My impressions on the train begin to change in each passing mile. As if a picture caption was suffice, every new minute had a different title. We moved across fields of black-water marshlands. Trees grew out of water. Expansive bodies of farmland exist without crops growing; perhaps the harvest has passed. It feels like an underdeveloped Virginia landscape. There’s a unique smell of the swamp – profound and always present. Empty, one-lane roads belong to no one but the townies of rural America. Orange wisps of hair grow out of slivers in the prairie. A single baize horse grazes in a field meant for two. Next stop, Greenwood, Mississippi.
A goose flies alongside a stretch of submerged electric poles that lead to a Viking warehouse surrounded by cars and trucks. Greenwood, home of unused trains and tracks, home to scores of shoebox homes made of wood and tin, cars on the front yard, barren, uncared for, and people loitering like they did back in the Great Depression. The roads are flat and made of cracked gravel. It’s one of many thru-ways for major American industry; smoke-stack cities in power-line suburbs.
As we continue southward to New Orleans, more sights manifest in the morning. Little wisps of dust rise off the ground in a parade of soft, white clouds. I see my first alligator, sleeping in greenish-brown waters, alone perhaps, resting among the rocks and algae and fish too proud to care. Small streams of sand lead into small bending rivers. Vast open spaces of prairie are just waiting for a roaming pack of wildlife. In between the seemingly empty stretches are marks of established agriculture. People on the train are friendly and outgoing, ready to tell you about themselves and their stories of travel, life on the move, and subtle abstractions in relation to how things were compared to how they are now.