Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Swampland Pt. II

Okay, part two of Augusta's Phinizy Swamp. Right as you leave Lover's Lane and head into the swamp you come across a small old house on the corner. Actually, if it's summer you probably won't see it as it completely disappears into the vegetation. It takes some work to get into even in the best of circumstances since you have to cross a ditch that's sometimes full of water, snakes, bones, etc. But, once you get inside you're in what was probably a pretty cozy little farm pad. There's a brick fireplace and the walls are all painted this dark blue. This photo is of the view out the back.

A little farther down the dusty red road and you pass what I think is the finest of Phinzy's old structures. This old farmhouse has four or five nice big rooms, a couple brick fireplaces, front and back porches, and is wisely built on stilts to keep out the creepy crawlies and possibly the rising spring waters of the swamp itself. Up these steps and inside is the home of a family of bats, which is a little disarming if you're not expecting them.

I would've considered moving into the place myself, but there's a big hole in the living room and no doubt it's a little drafty in the winter. Also, there really are a lot of bugs in the swamp. Anybody that's ever walked through a cane stand (a tall grass which grows all throughout the swamp) has probably had chiggers, which leave little red, swollen bumps. My worst episode left me with about 50 bites and three sleepless nights. Afterwards, I found out that the best way to get rid of chiggers is simply to wipe yourself down with a towel after you've been in a potentially chigger-infested area. Apparently there's about a 1-2 hour window before they actually bite you. That was great to read as I was desperately trying not to scratch the things. Problem is, it feels REALLY good to scratch 'em. As an associate of mine said, scratching them is "equisite." I'm afraid it's true, and once you start you can't stop.

Just adjacent to the farmhouse is this massive barn. The swamp is fast reclaiming the land that isn't being actively bulldozed and it's hard to imagine someone trying to farm, let alone graze cows or ride horses, anywhere around this barn. Around the side, if I had a shot of it, you could see the massive trees that are slowly crushing the eves along the roof, a testament to how old the barn really is.

Anyone that's ever explored old places has probably had the wits scared out of them by birds flying around inside whatever building they happen to be in. I thought I'd pretty much gotten over that when a little, itsy-bitsy old pigeon up in the loft of the barn made me jump out of my skin. I dunno, I guess my mind pictured all sorts of nefarious-types hanging around up there, ready to pounce down on top of me. Yeah, the Phinizy remains creepy, even in broad daylight, which is just the way it should be.

Here's another barn, just off the main thoroughfare (read: the dusty dirt road) running through the swamp. A large white owl was perched inside and flew away as we approached the barn from the front. The front of the barn is your standard abandoned building wreckage. Toppled timbers, a smashed, collapsed corrugated steel roof, and plenty of rusted nails, one of which went through the bottom of my shoe but didn't appear to break the flesh . Ah, tetanus. See that cane grass in front? That's prime chigger territory. Did I mention that, for its size, the chigger is considered to have one of the most irritating bites around?

At the opposite end of the swamp, very near the Savannah River rapids, is this old bridge across Phinizy Creek. Probably the people that lived on the adjacent farms used this bridge to bring their livestock to and fro. I don't have any clue where it used to lead, other than the Savannah rapids. It's also pretty close to the airport, but I doubt the bridge was used as a shortcut to get the swamp denizens to their early morning commuter flights.

Not being from the South I didn't know what to expect when I moved there. At first I spent some time in Athens, GA, which, regardless of (or because of) its supposed rock and roll pedigree, drove me crazy. Plus, most of the south has just as many Wal-Marts, McDonald's, and Shell Stations as anywhere else in the country. However, it was while walking these dusty back roads in Augusta in the blazing heat and humidity, sweat-drenched, with not a wisp of wind blowing and only the buzzing of insects to break the stillness, that I started to get a hint of what made the south the south. It was then that I thought I could understand what Blind Willie McTell, born just 25 minutes up Interstate 20 near Thomson, GA, was singing about when he played "Painful Blues", "Death Cell Blues", and "Lord Send Me An Angel." It's tough. But here is where the heart and soul of the south is, I'd say, you just have to look a little harder now. Hard living? Certainly. Slavery and servitude? Without a doubt. But there is beauty and strength as well. And there's truth, both the ugly and the magnificent. Such truth is always worth searching out. Er, okay, then. Anyway, next time, back into town for, as Blind Willie sang, some Rough Alley Blues.


Anonymous said...

The Savannah rapids are nowhere near this site. They are on the columbia cty. side. The river near here is more a lake than a river. The New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam impound the river all the way to the rapids(probably about 15-20 miles)

jmhouse said...

Yeah, I guess you're right! I used to hang around the OTHER Savannah Rapids quite a bit. Just below the lock and dam was always good for a little canoeing or wading. If they're not both called "the Savannah Rapids," do you know what lower section is called? Maybe nothing, I suppose.

Thanks for stopping by and pointing that out!