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 239: Corn Scorn

As she browsed the Emerald Victorian’s library preparing for the day’s tour, Laetitia ran across a book that she hadn’t seen before. It was a catalog from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. She never knew what she would find in the library. Perhaps the book had been there before. She knew that her grandmother and “the girls,” as they called themselves, had been to New York recently, but she didn’t know if they had gone to the Metropolitan Museum.

As she flipped the catalog pages, she saw a reproduction of Matinee de Septembre, or, in English, September Morn. It is an image of a nude young woman standing in a misty lake framed by a mountain backdrop. French artist Paul Émile Chabas painted it and first exhibited it in Paris in 1912. The woman’s arms tastefully cover her private parts, and the painting created no stir at the Paris exhibition, but when it appeared in the window of a Chicago art gallery the following year, the mayor charged the gallery owner with indecency. The art dealer won the lawsuit that followed, and the notoriety ensured the painting’s enduring popularity. But Laetitia was touring the western United States, more specifically Oklahoma, so she pulled out an Oklahoma guide book and planned the day’s tour.

Laetitia and her group visited Quartz Mountain Nature Park on the way to Corn, Oklahoma. Quartz Mountain is a part of the Wichita Mountain Range. Rising about 500 feet above its base, it is mostly granite, but has the quartz crystals for which it was named filling spaces between the other rocks. After some hikes in the park, the group went to Corn, where they were spending the evening. Corn has about 600 residents. It was settled by Russian and German Mennonites and was called “Korn” originally, until anti-German sentiment during World War I brought about its change to “Corn.”

Instead of her usual habit of going to a bar for happy hour, Laetitia found a park bench with a shade tree and sat there reading a book while she waited for dinner. A teenager named Peg walked by and stopped to talk. Laetitia asked her what she and her friends did for fun in Corn. Peg said, “There isn’t much to do here. We’re too young to go to bars to try to meet people. When we get bored, we all go skinny dipping over at Lake Crowder.” Laetitia thanked Peg and when she walked away, wrote down the limerick of the day in the notebook she always had in her purse.

Young Peg rued the place she was born
That small Sooner village named Corn
But when living got slow
In the lake she would go
With her friends dressed like “September Morn.”

Day 238: Cache Flash

Laetitia took her group to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge for some hiking and wildlife viewing. They found it a lovely area with rivers, lakes, rock cliffs, and grasslands with buffalo herds. The refuge is close to Fort Sill, where the famous Apache chief Geronimo is buried. Late that evening, the group arrived in Cache, where they were spending the evening. Cache is a small Oklahoma city of about 2,400 inhabitants.

In the motel bar during happy hour, Laetitia watched a man circulating among the crowd. He seemed very popular. When the bartender noticed that Laetitia was watching the man work the crowd, he said, “That’s Bob. He just inherited a lot of money when his father died. He’s popular with the ladies right now because he has a new car and is a big spender. But his cash won’t last long at the rate he’s spending it. He’ll find that he’s not so popular when it runs out.” Laetitia smiled and thanked the bartender. He had given her the limerick of the day.

Bob thought that the ladies of Cache
Found attractive his looks and panache
But it wasn’t his charms
That drew them in swarms
‘Twas the fact he was rolling in cash.

Day 236: Red Oak Joke

The day’s destination for Laetitia and her group was Red Oak, Oklahoma, a town that is home to about 600 people. The original town site was on land later given to the Choctaw nation. It is said that the town was named for a red oak tree that grew in the center of that settlement. Later the town was moved eight miles away to be alongside what became the Rock Island and Pacific Railway.

The group visited Wister and Robbers’ Cave State Parks. Tradition holds that the cave in the latter park was a hideout at various times for the Jesse James gang and Belle Starr, but the legend has been difficult to verify. When Laetitia and her group did their walkabout, they met a local man who told them about a thin woman who wished to be better endowed but couldn’t afford breast implants. On a dare, she chose an affordable alternative and everyone in town had a good laugh.

When a lady who lived in Red Oak
Stuffed balloons in her bra as a joke
She was so well endowed
That she drew a large crowd
But lopsided, alas, when one broke.