Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 55: Gimme shelter

Mileston to Yazoo City. 20.7 miles/952.7 total

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It’s a fairly warm day as I leave Mileston, in the high 40s and going up into the 60s, with some very fast moving clouds coming from the southeast. They predict thunderstorms for later today, but I hope I can avoid them. It rained all day yesterday and was raining when I awoke today, but for the moment it is dry.

I’ll just make it into the northern outskirts of Yazoo City today, and won’t be walking through the downtown until tomorrow.

There’s a bit more to Mileston on the back end, but not much. A handful of trailers on the east side of 49E scattered over half a mile. A regular neighborhood. Off to the west I see a church steeple and some small houses. I’m not sure whether it’s more of Mileston or if I’m getting into the environs of Good Hope, the next place down.

I’m noticing in quantity along the bayous and swamps down here what I think is the palmetto plant. Yes, it's the saw palmetto. Today’s the first day I’ve really been conscious of seeing it, and it’s another indicator that I am moving south. At twenty miles a day, it's hard to notice the changes as they occur. Then suddenly there is something, like palmettos or cacti.

Beside me on the west is Bee Lake, an interestingly shaped body of water. It’s a loop of a river--I suppose the Yazoo--that got separated from the river proper. So now it’s a lake, but it is thin and snakelike, almost circling around on itself. Narrow bodies of water like this are common around here, where until recently the Delta area was so prone to flooding and lacking in natural earthen constraints, such as hills and rock formations, that the rivers just meandered, taking often more than twice as long to get between two points than a straight line would. Moon Lake up near Clarksdale also is one of these river-created lakes. Now that the levee system has been in place for over a century, I imagine such lakes aren’t being created as often. The border between Mississippi and Arkansas and Louisiana is interesting because there are a number of little islands and peninsulas between the states that are disputed territory. They used to be part of one state or the other but now they're in neither.

In an hour or so I enter Thornton. I think this might be the last place before Yazoo City where I can buy anything to eat or drink. There’s a place called Tiffany’s, but that isn’t a store. I think it’s a bar, and it’s not open anyway. There’s also a trailer called M & M’s, which is a food store, but it isn’t open either. On the front porch of M & M’s is a wooden cross on a plywood stand. I ask some old men who are gathered outside around a few cars and they direct me to a gas station about half a mile down the road. That’s where I head, and I get my drink there.

Just down the road from the Thornton BP station what do I see but another dead bobcat. I didn’t think I’d see a second one of these. This specimen is in much better shape than the last one. Also I see a whole dead armadillo, the first I've seen since Arkansas. I have seen lots of shells and bones, but very few whole animals. I'll bet they taste good to other animals and get eaten quickly. Probably like a cross between pig and rat.

The sky ahead is black and it looks as if the thunderstorms are approaching as predicted. I put on my emergency poncho just in time. The rain comes down in sheets, instantly soaking my legs and feet. Fortunately I’m a few minutes from a highway bridge, where I seek refuge and wait out the storm for about twenty minutes.

The topography has changed noticeably. No longer flat and alluvial, the land is hilly now. At 9.5 miles I leave Holmes County and enter Yazoo County. Yazoo City is the county seat, of course, and the whole business was named for the Yazoo River. It was old Bobby LaSalle who first named this river for the French, back in the seventeenth century. The name, as I mentioned a few days ago, is thought to mean “river of death.” It was in Vaughan, in Yazoo County, that Casey Jones, the famous engineer, met his end in a railroad accident in 1900.

The wind is blowing hard from the south right into my face, causing me to have to lean into it. Finally I get behind a ridge and it provides a little relief. The road begins to wind down and around toward the city, still some ten miles off. I go through Eden, another little place with very little going on.

I have hit the wall hard today. Usually I get to a point in a walk, at around fourteen to sixteen miles, when fatigue causes me to flag a bit, but then I recover. Today I have been feeling that way since about two hours into the walk, with no relief. I don’t want to be walking today, I don’t want to be walking tomorrow, I don’t want to be walking any time. I'm just bored and tired as hell, aching from my waist down to my feet. If someone offered me a ride right now I’d take it, and just end this whole project.

Well, someone did offer me that ride, about an hour after that little diatribe, but from force of habit I didn’t take it. At 18 miles I stop to sit on a guard rail and eat a snack in front of a refinery called Terra. A curl of yellow smoke rises discreetly out of one of the shorter stacks. It has a certain beauty against the gray-black sky, even though I’m sure it’s noxious as hell. Stygian and sulfurous.

Another thunderstorm comes up suddenly and I again happen to be near a highway bridge, and so take refuge again for about ten minutes, and when the rain lets up a bit I start back out. I can’t stay out of the rain forever. I have to get finished with this walk. It’s already about 3:40, and there are three more miles to walk before dark.

At about 19 miles I’m at the place the map calls Yazoo Junction, and I pass a sign that says “Welcome to Yazoo City, Gateway to the Delta.” I think, however, that from my perspective Yazoo City is the gateway from the Delta.

Now the rain is intensifying again. There’s really nothing to do at this point but to keep walking. It’s coming down so hard that I can barely see through my glasses. The good news is that my legs and feet can’t possibly get any wetter, and I don’t have to be choosy about where I walk. I just slog through the puddles and let the passing vehicles splash me. I’ve taken my wallet out of my back pocket and put it and the camera and recorder and notebook and phone in a couple of plastic bags and have them in my deepest front pockets on the vest This rain is beyond being kept out by a poncho.

When I get back to the motor home it’s nearly pitch dark and I’m soaked from head to foot. Fortunately it’s well up in the 60s, so the rain isn’t chilly.


Billie Bob said...

Give me a p...P!...give me an e...E!...give me a t...T!....give me an e....E!...give me an r...R!...what's that spell?...PETER...what's that spell?...PETER!...what's that spell.......

Just trying to cheer you along after one of those "walkin' blues days". I hope the clouds blow away, it warms up, and things get exciting.

Michael Roberts said...

"For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snow-storms and rain-storms and did my duty faithfully."
-- Thoreau, Walden

Anonymous said...

Congratulaions! You finally walked into warmer weather (Cedar Rapids got 15" of snow) and tropical vegetation unless you mistook yucca for saw palmetto. Seriously, this day was abench mark. Keep up the good work.
ps I heard that KFC grease does wonders for the lines in the weather-beaten faces of old homeless winos.