16 December 2008

The Great Dismal Swamp, Part One

Several days ago, a rambling gentleman, a hobo, a tramp, a vagrant, a highwayman, a knight of the road, if you will, knocked on the door to my domicile. Always curious to learn news of the world, and generally amiable to homeless gentlemen, I opened my round door to him and invited him in for a peanut butter sandwich, according to the customs of his people.

After we sat for several hours in silence, the grizzled veteran of the hobo jungles eating his "sandwich" and the Distinguished Academician puzzling over this peculiar specimen of Americana, the bum, whom I shall call "Viscount Molesworth" (for obvious reasons), suddenly engaged me in a dialogue. Although it was difficult to comprehend his speech, what I took to be a pidgin of Okie slang, English, and Volapuk, I made out that he had recently been to the "great swamp" where, he claimed, "the criks (sic) run black" and a lake existed that was higher in elevation than the swamp surrounding it.
At first I dismissed these ramblings as the fever dream of a consumptive, but I then recalled an unlabeled jar of black water I had purchased from at an estate sale for Lesley Frost Ballantine, the daughter of poet and wall-building curmudgeon Robert Frost. The jar was advertised as having been a souvenir of a trip Frost took in his youth to the Great Dismal Swamp, a great malaria-ridden watery mystery on the border of North Carolina and Virginia after a feud with his high school sweetheart. I thought I even remembered a movie they made about Frost and the eccentric locals he met there:

Excited by this, and fed up with staring at the hobo and trying to deduce his painfully inflected sentences, I kicked said wanderer to the curb and investigated this strange natural phenomenon that attracted Tom Joads and adolescent literati alike. What I learned probably will not surprise you, especially if you are knowledgeable about Denture-Owning Founding Fathers, Colonial American Sex Addicts, Deciduous Conifers, Nineteenth-Century Women Abolitionist Novelists, and Enigmatic Private Military Companies. You are, you said? Well, I'm going to tell you about the GDS anyway.....in the next installment of the Curiosity Cabinet!


  1. I am literally on the edge of my seat waiting for more of this enchanting story. Please have mercy and tell us of the GDS soon. I am sure to perish if forced to wait any great length.


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