As children grow older, it’s harder to impress them, but I was determined before Harrison returned for his Junior year in college, I’d spend a memorable, fun day with both boys. My husband does lots of he-man things with them, but I wanted a “Mom/boys” day that didn’t involve a trip to Dillard’s. I finally came up with the idea of taking them on an eco tour of the Mobile Delta.
I found 17 Turtles Outfitters who rent kayaks and paddle boards on Mobile Bay. They also provide excursions up into the deep reaching fingers of the Delta where five rivers converge. I was thrilled to realize local environmental expert Jimbo Meador would be our guide. I’d met Jimbo before when he appeared with his childhood friend and author, Winston Groom to celebrate the anniversary of Forrest Gump, and Jimbo was there to deflect (strong) rumors that many of the characteristics of Forrest were based on him. (Open your copy of Forrest Gump I know you have on your bookshelf, and you’ll see the book is dedicated to Jimbo).
This photo is from Mobile Bay Monthly and shows Jimbo with author Watt Key. Click HERE to read Watt’s story about Jimbo’s incredible experiences. One of my favorite things about Jimbo is that Paramount Studios sent a dialect coach to record him speaking to teach Tom Hanks how to sound like . . . Forrest Gump. It’s officially known in Hollywood now as the, “Point Clear Alabama dialect.”
Being avid photographers, both boys were anxious to capture the day. Harrison is in a “dark” phase and his photos, like this one above, turned out to have a dream-like quality.
Jimbo asked the boys if they wanted a check list to keep track of the birds they saw, but it sounded too much like school work for them. This was the quietest I’ve seen the two of them in a long time. They were taking it all in and observing every last detail.
At one point, we moved beneath the I-10 bridge, or “Bayway” as locals call it. (The boys always called the Causeway the, “Cars-way” – I know, they were adorable!). There was a slow moving, mean looking alligator that crossed right in front of us but didn’t seem to care a thing about us at all.
Joseph snapped this photo of the only wildlife that ventured inside the boat.
The Mobile Delta is the second largest delta in the United States and has been referred to by many biologists and ecologist the most biodiverse area in the world. The largest alligator on record was captured here two years ago and Jimbo said he’s recorded nearly 500 different species of birds.
The noise of the interstate faded quickly as we made our way further into the rivers. Hidden waterways, familiar only to Jimbo were the paths we took to move deeper into the hidden world of the Delta. Every now and then, Jimbo would cut the boat motor for a few minutes, and the silence was incredible. I wanted to sit still and listen all day to the hum of an insect, chirp of a bird, splash of a jumping fish . . . it was so different than my normal world and completely spellbinding.
Jimbo pointed out invasive grasses and plants that are choking the waterways. He showed us where Civil War cannons were pushed off a cliff and soldiers had built fortresses to guard the path from the Gulf of Mexico, up Mobile Bay and into the rivers. He showed us where his childhood friend’s family kept a houseboat where he spent many nights. We heard a story about how Jimbo won a nutria hunting contest and the part about Miss Nutria wearing nothing but a full length nutria coat cracked us up.
I was fascinated at the sight of wild rice growing in the Delta. To think the Delta hadn’t changed at all since the days when Native Americans floated along and gathered the grains, berries and fish. Jimbo pulled the boat up close to some rice and loaned me his pocketknife (which is a great honor and sign of trust) so I could lean over the bow and cut a stalk.
I generally have a good sense of direction, but after a while, I was totally turned around. I don’t see how Indians of long ago navigated these waterways with dugout canoes without getting lost. I guess that’s where all the navigating by the sun and moon came in. No matter which way we turned, I felt completely safe with Jimbo.
As quiet as the boys were on the boat, they were just as talkative on the way home. Not only were they impressed with Jimbo’s knowledge and stories, but they were truly impressed with the beauty of the Mobile Delta. It was the perfect end to a wonderful summer and an exiting start to the new school year.