Lewis and Clark, Tom Hendrix, Ole Miss, and broken bones…
I met back up with the trace in Tupelo, Mississippi. I planned to use my aerial equipment first thing in the morning and then spend the afternoon in Oxford…. I need to stop making plans.
Alone in the forest I hurry to unfold the 20 foot ladder used to rig my equipment into the branches of a tree. Slam! The ladder swings shut with both of my hands stuck inside. A shooting pain shoots up both arms telling my brain to break away. But like a Chinese finger trap, the harder I pull the more intense the pressure. I look around and see no signs of cars or other humanity. I realize, after the irrational thought ‘I’m going to die here’ has already crossed my mind, that I need to get myself into a calm state where I can think logically and find a way to free myself. I try to use my foot behind me to lift the ladder. It’s too heavy.
I walk myself back a few rungs and try again. I rip my right hand free and in the excitement let my foot slide lose. Slam! The ladder falls back on my left hand a second time. I try to lift the ladder with my free hand and can’t. I have to use my foot to free myself again. It took about thirty seconds of freedom until the pain finally set in. It felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me when it hit. I drove myself to the immediate care blasting Rage Against The Machine with the windows down in an effort to stay conscious on the 37 minute ride into town. You seriously don’t know pain until you are driving a non-power-steering stick shift with two freshly broken hands. When I arrived, my blood pressure had dropped so low from being in shock that the nurse took it twice because she thought there was no way the first reading could be right. Both hands needed to remain in splints for 3-4 weeks. I left to find a spot to hide out and relax for the rest of the night. Change of plans.
After sleeping in late, I decided to finally spend the afternoon in Oxford. It was a very enchanting town, with big buildings and dense trees everywhere. And it lived up to the stereotypical university town you see in the movies more than in real life these days. Students in polo-tees and tennis outfits walked the streets of the square, all seeming to be in a hurry. I stopped in for coffee at a small outdoor shop on the corner near legendary Square Books where I purchased The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley.
I spent the remainder of my day traveling north along the Natchez Trace Parkway. While most of the parkway had pull offs, trails, and attractions about every 3-5 miles, this section seemed to present a needed lull in the busy pace of the journey thus far. Just before sun down I walked a short trail to view Jackson Falls, a set of short waterfalls set right off the trace.
Even though it was getting dark, I was fully energized by an enormous amount of coffee and still in the mood to explore. I decided since I was on no set schedule, night and day should make no difference to me. I continued on to check out a cave and a part of the sunken trace- eroded from the many travelers who had originally traveled the path in the 17-1800s.
I stopped in Florence, Alabama to see Tom Hendrix’s commemorative stone wall. He spent the majority of his life building this wall in memory of a Native American family member who had been forcibly deported from her homeland. When she determined that she would not survive on the water-less land she was forced into, she trekked the Trail of Tears back home. The wall was built by hand in honor of her bravery. Other travelers have told me that if you can find Tom at the wall he will gladly talk to you for hours about his purpose and experiences while building the immense masterpiece. Regrettably, he passed away just weeks before I arrived and so the construction of the wall has finally come to an end.
After spending hours lost in Florence and neighboring towns, I finally find the entrance to the stone wall only to find that it has been commercialized since his passing and visitors are only allowed during certain, daytime, hours. However having come all this way, I took the slightly open gate as an invitation in. Guided by flashlight, I made my way through a section of the architectural maze. However, my adventure was cut short when I noticed a light at the main house flick on as I snuck by. I had to run back to the VW to escape back into the safety of the trace.
As morning fell I was graced with the view of a field of deer frolicking on the lightly dewed grass, the Lewis and Clark Monument as their backdrop. I breathed in the view and then pulled off to get some sleep.