I really can’t believe it’s been 30 years since I tubed down the Bogue Chitto river. But it has been.
It was a delightful summer day. It’s easy to do. About as relaxing as can be. And it’s a chance to really get up close to nature, which provides balance for all those other summer days when we are comfortably ensconced in our air conditioned indoor comfort.
The Bogue Chitto is a small spring fed river that flows southeast from Brookhaven, east of McComb and down through Louisiana past Franklinton and Bogalusa before merging with the Pearl River Canal and draining into the Gulf of Mexico just east of New Orleans.
The water is not crystal clear, but it is clear enough to be enjoyable. Standing waist deep in the water, you can almost see your toes. The water has a greenish tint and the temperature in the summer is perfect.
The main thing about the Bogue Chitto is that it is not muddy. The bottom is either sand or gravel, with maybe a little clay mixed in. Beautiful sand or gravel sandbars are at every bend creating numerous places to stop and sit and enjoy the beauty.
Having been born in McComb, I have canoed or tubed down the Bogue Chitto well over a dozen times. It’s a special treasure that I kept tucked away in my memory banks. I’m so glad I opened the drawer and pulled it out again.
Kemal Sanli, my brudda from anudda mudda (translation: brother from another mother), got the idea rolling with my golf group and 14 of us ended up going.
I met Kemal accidentally when I lived with Wilson Carroll and Sam Begley in 1990 on Madison Street in Belhaven just south of Fortification Drive. Kemal was my neighbor. We’ve been fast friends ever since.
It’s so strange how something so random can lead to a friendship spanning 30 years. When I first married Ginny, who is a great cook, Kemal would show up so consistently around dinner time that our two little boys thought his name was Kemal Emmerich and would include him in our family prayers.
Anyway, our group included me, Kemal and Tessy, Brad and Kami Bumgarner, Mark and Holly Guillory, Jimmy and Jill Bailey, Lon and Jennifer Tripoli, Ryan and Christy Plotner. Ginny was occupied with her mother Dottie, who has been ill.
As the carpool gelled, I was without a ride so I planned to go early with my string weeder and spruce up the Emmerich family plot at the Hollywood Cemetery off Delaware Avenue in McComb. It’s one of the most beautiful small-town cemeteries I have ever seen. Another hidden treasure.
At the last minute, the Bumgarners decided to go, and I got a ride. Brad is not only the best golfer in the group (he shot 72 the last time we played), but he’s universally considered the least likely golfer in our group to let loose a snarky comment.
Kami and Brad are both from Brookhaven, and it was fascinating to get a chance to hear their story. I find people to be universally fascinating and special. God’s majesty is almost incomprehensible.
We met at the Dinner Bell in McComb and that was a treat in itself. Having been born in McComb, some of my earliest childhood memories are at the Dinner Bell. It’s still there serving the same classic southern cuisine that it has for decades as everyone sat around a huge circular table and spun the biggest lazy susan I have ever seen.
The south really does have its own unique cuisine that is like no other in the world. I really think the rest of the world should discover it. There should be Deep South American restaurants all over the world just like there are Italian, Greek, Mediterranean and Chinese restaurants. One day somebody is going to make a fortune by making that happen.
After lunch we stocked up with drinks and drove 30 minutes southeast to the Canoe & Trail Outpost in south Walthall County just a few miles from the Louisiana line.
I had never tried this tubing place, but it was awesome. Very professional and organized. Ninety percent of the business comes from New Orleans. They have all the gear and a bus drives you upriver to the Stallings for a perfect four hour float back to the outpost.
Tubing is the lazy man’s way to get up close and personal with nature. All you do is plop your booty down into the tube, get a cold drink from your cooler (which is also in a tube) and off you go. No paddling, no work. Just float along with the current, which is just fast enough to be fun but not so fast as to be scary. The tubing company provides all the rope necessary to get your cooler set up. Proper hydration is critical to getting the full enjoyment of the experience.
Initially, a nearby thunderstorm provided a pleasantly cool breeze. If it rains, who cares? You’re in the water. The rubber tube is perfect insulation from lightning and you can always retreat to a sandbar. When the sun comes out and you get hot, just roll off the tube into the water and you’re perfectly cooled. Great conversation naturally arises during the leisurely float.
I’m a tree lover and I immediately noticed all the river birches sprouting out of the river banks and shading the edges of the river. Well, of course, they are, after all, called river birches. I identified over a dozen other trees. Mississippi’s tree diversity is one of the richest in the world. The cypress and sycamores were particularly beautiful.
I regretted our arrival at the outpost, which had nice shower facilities. I noticed a little grill shack next to the showers and ordered a cheeseburger which looked perfect (and was). Next thing I know, the whole group had placed an order. Sitting around the picnic table we all agreed the burger was awesome as was the entire day!
Wyatt Emmerich is the editor and publisher of The Northside Sun, a weekly newspaper in Jackson. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.