Everyone dies famous in a small town

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The end of the workday couldn't come soon enough. Arkansas was to be in my future. Texas in my rear. To say I was ecstatic was an understatement.Usually I only got excited about Texas, sweet tea, a good bowl of grits and my sports teams. But I was ecstatic, nonetheless, in my own way. The clock finally hit that magical number. I couldn't get to my Ford fast enough. I pulled out the parkin' lot, headed east. Sweet tea in hand. Beef Jerky by my side.. Not more than a mile had I gone when the frustration set in. Traffic. Stand still traffic. "It's ok, I told myself. "This wreck will clear soon," I thought. At least I have Alex & Sierra's new album to see me through.

The wreck finally cleared, but the traffic continue on for what seemed like hours. I guess it was when you really think about it. I'd sat so long and drank so much.. tea that is. I pulled in to the nearest Exxon right outside of my hometown. Did I mention I was comin' from past Dallas? Now I was really ready to hit the road outta Texas, the road to my final destination; Helena, Arkansas population < 7,000.

I had a lotta time to think on my long drive. That tends to happen when you drive about 8+ hours into the night. I thought of my family. The family on my Momma's side. The ones who grew up in the Delta Region; who picked the cotton, plowed the fields, delivered the ice, integrated the schools. Of my Great Grandfather, a Mississippi Sharecropper,who uprooted his family to Arkansas to follow the fields and the work. Of my Grandmother, born in Arkansas, raised of Mississippi. Where the better schools for blacks where at the time. Seems silly to type that now knownin' what we know but it was the case nonetheless. I think of Julia and the email she sent envitin' me out for the weekend many moons before to the  King Biscuit Festival. How I called my Paw Paw all excited tryin' to see what town it was we always visited in Arkansas when I came to visit him just over the Arkansas border in Mississippi. Word vomit. Yes, word vomit would describe the emails to Julia. Word vomit indeed. I tend to think it's part of my Texas Charm.

The drivnin' continued. Hours in and I finally reached the state line. A beautiful blue welcome to The Natural State, my guide. Sleep threatened to set in. "I got this", I pepped myself. Runnin' Outta Moonlight boomed through my speakers via a local country radio station. How fittin' I smiled singin' along.Only the moon my guide through the trees.


 I awoke the next mornin' more excited than life itself. Did I mention I eventually made it to my destination hours later? Well, I did. With all the charm and grace I could muster, I quickly readied with a smile on my face. Well, if that doesn't make me sound like a cheesy Southern meme, I don't know what else would. I guess I could think of a few things but I digress and you don't need to worry your pretty little mind. Bonus points if you know the song. We were headed to pick up Alyssa, one of the bloggers, invited on the trip and her husband Jeremy. They called Memphis home. I'd heard Memphis had a rich blogger culture so I was as excited to meet them as I was Fawn, the Missouri blogger also in attendance. We were informed wee'd be havin' breakfast Southern style at The Edwardian Inn. Hmm, right up my alley. We arrived to the most beautiful-historical bed and breakfast. It put Nacogdoches to shame. All my Texas lovers would understand. The wrap around porch had me swoonin'. Wait, how does one swoon in 2014? I've always wondered this. Is it a combination of fannin' back Scarlet O'Hara style? But swoon I did.

I tried hard to listen to the stats of the house. The hem and haw that made it's grand stature possible. But alas all I could focus on was the grits bake in the oven. I swore it was just for me. It's as if they knew I was comin'. I sat through breakfast rudely textin' frans. I just couldn't with the grits. They were so me. My frans wanted to know of this baked grits I spoke of. They were more Texan than me and we mostly boil 'em. 

Many walked past our table in the small breakfast area. All had the same questions. They wanted to know who we were and where we were from. The president of Alligator Records, a famous blues record company based out of Chicago was the latest to greet us. I tired not to look confused as the conversation turned to blues artist after blues artist and who would be in attendance this weekend. We muttered our goodbyes and thanks. Bellies full, we were on our way. So much to be seen that day. 



"...this is where the walkin' lead." Well, maybe we drove a truck. Well, maybe the truck was a Texas Edition bought in Texas. And maybe that excited me all the more. But where did it lead? To an openin' of the Missippi. To where all the campers of the festival where stayin'. I mentally wondered if this is where the river once flowed backwards for two days. We have mighty rivers in Texas but none as great as the Mississippi. At least not in my opinion. It doesn't help that with the drought here in Texas. Honestly I didn't know much about it but I had once heard it to be true.I swallowed hard at how vast and grand the river was. "THIS is what we will be canoein'?" I shuttered to myself.

Ridin' down a Levee on a Chevy. Ok. maybe it was a Ford but we rode it nonetheless. I smiled from ear to ear as we raced down wind through our hair. Now this, this is somethin' I could get behind. Maybe 'cause it reminded me so much of home with my frans.







Quickly, we grew bored of the Mississippi. As magnificent as it was, much more history/culture awaited us. Normally I would shutter at old and dusty but today not so much. The house stood tall and grand on the cobble stone road. My camera not quick or smart enough to capture it's beauty. Built in the early 1800's, long standin'. Now protected by The Interior. The worn finish of the wood, the creakin' of the floors, the elaborate table settin told the stories of long past.


























































At times it's as if you were transported back. To a time much simpler than this. Ohh, lookie another song lyric. Frans know song lyrics. I guess it's what I'll always love about The South. The simplicity of it all. Each Civil War site passed, a reminder of it all. The good and the bad. My family had a deep history in the military in The Delta. I wondered if our blood was spilled on these fields. Did any of my Wallers fight along side brother for a chance at fresh air? A chance at freedom? I made a mental to ask someone. Not my Paw Paw or Grandmother I decided. Neither could ever give a straight answer and always went on historical tangents. While loved not always needed.

My stomach begin to rumble. I could always eat I thought. Ya, know, the whole growin' up in The South and we show are love by shovin' food down your throats and it's rude if you say no thank you. Yes, The Delta understood that all to well. It was time to migrate on before lunch. The King Biscuit Radio show was to take place. It's been taken place the same time for decades longer than I've been alive. I'm sure I heard someone say it was the oldest runnin' radio program in the Nation and the first to allow blacks. I'm sure I could tell ya more but I was to distracted my a Missourian who came over to tell me all about how she loved black people and even worked the fields along side them. I smiled as I muttered my yes ma'am's.

I felt inadequate and unworthy when the host Sonny came over to take a picture with us. Here next to me stood one of the most revolutionary and influential people in American Music and I didn't know who he was until just then. Shameful I muttered to myself.





Mmmm, finally lunch time. Granny Dee's a few blocks down was to be our stompin' ground. I frowned when the sweet waitress told me they were out of lemons. No this would not do. I quickly explained how I needed my sweet tea with a dash or two of lemonade. The waitress laughed and replied, "baby why you just didn't say a Tom Collins?" I looked at her oddly and tried to tell her that in Texas we call it an Arnold Palmer. I quickly took to FB. I was so perplexed by this namin'. When I  say this was the best sweet tea and home cookin' of my life I ain't lyin'. We chatted. We ate. Hours later it was time to be on our way again. I walked over to thank our waitress. Informed her that I knew sweet tea and this was the best homemade tea i'd ever had. She told me she was Granny Dee's daughter-in-law and thanked me for visitin. I noted that I'd be back if I was ever in the area.





I can't breef I proclaimed on FB. I can't breef. So much delicious Southern Food in my belly and it's as if my body didn't know what to do with its self. We walked the crowded streets. Yes, I need this. Walk baby walk. I marved at the street performers. I awed at the artist. I gave all my monies in the shops. Yes, Helena was a place I was likin'. Every band we passed that had a washboard player made me smile. Was it really blues if it didn't have a washboard? I thought back to the summer of '95. I'd spent much of the summer down in Southern Louisiana with my Daddy's side of the family. My cousin Eric decided that was the summer he'd develop an obsession with accordions and washboards. He was gonna be a famous Zeydco musican in Southern Louisiana. I paused thinkin' of that summer. I immediately wanted to learn the Washboard. The thought quickly faded when I realized I'd never be as talented or famous as him. I'll stick to bloggin' I thought. The night came to a close. So much more Southern food and blues music to keep us company. Such a lovely Saturday.

It felt good to wake up havin' slept in. The rain fell like a flood on the little Southern house we were stayin' at. I couldn't help but smile. Maybe it meant we wouldn't have to canoe the Mississippi. Yes, that's what it meant indeed. I lied back down with no real plans ahead. I'd just scorer FB and soak up all the warmth these covers would allow. Sometime later the rain let up and I was informed the river was ours to conquer. Drats. That's all I could think

We made our way past the historic downtown and walked over to Quapaw Canoe Company. I tried not to let my disapproval show. I wanted the best life jacket they could offer. "I'm just not the fondest of large bodies of water", I said.My soul began to ease when I saw how massive the canoes were. This wasn't like the rinky dink canoes that easily tip over that I'd been in. Yes, I might be able to handle this. The trip didn't take long. It helps when you have an engine in the back. That's what we dubbed our guide. He's what I call home grown and corn fed. I marveled at the beauty of the river. I've marveled a  lot this weekend I realize.

Food again, Yes, this was my favorite part. West Helena conneted Helena Proper. I was dyin' to try this Chinese Southern place. While everyone ordered the famous fried chicken I decided to be brave. I just had to have the chicken fried stake. It'd do. Yes, it'd do.

All weekend I kept askin' locals what Arkansas was known for. No one seemed to know how to answer my question. I kept tryin' to explain in Texas we had BBQ, Tex-Mex. Mississippi had Catfish. A nice man at a local junkin' shop told me we had to try the fried pie. This is what I wanted. Then it all clicked. Why my Grandma made them so. After lunch we found ourselves at Ray's Dairy Maid. Oh these were some of the best fried pies I'd ever eaten. Again I sat rudely textin' frans. I had to tell them of the fried pies I'd eaten.



























My time in Helena was comin' to an end. All that was left was to enjoy the night, the food, music and great company. We sat third row listenin'. I couldn't help but notice the ederley lady on the other site of the fence that everyone kept tryin' to get pics of. Who was she? Why did she seem do entranced. I quickly learned she was Annie. Yes, I was just as lost. She was Annie from the famous Blues Song Lerven Helms penned. I was in aw of this woman. I was also in Awe of James Cotton.  He sat on a chair and played the harmonica like it was his life's breath. While many owwed and awwed. Screamed and cheered. I couldn't help but sit silent as a few tears threatened to fall. It's as if he told his story of life on The Delta through that tiny little instrument. I wondered if his family picked the cotton, too. How long had they lived in The Delta? Were they as poor as my family back then?

Helena left me with more question than answers. So many gaps in our family history that all kept leadin' back to The Delta. The Arkansas side. So much I wanted to learn that I'd never cared to until now.

So Helena consider this my thank you. A thank you for your compassion, kindness, love and warmth. For your Southern Hospitality. Until next time my dear friend.

 And you can read all about my journey home: Here



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20 comments

  1. This entire post was incredibly dreamy. Can I just have all of those houses? Please?

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    1. Sure. A couple were even up for sale. Hint hint

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  2. Beautiful photos! Those old houses are amazing...I was born in the wrong era...lol!

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    1. mmm, story of my life. Story of my life.

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  3. Gorgeous photos! What incredible architecture! What an incredible trip! Thanks for taking us along :-)

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    1. :)(: Kathe. You know i'm tryin; to convert everyone.

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  4. Your photos make me want to hit the road now! Thanks for sharing about your trip!

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    1. Come to Texas. Then we can take selfies together and drink all the Tea.

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  5. Wow looks like a wonderful trip! And those photos! Swoon!!! :)

    http://neatly-packaged.com/

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    1. Please tell me you fanned back like Scarlet O'Hara.

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  6. This whole trip looks like so much fun.. and that caterpillar? I just want to cuddle it! :)

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    1. Yes ma'am. It was loads of fun. And I love them, too

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  7. Wow, what a great read. Seriously felt like a nice book! Memphis baby!

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    1. Why thank you. One of these days I will make it to Memphis. I almost pooped over for a few hours but instead decided to drive over and hang with my Paw Paw

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  8. This looked like an amazing trip! I love old houses like that. I want to live on one about 5 miles back from any roads with trees lining the drive up to the house. :-)

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    Replies
    1. Brenda, now you are speakin' my language.

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  9. Your trip looks very amazing. Lovely pictures.

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  10. What an absolutely amazing journey you had. Thank you so much for taking me along with you through your descriptions, experiences and most of all beautiful photos!

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  11. OH wow! What an amazing trip you had, and I am drooling over your photography. And the food!

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  12. Beautiful pictures. And an amazing trip!

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I respond to comments via email unless your email is unlisted. Then I'll respond via the blog. Thank y'all. Remember to always take the sweet tea!

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