Second in a Series
About four months ago in these pages, we reported on a trip this reporter took with well-known developer T. Earl Gerbley to Persimmon Spires at Poking Buffalo Lake...the sacred Chockasoutauk Indian site. The sight of the natural granite wonder of three Persimmon Spires towering over Poking Buffalo Lake surrounded by the mountains, streams, and grassy meadows was truly awe inspiring.
The careful reader might recall front page news stories, in the last few months, reporting on Gerbley's legal battles over his plans for the development of this spectacular, sacred site. Here's a quick rundown:
Last week, I received a call from the T. Earl Gerbley Land Development Corporation. Gerbley's Administrative Assistant, Maude Morass, called to invite me to spend a day at Persimmon Spires to see the progress that was being made. As Morass said, reading from her telemarketing card, "We are leveling land, knocking down trees and raising buildings faster than you can say 'how much is a membership?'" I laughed. She continued. "T. Earl wants an unbiased eye to look at what he's done and report to the people who are gonna want to tee it up next Spring out there." I called in sick to work and drove out the next day.
Let me say, the changes to the area are breathtaking. Gone is the rutted gravel road leading through the windbreak trees to the sacred meadow beside the lake. A four-lane asphalt road now leads you off of State Route 13 and onto the Chockasoutauk reservation. It winds past the Tribal Tax-Free Cigarette Shop in the doublewide next to Eagle Beak Creek where the road narrows to two lanes as it crosses a new bridge, and descends along the edge of bluffs overlooking Poking Buffalo Lake.
I had the feeling of being airborne as I drove into the valley, looking at the scenery below. Workers, looking ant-like, were everywhere. A giant clubhouse stood where the old stand of ancient windbreak trees once had dominated the landscape. The three huge granite outcroppings known as Persimmons Spires cast long shadows over the area. Even as I stopped the car near the Foreman's trailer and got out, trees fell, buildings rose. Change was in the air.
T. Earl Gerbley came out of the trailer, smiling. He was carrying a hard hat. "Fire in the hole!" I reached out to shake his hand. His smile faded. He yelled. "Fire in the hole!" as he slammed the yellow plastic hat on my head. An explosion rocked the earth. Small rocks splattered around us. A haze of dust billowed past. I coughed. Gerbley patted me on the back. "We're clear! Glad you could make it. What do you think? Wait, don't answer. Let me show you what we've done."
Over the next hour, Gerbley led me past a dizzying array of partially completed projects.
Of course, the most important project for readers of this column is the golf courses which are being constructed as this is written. Both layouts have been graded and sculpted by huge earth-moving machines. You may recall the controversy several months ago, when Native American groups heard of plans to relocate several prehistoric burial mounds. Gerbley explained the situation this way: "We listened to their silly complaints. But, you have to understand, the mounds were in the middle of the third fairway - and some that weren't actually on the golf course were on some pretty nice home sites. And, if that lake doesn’t drain off entirely, some mounds were blocking some potentially gorgeous views. So, I think we came up with a great idea. Actually, it was my wife's idea. Rather than bulldoze the things outright, we took extra care to carefully blade off about 5-feet at a time. We put everything in a dump truck - and rebuilt the mounds into one HUGE mound, over in the wetlands area near Bison Ear Brook. It’s a ‘win-win.’”
A distant yell of "fire in the hole" made us both tighten the chin straps as the large "BAM" was followed by another rain of small rocks and dust. "Where's that coming from." I ask?
Gerbley pointed toward the top of the middle Persimmon Spire. "We're trying to flatten that one a little - so we can build a tee for the first hole up there. It's gonna be spectacular."
As I left this incredible, new, high-end development, it was clear progress is moving full-speed-ahead. What isn't so clear: How that 12-pound chunk of granite put a hole in the roof of my car and ended up in the passenger seat.
Larry Caringer has been writing humor for broadcast for a long time. Now, he's writing it for you. The stories, here, are from a collection of short stories from his book "Golf Beat: A Year in the Life of Persimmon Pines."