Alberto and the Land Between the Lakes

We outran the storms of the better part of a week, but eventually the remnants of Alberto caught up to us in northern Tennessee. We spent a couple nights at Mousetail Landing campground, mostly because it was on a ridge, no flooding to worry about. We got there early, barely lunch time. On the way up we passed this sign, which gave me pause.

sign, mousetail landing, TN photographed by luxagraf

I dropped it in first and we made the top. It was a pretty good grade, but not that bad. We had the campground to ourselves the first night, well most of the night. I took the kids down to the playground for a while before the rain started.

The rain kicked in about three that afternoon and didn’t let up for about twelve hours. Luckily we keep plenty of rainy day activities on hand, though no matter how much there is to do eventually patience wears thin.

None photographed by luxagraf drawing in the bus photographed by luxagraf
None photographed by luxagraf
Rain makes people grumpy.
None photographed by luxagraf
The first day at the playground the kids discovered tetherball, but Elliott was a little short. The next day he came prepared.

At some point in the night ranger had to move Larry, the only other camper around, from the lower campground up to the ridge because the river flooded. We didn’t actually know anything about it until the next morning when we met Larry, but he had a far soggier night than we did. Aside from the front window seals, which have always leaked, there was hardly any water coming in the bus. Which means nothing, but until you remember that it makes you feel good.

The next day was still a soggy, humid one outside. We plugged in the air conditioner and tried to de-humidify and dry things out. We did a little laundry, gave Larry a ride to a grocery store (he was paddling down the Tennessee River and had no ride for a week, and no where to go now the river was way too high to run) and hung out around camp. The next morning we said our goodbyes and continued on to Land Between the Lakes, which is a rarity for American names, it is what it says on the tin.

travco, TN photographed by luxagraf
The fifth Travco we’ve run across. These are called Travco Esprit, they’re sort of the cousin Eddie of the Travco family, but it does says Travco on the back.

Land Between the Lakes is one of the places we run across every so often that draws in semi-permanent residents. You find people well settled for the summer, rigs with full size refrigerators next to them, grills bigger than the one I had at our old house and golf carts, oh the golf carts.

We stick out like sore thumbs at these places, but that’s fine, at this point we’re pretty well used to the attention. I’m not sure it’d feel like camping if half the campground didn’t stop by to say hi and ask about the bus. Meeting new people is why I travel so I like it. Usually. I do wonder about the people who come up to me at the dump station, but otherwise. What interests me about these semi-permanent residents at campgrounds like this is that they’re actually living the way the semi-nomadic people of the world have always lived — winter in something designed for warmth, summer in something with easier access to outside. I often wonder why more of us don’t do that, it’s still fairly common in much of the world.

Land Between the Lakes is what is says it is, a huge chunk of land wedged between two large reservoirs.

Most people seem to come for the fishing and boating. We drove around a bit and more or less felt like we had the place to ourselves. We discovered a road with a bridge that was out, found a herd of buffalo, saw a bright yellow flock of Goldfinches flying through a field of wildflowers that looked like you’d imagine a prairie should look if you didn’t know what a prairie looked like, which I don’t.

Buffalo, Land Between the Lakes, TN photographed by luxagraf
Somewhere beyond that fence, lost in the grass, are buffalo.

Then we stopped at the 1850’s era farm that’s been preserved. I find these places somewhat tedious, but Corrinne and the kids love it. I like the history aspect, especially in this case because people are actually still running the farm as it would have been run in the 1850s, in period correct clothing no less. It’s living history, and that’s pretty cool.

That said, it’s probably no surprise that my interests lie with the more nomadic people of history. I like the mystery of people who left only fire rings and animal bones here and there. The sort of people that left archaeological finds that tell little other than the obvious — the ship lost its anchor in this little cove, the hunting party paused for a fire in the shelter of this cave, the hazelnuts were processed at this camp by the river, the clam shells where dumped in a mound here and so on. What these people thought, believed, loved, hated, revered, despised, or just did all day — all lost in the fog of time.

As one of my favorite characters says, referring to her desire to not have a gravestone: “I do not need a marker of my passage, for my creator knows where I am…. I lived a good life, my hair turned to snow, I saw my great grandchildren, I grew my garden. That is all.”

Still, I completely understand why the rest of my family loves to visit places like the farm. It’s a way to step into the past and momentarily feel like you’re part of it.

We’re probably something of a letdown to the re-enactors though. We shuffle into a two room house and they say something to kids along the lines of “can you imagine if you all had to live in something this small?” The kids stare and don’t know what to say and then we explain that we actually live in something smaller right now and that two rooms is fairly palatial by our standards. Then there’s an awkward moment of silence.

And it is interesting to see how the various European immigrants did things a little differently depending on what they were used to back home. But in every case so far, when I see how people chose to live I can’t help sitting there thinking, why…? Why were you fighting against the land? Why spend all this effort reshaping the land to meet your preconceived ideas of what it should be when others had been living off it for millennia working considerably less than the average newly arrived agriculturist?

One thing that becomes apparent quickly when rummaging around in the European immigrant history of America is that only one among millions seems to have ever bothered to find out what the people already living in any area were doing. And for whatever reason those one in a million turn out pretty frequently to be French. The guiding light of settlement in most of the US seems to have been hubris and a misplaced sense of self assuredness. Basically the two American qualities that continue to irritate the rest of the world.

That’s not to say the farm didn’t have its clever ideas, and clever uses of limited resources. It certainly did and I’m glad there are people out there keeping these ideas alive. But it’s sort of funny that many of the things we do for fun — hunting, fishing, hiking/walking, going to picking berries and other fruits, etc — are the things hunting and foraging tribes, well, just do. Something to think about.

Whatever the case, the kids had fun wandering the farm and we happened to be there when they were feeding the animals and putting them in the barns for the night. We watched chickens and ducks get driven into the coop, sheep and pigs fed and led to the barn and we even managed to get let back into the big barns to see the largest mules I’ve ever come across.

And of course there was the hawk I mentioned in the last post. It just flew in a hung out one morning. The minute we left Tennessee the birds stopped being so friendly. I have no explanation for that.

On a totally different note, a couple luxagraf readers have asked where we’re headed this summer. We’re not entirely sure, but the rough plan is to visit Wisconsin, go around the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, then back west into Minnesota and the Dakotas, then south through Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, and down to either Texas/New Mexico. I mention this because if you’re in that route and you want to meet up, drop me an email.


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