Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dateline: Oxford, Mississippi - Day Two

Got lost going to Rowan Oak, William Faulkner's house. I had to call and have Bill the Curator talk us from the Square down University Drive to Old Taylor Road. At the bend go straight into the grounds.

Whew. Thank heavens for Bill and my cell phone.

We walked up the pea gravel drive lined by red cypress trees. Up onto the the porch and in through the screen door. Once inside we quickly glanced into the four rooms on the ground floor - parlor, library, dining room, and the office/writing room with the outline of  A Fable that Faulkner wrote on the wall.

Upstairs were the four bedrooms where the family slept.

We hit the upstairs as 35 high school students from Helena, Arkansas filled the entrance hall. They came on the Big Yellow Bus that had pulled in right behind us.

Photos, quotations, books, and newspaper articles chronicled the story of Mississippi's famous son.  Empty bourbon bottles, his typewriter, his pipe, a photo of him in his riding habit...all presented to tell the story of this Southern storyteller. He built the white bookcases himself and as Rose noted, they were all armchair height. You could sit in a chair and reach over and grab your book. There were at least two bookcases in each room with the library holding at least five or six.

We left the house to the students and wandered in the back garden. There is a brick wall that Faulkner built for privacy, a knot garden, and a scuppernong arbor. Servants' quarters, stable and paddock, oak barn, and the detached kitchen that Faulkner converted to a smoke house when he had a kitchen added to the main house were outbuildings on the property.

It was an overcast day and the garden was very quiet and peaceful. Later, we sat on the front porch and talked to Tom the volunteer carpenter who was repairing damage to the columns caused by gnawing squirrels.

Eventually the well-behaved students left and we had the house and Bill to ourselves. Bill is the only full-time employee and has been with the house since 1999. He seemed glad to chat with us after the flurry of the kids. He was willing to talk about himself and how he came to be curator of the house.

We had him sign our autograph books. He recommended The Light in August as his favorite Faulkner.

Rose's impression of the house, which was built in 1844, was one of simplicity and reflected the transitions from 1930 when he purchased Rowan Oak until he died in 1962 of a heart attack.

I thought the house and grounds offered this writer a fine sanctuary. I was struck by how the rooms were spacious yet not overly grand. There was light but it was filtered by the trees surrounding the house.

After lunch, a visit to the UM Art Museum, and an afternoon siesta, we headed out to Off Square Books. We didn't feel the love. It was warm and there was no air conditioning. We left there and went to the Ole Miss University Club where we had a yummy dinner of pear and goat cheese salad on spring greens, pan seared salmon, green beans, and mashed sweet potatoes.

And so to bed.

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