Natchez Trace, aka Scary Acorn Trail

Last year when we left TCPC to head to Texas for the winter, we stopped in Nashville and Memphis, which I’d actually like to do again, Memphis because I learned so much about its role in the civil rights movement, and Nashville because I need a do-over with better intel. Still, there’s a lot of this country we haven’t seen, so we have to keep the repeats to a minimum.

This year we’re traveling down the Natchez Trace Parkway, from its northern point near Nashville, down through a corner of Alabama, through Mississippi, to its terminus near the border with Louisiana. I truly did not know this parkway exists (it’s one of four national parkways in the U.S.).

The Trace itself is a very old trail, probably established by bison traveling north from the lower Mississippi River to salt licks near Nashville. Indigenous people then used it for trading; they’d float goods down the river, then walk back up the Trace. Roadside signs along the parkway are mostly about more recent use, during the Revolutionary and Civil wars.

You can hike the Old Trace, which I’d love to do. We’re just driving along the parkway beside it, though, and camping for two days here, two days there, doing light hiking to get a feel for the place.

We did stop at the Meriwether Lewis memorial, at the spot where he killed himself and is buried. I had no idea he’d killed himself. Apparently we was facing huge financial pressure from James Madison, who’d not honored Jefferson’s promissory notes after the big expedition.

I imagine his reasons were more complicated than that, but I didn’t absorb that info because I was too busy thinking about how he had managed to shoot himself with two guns simultaneously, in the head and in the chest. Weren’t pistols kind of big back then? And didn’t they involve flint or some such that would make holding two at once, both facing yourself, really challenging? I think it was Lewis’ second suicide attempt, so he must’ve really meant it. Amazingly, his grave was unmarked for a while.

There’s lots of history to the Trace that I’m going to catch up on now that I have cell signal. Problem is, we’re in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and there’s a lot to learn about here, too. As usual, I need to do more research before I hit a new place, not on the way to the next one.

At least right now, we are gratefully out of the acorn danger zone. Back at the start of the parkway, Banjo was so freaked out about intermittent showers of acorns that I think she developed her own little disorder. (Like back on Mars, when she developed a fear of alarms thanks to the overactive propane detector.)

Even here in Alabama, when she’s inside the trailer she cowers in the tiny spot by Tracy’s side of the bed, teeth chattering, acting like it’s the end of the world. You can try to comfort her, but she’s beyond reason.

Poor Banjo. She sure does make a good model against the leaves, though. Soon enough we’ll be in Texas and she’ll forget all about acorns.

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