A Trace of Natchez Trace

Trip Start Nov 22, 2004
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Trip End Dec 01, 2004


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Flag of United States  , Mississippi
Sunday, November 28, 2004

So I've communed with Elvis now, it's time to do the Trace. Tupelo is sweet, thirty thousand people here, give or take a few, I wish I had more time. I'd see my cousin Sis again, and visit Lane. I have a cedar chest by Lane, it's held my clothes with soothing cedar smells since I was sweet sixteen.

Furniture! Upholstered centerplace in all the USA, 50 miles whichever way you go, making tables, sofas, beds and chairs. The living room, the new green sofa Dad and Opal got? It came from Lane, right here, Daddy called and had them send it on a truck. (The truck could not get up the drive and Daddy had to problem-solve, that day, for sure!)

The other claims to fame in Tupelo? The first to sign with TVA, electric power, cheap, in 1933. (Did baby Elvis have electric lights, I wonder now? I don't remember reading on the info at the house.) City All American, voted in a poll. Fish hatcheries, and forests, and landmarks sitting everywhere. Battlefields from bloody wars, conquer was the aim. Win or lose? It changed, with time, who won the game. Union and Confederate, Indian and French. Chickasaw and Choctaw.

Natchez and the Natchez Trace. Do you know? A trace is just another name for trail, a road. The Natchez stretched from Natchez town to Nashville north in olden days, float your goods downriver, sell, and walk back home. Or ride a horse, if sales were good. That was the early 1800's, then.

Headquarters for the Park, that's where I'm going now, five miles north of Tupelo, Jct US 145 and Parkway, the treelined road is quiet, will they be open Sunday after holiday? Will I get there before they close? Will I get my passbook stamp? There it is, I pull the zoom zoom car beside a van and park. The parking lot is empty, save for us. Inside, one visitor, she's talking to the Ranger at the desk, she must be local though, by conversation tone. A family dinner, who was there, those are words I hear. Don't interrupt, I think, I walk around and read.

Natchez Trace Parkway. A National Scenic Byway and All-American Road. Extends 444 miles from Nashville to Natchez. Crosses Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi. Offers auto touring, bicycling, hiking, fishing, swimming, horseback riding, camping.

Displays around the room, the Choctaw and the Chickasaw. New thing I learned -- at first the trail was used by Indians to go between the Mississippi River and the salt licks in central Tennessee. Then later, commerce and the salesman's route! "Kaintuck" boatmen, they're the ones.

I'd like to stay! There's more to learn, to think about, it's getting late, she wants to close. There's no one left but me, for souvenir I buy a patch, The Natchez Trace, the emblem is a rider on a horse, I stamp my passbook with the date, and go.

It seems I've traveled in the past today. So many ghosts, I've tried to understand. We need to do this, every now and then, remember people that we love, ponder things about the ones we never knew. A gathering of voices spoke today, but now I'm tired, can't listen anymore.

I come back to the present, look around. Hot damn! I'm in a zoom zoom car, with twilight coming on, see that sunset there? It's killer stuff, no Maui beach, no sweeping coast of Oregon, no posh LaJolla patio. The sunset red reflects in puddles stretched out long, Mississippi cotton rows, and catfish ponds, the heaven-splendor falls on everyone, in equal shares. I love the sight. I love the place I am. A million wishes I could wish? I'd be right here, right now.

I get to Oxford after dark, check in to my hotel, where can I eat? No need to drive, they say, fast food or full meal both close by. I brush my teeth and walk across the parking lot, pull my sweater tight against the chilly wind. A diner spot attracts me most, shiny red with chicken fried, and shakes. Step to counter, order, pay, take chicken tenders to a corner spot, begin to eat and look around.

I'm in a college town, no doubt. The room is tacked from left to right with banners red and green and orange, it's SEC, I'll see if I can name them all -- Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida, LSU, Kentucky, Arkansas. The past attempts to jump back in, Bear Bryant, the Crimson Tide, my hubby hated Georgia Tech, Big Orange, Kentucky just a laugh, he was the kind of fan who roared. I hated football then, didn't know a fumble from a pass, my feet were cold, high heels and mum corsage was what the women had to wear. (The 50's, that's the way it was.)

I shake my head and brush the past away. Look at people in this room, the two girls over there, in sweats and Ole Miss red, the four guys talking bowl talk right beside, you crazy man! you don't know what you talkin bout! The three-year-old with mom and dad is sucking on a chocolate shake (I hear the straw, he's hit the bottom now).

The waitress heads my way, ice clanks in frosty pitcher in her hand. You want some tea? she asks. I do, indeed.
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