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Friday, August 15, 2008

This Ain’t Your Yuppie Mounds trip…

This morning Bill shot me an article from the New York Times travel “escapes” section entitled "Ancient Midwest." There is a beautiful picture of ancient mounds in the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Ohio, and a ethereal caption that announces that the serene scene is non-other than “Mound City.” But there is a modern day “Mounds City” and a smaller town holding the “Mounds” moniker just miles from the Illinois Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site that won’t likely make it to the New York Times travel page. It is in those Mounds, and their surrounding areas, that the treasures of summers with my family; grandparents, great uncles and aunts, cousins lay hidden.

When I was young, my entire family would pile into the car when it was still dark and start the long journey from the Chicago area down the entire length of Illinois towards our summer house in Mounds, IL. Now, we were not ignorant of the Cahokia sight, for as long as I can remember my grandmother saw fit to educate everyone on the local history, as well as some family folklore. As my parents team drove my grandparent’s 1978 powder blue Cordoba across miles and miles of flat countryside grandmother would quiz us on what we knew of the American Indian Mounds builders and share the story of her great grandmother’s flight from slavery in Alabama with her infant daughter (my great-great grandmother), a flight that brought her to settle right over the Mason-Dixon line, but divided her family. And my grandfather would quiz us on the Bible.

The Mounds of my youth was filled with as many attractions as Disney World; the family homestead in America that my grandmother’s father built by hand and still remained standing after decades of tornadoes, the Dollar Store where everything was just one dollar (Now I seem to see them everywhere but in the eighties it was not a common sight in the Oak Park area), Bessie’s restaurant where you could get fried frogs legs, the Future City sign, right outside the Cairo overpass, which stood in an empty field of tall weeds and grass, an advertisement for a city whose construction would remain forever in the future, and Shemwells restaurant in Cairo, the home of the best barbecue sandwiches on earth.

There was catfish fishing at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Ohio, boat riding along the Horseshoe Lake, and scores of family cookouts. Yet, we never made it to the Cahokia Mounds Site. It remained woven in with the folklore of the region and the stories of slave escape. And now perhaps the passage of time has knit the Mounds of my youth within the fable. It will certainly never be a destination covered by the New York Times, but it will live on in the stories that I pass down to the next generation. But if you do visit the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, might I add a dining recommendation that also did not make it into the article…Shemwells is a must visit!

5 Comments:

Blogger b_saffold said...

where did you get that photo of us???? It's Awesome!!! I really do miss the trips to down state. There is a photo of the Cordoba parked at the house in down state..do you still have that photo or does mom have it?
-Brian

August 18, 2008 at 5:35 PM  
Blogger b_saffold said...

where did you get this photo??? This is AWESOME!!

August 18, 2008 at 5:37 PM  
Blogger nicole maskiell said...

I scanned the photo in for grandmother's memorial, and its been on my compy ever since. I have some really good pictures on my computer, but they are also online on my picasa sight and downloadable so you can get them on your compy as well.

Bill has never been downstate so we have to plan a family trip together. Shemwells is calling...

August 19, 2008 at 3:55 PM  
Blogger natifperdu said...

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August 21, 2008 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger natifperdu said...

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August 21, 2008 at 9:18 AM  

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