West Jackson Corners is a small village built by members of East Shelby Community Bible Church. A namesake of the original settlement, it comes complete with a town hall, general store, water wheel, black smith shop, open hearth and much more.
In the north east corner of West Jackson Corners sits an oversized tepee. Hanging above the tepee entrance is a sign reading “Swamp Stories.” The tepee was built by Charlie Ralph and during church festivities like “Old Tyme Days held in July or December’s “Christmas at West Jackson Corners,” Charlie can be found inside the tepee, probably warming his hands over a fire and more than willing to share local swamp lore with those who enter.
Charlie grew up in the Alabama swamp, his homestead was in the area now occupied by the Swallow Hollow foot trail on the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. Charlie’ father also farmed a small parcel of their land, but only after clearing the standing timber. Charlie and his father began by cutting down large trees then using their team of Clydesdales to pull the stumps from the ground.
In his youth Charlie and friends swam in the waters of Oak Orchard Creek just down the road from his home. On those outings they brought along a jar of salt – for the removal of leeches.
Generating income was tough in swamp country, so when a city fellow offered to pay Charlie and his friends for any water snakes they caught, they were happy to oblige. Charlie never did find out what the man did with the snakes, only that he was willing to pay for them.
In his early years Charlie traipsed around the swamp with a fellow he knew as “Trapper Jim.” Originally a cook on a Great Lakes tug boat, Trapper Jim took Charlie under his wing while he made the rounds along his trap line and also while acting as caretaker for a group of duck hunters from Buffalo who at the time owned a large tract of the vast wetland.
A mantle of ice lines a stretch of Oak Orchard Creek. This is the same stretch where Charlie Ralph used to swim in his youth. It is still a popular embarking point to access the swamp’s interior.
Several weeks from now, when thousands of waterfowl descend on the swamp, this empty nesting box will house a clutch of ducklings.
One of the many species of fur bearers inhabiting the swamp, this fox emerges from cover.
The swamp has become popular with outdoor enthusiasts over the years. Birdwatchers, canoeists, kayakers, hunters, fishermen, hikers and nature photographers frequent the area. Come winter, the area takes on a different look. While somewhat desolate at this time of year, the swamp is perhaps more picturesque, and on calm, windless days, certainly quieter. But a couple months from now, in late winter or early spring, the spring peepers will make their presence known by celebrating the spring rain. Dormant for months, their nighttime chorus will herald the change of seasons. Soon afterward the swamp will once again be bustling with activity.