I left Dallas for Houston this morning but decided after stopping in Ennis for breakfast that I didn’t want to make that drive today. It had been a relaxing but sometimes busy and emotional week, and I didn’t get much sleep last night. So, I took the Highway 84 exit and traveled the back roads through Teague, Mexia, Bellmead then I-35S to Waco.
After driving through “downtown” Mexia, I was excited to see signs to Lake Mexia and Booker T. Washington Park. It was to Lake Mexia that I went first, walked about and took several pictures. I then headed to Booker T. Washington Park but there was only one sign directing me to it, and it was another road. Having grown up on a farm in rural southeast Georgia, I’m no stranger to back roads, dirt roads and deserted roads so I was in my element looking for the park. There was a moment, though, when I saw a bridge about 500 feet ahead on one of those roads that I got a really creepy feeling. Instead of proceeding further, I turned my car around and headed in the opposite direction. Yes, I’ve learned to follow those instincts. I don’t know what was on that bridge this afternoon, but I wasn’t curious enough to ignore that feeling.
Actually, that’s the second time since I began my road trip that this has happened. The first was in Oklahoma. I’d left Pauls Valley that morning and was headed to Dallas but decided to drive to Ardmore since my niece had lived there as a child and had mentioned it to me earlier that day. Gene Autry, OK was also in the area as was a park whose name I don’t recall. Instead of making the left turn toward Gene Autry as the GPS directed, I decided to go right. Why? Because there was a lake in view, of course. After making the right turn, my GPS recalculated and pointed me in an alternate direction that included a few deserted roads. I drove for several miles and saw only wide-open fields. After making the second turn, I drove about a quarter of a mile, spotted what looked like two trucks stopped in the road several hundred feet ahead, and a helicopter circling overhead. That creepiness surfaced, I slowed then turned my car around and headed back to the beaten path. I was curious, yes, but have learned over the years not to ignore those feelings.
I’m sitting in my hotel room in Waco now and it’s only 7 pm, but I am ready for bed!! From the title of this post, you’re probably wondering how I ended up talking about trusting instincts. I am, too, but I’m trusting this is what I needed to write.
But wait, I need to tell you about Booker T. Washington Emancipation Proclamation Park. After traveling those roads and not finding it (I got some good pictures, though), I reluctantly gave up. But just as I was heading back to the main road, I spotted a historical marker, and it was for Booker T. Washington Emancipation Proclamation Park. No wonder I couldn’t find it!
The marker reads in part:
“Set aside by deed in 1898 as a permanent site for celebrating June 19th– the anniversary of the 1865 emancipation of slaves in Texas. It was 2.5 miles south of this site that slaves of this area first heard their freedom announced… Even before land was dedicated for the park here, this was site of annual celebration on June 19th. For many years the honorable Ralph Long was the featured orator, speaking at times from bed of a wagon parked in the shade. As many as 20,000 often gathered for the occasion. On July 7, 1912, the 19th of June Organization was chartered, to administer the park and perpetuate regional history…”
I’ve heard of Juneteenth celebrations but despite wanting to, I have never attended one. I came close in Alabama many years ago but we arrived a day late.
A friend emailed me a few days ago saying, “I am glad you are enjoying your travels. I am sure you are seeing a lot of interesting places.” She’s right, and though I sometimes miss home and friends, I am grateful everyday for the opportunity to live this dream.