Day 510: Down Under

It was a dismal morning. A slow, steady rain was falling, and Laetitia held a raised umbrella as she walked down Raglan Road toward the Emerald Victorian, clad in a raincoat and boots. Although some might find such a day depressing, Laetitia didn’t, because it was her almost day off. It had been about thirty days since she had had her last break from leading a tour, so she was due for another one. She still had to post a limerick, but she didn’t need to lead a tour. She ascended the front steps onto the porch, shook the water off her umbrella, unlocked the big front door, and went inside.

A bit later, with a steaming cup of coffee in her hand, she walked around the library, scanning the book titles as she tried to think of the day’s limerick. There was something comforting about being surrounded by books on a rainy day. Laetitia was tempted to browse the collection until she found a book she liked and then spend the day reading it, but she had to write a limerick first. Then it occurred to her that she ought to check her email.

When she did, she found no emails from Mind’s Eye headquarters—wherever that was—but there was one from her grandmother who was traveling in Australia with “the girls,” as she called her circle of friends her own age. The email read, “We’re having a great time and wish you were here. I know you’re not leading a tour today, but you still have to post a limerick, so I took the liberty of writing one for you.” Laetitia smiled, posted the limerick to the Mind’s Eye website, poured another cup of coffee, pulled out a book, settled into an overstuffed chair, and began to read.

Yank ladies, it’s time to regale ya
‘Bout manners of speech in Australia
Where skivvies ain’t underwear
But turtlenecks, and be aware
Your fannies are your genitalia.

Day 497: Bay Minette

Sipping a cup of French roast coffee in the Emerald Victorian library, Laetitia decided this would be their last day in Alabama. She and her group started the day in Mobile and visited the antebellum Bragg-Mitchell Mansion first. John Bragg, a Mobile judge built the house in 1855. Their next stop was the Mobile Carnival Museum, which highlights the history of Mardi Gras. Mobile claims to be the birthplace of the festival. The group’s final stop was at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. The ship saw action during World War II. Afterward they went to Bay Minette, where they were spending the evening. It’s a town of about 8,000 that began in 1861 as a junction for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. Minette was the surname of a French surveyor who once worked in the area.

After dropping her group at the hotel with a meeting time for going to dinner, Laetitia went to a local Irish pub. The man sitting at her left at the bar was studying the history of the French in the area and was a great source of local lore. He said that little would be known about the town’s surveyor, Minette, except for the diary of a French crony who owned a local drinking establishment. According to the diary, Minette was a well-known carouser and raconteur in addition to being a surveyor. Obviously he had a first name, but unfortunately it has become enshrouded in the mists of time, likely because his drinking friends mostly knew him by the nickname they gave him, “Faire.” He had left his wife, Yvette, behind in France. Having finished his work in Bay Minette, he had moved west in search of new adventures when she came looking for him. Unable to find her husband, she made the best of things with a young lad from the local community, even though they had a language barrier. Laetitia decided to make her story the limerick of the day.

When a pretty French housewife, Yvette
Searched in vain as she sought Faire Minette
She soon found a lad young
Who despite his strange tongue
Was in Bay Minette her surest bet.

Day 491: Rain in Fort Payne

It was a beautiful sunny morning. The green, white, and orange banner atop one of the Emerald Victorian’s turrets floated in a gentle breeze. But Laetitia’s thoughts turned from sun to rain when she read the label on the packet of coffee beans, “Costa Rican Rainforest Blend.” When she walked into the library with a steaming cup of it in hand, she was still thinking of the hundreds of inches of rainfall that fall in Costa Rica every year atop the ridge where the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean air meet. But she needed to plan a tour in Alabama, not Costa Rica.

Fort Payne, Alabama, was the day’s destination. Before going there, Laetitia and her group went to Desoto State Park to hike. Waterfalls and wildflowers are among the lovely natural scenery found in the park. Afterward they went to the Little River Canyon National Preserve close to Fort Payne.

The city of Fort Payne is built on the site of a former Cherokee village. Sequoyah, who invented a writing system for Cherokee language, lived there for a time. In 1830, Major John Payne built a fort there that was used to intern the Cherokees until they were relocated in Oklahoma. The “Trail of Tears” was the name given to this forced exile.

Laetitia’s usual practice was to drop her guests off at their lodging and give them some time to relax before dinner. Then she went someplace, usually to a bar, to write the day’s limerick. She didn’t feel like going to a bar today, so she went to a local park and sat on a bench, where she heard some teenagers talking about two of their friends. In a quirky kind of way, their conversation made her think of her grandmother’s stories about being a college student during the days of in loco parentis, when dormitories were segregated and had house mothers and young ladies had 10:00 p.m. curfews. The present story made her think of in loco parentis with Mother Nature acting as parent.

The cool plan of young Bob from Fort Payne
To make love to Pat in a storm drain
Quite soon was aborted
For, alas, it was thwarted
By a deluge of down-pouring rain.

Day 483: Livestock

As Laetitia unlocked the big front door and walked into the Emerald Victorian’s kitchen, she found beside the grinder a packet of coffee beans labeled “Mississippi Muddy Bottom Dark Roast, Natchez Coffee Company.” Another coincidence, since she was touring on the Natchez Trace again today. She had long ago decided not to probe the coincidences and to enjoy the mystery.

Laetitia and her group went southwest along the Natchez Trace Parkway, stopping to hike on the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail when opportunities presented themselves. At Kosciusco, Mississippi, they left the Natchez Trace and headed south, passing through the Bienville National Forest, 279 square miles of woodland forested mostly with pine and oak. After an additional hike there, the group went on to Mize, their destination for the evening.

Mize is home to slightly less than 300 inhabitants. It features an annual watermelon festival that includes country music, a car and truck show, and a watermelon eating and seed-spitting contest. The proximity of Mize to Jackson and the Mississippi State Fairgrounds makes it a popular location for livestock breeders and traders. Livestock auctions and shows are a common feature in the area. Not surprisingly, the livestock business was the focus of most of the talk around the bar where Laetitia went for her pre-dinner drink. The gossip at the next table was about the prize-winning specimen of a female livestock trader in town who specialized in equine animals. When Laetitia took her group to dinner that evening, the woman was the subject of the day’s limerick.

The ass of a lady from Mize
Was of perfect proportion and size
And was widely renown
In the county and town
And at each livestock show won first prize.