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To Live Forever Tour Stop: Hernando de Soto

hernando de soto, natchez trace

Most readers figured out that To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis has layers. The ancillary characters all reference the history of the Natchez Trace.

And Hernando de Soto was one of those historical figures.

The Spanish conquistador explored Southeastern North America in the 1500’s. He wandered up from Spanish Florida with his rag-tag band, through the modern states of Georgia, South and North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and possibly Louisiana. His Spanish horses thundered through Native American settlements, exposing the natives to diseases. And alcohol. Both scourges that started their decline.

If you ever spot a wild boar, you can blame Hernando de Soto. He brought a few big pigs with him from Spain. For food. The clever ones escaped the knife and were fruitful. In a few centuries, they spread over more than half a continent. Outsiders. Just like the treasure-seekers who introduced them.

In the winter of 1540-1541, De Soto and his men camped along the Natchez Trace, a few miles south of present-day Tupelo, Mississippi. They traded with the mound builders. Maybe they heard about the wide river to the west. Smallpox settled in when they moved on, decimating the Mississippian peoples who guarded the Trace for almost a millennia.

A year later, De Soto followed them. Legend has it that he’s buried on the western bank of the Mississippi River, somewhere in Arkansas or Louisiana.

Maybe Hector de Silva redeems the old conquistador.

Or maybe not.

Click here to see the best photos from Day 19 of my Natchez Trace 444-mile walk: Andra Watkins Tumblr

Have you entered the To Live Forever Journey to Charleston contest for your chance at a free trip? 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.

Whether you want a page turner or a multi-layered story that stays with you, my novel is for you. 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.

Keep those Reader Questions coming.

48 Comments Post a comment
  1. Strange that they named a car after him:)

    March 20, 2014
  2. Is the page or my computer the one having problems?
    http://andrawatkins.com/to-live-forever-contest-journey-to-charleston/

    March 20, 2014
    • I’m having MTM check it out now. Thanks for letting me know.

      March 20, 2014
  3. I had no idea he wandered so far. Especially into the Carolinas. He really got around, didn’t he? I thoroughly enjoyed his character in your book. Another one that I wouldn’t mind seeing you write more about.

    March 20, 2014
    • The next time you’re up in Highlands, there’s a sign for him downtown.

      I’ve had a couple of epiphanies about the next books while I’ve been walking, but I really wish I had someone to discuss all my ideas with (besides MTM, who has GOT to be sick of talking about all this by now.)

      March 20, 2014
      • You can always call or text me… And I hope to be in Highlands soon. No plans at this point, just hopes. I need to get back up there!

        March 20, 2014
  4. I, too, did not realize de Soto went that far north. I always relate him to Florida in my mind.

    March 20, 2014
    • He wandered around quite a bit, didn’t he? I was surprised when I started researching him.

      March 20, 2014
  5. He has a pretty swanky estate, I can tell you that much.

    March 20, 2014
    • His speech patterns are modeled after my Spanish friend Miguel Roldan, and because I like Miguel so much, it was hard for me to make Hector anything but likable. 🙂

      March 20, 2014
  6. That’s very cool about your shared time with the robin.

    March 20, 2014
  7. I’ve had similar experiences with a crow and a Red Tail hawk. In both cases, it was definitely a conversation.

    March 20, 2014
    • I’m glad to know I’m not the only one, Jim. I remember reading about that in Brian Doyle’s Mink River. That bird was one of my favorite characters in the book. I’m really looking forward to The Plover when it’s available.

      March 20, 2014
  8. I also am fascinated by your experience with the robin. I am a firm believer in our “connections” with all things living, but those connections must be cultivated, and we have to ignore the voices that tell us there’s no such thing.

    I’m noticing a more upbeat presence in your last couple of videos. I hope that means you’re feeling better (having your eye on the prize at the end of the tunnel probably helps, too). Such a great adventure to be put to paper (a photo journal, at the very least, I hope). 🙂

    March 20, 2014
    • My video presence really depends on when I make it. If I make them early in my hike, I’m not tired. Yours, I made right at the end of a hike, and I was whupped. (I was at milepost 209, and I only had to go to 210 that day, so fourteen miles in.)

      March 20, 2014
  9. You’re looking better. Having MTM drop in must have helped. Connecting with nature is so cool! Thanks for making the connection to Hernando, Hector flummoxed me in terms of his historical reference, beyond being of that era.

    March 20, 2014
    • You’re welcome, Lisa. It was really hard with this first one to know how much to ‘tell’ the reader about the characters. Some readers really get into the layering, and others just want to blow through a book and turn pages. I tried to make a book for both types of readers. Sometimes, I feel like I shortchanged the history, but I didn’t want to slow down the trajectory of the story.

      March 20, 2014
  10. tarakianwarrior #

    What an exciting journey you’re taking us on Andra. I learn something new about my Country all the time now – from you! How nice that you got to share a bit of your journey with the Robin. Welcome to Spring! Momma always said that Robins are the first sign of spring. 🙂 I’m still flying high from yesterday’s twofer. 🙂

    March 20, 2014
    • I’m seeing packs of robins now, Lori. They’re all over the place.

      I’m glad you liked the video. 🙂 MTM thought you’d like having him in yours.

      March 20, 2014
      • tarakianwarrior #

        MTM is correct – I feel VERY special. 🙂

        March 21, 2014
  11. Hernando De Soto no era muy bueno! Loved that you had that Robin as a walking partner for a bit. It would be great to know what he was thinking. 🙂

    March 20, 2014
    • De Soto was pretty bad, but he gave me a pretty good starting point for building a character. 🙂

      It was clear what that robin was thinking…………’follow me follow me follow me!’

      March 20, 2014
  12. tarakianwarrior #

    By the way – I’m glad to see that Voodoo hasn’t come up missing…yet. 😀

    March 20, 2014
  13. That was a scary bit of the book. Kind of threw me for a loop — Where the hell did THAT come from???

    March 20, 2014
    • I wasn’t sure whether I trusted him when he came on the scene. I’m glad it worked out all right.

      March 20, 2014
  14. Ugh…wild pigs. I’ve started seeing them around where I live, along the road in a wooded area half way between two schools. I haven’t heard about anyone getting hurt, but I often see them grazing by the road side, usually at dusk. It’s only a matter of time before one runs out in front of somebody and causes an accident.

    Thanks, De Soto.

    March 20, 2014
    • They’re pretty vicious, too. I wouldn’t approach one.

      March 20, 2014
  15. Thanks for the bit of history, Andra, and the robin’s tale. I’ve had similar experiences with birds – and interesting conversations.

    March 20, 2014
    • This was a first for me, Penny. I hope I have more of them.

      March 20, 2014
  16. Redneck Garage #

    I recommended your book to my Mom. After a few chapters she could not put it down for very long. Like myself, she found your “layered” style of writhing very interesting and definitely different. Well done!!!

    March 20, 2014
    • Thanks for sharing the book, Patrick. I’m glad your mom is enjoying it. 🙂 🙂

      March 20, 2014
  17. I’ve always thought DeSoto came back with his fancy suit of armor in a new form. Or maybe he was Groucho, but I’d prefer the Christine reference just because who doesn’t want the spirit of a Conquistador in his or her automobile? No one messes with an angry DeSoto. Well, except rust and pointy object on the road it’s burning up that can give it a flat tire…

    First day of spring and I’m still crazy from the winter… Yaaa.

    March 20, 2014
    • Still snow in the forecast, right?

      March 20, 2014
      • Oh, there better not be… I need to check the long range forecasts, but as far as the next few days, nope. Just breezy as the winds push winter out so spring can roll on in…

        March 20, 2014
  18. I’m glad it was a robin and not that big s-n-a-k-e that decided to keep you company! 😯

    March 20, 2014
    • Only snake so far. Lucky me. Snow in the forecast for next week, so I won’t have to worry about snakes much. 🙂

      March 20, 2014
  19. We have plenty of wild pig in North Florida. Thanks for nothing, Hernando. So a robin kept you company for awhile. Perhaps, by the near-end of your walk, we’ll be calling you Ms. Doolittle 🙂

    March 20, 2014
  20. I am so glad you referenced de Soto, Andra. I told you that I started re-reading “The Devil’s Backbone,” and as I read about de Soto and the Trace I immediately flashed to Hector de Silva! One of the things I really appreciated those many layers! You’ve driven me back to some history books…and that’s a good thing. Your research really shows! ox

    March 21, 2014
  21. Like some of the other commenters, I didn’t realize de Soto went that far either. Glad you’ll write a book about this adventure of yours.

    March 21, 2014
  22. It is also said he may be buried along the bluffs of the Mississippi River, just below what is now Memphis. probably an urban myth.

    March 22, 2014
  23. Lance #

    You should have your own youtube series called Andra’s History Hat

    March 23, 2014
  24. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t made it as far as I would have liked to, being quite overworked and all, but I’ve already enjoyed one such character and I look forward to possibly recognizing more as I progress through the book. I swear I’m going to finish before you do!

    March 23, 2014

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