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Archive for March, 2013

Rattlesnake Saloon, AL

Rattlesnake Saloon, AL

We stay here longer than expected.  It’s a really nice local park and campground,  it’s raining and Dick has some programming to do.  There are pretty walks along the Tennessee River, with a beautiful marina (and restaurant that will open soon after we leave) and things to see nearby.  Plus, we meet a local couple who give us restaurant recommendations!  I remember the three  restaurants with three R’s:  Ricatoni’s Italian Grill, Rattlesnake Saloon, and Rosie’s.  (We remember the couple who recommend these because they said they sold their last motorhome to Denzel Washington, their previous one to the Backstreet Boys.)  So, our first night in town we go to Ricatoni’s and have an absolutely outstanding shrimp dish. We think that if this in any indication of the local restaurants, we need to stay longer.  The next day, after touring the Helen Keller site (written about in previous post), we go to a Palm Sunday Mass, where the priest interrupts the Palm Sunday reading underway and insists on reading the Good Friday reading in our booklet.  Afterwards, we decide we should head to the Rattlesnake Saloon, about a 20 minute drive into the hills from Tuscumbia.  It’s definitely an experience!  We park in a big upper parking lot (RV’s can stay here with hook-ups, but we’re glad we’re not – it’s raining, muddy and crowded) and climb into the back of a pick-up truck for a steep, scary, careening ride down a narrow dirt (muddy!) road to a restaurant/bar/music venue in a cave below.

The next night we head back to Ricatoni’s – but their power’s been off for the two hours previous to opening.  The dinner still is great, but not quite as fabulous as the first time, for obvious reasons.

We do Rosie’s the 3rd night (so-so), and don’t need to stay here any longer.  We’re out of restaurants, it’s stopped raining for a bit – we’re off!

Out my "bedroom window"

Out my “bedroom window” McFarland campsite

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Cottage next door to Main House

Cottage next door to Main House, where Helen was born

This is truly an inspiring visit for me.  When I was a little girl, my parents gave me a set of biographies.  The first biography I ever read was Helen Keller’s.  I can remember being enthralled by the story of this other  little girl, who had lost her sight and hearing at 19 months, and lived in a world of darkness.  Then a teacher, Annie Sullivan, came along and turned this little girl’s comfortable world upside-down and led her, kicking and screaming, towards the light of learning and understanding. Helen Keller would go on to graduate cum laude from Radcliffe,  contribute to many causes and be recognized as a brilliant pioneer.  But I always think of the pump, and the cold water pouring over her hand, and the letters for water being spelled on her palm, until – the miracle happens.  Water is a thing, it can be named and spelled.  What a torrent of words follows!  It’s a total thrill to stand next to the pump and think about that.

The Pump at Helen Keller's Birthplace,  "Water"

The Pump at Helen Keller’s Birthplace, “Water”

Tantrum Dining Room

Tantrum Dining Room

I also love seeing the dining room, which I remember more from the movie/play, The Miracle Worker,  than the book. The battle happened in this room.  It looks to me like all the napkins are folded neatly. : )

Other fun things to see here?  The key that Helen used to lock Annie in her bedroom and then hid –   and much more – in the “museum room” of the Main House.

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Sheriff Buford Pusser's Home and Museum

Sheriff Buford Pusser’s Home and Museum

I’ve tried to talk Dick into visiting this site on several previous trips, but this time we’re staying close by, at Pickwick Landing State Park- so it’s now or never.  I have to admit being silly about it.  I say the name, Buford Pusser, and I usually wind up giggling hysterically.  I feel guilty about that – I know he was one tough, stick-wielding sheriff who took on the Dixie Mafia and the state-line mob,  that there’s a movie, Walking Tall, based on his life (and many not-so-accurate sequels). I know he’s someone to take seriously.

The brochure we’d picked up tells us he was Sheriff of McNairy County, that he was shot eight times, knifed seven times, killed two people, that his wife was shot and killed in an assassination ambush when she went with him on a disturbance call,  and so much more.  But, frankly, we have no idea of what to expect when we pull up here.

What we get, after sitting on a couch for a video presentation on the TV in the living room,  is a personal tour, with a nice older woman who went to school with Buford.  We’re alone with her in the house, which is filled with original furnishings, photographs, newspaper articles and mementos, so we can ask any questions we can come up with, and she tells us all about what happened here from her local vantage point.   She shows us where Elvis came in through a side door and sat in a bedroom, not wanting to cause a commotion at Buford’s funeral, which was attended by many big country music stars.  She shows us the funeral guest book and Tami Wynette’s guitar flower arrangement.  She tells us that when Buford’s jaw was shot off in the incident that killed his wife,  he had to have 16 reconstructive surgeries and couldn’t eat solid food for three years – this for a man who stood 6’6″, and weighed 250 pounds.  She’s suspicious about the circumstances surrounding his death in a fiery car crash the day he announced, at a press conference in Memphis, that he had agreed to play himself in a new movie, “Buford” for $2 million.  We see the burned out wreck of his modified Corvette in the downstairs garage.

Later that evening, we want to stage a little Buford Pusser scene of our own.  We had a really beautiful, private campsite in Pickwick Landing State Park and we’re planning on having a big fire, champagne and anniversary gift exchange after a nice dinner at the park’s  restaurant overlooking the water.  The campsite is paid for, our Campsite Occupied sign is by our post, but we return to find somebody’s set up a pop-up camper and taken over our site. The campground host knocks on their door, but no one’s there.  So we have to find another site in the dark, which isn’t so easy because many of them aren’t level and we don’t want to have to put out blocks.  Plus, we’ve lost our lovely setting and our firewood.  Stick-wielding is out, but we do think about leaving them a note.  The next morning as we leave, we decide to just leave justice in the hands of the campground “sheriff”.

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Shiloh Battlefield

Shiloh Battlefield

We visit Shiloh National Military Park, while staying at nearby Pickwick Landing State Park.  I don’t want to blog about Civil War Sites anymore.  They’re too painful to contemplate, and I can’t do any of it justice.  There’s been enough written about each of them, eloquently, by historians and others.  I think I’ve written posts in years past, somewhere in the jumble of this blog, where the heartache was fresh and I felt like I was learning something new at each battlefield.  Now, it just feels so old and so sad.

So I’m happy to see a new story at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, a branch of the Shiloh National Military Park in Mississippi. Along with the wartime suffering and death endured here, an amazing community was born, the Corinth Contraband Camp.  When the Federal forces occupied Corinth after May of 1862, many enslaved African Americans (first called, incredibly, “contraband of war”)  fled plantations and farms and came to Corinth for protection behind Union lines.  Here, over 1000 African American children and adults  learned how to read!  They built homes, a church, school and hospital.   Freedmen started a progressive cooperative farm program and sold cotton and vegetables at a healthy profit. What started as a tent city grew into a thriving community.  It’s exciting to think about the new lives and identities that were started here.

One more happy note about the Shiloh battlefields. A few years back a pair of American Eagles, named Hiram and Julia after General Grant and his wife (I have to google it –  U.S. Grant’s first name was Hiram, but he evidently didn’t want to go to West Point with the initials H.U.G) started nesting in a tree in a very visible part of the park.  Since then, they’ve returned each year to raise a pair of young eaglets.  We saw the huge nest and lots of photographers.  I thank them for the posted pictures.

Dinner's on the way

Dinner’s on the way

Photographers at the Shiloh Battlefield Nest

Photographers at the Shiloh Battlefield Nest

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Replica of Loretta Lynn's Butcher Holler Childhood Home, Hurricane Mills, TN

Replica of Loretta Lynn’s Butcher Holler Childhood Home, Hurricane Mills, TN

She was born a coal miner’s daughter and became a country music legend.  We watched the Cissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones movie version of her rags to riches story before we left on this trip, (March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, a month later than we expected) and it was the perfect set-up.  Parts of it were filmed in the antebellum plantation they bought here (and Crisco commercials!)  in the tiny, now museum-town of Hurricane Mills, which she bought along with the house (she  owns it all, including the post office).  The ranch has over 6000 acres.

Loretta Lynn's Plantation Home, Hurricane Mills, TN

Loretta Lynn’s Plantation Home, Hurricane Mills, TN

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We were beginning our guided tour (Butcher Holler home, Coal Mine and Plantation Home) standing on the porch of the old gristmill, across the street from her childhood home, when a car and a couple pick-up trucks drove by a feet away from us.  We saw Loretta.  We knew she still did concerts and events here, but didn’t realize she lives here, in a smaller house, right behind the Plantation Home.  Her recording studio was right up the hill, a few yards away, opposite one of the museums and she was heading there for a session.  We learn that the Ranch is a very family-run operation, so there are Lynns to bump into everywhere.  We hear that Loretta and Doo, her husband, and their kids used to come to the campground where we’re staying in the hills on the property and chat, and thank fans for coming.

Memo to selves:  The Plantation home is supposed to be haunted, and Loretta did a special with one of the Ghostbuster/Haunted shows, so we’re going to have to find that and watch!

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No surprise that I ran out of writing steam again at the end of the  last trip.  If there’s anyone besides Dick and I reading this, you know I always stop writing (can’t get caught up) and leave us hanging somewhere,  hundreds of miles away from home.

So, quick shots of the ending of the  Spring 2012 trip.

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Roscoe Village, Coshocton, OH

A really beautiful, well-preserved canal town.  We were here during an arts/crafts festival, so not a typical day, much busier – but we loved it.  You can walk here from the nearby campgrounds, if you’re RV people, and it’s a beautiful walk.  There are houses and museums to visit, restaurants and shops.  The highlight of the day for me was listening to a Civil War Singer – he was a storyteller as well, and wove fascinating history  into each song.

The next day, we visit James Thurber’s home (Columbus, OH)  in memory of my Dad and his love of the New Yorker and their writers.  E.B. White above all, but Thurber too.  Thurber lived here with his parents, while he went to Ohio State University. The photos are of the typewriter that he used while he was at the New Yorker and the exterior of the home.  Now, on to our current trip – nowhere near here!

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