Oxford, Mississippi

Oxford, Mississippi has to be one of the coolest towns I’ve ever gone to for a conference. Wait a minute – make that “hottest” towns – because Oxford was VERY hot, like I’m-not-sure-how-much-longer-I-can-breathe-the-air hot. But at the same time it was cool as in a beautiful, quaint town.

Ole’ Miss is located in Oxford – in fact, they named the town Oxford after the  English University hoping that would encourage the Mississippi where-should-our-university-be planners to choose THEIR town. The name worked and the entire town is very much Ole’ Miss crazy.

Downtown is centered around the courthouse square. The square is lined with shops and restaurants in historic buildings. Many of the shops had ice water and cups out front to quench the thirst of the people walking by.

The church was a block or so off the square and in itself, quite historic!

I’ve already said Faulkner lived in Oxford. John Grisham and Eli Manning also have homes there as do a lot of other authors, artists, etc.

We had just gotten out of our car when a lady walked up to us and asked if we were looking for a parking place. We told her we were looking for a place to get iced tea … and she proceeded to walk with us and give us a partial tour of the town and tell us her life story … which we thought was kind of funny. (Her story wasn’t funny, just that she attached herself to us – that was funny.) But considering what happened a few weeks later (another blog post) this lady’s friendliness was just a blip on the screen of life.

Oxford has been voted one of the best 100 towns in America by USA today and I would agree with that – not that I’ve been in every town, but this was full of history, of quaintness, of charm … and with all the university students – had an upbeat vibe.

And besides all that – Michael Scarbrough was born there.

Rowan Oak

William Faulkner is a well-known American writer.

I have Faulker’s The Sound and the Fury, a novel of an aristocratic family living in Mississippi and the challenges they faced over the years. I did not like it. And because I didn’t like it, I don’t think I’ve read any of his other books. However, I do know who he is and I know that a lot of his books are written about the area around Oxford, Mississippi – which is where we were. His house is almost as well-known as he is .. and so we went to Rowan Oak.

Funny, when we got there, a lot of construction was happening and I think we walked around it twice before we figured out that there was actually a door that we could go through.

The Faulkners bought the house in 1930 – William thought of it as his haven, a place where he could get away, be private and write. He researched the history of the area and wrote about it. He lived at Rowan Oak until his death in 1962.

DSC_0339 DSC_0340 DSC_0344 DSC_0345 DSC_0346 DSC_0347 DSC_0348 DSC_0349 DSC_0350 DSC_0351 DSC_0352 DSC_0353

The Rendezvous

Across from the Peabody, down a narrow alley is The Rendezvous, supposedly the best bbq ever. In fact, the Food Network featured it on their “Best Thing I Ever Ate” show and Elvis AND Bill Clinton have eaten there, as has George W. Bush – so of course, it’s worth a stop. But, if Betsy’s mom (who was traveling with us) didn’t know about it, we would’ve never, ever found it. (I mean, who walks down city alleys to find a good lunch place?)

Even when you find it, you aren’t quite sure … but then you go inside and down a flight of steps to the basement and the atmosphere changes to bbq friendly. As soon as we sat down, a friendly server brought us each a bowl of sausage/rice/red bean stew/gumbo concoction. This would not be something I would ordinarily order, but it was absolutely delicious and I could’ve easily eaten another bowl. I admit I didn’t actually order the bbq – but a grilled cheese sandwich (which was good).

The placed hopped with activity, both locals and tourists. The staff rushed around, serving the dozens of people who came down the steps. Truly a fun, indigenous restaurant which I would highly recommend.


 So back in 1933, the general manager of the Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis came back from a hunting trip rather … ahhh … drunk. He and his friend thought it would be funny to put their live duck decoys in the lobby fountain.

Which they did.

I guess everyone thought that was absolutely clever and hilarious because they’ve been putting ducks in the fountain ever since – with a lot of fanfare.

True fanfare.

Being in Memphis we stopped to see the Peabody ducks which were to make an appearance at 11:00.

The lobby wasn’t packed, but obviously something was going on – which was especially obvious since a guy in a red uniform was heralding the arrival of the ducks.

Then after the fanfare – called the duck march or something – five mallards came out of the elevator, walked down the red carpet and into the fountain where they swam around in circles in an area about as big as two kid wading pools.

I had heard of the Peabody ducks and all that – but watching five mallards swim around wasn’t all THAT exciting. Sometimes I even have mallards in my yard – though the ducks in my yard do not come down in an elevator from my roof.

But here are some facts.

The guy in the red uniform is called the Duckmaster. The current duck master is only the fifth duck master since all this silliness began.(The lady with him is an honorary duck master being that it was her 90th birthday or something.)

The Peabody Hotel does not serve duck at its restaurant.

The ducks serve a three-month term and then are taken back to the wild and because of that, they are not named. (No one wants to get personal with the ducks.)

They have a $200,000 house on the roof of the hotel.

They’ve been on the Tonight Show and Sesame Street.

If you’re in Memphis and don’t have anything to do … stop by and check them out. I guess. Otherwise, just go down to your local pond and watch those ducks and play my video (that I posted below) as you are watching your local ducks to get the full effect of the music.

The Bus Station

The clerk said to go to the Greyhound Station and we didn’t set out to find it, but find it, we did.

Of course, like the rest of the town, it wasn’t open.

However, this station was built in 1937 and is on the National Register of Historic places, being that it is only one of three left of its type.

Well, we saw it.

DSC_0302 DSC_0303

A Sleepy Town Along the Way

Blytheville, Arkansas is not your top-most tourist attraction.

In fact, when the lady at the hotel desk was trying to come up with suggestions as to where to do some sight-seeing, she couldn’t think of much …

“The National Park right outside of town,” she said (which was actually a state park). “But I haven’t been there.”

She shook her head sadly – not too much for miles around …

Then she brightened – “Wait, you could go to That Bookstore downtown. John Grisham hangs out there.”

Seriously? I mean, I’m not the biggest Grisham fan around, but I’ve read enough of his books that it would be cool to meet him if I didn’t have to go out of my way to do so.

Now – the clerk was on a roll … “and the Greyhound bus station, you can go see the Greyhound bus station.”

Well, ok then.

This was Friday morning and you’d expect a town to have at least some people around, but alas … we hardly saw anyone, well, except for the puppy.

And the bookstore didn’t open until later, so. so much for meeting John Grisham.

But I did read an article that Mr. Grisham wrote about this … I mean That Bookstore. When he wrote his first book A Time to Kill, he could find no one to buy it. No one. He had 5,000 copies and went from bookstore to bookstore attempting to sell it, but no one cared about an unknown author and an unknown publisher. But when he went to That Bookstore, the owner invited him in and even had a book signing for him. (He says it’s because he was a local boy from a nearby town and so she felt for him.)

He also went back for signings for the next several books (although he turns down signings at other stores). Then the whole book-signing thing got to be too big of a deal, so now he sneaks in the back door, signs 2,000 books for That Bookstore and goes on his way.

(To read what John Grisham has to say about the store, go here.)

Interesting story about this sleepy little town.

But we did not get to see the store with or without him …

An interesting thing about downtown Blytheville is the way they have their parking set up … each block had an indentation that you use if you want to park your car. Guess that saves you from backing out onto a busy street – (though the streets weren’t exactly busy.)


Or, actually Lambets, home of the wed rolls according to this sign.

In case you’ve never heard of Lamberts – they are a place that gives you a lot of food over and above whatever you order – all the time throwing hot, fluffy, fresh-from-the-oven rolls at you. Delicious! Servers wander around with the extra food – like fried okra and apple butter (not to be eater together – necessarily). So, you will not go away hungry. Knowing that – I ordered a salad – but whoa! That salad itself could’ve lasted me for an entire week!

Not my favorite food in the world (though the rolls are super good) – but a fun stop.


Fried okra - not my favorite

Fried okra – not my favorite

Salad was good - but was HUGE

Salad was good – but was HUGE

IMG_1367 IMG_1370