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Steve Mullen: Taking the long way home

 

Steve Mullen

 

It''s tough to decide who is happier -- me or the grandparents. 

 

It''s me, of course. Try being apart from your family for five months, a decision we made when I was hired by The Dispatch. I moved over, while Lee and the girls stayed behind to finish school in California. 

 

I wouldn''t recommend it, though it has worked out. At long last. 

 

Last week I flew over to collect them, load the rest of our stuff in a van, and drive it back across the country to Columbus.  

 

I drove the van and the 8-year-old rode shotgun for most of the trip, shooting pictures outside the passenger-side window (she was our official photographer). Lee and the 7-year-old followed in her car. 

 

We did this same drive when I was a kid (though we had movers). My folks drove me and my brothers across the country to Mississippi more than 30 years ago, when I was the same age my daughters are now. I still have memories of that trip, and hope my girls have built lasting memories too. 

 

It wasn''t all driving and drudgery. We made ample stops, mostly in Arizona and New Mexico. From Bakersfield, we wound our way through towns including Laughlin, Nev., Winslow, Ariz., and Santa Fe, N.M., before getting down to serious business, racking up long miles through Texas and Louisiana into Mississippi. 

 

We stopped in Seligman, Ariz., where it turns out the movement to restore the old Route 66 into a historic road began. We actually met the guy that started it all, a barber by the name of Angel Delgadillo. After the interstate was built, bypassing Seligman, Delgadillo watched his little town slowly die. After decades of effort, he finally persuaded Arizona''s governor to restore Route 66 and name it a historic roadway. Other states followed.  

 

Seligman still lives, as a tourist attraction. But more importantly, thanks to Delgadillo, Route 66 and its historic significance as "America''s Main Street" resonate to this day. 

 

The folks from Pixar Animation took up Delgadillo''s story, and loosely based the plot of the film "Cars" on Delgadillo and his effort to save Seligman. 

 

We met Delgadillo, in his 80s now, in his barber shop, cluttered with the business cards of the people he has met over the years. (One from The Dispatch is now on the wall.) The barber shop is attached to a gift shop, which, judging by the foreign tourists crowding inside, makes a decent business. 

 

We ventured onward from Seligman. Passing through Arizona, we wondered: How close is the Grand Canyon? After a stop in Ashfork, Ariz. ("the Flagstone Capital of the World") for directions at the little town museum, we decided the canyon was within reach.  

 

At that point I could have taken it or left it. It''s a giant hole in the ground, I get it. And we''d driven past miles of rocks already. But I''m glad we did the detour. The Grand Canyon, witnessed in person, is one of those things that reboots your brain -- at first, it''s tough for your eyes to relay what you''re looking at, until your mind takes an extra few seconds to work it out. Yes, this sight is possible. Continue staring in awe. 

 

I took some pictures of the kids on a rock on the edge of the canyon (no guard rails). They were always safe, but the father-in-law, in particular, freaked later when he saw the pics. His grandbabies were too close to being home for his knucklehead son-in-law to let them fall off a cliff in Arizona. 

 

At any rate, they made it here. All of us are Mississippians again, back close to the rest of the family, ready to begin our new adventure, in earnest, in Columbus. 

 

 

 

* * * 

 

On to the weaponry. Someone familiar with my earlier column on the nationwide scarcity of ammunition tipped me to a display sign at Gary''s Gun and Pawn. All kinds of ammo in stock, including .380 bullets (particularly hard to find these days), the sign says.  

 

I wondered: Is the drought over? 

 

No. The drought is still on, despite Gary''s stock, which a clerk chalked up to Gary being Gary (he''s been in business a long time, knows the dealers, and ordered what he has now months ago). Gary didn''t have my coveted .45 Colt bullets, which are tougher to put your hands on than just about anything, it seems. 

 

Brian Albert Broom, a photographer at The Clarion-Ledger and avid outdoorsman, has posted several amusing posts on his blog about is inability to find ammo in Jackson -- in particular, reloading gear to make his own bullets. "For those who seriously believe Obama is going to ban all weapons or the economy is going to force us back to a hunter/gatherer society, maybe you should start stockpiling flintlocks, molds and blackpowder," he says in a recent post. 

 

Amen, brother. Folks, feel free to get Medieval, and leave a few store-bought bullets for someone else. 

 

Steve Mullen is managing editor of The Dispatch. Reach him at smullen@cdispatch.com.

 

Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.

 

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