Sunday, January 29, 2006

Traveling Home [CCR]

If you travel any on an airplane you probably know the feeling that time stands still from the time the captain says you are getting near your destination until you actually land. I actually catch myself verbally counting off the seconds from the time the captain makes the announcement until we actually land just to see how accurate he can estimate. But there is one trip where I find myself hoping that period of time lasts forever. Flying in to the Muscle Shoals airport is one of the best trips I make because I get to fly over home. And from up there you are reaffirmed that we are truly blessed.

After growing up in western Colbert County it is easy to spot the mouth of Bear Creek from the sky and you know home is nearby. My daughter traveled with me on my last flight to Muscle Shoals and I just couldn’t show her everything fast enough. Once we reach Bear Creek we begin flying over some of the very green fertile woods where James Thompson and I spent many nights coon hunting. There is no telling how many coons we treed in Hog Hollow or Airplane Hollow. We circle across the Tennessee River where Dad and I spent many Saturdays in our small flat bottom boat and “20 horse” Johnson catching some of the best fish around. To the right is Waterloo and to the left is Freedom Hills, arguably the best hunting grounds around.

As the plane descends a little further you can take a close look to the right and see the Natchez Trace and Colbert Park. When I was growing up we spent many days down at that park picnicking and swimming. I can remember traveling down with our inner tubes in the back of our truck and circling the park just to find a parking spot. Somewhere out there just off the shoreline is my mother’s high school ring, lost by my sister during one of our many adventures out in the river. And best of all, it was an easy bicycle ride from the house just in case you couldn’t catch a ride down to the river.

Further in the distance you catch a glimpse of Cherokee, and directly below us Cherokee Nitrogen, originally know as Armour. While it still provides a living for quite a number of home folks, you can see the skeletons of its bigger days and the missing phosphate plant. But, nevertheless, it continues to supply the fertilize for the supple green fields back home.

Now we circle around over Lauderdale County were you see the checkered farm fields through which I traveled when attending the University of North Alabama. And to the right the towering stacks of Colbert Fossil Plant, which we always knew as Colbert Steam Plant, and its new neighbors including SCA. Some of the biggest fish from my childhood was in the waters around the “Steam Plant”.

As we descend a little more we begin to see the towns. Florence on the left and the Tri-Cities on the right. Yes, the landscape has changed a little, but it is the same. Who could miss the engineered structure of O’Neal Bridge now joined by its new friend to carry traffic? And then we circle to our destination and we cross the TVA reservation. Here we again see the remnants of the great factories that once supplied nitrate products for both the fertilizer industry and even once our very defense. It is nice to notice TVA has preserved some of the more historic buildings. And don’t forget to glance again to the left before you circle to catch the majestic Wilson Dam, an engineering marvel when built that will no doubt stand long after most of us are gone. Joining these industrial marvels are the historic buildings of Wise Metals and Occidental Chemical who now contribute to our industrial needs but also once supported our defense.
Yes, a trip home does provide a marvelous view of memories. My trips have given me overhead views of Niagara Falls, Washington, D.C., New York City, the tunnels and byways of the Appalachians, the Rocky Mountains, and the painted deserts of the Western United States. All of these views may be considered magnificent. But, a flight home that shares some of my best comfort memories with my daughter far exceeds any other trip one can take in a lifetime. If you ever get the chance, take that short flight from Memphis to Muscle Shoals. With a little luck, you will see a whole lifetime of memories pass within a few moments and you too will realize we are truly blessed