I leave on the morning of the 21st. The bike is ready. I’m ready to travel 3,000 miles. I’m waiting to start the trip, and remembering past trips.
In fact, on my first day I’m going to retrace a piece of a route from years past.
Five of us were bouncing across the back roads of central Tennessee. Beautiful rolling horse country, and whisky country rolled under our wheels. Small sleepy towns appeared as we crossed bridges and stopped for gas, water, or BBQ.
It was our first time on the Natchez Trace. It was our first time rolling into Florence, Alabama. We found a small hotel. Although it was a star or two under the rating some of us were comfortable with, a young lady of Indian descent did a great job dealing with five southern guys with strange senses of humor.
That’s the moment we discovered a brochure on the counter:
I asked the young lady if she had been there? She hadn’t.
I asked her if she thought the coon dog cemetery was worth seeing? She didn’t know.
I asked her if coon dogs were popular in Florence? She didn’t know.
I asked her where we could get a great steak? She informed us she was a vegetarian.
I asked her if she was not a vegetarian where she would go to find a good steak?
She gave us the keys to the rooms and disappeared.
Now, be honest. If you had the chance, could you just walk away from the opportunity to witness the only Coon Dog Cemetery in the world? I didn’t think so. The next morning we found the turn, and the next one, and the next one before we started to doubt that such a marvelous place existed. We kept going. Then, it was as if we entered a mystical holy place. There were wreaths, and statues, and picnic tables where people had obviously gathered in remembrance of those hunters of yore. Epitaphs were etched in stone to commemorate the skill and companionship offered briefly by the finest dogs to ever tree a coon.
We rode away that day, changed. None of us had ever owned a coon dog. None of us ever knew a coon dog cemetery existed, and we probably would not have believed it, had we not seen it for ourselves.
On the 21st day of July I hope to pass by the road that leads to that sacred place. This time I will not stop. But I will remember. And probably howl.