When our kids were small we took a few vacations, but not many. It was just way too difficult for several reasons. The first and obvious one was the amount of money it took. Then there was the planning involved. Things like pets, ball games, reservations, where to go, and the list goes on. Being an age of a higher number has its drawbacks. But it also has many privileges not offered to us in our younger years.
A couple of weeks ago my wife Mary Jean and I took a little trip. There was very little planning involved. We just kind of packed up and went. We were gone most of the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The first two to three days we went to Nashville and saw my cousin and took in a few of the must-sees there. We then traveled to Memphis a couple of hundred miles from there and did the same.
Now, country music has never been my thing but while in Nashville I guess you must explore a little of it, right? I will also have to admit I have always been a bit intrigued by Johnny Cash. He had an outlaw image but tried to be good in his way. Even though being in and out of trouble himself, he would travel to prisons and do concerts for the inmates. He seemed to deeply care about them.
While in Nashville we went to his museum. I learned that while being a simple but talented musician, he was an amazing songwriter. Two songs that played there I had never heard. “The Beast in Be” and “Hurt” are both songs that will be in my head for a very long time. Both are deep and emotional songs. My admiration for Cash went to the top of the charts after visiting his museum. But on the flip side, I felt a dark sadness that seemed to follow him throughout his life.
Next up: Memphis and Elvis: Graceland had been on my bucket list for many years. What an amazing story of a young kid being thrust into fame and fortune. We saw the airplanes, cars, outfits, awards and the home he lived in. There was so much to take in. Towards the end of the tour, we saw the cemetery where they were all buried. All but his grandmother died young. His grandson is there as well. Very soon I am sure his daughter will join them. Once again, the whole experience just gave me a feeling that they did not live lives filled with joy. One of the greatest entertainers ever seemed to lack happiness. He had fame, money, looks and enough talent to fill any room, but I didn’t get the sense he was happy.
While in Memphis we also went to the Lorraine Motel. This was the most memorable site we visited. We didn’t have a handy atlas as we had in the past or even a trip tick to tell us how to get there. We used what I think most of us use to get anywhere — the annoying GPS. I would have bet my last nickel that it was wrong. We were in what appeared to be a very shady part of town. Out of nowhere, I saw the motel. The moment I saw it also hit me that an area like this would have been where he would have been forced to stay.
He would not have been welcomed at the nicer motels in the late ‘60s. At that same moment, many emotions went right through me. Anger, shock, confusion, amazement and surprise. Adjacent to the motel is a fabulous museum containing black history. It was amazing. But it did not enrich my trip that much. The two items that will be engraved in my mind forever are seeing the motel from the outside in what had to be as it looked in 1968 and the small apartment building across the street where James Earl Ray was when he murdered Dr. King. Including the opened window as it was that day to point his rifle and the bathtub he sat in while doing it.
And, like Mr. Cash and Mr. Presley, Mr. King had talents and gifts that 99% of us have not been given. History tells us he was a leader. People wanted to get behind and follow because they believed in his purpose. Being a minister, he was an excellent speaker. I have heard many pieces of sermons and speeches, and you just can’t stop listening to them. The letters he wrote from the Birmingham jail were nothing short of perfect. Another great leader from history, gone at only 39 years old.
Our trip to Tennessee brought things that I had wanted to see. I can’t really say it was a fun trip, maybe more of an informational kind of adventure.
We need great leaders to help us all. Leaders that can get others to follow, inventive people, talented people that are way above me. I am grateful beyond words can express for them all.
But admittingly, I am glad I guess I am just average. If we obtain special skills or talents to do great things, is it a talent or a curse?
You tell me.
Randy Butler is a lifelong resident of Highland County and a licensed real estate agent for Classic Real Estate in Hillsboro.