CHASING THE BLUES, CHAPTER 14: Memphis, TN, to Sikeston, MO
All packed up and ready to move on from Memphis, we carried a couple of bags with us as we walked to the garage in the next block from the hotel to retrieve our car. After our letterboxing adventures on Sunday, we had parked the car in the same slot on the 4th level where we had put it the day before. When we arrived at the location, another car was in the space, leaving us both more than a little concerned, so certain were we that we had parked there. Hadn't we?
Stealing glances at each other, we marched resolutely to the stairwell, figuring we must have parked on the fifth floor. But when we emerged on that level, we found a white Buick where we were sure our car would be. Though neither of us would express our anxiety aloud, we trudged to the elevator to go through the motions of checking the third floor. No way had we parked on that level.
As we rode silently down the elevator, our minds were separately racing with how we would deal with a stolen vehicle. When the elevator doors opened on third, there in front of us was our car—in all its pollen-coated splendor—exactly where we had left it a couple of days before. It looked beautiful!
Still heaving sighs of relief, we picked up the rest of our bags from the hotel and made a bee line for Whole Foods, hoping to score a healthy take-out lunch from their food bar. The moment we entered the store our ears were assaulted with an awful racket. It sounded as if the HVAC and several other systems were badly malfunctioning with machine parts screeching and clattering against each other.
Sadly, the discordant clamor was issuing from a young man abusing his electric guitar and punishing all the customers and employees in the store. His noise—it could not be called music—was so loud that everyone had to yell to be heard. When the young man mercifully stopped for a few seconds, the cashier explained that the store was offering an opportunity to local “musicians” who cannot find another place to perform. As many venues and jams as there are in Memphis, there’s probably a good reason these individuals don’t have a stage, bless their hearts!
|Hernando de Soto Bridge|
In the sleepy town of Turrell (pop. 590), our GPS shifted us to AR-42, a remote road which made AR-77 look like a smooth thoroughfare. A few miles north of Turrell, we realized that the restroom we did not find in town we were not likely to find any time soon. It mattered not. In such an isolated spot, we could stop in the road and answer nature's call there.
|Robert E. Lee Wilson|
Though workers were tied securely to the plantation through their sharecropper status—compounded by Wilson’s scheme of paying them in his own currency—they were given medical care from company physicians for the cost of $1.25 per year, an uncommon opportunity in rural areas of the period. The company also hired employees to provide basic services to the workers.
In 1925, Wilson’s son and his new bride returned from a honeymoon in the English countryside infatuated with Tudor architectural style. Since the town and everything in it were owned by the family, Wilson Jr. launched a complete renovation of all town buildings retrofitting them with the steeply pitched roofs and half-timber trim characteristic of the Tudor style.
Lawrence apparently has ambitious plans for Wilson, which do not include renaming the town in his own honor. He fully intends to engineer a metamorphosis of Wilson into a cultural and educational center for the Arkansas delta. For starters, the Wilson estate is being transformed into an elite private school.
|WARNING: Kitchen Under Construction|
|Mississippi County, AR Courthouse|
The Missouri bootheel country is a land of rice farming. Lush green expanses of the grain spread outward from the roadside. Some areas clearly have seen too much rain, as flood water had some fields completely under water.
As I faded in the late afternoon, fighting sleep, Ken brought us into Sikeston, Missouri on US-61—the Great River Road. After checking in at the local Holiday Inn Express, we found dinner at a nearby Ruby Tuesday. Back in the room, looking at tomorrow’s plans, we discussed the grim forecast for heavy storms in the St. Louis area over the next couple of days. Since Clarksdale had similar Weather Channel drumbeats last week and not a drop of rain materialized, we decided to take our chances and roll on to St. Louis in the morning.
- Miles driven: 214
- Weather: Clear to partly cloudy, 68° to 79°
- Rice fields: 826
- Boarded-up storefronts: 103
- Tudor towns: 1
- Misguided ideas at Whole Foods: 1!
More Photos from Today
|One of the many Lee Wilson company buildings in Wilson, AR|
|Not your typical small town Arkansas bank|
|A Wilson family home being retrofitted for a planned private academy|
|A sample of Lee Wilson currency (photo from New York Times)|
|New Madrid, MO|
|The first Missouri arch, over US-61 at Arkansas state line|