Friday, April 15, 2011

Beer and Beaches

Day two was a Sunday and we had a problem. In this state, the Bible Belt rules say that you have to wait until after church to buy libation at any independently operated establishment for the sale any fermented liquids designed to make sure your vacation is comfortable and enjoyable. One can absolutely rule out the option of buying the necessities at a state run store. They are closed in observation of the sacred day and will not open under any circumstances. Being observant creatures we happened to notice a nice wine shop tucked in between a Radio Shack and a video rental shop. Once well supplied, off we went to the Fort.

Fort Morgan was begun being built after the War of 1812 when the USA figured out that it needed to boost the coastal defenses and defend the waterways that were the main methods of transporting people and goods to interior states. This fort sits on a prominent point on the eastern shore of the mouth of the Mobile Bay which is fed by the Alabama River. Initial construction was completed in 1833 largely remained idle until the Civil War broke out in ’61. There was a heated battle there in’64 at which time it fell to the Union army. It was active during the Spanish-American War and during the First World War, and was continually being added to and damages fixed from cannon fire and bullets. One can still see pock marks from the exchange of lead balls that hit the bricks, and mortar repair where cannons hit walls and tore them up. It is a testimony to the fine bricklaying and the engineering of its design that the structure withstood the various barrages and remains standing, an elegant and impressive old soldier still on attention.

When I was young, my parents took us to this fort once for our spring break. They sat my brothers and me on one of the large cannons that are on display in the front of the place to take a picture. At the last second before my dad took a photo of us I threw my hands up into the air and smiled, a big goofy missing two front teeth clowning act. Boy did I catch grief for that. I never really figured exactly why a very serious photo would have suited my folks better, but apparently it really mattered to them for some reason. The cannon is still there, and of course I had to climb on, this trip, for old times sake but left off the clown act. We wandered around the fort for a while, and then decided it was time to hit the sand and sit by some waves for a while.

The water on the bay side of the fort’s beach was fairly calm and a stained color, but we walked around the point to where the blue-green waves of the Gulf meets with this southward flowing river. The surface of the water where this confluence occurred showed intense currents boiling as they collided, and did not look like a very safe place to swim under any situation. We spread some towels on the white sand, put on some sunscreen, popped open a few beers, and enjoyed the view and the melting feeling of warm sunshine with a nice salty breeze in our faces.

There were cute little gray birds that darted back and forth trying to stay out of the waves, scooping into the sand as the wave retreated looking for something to eat. Terns and black headed gulls screamed as they flew by us. Then we noticed that there was a calm spot behind the confluence of waters that a large number of birds were repeatedly diving into with quite a flurry of excitement. The surface of the water showed there to be a large school of little fish, which would flush to avoid the predators. Then the show got more interesting.

The birds were just the first to tap into this hemmed up food source. Then came the other predators from the under the water. Larger fish flashed silver sides as they struck at the school, most likely Spanish Mackerels, perhaps King Mackerels, and Blue Fish too. The frenzy was on and the water was splashing and was whipped into froth. Porpoises got into the scene next, large groups moved into the fray, moving along side by side, working in team to massacre what fish were left. The worst of this dining experience was not 50 yards away, but several of the porpoises came by us, very close up, and were varying colors and sizes. Occasionally a porpoise would flap its tail on the water before diving, perhaps to startle the bait.

Our beers went down easy as we watched this show and we kicked ourselves for not having taken any gear to fish with. Well, we thought about it and decided that it probably would have taken too much energy and interfered with our relaxing plan anyway, and opened another beer.

Beer and beaches, together, are one of my earliest memories. My folks loved the white sands and big waves of the Gulf and took us there quite a bit to a house that someone lent them once a year. The routine was for Dad to pop over to a bar somewhere close by and bring a milk jug full of draft beer back for them to drink while we all played on the beach for the day. The draft beer had a rich froth on the top of their cups and so did the incoming waves. They would let me have a sip of the yellow brew and it puzzled me deeply why one tasted infinitely better than the other. Sea water simply doesn’t do the same thing for me, but visually they are inseparable in their connection in my brain.

Finally the beer ran out, the fishy frenzy had subsided, and we had certainly gotten more sun than we needed, even with the sp lotion, so we went to find the bird groups that were supposed to be trapping the migratory birds that fly into this first bit of land after crossing the Gulf from Central America this time of year. We found one group next to a small group of trees just taking their mist nets down and packing them away. They said they had seen very few for this day and were all a bit puzzled at the lack of numbers and wondered if perhaps the fog had messed the birds up.

Many moons ago, in college, Mark and I had come down to help with the netting, banding, etc with our friend and biology professor, Dr Tom. I was new to all the diverse types of birds there were at that time and the experience was amazing. To hold a tiny Painted Bunting in your hand, for the first time you have ever seen one, is a treat. The colors on it and the rest of the poor exhausted travelers were stunning. The banding gives valuable information to scientists as to populations and multi-continent migratory routes of these birds, and people from all over come to watch the process and see up close these little winged jewels.

Day light of two was toast, dinner on the water’s edge again, and back to the hotel for shuteye before the long drive back to home, horses, dogs, parents, and reality. It was good to get away, if only for two days, and a still alive, wide awake Jack met us at the carport with enthusiastic yelps. Home again, home again.


  1. Hey Mrs. D, you sho can write! I did my research, based on what you told me once by the campfire about your writing~had asked b/c I heard you& the mister mention a book a few times. So, after some great conversation(babble I much appreciated) w/ you I made a mental note2find ya from the name of this blog you'd given me~so glad I did!I don't do the blog thing else I'd follow or do a better job of keeping up,but idabble n writing&really like your style,so keep up the good work! -Love+many great adventures2u2! ~Mary (that blondegirl)

  2. hey blondegirl..thanks, sure had fun on the campout,. long drive but fun . thanks for reading the silly dribble i write