What a week – graduations, weddings, and a few extra-special guests in our city. Meridian is the Queen City, gracious and inviting – a destination for many, who come away with the yearning to visit again and again. Each time, with a farewell wave of their hand (and a glass of sweet tea in the other), Meridianites always say. “Yall come back now, when you can stay longer.”
Today, I have Meridian and Mississippi history and heritage in my thoughts. I admit I never stray too far from the events and people of yesteryear. So it was with great anticipation that last week I answered an inquiry sent to me via my website. I have found, when receiving messages through my website, it is like opening a beautiful gift. Or as Forrest Gump said, “My Momma always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
I’m saying – if it’s a box of chocolates, it’s all good.
The website inquiry went like this: “Speaking engagement of sorts ... C.Cappa Films, LLC, is making a historical documentary about the Natchez Trace. I was wondering whether you had any background/stories about the Natchez Trace? The film is a serious look at its history, but I want to have some great storytellers in the film. Is the Natchez Trace anything you might know about/be interested in?”
Was I interested? WOW-zer—indeed!
The Natchez Trace Film crew and I met in Rose Hill Cemetery Tuesday morning. I brought along the husband and ten-year-old grandson, Jordan, who, by-the-way, had just been awarded the Quest Art Award for the year at his school (Oh, come on – indulge me. I am a MeMaw, after all).
Grandson, husband, and I stood with dropped jaws and stretched eyes just to see “Lights, Camera, Action” at work – the real deal. Oh, yes, I’ve written a few short plays for community theater and as well teach Performing Arts, College for Kids, at Meridian Community College, but, good grief, this was Nashville at work in the documentary film business.
This morning I am still a gaggled-and-goggled to have seen it all in first person. Not to mention that I had the opportunity to share my Mississippi history-inspired stories for the upcoming documentary – amazing! But I shouldn’t be amazed and surprised, because the Natchez Trace is a historic treasure as well as is Mississippi history, and lucky for Mississippians, about three-quarters of the Trace is located in our great state.
A quick Trace review: Explorers and historians estimate the timeworn path (Nashville to Natchez) is over 8,000 years old. The earliest beginnings followed geologic ridgelines, where prehistoric animals broke through the dense woods. Later Indians traversed the trail as they foraged for large game. The French and Spanish are documented as the first European explorers, and by 1800, Thomas Jefferson ordered a post road built to assist settlers as they traveled the Trace to the Wild Frontier of pre-statehood, Mississippi.
Between 1800 and 1825 the Trace was the super highway of traders, trappers, missionaries, soldiers, and, of course, settlers. By 1830, after the development of river travel via steamboats, the Trace was officially abandoned and began to disappear back into the wilderness.
By 1930, the U.S. government saw the need to reclaim and preserve The Trace, and, therefore the Natchez Trace Parkway became a reality. The National Park Service went to work with gusto in order to bring the Trace back to the people – for nearly 100 years the Trace was only a lovely rumor, but after the restoration was completed, it was vibrant once again. The Parkway allowed visitors to walk the same pathways and witness the same sights and sounds (unique only to the Trace), although altered with time, as those peoples of long ago.
Natchez Trace Film (C Cappa Films, LLC) has the dream to once again bring the Trace to the people, through storytelling, plus creative and high-tech production techniques (“Lights, Camera, Action”). See their website: http://natcheztracefilm.com/.
It is a very exciting time for Mississippi. Our history, culture, and music live on through the eyes and vision of the ones who have a heart for history.
Anne McKee is a writer and storyteller. See her website: www.annemckee.net