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Chapter 10: in the swamps.

  • In the swamps.
  • -- discouraged. -- a Fat frog. -- Flint river. -- a Borrowed canoe

While we were making efforts to flank the swamp, the sky was overcast with clouds. It became so dark that we could not see at all, so we were compelled to stop. We felt around in the dark and ran against a large tree, at the root of which we reclined and waited for day.

As the darkness began to turn to a leaden gray, it began to rain. Slowly and in small drops at first, but soon gaining till it rained hard. All the leaves were dripping, and we were soaked and chilled in a short time; [93] and yet the rain showed no sign of quitting.

We took the blues and grumbled, murmured and were on the point of quarreling with each other. Everything was wrong. We had not found a thing to eat all nighthad no hope of finding anything in that jungle; and if the rain and clouds continued we could not leave it the coming night, for we would have no guide for our course unless the sun or stars should appear, and by the next morning we would probably be too weak to walk.

When Elijah ran into the wilderness to escape the idolatrous Jezebel, he took the blues, and thought, he had better be dead. Instead of reasoning with him, God fed him. And while Tom and I sat dripping, chilled and empty in that swamp, I think our despondency belonged more to our physical than to our mental condition.

As we reclined at the root of the tree, a large green frog came hopping through the wet leaves and moss. We did not philosophize and draw a lesson from his progress, as the Tartar chieftain did from the ant; [94] neither did we draw the Christian's lesson of trust, that if God feeds the frog in the jungle, he will care for us. But Tom said, “let's have him,” and falling his length, covered the reptile with his broad palm. To divide him with our thumb nails was the work of an instant; to eat him took but a minute more. There were no fragments to be taken up after the meal.

One frog could not satisfy our appetite, but it stopped the gnawing of the stomach and the ringing in the head. We liked it.

The rain ceased, and after noon the sun appeared occasionally through the clouds. We flanked the swamp, waded a wide, sluggish creek, waist deep, and worked through a canebrake before night.

We came to a cornfield, and about sundown we climbed the fence. The corn had been gathered, but we searched till we found one ear that had been missed, which we ate. We found some dry beans also among the cornstalks, and ate a few of them, but they were not palatable in their new state: and, as we had no means to cook them, we ate but few. [95]

We crossed corn and cotton fields that night, following the rows to keep from being turned from our course, as the stars did not show. We estimated the distance across these fields at four miles. The country was level, and the fields were muddy from the rain; so, by the time we had crossed them and run into a canebrake on the west side, we were tired enough to lie down.

The next morning was foggy, and stands out in memory as eminently the morning that we fought gallinippers. That pest of the swamp seemed determined to take what little blood we had, and we fought to save it.

After a while the fog floated off, and the sun shone brightly. We picked a place and lay in the sun till we dried our clothes, which had been wet for twenty-four hours.

On the other side of this canebrake was a cornfield, in which we found three or four ears, and ate a good mess. We followed the cane to where it merged into a thicket, in which we found wild grapes. This thicket was in a narrow slough running between [96] cleared fields. It was not more than fifty yards wide. While we were gathering the grapes we heard a gun not very far away. We crept into the thickest bushes near, and lay flat on the ground. Soon a man, carrying a gun, passed along the edge of the field, not more than twenty yards from us. He was the first human being we had seen since we left the train. The sight made us nervous for awhile; but after hearing two shots a good distance up the thicket, and waiting awhile, we crept out and continued our journey down the slough.

Traveling in a thicket is slow work,creeping under, climbing over, crowding through the vine-tied bushes. But we kept at it till all at once we stood on the bank of a broad, smooth-flowing river.

What river is it? We ransacked our meager knowledge of Georgia geography. It must be Flint River; and yet if it is, we are not where we thought we were. We had not been carried as far by rail as we thought. It was Flint River.

One thing was certain: the river lay in our way, and must be crossed; and we [97] thought it best to prepare to cross before dark. The banks were lined with birch and cane. We started up stream under cover of this growth, hunting for driftwood to build a raft. We found a little path, and followed it till it turned down the bank. There we found an old dug-out, or log canoe, chained to a tree and locked.

We waited patiently for twilight to settle over river and timber. I found a piece of clapboard for a paddle. Tom took a stake and pried out the staple that fastened the chain to the boat. The owner doubtless found his lock and chain all right, but his canoe was like the dog whose master tied him to the rear car, thinking he could trot along behind the train.

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