We had been driving several miles down the beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway when our GPS told us to turn on County Route 8. We spotted the rock walls right away and pulled into the driveway, not knowing really where to park. We were greeted with a warm smile and welcomed into the life of a remarkable man.
Tom Hendrix, of Florence, Alabama draws crowds of visitors every day because he built a rock wall. But he is more than a builder… he is a storyteller.
We felt so fortunate the four of us, to have Mr. Tom all to ourself Monday morning. Sitting in a circle in his driveway, he took off his Alabama ball cap and rubbed his 87-year-old head returning his hat, he clasped his work-hardened hands and closed his eyes. As he gathered his thoughts, he began quoting the first page of a journal written about his great great grandmother by a local preacher a long long time ago.
You see, this wall was built for her. Te-lah-nay was her name, but she’s better known for her #59. She was taken on the trail of tears when she was 17 and given a tag to wear around her neck #59. Her sister was #60. After staying a winter she walked back home to Florence, Alabama. It took her 5 years. These walls were built to represent her journey to and from Oklahoma.
I could tell you the whole story, but I won’t.
You could google the story, but you shouldn’t.
You need to hear the story from Mr. Tom. You need to walk with him along the rows of rocks, you need to hear the catch in his throat, see the glistening in his eyes. You need to hear how many wheelbarrows and gloves he went through, and how many pounds of rocks he moved….and hear about his grandmother. You need to pray in the prayer circle and walk the entire length of the walls, and you need to ask Mr. Tom questions. And see for yourself his work of 30 years.
And when you go to meet Mr. Tom, take him a special rock, a rock that represents something to you. He will catalog it and add it to his collection there on the wall and he won’t ever forget where it came from. Listen to him. Hold the rocks other visitors have brought and hear their stories.
While you are there, you will think of friends you wish to bring back.
When you leave, you’ll wonder why you’ve never been. And you’ll find yourself thinking often of Mr. Tom and his great great grandmother, #59.
Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall
13890 County Road 8,
Florence, AL 35633
Open 8-4 daily
How beautiful, beautiful, I wish to go there and walk with Mr. Tom. Thank you so much, Katey, for sharing.
You have a place to stay in my home and I will take you. Any time!
Thank you Tammy. My home is always open for you to come for a visit. I’ll gladly take you there! You are a precious soul and your farm makes me want to get up there sooner than later. Katey
That is such an amazing happenstance…ya’ll finding Mr. Tom!! What a story! Thanks for sharing your amazing adventures! Happy birthday!!
Yes mom he is truly an amazing man. And a little bit rascal he told me so.
Thank you. He was one of the best on my birthday week.
Oh, Katey, how I’d love to go! Thank you for sharing Mr Tom with us!
Bring your folks and I will take you guys to meet him. Your connection with living in Oklahoma I just knew it’s a place you need to go. Home is always open. Katey
I am always amazed at the places and people you find to share with us!
another Happy Birthday wish from me :-)
A hiker friend had cut it out of the newspaper over a year ago. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of him. makes me sad so doing my part to tell others. thank you. katey
I believe there are Mr. Tom’s all around us if we will just take the time. God bless them and my Katey, deddy
I think so too. We have to keep our eyes open.
Katey, thanks for this beautiful story of a man so dedicated to his cause, and a love for his great grandmother. What you guys find to see is amazing! Sure hard not to be jealous, but, thankful you share! Love You. Jo
Jo, seems impossible that I haven’t heard of him before. he is such a character that I am proud to know. Katey
Jo, seems hard to believe that people are like that and we don’t even hear about them!
Beautiful, Katey. Sharing this with you was special.
Thank you Becky for inviting me to go. It was really an amazing day. Katey
You find the coolest places and people. This makes me want to go visit Mr.Tom
Laura, I didn’t find this place but went with a hiker friend who had cut it out of the huntsville times over a year ago. I was thrilled to find out about it too. Hope you can visit. Katey
dearest katey, i had intended to read this long ago but obviously got sidtreacked. thank you for tagging me on instagram to remind me. a true labour of love that should ultimately become a national monument. coincidentally, i am in the middle of reading andrew jackson’s biography. found out tennesee was originally called franklin, at least the western part. thank you for being a wildflower
Thank you Constanza. I thought about you and your painted rocks left for strangers to find as I saw some painted rocks brought to Mr. Tom. It’s a lovely memorial. Sounds like a great book too. Katey