Texas is in the throes of Hurricane Harvey. Best wishes to all the Texans in its disruptive, destructive path. We are being told that epic amounts of rainfall are expected. While the wind has been a problem, they are telling us that the rising water from creeks and rivers will be the real destroyer. With as much rain as they are getting from this stalled tropical cyclone, the danger could still be forthcoming after the sun has long since shown its face, as the water collects and drains to the Gulf of Mexico from whence it came.
We know about that here in the Landmass, which was how we were referred to in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was insulting: as insulting as the recently departed Jerry Lewis’s comment about purposefully relieving himself on an airplane as he flew over Mississippi. While I regret the passing of Jerry Lewis, with all the good he did for Muscular Dystrophy research with his annual Labor Day weekend telethons, I was never a fan of his work. To me, he simply was not funny, merely silly. He had his fans, though. Goodbye and Godspeed, Jerry Lewis.
In Katrina’s wake, newscasters talked about the widespread destruction in the landmass to the East of New Orleans. It had a name then; it still does now. We call it Mississippi. Some who are in positions to advise and inform us would have done better to have paid attention in geography class as this photo of Hurricane Harvey’s warning and watch area indicated. Maybe newspaper editors in Seattle don’t know the difference between Mississippi and Alabama. Maybe they don’t care. Maybe like a lot of folks, they think the universe is limited to their geographic space, or perhaps better said, their vision extends no farther than their geographic space. We here in the South certainly know the difference between Mississippi and Alabama. Alabama has better football teams, and that’s a regrettable fact. At least they didn’t put “Landmass” and gave us a legitimate name, though one already taken. I expect Alabama doesn’t particularly like being confused with Mississippi.
I did not go the The Seattle Times website to see if I could find this photo there. I downloaded this off of Facebook. It may be fake. If it is, I will still have fun with it, so there is no need to tell me about it, or make corrections for my benefit. I like Alabama just fine. As a Mississippian, the next best thing I can be accused of is being from Alabama: its beautiful forests, its marvelous and plentiful rivers, its white-sand beaches and clear Gulf waters, its northern mountains, its beautiful Sipsey Wilderness. There’s a lot to be said for Alabama, including that it is not the landmass identified as such in the photo. One must travel one more state to the East to find Alabama.
I admit that it is easier for me to find it, as Alabama is just six short miles from my home. Earlier in my life, I lived so far East in Mississippi that my US Postal Service address was Rt. 1, Cuba, Alabama. Now the Post Office knew the difference between Mississippi and Alabama, but made the decision that the rural carriers could more easily deliver our mail from their Cuba, Alabama (36907) post office than the one in Lauderdale, Mississippi (39335). My only difficulty was during a road block or having gotten stopped during a traffic violation (there were several) and having to explain to the law enforcement officer why I had a Mississippi driver’s license with an Alabama address on it. They always looked at me suspiciously as I explained. The Post Office, being a Federal entity, cared little about a state line; they just wanted to deliver my mail to my house in the most efficient manner. I was thankful for that then, and I am still thankful now, that someone can put a stamp on a letter in Seattle and it be delivered straight to my home in Mississippi, or Alabama as it appeared at one time. I think first class mail is still a bargain and remarkably reliable considering all the things that can go wrong, and occasionally do. Funny, though, that checks are easily lost in the mail while bills are relentlessly and accurately delivered. I suspect this happens even in Seattle.
“The check’s in the mail,” said the deadbeat debtor to the auto finance company collection agent.
“Mr. Deadbeat, our records indicate that we have not received your payments for the last three months,” said the agent.
“Well, I mailed them all,” Deadbeat coyly replied. “It’s not my fault you didn’t get them. The mail is unreliable.”
“Your transportation will be soon unreliable after we repossess your means for it,” said the agent. “Do you live in Mississippi or in Alabama?”
“I live in Landmass,” Deadbeat said. The conversation went downhill from there.
We have a few things going for us here in the Landmass. We mostly get along with each other, no matter what race we are, having learned a few lessons the hard way. One can learn, hopefully, from one’s past mistakes. Mississippi has learned a lot. Unlike some others, we admit we are still learning, not having arrived yet at a place of complacency, which is why we are mostly all good neighbors and polite to each other. Manners and politeness can displace a lot of trouble if you ask me. And, if you stop and think about it, Mississippi, according to the charts, surveys, polls, and studies, has only one way to go: up!
We have good coffee here in the Landmass, mostly because it comes into Mississippi from New Orleans, where nearly all the nation’s coffee enters, or at least that which comes from Central and South America. I suppose Javan and Sumatran coffee come in from West coast ports, but if it does, then Seattle would be well advised to use some if it, for the Javans and Sumatrans grow and harvest some fine coffees. I have yet to have a good cup of coffee that has an address of Seattle stamped on the package, but I’ve had lots of good coffee that passed through and was roasted in Louisiana. My favorite coffee is Kenya AA. Ethiopian coffee is right behind it. To my palette, nothing can touch the Kenyan, and who knows where Kenyan coffee comes into the country? I suspect not Seattle. My Kenyan coffee comes from Amazon, which is South American, is it not? Hmmmm! That deserves some further consideration.
We are fly-over country, we are told. Some fly over and relieve themselves while doing so. I wonder if they inconveniently saved it for the occasion? If so, then Mississippi brought them some relief. I hope they felt better for having relieved themselves within our friendly airspace. We never even noticed, so we weren’t inconvenienced a bit.
We also have a few simple pleasures and painful surprises here if you’ll slow down and look around. But you have to take your time and know where to look and be willing to stop and see it. Every place has these, but you’ll never see them from an airplane window at 30,000 feet, nor from a car window at 75MPH on an interstate highway. Yes, we have interstate highways here. Cocaine, heroin, and weed users in the East and Northeast would be glad to know that if not for I-20, I-59, and I-10, their stashes might run low, as a significant amount of these drugs come in from Mexico and are transported through the Landmass on these Interstate highways to their communities and local dealers. What if they had to travel through every small country town and their stop lights, stop signs, and speed traps? Some are going into near withdrawals just thinking about it.
I spent some time in the woods yesterday and today. I was hunting for feral hogs. I had murder on my mind as I had seen three yesterday evening but did not have the proper rifle with me. I had along a Marlin 1895 lever-action 45-70 loaded with 405 grain bullets. According to my Nikon laser range-finder, the hogs were 420 yards away. I rightly reckoned I’d just make a lot of noise and not hit a thing I was aiming at (truthfully, I’d hit exactly what I was aiming at, ballistics being what they are, but the firing solution is always the problem). The 405 grain bullet would have to be lobbed in like a mortar shell at that range, since at that distance the bullet would drop about 90 inches. I waited for the hogs to get closer. I waited some more. They never did, and they eased off into the brush as dark caught me. Lucky for the hogs.
I went back today with a 300 Winchester Magnum. I could easily make the shot at that distance with that rifle on feckless hogs rooting about and not moving much from their spot as they were yesterday. From that distance, even out in the open, the hogs would never see me; they are more than a bit myopic. Nor would they hear me unless I blew the horn on my Kawasaki Mule; they make too much noise of their own to hear much of anything around them. They could certainly smell me, since they have an acute sense of smell, but the wind would be in my favor as it was yesterday, the low pressure Hurricane Harvey drawing in air from the high pressure ridges rushing in from the North. But, alas, the hogs did not return today. Some porcine news pipeline in porklandia must have tipped them off that I had a different rifle with me, one much, much better suited for a long range shot. all my efforts were for naught.
That’s is why they call it hunting. One hunts, mostly to no effect. If one hunts enough, occasionally, all the things come together for a successful hunt. Had I killed a hog today, I would have shot the selfie that PETA asked us all to shoot, except it would have been a selfie of me and a dead hog. Hunting is not always finding. Some folks on the Gulf side of Texas will soon hunt for competent contractors with about the same effect as I had hunting for hogs yesterday and today.
I did shoot a couple of things today. I saw a deer, a raccoon, a couple of rabbits, and several squirrels, which of course, I did not shoot. I don’t deer hunt, but I like eating venison. There are enough deer hunters in my family that I get all the venison I want without having to shoot or clean one myself, though I do occasionally chip in on the cleaning. And no one I know of shoots a raccoon minding his own business out in the woods, though a raccoon coming up to your house and eating your dog’s food or getting into your trash can is another matter entirely. This raccoon was in his own element, going about his own raccoon business, digging up and eating the grubs the hogs had missed. If the deer or the raccoon ever saw me or knew I was there, they never let on. Perhaps they were just ignoring me. The does often do, knowing we won’t shoot them. If you are relatively quiet and still, they will stay out in the open knowing you are there, watching you, smelling you, and not caring a bit. Move about too much, or make too much racket, and you will spook them. The deer are quiet and like quietness. About the only time you hear them is when they blow, grunt, or snort. The blow is an alarm they sound when they’re startled. The grunt, if you can hear it, means they are very close. A snort is a buck and bucks are much more wary than does, much more seldom seen in the open, and fleeting when seen.
I haven’t shot a rabbit in years, though I do think about it from time to time, as my wife and I both like rabbit, battered and fried, then simmered in brown gravy until tender and served over rice. Maybe when rabbit season opens, I’ll decide to harvest one or two this year, though the coyotes keep the rabbits fairly well thinned out. Rest assured, if I had seen a coyote, I’d have shot him, or at him. As it was, no fauna came to any harm from me, today, except for a couple of persistent spiders, a horsefly with malevolent intentions, several fire ants that had stealthily crept up on my right ankle and began biting and stinging in unison to some pheromonal trigger, two ticks (that I knew about), and perhaps yet the redbugs (chiggers) that have not manifested themselves. Even PETA members will likely kill a fire ant. If not, then they can’t stand there and go toe to toe with them; nothing can. It would be a horrible fate to be entangled in a wait-a-minute vine only to discover you were standing in a fire ant bed. You may never be seen or heard from again.
No, what I shot today was flora with my cell phone camera. The wild lemon (poncirus trifoliata) shown I also call a “Wait-a-Minute Vine”, though it is more of a bush/tree than a vine. The long thorns will puncture tractor tires and impale you like razor wire. They are prolific here, but I understand they are an invasive species, native to Korea and China, brought here in the attempts to grow citrus trees by budding and grafting onto their hardy stock. Some places on my property are impenetrable because of them. While you can easily see the thorns and fruit in the foreground of the photo, just look at all the bushes in the background. They are as hardy as the loathed kudzu-vine, even more wicked, and relentless in their spread.
Some folks use the wild lemons for lemonade and seasoning, but they are far too bitter for my taste. They have a desolate, dangerous beauty of their own, though, and demand your respect since they grab you in a definite manner as if to say, “Not so fast. Wait a minute.” When they do so, you’d best wait your minute so you can see how to extract yourself from its grasp, else you will bleed from several spots and likely need medical attention.
The vivid red wildflower shown, I am told, is Lobelia cardinalis, or the Cardinal Flower. I see these occasionally, but not often. Perhaps I am not looking enough. It is beautiful in all its red cardinal-ness. Had it not been for the Wait-a-Minute vines I would likely have passed this by. Its beauty is absorbing, a burst of crimson on the deep brown, gray, and lush green forest floor. Beauty is where you find it, and you can find it most anywhere if you slow down and stop and look.
You can even find it here in the Landmass currently known to the geographically illiterate as Alabama, the western border of which is just six miles from my Mississippi home.
Best wishes, Texas and Texans, on a speedy recovery and restoration, from all of us here in Landmass, or Alabama, or Mississippi. You, Texas friends, know who we are.
©2017 Mississippi Chris Sharp
Update 8/31/17: Alabama should be satisfied to stay whete it is and quit encroaching on Mississippi. Yep…..they did it again.
Living well here in the Landmass. They also left out Arkansas. Geography is lost to generations. Shame on our schools.