Friday, December 18, 2009

Pharr Mounds

I'd never seen "mounds" until my trip along the length of the Natchez Trace Parkway. I encountered the Pharr Mounds about 20 miles or so north of Tupelo, Mississippi. They were constructed some 2000 years ago -- during excavations at this site -- cremated and unburned remains were found -- along with ceremonial artifacts. Many of these artifacts, including stones and other objects are not from Mississippi -- indicating the people who constructed these mounds -- had trading networks.

There are a total of eight mounds at the Pharr site -- covering about 85 acres.

The Emerald Mound below is the second largest in the United States. It was constructed by the ancestors of the Natchez Indians.

Emerald Mound contained temples, ceremonial structures and also served as a burial site for those who ruled the community.

61 Highway and Clarksdale

As I turned left off Canal Street in Natchez onto Highway 61, Mississippi Fred McDowell was playing on my Ipod. I was ready for my trip up the famous blues highway to the town of Clarksdale -- the place where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil -- at the Crossroads.

Most of Highway 61 is four-lane, but there are places where it narrows to two -- and it was then that I felt I was driving on the legendary roadway. Endless fields of un-harvested cotton, soybeans and corn -- line both sides of the roadway.

I got goosebumps when McDowell's 61 Highway came on the player -- I'd forgotten it was on the Ipod. Then, it was B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton and Howlin' Wolf -- doing Highway 49.

The music created this feeling that I was driving through history -- past the old fields, the old buildings and the little churches.I highly recommend this trip up to Clarksville -- and the Delta Blues Museum is a must-see for Blues fans -- lunch at Abe's BBQ topped off the short visit -- Abe's is located right at the legendary crossroads of Rt 49 and 61.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Faulkner's Oxford

Rowan Oak, the house where William Faulkner lived, is not an easy place to find. He wanted it that way. He was something of a hermit and it was stipulated that when the house was converted into a museum there would be no signs pointing the way. As a museum staffer told me "you have to really want to find it."

The house is well off the beaten path in a quiet neighborhood of Oxford, Mississippi.
In Oxford, itself, the county courthouse dominates the little square in the center of town. Faulkner wrote of the courthouse in Requiem for a Nun: "tall as cloud, solid as rock, dominating all."When in Oxford -- check out Ajax Restaurant on the square -- great catfish and fried okra.

Calling Elvis. Is Anyone Home?

Day two of a trip down the Natchez-Trace Parkway included a stop in Tupelo, Mississippi and a visit to the birthplace of Elvis. It's a two-room "shotgun shack" as the tour guide described it. She said someone could stand at the front door and fire a shotgun through the house and out the backdoor.
In the gift shop, you can buy a refrigerator magnet -- Made in China -- for five bucks. I passed.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Suicide or Murder?

Meriwhether Lewis met his death in this house along the Natchez Trace on October 11, 1809 at Hohenwald, Tennessee. His death occurred late at night. The circumstances of his death remain a mystery -- was it suicide or was he murdered?

I snapped this photo just after sunset today -- two hundred years and just over two months after his death. To mark the 200th anniversary of his death this past October -- dozens of people gathered at the site for the first public memorial service.


A cold, blustery day in Nashville. First visit in more than 20 years and first-ever visit to the Ryman Auditorium.

Nashville was a quick stop-over on the way to the Natchez Trace Parkway -- the roadway that goes from just south of Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi. Below are some photos of Nashville -- including one of Roy and Minnie in bronze.