"In every person who comes near you look for what is good and strong; honor that; try to imitate it, and your faults will drop off like dead leaves when their time comes."
– John Ruskin
Hi Y'all. We're in Jackson, Mississippi and having a great time. This quote has particular meaning for me this week.
I want to say something about people in the South that we've met so far. Yes, they talk funny, well at least to us northerners. But the thing that I've noticed even more so than an accent is the gentleness that these people have. They are not in a hurry, either personally or professionally. Whenever we strike up a conversation with someone, the person takes the time to really talk to us. I like that a lot and it is a characteristic that I would like to have, and need to cultivate within myself. How often have I really stopped to talk to someone or see how they are? I know I've done the standard "Hi, how are you?" when I passed someone in the hall at work and, quite frankly, never stopped long enough to truly find out. I worry about all this social networking that our young kids (and even some of us oldies) are into these days. Are we losing our ability to communicate in a heartfealt manner because of it? When was the last time you looked someone in the eye when you spoke to them? Enough of the lecture. Just think about it.
Ok, back to Jackson. LIke I said, we are having a great time, well at least when it's not raining. Geez, we've had what seems like a lot of rain down here but it may be a good thing for this area. I cannot even count the number of rivers or creeks that we've driven by or over that were almost completely dry.
Since we have had so much rain, we didn't get to do too much in MIssissippi, but what we did do, we absolutely enjoyed. Steve and I were able to visit Vicksburg, the sight of one of the worst battles of the civil war. There were some 20,000 casualties during the 6 weeks of major fighting in this area. We drove through the Vicksburg National Military Park which is much like Gettysburg. This park, established in 1899, includes the entire extent of the siege and defense lines for both the armies of the North and South. There were about 100 markers within this park that highlighted key points of the battle and the strategies of both generals as they fought for control of the Mississippi River. Should the North gain control, they could shuttle troops and supplies up and down the river at will. They could also isolate Texas, Arkansas and most of Louisiana, which would give the North even more power and greater strength in their efforts to win the war.
By late 1862, Vicksburg stood as the lone Southern port left to be captured by the Northern armies. In May, 1963, the North came perilously close to taking the city and it was finally surrendered on July 4, 1863. The town itself was almost completely destroyed, but several buildings were saved, one being the courthouse. Each of the states that participated in this battle had major monuments erected to honor those men who participated in the battle. The troops from the North were mostly from Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan.
One of the coolest parts of our trip around this battlefield was our stop at the USS Cairo, a restored Union ironclad gunboat that sank after hitting a torpedo during this battle. It was raised 100 years later and restored as best it could be. I knew about the ironclads but had no idea how huge they were. We were able to walk around inside to see the canons and enormous steam boilers that were used to power the paddlewheel that moved them up and down the river. Unbelievable! There is also a museum on site that contains artifacts found on board the Cairo.
Our entire visit to Vicksburg was not focused on the war, however. We drove around the town to see the beautiful antebellum homes (antebellum means "before the war"). Vicksburg also has a stretch along the Mississippi River that is dedicated to various murals that depict the glory of Vicksburg past and present. The murals were absolutely beautiful and I enjoyed them very much.
One stop that we made in this quaint town was at the Biedenharn Candy Company. This adorable little shop became the first bottler for Coca-Cola in 1894. Prior to this time, Coca-Cola was only available as a fountain drink. But thanks to Mr. Biedenharn's idea of putting it into bottles, Coke is now marketed around the world and he served as the cornerstone for the establishment of a network of independent bottlers who distribute Coca-Cola globally. Another example of how one person can change the world!
Steve and I also took a drive south on the Natchez Trace Parkway to spend the day in Natchez, MS. Before I get to our visit to Natchez, let me say a few words about the Parkway. This "highway" runs 444 miles between Natchez and Nashville and was the main thoroughfare in the South for quite some time. There are numerous historical monuments along the way such as Indian burial mounds and even some interesting geological sights. Along the way, Steve and I stopped to see an Indian burial mound and passed by a pasture where the cows had escaped from the fence. Steve managed to "steer" them back into the pasture with his cowboy talk and we then fixed the fence so they couldn't escape again.
Ok, back to Natchez. We both absolutely fell in love with this town. It's the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River, established in 1716, two years before New Orleans. The city once boasted over 500 millionaires and has the largest concentration of antebellum homes in the country. The downtown area itself is just the coolest. It is definitely one of those towns where your workplace and home are within blocks of each other -- exactly the kind of place Steve and I want to settle in. We took a carriage ride around the downtown area and were treated to the wit and wisdom of Jack, our driver. He shared many stories and fun facts about Natchez and of his horse, Jake, who he "rescued" from the Amish. Funny man. There are tons of restaurants and cool shops with a really quaint, sort of old school feel to it. The day we were there, Natchez was kicking off their Christmas celebrations and even had a giant Christmas tree in the middle of the main street. There was just so much to do in Natchez and I wish we would have had more time to spend there. I highly recommend it to any of you interested in both US and Native American history. We're sure you'd fall in love with its charm just as we did.
And don't let me forget to tell you about Hal & Mal's Big A** Turkey Bash. Steve and I went to downtown Jackson for this little bash and had a blast. We started with dinner which was great. Steve and a shrimp Po Boy and I had a muffaletta. MMM MMM MMM Good. Love that stuff! Anyway, our waiter was Taylor, the son of Hal (one of the owners). He's in town on break from Mississippi State where he is studying anthropology. He gave us the lowdown on the bands we were about to hear. Hal & Mal's had 5 bands playing that night, three of which we listened to. The first one we heard was Passenger Jones, which Taylor said was Southern Rock and I would agree. They reminded me of the Almann Brothers (although not quite as talented). The next band was "surfer music". They played songs like Hawaii 5-0 and Wipeout. They also did a medley of other surfer tunes and incorporated some Christmas Carols into them, which I really enjoyed. The main band of the night - The Kudzu Kings - were, according to Taylor, "older guys who used to be really popular in the South, but they stopped playing and went on to teach and stuff." Not an exact quote but pretty close. Steve and I asked for clarification, thinking that they were in their 50's or something. Taylor laughed and said "no, they are 30 or something like that." HELLO! OLDER GUYS? REALLY? Anyway, they were awesome. They had the standard guitars, keyboards, and drums but included a trombone, saxophone and trumpet. They totally rocked.
The rain kept our outdoor activities limited so we went to see a couple of movies. Steve went to see "J. Edgar" and I went to see the new Twilight movie. Steve gave his movie a thumbs up but I HATED the Twilight movie. I would have left halfway through but Steve's movie was going to run 30 minutes longer than mine so I would have had nothing else to do anyway. Oh well. We stopped at Baskin and Robbins afterwards and I felt better. :)
Today is Sunday so we've got our usual schedule - - church, laundry, homework and football (since Nascar is on hiatus until February 26 when the Daytona 500 kicks off the new season). Church today was at Lakeshore Church and we had a VERY moving message from Pastor Jay Frazier. He talked about the importance of "Being Thankful for a Future to Long For" - - meaning our eternal lives in heaven. Steve and I have been so blessed to have been led to a number of different churches along our journey. Each has had its own unique personality and charm and we've enjoyed meeting so many nice people as a result of being a visitor. God's presence is very much alive and well in the churches we've visited and that is heartwarming to see, especially given the state of our nation these days.
Alrighty then folks. That's a wrap for the week. I have two more weeks in this semester so I need to get cracking and hit the books. Those papers don't write themselves, you know.
Until next week, think about this - - "If you woke up tomorrow morning and the only things you had were the things you thanked God for yesterday, what would you have?"
Peace out kids! (Ugh. That's so last year, Lauren!)