Gone to the Swamp: Raw Materials for the Good Life in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta

Gone to the Swamp: Raw Materials for the Good Life in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta

Gone to the Swamp: Raw Materials for the Good Life in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta

Gone to the Swamp: Raw Materials for the Good Life in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta

Synopsis

To make a living here, one had to be capable, confident, clever and inventive, know a lot about survival, be able to fashion and repair tools, navigate a boat, fell a tree, treat a snakebite, make a meal from whatever was handy without asking too many questions about it, and get along with folks.

This fascinating and instructive book is the careful and unpretentious account of a man who was artful in all the skills needed to survive and raise a family in an area where most people would be lost or helpless. Smith's story is an important record of a way of life beginning to disappear, a loss not fully yet realized. We are lucky to have a work that is both instructive and warm-hearted and that preserves so much hard-won knowledge.

Excerpt

Latham, Alabama Winter 2002–2003

My Family and Friends:

An era has passed in which most of the families of North Baldwin County took their living directly from the land. They sowed seeds in the earth, harvested wild animals for food and skins, grazed their domestic animals on the wild grass, cut virgin timber, and transported its products to markets which were necessarily downstream. They were dependent on and at the mercy of seasons, weather, and chance.

The Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, “The Swamp,” was a rich source of raw materials for the good life, but it exacted its price from those who came to claim them—yellow fever, malaria, exposure to the elements, and backbreaking toil.

My parents and their forebears were of those who took from the swamp and paid its price. I took another path in life but observed and remembered some of what I saw. Today the delta bids fair to become a playground, a recreation area for those with leisure. I find this prospect fitting and proper.

Lately, I have felt the need to record—for those to come—some remembrances of a time when the delta was not a playground. the remembrances fill these pages.

Sincerely, Robert Leslie Smith . . .

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