I visited my hometown in central Missouri last weekend. Due to a confluence of family and high-school-related reunions and the annual Mexico (Missouri) Soybean Festival, I got to see a lot of folks I don't see that often. Also, beer.
I'm happy to report my 93-year-old mama is doing well; my brothers and sister are doing fine; and all my old friends are good-looking and above average, despite someone's smart-aleck comment about our reunion looking like the set from Cocoon.
One of my brothers returned to Memphis with me to spend a couple of days before flying back to his home in New Mexico. Rather than taking the usual I-70/I-55 route back, we decided to drive to the Bluff City via Highway 63, which wanders south from Jefferson City through the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks like a string tossed on a rumpled blanket.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning in Missouri and we passed through (Play!) Freeburg, into the European section of Vienna and Vichy, then onto Licking, where we considered returning in a week's time for the possibly interesting Licking Rodeo. Then came inexplicable Cabool and Koshkonong, followed by lisping Thayer and gorgeous Mammoth Springs. Next, it was into Arkansas, through touristy Hardy, south along the Spring River down to Black Rock, where the Ozarks end and the Delta begins and the road straightens out like a Pentecostal preacher on his way to Memphis.
My brother enjoyed his brief stay here, though he did almost spark an international incident when he tried to buy a six-pack of beer at a Midtown convenience store. Everything went fine until he was asked to show his ID.
After staring at it for a minute, the clerk said, "We can't take this identification, sir."
"What do you mean?" my brother said. "It's a New Mexico driver's license."
"Sorry, sir, we can't accept that ID here."
"But it's a state in the United States!"
"I'll have to check with my manager, sir."
After checking with her apparently equally geographically challenged manager, my brother was not allowed to buy beer. Which raises a few questions: Foreigners are allowed to buy alcohol in the U.S., so even if these two morons thought my brother was from out of the country, why did it matter? Did they believe he was Mexican, meaning they routinely deny alcohol sales to Mexicans? And did they really think a 60-year-old white man with the last name "VanWyngarden" was Mexican?
It's a puzzler. But we had a nice time, anyway, and my brother now has a great Memphis story to tell.
The next day, I drove my brother to Little Rock to catch a plane back to his home in New Mexico. It was a long drive, but necessary, I suppose, since Memphis no longer has international flights.
The U.S. Civil War ended in 1865, but there are many who will tell you that we're still fighting it and will find evidence of such in Jackson Baker's cover story about the current battle over General Nathan Bedford Forrest's statue and gravesite in Memphis ...