A year or so ago I was driving along Hwy. 4 in Tensas Parish when I noticed a sign that said “Bob’s Campground.” And there was indeed a campground there with sites laid out in an orderly grid. It was full of old campers and trailers … vintage Shastas and Prowlers, rusty Airstream knockoffs with round windows and the occasional full-scale mobile home. And I couldn’t help but wonder … why? Why would so many people want to camp along Hwy. 4 in Tensas Parish? I vowed to go back one day and photograph my way to an answer.
I found myself there again a few weeks ago, along with my “Indian Mounds of Northeast Louisiana Driving Trail Guide”, and was astonished to discover an ancient mound in the rear of the campground. There was even a driving trail sign that I had overlooked before. “The Ghost Site Mound.” I was ecstatic.
I called the phone number on the wooden sign and spoke with Bob Himself, Mr. Robert Brumley. I told him I wanted to photograph the mound there and he graciously gave me permission and answered many of my questions about the place. It turns out the campers there are mostly on yearly leases. But why? Ah, they are hunting camps. I don’t hunt but find it somehow comforting that the mound is surrounded by people who, like the original inhabitants, still do.
I was greeted on my arrival by an inquisitive Basset Hound who, after getting her ears scratched and belly rubbed, was willing to tag along with me on the photo expedition. There are 3 (possibly 5) mounds at the site but only one is really large enough to see. It is about 11 feet tall and 118×92 feet at the base. It has a historic cemetery on top as so many of the ancient mounds do.
I climbed to the summit and read the text chiseled into the old tombstones. Jacob Bieller, October 30, 1824- April 11, 1851. Joseph B. Ford, March 20, 1839 – Dec. 29, 1857. Mr. Brumley told me a couple of the large and very heavy markers had tumbled off the mound over the years but he and his sons had hauled them back to the top and tried to replace them where they originally stood.
As I explored and photographed, a few of the campground inhabitants wandered by ferrying pots of food to a central location for cooking dinner. I listened to their muffled conversation and laughter and watched their dogs weave their way through all the activity. I knew that soon the aroma of spices and woodsmoke would fill the air and that later the families would sit under the night sky, tell stories and watch the firelight flicker in the darkness. And I knew that even though the living quarters and cooking methods were vastly different, the evening would be much the same as it had been for the ancient Coles Creek culture who had lived at the base of the mound a thousand or so years before.
Thanks to Mr. Brumley and his family for caring for this ancient site and for allowing me to photograph it.
The Ghost Site Mound, AD 700-1200