The old two-lane highway was surrounded by flatness, and McKinney could see almost to the horizon in all directions, the view only occasionally broken by little buildings set up on stilts. It wasn’t barren, though. There was water everywhere he looked, and it was flush with the low green vegetation that was able to survive the brackish waters. Flocks of sea birds and an occasional heron attested to the abundance of fish that lived in the marshlands. After he passed the last of the businesses advertising swamp tours, he slowed down and looked out at the vast expanse of sky. The inland sky was clear, but out over the Gulf the blue was dotted with steel gray clouds, some pregnant with rain, some showering the waters below. It was a little like driving back through time, the wildness of nature giving him a sense of what the land had been like before humans smothered it with strip malls and housing developments.
He slowed even more when he crossed the bridges over the twisting Old Pearl River, the woman on the phone having told him to look for a red cloth tied to a girder and a pull-in leading down to a boat landing. He saw the cloth on the third bridge he crossed and pulled over to get out and look around. A voice from under the bridge said, “Get back in your car and drive across the bridge. Turn left at the pull-in and park.”
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