Sunday, September 30, 2018


Considering its relatively close proximity to where I live, it may be surprising that I had never visited Oxford, Mississippi ( ), 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 ( ) 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 ( ) 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 ( ), 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 ( ) 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, .

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

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!