Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Another Surprise Visit...

So having done this trip last year, we considered ourselves "Oxford Veterans." We knew what we wanted to see and what we could skip with no problem. And that left us a few more spots where we could wriggle and have some new adventures. 

The hotel, the Comfort Suites in Batesville, was new. The Hampton Inn, where we stayed last year, was being renovated, though it was open. I don't think we had the ability to get rooms, so even though we missed out on the "dinner" that the Hampton had each night, we were -- OK, I was -- rewarded by an indoor pool and hot tub. 

Of course, now that we'd brought suits, The Kid says, "I'm not really a pool person." Ooooooo-KAY... But MOM loves a hot tub...That being said, I reserved most of the "tubbing" to the Batesville stay, because I wasn't sure if I was actually going to go IN and I wanted enough time for my suit to dry. The hot tub was actually a "cool tub" which was fine -- I don't do heat well, and the coolness was a balm to my achy legs. 

Our first night in Batesville was marred by the horrible, HORRIBLE clerk at the hotel. Obviously, she flunked "customer service" and should consider another career, rather than the "hospitality" field. She's not suited. Our rooms were true suites, and that was nice. Ceiling fans, a couch that was comfy enough to be a sleeper, a microwave & fridge... But then there was the A/C. It sounded like a jet plane. Every 7 minutes. I know because at one point, I timed it. 

I was up listening to it anyway... 

So our first trip was to the square. Square Books and Off Square Books...The only places to go for unusual books, new and used. 

Well, our ACTUAL first visit was to Mr. Bill... Is it a sin to hand him my Kindle? We paid our homage and I spied a beautiful magnolia next to the courthouse. It was so pretty against the red bricks. It was a huge tall one, too. I didn't change lenses, but I was still able to get a couple of nice shots of it. It's not like we didn't see a zillion magnolias. I just liked the way this one contrasted against the deep, glossy green leaves, and the warm red brick. It was almost greeting-card pretty, except that I was already broiling in the heat. 

The other thing that caught my eye was the lack of tourists. I was expecting more, but I recalled that last year we were closer to August - so perhaps there were more people getting their kids settled. We had a lot of space. Not too much traffic. Easy parking, too. 

After drooling and shopping at the bookstores, we toddled around the square a bit, and I noticed something else. 

Last year, The Kid and I talked non-stop. This time, he spent a lot more time on his phone, texting friends. Now, yeah, he's doing research for our side trips, but he was also on the phone with friends. A clear sign to me that it's time and I'm cherishing this last trip with him. At least for a while. 

After we finished our adventures in the square, I took off for the cemetery - and I found it right off! Amazing how your brain clicks in... Oxford is a city of traffic circles, and it's a little weird, but you eventually get used to it. 

We found something new. Pennies. 

Pennies on Faulkner's grave. They weren't there last year. But they were in abundance this year. Getting ahead of myself, even the reference librarian at Ole Miss wasn't sure why. 

Some poor soul brought a bottle of cinnamon whiskey to place on Bill's grave. Oh, no! Straight Jack, please! I did empty the cinnamon bottle - at the FOOT of his grave. I didn't want to corrupt the actual memorial with the erzatz whiskey. The Kid approved. 

We poked around at the cemetery for a bit. Both of us love a good historical cemetery. We visited Ma and Pa Faulkner - spelled Falkner - and looked at a number of memorials. The Kid decided he wants a bench. Near a tree. 

I want a repurposed one. I saw a memorial with a modern plaque, but clearly a repurposed monument, and it was cool. 

Slave cemetery
Slave gravestone
We actually stumbled upon a slave cemetery within the graveyard. And again, getting ahead of myself, a guest at the Ole Miss library said that "there was a Negro section" in that cemetery. Well, that section has been absorbed within the rest of the cemetery. The stones were small. Names only - no dates. All set within a certain spot, regimental. It was sad. A very strong reminder of the separateness of people, even in death, which is after all the great equalizer. Slave or master - each of them dies in their time. These graves appeared to be pretty sparse, too. I was surprised that they were even there - and that may sound odd, but I would have thought that a slave cemetery would have been in another place entirely. 

The other odd thing was: why didn't we notice this last year? I can't remember seeing it and neither can The Kid. 

I noticed family names on the gravestones in the slave area, so perhaps one or two families buried them there. Clearly, this is an area where slavery was alive and well during the time period, so I wonder whether there are other cemeteries in the area where slave graves are more in evidence. It's an interesting subject for consideration. If I do more traveling - like when I visit Kid #1 in Virginia, perhaps we'll find some evidence there as well.

Is it creepy to be drawn to cemeteries, particularly the older ones? I don't think so. 

We saw an open crypt - The Kid didn't want to peek in. I figured, what could happen? 

What was amazing was that in one section, I noticed "game cameras" bound to strategic trees. It depressed me to think that people were vandalizing the graves. The new mausoleum was finally done. It was like, "Wow - they finished that, didn't they?" It felt like we were visiting family, in a very strange way. I don't go visit my relatives, but I'll go to an old cemetery any day.

The cemetery was actually quite peaceful. We looked at the history of the place, and we saw the following: "A Civil War general is buried here." 

Ok -- which one?? Of course, I asked, and I swore I'd remember. The Kid thinks it's General Barksdale; I'm hearing "Livingston" in my head... But to the larger point, you're in the Deep South. Well, as Deep as we were going, at any rate, since Oxford is basically north Mississippi. But you're in Confederate country. Why would you NOT name the general? 

After tooling around, we found the grave of Barry Hannah, an author Kid #2 admires. So he brought Barry's book, set it at his stone, and we photographed. Someone left a black pen. You can see it just above the book. 

And there's a little angel who's surely in heaven. Look at all those names. This poor little mite lived one day. His parents gave him Old Testament names. I hope they found comfort in his marker. And I hope they visit it. Maybe they moved away. Maybe they just can't bear it. You can imagine all sorts of things with these graves. Some are cared for, some are not. Some have flowers, some don't. Some are older than old. Some are more modern, with lights, wind chimes, teddy bears - all kinds of ornamentation. It's a place to think about what happens after. 

We stopped at Lamar House, which we skipped last year. We skipped it because I was going to die of heat stroke and needing a bathroom -- not necessarily in that order. 

So of course, it was closed... But we saw the statue of Mr. Lamar, and we saw a "Heritage Tree" - a large, old, gorgeous Osage Orange. There are a number of these "heritage trees" around Oxford. They're a "heritage" tree if they're the largest, and oldest, of the particular specimen in the area. Lamar House celebrates the life of Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar - and now that I read up on him a bit, I'm not all that sure I'd be celebrating him... He wrote the Mississippi Secession Ordinance, opposed civil rights, and was generally what I would call a "good old boy." Not in the progressive sense. But anyway, I give Oxford credit for saving a historic home. 

The South is what it is and they believe what they believe. It's known as "The Harvard of the South" and it's somewhere around 34 out of 100 in Princeton Review. 

Rowan Oak was next. We strolled the grounds and took our time. We didn't spend more than an hour there. As I noted: we knew where we wanted to go and we went there. 

That being said, we finally (after a few days of late, late lunches) went to lunch AT lunch! So this time, it was Neon Pig...an old-time butcher shop/grocery with a couple of trestle tables down the center where you eat with whoever shows up next to you. This place has the BEST burgers! The Kid had a burger and I had a BLT. The BLT used local bacon. The butcher shop was toward the back. The "grocery" was at the side, and it had labels: "your cabbage and carrots come from the Smith Farm on Rt. X." The butcher shop even said where the beef and pork came from. 

The menu board had duck prosciutto. For $250 a pound. Two hundred fifty dollars. A pound. 

Outflow of dam to Lower Sardis
Our afternoon trip was to Sardis - a town about 10 miles the other side of Batesville. There was a dam there. We like dams. 

Well. It was a dam. Oh my. A huge earthen dam. As we were driving along a 2-lane road, The Kid says, "where's the dam?" I pointed to the green "hill" -- and said, "There." 

We were on the Lower Sardis. This is the outflow. Lake Sardis, above and over the top, is huge. I mean, you can't see the top of it. 

Lake Sardis - the dam
We both decided that water is comforting. It was just nice to sit there and watch the water coming out. There were folks fishing near the outflow, and boats just putting around the lake. I would have enjoyed a pontoon ride. 

We drove around to see if we could find the access to the top of the dam, and we watched as this lake came into view. This is one of the largest earthen dams, and we just stood there in silence. Looking at the immensity of the lake. Imagining the magnitude of the project and who thought of it and how much it changed the landscape. 

The dam is to the right and behind
For some reason, the name "Sardis" rang bells with a Faulkner theme. I'm sure I'm confusing it with "Sartoris" and for all I know, that's what he did. 

On top, we watched swifts drive off a couple of hawks. I was snapping pictures left, right and center. A few did turn out, but I have to fiddle with them. And then the heat got to me. What probably happened was when I was taking the pictures, I was holding my breath. I tend to do that. Bad idea... Just sayin'. 

Hawks lose to Swifts
Before we left, I had put a wet washcloth into a baggie. That was good planning on my part. What we really needed was more water. So this time, we made yet another trip to Wal-Mart (that made 4 trips this time - more time in a Wal-Mart than I've spent in 20 years!), to stock up on water and get some dinner - we actually just had ice cream... The water was a necessity. Last year we brought water every morning, and we somehow had a brain burp this year. We certainly weren't going to spend $4/bottle at the hotel! 

Sardis was a nice find. If you were inclined, there's a lovely boat launch, a beach down the way, a recreational area and camping. 

For me? Air conditioning and a hotel, thanks! 

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