Thursday, June 13, 2013

An All American Memorial Weekend



For as long as I can remember I've been spending Memorial Weekend on a beach either in North Carolina or South Carolina. I decided it was time to switch things up this year. I thought, surely people celebrate all those who have and continue to fight for our freedom in other ways than basking in the sun, drinking cocktails and taking dips in the Atlantic. I had been wanting to get back down to the Mississippi Delta  to see my friends Brantley and Malone, so the Deep South seemed like as good as place as any to spend the long weekend.

I had been sneakily planning this trip with Malone, as a surprise for Brantley, however everyone knows I am not good at keeping those types of surprises... I just get sooo excited. So a month before I was to arrive, I spilled the beans to "B", as I call her.

We packed so much in last time I was there, I wasn't sure what else we could do. I mean, Greenwood is not that big of town. Malone and Brantley didn't let me down. The long weekend was just a great as I hoped it would be.

I arrived Thursday around 9 pm into Jackson. After the commute back to Greenwood it was almost midnight before we got settled at home and we hit the hay shortly after. Friday am I slept in and rolled over to wake up to a fresh huge Magnolia flower, which is the perfect way to greet the morning. On my night stand sat a large, white, clean smelling flower staring back at me. "B" had to work a little so I went on a walk for about an hour and half exploring the neighborhood. I learned a few things on my walk about the folks of Greenwood:
                 1.They want Carolyn McAdams to be re-elected (and she was!)
                 2.They loved initials on the front door.
                 3.Their yards are perfectly manicured. I am talking everyone single one I saw.        


Kessler Bridge
After I returned from my walk I helped "B" with the cars. Kino was washing both of hers plus Malone's. But Malone was working, so we handled the details. This was a bizarre thing for me to see because here at home we just take our cars to a self service car wash and do it ourselves or take them to a car detail company. There, they take their cars to a self service car wash where Kino, a native local and his buddies detail vehicles. He is known as the town handy man doing anything from yard work, painting to car detailing. He is honest and hard working and gets the job done right, the first time around.


Indianola was our next stop. Indianola is in Sunflower County, Mississippi. Sadly I saw not a one Sunflower. We went to the small town to experience the BB King Museum. He grew up in Itta Bena a smaller town just a few miles from Indianola. In Indianola there is a $14 Million museum dedicated to the King of Blues. Yes, you heard me correctly, a $14 Million museum is in a town where the population is around 12,000. We had a wonderful lunch at Nola before heading over to the old cotton gin that houses part of the museum. It's the oldest standing brick cotton gin in the country. We watched a 12 min video before we eyed Grammy's, guitars, a remodel of his home studio, sat in a tour bus, listened to original recordings, read about: his cotton field days, friends, beliefs, religion and thoughts on life. BB worked as a child in the cotton fields where the museum now sits.

We had planned to stop in another small town to pick up some goods. We knew we were low on gas when we left Greenwood heading to Indianola, but "we have enough to get there, just need to get some before we leave". Full bellied and talking BB King talk, we drove right out of Inidanola, without stopping at the gas station. Normally this would be no big deal, as where I hail, they are all over. Not in these parts. They are few and far between. The smart BMW is telling us we have 15 miles til empty, then 10, then 6. That is when we got nervous. We had to make a game time decision, it was this: turn around and go opposite direction of our next destination town and head up and over to another closer one. "B" has her iphone out and tell us she has a route. This route was a road running through someone's farm land. The convo went like this:

Brantley: Alright guys this is it. John something something Farm Road.
Emily: Are you sure, there is no street sign.
Brantley: Totally sure.
Emily: B, this is a dirt road!
Malone: Em, this is not a dirt road, it's only like half dirt.
Emily: Oh gah, we just went flat. 6 miles to nothing. I hope we make it.
Brantley: We will be fine.

Thankfully, we found the gas station a couple miles after we got off the non dirt, dirt road. And we were back on track to scoot over to the next town to pick up some art.

Once back to Greenwood it was past 5 pm and time to make a cocktail. A fresh homemade Mint Julep to be precise. Mrs. Snipes had dropped off all the ingredients for us and even some light snacks to accompany it while we were out and about in The Delta that day. While the Mint Julep is best placed with the Kentucky Derby, all Southern states enjoy the spirits of this bourbon concoction. "B" informed me that each Southern state has it's very own silver/ pewter design for their MJ cup. We poured the blend, bourbon, a splash of ginger ale (for the fizz factor) and washed off fresh mint from the garden as the garnish. Under bulb string lights and soothing tunes we enjoyed our chilled cocktail, with huge smiles on our faces.



From here we head to The Alluvian to sit out in the terrace for some pre dinner drinks. Around a round table in the corner 8 of us enjoyed wine, cocktails and beer. 8 pm rolled up on us and we headed over to Lusco's. Lusco's is a fine dining establishment housed in a old brick building. The lobby area includes a sitting section (on furniture I would not suggest sitting on) and stuff everywhere. By stuff I mean: posters, menus, bottles, light up beer sings, t shirts, fans, duck decoys, dusty fake plants, stained 'tile', stuffed animals, old guns, and an old piano. From here we are taken to a cubby room. Almost all their dinning spaces are in a cubby with a curtain door. Hey, I love privacy just as much the next person, so this is not a compliant, rather a welcomed new dining experience. The food is just mouth watering. I was told to order the house salad, broiled shrimp with crab lumps on top and a twice baked tater. I followed directions and ordered what I was told. While we wait for our food, I pour my self a bourbon. I think more eateries should follow suit and have BYOB (bring your own beverage) policy. It is widely acceptable in The Delta. My food arrived and I was completely satisfied.

The Alluvian





A couple hours later we decided we should check out the only other bar in town (Alluvian being the other) for a drink or two. We walked in and all 5 of us and we were the only ones in the joint aside from the 3 at the bar and the one or two outside. We gathered around yet another round table and chatted things up with Malone's BFF, Mr. Ellis. 12:30 rolled around and we were being kicked out... bars close early down there. We tried to recruit others for our "trip around the world" but we ended up with 5 then 3. Taking a trip around the world simply means cruising dirt roads, fields, and bridges out in the country, for what usually ends up being several hours. Windows must be down, music must be blaring. Several hours later we arrived back at home to get nestled in bed.

My favorite bridge
Full Moon Party






Kayaking was something I knew "B" & Malone did on the reg. I wanted to experience an ordinary Saturday so we slept in, went for lunch at the Crystal then packed up the car. This jaunt was going to take 4-5 hours. I was told the past times they had gone, the river bank had been so low, it was a 10 foot drop/ jump with the kayak. As we plow through the dirt road out at Tallahatchie Flats we hit a hole and ooops there went one of our kayaks. Breaks were hit and we hopped out and hauled them the rest of the way. To our delight and surprise the river was so high it reached the bank. We literally glided right in. The river was moving so fast, we honestly didn't kayak/ paddle for the first hour or so, we just let the river guide us. We propped feet up, looked for animals, laughed, told stories, gazed up at the sky, drank champagne and beer and cruised down river. Several hours down river I'm given a lil history lesson. At a particular part in the river something happens there where it happens no where else in the country! 3 rivers meet/ collide. The Tallahatchie and the Yalobusha meet to create the Yazoo. Pretty darn cool stuff. Close to 5 hours later and after a couple stops, Malone flipping, seeing no animals bud finding remnants of a tree a beaver worked on, many photos and several waves; dusk was approaching so we deciding we should actually put the paddles to use and get down to Greenwood before dark. Malone and "B"s friend met us and helped secure the kayaks on top and drove us to get "B" care out at Tallachatchie Flats.

Side notes:
* Tallahatchie Flats is awesome, well from what I have seen twice in my life. I've never actually been there, but it looks and sounds awesome.
* I hope people blare Ode to Billie Joe when they stay out there.




3 rivers meet!



It was a good Saturday.

Ahhh Sunday. It was so nice to wake up and know I was not leaving until Monday. We attended the 10:30 service at the Episcopal church downtown, that Malone is a member of. For several reasons the service was just what we needed. A wonderful service was spoken on Hope. Lesson for the week: God does not provide promises because promises can be broken, instead he provides Hope through salvation and that is a guarantee. Every single time. After church we get out of our Sunday best and put on cabin clothes. Cut off, tanks, t-shirts and hats.

Jack ready for the cabin

Fishing Pond
We stopped at the local mart for fried chicken to go. We drove about 30 min and were there! There being "B"favorite place on Earth... Meadow Brake Land. Their family cabin sits in the middle of it. There is a screened in porch that wraps around the house. The entire house, interior and exterior is like something out of Garden & Gun Mag. The outside is a happy color of green. The entire place has a cabin feel and smell yet it is decorated with country and non country, Southern and stylish touches. I'd expect nothing less from a Snipes. We made lunch and dinned on the porch. My plate was full of fried chicken, baked beans, pasta salad, side salad and watermelon. Basically it was perfection on that Sunday afternoon. While "B" and Malone drove to town to pick up Elise, I lounged in the hammock with cozy pillows, the sun trying to peak through the branches and my book. I love a good 45 min rest after a hearty meal. When the girls arrived back, it was time to see the land, shoot targets, ride 4 wheelers, fish and play country music.We drove in the new cabin Jeep (roof off & windows down). We shot about 100 rounds toward beer cans, bottles and orange targets from one side of the small pond to the other. We fished and I got my first pond fish. Ever. I squealed. Literally. "B" laughed at me. Then we all laughed. We saw a Water Moccasin and tried to shoot it, but failed. However, I feel like the Snipes clan will not stop until they get that lil (big) guy. As darkness set in "B" and I went on the 4 wheeler. She drove all over the property telling me stores, pointing out hunting sites, new roads, old roads, and where she shot her first Turkey.










Our tummies rumbled to inform us we should eat, as the sun we lowering, we headed back to the cabin. The grill was ready for us. Burgers and corn were tossed on the rack and all enjoyed a glass of vino while our dinner cooked. We shared our favorite parts of the day, what the upcoming week held, talked boys, listened to music and took in the surroundings. I could literally live on the Cabin Porch: hammock, fire place, swing, couch, chairs, table, mirrors, fans, rugs, sink, refrigerator and surrounded by nature: what more do you want?! Clean up is easy with 4 gals all helping out, so in no time, it was like the feast didn't even happen. Elise had a big night before so called it a night a couple hours earlier than us. Malone, "B" and I decided to take the Jeep for a night run. It was a full moon and the sky was clear & lit. Arriving back at the house around midnight, we said our good nights and headed to bed. I was lucky enough to get Maggie's (Brantley's sister's) room. I'm friends with Maggie as well and I knew this room was right for me. We both enjoy a good long slumber with as much darkness as possible. Maggie has one small window, with a dark shade to convert the space from room to cave once darkness falls and the lights are turned off. It was 9 hours of pure bliss. I woke to the smell of Wright's bacon, which is heaven on Earth. The bacon was accompanied by pancakes and eggs. "Closing up the cabin" was the next order of business since Mr. & Mrs. Snipes would not be back until later in the week.





















With this visit I flew into Jackson and was set to fly out of Memphis. Malone and B told me a stop in Oxford, MS was mandatory. The only things I knew about Oxford was that Elise lived there, Malone went to school there, it's located a little over an hour from Memphis, TN and there is a pretty building that is always associated with the school and the last fact I know about Ole Miss is there is a place people call The Grove and that I know about from The Blind Side. I now know that pretty building is called the Lyceum, The Grove is 10 acres of land in the center of campus for tailgating and it's where the football team walk during football season, and the school was founded in 1848.

We walked the town square for about an hour before grabbing some eats. The square and surrounding streets are filled with books stores, bars, historic landmarks, restaurants, music venues and churches. It reminded me of a mini French Quarter area. Old buildings, iron railings/ and double porches.

Square books is one of the most charming book stores I've been in. It's in a corner building of The Square. Books lean against the wall from floor to almost ceiling. It smells old, but has a new vibe. There are local authors, cook books that make you want to run home to your kitchen, stairs the creak, handmade note cards, tall old windows, cozy sitting areas and heavy stock wrapping paper to make your purchase even happier.




Around a corner we came upon St. Peter's Episcopal Church. It was beautiful. 153 year old brick. Traditional arched wooden beams. A tall white steeple trying it's hardest to reach heaven.  Detailed stain glass.You could feel the history pouring out of this place. It's the oldest standing religious building in Oxford. It got this title by being the only surviving religious structure after the town was burn to the ground during the Civil War. I snapped a couple pictures while Malone checked to see if the doors were unlocked, to our delight they were. Walking into silence and an "old smell", a moment of peace came over me. I couldn't recall a time where I had ever been alone in such a beautiful place of worship. That was always something I'd seen in movies- beautiful churches unlocked and no one there expect the main character in the movie... usually praying for someone not to pass, or asking for forgiveness of something horrible they had just done. But this was real life and I'd never experienced this: no noise, no one talking, no music. It was just us and our echos.


It was now time to walk back to the Square passed the courthouse, that holds the fort down in the center of the square, over to the William Faulkner bench. Faulkner was born and raised in Oxford. People of Oxford love him and so does Ole Miss. I took a seat with Willliam and then we headed to Proud Larry's for some grub. Waters and huge sammy's were ordered. This place was packed, indoors and outdoors and smelled of pizza and smoke. We had a great lunch then moved on with the Oxford tour.

Ole Miss owns Faulkner's Antebellum Estate, The Rowan Oak. We drove over to take a look, sadly being Memorial Monday, it was closed. So we could only walk the grounds and peak in windows. Even still it was impressive, built in 1844 and takes up 29 acres of land just moments from the Square. When he bought the house it was in distress and he was not known for his words.. yet. Over the years he completed many of the renovations himself. Hundred year old Cedar trees line the driveway and walk way to the front door. Old stables, barns and vines are scattered across the land.

If you go to Faulkner's grave. Bring a bottle of bourbon. Tradition has it you should bring a bottle take a swig and leave the bottle on the tomb as a gift. So bring a bottle almost empty.



Tour de Oxford continued with a cruise through Ole' Miss. I know where Malone lived as a freshman.Where her sorority house is. Which frat house Elise spent most of her days. And I had now experienced The Grove. It is beautiful. I wanted to lay and read a book. Drink a cocktail before a football game. Walk the loop around the grounds. But we just drove by as I couldn't be missing my flight out of Memphis.

As we were leaving on Hwy 6 on the four lane hilly road I saw a couple cars pulled over at what looked like a memorial. Five huge white crosses perched up on the hill along the shoulder of the road. Five Dogwoods surrounded each cross. I asked Malone & "B" was that was for. Even typing this I have chills. I got the sense it was a story that people of Ole' Miss and Oxford didn't talk about much, but it was in the back of their minds. Especially when driving past it. In March of 1987 there was a tragic accident on Hwy 6, just several miles outside of Oxford involving the women of the Chi Omega Sorority and a truck driver. Read here for the entire story. I imagine a tragedy like that changes a school forever. I imagine it taught lots of parents, students, families and friends lessons about anger, speaking up when you feel something is off, forgiveness and the strength of moving on- just to name a few.  It is a beautiful thing that after all these years, people still stop on the road to visit, pay respects and take a moment to remember that fatal day. Each Fall, the father of one of the girls goes out and paints the crosses with a coat of fresh white paint. That is just one of several tributes that are done each year for the girls. In addition, checks are written to charities in remembrance, cards and flowers are sent each Spring to the five mothers who lost their daughters and prayers are said every Sunday at church.

It may seem odd but I'm glad we drove Hwy 6 that day. After several days of good ole' fashion fun and fellowship with two dear friends, I couldn't help but take a moment, several actually, on the drive to Memphis and think about how thankful I am for the life and love that surrounds me daily. I feel like people of our generation are so much on the go, we don't often enough take the time to reflect. 

Thank you Brantley and Malone for another weekend full of memories, fun and firsts. 


Written By: Emily Ballard












































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