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Location: Minneapolis, MN

Dempsey is a Golden Retriever puppy who is in training to become a Helping Paws service dog for an individual with a physical disability. He lives with his parents Doreen and Paul, and Bailey the cat. None has ever trained a puppy before. These are their adventures. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the blog author. The contents of this blog have not been reviewed or approved by Helping Paws, Inc.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A quick drive across Dixie

Sorry for the delay, but I’ve been putting off writing about the second leg of our cross-country trip because it’s rather boring. After leaving Dollywood, we spent most of the day in the car driving through Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. We made a few stops, none very interesting. You have been warned.

Our first stop was the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It looks a lot like Shenandoah National Park in Virginia – rolling hills, second-growth forest, fake log cabins. We did not see any bears, despite all the signs. Unlike a lot of the Western national parks (Yosemite, Yellowstone, Sequoia), Great Smoky Mountains wasn’t created to preserve anything particularly spectacular. It was political: the National Park Service simply wanted a park on the East Coast. That’s why, I suppose, Great Smoky Mountains looks like a lot of places on the east coast.

Our next stop was Chattanooga, home of the elusive Chattanooga Choo Choo, made famous by the Glenn Miller Orchestra in the 1940s. Coincidentally, the 1940s is also when the Chatanooga Choo Choo stopped running. Considering the train no longer runs, we had a dang hard time finding it. In fact, we gave up, and headed to Lookout Mountain.

Lookout Mountain is a monadnock just outside Chattanooga, and the site of the famous “Battle Above the Clouds” in the Civil War. There were no clouds on the day we stopped, but we did enjoy a great view of Chattanooga from Craven’s House.

After Chattanooga, we drove through Birmingham, the Pittsburgh of the South, perhaps better known today as the site of large civil rights protests in the 1960s. On Good Friday in 1963, Martin Luther King was arrested in Birmingham for leading a peaceful protest. From his jail cell, King wrote the famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, an eloquent defense of civil disobedience.

After Birmingham, our next big drive-by was Meridian, Mississippi. If we hadn’t arrived after dark, I would’ve liked to have stopped at the Jimmie Rodgers Museum, honoring the father of country music. Although Rodgers yodeled a lot, he was known as the “Singing Brakeman” – not to be confused with the Singing Sheriff, the Singing Cowboy, the Singing Buckaroo, the Singing Ranger, the Singing Outlaw, the Singing Reverend, or (especially) the Singing Blacksmith. Nicknames were so literal back in the day; now we just have Diddy.

From Meridian, we drove through Philadelphia, Mississippi, where the Rev. Edgar Ray Killen, a Baptist preacher and Ku Klux Klan member, was on trial for the murder, immortalized in the movie “Mississippi Burning,” of three civil rights activists in 1964. For over forty years, Killen had been a free man, because the state of Mississippi had declined to prosecute him, and an all-white federal jury deadlocked. It was only in June that the state of Mississippi decided to re-open the case. It might’ve been interesting to see how much things have changed in Philadelphia, but the hour was late, and we were trying to beat a hurricane to New Orleans. But that’s a story for another day.