Monday, July 23, 2012

Sirens in July

When we drove out of the driveway onto our narrow rural road which leads onward to a slightly larger road which would eventually give way to our final destination, a smallish black snack slithered across the black pavement in front of us. It made its way off into the brush on the side of the road, but as it did so, it looked like a heat wave, a mirage made from the heat coming off of hot roads that I always thought looked like evaporating pools of water. It was hot, the roads were hot, the poor snake was probably hot, and we were heading to the lake to cool off for the day.
Lake Martin, the fountainhead of so many memories for me, and for my family and the many friends connected to this body of water. My father had a cabin here for many years and we summered there for the years before I graduated from high school. After that it became the go to place for us all, a mutual meeting ground for the family to gather and relax. “Progress” at the lake finally forced the end of the lease for my dad at this cabin and those days are gone, but before we had that cabin, we occasionally went to Uncle Jimmy’s place on the lake, and that was where we were heading now to visit my cousin and his family.
We rode along after passing through Wetumpka using the Old Georgia Road, a narrow two lane with many sharp turns and undulations, requiring steady attention to driving it. This was my learning to drive road as a fifteen year old, as I would drive my dad up from town on the weekends and it was a very good road for that purpose. It was a fun road to get in the groove with and it did make me stay focused on it. There were so many who did not make the turn at Dead man’s Curve that they finally corrected the road to avoid all of the wrecks that landed in the grave yard there.
There was one place that we passed by that brought a funny memory back to mind. At the top of a hill one could see along way ahead as you passed the crest. Once at the bottom there was very short sight ahead and double lines indicating that it wasn’t a good place to pass, then it was up the hill to more open view of the road ahead. I was driving my dad one day at this very spot, his head was down deep in reading the newspaper, and there was a very annoying, very slow moving beat up truck in front of me making me very impatient. At the top of the hill I could see that for a long way in front of me there were no on coming cars so I took it as an opportunity to get this fellow out of my way and I began revving up the engine of dad’s cadillac. Dad looked up from his paper to see us at the bottom of the hill, double stripes and I am racing up a blind hill on the wrong side of the road onto who knew whatever might be heading our way. I think it was the only time in my life I saw my dad scared, and I had to chuckle at remembering the look of terror and disbelief on his face back then.
We passed along the rural scenery, passed Eclectic, Cotton’s Barbeque, Mr Holly’s old dog trot house, countless abandoned dark wooden houses and barns, the turnoff to our old cabin, the Kowaliga Goodtime Bar now a garden store,  and finally made it to the marina where we wanted to buy a boat coat for the grand daughter. Mark went inside to see what he could find and I got out to let Gracie have a pit stop under the tall pines that shade the roof of the Church in the Pines, an open air sanctuary that sits beside the water, a lovely place, but unfortunately, not one of my favorite places. 

My father had a rather loose policy on partying by us kids up there on the weekends but, by golly, on Sunday morning we were, with no exceptions and no excuses, dragged to this place for the service and then on to breakfast of powder dried scrambled eggs and greasy bacon at the restaurant at Kowaliga. There were more than a few bleary eyes watching the preacher on occasions and some very reluctant partakers of the breakfast buffet menu. Revisiting this place did not evoke fond memories, and once Mark’s mission was accomplished we headed to the boat ramp to launch the Dixie Lily.      
Meeting us there was our daughter, her husband, and their seven month old daughter. Once the baby was trussed up in the new boat coat and slathered with sunscreen, we began our trek across the blue water to Uncle Jimmy’s cabin on the north and eastern side of the lake. The Lily made its way past familiar islands and landmarks but once out from under the Kowaliga Bridge the evidence of last year’s horrific tornado attack here showed just how huge of a swath it had made. Looking south there was a huge expanse of green grass now where before had been a solid mass of trees and a shoreline dotted with cabins and piers, a line of nothingness now. Then looking back in the line of travel we were heading you could see the continued path of the monster storm as it headed across the open water and hit landfall again where it wiped trees, cabins, piers, and anything in its way, totally away. I had seen photos of the aftermath soon after, so I had some idea of the havoc it wroth, but it was painful to see in person. Nature will heal itself with time and now the green grasses have filled in the vacant cabin sites and eventually there will be trees to shade the ground again.
We passed the Russell place, the family who owns the part of the lake cabins that are or were leased, such as my dad’s was, and the very folks who had said that progress would never affect our lease....I tossed a not so nice thought in the direction of their house and moved on to Cocktail Slue where Uncle Jimmy’s cabin lay amazingly unscathed by the tornado. 
One could never miss Jimmy’s cabin because the boat house and dock were landmarks that were visible from long distances. We pulled up and docked. Then greetings and salutations were made with John, his wife Nicole, their son Jimmy, and an old high school friend of Nicole’s, DeAnna, and her daughter, Evynn. We lunched on ribs and chicken salad and various yummy stuff all spread out on the huge table with a lazy susan that John’s grandmother H.C. had put up there to serve the many mouths over many years.
It had been a very long time since I had been in the cabin and it was great to look around and remember what had happened where in the room, and to see what had changed and what had not. It was great to be with friends and family enjoying a summer day while baby Margaret explored the floor pulling up onto anything she found, including the cheese straws. Gracie did clean up.

 Lunch done, we were serenaded on the porch by Nicole, DeAnna, and Evynn by their guitars and their combined lovely voices. They have now been unofficially coined the Lake Martin Sirens. Little Margaret stood and danced and we all were mesmerized by their song as it floated over the July day out over the yard and across the water. It was a good day.

Thanks to DeAnna for the last two shots.. and for the songs 

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