Memphis Camping

We’re in a state park south of Memphis called T.O. Fuller, named after a Black politician who worked for the rights of locals here in this rural, seemingly forgotten area. How do I know this? From the lady I associate with this park, Margaret, who gives you a full tour of what to do in Memphis when she checks you in at the visitor’s center.

State park entrances vary greatly, from unmanned booths where you slip your registration scribbles into an ”iron ranger,” to built-up complexes with exhibits of taxidermied animals and elaborate gardens. T.O. Fuller’s entrance is is just an office with a registration desk and display cases of brochures, but nowhere have I been given such a tour, just inside that little reception area.

Margaret checks you in and then narrates the history first of the local area and then of Memphis, handing you appropriate brochures as she goes, a mile a minute. It’s because of her that I know that Boxtown, the immediate vicinity of the park, began as a home for emancipated slaves, and they were given boxcars to live in. She says, ”Imagine the heat in the Mississippi Delta in the summer, living in a boxcar.” She has my interest hooked before I even get to the campsite.

The Campground

The camping area is pretty danged tight; we’re up against the road, with a spot for our chairs looking into the woods: home to poison ivy and three feral cats. The whole park is in a state of renovation, and it seems the parts we’re interested in are farther down the list.

Many trails are accessible right from the campground (you know we love that), but they need maintenance. Still, there are plans for a pond for canoeing and kayaking, plus a wildlife viewing area. I viewed my own wildlife when my face disrupted this orb weaver’s web on a hike in the woods.

We’re enjoying it here; its full of snow birds moving south like we are, checking out the sites in Tennessee on their way.

Banjo’s Brief and Exciting Adventure

Banjo’s been hanging out between the trailer and the woods whenever we’re not in Memphis, mostly doing this.

And on our morning walks, doing this.

When the cats are around, though, she’s doing this: watching and waiting.

She and Tracy were outside while I was inside for a bit, and I hear a kerfuffle and a yell, and I look out in time to see Banjo take off like a jet into the woods.

Tracy tries simultaneously to get on good shoes, tell me to do the same, find a leash and treats, and explain to the park ranger who just happened to be standing on the road right then that we’re also not happy about our dog being off leash (she had broken her harness when she lounged after the cat).

Just as Tracy’s head is about to explode with too many things at once and fear that Banjo is halfway to Memphis by now, she tears through the words towards us, then stands by me and lets me put the leash on her and give her treats.

We figure that cat she was chasing climbed a tree pretty quickly, and then Banjo looked around and realized she had no idea where she was, so she turned around and high-tailed it back to familiar ground. Good girl.

I’ve seen this before: dogs who live at a stationary home—when they get loose they wander all around the neighborhood, checking out places they don’t get to sniff when they’re on a leash. (Jackie Boy, I’m talking to you.) They may eventually wander back home after a few hours and after they’ve given their people heart attacks.

But dogs who live with people on the move keep their eyes on those people (and in our case, on the truck). They’re not about to get left behind when it’s time to move on. They do not wander.

State Park Pride

Back to Margaret, here. She organized a Halloween story-telling party for local children at the playground, and she and her extended family rented RVs to stay in the campground and “see what it feels like” for themselves on the party weekend.

So, I walked up to her RV one morning to ask if she wanted the latest Tiny House I’d just finished (she said her five-year-old niece cried when she saw it) and got to talk with her as we walked between our sites to grab it.

She told me about the renovation plans, but she also saw the trash that campers had left behind the night before, and she got super upset. Apparently, one of the camp hosts should be cleaning the sites each morning but doesn’t. So she asked a park ranger for a trash grabber and a big black bag, and in her camping clothes, on her day off, she walked that campground filling that trash bag.

She said, “They tell me I’m OCD. But this campground reflects on the park, and I wouldn’t have my yard looking like this.”

When I was at her campsite, I’d heard one of her relatives ask, ”Who wants wine? I know it’s early, but we’re on vacation!” so I knew what she was missing to pick up that trash. (I would have joined her in picking up—we even have a trash grabber for this purpose, since campgrounds are our yard, but I was doing laundry at the time.)

This pride, it’s a defining characteristic of Memphis, in my short experience here, at least, adding to the others I mention in my post about how much I’ve enjoyed visiting this city.

More state parks need people like Margaret. Heck, the world needs more people like Margaret.

3 thoughts to “Memphis Camping”

  1. Margaret sounds like a gem and the campground is lucky to have her! I will never understand people who litter or dump stuff on the roadside so that it’s someone else’s problem. Like bloody toddlers really.

    1. For some reason it’s common in captions for people to treat fire pits and rings like trash cans, even when actual trash cans are within sight. It’s like, when camping, all rules are off.