Paige’s Plantation, Part One
by Jacqueline Patterson @jacpatterson
Buckets of sweet tea! Knowing I live vicariously through her, Jacqueline (also known in our inner writer circle as Paige) documented her recent visit to a private plantation for Frankly, My Dear . . .
Now, there’s a whole list of reasons this thrills me, but mostly because, as y’all know, we’re heading back to Blue Ridge next month which, as it always does, has inspired me to amp up the blogging yet again. This is it, folks. I am claiming my inner Southern Girl for y’all. And Paige is part of the process. Stay tuned as we continue to swap stories from the rocking chairs and let you in on all the adventures us belles are about to have.
But first, sit back and grab a julep. Paige is about to take us on an adventure.
~ ~ ~
The gigantic oaks towered like sentinels as I slowed my car outside the gate. Moss, like clumsily-held swords, dangled from the branches just inches from my car’s hood in a mimicry of a challenge.
I inched my car closer and the gate finally began to open . . . into a world fastened to the past.
Endless rows of oaks lined the curved avenue, partially obscuring the Manor on the edge of the marsh. Green fields opened to my left—a former playing ground for horses but now inhabited by wild birds and broken dreams. Sparsed along the avenue, refurbished slave cabins sat half-hidden behind the trees, their presence casting a shroud of silent condemnation.
As far as my eye could see, I was the only human being in sight.
I’d been invited by my caretaker friends to spend the weekend at this Lowcountry plantation. Two days for my history-loving heart to explore and dream my way into the past.
I already knew I would have a hard time returning to the real world.
My friends were waiting eagerly on the porch of the Overseer’s cabin. The following hours became a traipse through history as we took a prolonged tour of the plantation grounds. We explored winding, woodsy trails and when I closed my eyes, I could imagine I was a Southern belle riding out to inspect my property. At home. At peace.
Peace? Ha. That blissful illusion dissolved the moment my friend Rhene suggested a jog through the marsh in search of gators.
Let’s go ahead and be honest here.
I took every step with the panicked awareness that a gator would crawl out of the marsh any moment and chomp off my leg as some kind of gator-courage-award trophy. And I wasn’t in the mood to donate my leg.
Talk about an incentive to keep jogging.
Rhene laughed at my fears and assured me it was too cold for them to come up on the paths. She said what she thought was comforting. “Even when it’s warm, I can’t sneak up on one if I try. They can smell us coming.”
That wasn’t the comfort I was looking for.
She pointed down into the marsh-grass on the bank and explained it was a gator hole. Apparently that’s where they come up out of the marsh. She said, “Sometimes you’ll see them laying in there when you go by.”
Cringing, I bent down for a closer look. In the center of the marsh-grass was a perfectly shaped hole, like a giant spyglass, allowing me to see down the bank and into the water. No gators visible. Phew.
I eased back slowly and tried to smile, like gator hidey-holes didn’t scare me in the least.
Halfway around the marsh we slowed our jog to a walk and Rhene pointed out the various landmarks.
A flock of birds flew out of the grass at our approach, their pink wings startling against the blue sky. She told me that although born white, they turn pink from eating all the shrimp in the marsh. Imagine!
We paused to watch the birds disappear beyond the outlying woods. The sun was warm against my back and the fingers of the wind brushed across my sweat-soaked face, cooling me with the scent of the marsh. We turned down the path that divided the marsh, still checking for gators, but by now I was relaxed. We had yet to spot a single gator and I was confident that I would be able to keep my leg after all.
Until Rhene grabbed my arm, whispered, and pointed. “Look. See it? Out on that little island?”
My leg was about to be claimed.
“Where?” My gaze dropped to a gator hole on the bank, checking frantically. Rhene’s hold tightened on my arm until I was forced to look up, following her gaze until I saw it, almost hidden in the high grass of the island.
~ ~ ~
I know. I’m a Scarlett for stopping the story here. But if y’all read it in one sitting, there’s no reason for you to keep coming back now, is there? No worries, sugar. Paige has more photos, and the ending, in her next installment.
So stick around. Y’all might just enjoy a little more Southern hospitality.
With tall boots and a willow wisp,
And Frankly, My Dear . . . That’s all she wrote!