In northwest Alabama, Tom Hendrix has been building a stone wall for over 30 years in memory of his great-great-grandmother's journey.
His great-great-grandmother Te-lah-nay was part of the Yuchi Indian tribe that lived near here along the Tennessee River in the 1800s.
Her journey began when she and her sister Whana-le were sent to the Indian Territory of Oklahoma as part of the removal of native peoples from the southeast. But, that was only the beginning of her journey. Her tribe called the Tennessee River the Singing River because they believed a woman who lived in the river sang to them. When Te-lah-nay arrived in Oklahoma she said the streams and rivers did not sing to her and she longed for home. After spending one winter in Oklahoma she decides to head home. Even though she is alone the lessons that her grandmother taught her as a little girl help her overcome every peril and obstacle along the way. After enough adventure to literally fill a book she returns home and to the Singing River.
Fortunately, Tom's grandmother (Teh-la-nay's granddaughter) told him the stories about his great-great-grandmother when he was a little boy. Later in life Tom knew he needed to do something to honor her memory. During a conversation with an elder of the Yuchi tribe he was told "All things shall pass. Only the stones will remain." It was then that he knew what he needed to do.
After walking the length of the wall, Charlie Two Moons, a spiritual person, said:
"The wall does not belong to you, Brother Tom. It belongs to all people. You are just the keeper. I will tell you that it is wichahpi, which means 'like the stars'. When they come, some will ask, 'Why does it bend, and why is it higher and wider in some places than in others?' Tell them it is like your great-great-grandmother's journey, and their journey through life--it is never straight."
- Registered in the Library of Congress
- Articles in The New York Times July 2014, Parade magazine March 2013
- Featured in the movie Muscle Shoals
- 2013 Lasting Impressions Award, Alabama Mountain Lakes Association
- Considered a prime example of Environmental Art/Land Art
- Believed by many to be a spiritual place
Mr. Hendrix passed away February 24, 2017. He was 83 years old.
Everyone who has visited the wall heard Mr. Hendrix say that building the wall "wore out three trucks, 22 wheelbarrows, 3,800 pairs of gloves, three dogs and one old man". But, he enjoyed every minute of it. Especially the last several years when visitors came by every day - I think he enjoyed telling his grandmother's story even more than actually building the wall.
Mr. Hendrix's family has created a Life Tributes page to make it easy to share your memories...click here
Tom's Wall can still be viewed daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tom wrote a book about Te-lah-nay's journey titled "If The Legends Fade". For more information about the book and its author, please see: www.ifthelegendsfade.com.