I took advantage of the beautiful clouds yesterday to drive up to the Venable Mound in Morehouse Parish. It sits on the bank of Bayou Bartholomew which is the longest bayou in the world, traveling over 300 miles from Arkansas to flow into the Ouachita River. Even today it’s one of the most diverse streams in North America so I imagine that when the moundbuilders lived there it was an even better place to build.
According to the mounds trail guide “ceramics from the site date to around AD 1200-1541 but excavations reveal that the site was occupied beginning between AD 400-700. Construction of the mound began sometime between AD 700-1200.”
There used to be three mounds there but this is the only one remaining. It sits between the 2-lane highway and the bayou, surrounded by acres and acres of farmland.
I circled the mound, photographing, changing lenses, buffeted by the gusty wind. The ground was soft from recent rain so I could bury the feet of my tripod slightly to help stabilize it. The trees that covered the island mound swayed back and forth, the weeds at my feet doing the same. The clouds were blowing across the sky, seeming to sift through the tips of the bare branches. I stepped away from the camera and looked around at the emptiness. It really felt as though I had come upon an island that had risen from an ancient sea.
I then noticed what first appeared to be a large dust storm growing from a distant field. I watched as the dust broke apart and became, not dust particles, but geese. Thousands and thousands of them. I left the mound and drove down a gravel road about a mile then walked down a turnrow for another half mile. Geese were everywhere. The noise was deafening. The scene amazing.
I watched for an hour or so as they shuffled back and forth along a flooded rice field. They would rise in a cloud, move a few hundred yards away, then settle back down into a white carpet that completely covered the ground. A turtle poked his head up from an adjacent ditch, glanced around at the sight then disappeared. Old hat to him I suppose. A real treat for me.
Thanks to Charles and Mike Venable for the honor of photographing the ancient mound on their property. And for giving me the opportunity to discover such a wonderful surprise. Lagniappe.