Sunday, March 23, 2014

Caruthersville, Missouri

Last Tuesday John and I started the trek which would move our home from Mississippi to Missouri.  Before I write about our stop for that evening I have some final musings regarding Mississippi.  First, I would like to mention that the state flower is the magnolia, pictured above.  We saw several of those trees at one rest stop, and I was pleased to see them as I realized that the further north we traveled we would most likely not see many more blooming plants or trees. Secondly, at all of the rest stops, in Mississippi, where we stopped, there were security guard huts.  One can be seen below under the flag.
 If I remember correctly, in all of the rest areas we have been in, across the nation, there probably was only a couple of them where we noticed guard shacks.  What intrigued me about the ones we saw in Mississippi, was that there were guards in them, which made no sense to me because the guards, to protect the visitors to the rest stops, should be patrolling the grounds and not sitting inside where they could only view the parking lot in front of them!  Thirdly, my attention was drawn to the Mississippi flag, which looks a bit like the Confederate flag.  Upon researching the subject later I learned that the state's flag is the sole remaining flag with the Confederate battle flag's saltire ( St.Andrew's cross).  Mississippi had a flag referendum to change it in 2010, but it was voted down - the state wanted to keep the 1894 flag.
Tuesday evening  we parked near the Mississippi River, on the grounds of the Lucky Strike Casino.  The casino is in Caruthersville.  The town is named after Sam Caruthers (1820-1860) who represented the area in congress in the 1700s.  Caruthersville was once called "LaPetite Prairie".  The New Madrid earthquake of 1812  devastated the town,  but it was rebuilt by 1857 and designated as the county seat of Missouri's bootheel.  John and I walked the streets of the town Tuesday evening, and I thought it looked like a sad metropolis.  Many of its downtown buildings were empty.  There was a bit of activity at a pizza parlor, the only restaurant in town.  Of course the casino has plenty to offer in that regard, as well as entertainment.  Out at the edge of the town is a Walmart.  Have lived in Missouri most of my life I had ofter heard about Caruthersville, but never been there or had any idea of what the town was like- and now I know.  We arrived in Illinois on Wednesday, and plan to reside there near our daughter and her husband for awhile.  Their little boy Nathan continues to hold a spell over me, I have enjoyed helping out with his care.  We also plan to spend some time in St.Louis before hitting the road once more.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Jackson, Mississippi

John and I have failed miserably at acting like snowbirds.  Yesterday Jackson broke all previous records with a high of 42 degrees.  Coldest on record previously was 48 degrees in 1960 for March 17.  Well, I guess this has not been a normal year weather-wise for most of the country.  As Vicksburg, Jackson has plenty of places for the tourist to visit.  However, with the cool weather John and I were unwilling to spend much time outside.  The capitol seemed the best place to start.
The Mississippi is known as the "New Capitol" since it succeeded the old statehouse in 1903.  Our tour guide informed us that its' cost was $1,093,641, easily covered with funds from a lawsuit against the Illinois Central Railroad for back taxes.  It was built in the Beaux Arts style, which is defined as "scholarly, self-confident, grand and lush" (quotation from the Oxford dictionary of Architecture).
Pictured above is part of the rotunda which features white Italian marble with trimmings of Belgian black marble.  The colossal columns are of scagliola ( plaster made to imitate marble).  All of the inside of the capitol gave me an impression of being dramatic and yet simple in appearance.  Our next stop was lunch, and it being St.Patrick's day we wanted corn beef and cabbage.  In Mississippi it is all about soul food, but we did find a capitol staff worker who directed us to an Irish pub.  They happened to have a special on corn beef and cabbage.  The meal still had over-tones of soul food, but was still quite good.
After lunch we shifted through all the travel brochures of Jackson and discovered that many museums are closed on Monday.  Given the weather we could not do gardens or even the Jackson zoo, which left us with the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.   We had a wonderful afternoon there learning all about the diverse natural heritage of Mississippi.  A 100,000- gallon aquarium system houses over 200 species of native fish, reptiles, amphibians and aquatic invertebrates.  Also a 1,700-square foot greenhouse called "The Swamp" has another aquarium which provides a home for alligators, turtles, and fish.
Outside of the museum is a system of nature trails which meander through wooded bluffs, river bottoms and swamplands.  It is part of the LeFleur Bluff State Park. 

Yes, the above picture does have a wintery look to it.  However, I was impressed by certain vivid colors in the scene above.  The slough is a beautiful turquoise blue, the red bud is in bloom and the trees are beginning to don their bright green leaves.  Spring has to be coming soon!  The park also has several varieties of wildflowers starting to bloom, one of which is the"Little-Sweet-Betsy" trillium.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Vicksburg's Old Court House Museum

Saturday turned out to be quite a goofy day for us.  We drove to Vicksburg with a rather long list of places which we wanted to see.  However, our car had other plans for the day.  We parked in the historic area of the town and that is when the trouble with our car started.  It would not go into park and John could not pull the key out of the ignition.  Only thing to do was to call for a tow truck, the only available one was 90 minutes away.  While John waited for help to arrive I wandered down to the waterfront.
At the entrance to the downtown riverfront are 32 life-like pictorial murals that depict periods of history in Vicksburg.  Also on the waterfront is Catfish Row Children's Art Park, a creative adventure into the history of the Mississippi River and the paddle wheel steamboats which once traveled on its waters.  Eventually the tow truck did arrive, but it turned out that the car did not need to be towed because the man who was going to tow us figured out how to fix the problem.  By then our day was partly gone and we decided, given the lateness of the day, that the best place to spend our time in Vicksburg would be at the old courthouse.  That was a good choice as a lot of history pertaining to the area is in this one building.
The old Warren County Courthouse was built in 1858. The city block surrounding it had been designated by Rev. Newet Vick (who founded Vicksburg in 1819) as a public square.  Here Jefferson Davis made a campaign speech in 1843 when he made a run for the state legislature.  Teddy Roosevelt, William McKinley, Zachary Taylor, and Booker T.Washington also spoke in this square.  General Grant reviewed his troops here after the siege of Vicksburg.  The courthouse has nine rooms of interesting pieces of history including artifacts ranging from pre-Columbian Indian and pioneer implements to many artifacts (clothing, furniture, toys  tools and art) pertaining to the Civil War era.  In case you are wondering, that is a cat in the picture below. He is known as the "Courthouse Cat" and the infant cradle in one of his favorite napping spots.
In one of the rooms is a typical courtroom of the Victorian era.  It features an ornate cast iron judge's dias.
There is also an entire room dedicated to Jefferson Davis.  Even though he was imprisoned for two years, he never came to trial because legally he had done nothing wrong.  He refused a pardon.  In his mind he had done nothing of which he had to repent, at West Point he had learned that secession was not wrong.  Another interesting fact which I learned was that the defeat of Vicksburg happened on July 4th. and the town refused to celebrate that holiday for 82 years until July 4,1945.  Vicksburg's citizens were so thankful for our victory in World War II that they had to celebrate the holiday!   Also in this museum I picked up some interesting information about Mary Todd Lincoln, of whom history has not always treated too kindly.  She had four brothers in the Confederate Army, and three of her sisters married Confederate officers.  Eleven of her cousins also served on the Confederate side.  Besides the personal tragedies in her life she was also probably alienated from most of her family.  That was our day in Vicksburg, we certainly will need to come back, but the courthouse museum was all we needed for this time around!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Natchez Trace Parkway- Part Two

The second day of our journey back to Mississippi was primarily on the parkway.  John  had seen some of the northern sections of it, as you may know from reading this blog, and he wanted for me to also have the experience of riding on it.  Our first stop was at a Chickasaw village site.  Here there are markers noting where the tribe had its' summer and winter houses, as well as a fort.
Not much there now except daffodils, which we continued to see all day along the parkway.  Interpretive signs at this site provided interesting information about the Chickasaws.  Followers of DeSoto first saw them in 1541 when they had a bloody battle with them.  Two hundred years later the tribe became allies with the British, and were used by them to oppose French expansion. They remained a thorn in the side with the latter until France in 1763 gave up all its North American possessions.  Along the parkway are also sites of ancient burial mounds.  We saw the Bynum Mounds which were built between 2,050 and 1,800 years ago.

I am not sure why we turned off the parkway into French Village, but it turned out to be a good move.  We had not had lunch and thought that there were no restaurants along the Natchez Trace.  However, there is a cafe at French Village, the only eating establishment on the parkway.  French Camp was founded circa 1810 by a Frenchman who opened a stand, or tavern and inn here.  The village has log cabins, an antebellum home and other structures dating back as early as the 1820s.  We had a wonderful lunch in the cafe of sandwiches made by the bakery on the grounds of the village, and homemade soup.
At Cole Creek and Cypress Swamp we were able to take short trails through bald-cypress/tupelo swamps.  In the above picture notice the cypress knees which support the trees.  The tupelo has a swollen base which anchors the tree.  We looked hard for a sighting of alligators, but no luck on that.  Only wildlife which we saw on the parkway was one coyote and many deer.  At the French Academy Village we did see an abundance of  bluebirds.  Our journey along the parkway also took us near the Pearl River, so named because a French explorer found pearls in its' waters.  The river has served as a boundary between Mississippi and Louisiana since 1812.  That was pretty much our day on only a small portion of the parkway, certainly had we not traveled on it we would have had arrived home much sooner!   But then we would not have had such a fun and interesting day!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Corinth, Mississippi

The past several weeks have passed rather quickly.  Most of that time we have stayed in Carbondale, Illinois, except for a couple brief visits to St.Louis and Farmington, Missouri.  It is amazing how our lives have so completely revolved around our grandson Nathaniel.  Our nights and days totally melted into one another as we tried to give our daughter some sleep time between the constant feeding demands of a newborn.  As Melissa is breast feeding, there is not much we can help her with in that department!  The picture below was taken during one of her nap times- notice the cat Zelda in the upper right-hand corner who is standing guard over her and the baby.  For the moment all is peaceful.
 We left Carbondale on Thursday and our stop for the night that day was in Corinth, Mississippi.  We came into the town completely ignorant of its history.  We only knew two things:  we needed to find a place for supper, and we wanted to see the downtown area.  As we drove through the town we found its historic section and stopped to look at a few interpretive signs in front of some older-looking buildings.
The house pictured above was once the headquarters of Confederate General Polk during the Civil War.  And the house pictured below was where the Confederate General Beauregard had his headquarters.
 In April of 1862 the General made the prescient statement that "If defeated here, we lose the Mississippi Valley, and probably our cause".  After supper at the "Blazing Noodles" ( a wonderful restaurant in Corinth) we walked around the Civil War Trailhead Park and learned further about the war which took place in Corinth in October of 1862.  The park was once a critical railroad junction for the town and it was one of the battle sites where the Confederates briefly rallied against the Union Army.  Hard to imagine, but in this little town 20,000 Confederate troops fought house to house against 20,000 Union Army troops in a street battle after which the Southern troops were driven from the town in disorder. There is a Civil War Interpretive Center in Corinth which explains in more detail the battle of 1862, as well as the Battle at Shiloh, unfortunately we did not have the time to visit it.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Carbondale, Illinois

Wow. guess I have some explaining to do!  Some of you, our readers, may have figured out that I did not write the last two posts.  My two sisters Gloria and Julia guessed that I was not the author of those posts, and they were right.  Last week I took a train to Illinois so that I could be present at the birth of our first grandson.  Our home and John stayed in Jackson, Mississippi so John could continue sightseeing.  He also was wishing to stay as far south and warm as long as possible.  He wrote the posts on the Natchez Trace and Vicksburg, did such an awesome job that maybe I can persuade to write more on our blog site.
Pictured above is Nathaniel John Taylor, born February 21st.  His weight was 7 pounds and 11 ounces, and his height was 20 inches.  I arrived in Illinois two days before his birth, which allowed Grandmother Cohen, Melissa and I to finish decorating his room.  His birth went into a rapid mode once his mom started feeling labor pains early Friday morning.  We all went to the hospital at about 3:30 that afternoon and Nathaniel entered the world at 5:20 PM.  It was a beautiful and natural birth,  Memorial Hospital of Carbondale is to be commended for following Melissa and Spencer's birth plan.  Melissa and the baby came home Sunday afternoon.  Melissa is breast feeding and consequently this past week has gotten little sleep.  Grandma Cohen, Spencer and I have tried to relieve her during the baby's fussy times, with the night hours being my time to rock little Nathan.
John drove to Illinois on Wednesday and, as the baby seemed to be getting on some semblance of a sleeping and feeding schedule, we drove to St. Louis on Friday to visit my sister Julia and her husband Cal.  Their house is very quiet and I sometimes awaken in the wee hours of the morning to listen for the baby's wail.  A winter storm has hit this area, but hopefully John and I can return to Carbondale tomorrow or Tuesday.  After a couple of more weeks there we plan to drive back to Mississippi and move our rig north.