What I remember is the large sombrero, South of the Border. The scraggly pines, sweaty heat. A few hundred people get married there every year, the border between South and North Carolina. You can drive through his shoes, lanky legs that stretch up 100 feet.
What I remember is Garnet, a western ghost town. Abandoned. There was no one there. We walked among the ghosts, took 3 rolls of photographs, before digital film, cell phones, or text messages. We were utterly alone. We drove miles outside of Missoula. The direction was up, the air thin. The pines, Ponderosa. I am a woman destined to be near pines. Unlike Bill Holm, I love trees. I feel safer nested between oaks, ash, or elms, than exposed on the lonesome prairie.
What I remember are the echoes of the past. Miners and the women who serviced them. Saloons, creaking hotels, flat-faced and aged pine. What about the Annie Oakley’s of the boom town? Were there women who mined the precious ore?
And on NPR, Libby, Montana goes to court against Grace. Libby is just outside of Missoula. People are dying. Vermiculite settlement floats down the airstream, the rivers, seeps into the ground. It laces Grandpa’s clothes. He hugs his children and grandchildren. Grandmothers wash the clothes; hang them on the outdoor line to dry. First one lung goes, then the other. The mining company denies it is a problem.
It’s true. In the days of Garnet, the late 1800’s, we did not know the dangers. Now we do. When does a company become accountable. Shouldn’t a 21st century company admit wrongdoing? Libby is dying.
What I remember is how much I love the smell of the ocean, the Georgia Gold Coast, Yamassee, South Carolina where my Granddaddy went to fish and carouse. We visited the Cherokee Nation. I see us standing in a faded Polaroid next to a man in feather headdress, long before I knew about the Trail of Tears. I was just a child.
When I write by hand like this, barely able to read my own writing, I am still a child. Chicken scratch. The sun streams in over my shoulder. The air 10 degrees. Snow covers the cedars in an angel dusting of flakes. I come home from a grueling week of work to see 3 pileated woodpeckers playing in the oaks behind the house. I hear them first, like nails hammering into a hollow coffin. I raise hand to brow, cup the sun away from the pupils — there they are, in stripes of red, white, and black. The female is black.
I stand there silently for a long time. Suddenly a laughing call, swift jagged flight between trunks, a burst of white under wing. I am certain they put on their show just for me. My own roadside attraction — 3 pileated Woody Woodpeckers frolicking in branches of snow.
-15 minute handwrite, posted on red Ravine, Friday, February 27th, 2008
-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC – ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS