Today had a definite theme. We started out in the middle of the woods somewhere in Tennessee at the Coon Dog Cemetery. Yes, we were privileged to see the one and only place in the world where coon dogs are properly honored. This was a touching site, and we had it all to ourselves. I was kind of grateful not to have been there during an internment. Judging from the tombstones, the weeping would have been unbearable. And who knows what the women would have been doing? (Probably not using the ladies’ room.)
At any rate, you get a very real sense of how meaningful these dogs were to their people. I am particularly fond of one epitaph that I might just borrow for myself, as it kind of sums up how you want to be remembered: “Barney – Will be hard to replace.”
Just in case, I am including information on burial arrangements in case you have a beloved coon dog in your life. But remember, not just any dog can be buried here. It’s the Arlington Cemetery of coon dog-dom, and you have to provide the proper documentation before it can even be discussed.
Next we took the beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway into Mississippi. Spanning over 400 miles from Nashville to Natchez, this scenic highway closely follows the original Trace, a well-travelled road for centuries, used by the Indians and then the European settlers. Thomas Jefferson designated it the office post road for mail between those two cities. We were able to explore a part of the old Trace, where 13 unknown Confederate soldiers were buried during the Civil War, facing the Trace. Think Meriwether Lewis, Audubon, US Grant and Jeff Davis, and you get a sense of the importance of this road.
The Trace led us right into Tupelo, and the moment some of you may have been waiting for all this time. Yes, we were at the site of The Birthplace, the sacred site where Elvis entered the world.
Words cannot describe the sense of awe some visitors brought to the Museum, the actual sharecropper two-room shanty where the King was born, and his childhood church. Not being a huge Elvis fan, I was able to be a bit more dispassionate, considering this a run-up to Graceland.
We ate lunch at Johnnie’s Drive-In down the road, one of Elvis’s favorite hangs. And yes – wait for it! – we did manage to snag the Elvis booth. (A gaggle of lady tourists who came in later gave us what Valerie would describe as the “stink eye” for occupying that place.) And in case you are wondering about the school picture – third row up, far right.
Just to continue our dog theme, see what a hot dog at Johnnie’s looks like. This place doesn’t seem to have changed a minute from the 40’s. Everything is served on a hamburger bun – even the hot dogs. Tasty looking, right?
The actual biggest treat of the day come from strolling in downtown Tupelo. We spent a wonderful half-hour in Tupelo Hardware. If you know your Elvis history, you know that is the store where he got his first guitar. You can stand in front of the actual counter – X marks the spot. It’s a wonderful hardware store all by itself. But what makes it remarkable is that every person working in it would just love to come over and tell you the Elvis story. They could care less if you buy anything. Standing next to us New Yorkers was a guy from Sweden, hungry for Elvis-lore.
How many times could you tell the same story over and over? Throughout our travels, we have had many experiences with people like those in the hardware store. They have seemingly ordinary jobs, but every day, the world comes to them, and they open up like flowers. Even at Johnnie’s drive-in, they have a guest book, because they are tickled by the scope of their visitors. These people were all so charming and eager to talk that we had to run away before we spent the whole afternoon there. It’s sweet and very engaging. Come down South and talk a spell!