Skip to content

Oprah Winfrey Sprung From the Devil’s Backbone

Oprah Winfrey is made of the dust of the Natchez Trace. The Devil’s Backbone. Maybe that’s why she’s so tough.

image from forbes.com

She was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi. A town of just over 7,000 people, it sits west of the Trace in the central part of the state. Right where the Mississippi Hill Country starts.

As I approached the 200-mile mark on my 444-mile hike of the Natchez Trace, I walked through swamps for several days to reach the hills. The federal road is raised, but I imagined the boatmen who walked the Trace in hoards. Sloshing through mud and muck, their leather shoes paltry cover compared to my high-tech athletic wear.

Maybe those indefatigable spirits imbued a few Trace people will iron wills.

I wandered around Kosciusko’s center. A town with no stop lights. The courthouse its central feature. I tried to imagine Oprah playing outside a boarded up laundromat. Going to the tiny library. Wondering about the Revolutionary War general for whom her hometown is named. Dreaming of where an ancient roadway might take her.

If she followed it.

She’s not the only woman who took the Natchez Trace to follow her dreams.

If you are new to this 444-mile trek of mine, the Natchez Trace is a 10,000-year-old road that runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Throughout history, animals used its natural ridge line as a migratory route from the Ohio River Valley to the salt licks in Mississippi; Native Americans settled along the Trace to follow their migrating food supply; and when the Kaintucks  had to sell their goods at ports in New Orleans or Natchez before steam power, they had to walk home, making the Trace one of the busiest roads in early America.

To launch my recently-published novel To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, I will be the first person of either sex to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. March 1, 2014 to April 3, 2014. Fifteen miles a day. Six days a week. One rest day per week. I will spend each night in the modern-day equivalent of stands, places much like Grinder’s Stand, where Meriwether Lewis died from two gunshot wounds on October 11, 1809.

I am taking readers into the world of the book. You’ll see the places that inspired scenes and hear the backstories of different characters, with running commentary by my father, who’s tagging along with me, just as Merry and Em do in the book.

Click here to see the best photos from my Sunday rest day: Andra Watkins Tumblr

You know you like FREE. Tweet, Facebook, type and review your way to Charleston, South Carolina in the To Live Forever Journey to Charleston Contest. The more you enter, the better your chance to WIN. Click here to find out more: Support My Aching Feet.

Finish my novel before I’m done walking. To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis is available in paperback and e-book formats at these outlets: Click to Purchase To Live Forever.

Here’s today’s Reader Question:

48 Comments Post a comment
  1. It is amazing to me; no matter how small the town, there is always a courthouse (or town hall). I think a central place to gather is a trait of the human condition.

    March 17, 2014
    • Some of the town courthouses in MS have been really beautiful. The one in Houston, MS (where I am now) is also really interesting.

      March 17, 2014
  2. Oh dear, Andra — does that mean it’s all uphill from here?

    March 17, 2014
    • I’ll go down into the Tennessee River Valley, and from there it will be a lot of uphill.

      March 17, 2014
  3. Happy to see you still smiling 🙂

    March 17, 2014
    • Pamela, I’m glad I’m still smiling, too. Hard not to smile today. 🙂

      March 17, 2014
  4. You inspire me on a gloomy, gray morning here. I love how you’re able to do your walk and then share some local history with us. A great blog post combo.

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Andra. Enjoy the greenness of your day– wherever it might take you.

    March 17, 2014
    • Thanks, Ally. It’s gloomy here today, too, so I wore my very green windbreaker on my walk. Hope you’re having a lovely St. Pat’s.

      March 17, 2014
  5. Just think of the gluteas you’ll be working with the inclines in the back half. Buns of steel, baby!

    March 17, 2014
  6. And now a brief pause from this quarter while I open mouth and remove foot! Maybe the gain will be subtle? For your sake, I hope so. 🙂

    At the very least, may you NOT be plagued with any more of those aforementioned infirmities for the remainder of your trek. Downhill, uphill, I doubt it matters much anymore, ’cause you’re going to finish and put a ribbon on it!!

    And, on this St. Patrick’s Day, a proverb to ponder: There’s nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse. 🙂 Hugs!!

    March 17, 2014
    • But really, a thousand feet of elevation gain over a hundred miles or so isn’t too bad. The worst part will be coming out of the Tennessee River Valley into Tennessee. The road goes up to a different plateau there, and it’s more up and down from there, but I can handle it.

      March 17, 2014
  7. So what you are saying is, you are going to get high in Tennessee. OK, that works.

    March 17, 2014
  8. Jim Kane #

    Happy St Paddy’s Day Andra!

    March 17, 2014
  9. tarakianwarrior #

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Sending you strength….

    March 17, 2014
    • Thanks, Lori. I feel it. Hope you’re enjoying this very Irish holiday.

      March 17, 2014
  10. I have decided I must tweet this post and try to get the attention of Oprah’s people, because she could help you along the trail to best selling author. ❤

    March 17, 2014
  11. Regarding what Lisa A. Kramer said: you indeed deserve Oprah’s attention. I hope you get it 🙂

    March 17, 2014
    • It’s not easy to get it, but this is a girl power story as much as anything else.

      March 17, 2014
      • Indeed and her people would do well to pay attention 🙂

        March 18, 2014
  12. Elevation! You are going to have the most badass ass and legs when you are done elevating! Woot! Woot!

    March 17, 2014
    • I hope they’ll hang around for a week or two so I can enjoy them. 🙂

      March 17, 2014
  13. I finished. Did I tell you I finished your amazing written adventure? You. Are. Amazing. AND I love the link of Em and Merry and you and Roy.

    March 17, 2014
    • I read your post about the book, Penny, but I couldn’t comment with the internet I had at the time. Thank you so much for recommending the book to others.

      March 17, 2014
      • My pleasure, Andra. Hope it garnered a few more sales and a friend just commandeered my copy (which could mean it will become a book discussion book – start those discussion questions soon).

        March 18, 2014
  14. I’m on the Oprah should notice you bandwagon. Where does the Trace come into your own lineage?

    March 17, 2014
    • I was born outside of Nashville, but in the wrong direction from the Trace.

      March 17, 2014
  15. You know… this could also backfire. To wit:

    Unless that’s the message you’re sending here. If Oprah rolls up with a free ride, tell her to keep roillin’ on. Or at least get out and walk a mile in your shoes!

    Almost done with the book – taking my time because I’m hanging onto those words like you’re hugging the road. Or some sturdy tree somewhere (Bear! Bear!)…

    March 17, 2014
    • I’ve told everyone who stopped and offered me a ride to keep on rolling. 🙂 I’m walking to Nashville. No rides. 🙂

      March 17, 2014
  16. Lance #

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day, A

    You had me at oprah and devil

    March 17, 2014
  17. That was a great question! I hadn’t really considered the grade, envisioning it mostly flat! I think we’ll all need to send a little extra “huffing and puffing” your way as you enter Louisiana. A lot of great inspiration was born and raised in Mississippi! 🙂

    March 17, 2014
    • Like your grandmother. 🙂 Mississippi, even the hill country, hasn’t been bad.

      March 17, 2014
  18. i see that you have a bit of oprah’s determination and talent within you as well – happy st. pat’s andra and walk on, sister!

    March 17, 2014
    • Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Beth. Hope you’re having a very green day (and not snow.)

      March 17, 2014
  19. Has anyone contacted Guinness about this record? Your walk is epic and should be in the record books for your Oprah-like determination and uphill walk toward the finish line.

    March 17, 2014
    • I’m sure they would’ve had to come along to verify it. I haven’t looked into that, but I should.

      March 17, 2014
  20. So….perhaps you started on the wrong side of the Trace then! 😉

    March 18, 2014
  21. Love the way you shared this portion of the trail with us! I admire your determination and ability to see the world through the eyes of others (past and present).

    March 19, 2014

Talk Amongst Ourselves

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: