5,000 kilometers, 40 days, 7 states
Our trip begins in Lilbourn, Missouri.
Laura’s hometown. Derelict buildings, broken windows. A dying town.
Home of two branches of the family tree. An enclave of Democrat relatives and one misplaced Texas Republican cousin.
Worst traffic in the South. We enter a gated community which feels like the set of the Stepford Wives or Desperate Housewives.
Sitting in Cousin Jack’s lush backyard or in the sanctuary of the Emanuel Presbyterian Church, we are unaware of the racism that permeates the city.
Ghostlike. Haze covered. Haunted by its lost promises. Little movement on this hot, summer day. Few people are on the street, we are the only whites.
Glen Alan, Mississippi.
We meet a former Colonel who tells us that as long as the Democrats treat all Southerners like red-necks, they will never win. Picturesque despite its decline.
The Mississippi runs right by the town, we meet some women fishing.
A gutted downtown. One restaurant, a couple of banks, and a Bible Store.
A once prosperous Southern town right on the banks of the Mississippi River.
We meet Aunt Jo’s family in a trailer park as well as a well-to-do lawyer who pines for the “good old days.”
Highway 61 to Memphis, Tennessee.
Straight up through the kudzu covered Delta to the city and Mike, an ex-seminarian now refrigerator repairman, who gives us an overview of the South’s need for God.
Drivers pay little attention to the omnipresent signs: “Drive friendly the Texas way.” Loud. A knot of highways. Cement. Cement. Cement. The churches look particularly uninviting.
A little oasis in Texas. Ex-Hippies and local tradition. Newcomers, New Agers and an aging population. All cowboy hats turn to watch us, the new folks in town.
On the ranch with two cowboys, some 40 miles north of the Mexican border. “Land spreading out far and wide.” Hot and dry and beautiful.
A ghostlike city. Modern architecture. Super clean sky lines and streets. On the weekend, empty and ominous.
Springfield, Missouri. Outside the town, on the farm.
All five Thorne sons are home for the family reunion. Rolling hills. An incredible expanse of sky.
Reunion in the Ozark Mountains, Arkansas.
We gather for the weekend. The entire Mills family, 140 strong.