Flumes Volume 2: Issue 1, Summer 2017 - Page 67

replaced the dance barn. We stopped at a shiny new Biscuitville for a Coke and spoke to the waitress who told us, yes, she remembered the Ranch from her girlhood, and yes, it had been right there.

“’Bout where the delivery vans park now,” she told me.

I looked back and narrowed my eyes to remember the cedars with pickup trucks pulled up underneath, stooped men in cloth caps passing paper bags and laughing softly under the sound of steel guitars. Bullfrog voices thudding in the night, night birds screaming, the sky so close you could almost smell the stars.

“Progress,” the woman said, and I nodded. B.J. wiped her eyebrows with her thumbs and shook her head. She had been a girl in love here. I had been a terrified, stubborn child. None of that was left, and neither of us knew how to speak about what we felt losing the landscape of our memories.

“It’s like it was another world,” we told each other driving away. “And now it’s gone. You’d think something so good, people would save a piece of it.”

****

There is a smell that has stayed with me all these years, a haunting smell of dusty moss, damp, split cedars, stagnant creeks, and salt-flavored evening breezes, that dreamlike landscape below Charleston, the wild open land around Greenville. In Charleston this past fall I smelled that landscape again, the landscape of memory and dreams. I had been sick for a week when I arrived, still sweating out a fever, but determined to see what a handful of stubborn people were trying to save from progress and neglect. At the ACE Basin Project I visited the same land where my mama had once told stories, where my uncle had laughed at the unpredictable nature of fish, where my sisters and I had run off into the wild to see whatever hid there. Unchanged, lush and safe, those old rice plantations still lay sheltering birds and wild grass and childish dreams.

“I thought all the places like this were gone,” I said to the friends I saw there.

“Would be if we didn’t work to keep them,” I was told.

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