We stayed a few nights at a free campground on the Altamaha River, which flows out through the “Golden Isles” of Georgia and out to the Atlantic.
The campground, called Barrington County Park is part of a recent effort by the government to bring visitors to the coast. There were brand new bathrooms with toilets and showers with cold running water, new LED security lights, and a brand new dock next to the boat launch.
We did some fixing and rigging in the van the first morning. We keep our gallon-size drinking water in the old microwave cupboard. Its hinges had come loose and so we had placed all the jugs on the floor. Of course they had been rolling around the back as we drove. Another drawer had a broken track. I swear as soon as we fix one thing, another thing breaks.
We did make a friend, Isabel. She was a black lab mix that belongs to the caretaker. She was friendly but a swarm of insects followed her wherever she went, poor thing. She hung around until the evening. We played frisbee with her and gave her water.
In the afternoon, we had a less genteel visitor. We were about to take a walk when a gold Ford Ranger pulled up next to us. The driver was a skinny shirtless man with tattoos up and down his arms, and two blue pitbulls on his chest. His passenger was a larger woman with short hair and glasses.
He asked how we liked the spot, and were there any new lights left on at night. We pointed up behind him to the pole with the new LED lights.
“Well that’s gonna get shot out. I ain’t puttin’ up with that.” He sounded a little drunk.
I assured him that light wasn’t that bad.
“Look. Y’all are Yankees. I’m a born and raised Georgia redneck. Y’all don’t understand”. Each of them had Budweiser can in hand.
He went on. “Did you know I used to be a bodybuilder? Until I was drinking and driving and wrapped my car around four oak trees. Oh yes. Broke my neck in three places. Doctors said I’d never walk again. But here I am.” He threw the beer can into the bed of the pickup and told the woman to open him another one.
“Ima tell you right now you’ll find catfish in this river bigger ‘an you darlin’. And I’m a good cook. If y’all are still here next weekend, I guaran-goddamn-tee I’ll cook you a pork loin so good you’ll slap your wife”.
Edd was not impressed by this comment and must’ve let the guy know it.
“All right den, you’ll slap your husband. I always marinate it, wrap it in foil, and let it sit on hot coals for 15, 16 hours. It’s gotta be real sof’ because, I ain’t got no teeth”.
And with that he opened his mouth wide and rapped on his gums with his knuckles. He was right. Not one tooth. He couldn’t have been much older than us.
“Anyways, I was head chef at the IHOP until dey told me I had to wear a beard net or shave. Nah, nah, in Georgia, a beard is like a religion. So I quit”.
The woman reaffirmed all his anecdotes. He could talk for days, I thought. And during the hour that he spoke, he drank four beers.
For some reason they both got out of the truck. The man was barefoot and could barely stand. Was it the car accident? Or the beer? Then I saw the catheter strapped to his ankle. He leaned on the hood of the truck.
The woman, Becky, got out her phone to show us pictures of their pitbulls, lying on the couch on top of her aunt. “That’s Hillbilly. He’s a lover. He’ll come over and…”
The man fell to the ground headfirst, as straight as a damn plank. He was on the ground cursing.
“Dammit, my ankle’s twisted. Help me pop it back into place.” His ankle and his knee were both popping out the wrong direction.
He looked at Edd. “Can you just push on my ankle for me?” With the same intonation as “Could you pass me the cheese?”
I Edd was really patient and helpful. Becky held the guy’s back straight while Edd tried, gently, to push. But it wasn’t easy.
Slowly Edd helped pull him up off the ground. When I couldn’t feel worse for the guy, he peed into his catheter.
Becky helped him get into the passenger’s side, thankfully; he shouldn’t have been driving. This woman seemed like a saint. She started driving away then, but we heard her yell, “Empty your catheter, David!” and they pulled over for a minute before they left the campground.
Later we met a woman who is traveling with her boyfriend around the states with her German Shepherd and two cats! Now I am jealous of that. They have been doing stand up paddle-boarding on the river every day.
Lots of people have been bringing boats to this spot to fish. We were going to try the kayak. The next morning, Edd blew it up and we explored the murky mangroves around us. The tree trunks look like ball gowns. Fish jumped up everywhere around us. There were sand banks on either side. I kept my eyes open for alligators but I didn’t see any.
But while I was running in the afternoon I saw a diamondback rattlesnake! I don’t know this of course. A woman who was driving by saw me try to scare it off. She backed up, and it looked like she was going to try to run over him. Then she got out of the car and said, “We’ll let it live this time”. Thank God. I didn’t want it to die like that.
Later, a group of kids camped up next to us, started yelling about a snake, and smashed the poor creature with tent poles until we heard them yell it was “day-ed” (oh, the “don’t tread on me” irony). Then they couldn’t figure out how to assemble their tent, so some of them slept in the bed of their truck. But they didn’t forget their confederate flag! The Che Guevara of the south. No one knows what it stands for, or they don’t really care to know.
We’re glad to have left the campground when we did. We really appreciated the free-and clean-showers and bathrooms. But us yankees didn’t want to overstay our welcome here! Time to beach it up!