Sunday, September 30, 2018

OXFORD EXPEDITION!

Considering its relatively close proximity to where I live, it may be surprising that I had never visited Oxford, Mississippi ( www.touroxfordms.com ), until this past year.  Even more surprising to tourism marketing professionals might be the motivation for what brought me to finally make the effort to visit this well-known university town of the South.  The photo below shows the iconic columns of the University of Mississippi's most famous building, The Lyceum. 
It is the events of the 1960's that beckoned me to The Lyceum.  That is because just a short time ago, I learned that one of my California cousins had a "front seat" to the events involving James Meredith's attendance at the University of Mississippi.  During a meet-up with that cousin at one of Branson, Missouri's numerous theater venues that honor veterans, he stood up when the call was made for veterans to rise and be recognized for their service.  Afterward, I realized I did not know exactly where his military service had been, even though I was aware of where other male cousins had completed their military service.  Later, when I asked him, he told me he had served in Mississippi, and when I asked, "Where in Mississippi?", he answered that he had been one of the armed forces Military Police that had been assigned to drive, and otherwise escort/assist, in integration process of the University of Mississippi.  There are several reasons that can explain the fact that it took me fifty years to find out this most interesting fact.  Some of the reasons include the thousands of miles that separated our families, and the relative high cost of long-distance calling and travel during the 1960's.  However, I tend to think it was the realization of the vast cultural differences between his growing up in the cultural melting pot of Los Angeles, California versus my growing up in the "WASP" location of Northwest Arkansas.  
Sometimes, when you are going through your daily life---especially in your youth/young adult days---you don't have a clue that you are a player in significant historical events that will go down in record books in the future.  My cousin's positive comments about James Meredith prompted me to want to find out more about this man whom my cousin had helped protect.  Meredith was a 29-year-old veteran when he entered the University, and while reading up on him,  I learned about the memorial that was constructed on the University of Mississippi campus to commemorate those events, and I wanted to see it in person.  The photo below shows that bronze statue of James Meredith, walking up to the symbolic columned facade of the Lyceum, to enroll in the University.
In 2002, the University of Mississippi ( www.olemiss.edu ) remembered the 40th anniversary of the Meredith's admission, with this statue of him, installed on campus in his honor.  Meredith humbly commented that he was in a "war" to get the constitutional rights held by any American, and not as a participant in the civil rights movement.  Strangely enough, he later supported the 1967 gubernatorial bid of Ross Barnett, who had been one of those who blocked Meredith's admission to Ole Miss.  There are numerous books written by, and about, James Meredith, that can easily be found at Amazon, and similar book sellers.

This statue of James Meredith is my visual aid for my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verse from  Hebrews 10:36, that talks about perseverance.  It says, "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised."  I am thankful for James Meredith's perseverance, and also for my cousin's perseverance in fulfilling his military duties. 

There were a few other reasons I wanted to visit Oxford, Mississippi, and one of them was to check out the woodland trail that leads from the University of Mississippi campus, to the former home of famous Oxford resident, William Faulkner.  The trail is shown in this photo, and goes through Bailey's Woods.

This photo shows Rowan Oak ( www.rowanoak.com ), the name of William C. Faulkner's property, which is now owned, operated and maintained by the University of Mississippi.  The home sits on 4 landscaped acres and 29 acres of largely wooded property, known as the aforementioned Bailey's Woods.

This brick sidewalk between the street and the front door of the home was planted with cedar trees, because at the time the home was built, there was a theory that cedar trees helped purify the home, and thus made the home occupants have better health.  I saw this same landscape concept used in the approach to The Hermitage, in Tennessee, home of former president Andrew Jackson. 

Visitors enter the Rowan Oak home through the front door, as this tourist is about to do.  This architectural style has been described as "primitive" Greek Revival.  This style was seen in the United States more frequently in the late 18th and early 19th century , because travel was made easier to Greece after the Greek War of Independence in 1832.  Faulkner purchased the home when it was in disrepair, a century later, in the 1930's  He did many of the renovations himself. 

This photo shows that there are Plexiglas barriers that restrain the visitors from tromping through the restored rooms, but if you want more of an "up close" look, there are videos on the Internet that take the viewer through the home, and talk about details of the furnishings.  In addition, a lifelong learning organization called Road Scholar ( www.roadscholar.org ) conducts week long programs in Oxford, Mississippi, that will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about this town and its famous residents!

One of those interesting details that is most famous is this outline of Faulkner's award winning book, A Fable.  The outline he wrote in graphite and red on the plaster  bedroom walls shows how the plot of the book unfolds on each day of the week leading up to Easter Sunday, during a story set in Europe during the War I. 



My tour guide pointed out this "phone nook" in the home, where Faulkner was notified of his winning of a prestigious literary award, and well as the phone numbers he had scribbled all over the walls.  (Apparently, writing on the walls is acceptable if you happen to be one of the most famous Southern writers of the twentieth century!)  The young woman who was showing me around the home is one of several University of Mississippi students who work as "caretakers/guides" for Rowan Oak. You can read a complete biography about William Faulkner on the website, www.nobelprize.org .


While touring inside, I mentioned to a professional photographer on the property that I was particularly interested in the Underwood typewriter Faulkner used, because my father used to sell Underwood typewriters that looked exactly like the one the writer used.  So the pro photographer offered to take my camera and go behind the barriers I was not to breach, so that I could have this closeup photo of Faulkner's famous typewriters for my blog.  (Daddy would be proud I was promoting Underwood typewriters!)

There are dozens of artifacts enclosed in glass cases on the second story of the home, representing different decades of the past.

I was especially intrigued by the old fashioned Glenmore brown and white whiskey jug on display, because ever since I was a child, this "evidence" of a product called "whiskey" was the only alcohol-related I ever saw in my childhood home (my parents were teetotalers).  My mom always said it was an item left behind on a camping trip by one of dad's fishing buddies.  I still have the jug, at my home, and use it as a vase. 


The second story of the home has videos playing that show Williams Faulkner at various public appearances he made throughout his lifetime.  William Cuthbert Faulkner (September 25, 1897 - July 6, 1962) is described as an American author who won the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature. 

Later, in 1954, his book, A Fable, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as the National Book Award.  He spent more than a decade and tremendous effort on it, and aspired for it be "the best work of my life and maybe of my time." 

I was pleased to get to see a live production of a William Faulkner re-enactor, when he put on a production at The Sheid, on the ASU campus, in Mountain Home, Arkansas.

At the time of the live performance, I had just spent long periods of time watching actual videos of the real Faulkner, so I found this presentation fascinating!

The young Faulkner was greatly influenced by the history of his family and the region in which he lived.  This photo of the government building in downtown Oxford, Mississippi, was likely the inspiration for some of the scenes in the "mythological" county of Mississippi where his stories took place. 

There is a bronze statue of Faulkner on the building's front lawn, and although it is gated, the gate is unlocked, so that visitors can go in and get their photo made setting next to the famous author.  Speaking of famous Mississippi authors, it was the generosity of former University of Mississippi law school graduate, author & lawyer John Gresham, (along with other law school alums) that provided the funds to complete a thorough renovation of Rowan Oak, which led to it being rededicated in May, 2005. 



This photo of the roots of one of the majestic trees on the Rowan Oak estate serve as a reminder to explain the origin of the name "Rowan".  The story goes that Faulkner chose the name because in European folk lore, the rowan tree was said to have magical properties that would keep away evil spirits. 
 
Rowan Oak, in Oxford, Mississippi, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1968.  Its linkage to the University of Mississippi is extensive, even though Faulkner only attended the University of Mississippi for 3 semesters, enrolling in 1919, before dropping out in November, 1920.  He was able to attend there because his father worked at Ole Miss as a business manager.  Young Faulkner skipped class often, and received a "D" in English.  That would be the first, of many literary disappointments, as he received MANY rejections from publishers of his writing.  (Unlike today, when ANY author, can publish ANY written manuscript, for ANY person to read on the Internet!)  William Faulkner had other connections to Ole Miss, in that he served as the university's postmaster from 1921-1924.  Also, in 1929, Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying (my personal favorite of his literary publications) in the University Power House, where he worked as a fireman and night watchman.  The moral to this story is "Perseverance Pays Off" in the end!  Seeing examples of perseverance in Oxford, Mississippi, gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!   Tricia
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ADDENDUM:  This blog is dated as "September 30th", in honor of the birthday of my cousin, who is mentioned in this article.  He celebrated 80 years of PERSEVERANCE on this day, in 2018!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!  Also,  since I am writing this blog to help give me visual aids for the Hebrews 10:36 Bible verse about PERSEVERANCE, I want to quote a statement given by James Meredith to The Durango Herald just this month.  At age 85, he stated, "I've been in the God business all my life.  Ole Miss to me was nothing but a mission from God.  The Meredith March Against Fear was my most important mission from God, until this one coming up right now:  Raising the moral character up, and making people aware of their duty to follow God's plan and the teachings of Jesus Christ."  Now THAT is what I would call Christian perseverance!

Friday, September 28, 2018

MT. SHASTA FOURTH OF JULY EXPEDITION!

There is a little community in northern California that boasts it puts on the LARGEST, small-town walk in America, and I have had the pleasure of participating in that event on two separate occasions in the last few years.   You can find out just about everything you need to know about visiting there, by clicking on www.visitmtshasta.com

Based on the attire of the runner in this photo, it should be a clue that the event is held annually,  on July 4th.   That means---not the Saturday before the Fourth, and not the Saturday after the Fourth, but the actual day of the week that is the "landing spot" for the Fourth of July each year.  In fact, if you go the website of the group that sponsors the race, www.mtshastarunners.com , you can see exactly how many more days until the 2019 event! 

I took this photo, as the participants turned the corner at a church along the route.  As you can see from the photo, the event shirts were a light blue this year.  Each year, the design on the front of the tee shirt changes  .  About 1,000 runners/walkers compete in the mostly-flat, run/walk.  It is a family-friendly event, and I saw participants there, ranging in age from infants to 95 years old!


A very unique aspect of this event is that there is entertainment, provided by various groups in the area, all along the route.  These kids were giving martial arts demonstrations as we walked by.

These ladies dressed in the appropriate ethnic costumes of their culture, were giving belly dancing demonstrations, accompanied by the sounds of exotic far-away lands, over their loud speakers.  It is not everyday you can see a belly dancing recital, played out on oriental rugs, laying across the highway roadside!

Another group blasting out tunes of a different nature, was a group of ladies, demonstrating their Zumba exercise class routines. 

This photo shows the participants going in two different directions.  It was taken on the overpass bridge that is above Interstate 5 in Mt. Shasta.  The group walking forward in the photo have reached the turn-around point, while those shown with their backs to the camera, are still headed for the turn-around. 

One of the sponsors of the race is the Mt. Shasta Medical Center, operated by Dignity Health.  All of the participants walk or run by the hospital, and there were volunteers/employees from the hospital manning a "relief station" in front of the hospital. 

Another one of the sponsors was Crystal Geyser water, which comes from a source very close to Mt. Shasta.  It is only appropriate that they be a sponsor, since the word "shasta" originally meant "precious water".  Shasta is an African female name originating in the Sahara.  The desert origin of the word explains why water would be called "precious". 

Besides water, there were other free beverages to sample, including kombucha, a fermented tea.

The big surprise for me along the race route came, when I saw there were little bowls of lettuce for the participants to sample.  As those who know me can attest, I have a "thing" for lettuce because it is low-calorie, and helps "fill me up".

In addition, there were samples of freshly-baked pizza along the walk route!!  What a deal!!

This photo shows some walkers as they are on the bridge above Interstate 5.  The jagged peak in the background is a landmark along I-5, and is called Black Butte.  I am thankful to be able to say my son and I summited that mountain last year, and you can read about that experience in a  previous blog I published (It can be seen in the blog archives, under the date of September 10, 2016, and titled "Siskiyou County Expedition")

In addition to the food/beverage sampling stations that appear every other block along the walking route, there are musical stages set up every other block along the race route.  This photo shows a musician using a seldom-seen stringed instrument, accompanied by the traditional violin. 

There are also country/western bands, solo artists, brass musicians, vocalists, and drummers, both Native American and Oriental. 

All of the things I have described in the previous comments explain why it took me so long to finally make it to the FINISH line!  I wanted to sample each and every product, and take a photo of each and every exhibit!


My steps were easily distracted by the activities and foods along the way, which explains why I did not come home with one of these medals!

When there were so many food and beverage products being handed to participants, there was a potential for litter to desecrate the streets of Mt. Shasta, but this issue was resolved by having refuse containers placed strategically after each sampling table.

I was especially pleased that the refuse containers were clearly labeled so that plastics could be disposed of separately, and hence more easily recycled.


The race route goes by the Catholic Church in Mt. Shasta, and every year, that community of believers sponsor a  fund-raising pancake breakfast that provides a good excuse to load up on carbs before the race----it's for a good cause!!

Just like the sign in this photo says,
MT. SHASTA SMILES on the Fourth of July!!

And for those who have an emergency that interferes with their smile, there is the Mt. Shasta Ambulance service!

After the race was over, we went back to my son's house, and he grilled us a delicious, healthy dinner outside.  He is shown in this photo, and I am using this opportunity to apologize to him for getting distracted taking photos during this event, that we had intended to walk TOGETHER!   After it was over, he told me had spent several minutes concerned, worrying, and wondering where I was (thinking that I had possibly brought on a Reactive Hypoglycemic fainting spell by cramming too much food into my mouth, too fast), because he waited so long at the finish line, with no sign of me.  When I told him that I was taking photos and videos of the performers, I think it hurt his feelings that I was more interested in taking photos, than I was in walking with him.  Therefore, I am using this experience as the visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verses that says, "Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."  Hebrews 3:13.  Instead of concentrating on the precious time I had to spend with my son--the "TODAY"--I was focused on getting photos to write a blog about the event.  Perhaps my behavior demonstrates how sin's deceitfulness made me think it was more important to publish a particular blog post, than it was to spend time encouraging my son.  Hopefully, I will get another chance, and promise to do things differently next time I get to spend time with him!  That is because doing activities with my son gives me "MILES OF SMILES"!!  Tricia

Friday, August 10, 2018

LOUISIANA PLANTATION TRAIL EXPEDITION!

For decades, I have seen  photos of this "tunnel" of  oak trees in magazines, and dreamed that one day I would be able to see it in person.  And, by the Grace of God, this past July, I was able to actually stroll what is called "Oak Alley" in south Louisiana.  The photo above was taken by Brian Jewell, editor of Group Travel Leader Magazine ( www.grouptravelleader.com ) , who (along with other members of his staff) worked with the River Parishes Tourist Commission ( www.neworleansplantationcountry.com ) to co-ordinate our group's site visits to seven different plantations.

During my tour of Oak Alley Plantation ( www.oakalleyplantation.org ), I was able to understand that this famous scene was the "street" or passageway that led from the banks of the Mississippi River to the "big house", where the planter/owner lived with their family. It is one fourth mile in length, and made up of 300 year old live oak trees.   The photo below shows a closer view of the familiar Louisiana plantation-style home that usually comes to mind, when you think about this part of the country.
A view one would get as they left the main plantation home would be the passageway to the Mississippi River. Perhaps at one time, the visitor could see steamboats on the river, but now the huge grass-covered levee renders the actual waters of the river out of sight, since they are on the other side of the levee.  The photo below is looking towards the levee, and the "blue sky" above the levee indicates that is the space above the river. 
Another very popular historic home to tour in the area is The Houmas House ( www.houmashouse.com ).  What I find amazing about this home, is that the owner actually lives there still, yet he lets visitors enter his "inner sanctom", to get a glimpse of how the property is being used now.  In addition to it providing a domicile for the owner, he has added to the property so that it has large spaces for special events, a restaurant, gift shop, and rental cottages for overnight visitors.   

I mentioned that seeing "Oak Alley" was a long-time dream; likewise, a swamp boat tour has also been an activity that has interested me.  On this trip, we were able to take our first trip into the swamp on an air boat ( www.SwampAdventuresNOLA.com ), equipped with "ear muffs" to protect our ears from the extremely loud fan motor that propels the boat over the shallow waters.  Once we had journeyed deep into the swamp, the driver stopped the boat, we took off our ear protection, and listened/watched as he pointed out the fascinating flora and fauna that surrounded us:
We also took a different swamp tour, at a different location, and this time, it was on a pontoon-style boat, and at a much slower pace ( www.cajunprideswamp.com ).  Needless to say, we saw plenty of alligators on both trips into the Louisiana swamp.  On the pontoon boat ride, the captain's young son passed around a small, live alligator that guests could choose to hold, if desired, and have their picture made with the alligator.  After much hesitation, I decided to hold it, because I wanted to get a photo of me holding an alligator.  However, after seeing the (scary--- in my mind only) alligator that showed in the photograph with me, it looked no bigger than a large lizard I commonly see around my home.  Hence, I am too embarrassed to put the photo in this blog!  Yet, at the time I was contemplating holding it, it seemed huge!   While educating myself on New Orleans area attractions, I came across an article that offered suggestions for Grandparent/Grandchild outings that mentioned "swamp visits".  I would recommend one of these swamp boat tours as an excellent opportunity to spend time with a grandchild in the outdoors! ( I want to give a "shout out" to the website that provided the article, because it has started a "spin-off" called Boomers. The  Executive Editor of the new Boomers magazine is a Kappa Alpha Theta sorority sister of mine, from our days at the University of Arkansas.  Her name is Laura Claverie, and you can read more great articles for folks of my generation, by clicking on www.nolafamily.com/nola-boomers/ )


All of the plantations we visited included recreated slave quarters, in order to commemorate the people who did the actual physical labor to make these properties possible.  The re-created slave quarters shown below were at the San Francisco Plantation. 
The San Francisco Plantation main house ( www.sanfranciscoplantation.org ) is shown in photo below, and is on property owned by Marathon Oil.
The first time I saw a photo of the San Francisco Plantation, I was immediately curious about the cylindrical tower pictured adjacent to the big house.  During my tour of the property, I learned that this was their water storage and supply system.  If you look closely at the photo below, you will see that there is a pipe leading from the tower, into the upper story of the home.
At the Destrehan Plantation ( www.destrehanplantation.org ) we were able to see their water supply tower system (shown below), which was not quite as ornate as the one at the San Francisco property.
There are various educational exhibits/demonstrations available for visitors at the Drestehan Plantation.  I was delighted that the one our group was able to witness, involved the use of the indigo plant, which was one of the crops grown on plantations, hundreds of years ago:
The Ormond Plantation is not only historic, but also available for special events, and our group was treated to a delicious evening meal there, in the formal dining room.  In addition, their website ( www.plantation.com ) indicates they also function as a Bed and Breakfast, to provide overnight lodging. 
The elegant cuisine we enjoyed at the Ormond Plantation was just one  of the many opportunities to sample local flavors.  We enjoyed a seafood lunch, along with several nearby refinery workers, at a restaurant adjacent to the levee. The display case at the counter where you placed your order left no question as to what their specialty was:   ( you can see below it is GULF SEAFOOD!)
Another important crop, in addition to the indigo plant,  during the height of the plantation era was sugar cane.  One of the ways that sugar cane was used was to make rum.  In recognition of that tradition, a local family has recently opened a small distillery, which we were able to tour.  They proudly label their product as "Made in the USA"!
We also went to a restaurant where alligator was not only on the menu (which I was able to sample), but also there was a live alligator just inches from the shoreline, that caught the attention of the man shown in this photo, who is pointing to it.
No trip to the Gulf of Mexico area is complete without the traditional "Shrimp Boil Plate", so I thoroughly enjoyed the one I was served at the Frenier Landing Restaurant ( www.frenierlanding.com )


Another plantation we visited that has an architecture less associated with an "antebellum" time period, was the Laura Plantation (www.lauraplantation.com ).  It is said to have a "Creole" design, and our tour guide did an outstanding job of describing the lifestyles of the various creole characters who have lived there:
So far, I have mentioned five of the plantations we visited .  The sixth one was called Evergreen Plantation ( www.evergreenplantation.org ), and for me, it was the most memorable because of the animated stories provided by our tour guide.  Before we retreated to the air-conditioned interior spaces to tour, we went around to the front of the house which faces the Mississippi River and levee, to get a photograph of its impressive entryway way and porch:
One of the plantations whose modern-day owner was deeply touched by learning of the history and hardships of the slaves who had formerly lived at his plantation, decided to take a completely different viewpoint, as he prepared the plantation for public visitation.  Simply called "The Whitney" ( www.whitneyplantation.com ) it is focused almost entirely on the enslaved people who were born there and died there, or otherwise wound up at this location.  He built a wall, inspired by the Viet Nam War Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., that is engraved with
the names of all those slaves who were, at one time, simply listed as "pieces of property", by the slavemaster who owned them. 



Our group visited a historic church (Riverlands Christian Center) in Reserve, Louisiana that gives a glimpse at what segregation in the churches looked like in the pre-civil rights era.  Since it was a Sunday, we were able to participate in their weekly worship services, as well as hear a presentation called "Soul River---A Musical Journey through African American History".  Visitors are always welcome at the worship services of the Riverlands Christian Center, and to schedule a presentation of their "Soul River" program, call 985-210-6621.
The Riverlands Christian Center  is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and serves as the visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health ( www.firstplace4health.com ) memory verses that says, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." 2 Corinthians 4:17 .  I am very thankful for the strong faith of persecuted Christians, that enables them to endure their hardships, because of their faith in God's promises.   This church is a reminder of a time when the ONLY hope an enslaved person had, was that of eternal glory, after they died.




 This trip along Louisiana's Plantation Trail gave me "MILES OF SMILES"! (Or, as they say in the swamp, "See ya later, alligator!")