I know I haven’t posted to this blog in quite a while. I use this site for personal updates that may or may not relate to fulltime RVing, but it’s been all I can do lately to keep up with my main MaliasMiles.com website where I share info on campgrounds and other explorations.
Tom Hendrix and me – November 2014
But yesterday I got some news that felt very personal and it kept me up a good part of last night. I heard of the recent death of a very special man I met during my travel on the Natchez Trace Parkway (click link for my coverage of the entire 444 miles). (Click images for here larger versions.)
I thought it particularly appropriate that I got this news while I am staying at City of Rocks State Park. Just take a look at the rocks I spent days talking to and hiking around: Hike Among the City of Rocks. When you see the magic rock wall below, I think you’ll understand the connection.
With all the great things I saw during that trip, my favorite stop turned out to be one that was not covered on any of the official tourist brochures at the time. The Wichahpi Stone Wall Memorial was so magical to me that I went back twice and even then, that still wasn’t enough. I won’t repeat here what I wrote there, so click link for that page. It has more details of Telahnay’s story and Tom’s building of the wall.
This is the Music Circle. He told me that to “sing a song” also means tell a story. I would love to hear the tunes and tales shared in this sacred space.
The first time I was there, he showed me some of the unique treasures others had left him to also pay tribute to his great-great grandmother, Telahnay. When I went back the second time, I brought him a beautiful Native American stone tool someone had gifted me with. It just seemed appropriate to leave it here where it would be surrounded with other Native American treasures and as my gift. He accepted it so graciously and then surprised me by giving me a similar tool he wanted me to have as a memento. He said this was a “good trade” – a tradition among his people that meant a transaction where both parties benefited. I love that!
On my second visit, he told me an elder Native American named him “Stone Talker.” I told him I especially loved that because I am always talking to rocks expressing my appreciation for them. He said he could tell that about me from the way I would lovingly touch them sometimes as I walked along taking their pictures. He said I took so many pictures, his name for me was “Shadow Catcher” because I see things others don’t always notice.
It was about that time that I could not control my emotions and I just broke down crying. He hugged me and told me many people felt such emotions here. He said women let it out more and he felt that was healthier. I agreed, but still didn’t understand. Maybe it was an ancestral thing – I felt a sense of guilt being a part of the culture who made it necessary for Telahnay to make such a journey to return home to a land that rightfully belonged to her people to begin with.
It hit me even harder today to realize that the mindset of the government who was capable of doing such things in the 1800s is not much different from what it is capable of justifying today when greed transforms hearts into considering only material profit.
The Prayer Circle was my favorite spot. I sat here giving thanks for the great blessing of being in this space and I returned by spirit in my dreams last night to say a prayer for Tom as his earthly journey this time around is complete. I’m certain he is now happily sitting with Telahnay listening to more of her tales. When I was leaving Wichahpi, Tom told me that when he meets his great-great grandmother again, she will say, “Come here, grandson, and now I’ll tell you the rest of the stories.”
When I sent him the link to the MotorHome Magazine article about the Natchez Trace Parkway where I included Wichahpi as my favorite stop, he thanked me and said it was beautifully done and invited me back whenever I was in his neck of the woods. I’m truly sorry there won’t be another time that I can meet him in this life, but I say to him now as he said as we parted that day, Washanee, (until another time).
While he built the wall to honor his great-great grandmother, it stands today also honoring him and the family legacy he made sure was memorialized. You made a difference in my life, Tom Hendrix, and I know I’m not the only one.
I learned of Tom’s passing from a friend who was visiting there. She said people who knew him are stopping by and flowers are starting to be put against the wall. His son, Trace, was there retelling stories all day long. I’m sure Tom would be pleased. I trust they will find a way to keep this memorial accessible to the public, as a tribute to them both.
My autographed copy of If the Legends Fade with the personal notes from Tom will always be a treasured possession, along with the “good trade” he gifted me with. “Come, make the long walk with a young Indian girl who lived her dream — a dream to come home.”
My 2014 Facebook page pictures and comments (public so you don’t need a FB account to view).
News about Tom’s passing:
WaayTV: “People from around the world have stopped by to leave rocks and take with them a spiritual experience. Friend Judith Rausch said the wall no longer only keeps Hendrix’s great-great grandmother’s journey alive, but his too. “Tom’s spirit is the same. The circle will stay. The circle will be a circle. That’s comforting,” Rausch said.” That’s comforting to me, too, Judith.
YouTube video interview (10/22/16) – He asked his grandmother when she was in her 90s why Telahnay came back. She said, “Honey, my two sisters and I have talked about it all of our lives and we’ve come up with three reasons: First, when your great-great grandmother was born, her mother took Telahnay’s birthing cord and placed it in the river here. It made the river her sister. Second, she had a vision or dream of her grandmother beckoning her to come home. Third, we call it the Tennessee River today, but all the tribes that lived along this river had another name for it – they called it the Singing River. In my grandmother’s language, it’s Nunnuhsae (“Noon-ah-say”) – the river that sings.”