Friday, March 14, 2008

The wild life . . .

. . . in Virginia Beach. Well, maybe not the kind of wildlife you expected.

Our subdivision was built under green guidlines. For example, there are capture ponds scattered throughout the neighborhoods. The ponds are installed to keep stormwater from flooding the storm sewers, and to provide irrigation for the common areas around the main streets and boulevards. The ponds also supply water - and traps for errant shots - for the surrounding golf course.

Since there are many wildlife refuges in the area, the neighborhood ponds become magnets for waterfowl. The population is also increased because we're only about 25 miles from the boundary of the Great Dismal Swamp and the Back Bay wildlife refuge.

Every year for the past five years, we have had a mating pair of Mallard ducks show up in our back yard. They wander in during the morning or afternoon and camp out by the patio. They're not particularly wary. Mrs. Bulldog was working around the patio while Ms. Mallard took the opportunity for a short nap.
This may look like a photo from the zoo or from somewhere in the country. In fact, it was taken just outside the Virginia Beach post office, a block from the city/county government complex. The geese were a little shy today, but after the chicks hatch, they will charge with much honking and flapping of wings.
This little pond is also next to the post office. It is usually full of waterfowl of various types. In the evenings, the bullfrogs start singing . . . well croaking loudly. It's quite a little oasis in the middle of civilization.

Mississippi roots . . .

. . . of my family. Although I was raised in the Land of Lincoln, I also have Southern roots - kind of. In 1773, my 5th great-grandfather moved, with the rest of his Swayze clan, from the New York/New Jersey area to Western Florida - now called Mississippi. The Swayzes settled on a land grant called the Ogden Mandamus, on the Homochitto river just east of modern-day Natchez, in a town they named Kingston.

I learned of my connections to the Swayze family by accident, while looking for information on my great-great-grandmother. I posted an inquiry on a genealogy forum, and a single response from a distant cousin filled in a couple hundred years of my family history. Every year since 1940, the descendants of the Swayzes and other related familes, known as The Descendants of the Jersey Settlers have held a reunion in Natchez, MS.

We haven't been able to attend since 2002 for various reasons, but we're going back in April. Both Mrs. Bulldog and I are very excited about the trip. I have loved Natchez for a long time - even before I knew about the family history. About 50 years ago, my parents, my brother and I visited Natchez on the way to see my dad's sister in Baton Rouge. Forty years later, Mrs. Bulldog and I were on our way to New Orleans, and I drove - without a map - to the very same restuarant my folks took us to back in 1957. Spooky.

We're staying at the historic Eola hotel in downtown Natchez.

Oh . . . and yes, it's THOSE Swayzes. Patrick Swayze is my 7th cousin, once removed. Really.