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Students at ‘Ole Miss’ have a tradition of drinking shots in the evening in honor of Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner. They often leave momentos in his honor.

A Hooker, Elvis and Blues are experienced in Oxford

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Editor’s note: This article by John Smith and the series of travel articles to follow “are intended to provide ideas for those who love to travel, to spark the interest of those who wish to travel and have not, and to entertain those who have no desire to travel,” the author explains. “My personal philosophy is that travel provides the opportunity for adventure, cultivates an understanding of other people and places and enriches the traveler’s mind. I hope each reader will gain something of value from each article.”

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BY John Smith

FOR THE ENTERPRISE

Oxford, Mississippi

The grave of William Faulkner, the Nobel Prize winning author, was the last place you would expect to encounter a former Hooker.

“Good morning,” the 70-year-old woman chirped as she spryly hiked along the road near the gravesite. “Would you like to know more about Mr. Faulkner?”

Who could resist a bite of that apple?

For the next hour she told me stories about her life as a Hooker, about her childhood in Oxford, her many visits to the nearby Faulkner home, Rowan Oaks, (which I had visited the day before), and the day that James Meredith enrolled at the University of Mississippi in 1962.

While all of her stories were interesting, her accounts of life at the Faulkner home were the most interesting. How as a little girl she sat at the feet of William Faulkner while he told ghost stories, how in an annual ritual they were given glasses of champagne at Christmas to pour on the gardens at Rowan Oak and how Faulkner would drink with the locals to get a flavor of the people he wrote about.

It would have been fun to spend the day listening to such a remarkable woman, but there were places to go on this short southern excursion to the Memphis area.

The little side trips to a major city are sometimes the gems of a journey; and Oxford, a mere 90 minutes south of Memphis, was a good example. The genesis for authors like Faulkner and John Grisham, Oxford is rich in history and tradition.

The statue in the quaint town square still pays tribute to the confederate soldiers that died in “a just and noble cause.” A tour of the University, “Ole Miss,” is a must while in Oxford; and a sampling of the food, drink and music around the historic town square are not to be missed.

After spending two days in Oxford, could the area provide anything more of interest? Indeed it could! What is your area of interest? Music? History? Culture? Sports? Memphis has it all. There is even an app for that (simply type “Memphis” in the app search for a comprehensive guide.)

Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, is one the premier tourist attractions in the South but it is hardly the only attraction Memphis has to offer.

When it comes to music, Memphis was at the center of the development of rock and roll. The historical development is featured at the Rock and Soul Museum on Beale Street in downtown Memphis. This museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, is a fascinating journey of music from the cotton fields and plantations to the recording studios.

It is in Memphis that the sounds of Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley led a revolution that changed music and ultimately our way of life.

“The Blues” are still the sound of Beale Street in the evening as people stroll along the street where BB King still plays and the horns of Memphis form the background music to this vibrant area.

Adding to the fragrance of BBQ ribs, an array of neon signs, throngs of happy feet strolling along the street and a few beverages of choice make Beale Street a perfect place to capture the flavor of Memphis and its rich history.

Memphis, along the banks of the Mississippi, is picturesque and historic. Sun Studio, the recording studio that launched the careers of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, BB King and many others, gives daily tours.

Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the studio that produced Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding and the Mar-Kees, is also located in Memphis.

The Gibson guitar factory tour gives an insightful look into the painstaking creation of these musical instruments.

The National Civil Rights Museum, site of the assignation of Dr. Martin Luther King, is a grim reminder of the deadly struggles of the civil rights movement in our not so distant past.

Memphis has sports as well. It is home to the Grizzlies of the National Basketball Association and also the Memphis Redbirds, a triple A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Redbirds play at AutoZone Park, a beautiful stadium in downtown Memphis.

Memphis also features several prominent colleges that provide high-grade college athletic programs.

For every area of interest there is something to do in Memphis.

While I was sitting and eating my delicious chicken at Gus’s Chicken (a don’t-miss in Memphis) I thought back to my encounter with the woman at Faulkner’s grave.

Traveling is a never-ending adventure, with something of interest at every turn of the road. Sometimes it is the things you see and sometimes it is the people you meet.

I still have to smile when I think of her joyous face when she revealed at the end of conversation that she had changed her name from Hooker to Jackson when she got married. Another story, and I had taken the bait – hook, line and sinker.

Court of Appeals Judge John Smith is a Nevis resident who practiced law in Park Rapids.

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