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Carrizozo, New Mexico
April 19, 2008
After Okefenokee, and weeks of the hot and tropic lowlands, the mountains of Georgia called. Sweet relief of altitude and cool — but the southernmost Appalachians were clothed in cloud & rain. West though Tennessee, I happened upon the spring whites and marbles I’d been especially seeking. Then, stopping off for the free morning hour at Graceland to deliver his copy of Orion to Elvis, I saw no butterflies except for a graffito on the sidewalk. But dozens of goldfinches crowded a low marshy spot in the nicely unkempt lawn. But I was eager to flee Memphis — like Mobile, still a city — for the Mississippi Delta. Most of the Great River Road ran through a chemical barren of cotton field, but I found deep and wild canebrakes where certain rare butterflies dwell.
The only Delta blues I heard were Robert Johnson on my cassette player and Lightning Hopkins in the cultural center in an almost flooded, almost abandoned Civil War town. But from Georgia thorugh Alabama, Mississippi, across Louisiana and into Texas, I heard echoes of the voices of the transported Cherokee, the cottonbound slaves. Now one sees neo-plantation extrava-mansions that make Graceland look quite modest and remarkably tasteful. And, tin-and-tarpaper shacks — often just a mosquito’s whine apart.