November 11th, 2007 – by: skimonty83
Our friend Tom came down for the weekend to visit us lonely Wisconsinites in Arkansas with quite a unique travel plan. Traveling by coach bus to Memphis where we pick him up, visit us, somehow get to Little Rock and travel by train back up to Wisconsin. Of course he could get it done and we were there to help him. However we couldn't pick him up until later in the day in Memphis so he spent the day exploring the city on foot. Which sounded like an interesting plan. Apparently Memphis is on the list of the FBI's 20 most dangerous cities in America and with Tom deciding to walk to the zoo (a few miles from the bus station) it sounded like he walked through one of those dangerous areas hearing comments about 'cracker' this, 'whitey' that.
As he shared his thoughts that in his back pack he may have had more belongings and possessions than some of the people living in the neighborhood he walked through. To say the least, he took a different route back to the bus station where I would later pick him up. However, I don't want people to take these comments the wrong way. We've gone to Memphis many times and love taking friends there. But just like any big city, there are areas you would want to steer clear from, Tom just found out where those areas are.
Making some laws
Now that I found Tom, he was alive, and brought him into Arkansas we showed him our town, and he even stopped by my classroom and met a few of my students.
They were always thrilled to meet strangers, and people from Wisconsin. But with the weekend here we made our trip down to Little Rock to explore our capital (Also from what we hear not the safest city). However, we arrive and find the city almost completely empty. We were really surprised how dead the streets were (we did not take into account it was a Saturday and Razorback Football was taking place). So when we stopped at the Capital we were able to go in for a self tour with absolutely no crowds, it was excellent. We were able to explore the halls, the rooms and feel important by trying out the "governor's chair" in what looked like a very important room.
Beautiful Facade of Little Rock Central High School. Sure beats the High School I went to.
Historic Little Rock Central High School
After leaving the capitol building we stopped by Little Rock Central High School, home of the 'Little Rock 9' that stirred up so much controversy in our nations history when the school and governor refused to allow 9 African American students attend the all white high school.
The struggles those nine students went through are unimaginable. Eventually President Kennedy sent in the 101st Airborne to serve as body guards to the students just so they could attend class. Could you imagine being a High School student, and needing a military escort to get through your school day? How can anybody focus and learn with that type of distraction every single day. Simply amazing! Unfortunately for us, it was a weekend so no visitors in the school (not sure if they take visitors anyway) because this historical landmark is still in use today as one of Little Rock's large high schools. But about a block away the National Park System just opened a visitor center to give you all the history and information you need to try and appreciate the history and the struggles.
Little Rock 9 memorial at the capital building
With the time ticking we needed to return home to Jonesboro, and Tom's train was not ready to leave for a few hours.
But I think we've established Tom is very independent and has no fears on his own in new cities (although maybe he should) and we left him near the train station at Bill Clinton's Presidential Library. Finally we saw a few other people who were milling around this library and the few tourist shops in the area. With more time I would have liked to explore but the Library was closed and we did not need any souvenirs so homeward bound we were back to Jonesboro. Thanks for the excellent company Tom and until next time . . . cheers!