Wednesday, October 7, 2015

1869 Fishing Excursion to the Amite River

Poem by Belle Tisdale,

Poem by Belle Tisdale,

In this poem about a family fishing excursion Belle Tisdale paints a vivid picture of a trip to the Amite by the Pratt, Tisdale, Craig, and other families. The winding Amite River, pronounced A-meet in Louisiana, flows south just a few miles east of the Pratt farm. It is still a popular fishing place today.

There is no date on the page but the ink handwriting matches Belle's letter of April 27, 1869, in which she writes  "...we intend to go to the Amite next Friday to stay all night and all next day and come home late in the evening; ..."  

[Original, 7 3/4" x 9 3/4" paper, written in ink on both sides of the page. There is an imprint in top left corner, the word “CONGRESS” with a domed building. Transcribed as written.]

On our fishing excursion

Twas early in the morn we started,
On that gay and happy tour;
All of us were merry hearted,
But of that you will feel sure,
When I tell you all that happened,
From the time we left our door.

The Sun had set, when all drew near;
The tent and two large fires,
Uncle Jenie, Uncle Emm,
My sister and my cousin,
Were seated on an old dead tree,
Which near our camp had fallen.

Now at a loss for what to do,
We thought we'd have some fun;
Some one says, suppose we dance!
No sooner said than done,
We yelled and whooped & shouted: Jack!
Till he came and danced on the wagon back, which served us as a floor.

Next came Frank who danced so light,
You could scarcely see him move;
Then Henry, well! To look at him,
Would be to much for you.

After that they sung some songs,
Which were funny to be sure,
We had no solemn things with us,
They are to much of a boor.

Then all retired for the night,
Except Eugene and George,
They rowed down to their set lines,
And found they'd caught two gars.
                                       By Belle.

Many years later Belle's younger brother Robert Tisdale reminisced about the trips to the Amite in a letter he wrote to Belle in 1929:

"...I would like to get a drink of water from the blue spring that comes out from under a big tree on the edge of the ravine. Lining the edge of the ravine just back of where we built the house was where the Federal troops built their dutch ovens in the ground when they went out there in 1878 to get away from Yellow Fever, and around the base of the big tree up on the bluff on the other side of the ravine was where the path wound that led to the Amite; it came out under the beech trees where we used to camp when Grandpa and Uncle Genie and you and all of us, went out there on our fishing trips. I can call up in my mind right now just how it all looked both in summer and in winter."

I can call it up in my mind, too, the golden sun sinking into the shadowy trees along the Amite River. I can almost smell the crackling fires and hear the buzz of the locusts. The beech trees and the moss-draped oaks and the sweet-smelling magnolias would cast long shadows toward the wagon. The first weekend in May would have been a pleasant time in south Louisiana for a camping trip, not too hot yet and not many bugs.

Belle mentions Uncle Jenie, Joel Eugene Pratt, and Uncle Emm, Emmett Craig, cousin Kate's father, as well as her sisters and brothers. Belle and Mary sit on a fallen tree with Uncle Jenie and Uncle Emm and watch the campfires after sunset. Perhaps little Lee and Robert sat in their laps while brothers Frank and Willie gathered fallen branches to feed the fire...a timeless scene easy for any camper to picture. 

It would have been a time to forget about the turmoil of reconstruction and the problems that were separating Belle's family.

Post a Comment