Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Welcome to Booneville

This post is a continuation of a series on my travels through my home state of Mississippi, in which I'm trying to spend more time in my home state than the 5 or 6 days we've averaged over the past few years.

Let's back up to a few weeks ago. I took a Friday off of work, and left Memphis at around 7:00 in the morning headed for my hometown of Booneville. After dropping off a few things and seeing my mom, headed to the city park for a cookout my dad was helping put together for several of the students in the various technical programs at Northeast Mississippi Community College, my dad's employer. Just getting to spend some relaxing time with my dad and brother was worth the drive down. The food wasn't bad either. My grandparents even stopped by for a quick bite on their way to Miami (now you see where I get my traveling tendencies).

Every Friday and Saturday night of my high school years was spent hanging out at that same park, sitting on the tailgate of my '85 red long-wheelbase Silverado listening to cheesy music and learning the lessons of life. For a short time in my life, it seemed like everything that mattered in the world was right there on that 2 mile stretch of road between the city park and Hardee's. I'd wash my truck nearly every Friday night after work. If I didn't have the newest truck on the strip, I could sure have the cleanest. I still wonder where that truck is now.

On the way to my family home, I stopped by Courtesy Automotive (formerly Davidson Chevrolet), my employer during my high school and community college days. This is where I learned to wash a car with the best of them, from the best of them. This is also where I'd wash my truck on Friday nights (and sometimes on Saturdays too). It was good to catch up with old friends and reminisce about the "good old days" when I had a tendency to be kind of a brat.

When I finally got home, I worked on my truck with my dad and brother for a little while, and then visited the family farm with my dad later that evening. I even got to go pick up my niece (at her request) with my brother in his classic Corvette convertible. She attends Thrasher School, the same school that me, my sister and brother attended (my sister teaches there now). Just sticking my head inside the door filled my nose with the smells of my youth. It's funny how smells seem to be the best way to bring back a memory. For me, it's even stronger than sight. Later that night, we spent time with my mom and dad eating Pizza Factory pizza. Here's a picture of my niece, Eliza in the aforementioned Corvette. Ain't she purty?

The next day, I visited two more landmarks of my youth. I had breakfast at the Thrasher Store with my family, then had lunch at Weeks' Cafe with my brother. I used to stop by the Thrasher Store every morning for a 20 oz. Mountain Dew on the way to school. I remember the funny looks I'd get sometimes from the older folks hanging around when I'd drive out of the parking lot blasting Nirvana's In Utero, Pearl Jam's Ten, Outkast's Southerplayalisticcadillacfunkymusic, Tool's Anemia, Phish's A Live One, Offspring's Smash, or what ever my latest discovery was at the time. Here's one of the songs that got the stangest looks.

As a side note: I know it's hard for most people to imagine now, but living in a small town prior to the internet age made it both a task and a joy to discover new music. We never had a real "Rock" station, and we didn't even have cable at my house until later in my high school years. Discovering new music meant reading magazines, visiting record strores (for you kids, that's a store, mostly extinct now, where you'd go to buy music; ususally on 8-track, vinyl, cassette or CD, depending on your generation). These days everyone is pretty much on a level playing field when it comes to discovering music, which is mostly great, but a little sad. Sad because most younger people now days may never feel the excitement of driving 30-45 minutes into the next town over to buy an album, ripping the plastic off and rocking out all the way home. Now it's all too easy.

Back to the story: between breakfast and lunch, I had the privilege of watching Eliza play soccer. If you haven't seen 5 year olds play soccer, it's a sight to behold. Here's a picture of Eliza warming up.

And a picture of what most of the game looked like. Notice the coach pointing in the direction of the goal.

That Saturday afternoon, I officially started the project of restoring our 1972 Volkswagen SuperBeetle. My brother and I used the 4-wheeler to drag it to the shop and tear the brakes down. To be honest, my brother did the bulk of the work (as evidenced below). At any rate, here are a few progress pictures. Don't worry, the funky paint job will have to go. Hopefully, I'll drive it sometime before the end of the year.

 Here's what I hope it looks like when finished

Stopping by my mom's daycare in the middle of the day and closing the door gently to keep from waking up the kids at naptime, running into old friends around every corner, seeing my little sister all grown up and teaching at our old school, noticing even the slightest change to the landscape in the middle of the country that is ingrained in your mind like a painting you see every day, standing in my dad's shop where I learned most everything I know about cars and putting one more mile on a few old forgotten roads can only mean one thing, I'm home. It's funny when I notice that this town not only shaped me, but I left my mark on it as well. I see the beams I helped hang (and sandblast, and paint, in July, with a protective leather hood for the sandblasting) in my dad's shop, I see the floors and walls I helped paint a time or two and the shelves in the parts warehouse I helped move and assemble at the dealership where I worked, I see various cars I've worked on or helped build and I see my siblings who for better or worse, I've had a huge influence on.

I've been having a blast spending time in my home state, and it's a shame I've been away for so long. I might have to keep this up.

Here's a great song by one of my fellow Boonevillians (is that a word?), Mississippi Moonshine by Jamie Davis and Soul Gravy. While I guess this song is technically a song about a night out with a girl, I like it because Jamie does such a good job of painting a picture of a quiet Northeast Mississippi night.

What about you? Do you feel a strong pull from your hometown or home state? What sort of memories are stirred for you when you go home?