It had been over a year since I first heard of the Hogan Plantation mounds that I finally found myself turning down the dirt road that I thought, maybe, led to them. I stopped at the first house I came to, got out of the car and knocked at the front door. No answer. I drove to the second house. Same thing. So I wrote a quick note about my project, attached a business card and tucked it into one of the mailboxes. And waited.
About a week later I got a call from one of the landowners saying she would be delighted for me to come back and photograph the mounds. So a couple of days later I made the return trip, arriving mid-morning on a warm November day.
I was met by Melissa Cummings, one of the owners of the site, who graciously offered to give me a guided tour of the two mounds that reside on her family’s property. She got in her Jeep and I followed in my ancient Honda and we struck out down the dirt road, past the fallow cottonfields, around the muddy ruts, over the levee, along the edge of the thick woods then, finally, into the thick woods where the weeds grew taller than the hood of my car. We got out.
Melissa immediately told me to be careful of the water moccasins and rattlesnakes. She said there were also copperheads but not to worry about them since I would probably step on one before I would see it anyway. She also mentioned ticks that carried Lyme disease as well as mosquitoes with West Nile virus. And then she tossed me an orange vest saying there were inexperienced hunters in the woods that day and that I should make as much noise as I could. I wished I had at least worn my boots.
We climbed to the top of Mound B which rises from a terrace of the Ouachita River and is home to a small cemetery and a simple deer stand. Melissa got me oriented, showed me the historic gravestones and made sure I was settled into my surroundings before leaving me to explore and photograph in peace. Or relative peace. I decided to whistle intermittently to announce my presence, not that I really thought it was doing much good.
Mound B is approximately 20 feet tall and though it is oval-shaped now, it was probably once a rectangular platform mound. It is surrounded by dense, tangled woods but it would have risen above a clearing when it was active during the Coles Creek period. It has partially eroded into the floodplain of the river that meanders just south of the site.
The first known recorded account of the Hogan mounds was by a geologist in 1902. At that time Mound B was estimated to measure 100 x 50 feet at the top. It’s always strange for me to stand alongside history, alongside an ancient past as well as the more recent explorations of archaeologists and other scientists. Just another speck in the long, long continuum.
On the other side of the modern levee is the sister mound, Mound A. It is shorter, roughly 15 feet, and is conical-shaped with a flat top. That top is roughly 35 feet across, large enough for a picnic table and nighttime hot dog roasts and ghost stories. Unlike Mound B, it is surrounded by farmland that still has clumps of cotton mixed in with the well-turned dirt.
I spent over an hour walking the mounds, scrambling to the summits, surveying the perimeters, whistling. But it wasn’t until I crawled up on the picnic table, stretched out on my back and gazed up at the sky that I finally felt a part of the site. My view included trees that wouldn’t have been there during ancient times but I’m sure the November sky was the same and maybe even the wonder at the amazing gifts that can be found beneath it.
Thanks to Melissa Cummings for her gracious hospitality and Dr. Diana Greenlee for providing me with the information on the site.