We are fortunate to have friends and family scattered across the country. We would arrive at J.P. Coleman State Park near Iuka, Mississippi two days before Thanksgiving. We have family in Corinth, MS about 45 minutes away. Another sister-in-law from Memphis would also join us. The park is located on Pickwick Lake, another TVA lake on the Tennessee River. When we have visited before we have seen Shiloh National Battlefield in Tennessee, The Civil War Interpretive Center in Corinth and the Contraband Camp also in Corinth. Please refer to our old blog http://vagabondpress.wordpress.com for entries June 2010 Tennessee and Mississippi and November 2010 for the Grand Illumination.
Traditional Thanksgiving fare provided a table full to overflowing and many lunches and suppers thereafter. Our family enjoys playing card and board games after the meal. This year we learned a new domino game called Chickenfoot and played BeezerWeezer for the first time. Not that there is a competitive bone in any of us but Chari won Chickenfoot and Steve and Chari were the winning team for BeezerWeezer.
Time to do some exploring. We drove over to Tuscambia, Alabama which is about an hour away to see Ivy Green, birthplace of Helen Keller. We had recently seen, for the third or fourth time, the movie The Miracle Worker on TV and checked to see where Tuscambia was located hoping to make a visit. The actual home was not used for the movie. When the film was made movie cameras, lights etc. were still very bulky and the site could not accommodate all the gear. They did do a very good job of recreating the home. The story follows actual events. We saw the well pump where Helen connected the feeling of water running over her hand with what was being spelled into her hand. We also saw the cottage where she and Annie Sullivan lived and worked. The thing I thought was most impressive was her writing. She used a letter template much like that draftsmen used before CAD. A statue of Helen at the pump is on display and another one is in the US Capitol. Helen, Annie and her companion later on, Polly, are all buried at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. In June through mid-July the play “The Miracle Worker” is performed at an outdoor theatre on the grounds. After visiting Ivy Green we were all hungry and asked a docent to recommend a restaurant in Tuscambia. She suggested Oh! Bryan’s and a good choice it was.
On the way home we passed a sign for a Coon Dog Cemetery. Huh? You read correctly. So we decided this was just too unusual to pass up. We drove back the next day. A good thing they have signs along the way or we’d never have found it. It is 3-4 miles off the main highway way back in the woods. This is the National Coon Dog Cemetery and the only one in the country. I went with tongue in cheek thinking it would be humorous. At first look all of the plastic flower arrangements did give a redneck feel. However, I found that the sentiment was genuine. These dogs had been loved companions. Some markers were elaborately carved professional headstones while others were simple cement markers made by the owners. Still others were whimsical or funny. My sister-in-law says that when a burial is done they often have large tailgate parties. I guess that’s what the reason for the covered shelter. There’s a guest book to sign. People from all over have come here. The cemetery was started in 1937 and now has over 50 graves.
After a wonderful holiday with family we were in the process of packing up when we were notified that our nephew in Colorado had been killed in a motorcycle accident. Life on the road isn’t any different than for house-based folk. You just learn to change plans on a moments notice. So far we’ve found people to be very willing to help you out. We can’t say enough good things about the Mississippi State Parks. They allowed us to leave the trailer at J. P. Coleman (for an additional fee) in excess of the 14 day limit. The park at Natchez did give us a voucher for payment refund which we used to pay J. P. Coleman and later when we did get into Natchez. It’s times like this that you really appreciate their willingness to help.
We waited for five days until plans were finalized for the funeral. Then we drove to Michigan. It was a very sad week. We needed a diversion so on the way back we stopped in Wapakoneta, Ohio to see the Neil Armstrong Space Museum. We both belong to the generation who lived the Race to the Moon. (Chari) I was in 7th grade when Alan Shepard blasted off aboard a Mercury capsule for his suborbital ride. In July 1969 I had recently graduated from college and gone into the Air Force. I was new to Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois. The Moon Landing party was the first one I’d been invited to attend.(Steve) I was also in the Air Force and stationed in Spain. One of the highlights of my life is that I was one of the thousands of people who actively participated in the space program. I was a telecommunications specialist stationed at San Pablo, which was a small annex connected with Moron Air Base. We were about five miles outside of Seville. We were involved with all the space flights, but particularly so during the Apollo program. There were three stations set to relay direct communications with the astronauts from Houston. One was in Hawaii. One was in Australia. The third was in Spain. No matter what the time of day was, as the earth rotated, at least one of these three was pointed toward the moon. Any communication circuits between Houston and the astronauts, data circuits or actual voice communications, were relayed through San Pablo, if at the time, Spain was pointed in the right direction. My job was to monitor and maintain the quality of these circuits. I know I was only one of thousands of people throughout the world who had a job supporting Apollo, but I was thrilled to have participated. It seemed ironic at the time, that even though I was actively involved, I had to wait until the newsreels appeared at our base movie theater to see what the rest of the world watched in real time. We had no television at San Pablo. Another thing I’ll always remember, is the way we, as Americans, were treated after Apollo II. This was during the Vietnam era, and there was a lot of anti-American feelings throughout the world, especially in Europe. Even though the Spanish people were very friendly, there was always an undercurrent of hostility present toward Americans. After the landing, I would be walking down the street in Seville, and total strangers would walk up to me, slap me on the back, and want to shake my hand because I was American. It was a wonderful feeling. Walking through the museum we reminisced about Sputnik, marveled at the size of the Mercury rocket (83′) compared to the Saturn V (363′) and tried our hand at operating a moon lander. By the way we both crashed! Once back in Mississippi it was time to pack up and head to Natchez.