Day One Hundred and Twenty Four of the Scone by Scone Book Tour

Days 122, 123 and 124, WLBT

Oct. 11, 12 and 13 – Vicksburg, Jackson and Starkville, MS;

Little Rock and Bentonville, Arkansas — Welty, Grant and Clinton

by David Runkel

The Tour returns to Jackson, Mississippi, to visit Eudora Welty’s home.  It had been closed on Monday and Jackson was directly on the route from Vicksburg to Starkville. We had discovered in the meantime the latter was the improbable site of the Ulysses S. Grant’s presidential library and museum.  

Eudora Welty writing at home

The Tour joined a dozen women from a nearby town’s Garden Club to walk through the house and garden where Eudora Welty spent most of her growing up days and all her adult life.  It’s a modest home across the street from Belhaven University in the Jackson suburbs and is preserved as it was when she died in 2001.   Books everywhere! Stacks here, there and on the sofa too.  Her hated electric typewriter still sits on a table beside her desk in her second-floor room, which served as her bedroom as well as her reading, writing and editing space.

She used the dining room table for “pinning,” which was an important part of her editing process. She’d cut pieces of the story being written apart and then use straight pins to affix them where she wanted them to be.

In the kitchen downstairs, along with the usual 1930s kitchen equipment, is a table with bottle (empty) of Maker’s Mark bourbon along wih other adult beverages.  She enjoyed a “stiff drink,” as broadcaster Roger Mudd noted in a letter about a forthcoming visit.

The garden, started by Eudora’s mother and being tended by a half dozen volunteers, is planted so there are flowers nearly year round. The Garden Club ladies surprisingly didn’t spend a lot of time in the garden, instead gathering for their official club meeting and lunch.

The Tour enjoyed wandering around experiencing the beautiful scents and scenes.

From there, we headed north to Starkville, home of Mississippi State University where General and President’s Grants records have ended up.  Why here?  It seems that a university professor is one of the country’s leading Grant experts and led efforts to locate the library here.  As is pointed out, Mississippi is the site of some of Grant’s most successful military victories that brought him to national attention. 

President Grant Library

The small museum brings his successes to life.  It fails to mention his binge drinking, a central feature in the 900-page Chernow biography now being read by the Tour Director.

We checked into an old hotel in the center of Starkville and have dinner at a terrific restaurant recommended in a Mississippi tour book. 

Next day fall arrives in the South as we watch the news about hurricane damage in the part of Florida we visited just a week ago.  Instead of temperatures in the 80s and 90s, it’s 60 when we depart for Little Rock.  A scheduled reading at WordsWorth book store is a bust, but dinner with Joan Baker, former chair of the Peace Links board, and Brooke Bumpers, daughter of Betty and Dale, is a huge success. Joan provides the delicious veggie soup and the wine and remembrances of past days in Washington and travels around the world go on for many hours. 

The Tour Director visits the Clinton library and museum the next morning and is impressed with 

Day One Hundred and Twenty Four of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Clinton Presidential Library and Museum

the displays and its location on the Arkansas River.  Much of the museum is devoted to the personal lives of the Clintons, including a section on impeachment that features a page from Sen. Dale Bumper’s handwritten defense with its cross outs, additions and fixes.

The policy discussion rooms go into the successful efforts to balance the federal budget and lower the deficit, increase local police staffing while reducing crime, welfare reform and international peace-making efforts.   How do the domestic accomplishments sit with today’s Democrats?  Problematic at best. 

After lunch at Baker-Bumpers favorite restaurant, we depart for Bentonville driving through the beautiful Ozarks in sprinkles and fog.  We start the next day at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art which is in a spectacular building in a just-as-spectacular setting.  The collection includes art from the earliest days of the country to recent work.  If you have not scheduled your visit, put a trip to Bentonville on your list. 

We curtail our tour to reach the Barnes and Noble in nearby Rogers where The Author is seated just inside the main door, to sign copies of Scone by Scone. Business is not too brisk, but she has several interesting conversations and even sells a few books. One customer caught her reading the new Stormy Daniels book under the table.  We depart southward, again in rain and fog, toward Dallas.  Overnight is two-thirds of the way there in the small town of Akota where we find the only local Italian restaurant is closed on Saturdays.  We try a Mexican restaurant recommended at our motel, but depart after learning it does not have a current liquor license, not even for selling near beer if that is what we want.  The only other restaurant not a chain is also Mexican and we share a chicken, beer and hot sausage fajita and call it a night with The Author feeling a cold coming on.  Drat!