Author: Judd, Brooks

Miss the Mississippi and You (Part 1)

“I’m growing tired of the big city lights
Tired of the glamour and tired of the sights
In all my dreams I am roaming once more
Back to my home on the old river shore”

A few months ago the Daily Welcome Column ran some information about a very special trip my sister, Maria Nadauld, took me on for my 60th birthday. This led to a few postings about big sisters etc. and other assorted thoughts and bon mots. I would like to fill in some of the gaps and talk about this exciting pilgrimage to Nashville, then on to Meridian, Mississippi, the Land of Oz and the birthplace of the man who, in my humble opinion, laid the groundwork for country and bluegrass music, Jimmie Rodgers, brakeman, excellent carpenter, singer, yodeler, song writer, and also an inspiration for a nation during the deep throes of an agonizingly long morale crushing depression.

It all began July 2007. My sister phoned to say she wanted to take me on a trip to some unknown location to celebrate my 60th birthday. Maria would not even give me a hint where we would be going so I began searching the internet looking for places that Maria might take me. Maria knew I loved Beethoven, Dan Paisley and of course Jimmie Rodgers. I located a concert that Dan Paisley was going to do in Tennessee, a Beethoven recital in upstate New York and various other Bluegrass shows scattered throughout the mid west, especially near Nashville where Megan, Maria’s daughter now resides.

I also found an interesting event that was being held in Meridian, Mississippi the same day our trip was scheduled. It was the annual Jimmie Rodgers talent show followed by a concert at the newly refurbished Meridian Opera House by the country/bluegrass/rock group Emerson Drive. This was where I wanted to be, but Mississippi was a 6 hour drive from Nashville and seemed to be out of the question. I had figured out by now that Maria was probably going to take me to her “second” home in Nashville to stay for a few days. I figured we would spend our time together seeing the local sites; Country Music Hall of Fame, Grand Ol Opry, Ryman Auditorium etc. Mississippi was just too far away.

“I was sad and weary far away from home
Miss the Mississippi and you dear
Days are dark and dreary everywhere I roam
Miss the Mississippi and you”

My vacation actually started out in Ft. Lauderdale where I was visiting my youngest daughter Rhiannon and her husband Mark for four days. I spent a couple of days swimming in the powder blue warm Atlantic Ocean and spent time at the local bowling alley with Rhiannon and a gaggle of senior citizens throwing gutter bowls mixed in with a rare spare and an occasional strike. When my four days were up I was to call Maria and get my booking number from Southwest Airlines and find out when I was departing and where I was going. I made the call. It was Nashville.

I departed Ft. Lauderdale, made a brief stop in Orlando and then flew on through to Nashville. Maria and Megan had departed Hayward earlier in the day to meet me in Nashville. Maria spent a lot of time coordinating our two flights so we would be able to meet in Nashville within 20 minutes of each other. (Not too shabby Maria).

We met at the baggage terminal in Nashville. Megan was only going to be home for a few hours before she was to fly off to New York City and play a few gigs with a band she was helping out for four days. We climbed in the Nadauld Lincoln and Maria said, “Well, did you think you were coming to Nashville?” I smiled and said that I was really excited about being in Nashville but jokingly added, “Meridian would have been fun too.”

Megan smiled and said, “Uncle Brooksie, you and Maria are driving down to Meridian in two days to visit the Jimmie Rodgers Museum.” My smile lit up the darkened interior of the car like a ray of Nashville sunshine. I was elated. “Meridian!!! You’re kidding me!” I blurted out. Maria smiled back and said, “Are you surprised?” I could only grin.

We pulled into the spacious home Maria and her husband Bill had purchased as a second home and as a place Megan could live and hold her well attended fiddle camps. It was on a ½ acre surrounded by trees, isolated from the sound of the cars and lit up by the millions of sparkling stars in the Nashville night.

Over Bosco and milk and cookies we laid out our plan for the next day. We wanted to either visit the Jack Daniels Distillery or the lesser known George Dickle Distillery and decided we would make the decision once we hit the road since they were in the same basic direction.

“Roaming the wide world over
Always along the blue, so blue
Nothing seems to cheer me under heaven’s dome
Miss the Mississippi and you”

Morning came and after a walk around the various charming homes of Megan’s neighbors we hopped into an older model Mercedes that Bill, Maria’s husband had driven out from Hayward earlier in the month and made our way to Cascade Hollow, home of the world famous George Dickle Distillery which was located on the Highland Rim of the Cumberland Plateau halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga. We followed the highway to a long narrow road that wound its way past beautiful homes sequestered among luscious trees highlighted by vibrant green lawns that were set back about 50 yards from the winding road leading up to the distillery. We finally made it to George Dickle and were amazed to find it alive with many colorful wild turkeys roaming the grounds. Maria looked at me out of the corner of her eye and said with a very straight face, “I wonder if George Dickle employees roam around freely at the Wild Turkey Distillery.”

After we strolled around and took in the beauty of the manicured grounds we took a wonderful tour of the distillery and were amazed to find out that only 35 employees were involved in running the distillery. When the tour was over we were disappointed to find out we were not allowed to sample this 85% proof nectar of the gods because we were in a dry county. Of course we did buy some George Dickle to take home with us.

The Mercedes was giving us some problems and I began to wonder if it was going to be a good idea to drive it all the way to Meridian let alone Nashville the next day. That night we took the Nadauld Lincoln to the world famous Loveless Restaurant, home of country music stars, politicians, and other famous folks and had a tasty dinner as we clinked our mason jar glasses filled with lemonade. We drove home and prepared for next day’s travels that would take us to the Country Music Hall of Fame, The Ryman Auditorium, and the Grand Ol Opry later on that night.

End of Part 1
Next Chapter: Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman, and the Grand Ol Opry
Posted:  2/6/2009

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