Excerpt from *blue highways*
– William Least Heat Moon –
(Lovingly translated to typewriter by my friend Jeff)
“I drove onto the Natchez Trace Parkway, a two lane running from Natchez to near Nashville, which follows a five hundred mile trail first opened by buffalo and Indians. Chickasaws called it the Peace Path. In 1810 th Trace was the main route for Ohio Valley traders who rather than fight the Mississippi currents, sold their flatboats for scrap in Natchez and walked home on the Trace. The poor sometimes traveled by a method called *ride and tie* two men would buy a mule, one would ride until noon, then tie the animal to a tree and walk until his partner behind him caught up on the jack that evening. By mid-century, steamboats made the arduous and dangerous trek unnecessary, and the Trace disappeared in the trees.
Now new road, opening the woods again, went in among redbuds and shite blossoms of dogwood, curving about under a cook evergreen cover. For miles, no power lines or billboards. Just tree, rock, water, brush, and road. The new Trace, like a river, followed natural contours and gave focus to the land, it so brought out the beauty that every road commissioner in the nation should drive the trace to see that highway does not have to outrage landscape.
I stopped to hike a trail into a blackwater swamp of tupelo and bald cypress. The sun couldn’t cut through the canopy of buds and branches, and the slow water moved darkly. In the muck, pollywogs were starting to squirm. It was Spring here, and juices were getting up into the stalks. Leaves terribly folded in husks, had begun to let loose and open to the light, stuff was stirring in the rot, water bubbled with the froth of sperm and ova, and the whole bog lay rank and eggy, vaporous and thick with the scent of procreation. Things once squeezed close, pinched shut, things waiting to become something else, something greater, were about ready.”
Spring is really just like this in North Alabama.
I routinely drove the Natchez trace in the late 60’s early 70’s between Starkvillle and Jackson Ms while in college. It is truely one of the most beautiful roads to travel. I remember once I rounded a curve and the whole side of the road was covered in blooming wisteria hanging from every tree. It was amazing. I never saw it again and probably they came and tore it out since it was “invading” the trees but oh was it a sight.
Now I live in a place many believe is the most beautiful of all but I would still after all these years list the Natchez Trace in spring at the top of my list. At least the way I remember it.
The description in this writing fit the mood,as well as the beauty, the Trace offers so freely to all who travel it. Ahhh..well said Mrs. Chanin.