The morning began with a lovely walk down the main street of Nachitoches along the Cane River. The French influence in the area is plainly evident. There were lots of wrought iron rails and flowering pots as well as huge shade trees and locals quietly fishing along the river banks. Two very friendly women in the National Historic Site Welcome Center gave us a little overview of the area and told us that Magnolia Plantation was closed today, but if we wanted to see one, Oakley Plantation was closest and it was open. So, off to Oakley Plantation we went.
The Antebellum South is not one of my favorite places or time periods, but it is a sad part of our collective history. As a time in history it is worthy of study just so we make sure we are never inclined to make the same mistakes again. We arrived just as a tour of the main house was starting. At first, I didn’t want to go, and then I changed my mind. The Oakley Plantation land was owned and farmed by one family for over 200 years and evidence of their lives still exists. The house was a mixture of French influence in the furnishings and early American in structure. Most interesting, and saddest for me, was to learn that the slaves that tended to the family, the nanny, the nursemaid and the cooks, lived UNDER the house on the dirt floor and entered the house by a ladder and a trap door that opened in the floor of the main house. How is it possible that we could have thought such living conditions adequate while we enjoyed the comforts of life in the house?
We were guided through the house by Dayisha, a National Parks intern and history major, who was an excellent guide and teacher. Here she is explaining about the “Shoo Fly” ceiling fan. While the family was eating, the fan would be lowered and a slave child would pull the rope to keep the fan going – providing a breeze and keeping the flies moving. She also told us about the “Stranger’s Room” which was a part of every Plantation. It was a room connected to the house, but with it’s own entrance. Such a room was necessary as strangers would travel from place to place and stop at the big houses asking for a place to stay. A place was always offered, because one never knew when a time would come when they might need the hospitality of a stranger’s room while they were traveling. There were no Quality or Comforts Inn’s, remember! Sad as it was, I was glad to have stopped and learned a few interesting facts I never knew. Also, Dayisha informed us, in the movie “Horse Soldiers” with John Wayne, this is the house he comes back to at the end of the war and the movie. Interesting little factoid. I’ll watch more closely the next time I see that movie.
Amid gathering clouds and threatening thunder storms, we drove north to Barksdale AFB and their Global Power Museum. It’s a small museum, but very interesting, and they also have a surviving B-17. “Miss Liberty” sits outside in their air park and was being lovingly refurbished by Louisiana artist, Don Edwards. I had a lovely chat with him as he made some adjustments to the nose art. It was quite an experience to see this 71 year old aircraft being so painstakingly attended to.
We settled for the night on the outskirts north of Shreveport and let the rain and thunder come. When it’s 95 degrees and almost 100% humidity, the rain just makes things a little wetter – but not much!