Debora Dale Alt logo
where fear and passion collide
Debora Dale Alt logo
where fear and passion collide

Well, Thursday evening was slightly stormy here and yet we had reservations for a dinner cruise. It’s always that way when we’re on vacation, so we dressed up and, with umbrellas in hand, off we went to the pier.


Yes. It rained. Hard at times, but we still had a phenomenal time.

There was a wedding reception on the boat during our three-hour cruise. We had a two-piece band for wonderful dinner music then dancing afterward. The moon on the water was glorious and the food… ah… the food… unbelievably delicious. Mine was a cooked-to-perfection salmon fillet on fresh mashed potatoes with a honey and brown sugar glaze.

To. Die. For.

Dessert? Key lime pie. A perfect, perfect evening.

Friday we headed over to one of the many plantation homes here. Middleton Plantation. The disappointments for us there were many. First, as mentioned in not one of their advertisements that I noticed, various tours of the plantation – including a narrated horse and carriage ride and a slave’s life tour – were given only until noon while the property and house are open until 5:30. We arrived late after enjoying the hotel pool for an hour before starting our day so not one of the extra tours was available to us. Sadly, the cost of admission to the plantation was not a penny less despite the lack of tour ability.

The other disappointment was a biggie – the original plantation house was burned down by union soldiers after the civil war, and so, the only thing remaining from that period are ruins.

This was not mentioned anywhere or at anytime until we arrived at the plantation and paid. However, we did enjoy a tour of one of the later-built flank buildings.

Considering our car was the last in the parking lot at close of day, I’d say we made the most of what was available to us. There were costumed interpreters in the fields, in the barn, the mill and more. And the grounds themselves – acres and acres – were just a wonder to see.

How on earth did one family amass such wealth? Rice. Slaves from Africa brought with them a knowledge of growing that precious grain and then were forced to apply that knowledge for a headmaster who made it into a booming business. A business that has allowed generation after generation to own and operate the property to this day.

After admiring the grounds, the reflecting pool and gardens, we were humbled and saddened to be brought back to the reality of the times. The Middleton family owned hundreds and hundreds of slaves, and a list of their names is posted in one of the still-standing free-slave homes.

Also posted in that home was the 10-pound ‘reward’ notice for the capture of an escaped slave as well as the 20-pound reward for information about who might have been harboring that poor soul. It was amazing and sickening to me to see how important it was to slave owners to not only recapture their slaves but to put double the price on someone who dared to have a heart and give them refuge. I know it was the ‘times’ but it’s simply impossible for me to comprehend.

Today, we toured another plantation – Magnolia Plantation.

Rice was the same product of this plantation. Fortunately, we were able to take a boat tour along what was once a rice field (over 100 years ago) but is now flooded and home to an abundance of wildlife – including alligators.

Alligators! We spent the day before at Middleton Plantation searching for some sign of alligators, then we came to Magnolia Plantation and there they were. Everywhere!

Planks for the alligators to sun on were built when water was drained from the rice fields. This was done because there is a ‘nature train’ that takes visitors through the property and often the alligators would be blocking the road, trying to warm up and dry off. Thinking it better to keep them away from the wheels of the train – not to mention human flesh ON that train – the planks were built in the middle of the fields. Once the fields were flooded again, the alligators started sunbathing there on their own. Win-win.

There is so much more to tell you but I’ll close with an observation – in history and today, humans, animals, and indeed even plants, take advantage of those less able to defend themselves. The European settlers turned on the Indians who befriended them and hoped they’d help protect them from more powerful tribes. Europeans, Americans and more abducted Africans who were less organized and less likely to revolt or commit suicide rather than be enslaved. Slaves threatened their children with ‘hard labor’ if they did not behave… alligators eat ducks, turtles, etc… but when alligators have their young, they must move them and guard them closely because baby alligators are a particular favorite of owls… who move into the area at breeding season.

So I wonder… when the moral compass kicks in and some of us decide not to take advantage of those weaker than us, does that make us the weaker ones? If we were threatened would we fight to the death or bend to the will of those stronger than us? And would we reproduce? Bring children into a world where they, too, would be beaten, threatened, owned? If truly pushed… if our children or our parents were threatened… would we toss that moral compass and become as twisted as those in power?

It’s disturbing to think of the evils man has done to man. It’s disturbing to think we’ve seen the horrors of it in the past… and yet on various levels, it’s still happening today.

These plantations were beautiful – the homes, the grounds, the views – but the way in which they gained their beauty is as ugly as it comes.