Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Columbus, Mississippi

We arrived in the Columbus Marina Friday afternoon, November 14th, along with 9 other Looper boats. Several of us had to raft off each other to be able to fit in the marina, but we were all able to get power and water—that’s the important thing! “Freedom’s Turn” was rafted to us, and just behind us were “Little David” and “Gill Raker”, who were rafted together as well. We were all scattered around the marina, but there was continuous action on the end of “B” dock!

Friday afternoon was spent catching up on e-mails, visiting other boats, and laundry. Louis secured the courtesy van for dinner, and Margie & Larry, Kay & Robert and Louis and I went to a great local restaurant, J Brussard’s—simply wonderful. It was so nice to have linen tablecloths, pretty candles, great hot bread, gourmet food, and experienced waitresses----for a change! (Most places we’ve been recently have been either “family” restaurants or pub/bar food-------“OK, who’s got the ribs?” coming from our order taker, no less!)

Saturday morning, we sadly said good-by to "Freedom's Turn"--Charlie and Linda are a few days behind their schedule and want to catch up with "Kismet"--besides, 9 (or more, in some instances) Looper boats overwhelm most of these marinas and anchorages along the river--the marinas are not big enough to handle us all together. As much as we hated not traveling with them and Lisa and Jim, we all felt the realization/need to spread apart for a few days--at least until the waters get wide again.

Getting back to Saturday morning, we were able to get the courtesy van again, and the above six of us took off to do some sightseeing in Columbus—but we had to get the van back by 2pm (hustle, hustle, everyone!)—someone else had signed up for the much-appreciated courtesy transportation too. Our destinations that day were: The Tennessee Williams House, Friendship Cemetery, and Waverly Plantation (and maybe if time allowed, a trip to W-M!).

Born in Columbus in 1911, Tennessee Williams was one of the most important American playwrights ever. He wrote the Pulitzer prizewinning “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ and “A Streetcar Named Desire”. He also wrote “The Glass Menagerie”, “Sweet Bird of Youth”, “The Night of The Iguana”, and “Summer and Smoke”. One quote I particularly enjoyed of his was: “Home is where you hang your childhood, and Mississippi to me is the beauty spot of creation, a dark, wide spacious land that you can breathe in.” A several time Tony Award winning writer, he died in New York City in 1983, and from official reports succumbed from choking on a bottle cap.

We were also able to pick up information at his house on a self-guided car tour of nearby/downtown antebellum homes. We rode through the area, and saw some magnificent ones too—so nicely restored and maintained—the grounds were spectacular too. (These particular homes were spared by Union and Confederate soldiers because the area was used primarily as hospitals by both armies during the war.) The Magnolia trees there in Columbus were the largest/prettiest I’ve ever seen—we figured most of them must have been well over a hundred and fifty years old!

For all of us, the Friendship Cemetery was the most meaningful place we went all day. A huge area of land located within the city limits, it has several sections where Confederate soldiers are buried—a few named, but mostly the markers were “Unknown Soldier”. It was a somber but comforting feeling to see all those hundreds and hundreds of small white stones—we had been left with a bitter taste after being told in Shiloh that fallen Confederate soldiers could/would not be returned to their families from their mass graves for “proper burial” (military orders from General U S Grant). Small American flags dotted the graves of the soldiers and having Veteran’s Day just a few days back, we all were honored to be there. There was also another grave site which is very famous in the cemetery—a full sized granite carving of an angel kneeling on the headstone with her head resting there and arm draped over the front—it is titled “Even Angels Wept”—it is too precious for words—and I do have several pictures of it. We drove several times around the small narrow dirt paths in the cemetery—quietly and reverently taking it all in.
Founded in 1849, the cemetery was the site of the first Memorial Day Celebration in 1866.

Built in 1852, Waverly Plantation was about 5 miles out of town. Having been abandoned and left vacant around 1916, and left completely unattended for 50 years, it has been owned privately for the past 45 years by a devoted family who have been restoring it ever since. The four-story home once stood on 50,000 acres stretching from the river back. The foyer of the home rose 65 feet to a huge belvedere on top (reading this, Frank?!) where the entire plantation could be looked over—it was hard to imagine that piece of information—we were not allowed to go all the way up there! The original family had 10 children and over a thousand sharecroppers or slaves who worked the land—it was a completely self-sufficient “city” unto itself—even having its own post office! Most impressive there to me were the moldings, mantles, and mirrors—which all miraculously escaped theft in those 50 years of the house being left wide open and vacant. But I think each one of us was disappointed that the house and grounds were not in even better shape than we had hoped or expected—the furniture was lovely but not original to the house (the pieces were mostly “period accurate”). But glaring to us all, the house itself needed major, major work done both inside and outside to bring it up to others we’ve seen before--grounds too. Our tour guide was Marjorie who lives there with her elderly father; she told us some dear stories about her growing up in the house and the ghost who has been heard and seen for years there as well—a sweet young girl. I hope that some kind of a Preservation Society can take it on as a project and do justice to it, but there seem to be many antebellum homes all around here. Wonder what the qualifications for acquisition require?

We had “just enough time” to get in yet-another quick trip to Wal-Mart & Subway (love that tuna!) before getting the van back to the marina by 2pm. Christmas is all over that store now and is really upon us--boats in this marina are already decorated for the season! Since I haven’t even thought about it yet (much less started shopping), I guess I’ll need to hit the ground running when we get home the first week of December. (Or maybe we’ll just keep it simple this year—how ‘bout it, girls?!) We got back to our boats just in time for Louis to complete a major charging project on the boat's batteries, and for me to get started on this blog.

We had dinner Sunday—as did everyone else in our group (19?) at the marina’s restaurant, “Woody’s”. A cold front had stormed through Mississippi during the previous night with winds of 45 mph, and it had turned really cold outside, so when we walked the very long way over (in the cold dark too) to the restaurant and saw a fire burning in the cozy fireplace, color us ALL happy!—it was a fun evening with most everyone there and great food too. Sadly, we said our good-bys to “Sunshine”, “Southern Comfort”, and “Blue Max”—they will be coming a few days behind us, so we’ll all be able to get in the small and few anchorages as we make our way down to Mobile—about 350 more miles. More from Demopolis, Alabama.

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