Charlie, Zach, and Ray, had never been camping, yet for some insane reason they excepted our invitation to car camp and hike Boykin Springs. Ray quickly caught on to the axe wielding lumbar jack bit, as Zac set up tents, and Charlie as our little sister somehow managed to watch as we worked. Around the campfire Lauren and I shared the history of Boykin Springs from the lumber boom to the C.C.C restoration project my grandfather had worked in planting trees. I told one of my many how not to hike stories in which I was stuck in a giant briar patch during sleeting rain with only a compass and an off scale map. Sometime around 9:30pm I emerged upon a dirt road looking as though I had lost a Mortal Combat death match with 1000 crazy ninja cats.
The next morning we strolled through the Texas Big Thicket on the remains of an old steam train rail, once employed to transport lumber to a mill. The tracks, long ago removed, trees now grow where trains once steamed, bridges now decayed left only bits of pylons. I wonder if my guests see what I see, do they smell the marsh a few hundred yards away. This wood once again appears wild and alive, but do they see our past handiwork?
It was not until I saw a virgin pine, old growth, that I realized how different this land must had been. Old photos show a terrain mostly foreign to me. Historical journals account of individuals riding horses through the Texas Big Thicket at a gallop without obstruction.
Yet this day we hike the same woods slowly pushing through dense undergrowth, thorns, and non-indigenous flora. I often saw their eyes drawn to the small waterfalls and creeks, but the true surprise awaited. Around a final turn stood a monolith of cement and steel infused by nature. As a child I believed this was “Monkey City” from The Jungle Book . As an adult I still imagine singing monkeys performing a musical production as they swing from the remains of this old sawmill.
Unlike most historical buildings the Aldridge Sawmill was left to stand alone against time. Large trees grow through walls, ferns have rooted within the cement, each year slowly enlarging cracks . These buildings have withstood hurricanes, tornadoes, and forest fires. So many have with spray paint felt it necessary to leave their mark upon a building which by its nature once left its mark upon the landscape.
Greed stripped this terrain, it took all that was within its reach, more than it needed, more than the land could sustain. A real life Once-ler once cut down the trees for there was no Lorax, to speak for their needs. I realize we take from nature to make bricks and beams, roads, and bridges. To me it is a matter of sustainability, but in some form I am a tree hugger. I am concerned when I see drilling rigs in the Forest, or trucks moving large equipment down old dirt roads I know lead to Terabithia. As someone who loves history I fear perhaps the greatest lesson history has too teach us is how little we learn from history.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”