Friday, October 23, 2009

The Sweet Smell Of Death

The famous Christmas Place lies half in the Mississippi Delta and half in the steep bluffs that stand above. It is over 2000 acres of farm and timberland. The history of the land is old with many strange tales and occurrences recorded from the time of the Indians, through the Civil War and up to today. I guess any property rich in history attracts stories like these, but what I am about to tell may be part of the answer to the reason that more than a few people have disappeared on this land never to be seen again.
Near the East end of the property is a large block of land covered in kudzu. Part of it was in fields years ago but it is completely covered in the kudzu vine now. Very little timber protrudes from the vines leaving a large opening in the woods. Toward the back edge of this open area a huge ravine about 200 yards wide cuts across the opening. This sheer drop off and gulley is covered with kudzu also but out of the middle of this ravine a small sharp kudzu covered hill rises steeply like a island, and at the top is a thick stand of what looks to be mimosa.
I had often thought over the years that it would be a perfect spot for a big buck to spend his days just watching and waiting ‘till dark so it could move. A perfect bedding area. This thought came to me one day in the spring and the thought that he would have shed his antlers there came to me also. That afternoon, I had some free time and made my way there with the 4-wheeler, made my way across the kudzu fields and parked at the edge of the steep drop off. I found deer trails there and worked my way down into the thick vines at the bottom of the huge gulley and worked my way up the steep slope of the isolated hill.
I stood at the edge of the mimosa thicket and looked around. The view was great in the sense that you could see anything move within 300 yards from where I stood and reinforced my belief that this is where the biggest buck on the property spent his days. I could see a quick moving storm heading my way and from where I stood, I could smell the sweet, strong smell of the thick mimosas. I worked my way into the thick grove of trees.
The smell was overpowering and almost sickening. I looked at the trees and realized they were not the mimosas I thought but some strange look-a-like. I guessed they were some family of the tree but now am not so sure.
I looked for antlers there and worked my way through the thick grove. Strangely, I did not find any deer trails or signs of life there. I circled through several times and then suddenly found myself on my knees, not realizing how I had fallen. The thick smell was all around me and I tried to clear my head but a minute or two later I was lying on my back almost unable to move. The cloying smell seemed to make it hard to breath and I knew if I could just take a nap, go to sleep for a few minutes, I would have the strength to get up and head back to the camp.
Lying there I could feel vines move around me, seeming to wrap me up gently and slowly pulling me into the soft earth. Lightning shot across the sky and I tried to get up but the vines seemed to be steadily wrapping around me, moving me, pulling me into the soft earth.
When I woke again, the rain was falling heavily. I was drenched as I came to. The first thing I noticed was that I could breath easily again, the sickening smell of the mimosas was gone. Looking around I saw that I was entangled, wrapped in layers of vines and my legs were half buried in the ground. The rain fell harder and I managed to work my pocketknife out and cut myself loose. As I cut, the vines holding me began to retract back into the soft ground. A few minutes later I was free and staggered off of that horrible little hill and back down into the ravine. Later, I got up the other side and onto my 4-wheeler, then back to camp where I spent the remainder of the day having a few drinks and reflecting on my narrow escape.
I spent part of the summer studying the hill from a distance. Maybe the large gulley around it was manmade and had held water 500 years ago. Whatever was there had been forgotten by modern man. I worked my way to the base of the hill and spent a lot of time cutting a wide circle around the hill with a jo-blade and when the kudzu died in the fall I went back with 2 cans of gasoline and set the hill on fire.
I will keep an eye on it but I will never go back on top of it again and I will always fear the sweet smell of mimosa in the woods.


MOM said...

Thank goodness it rained. Great story!

EcoRover said...

Lovely stuff, kudzu. We've only been on this continent a few hundred years--sure hope it can survive us & all the exotic weeds we bring with us.