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Possumhaw: A tale of two treasures


Shannon Bardwell



Dr. Harry Sherman called and asked if we could meet at Plymouth Bluff Environmental Center. We toured the exhibits and he pointed out the merlin, a small falcon that had the misfortune to collide into our sunroom's window. The merlin was now immortalized in the nature exhibit. But this was not the reason that Dr. Sherman had called. He said he had something to "sell" me. 


Dollar figures started to mount in my head...$100...$200...$300? 


He handed me a folder. The first page was a detailed description of the Prairie, "The Prairie Past," it said. There was a small blank square in the center like where a picture would be. The bottom of the narrative said, "Courtesy of Shannon and Sam Bardwell." 


At first I thought the square might hold a photo of me but there was a drawing on the third page of an Antique Bison. The square was for the bison. 


Dr. Sherman is a kindly man. He is small in stature and quiet. He led the way to the golf cart where we took a tour of the nature walks. I couldn't believe it was so beautiful and lush. The day was warm with low humidity; sun filtered through the trees. The few times I had walked the trails, it had been winter. 


Environmental centers are the kind of places that Sam and I like to visit and here was the most exquisite one right at my front door; a place I pass every day and yet had not stopped to appreciate all that the center has to offer. Shame on me. 


The golf cart glided quietly up and down the trails. We stopped at all the plaques. The first one described the "bodock" tree used to make archery bows. It was sponsored by Dr. Gerry Jeffcoat, himself an archer and maker of bows. 


Along the way were multiple bridges and benches of differing designs. "The Boy Scouts," Dr. Sherman pointed out. "Much of the construction was done by Boy Scout projects."  


"Did you count the 36 bridges?" he asked. Then Dr. Sherman pointed up the side of a bluff to wooded stairs, "Sixty-four steps," he said.  


"I bet you know this tree. It's a possumhaw." Dr. Sherman knows every inch of his Eden.  


There were more plaques, all sponsored by people who love the Bluff: Jack Chilcutt, Harold Anderson, Rufus Ward, Jack D. Elliott Jr., Dave Haffly, Wayne Bryan, Bill Brigham, Kenny Langley, Dan Wrather, Sam Kaye, Charles Overby, Bill Parker, Birney Imes, James Patterson and spouses are just a few. 


"Let me discuss this with Sam."  


I turned to the last page in the folder. The cost was itemized at $62.50. I wrote a check. 


"Dr. Sherman, the snapdragons are lovely this year. Who does the flowers?" 


Dr. Sherman lowered his head, "I do what I can. I'm about to dig them up and put in the summer flowers to attract the birds and butterflies." 



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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