aga2

10

JEAN LAFITTE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK AND PRESERVE - MARRERO, LOUISIANA

Covered in lichens, garlanded by Spanish moss comes this delta dispatch from photographer Elena Ricci:

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is located in Marrero, Louisiana, just south of New Orleans.

Sweeping landscapes of marsh reeds, palmetto thickets and soaring cypress trees make this park a prime example of the uniqueness of Louisiana’s Mississippi delta region. Hidden amongst the vegetation are critters, large and small, playing the predator and prey game on a picturesque backdrop. Great horned owls, vultures, alligators, boars, raccoons, rabbits, spiders and snakes are just a few of the animals that call this beautiful swampland home.

Visitors welcome, their door is always open.

[Some 35mm film, some 120mm film, some digital and some cell phone; All swamp.]

* * *

Elena Ricci is a photographer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana. Most of her photography focuses on the South, but she travels far and often. As an ongoing collaborative, she makes up one fourth of the lady photo ensemble Southerly Gold. Find Elena’s website at elenaricciphotography.com and follow her on Tumblr at elenaricciphotography.tumblr.com.

5

SNAKES - CENTRAL ALABAMA 

Forty odd species of harmless and beneficial snakes and three types of poisonous reptiles—the coral, the moccasin, and the rattler—live in Alabama.

—Alabama: A Guide to the Deep South (WPA, 1941) 

Rural Alabamians have long grappled with the presence of poisonous snakes.  With the exception of the coral snake, the majority of these deadly reptiles are pit vipers, which means that they have heat-sensitive organs (or pits) on their heads and moveable fangs—both of which enable them to target warm-blooded creatures with uncanny accuracy.  Rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths are Alabama’s pit vipers

In central Alabama, the most commonly encountered pit vipers are copperheads and rattlesnakes. To escape the sweltering summer heat, snakes nest in places that are cool, quiet, and dark.  The raised wooden porches typical of older Southern homes happen to meet these specifications, and as a result, facilitate unwanted interactions.  A number of families have lost pets because of poisonous snakebites.

In rural areas, fear of snake encounters influences daily life. Many carry a snake stick even when walking the roads. This stick varies in length and width, but must be quite sturdy and at least 4 feet long. Farm hands put on thick hunting boots or cowboy boots before heading out to harvest crops.

When farmers traverse the thick vines of their watermelon fields, it is with a slow, cautious gait and a watchful gaze. The stick is used to rustle the vines along the path. Summer is not only prime harvesting season, but it is also prime snake season. If residents come upon a non-poisonous snake, such as the rat snake or corn snake, they usually toss it aside with the stick. These snakes are known to eat vermin, so they often prove more useful than harmful.

Venomous snakes are subject to a very different treatment. Those who live in snake country will tell you that there is an art to killing a snake. If you are in a car, you have to brake just as you run over the snake, reverse your car, and repeat.  When using a stick, you must aim solely for head. If you are using a pistol, ensure that you are a safe distance away and that you aim at an angle that minimizes the risk of ricochet. They see the killing of poisonous snakes as a moral obligation, especially if the reptiles are near homes or communities. In doing so, they feel that they are potentially saving a life.

After killing the snake, the man or woman gathers the dead snake and takes it to show to relatives and friends. The circle of spectators will closely examine the dead snake, comment on its size, and ask where it was killed. They will discuss how the weather has affected hunting patterns and growth.  The owner of the dead snake will usually take the rattles as a keepsake. Part warning and part boast, this display reminds children and adults alike that they must be careful in their comings and goings because danger lurks all around.

Guide Notes: All photos were taken by April Dobbins in Greensboro, Alabama.

  1. Copperhead – Killed after emerging from under a porch.
  2. Water Moccasin above, Rattlesnake below. A man killed the water moccasin while he was fishing. He discovered the snake on the bank beside him. The snake was eating the man’s catch.
  3. Dr. T’s Snake-A-Way – Snake repellent on a porch.
  4. Stuffed Snake on a Bedside Table – Stuffed Rattlesnake in a Bedroom.
  5. Rattlesnake in a Driveway – my daughter examines a dead rattlesnake in a driveway.

° ° °

April Dobbins is a Guide to Alabama and the Southeast. Born and raised in Alabama, she is a writer and photographer. Though she has lived just about everywhere, she can’t seem to shake her Southern.  She currently resides in Miami, Florida, and is at work on Alabamaland, a documentary project about African-American farm life in rural Alabama.

Find her on Tumblr at aprilartiste.tumblr.com and on her website at aprildobbins.com.

7

THE BLOSSOM AND THE VINE (and the Racoon) - TENNESSEE

Perhaps the best known of the mountain flora is the rhododendron, ranging in color from white to deep purple. At Roan High Bluff (6,287 altitude), is a rhododendron garden, an outstanding display of the shrub in its natural setting.

Tennessee, A Guide To the State (WPA, 1939)

To share the plant and animal life of Tennessee, your Guide Tammy Mercure sends along blooms, creepers, and the unofficial mascot of American Guide Week for Field Assignment #2 - Flora and Fauna:

The rhododendron images are from the Rhododendron Festival on top of Roan Mountain. The festival tends to hit with the blossoms every other year. When they bloom with the festival it is magical—dense fog and beautiful pinks.

Then I have a couple photos of kudzu, the plant that ate the South. In the summer it can grow as fast as one inch a day. My first winter here, seeing how dead it looked, I was convinced the plant had become eradicated, but it greens up every spring.

The state animal of Tennessee is the raccoon. I found this poor little guy dead and clutching a Frito. I have several theories to how this happened, but none are very plausible.

* * *

Tammy Mercure is a State Guide to Tennessee. She was named one of the “100 under 100: The New Superstars of Southern Art” by Oxford American magazine.

Follow on Tumblr at tammymercure or on her website, TammyMercure.com. Support her work at TCB Press.