Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 12, 13 and 14
Tannehill Historical Ironworks State Park, McCalla, Alabama
I picked this park out based on its proximity to Birmingham. A couple of my closest friends live in Birmingham, and I’ve been there several times before. I like the city and I liked the idea of starting my trip off with a visit to them, too. Google led me to Tannehill; the name was cool; it looked like they had some kind of month long Halloween celebration, so I thought, hey, I’ll stay there! It’s not that far from Birmingham! It turns out to be about 40 minutes from Birmingham, which is a little farther than I was expecting, but hey, that’s okay.
What I wasn’t expecting was that I would land in the middle of a Halloween theme park. When I say these RVs are decorated, you probably think, oh, they have some Halloween lights, right? Maybe a pumpkin? HA HA! IT IS TO LAUGH!
I had to decorate my camper too, in self defense, at least as far as $15 and 20 minutes would take me. Fortunately, my wardrobe passes for Halloween decorations, so it was easy.
I am camped right smack DAB in the middle of this chaos. There are trucks and umpteen children on bikes and walking gawkers (of whom I am one, most definitely) small dogs and one lady who has about 12 cats camped outside her camper, literal cub scout troops and cranky tweens with inexplicable balloon bouquets. There are teenagers leading each other about on chains. There are entire cemeteries. There are life size inflatable dragons. There are mummies and vampires and generalized Scary Dudes with chainsaws. There are tree monsters and undead who sit up from their life size coffins.There are cackling witches and projected flames and cauldrons with wicked witch feet kicking from them. And, to top it off, every other camper has a wide screen TV outside showing the football game and a bevy of fans parked in front. This is major league Halloween, here. This is HALLOWEEN and these people are SERIOUS. While I was napping this afternoon a couple stopped by to try to get me out of my coveted space so they could put their 30 foot in. “When are you leaving?” they said, “We’ll be watching!” They didn’t try bribery. I could totally have been bribed. Then a pickup with two couches in the back went by, because hey, you need your couches at the campground.
It is INSANE and, frankly, kind of delightful. If I had small children with me I would be in gravy. The kids here are having an amazing time. But I am probably the only single person here and I am being looked at funny. It’s worse than Hot Springs. .People have, of course, been nice, and my camper has drawn quite a lot of attention, since it is so small. There is a huge market for small campers, America. Seriously, RV manufacturers, I get SO many comments and compliments and people stopping to say, ooooh, where did you get it and what kind is it and where can I get one? I want a small camper, just for me.
I stayed at Tannehill for three days – I got there late on a Wednesday evening and left around noon today, which is to say Sunday, October 15. On Thursday two of my Birmingnham friends came out to see me and then on Friday I went into the city to see them. It made me nervous, just up and leaving Amelia all by herself surrounded by Halloween, but it was fine. And I had a wonderful time in the city. We ate exotic Chinese food! We went out drinking! Oh gods we went out drinking some more! Mistakes were made! There was tequila! Yes, it was super fun and thus Saturday, for which we had great plans, was a dead loss. I came back to Tannehill early Saturday morning, pausing only to buy french fries and a very large Coke and then I spent the day in bed eating junk food and reading Andrea Camilleri Italian detective novels while literally thousands – okay, maybe not thousands but definitely high hundreds – of people walked and drove and biked around my camper, pausing almost every time to check it out and comment. I get, now, why campers come with blackout curtains and I am SO glad I didn’t rip them out.
I liked Tannehill a lot, cub scouts, tvs, football, small train (did I mention the small train? There is a small train! It is red and goes WHOOO WHOOO. It goes WHOOO WHOO all, in fact, damn day.) and all, right up until the people a couple Rvs down put up a big stars and bars. That I can no longer take and so I left.
Look, inasmuch as I grew up anywhere, I grew up in Charleston, SC. I have lived in the South almost my entire life. I have ridden in pickup trucks with the stars and bars on the back window; I have considered joining the daughters of the Confederacy; I have been known to refer to The Late Unpleasantness and the War of Northern Aggression. And when I did those things, I was wrong. Flat out fucking wrong. Completely wrong and I’m sorry. And I admit it and I am happy to see the statues of Lee and Grant et. al., go down. I will not fly that flag. The war was about slavery (ok, small caveat: it was about economics, because all wars are about economics – people just aren’t principled enough en masse to really go to war for ideals, sorry, if they were we wouldn’t have so many wars – but slavery was the giant economic engine in question.) It is twenty fucking seventeen now. We know better. There are no excuses for the Confederate battle flag unless you are a flat out racist and if you are, then if I believed in hell, I would say that you will burn in hell for eternity and you will deserve it. Meanwhile, I hope your life on earth is unhappy. And this is fine and principled talk, but rather than confronting them, I decided to just leave. I am a sorry ass wimp.
Also, while I liked Tannehill, and I liked the old ironworks and I liked the cabins, I didn’t like the fact that none of the interpretive signs (that I saw; I never went into any of the historic cabins – I hope to return some day and do that) mentioned slavery. This eliding of the truth will not do anymore. I wrote about this in Virginia at the plantation I visited and it holds just as true: this was built with slave labor. Talk about the slave labor, goddamn it. Own it. Hold it up to the light and let us look at it. Otherwise this shit will just go on festering and people who are probably completely well meaning will continue to fly the stars and bars above their giant stable of inflatable Peanuts characters in vampire makeup.
That was Tannehill and that was Alabama. On to Mississippi!