stories or movies about stately white Greek columns spreading across the front of massive homes with massive lawns. We can then envision ladies in antebellum dresses walking about in beautiful blooming gardens. What a pipe dream; the wealthy families who lived like royalty in the Deep South were in the minority then as they are today. Only a small percent of the landowners in the Old South lived the storybook lives of luxury. Most of the southern families were poor and lived on much smaller plots of land.

We made our last day trips during our last week in Americus, Georgia. The views continue to be impressive as we travel on the back roads and imagine the busyness of the farmers and field hands at this time of year. We never tire of seeing the large warehouses in unsung towns. These towns are no longer the hubs of industry. The stately old brick courthouses reflect the wealth of earlier times when the streets were busy with farmers and their families. The storefronts appear as ghostly reminders of better days.

The pecan trees are now budding with mossy shades of green leaves and will soon be providing wonderful shade to homes, lawns and farm buildings under their spreading limbs. These pecan orchards are so spectacular when the trees have all of their green leaves. We saw them 13 years ago when we driving through Georgia on our way to the Gulf Coast with Jennifer during her first or second summer of college.

The weather has been so hot that we cannot sit outdoors without a house fan to keep the black gnats at bay. We are trusting that these gnats will not be in the picture when we are here next March.

FACT: The Native Americans used controlled burns (fires) in the forests adjacent to their homelands and campsites. The burning was part of their management of the forest for their use. Cleared lands underneath the virgin growth forests insured that animals could be seen when they were hunting for meat (both small and larger animals). The cleared lands underneath the big trees also insured that when the fruits of the low plants and trees began to ripen that the fruits and nuts could be easily accessed as they were picked and stored for winter’s lean times. Interesting that we are returning to the management style of the Prehistoric Native Americans. More than likely, this was something that the early European arrivals learned from the Indians but like many other successful Indian agricultural practices, they never got credit for it.

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