11.23.2010

If the Legends Fade

Florence, Alabama is home to many interesting landmarks, historic sites, and beautiful landscapes. Last week, we traveled a few miles north through Lauderdale County, stopping at a lovely little plot of land situated just off the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway. It was here that the three of us were able to experience probably one of the most impressive monuments I have ever seen.

As we pulled into the gravel drive that faced the large tree covered area that is Tom Hendrix's homeplace, three large pit bulls ran quickly towards our idling car. But before we were able to turn away, unsure of the visiting hours for the amazing sight before us, the owner of the land emerged from the trees, wearing thick workman's gloves and a warm coat. As he waved us in and calmed the dogs with a mere flick of his hand, we rushed forward onto the land that is not only home to a monument, but in some respects, a holy place.

Since 1988, Mr. Tom Hendrix, now in his late seventies, has been regularly lifting nearly 2,700 pounds a day, every day. All by himself, he has created what is the largest memorial to a Native American person and the largest memorial to a woman in the United States. He has toiled each day for over twenty years to build the largest un-mortared stone wall in the entire country - what has come to be known as the Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall.

When Mr. Hendrix was a young boy, his grandmother told him the story of his great-great-grandmother, a Yuchi Indian named Te-lah-nay, who was forced from her home in Alabama with the rest of her tribe, including her sister, to the Indian Territories of Oklahoma in the 1830's. As the tribe was gathered and forcibly removed, each member was given a steel tag with a number etched upon it that hung around his or her neck. Te-lah-nay's number was 59. Her sister was number 60. The tribe, along with many other Native Americans from surrounding areas, were made to walk thousands of miles to Oklahoma, and while Te-lah-nay, number 59, made it to her destination, many of her family members and other Indian people died along the way. When she arrived in Oklahoma, it was not long before she decided to make the trek back to her true home, and so she began a greuling journey on foot, back to Lauderdale County in North Alabama. She left her sister behind, and never saw her again. It took her over two years, but she finally made it home. With her, she brought her steel tag, number 59....she thought that the number was her new name, and without it, no one from her homeland would know who she was. Luckily, the young Yuchi Indian was adopted by a white woman in the area, where she then lived the rest of her years. Te-lah-nay is the only Yuchi Indian on record that made it back to her Alabama home. Mr. Hendrix not only has these amazing stories that were passed down from generations, but he also has in his possession Te-lah-nay's steel tag.

The decision for Mr. Hendrix to build the wall was simple. He wanted to honor his great great Grandmother, and in doing so created a beautiful monument that continues to grow over the years. The wall is unique.....not only does it lack cement, but it is made up of rocks from all around the world. There is a stone for every state in the U.S. along with many from other countries, territories, and islands. The wall moves through the Hendrix property like a snake; the way it twists and turns is a mimicry of Te-lah-nay’s journey.

The kind man shared many anecdotes with us about the creation of the wall (he told us: “I’ve worn out three trucks, 27 wheelbarrows, over 1,600 pairs of gloves, three dogs and one old man.”), the many people who have come to visit (including Geronimo's grandson), and even the special powers of some of the stones that make up the monument (there's one rock that was brought to him by the Ojibwe tribe that has been known to cause women, some local and some from as far away as Missouri, to become pregnant shortly after touching it.)

Mr. Hendrix is a true asset to our community. The rock wall is more than impressive. We enjoyed getting to speak with him. He's an amazing storyteller. As we listened to him for about an hour as he taught us history and told us of local legends, little Hudson slept peacefully in Will's arms. Just as the sun started to sink low in the horizon, Hudson slowly opened his eyes, and calmly looked towards Mr. Hendrix as he spoke. After taking a quick look into Hudson's big, dark eyes, Mr. Hendrix asked if he could give our Hudson a Yuchi name. Of course, we said yes, and he went on to tell us that he sees many children that journey to his property. He has spent lots of time with his great great Grandmother's people in Oklahoma, and it is customary to give children a Yuchi name that is descriptive of their appearance or nature. (Te-lah-nay's name means "Dancing Eyes") If you know Hudson, you probably already know that since he was born he has been very inquisitive, yet insightful. He's always been one to observe before letting down his guard. Mr. Hendrix picked up on Hudson's calm, introspective demeanor right away. He told us that he sensed Hudson was quite bright, intelligent, sensible. He named him "Shar-pah" meaning "Bright Path". I think that is beautiful.

If you want to know more about Tom Hendrix's wonderful monument to his great great grandmother, you can visit his website here.



{stone "faces" guard the rock wall from evil spirits}


{the infamous fertility rock sits in sparkly glory atop another stone}


{this rock holds the purported fossilized remains of a T-Rex's teeth}


{various unique rocks along the wall, including a fallen meteorite}


{Hudson wakes up at the Rock Wall.}


{walking the path}


{one of the many sentimental trinkets left in a nook along the way}


{me & my little sweetie}


{sunset}


{beautiful colors all along the path}


{walking with a copy of Tom Hendrix's book, If the Legends Fade}


{Daddy & Hudson}


{a very fitting stone for the inspirational place}


{Our little "Bright Path"}


{We had a great visit to the Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall.}

8 comments:

kelsey said...

your little baby is soo cute. the end.

SJ said...

Wow, this place had me in awe just from the pictures. What a wonderful memorial to his great-great-grandmother. I tried to find his book but have been unsuccessful. Did you get your copy from him?

Jeannie said...

Ashley, that is amazing. I have read Mr. Hendrix's book and thought it was so interesting. I have only seen the rock wall from a distance but hope to visit there in the future. Little "Shar-pah" looks so cute. SJ - here is the web site to order the book http://www.ifthelegendsfade.com/author.html.

The Great Daddy Beadle said...

This was a very special day. I enjoyed the time and the stories that we heard. I hope to revisit Mr. Hendrix one day soon and bring him a rock or two from the farm.

Jeannie said...

Will, I thought sure you were going to say you wanted Ashley to touch the fertility rock!

S + Y said...

Ah wow, the pictures are stunning! I've never visited the place, but now I really want to! :P

Your boots are so fab, and you look cute with your adorable baby, as usual :)

Thanks for sharing these pics!!

xo
Sands

Melanie said...

Wow! Very cool and definitely very inspirational.

Melanie@UnravelledThreads
Follow @UnraveldTreads on Twitter!

Col said...

Really cool story. I 'll be looking for this book...you look great as usual. Your family is so cute!