A Trip to the Sacred Persimmon Spires: I
New Golf Resort – Persimmon Spires
from the book Golf Beat: A Year in the Life of Persimmon Pines
by Larry Caringer
Persimmon Spires at Poking Buffalo Lake . . . the name alone inspires visions of spectacular mountains and bucolic settings balanced along the shoreline of this pristine and sacred Chockasoutauk Indian site just thirty minutes west of Persimmon Pines via State Route 13.
Of course, because it is a sacred site, few of us of European ancestry have been privileged to see the area unless we took one of the $40 mule-ride tours of the area led by Chockasoutauk guides and only offered on weekends during the summer.
So imagine this Reporter’s surprise when, a few days ago, well-known area golfer and land developer T. Earl Gerbley contacted me to ask if I would like to accompany him on a trip to this sacrosanct natural wonderland.
He said he wanted to show me something. Or, to quote him exactly: “I want you to be the first to hear about some plans for a new golf course development that are gonna blow your socks off!”
We made the drive out of town last Thursday afternoon in Gerbley’s Mercedes. Our guide was Proudfoot Dibbledick, Chockasoutauk Indian and the Natural History Professor at Traylor County Community College. As we turned off Broadway onto Route 13, the developer put his right arm over the back of the passenger seat and slouched sideways, steering with only the first finger of his left hand.
He looked in the rearview mirror to make eye contact. “Of all the land I’ve had a hand in leveling and reshaping to my liking, I have never been more excited about a project than this one.”
We swerved slightly across the yellow line as Gerbley tousled the hair of Professor Dibbledick. “And this guy is the one who is making it possible. He went to bat for me with the elders of the Chockasoutauk Nation at their annual tribal meeting over at their casino in Looseneck Falls last month.”
Dibbledick smiled sheepishly. “My role in all this is fairly small. I simply presented the elders with the visions, philosophy, and spreadsheets Mr. Gerbley gave me. But I’m glad to be onboard as an advisor to Mr. Gerbley. You know, so we can preserve the Chockasoutauk heritage as we provide public access to our reservation and an area our religion has always seen as off-limits to outsiders.”
We were pushed back in our seats momentarily when Gerbley floored the Mercedes and blew the horn. We slipped over the double yellow around a slow moving pickup, just ahead of an oncoming coal truck.
“So Professor,” I managed after catching my breath, “tell me about Persimmon Spires.”
Dibbledick paused a moment to collect his thoughts. “Well, as a Natural History teacher, I can tell you that Persimmon Spires is a natural granite formation created over millennia by the forces of erosion, wind, and water. It is said that the three perfectly-sculpted rocky outcroppings look exactly like huge persimmons. It was probably this amazing resemblance to the very fruit which sustained my ancestors that caused them to conclude this was a holy place.”
We drove in silence onto the reservation’s gravel road. I asked how the lake got it’s name. The Developer was quick to answer. “I know that one. When the Braves went out to hunt buffalo, they’d force ’em down the Chumtaw Crick toward the shore of the lake where the women would be waiting with spears.”
“Poking Buffalo Lake.” I weighed each word carefully.
Gerbley chuckled. “Indians knew how to get to the heart of it, didn’t they?” He stopped the car and flung open the door. “We’re here.”
We got out of the Mercedes under the awe-inspiring spectacle of Persimmon Spires. I have lived here all my life. But, like most Persimmon Pineseans, I’ve only seen the Spires in vacation brochures published by the Chamber of Commerce. Never in person. They do in fact look like three perfectly sculpted 200 foot long persimmons standing on end.
Just beyond lies the unspoiled beauty of Poking Buffalo Lake. Proudfoot Dibbledick turned his palms skyward and seemed to be offering a silent prayer to the long-dead spirits of his ancestors.
Gerbley patted him on the back. “We’ll put pictures of Indian chiefs in the golf course club house . . . which we’ll build right here.”
Over the next forty-five minutes, Gerbley walked us through his designers’ plans to “improve the natural flow of the environment by imbedding architectural creations that will illuminate the landscape and create vistas heretofore unknown to those who, until recently, held sole title to this land.”
The plans, while too huge to go into right now, are quite impressive. Thumbnail sketch: Three Championship golf courses, a marina with access to the Plunker River via private canal, 50,000 square-foot clubhouse, and four gourmet restaurants open to the public – including a 20,000 square foot Olive Garden.
Impressive. Yet, I had to ask myself . . . and later, T. Earl Gerbley himself, “How were you able to persuade the tribal elders to allow you to build a golf community on their holiest site?”
Proudfoot Dibbledick turned away and bowed his head as Gerbley smiled and pointed to a spot over my shoulder.
“Right over there . . . I’m gonna build the Indians a newer and bigger casino.”