Sometimes it's awfully hard to get back in the groove when you've been playing hooky for over a month but our readers are out there clambering for more news about Catherine LeDuke, and stories about James Neville, so I better saddle up and climb back on this literary horse before everyone abandons us.
Our excuse for being absent for a while can be partially explained by taking a second look at the previous blog posting "There's been a death in the Family" posted back in August when Amanda said her goodbye's to her faithful furry friend Frodo. I encourage all you lovers of four-legged friends to seek out Amanda's tributes to Frodo written over the past eight weeks at a blog, Remembering Frodo. You can read stories of a possum encounter, see a Frodo Foto Fest, hear a musical playlist of dog songs, and read a great story about Louisville, KY's September calendar pin-up play boy.
As for me, I have just returned from a trip to Tiptonville this past week. Sue and Virginia Hayes make twice-a-year sojourns to connect with Barbara Markham who now lives in North Carolina, so I often get the honor to come stay with Catherine and play mother to my mother. Mostly I just play chauffeur for our daily trips to the DQ for ice cream cones. It's a tough job but I can handle it; "One large and one small, please."
Mother, I am glad to report, is doing fairly well. She continues to be quite weak as she moves around the house, but with a little help she still walks to the dining room every day for a full lunch and dinner. Breakfast is usually a pop-tart and a cup of coffee in her favorite chair in the living room.
Each afternoon during my five-night visit we went out for a drive to make sure the Mississippi River was still flowing and Reelfoot Lake was full of water. I can report that both are as they should be, but I must say that I have never seen Missouri look so close with that huge sand bar dominating the view as you drive over the levee. The Dairy Queen's soft serve ice cream machine is also working properly.
Sue has been busy for the last couple of months overseeing the construction of a wheelchair ramp for the front of the house. I'm not sure how many nails she hammered in herself, but the final outcome is perfect. Prior to the new ramp, Mother would have to walk through several rooms and down five or six steps on her way to the car.
Now she has only to rise from her chair and sit down in her new transport-wheelchair and leave the driving, or rather the pushing, to Sue. A trip to the car now is straight through the front door, down the ramp, and right to the car door; a journey to the DQ has never been easier.
This trip Mother and I added something new to our daily routine. Each afternoon once we got to the bottom of the ramp, and before we started out on our afternoon drive, we made a detour all the way through downtown Tiptonville. The ride was a little bumpy in spots as I pushed her down our street on the way to Peacock's Florist Shop where the new sidewalk begins.
Once we made it to the Banner it was smooth sailing all the was to Council's Five and Dime. We rolled past Dr. Holifield's office, First State Bank and Trust Company, Markham's Drug Store, Hopson's Grocery Store, heard the pool balls being racked in Runt's, crossed the street at the gas station where a gallon used to cost 25 cents, and then started down the other side of the street past the old Lake County Banner, Caldwells, the hardware store, Tiptonville Drug Store, Homra's Clothing Store and then past the Strand Movie Theater where the Saturday double-feature westerns cost nine cents.
I remember the nine cent ticket price vividly because on the rare occasions when I was given a dollar bill by my Daddy, the ticket lady would give me change consisting of one penny, one nickel, one dime, one quarter, and one half dollar for the grand total of 91 cents. Paying a dollar was probably worth it to James Neville just to be rid of me for a whole Saturday afternoon.
When Mother and I rolled past the Strand, we were delighted to find the beautiful new Veteran's Park with a fountain right in the middle and some comfortable benches where I could sit down and catch my breath. Now I realize that this park is not exactly brand new, but this whole "touring in a wheelchair" concept was. Everything we saw on this trip gave us a new perspective of Downtown Tiptonville.
I remember when this Veteran's Park was first being planned, somewhere around 2007, give or take a few years, Mother called me to tell me she was buying me a brick. This was back when her mind was clear, so I asked her what I was supposed to do with only one brick. She said she had purchased one for James Neville also and that I would one day be able to find both bricks right across from the Courthouse.
And she was right, because every afternoon on our rolling tour we would stop in front of the attractive monument and locate the two bricks that both say James N. LeDuke; one says 1944 - 1946 and the other says 1966 - 1968. Each day Catherine leaned over the edge of her wheelchair and stretched down to touch Daddy's brick. And for just that one moment I believe her memory was clear.
(In some future posting I am going to give some special praise to those folks who are responsible for doing such a beautiful job not only on this park, but on the whole downtown experience. Even the space left vacant by a razed building in the middle of the south side of town has been turned into a beautiful patio setting with tables and benches. "Hats off" to those involved in all this renovation for a job very well done!)
So after resting for a bit in the park we continued on back to 114 LeDuke Street, hopped into the car (not exactly hopped, but we made it in), and headed out for our daily ice cream cones. I do need to mention one thing that I noticed while touring the downtown area; the only business name that I saw that still existed was the Strand Theater and even there I could not find a ticket lady to sell us a ticket. There was no Roy Rogers or Lash La Rue feature for us on Saturday, but the tour was still a success.
As was my entire Tiptonville visit to see my still very "inspirational" mother, Catherine LeDuke.
Jimmy LeDuke (I'd love to hear from you...feel free to comment below, or click HERE to send me an e-mail.)