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In May my wife and I took a tour of Missouri,
Arkansas, and Tennessee
which gave us a look at the diversity in America.
††††††††††† Our first
destination was the small town of Mountain
View Arkansas. We
arrived on a Friday evening and drove around town to see what it was like. We
heard music in the town square and stopped. We listened and enjoyed old time
fiddle music being played in three gazebos. A native told us that this happens
every evening in good weather. They were retaining and sharing their heritage.
††††††††††† On Saturday
we went to the Ozark
to watch various crafts people at work. One man was using a lathe powered by a
foot pedal. He had made numerous gyroscopes of various woods. Others were
making soap, pottery, and brooms.
highlight of that day was a half hour fiddle concert repeated every hour. The
musicians were so good that we went back two more times to listen. They didnít
repeat any song. The music brought back happy memories of my dad who played the
fiddle at dances and just for enjoyment. I remember well Turkey in the
Straw, Red Wing, Wabash Cannonball, and more. The performers were the Cobb Brothers
on the fiddle, mandolin, and bass fiddle, ages 12-15. An older gentleman accompanied
them on the guitar. It was exciting to see and hear these young people
enthusiastically preserving their heritage.
††††††††††† In Memphis
we visited Soulsville USA museum on the site of the Stax Record Company where such singers as Otis Redding and
Sam Cooke got their start and rose to fame in the 1950ís and 1960ís. It was a
whole different kind of music than what we heard in the Ozarks but also
enjoyable and fully American.
††††††††††† In Nashville, on a very hot
day, we visited the Hermitage, the home of Andrew and Rachel Jackson, who owned
many slaves to operate their cotton plantation of 1000 acres. We also took an
emotional driving tour of the Civil War battle site at Shiloh.
††††††††††† After the
Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, schools across the country began to
peacefully integrate but not in Little
Rock where the struggle to integrate was contentious. Central High School at that time was ranked the
best high school in the nation, but blacks were not allowed to attend. The
National Park Service portrays the struggle in a very moving display in a site within
full view of the High School.
††††††††††† In Memphis we visited the
private non-profit National Civil Rights Museum in the former Lorraine Hotel. We
stood near the balcony outside the room within a couple feet of the place where
Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. He was shot from a
bathroom window in a boarding house across the street which is also part of the
Museum. †I remember the scene well back
in 1968 and was moved by being in that sacred space. King is one of my heroes.
††††††††††† When I eat
breakfast out I like to have a cup of decaf coffee but much to my surprise only
one restaurant in Arkansas and Tennessee offered decaf
coffee and I am sure that one made the coffee after I ordered it. Others
offered instant. I finally asked why and was told no one orders it!
††††††††††† The Neelyís have a TV show on the Food Channel and operate two
restaurants in Memphis.
I had the best ribs I ever ate at one of these restaurants. We had great soul
food at the longest owned minority restaurant in Nashville. At another restaurant I had turnip
greens and purple hulled peas. At the end of the meal I had not eaten all the
greens. The server asked if I wished to take them with me. No thanks, I said.
food experience involved breakfast. Bologna
was offered as a meat side along with the usual bacon, ham, and sausage that we
customarily find around here. We also saw a sign for the seventeenth annual
testicle festival in Olean Missouri. While this celebration was totally
new to us these festivals occur in many places around the country.
††††††††††† Our people
and our history are a diverse mixture of sounds, food, slavery, segregation,
assassination, and even war. It is good to appreciate the diversity and learn
from our heritage.