DISCOVERING A FORGOTTEN AUTOMOTIVE GRAVEYARD.
Stumbling upon a hoard of classic cars buried in the weeds and completely forgotten for decades is, if you’re lucky, a once, or maybe twice in a lifetime experience. Its an experience that lingers in the back of your mind as you almost feel, in some small way, you’ve left something behind. You know you don’t have claim to what you’ve seen, but you feel as though you own the discovery. Surely this must be what archaeologists feel when excavating the remnants of some long lost civilization. I can recall a flood of excitement and curiosity as one piece of treasure after another revealed itself through the trees, vines, and kutsu of the Mississippi swamp, not by the twos, but by the tens.
This discovery happened on my way back from riding my motorcycle on a stretch of Mississippi beach. I was on a back-road to the interstate when, about a mile away from the sand of the Gulf of Mexico I spotted an area where the thicket of southern forest that had lined the road had been recently cleared. Cut down to the dirt and bulldozed into piles of trees and brush on the perimeter of what looked like the future home of a small cellphone tower. Among the natural refuse were 2 American sedan from the late 70s. They too had been victims of the bulldozer, and pushed off to the side as if they were logs. Apparently, nothing was going to stand in the way of progress here.
I have an appreciation for all things mechanical. My automotive opinions range from hot to cold across the entire automotive spectrum. Admittedly large American sedans of the seventies are not a subject I’ve ever been particularly interested in, but as I was a smoker at the time, and I had a long ride home, it seemed at the very least like an interesting place to enjoy a cigarette. A quick u-turn later, my kickstand hit the dirt a few feet off the road. I recall walking up to these capsized land yachts with more interest in the cigarette I was smoking than the history of these mediocre beasts. The situation they had found themselves in surely made them more fascinating than they ever would have been otherwise. And then, I realized they were only a small portion of what the woods were trying to hide here.
I can’t say for sure, but I imagine that a smile spread across my face. what I can say for sure, is that a rush of excitement and a sense of adventure emerged from within as I walked into the freshly receded tree line, Car after truck, after car revealed itself. The deeper into the woods I went, the higher the concentration of classic cars and trucks became. They seemed to go on forever, or at least as far as a man could see in the dense woods. The place wasn’t completely devoid of edifices either, as I recall running across at least one dilapidated shanty. Questions started to emerge in my head. How did all these cars come to be overgrown and forgotten just a few feet from the road? How long had they been sitting here? Like an archeologist, I knew the answers lay in the ruins. License plates seemed to range from the late sixties, to the early eighties, and most of these cars looked to have been involved in wrecks. Soon, heavy equipment and long decommissioned tow vehicles started to mix in with the same twisted wrecks that they had likely pulled to their collective grave. From what I could tell, this was the old town impound.
The relics ranged from desirable American classics, like a 65 thunderbird or a 63 impala, to iconic imports like a 68 Volkswagen beetle or a Datsun 510. The large site contained vehicles I recognized at a glance, vehicles I was pretty sure I could identify, and vehicles I was sure I had never seen before in my life. There were literal dozens, all laying in various stages of decay on the soggy floor of the Mississippi swamp. I was swept up in adventure, but I couldn’t ignore the nagging feeling of my motorcycle sitting on the side of the road any longer. It was time to go.
I happened across this automotive cemetery about 4 years ago. I mentioned before that this experience stuck with me. Almost haunting me. Perhaps, that’s because I knew I hadn’t documented it properly. The pictures I took at the time were with my cellphone and I was more focused on the moment itself than preserving and sharing it, but soon after, I felt that was exactly what I needed to do. Recently, when I finally decided to return to natures collection of lost cars, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who knew the value that these swampy woods contained. Grave robbers had stripped the trim off some of the more desirable cars and doors were left ajar. Something I distinctly remember not being the case on my first visit. Upon writing this I feel almost as if I’m unburdened. As if this was why fate lead me to stumble on the anomaly in the woods to begin with.