Friday, October 7, 2011

Sapling Fences in the Marsh

Many years ago when I had only been married to Bloodhound a short while, I had an encounter with livestock that was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.  Having been raised in Miami I wasn't accustomed to how farm animals sometimes escape.  On this Sunday morning I was driving down the long road that leads to our house, when off in the distance I could see a small herd of animals tip-toeing across the street. I slowed Bloodhound's beloved Bronco II, and tried to focus and figure out what kind of animal I was watching sneak off into the marsh.  It was a momma pig and her babies.

Now I knew I couldn't just let them go free but I also wasn't willing to herd them myself.  Plus, I didn't know where they belonged.  There weren't any obvious open pens and all I could see was a house surrounded by woods and the marsh.  Where had these creatures come from?  My city girl visions of farms consisted of rolling hills, white fences, and red barns.  I've since learned that the coastal regions of the south have a much different farm look.

I parked the car and approached the small country house knowing that I was going to be received with trepidation.  My lack of a southern accent was not going to help endear me to the person who opened the door, but I persevered anyway.  Sure enough I knocked and a small crack developed in the frame of the front door.  The voice was kind but very distrustful of the young stranger on the front porch.  "Uh, are those your pigs?" I asked, as I pointed toward the rear end of the last animal still in view.  I was not expecting the reaction that produced.

She jerked open the front door and burst out on the front porch in a flurry of aggrevation and general displeasure.  She was wearing slippers, a faded floral robe with buttons down the front and her hair was up in white curlers. I didn't understand every word she muttered but I did hear her say, "Every time he leaves them creatures escape."  She was waving her hands and screeching at them.  I didn't know if I should leave or try and help her.  At this point the pigs had crossed over to the marsh on the other side of the road and they were happily rooting away.  Getting down into the soft mud would be a waste of our time and we'd just end up stinky and covered in marsh muck.

As I contemplated what to do I spied the pig corral that they had escaped from.  Down over the edge of the yard where the yard grass met the marsh grass there was a gate.  And as I looked closely I could see the fence that ran through the marsh.  So this was what a coastal farm looked like.  No white fence, rather sapling posts connected with wire fencing.  She realized that getting them out of the marsh and back in their pen was not going to happen before church.  She kindly thanked me and I went on home to read the Sunday paper that had sent me on my ride that morning.

That was twenty years ago and the generation that raised a few hogs in the marsh has almost passed.  Most of them are too old to raise livestock, and their children buy their pork from the grocery store.  The road I speak of, is now becoming developed as people new to the area want to build their house on the marsh.  

Since this encounter with the pigs and their owner, I have started to ride my bike for exercise, and when I see these lonely fences running through the marsh I feel a bit of sadness in my heart.  The girl who grew up with under the blue skies and played in the crystal clear water of south Florida, has come to love the dark waters of the marsh and the sprawling oaks, heavy laden with spanish moss.  Yet, it saddens me to see the end of an era and I wonder if these new home owners will truly appreciate the history and the people who lived here when the road was a dirt one, and dinner came from the pen in the marsh and deer that were hunted in the woods.

This story linked at My Home Sweet Home for Camera Phone Friday.
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