I can hear my son, the soon-to-be English teacher, say “this is better than fiction!”
Our recent trip to Memphis found us staying in the guest house of a beautiful mansion owned by three men with a pet squirrel, Rupert.
It seems Rupert fell from a tree when he was only four weeks old. Left to fend for himself and unable to do so, the three nursed him to adulthood. That meant bottle-feeding him, making sure he stayed warm and had a bed on which to lay down his head…in the form of a homemade wooden box. Now, Rupert won’t leave…why would he?!
Shortly after we arrived, as I was enjoying a good book and a glass of wine on the portico, one of the guys came out of the house with Rupert riding on his back. Rupert has no fear of humans, enjoys the run of the yard and waits patiently for mealtime, play time and bedtime.
A few days later we were enjoying a pleasant lunch on Beale street at one of Memphis’ many wonderful BBQ joints. As we sat outside the restaurant, having just greeted each in a long line of school children, we noticed a woman approaching us pushing a stroller. Imagine our surprise upon learning that her passenger was a small monkey…dressed in baby clothes! The woman was very accommodating when a couple of our fellow tourists stopped to take pictures.
And let’s not forgot the Peabody Hotel ducks! Legend has it that, back in the 1930s, the general manager of The Peabody returned to the hotel with a friend after a hunting trip to Arkansas. Well, the two men had enjoyed the company of Jack Daniels on their trip and, feeling good, decided to give their live decoys, lawful to use at that time, a swim in the hotel fountain. The men stumbled off to bed, leaving the ducks in the fountain for the night. The next morning the men, fully expecting their decoys to have “flown the coup,” were shocked to see the ducks still enjoying the water and an assembled crowd enjoying the spectacle. So began a tradition that continues today.
Each morning at 11:00, the Duck master (yes, this is a job!) marches the four ducks (three female and one male) from their penthouse on the roof of the hotel, down the elevator, across the red carpet laid out on the floor and into the beautiful fountain in the center of The Peabody Hotel lobby. The ducks remain in the fountain until 5:00 p.m. when they reverse their travel.
We found Memphis to be a very welcoming community, to its human interlopers as well as it’s animals. The city was easy to navigate, the people gracious and the BBQ outstanding. Whether it’s taking care of a baby squirrel or offering an umbrella to a rain-soaked traveler, we can all take a cue from this “Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll”…kick back, enjoy the music and smile at the person sitting across the table from you. A song in your heart and a smile on your face is contagious…spread it around.