Land between the Lakes

Last Friday was the opening convocation at Union, so I got to suit up in a borrowed master’s gown, hood (mine is packed away) and mortar board to march in the faculty procession. Quite the unique experience for someone who’s been in a news room all her life. When I got my master’s degree, they made us march in wearing albs and surplices, so this is the first time I’ve worn a graduation gown since leaving college more than 30 years ago.

Cap and gown

There being nothing for Veeka to do over the weekend, I decided to go seek out *some* natural beauty in this part of the country plus amuse her. I arranged to go visit Land Between the Lakes, a national recreation area of two enormous lakes and a peninsula created when the area was dammed up many years ago. The peninsula is known for having no lights on it at all at night, thus being a great place from which to view the stars. Saturday night was cloudy, so didn’t get to see the Milky Way from where we were staying at the inn at Paris Landing State Park which happily for Veeka, came equipped with a nice pool. During the drive there, I turned on the local radio, which was full of ads for the local soybean festival and a gun show in Paducah, which is not that far to the north. Other stations had country music and one dedicated to NASCAR racing. I finally found one tuned to oldies from the ’70s, which is what we listened to all weekend.

Veeka at Paris Landing

Our first order of business on Saturday was meeting up with some friends from my Washington Times days. She was Amy Bushatz, who was an intern at TWT a number of years ago and who married an Army guy who’s now stationed at Fort Campbell, not far from LBL. We met at Fort Donelson National Battlefield, a most interesting site where the Confederates in 1862 bungled what should have been a victory into a defeat that basically gave the Northerners access to Nashville and many of the railroads that kept the South going. It’s where Ulysses Grant made a name for himself and where two Confederate generals fell into infamy (they fled the field of battle instead of fighting). The Union had lost the battle but the Confederates, instead of pursuing the Union, pulled back their men, basically because the Southern generals didn’t have a clue as to what they were doing. Grant seized his opportunity and turned defeat into victory, forcing the Confederates back over ground they had taken. We visited the hotel at Dover where Grant met with Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner to arrange for the Confederates to surrender and of course the cannon batteries above the river. By this time, kids belonging to both families were howling for lunch, so we headed for a burger joint, then they left for home.

Mother and daughter as twins

Oddly, I found LBL a little disappointing. Maybe it was the drought conditions that made everything in late summer so dry. The bison fields only had one place where the buffaloes and their young were congregating and they all looked hot, uncomfortable and covered with bugs. The visitor center was so-so although it was interesting to see how the Tennessee Valley Authority flooded so many thousands of fertile acres way back when and pushed so many people out off their property to create the two lakes. I expected to drive along more waterfront but it’s the folks who stay in the campgrounds who get to see all that. Drivers stay on the “trace,” which is the highest point of land inland. I also guess the northern part is prettier and that it’s a better place to visit when it’s cooler. And so Veeka and I repaired back to the swimming pool at Paris Landing.

Veronica is in the blue princess outfit

A bit of updates: Veronica Tirador, the little girl I wrote about a few weeks ago, recovered fully and left the hospital last Saturday. They thought she’d need a walker or some kind of aid but apparently, after some physical therapy, she does not. She fared far better than Patrick Burgoyne, another child in the same neighborhood I lived in who somehow got into his parents’ van on Aug. 14, then couldn’t get out. He was barely alive when they found him and for four heartbreaking days, the medics at Children’s Hospital in DC tried to save him. I was following the whole thing on my iPhone non-stop as I know the parents and he had just turned 6; almost exactly the same age as Veronica. They finally declared him dead on Aug. 19. His funeral was yesterday (Aug. 25).