The two children (“the Wastrels” as I call them) have come for a visit in the old town. Originally they came from the frontispiece in my mother’s copy of “A Child’s Garden of Verses” by Robert Louis Stevenson (signed to her by my great great grandfather who appears as a baby in the first panel, on the back of Emeline Netter). I have painted these children many times over the years. Sometimes they appear innocent, quizzical, whimsical. Other times they manage a precarious existence, living under ground, in trees, between worlds.
The ghosts rise not just from the Natchez Cemetery, but also from the site of the so-called ‘contraband camp’ referred to as The Corral. The camp was set up by an under-prepared Union army when it found itself over-run by slaves fleeing the plantations in the surrounding county. The Union army had no plan to house or protect the newly freed men, women and children, so they created a temporary camp, where an unknown number of African Americans perished from starvation and disease. The number dead is understood to be between one and three thousand. Those that managed to survive did so with nothing more than in-season peaches for sustenance. The discarded pits grew into a grove of peach trees which stands as the only marker to the tragedy.
The grandmother of a friend drives her Plymouth, as she always did, to watch the sun set from the bluff.