LONGLEAF STORIES

full circle in the hundred acre wood

The front desk clerk at the Holiday Inn was busy trying to help a couple figure out how to get veterinary help for a poor cat that was sick or hurt in some way and wouldn’t come out from under their van. Kim, the clerk, had been here before. She was kind, but firmly efficient as she told them no one would come to help, and agreed it was a terrible situation. The faces of the man and woman showed their distress. Their little curly-haired strawberry blond toddler caught my eye and smiled as she walked around on the faux stone floor like a young gymnast on her first day at the balance beam.

Kim never missed a beat, continuing to commiserate with the young couple while she checked us in. She handed us a small paper folder holding our plastic door entry card, and said, “I upgraded you to the Jacuzzi suite.”

“Thank you. That’s great,” I said. I think she couldn’t provide the “yes” that the couple wanted on behalf of a hurting cat, but a room upgrade — this she could do. Maybe it made her feel better. I don’t know.

The room was fine, and big for a Holiday Inn Express room, but there was something a little weird and not particularly romantic about having a Parade of Homes size Jacuzzi bath tub with cultured marble surround and a step up to get into it — trust me, this was necessary — all sitting in a sort of living room area with a truly ugly couch directly across from it. I meant to take a picture of it, but I forgot.

Saturday morning was a little gray and drizzly at first, but got brighter as we drove down Highway 21 from Monroeville toward Lake Dannelly. We actually had made an appointment with an Alabama Land Partners salesman. They are marketing a development called Legacy Shores on Lake Dannelly. Buck and I are not virgins when it comes to hot box land sales operations, and were prepared for the worst. But, in fact, the nice young man who gave us the tour really was a nice young man.

Not too long ago, $150,000 would buy the best Gulf front white sugar sand cream of the crop building lot. Seemed outrageous until they went to $500,000 and beyond, into the stratosphere.

Fishing lake lots were a different matter. They could be had for a price more folks could afford.

But now, the Lake Dannelly lots that are actually on the water have asking prices ranging from $120,000 to around $200,000. Not much infrastructure, and the location is somewhere past the back of beyond. Amazing.

They are pretty. Just what a lake lot should be.

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While Buck and the salesman walked and talked, I watched Canada Geese on the water with my little birder’s binoculars, saw an osprey fly, and listened to woodpeckers.

One of the less expensive lots that fronted on a dead end slough came with its own five foot alligator. He was on a log out in the water, golden eyes meeting ours.

Lake Dannelly is about three hours from home, and we wanted to get back in time to pick up Maggie before the kennel’s 6:00 p.m. closing, so we took the nice young man’s card, thanked him for his time and got back on the road.

I reveled in the lush countryside as it flashed by. It was unexpectedly hilly. The curvy roads felt like foothills driving. We wound through Uriah, where there was a huge cotton gin, and a little wooden shack nearby with a sign nailed on it: “Jerry Clower CDs.”  We saw the old Blacksher Mansion, which Buck says was moved from the family’s old homeplace in Virginia and reassembled in Uriah, (pronounced YOU-rye), board by numbered board.

The next town of any size was Atmore, home of the Creek Entertainment Center, a 47,000 square foot casino complex owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. On the other side of town, we drove straight through the Atmore Community Work Center, one of a whole nest of prisons in the area. Guard towers and coils of razor wire stacked against high fences were right by the road.

We drove along in silence for a few miles, then saw a big two story home sitting back from the road. There was a large oval man-made pond in front of the house, surrounded by what looked like pasture grass. Stuck in the ground just beyond the pond was a big sign, that read:  “Before you left your house today, did you think to pray?”

Soon enough, we reached the pastoral farm community of Walnut Hill, the fertile fields of Molino, then turned right onto Highway 29 and were a half hour from dog and home.

We didn’t sit on a dock or buy any land. But we saw some lovely water, laughed at roadside curiosities, were moved by the magnificent ordinariness of folks, drove the back roads and the blue highways, and were relieved from the relentless sameness of interstate highways.

We came. We saw. We meandered.

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