I’ll Always Remember My First Time
I sat in the back quadrant of the room, off to the right. When he sidled up to me, I dug my fingernails into particle board and plastic. I tried to be quiet, but I still think I let out a little sigh.
It was fourth grade.
United States history.
The section on Meriwether Lewis and William Clark read something like this: On orders from Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark followed Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian, through the Louisiana Purchase along the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean.
I remember thinking WaitwaitWAIT!!! How did three people accomplish such a thing? (They didn’t. The Corps of Discovery contained thirty-three people and a dog named Seaman. They never said the word ‘seaman’ in parochial school history. Pity.)
I looked at the drawing of two men and a native woman in my fourth grade history book, her finger pointing over white-capped mountains to the ocean in the distance, and I never realized she was really charting a path.
I never dreamed following the tip of her finger would lead me to the places it has, to commit to the scariest thing I’ve ever done.
On March 1, 2014, my novel To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis will debut, and I will begin to walk the entire length of the road where Lewis died.
The Natchez Trace, from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, is 444 miles of ancient earth. A road laid down by migrating animals ten thousand years ago. A road adopted by the first humans to see North America. A road used by conquistadors and soldiers, bandits and traders. Before the steamship made the road a relic, untold thousands died there.
Including Meriwether Lewis.
Because there’s a first time for everything, even monumentally stupid things. I will be the first modern person to walk the entire Trace on consecutive days. The journey will take just over a month.
And, because in my novel Meriwether Lewis is a guardian angel of sorts to a little girl who’s looking for her father, my own father has agreed to join me. Nonono, Roy will do no walking, but he will make up for it with talking. And eating. And hopefully entertaining us all.
I hope you will hang around for the lead-up to this trip, Dear Reader. If you have friends who are into history, or fitness, or are just plain crazy, I hope you’ll share this journey with them.
I’m going to need all the help I can get.