March 17, 2014 9:49:42 AM
Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]
The boys were all excited about their fishing weekend. Tim wanted to kick off his recent retirement, and Greg, looking forward to the birth of his second child, wanted a quiet weekend to fish; Sam agreed to host. Quick to seize opportunity, I called my college roommate, Toni, and suggested we meet for a girls' night.
In the current issue of Catfish Alley magazine Carmen Sisson wrote about French Camp, capturing my interest with the last line, " ... French Camp still weaves an undeniable spell. And I have a feeling I'll be coming back." We chose French Camp.
After readying the Prairie house and preparing instructions for Sam to cook "Shirley's Delicious Crappie" recipe, and after leaving notes everywhere like "feed the cat," "rabbit food in the crisper," "water ladybugs twice a day with the eyedropper by the sink," "corn for ducks ... " I was more than ready for my own quiet weekend.
French Camp is located on the Natchez Trace about an hour and a half from the Prairie house. I picked up the Trace just west of Mathiston. I had never driven the Trace alone, but always opted for highways that got me where I was going sooner and faster. Popping in a CD of symphony and violin music it could not have been more peaceful or perfect. I set the cruise on 50 mph, as is the limit. At first it seemed like a crawl but quickly eased into a glide. The trees formed a canopy; the forest looked pristine.
It was too early for dogwoods or redbud blossoms, but there was a tree with light and delicate leaves. The leaves were desert-colored and appeared to float while complimenting the dark pines. Without the usual thick of foliage, the broken trees, limbs and stumps starkly contrasted against the sage-colored grass and evergreens. It was beautiful by its lack of color, subdued, serene.
Only once did I encounter another vehicle, and that was when a line of three bunched up behind me. I did not let their crowding bother my 50 mph reverie. I figured if they didn't want to drive the speed limit they could take the highway. Soon, all three zipped around and I was left alone to enjoy the gaggle of turkeys, the lone yearling feeding, the sporadic sprays of daffodils and occasional break of open pastureland guarded by split-rail fencing.
Toni and I elected to venture on to Frenchies Restaurant on the square in Kosciusko and to shop at a couple of "this and that" shops. The best was yet to come back at French Camp, when we settled into our log cabin and built a fire that we didn't really need, and enjoyed the Keurig coffee maker. Even so, I found myself thoughtful of the pioneers that had gone before, the blacksmith shop, the quilting cabin, a potter's wheel and, oh yes, Carmen was right, French Camp wove its undeniable spell.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.