Day 1

27 May

So, we took to the road today and our grand adventure has begun. Our plan was to drive to Conway, Arkansas, north of Little Rock; a day of about 550 miles. That’s what we did.

Bob & Ben

We made four stops so we could be tourists. First we took a shortcut (so we called it) at Murfreesboro to avoid Nashville. This small detour took us to Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, where some friends have a bookstore, Yeoman’s in the Fork. Since we left home at 6:30 and since we gained an hour by going into the Central Time Zone, we went through Leiper’s Fork at 7:30. Don’t know why, but the bookstore was not open. Sunday morning. Holiday weekend. What were they thinking? Anyway, we noticed that Ben Franklin was sitting on a bench in the bookstore yard. We stopped, talked with Ben for a few minutes and went on. He’s still youthful for a man of some 300 odd years.

Engine # 382

Our second stop was in Jackson, Tennessee, home of Sam Phillips – you know, Sam Phillips!! – do I need to make this a trivia question? Jackson was also the home of John Luther Jones, “Cayce” to his friends. Jones grew up in Cayce, Kentucky, and that’s how the nickname originated, but over the years it became “Casey.”
I’ve always had an interest in Casey Jones. A few years ago Lee and I went to the museum devoted to him in Vaughn, Mississippi, where the wreck occurred. Unfortunately the devotion knew bounds and that museum had closed. We knew the one in Jackson was open and that it offered many opportunities to spend money. We expected just to stop and take a photo. Plans change. The museum proved to be rather nice with many railroad relics and some first-hand information on Casey. We watched the film, toured the Jones home and read interviews with Casey’s fireman, Sim Webb – “Jump Sim, jump or we’ll all be dead.”
There is an entire villages around the small museum, so a family can drop some serious money on food, souvenirs, and other, less essential items. However, I was pursuing a personal interest. A very nice woman, museum historian, Norma Taylor, introduced herself and autographed her short book on Casey. She has interesting information on the engineer, but I’m more intrigued by the origin of the song. (Here’s a link, in case you would like read about to my interest in Casey Jones: http://www.theridgebooks.com. Look in the left column.

Billy Tripp’s Mindfield

I thought the next and third stop would be the highlight of the day, but it lacked something. In Brownsville, Tennessee there is a folk art environment called Billy Tripp’s Mindfield. This place looks like a major construction site. You have to look at the details to see that there is a single driving intellect behind this construction of large beams and towers. Unfortunately, Billy Tripp was not around to offer any thoughts on the grand effect he is seeking. A woman that I spoke with said, “It looks like a lot of junk to me.” I think she was a little unfair. Much skill and hard, skilled labor has gone into this construction. The artist says his parents are buried on the site and that he plans to be buried there also. I suspect that he knows what he is doing; the plan is just not obvious to the rest of us.

Fourth, we stopped in Brinkley, Arkansas hoping to see an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker for Jastram. Unfortunately, Brinkley is bereft of Ivory-Bills. Gone is the economic boomlet that occurred when Cornell University claimed that the elusive woodpecker had been found in the swamps around Brinkley. We found references to Purple Martins and Mallards and Cardinals and Chickens. We saw a starling. We discovered an unhealthy local interest in cats – the high school mascot is a tiger. A couple of disreputable cats were painted on the wall of a bar with a “No Firearms Allowed Sign” on the door. One restaurant advertised chicken salad; could that have been a misprint for woodpecker salad? We thought that there was no remembrance in Brinkley of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker – Then there it was, on a local hairdressing establishment – Woodpecker Haircuts $25. (Guess who’s getting a gift certificate for Christmas? Think Corps of Engineers. Think Junior Birdman.)

Woodpecker Haircut

Lee at Toad Suck Square

Finally, we came to Conway – famous for giving Conway Twitty his first name and somewhat less well-known for its Toad Suck Daze. We missed the Toad Suck celebration but evidence of it was still around.
One story is that workers on the river would become dry docked at Conway and would drink so much they would swell up like toads. Not likely – but amusing.

We get to see Oral Roberts U. tomorrow.

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One Response to “Day 1”

  1. Craig May 29, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    Bob and Ben had matching shirts….Aaawww.
    Liked the locomotive.

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