Thursday, January 31, 2013

ALMOST to Florida

CONTINUING THE BLOG of our “OLD FLORIDA” Gulf Coast Tour
From Eufaula, the road shoots due South to find itself ending in Dothan, Alabama where it joins US Highway 231 out of Montgomery.  US 231 is the gateway to Florida from that part of Alabama.  Just before reaching Dothan, we passed a marshalling area for harvested cotton modules. A cotton module is essentially a tractor-trailer load of compressed raw cotton, ready for the gin (which is called that for short because at first it was called "Eli Whitney's Cotton EnGINe". In any case, I was impressed by the number of modules we saw. I am guessing we saw at least 500 modules in a single location --  and each consisting of about 40, 500 pound bales or 10 metric tons.  I have seen 40 or 50 at a time around the gin at Jay, Florida, near home and it is common to see a half dozen or even a dozen after some of the local fields near home are picked.  But to see 500. That was a lot.  The cotton is already transferred from the farmer to the gin as property once the cotton is in a module. This is a practical matter of liability and commerce. Here is a book I highly recommend.

Just to the West of us at this point is Fort Rucker, US Army Post. It is not unusual around here to see an Army helicopter chopping along. My great-grandpa Carswell came back to that area around Daleville after the “Late Unpleasantness” to become a  minister and rather poor dirt farmer. He never talked much about his experience with the US Army in 1864-65. He was their prisoner at Rock Island in Southern Illinois after being captured by Sheridan’s people at Chattanooga’s Missionary Ridge. Only one in four who walked in the gates came out alive. He was one of the 500 survivors. My friend from High School, Dan Holt, had a great grandfather at the same prison. He was in a sister brigade beside my great grandfather on Missionary Ridge that day when Sheridan’s troops disobeyed his order to hold at the base of the hill and instead, rushed forward against thin lines and broke the siege of Chattanooga.  My ancestor, Robert Knight Carswell was a lifelong Democrat until he was on his deathbed. At that point, he had his voter registration changed to REPUBLICAN because he wanted one more Republican (same thing as a “union soldier” in his mind ) to die off the voter rolls rather than a Democrat.

Dothan, Alabama impresses me.  There are obvious signs of economic growth in this town. I think Dothan is the one of the top five largest cities in Alabama now. (Birmingham and Hoover are one metro area. Huntsville and Decatur rank as one metro area too.)  I hate to make comparisons but I get the sense Dothan and Huntsville and Birmingham have the greatest progress among Alabama cities in the last decades. Montgomery is in decay on the inside with an Eastward bulge of economic success OUTSIDE of the city limits. Mobile has large blighted areas but is kindling success with new industry growth around ship-building and aircraft manufacture. Selma looks sadly "dead" downtown, its days of high commerce long gone.  Well, enough about Alabama. It is on our list to spend many weeks there in discovery.  There is much to see. OK -- I promise - the OLD FLORIDA tour begins with the next post (You can select to be notified of the next post using the link in the upper right corner of the blog.)
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