The return leg of our driving trip back east for the Coppage-Coppedge 66th Family Reunion began Sunday, August 10th. We said goodbye after breakfast and headed for Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia. We took the walking tour with a guide and I found myself being impressed once again by this man who was our third president. Besides the fact that he was the author of our Declaration of Independence, he had an insatiable appetite for learning – always learning. He taught himself seven languages, he was a tireless builder/architect, and he was an inveterate inventor. For example, in his home in Monticello, he designed the home himself so as to take advantage of maximum sunlight. The placement of all the windows was done so that regardless of the time of day, sunlight would come into the home. To enhance this, he created certain wall paints to embellish the lightened effect. He even built a skylight! What intrigued me most was the hidden pulley system he made for a set of doors for the interior of the home. If you pulled on one door, the under-floor pulleys would automatically pull the other door closed (or open) at the same moment. The home was filled with all sorts of gadgetry like that. Overall, the entire place was designed for a farmer, which he was. He would get up each morning when he could read the hands on the clock. Then he would sit at his writing desk and spend the next two-and-a-half hours writing. Every day!
We spent that night in a hotel in Bristol, Virginia which is on the state line of Tennessee. I received a phone call from a friend who drives truck informing me that we were in his neck of the woods. Bob Paris had been driving some long haul stuff out to California and stopped in our church one Sunday, and we’ve been friends ever since. Just so happened that he lived right near Bristol, so we met for lunch and got caught up. Great to spend time with this Christian brother.
We rolled into Jackson, Tennessee that evening where we were warmly greeted by Robert & Susan Reeves in true Southern Hospitality. We met them three years ago when I officiated at Josh & Amy’s wedding in Great Falls, Virginia (Amy is their daughter). When they heard we were going to be driving across country they insisted we come and spend some time at their home. They are such gracious folks, we couldn’t say no. They even hooked me up with a friend of theirs named Harbert (not a misspelling) Alexander, who is an historian, particularly on the Civil War, and specifically on battles and engagements of Tennessee units. Since my great grandfather, Rev. Daniel Thatcher Lake, was from Carrol County, Tennessee, Harbert was very interested in helping me find information and records on the family. This will be on-going so I’ll update you as we move along. Harbert has written several books, and is the caretaker of the local library in Jackson. He took us in to see a Civil War display that he and others have assembled in the library which will be part of a permanent display.
The Reeves took us to their cabin for a few days by the Tennessee River near Shiloh. What a beautiful setting! The river is spectacular in its own quiet way. We went “noodling,” which is a type of fishing new to me. Catfish is the big catch in this part of the country, so there are various ways to catch these fish. Noodling is where you take a length of cylindrical Styrofoam, such as is used in swimming pools, cut a length from about a foot to two feet in length, then you run a line about twenty-five feet through it with a hook and weight at the end and plop that guy right in your favorite spot. The Styrofoam floats, plus it’s colorful, so you can see it from a distance. If there’s a fish on the line, you’ll know it because it has moved away from the string of noodles you’ve put out. The other day, Robert and I put out 24. We only caught one catfish, but released him back to the river.
Speaking of catfish . . . if you’ve never been in the south and feasted on catfish and hushpuppies, you have more living to do! Seems like everything in the south is fried, and this classic meal is no exception. So, one evening we went to a local catfish restaurant and gorged ourselves. The hoity-toity of the world would look down their noses at such blue-collar faire, but let me tell you – if you haven’t had it, you must try it. Put it on your “bucket list.”
We bid our friends farewell yesterday morning, and drove to Corinth, Mississippi where my great grandfather fought with the 9th Texas in the Civil War. He was wounded nearby, ambushed crossing the Hatchie River, possibly at Estanaula Landing. The battles of Shiloh, Tennessee, and Corinth and Iuka, Mississippi were pivotal for the south. In losing these battles, Grant and his army were able to gain direct access to the Mississippi River and thus sail down to Vicksburg, Mississippi where the siege began, and the south was unable to ever gain control again. The south was effectively boxed in and the squeeze began.
Corinth was critical because of the railroad crossing. Losing this crippled the south in moving men and supplies. So Isaura and I stopped to see this small town with its classic old homes, and quaint downtown area. We were told we absolutely must stop and have a Slugburger and milkshake at Borroum’s Drug Store. We were intrigued, if not repulsed, by the term Slugburger. Mr. Borroum was a surgeon in the Civil War. At the end of the War in 1865 he opened this pharmacy which his family still runs today. Somewhere in the early nineteen hundreds, meat was a bit scarce, so some enterprising fellows by the name of Weeks added soybeans to some meat and created what became known as the Weeksburger. Because it was only a nickel for the burger back then, it became known as a Slugburger. The slang term for a nickel was a “slug.” Aren’t you glad it isn’t what you thought it was! We each had one (with mustard, pickles and raw onion – standard) and a chocolate shake. The interior of Borroum’s is classic Americana – a step back in time.
So today and tomorrow, we are visiting Sulphur Bluff, Texas (a few miles north of Sulphur Springs) where my great grandfather is buried; Marshall, Texas where my father was born; and Lone Oak, Texas where my mother was born.