The night I spent at T.O. Fuller State Park in Memphis was hot, in the 80’s and muggy.  The Park was sparsely inhabited (by humans.) There were a few such as the camp host, a sparse scattering of other campers and a lonely young ranger who gave me a tour of the sparkling new environmentally constructed 1 million dollar nature interpretative center! The old golf course had been restored to a wildlife area including habitats of floodplain wetlands, wildflower valleys, native grassy meadows, and upland ponds. The Mississippi Flyway brings over 100 different species of birds to the area in spring and fall. The day I was there butterflies wafted in the air amid the moaning of wind, then they’d suddenly zoom off like streakers, black, blue, yellow. The nearby condos were slated to be soon restored into wetlands and a fishing lake. The heavy beat of nature echoing the heart of Memphis was quick and sharp to my anxiety over the power that the coming storm might bring. I’d checked and rechecked the weather apps on my phone; Memphis would be okay, Memphis would not be okay. Danger, destructive, us little campers in our RVs, if it happened, we made no difference.


The camp host, I thought classically withered, rustic; younger than me but seemed older, had lived in the park 25 years. I liked him and once he moved past his hesitation of yet another clueless camper he began sharing the wisdom of the forest. He showed me the wild pepper and wild onions, the rare wild cherry tree outside the back window on my mothorhome where I camped. He said the space I choose used to be where he lived and every night a wild coyote would lay under his window and depart in early morning.  I wanted to be in his world for just a little bit so went off to get Chester’s Chicken at the Truck Stop and just like he told me, it was good, I bought potato wedges but I forgot to get the jalapenos…  he’d explained how those could be spread over the chicken and the extra used over a few fried eggs in the morning.  I filled the gas tank at $1.99 for regular when I  returned he told me that due to the geography of the mountain the damaging winds would tend to be over our heads — heat like this and a storm could mean large destructive hail or very damaging winds. If that happened we would all run (all of us, all the dogs and all the campers) to the bathrooms. The bathhouses were built to be storm shelters and the one at this park was newly renovated. Now it made sense the large solid entrance ways of the Texas rest stop bathrooms, they were shelters too.

It was so hot that night I barely slept. The side windows were open but I’d closed the overhead vent and shut off the air conditioning. I peeped out the window at the trees swaying listening to the terrible howling of the sky; what battle was ensuing up there? My RV rocked, the rain fell only a little, mostly it was simply hot. I was impressed, it was obvious there was a fierce storm above and I later learned that those damaging winds had attacked other parts of the town. As the camp host had said, even though I practiced in my head getting all the dogs leashed in frantic wind and blistering hail, searching for my shoes, keys and coat. . . .   I practiced running and gripping little Mason tight but the violence of the storm didn’t come down into our cove. Instead I was in a pool of sweat wishing the rain could come inside the van and cool me off, maybe I should open the vent, but I didn’t dare. It was all fortunate, especially as two late campers had arrived with pop-up campers, I did notice they both parked very close to the bathhouse. Spring, this was Spring. A Spring that was wild, terrible and beautiful.


We all made it through the night.

T.O. Fuller State Park was the first state park open for African Americans east of the Mississippi River. A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp in the area initiated construction of the park facilities in 1938. It was designated Shelby County Negro State Park in 1938 and was later changed to T.O. Fuller State Park in 1942 in honor of Dr. Thomas O. Fuller, a prominent African-American educator, pastor, politician, civic leader and author, who spent his life empowering and educating African Americans. Dr. Fuller served as principal of the Howe Institute, a precursor to Lemoyne-Owen College, for 27 years.

The park is a place that protects and showcases unique natural habitat while offering a wide range of outdoor recreational assets – including a new Interpretive Nature and Education Center, hiking trails, playgrounds, an Olympic-size pool and splash pad, ball fields, basketball and tennis courts, and terrific gathering spaces for families, churches, organizations and groups.



Dixon Gallery & Gardens   Memphis, TN
Go see this place in person my photos cannot and do not show what a glorious fantasy it is. Especially loved all the Tulips, the Summer Snowflake, the Redbud trees, Virginia Bluebells and more amid an English Countryside with fountains, statues, alcoves, butterflies and birds, stunning architectures so like a dream.  Regrettably most of the art museum was closed the day I visited and the cafe ran out of primary ingredients for the sandwiches.