The Mississippi Delta – by Donald Christian

PART ONE

Gravestone - Marks, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Gravestone – Marks, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

When The Delta Bohemian® moves a soul to share, relate, communicate, touch and/or love us, from a spirit within themselves that innocently and purely wants, dare we say, needs, to connect, it encourages us to persevere. Here is one such dialogue which began by email, sharing past experiences and a soon-to-be of the Mississippi Delta. We will call it PART ONE. 

(Don’t miss the outstanding photographs by Donald Christian taken during his recent visit to the Mississippi Delta.)

 

The following text is from an email The Delta Bohemian® received from Donald Christian on September 24, 2014 11:43 PM

By GUEST BOHEMIAN DONALD CHRISTIAN

Just coming across your blog/feed and wanted to drop a note to say thanks for sharing… some of your stuff is a little heavy… Tolstoy… too damn serious for light reading but great that you are putting it out there! and the rest, well it is mighty damn fine!!

On a more important note, I think it worth sharing my now distant connection to the Delta….

A long time ago, in a land far away, I married a woman whose mother was born and raised in Alligator. I had heard of the mythical “Mississippi Delta” for years, including all the cutting remarks by the former mother-in-law who often referred to her husband as a “cracker from the hills” (Tishimingo)…. honestly, I didn’t get it as a native of North Alabama… but, I had always been an outdoorsman and as life and career allowed, I began to ask about the “family farm” over in Mississippi.. where is it? are there ducks there? did you ever see/hear Muddy Waters as a teenager? etc… about all I received in reply was …Lord No (as to Muddy Waters) and How would I know on the matter of waterfowl… Eventually I drove over to the fabled land, met Bruno Fava, the farmer who leased the land and figured out that, yes indeed, there were ducks in Bolivar County.

I spent a good part of the next ten years traveling to and from the Delta and in the process came to love the place, the people and the stark landscape… I came to know Bruno and Vito of Alligator fame/infamy and Charlie the deaf mute (Bruno’s driver et al) and spent many a night after hunting, standing in Bruno’s liquor store, marveling at the sales of single Kool cigarettes, cold 1/2 pints and single red solo cups…I heard more than a few tales of “panfa” sightings and one in particular from a fella who claimed to have been “scratched” by a panfa out by Rena Laura one night….  one NYE a college aged cousin and I stopped by Bruno’s after hunting and found the parking lot full and alive with activity (we learned later of the local tradition of firing guns into the air)… as we left the liquor store a couple of big boned black girls followed my cousin and I out to my Suburban and in that special Delta accent said… Hey dere boss… Howsabout lettin us ride in yo big 2500?  We declined the generous offer and made our way back to the camphouse (a converted double shack once occupied by a tenant known as “Big Hands”)….We met homeless wanderers who camped in the barn out back…. George at Uncle Henry’s (good LORD that was ALWAYS interesting), spent many a night at the Ranchero and made a few trips down to Merigold and Greenville…we had our picture “made” by the abandoned Booga Bottom Store where my former mother in law’s cousin “Booga Bottom” Dave Harris apparently hailed from…she used to get a little thermometer shaped like a skillet from him that said something like Booga Bottom’s Crop Dusting…. and generally drove a helluva lot of dirt roads in Bolivar and Coahoma Counties…

Some of my best stories come from those days and although the daughter of the Alligator woman and I divorced, and she had the camphouse bull dozed and the land sold…(I wish I could say there was no meanness in those evil acts)  I still have many fond memories of the Delta…. Now, I completely get it…and I miss spending time over there, especially in the fall when the rice is golden brown and the cotton white against the blue skies!

My new wife was born in South East Alaska… somehow found her way to North Alabama and she and I have a trip to the Delta planned the second weekend of October to roam and photograph the countryside in the Delta… we are staying in Greenwood and of course plan to eat at Luscos and Doe’s …. might make it by Clarksdale but the last few times I was over that way I found it too damned depressing…  She is fascinated with the South and only knows of the Delta from the stories I have told and the photos I have shared…I have made it my life’s work to serve as her cultural attaché to the South and soon to the Delta… and so our adventure is much anticipated…

I have exchanged emails with Maude Clay (noticed that you are a Sumnerite) and she was kind enough to ask that we stop by if we are in the area… I’m not sure if that was one of those half hearted, polite invitations that we Southerners sometimes give, but I think we might give it a shot in any event… as a very amateur film photographer it will be an honor to meet she and her husband….  and I need to stop by the Cherry Hill Cemetery not far from Dublin to see some of my distant kin who are buried there… although it seems they have all but disappeared from the area… last name Lawler.. they were there in the 1840s… but I can’t find a living soul by that name in Tallahatchie or Coahoma County….oh well…

We are looking forward to seeing the cotton compress stacks or whatever you call them along Hwy 6 near Marks… the ones they spray paint the nice little sayings on…and as many small country towns as we can… Marks, Crenshaw, Sumner & Dublin, Alligator, Duncan, Shelby, Merigold, Mound Bayou, Cleveland and Greenville among them…

I wonder do you have any suggestions other than the things I have mentioned… It has been a few years since I have been over that way and of course times change….of course as a very amateur photographer who still shoots film, I want to see and photograph all those sad, strange, abandoned towns and bizarre landscapes … is the Sumner Grill still a going concern? recommended?? or not??

Thanks again for doing what you do with your blog… I have enjoyed reading and seeing what you have shared … good job! and if our paths ever cross I look forward to meeting y’all in person.

Sorry for the long-winded message but I think I read somewhere that you find this sort of thing moderately entertaining…

Donald Christian
Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama

LOOK FOR PART TWO which includes Donald Christian’s written reflections from his recent visit to the Mississippi Delta.

Donald Christian was born and raised in Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama where he has practiced law for twenty-four years. He is the eighth generation of several lines of his family to live and work in Madison County, Alabama; he received a BA in History from the University of Alabama and a J.D. from the Cumberland School of Law. His interests include Southern culture and history, music, photography (digital and film) and writing. He and his wife Tracey spend much of their free time traveling and photographing the forgotten roads and places of the South.

Link to Donald Christian Flickr Album – Delta Adventure

Young boy - Clarksdale, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Young boy – Clarksdale, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Country church near Minter City, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Country church near Minter City, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Tenant House near Dublin, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Tenant House near Dublin, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Shelby Country Club near Shelby, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Shelby Country Club near Shelby, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Ruins - Marks, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Ruins – Marks, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Musgrove for Governor - storefront main street Rosedale, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Musgrove for Governor – storefront main street Rosedale, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Main Street - Shaw, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Main Street – Shaw, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Local Traffic - Marks, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Local Traffic – Marks, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Gravestone - Marks, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Gravestone – Marks, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Famous..almost - sidewalk in Shaw, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Famous..almost – sidewalk in Shaw, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Denton Co. - Shelby, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Denton Co. – Shelby, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

ountry grave near Minter City, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

ountry grave near Minter City, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Country cemetery near Minter City, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Country cemetery near Minter City, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Cotton - near Dublin, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Cotton – near Dublin, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Chow's Super Market - Rosedale, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Chow’s Super Market – Rosedale, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Chevy Truck - near Webb, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Chevy Truck – near Webb, Mississippi PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Abandoned - Webb, Mississippi. PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

Abandoned – Webb, Mississippi. PHOTO BY DONALD CHRISTIAN

DONALD CHRISTIAN at Glacier Summer 2014

DONALD CHRISTIAN at Glacier Summer 2014

Attorney Donald Christian

Attorney Donald Christian


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Comments

  1. sandy thomas gammon says:

    Give C’dale another chance! Lots of good things happening there! Visit Ronniie Drew’s Bluestown Music store. Dine at Yazoo Pass. Hear good music at Hopson and Ground Zero. Other new dining venues. Stay at Clark House or Bohemian House or Pink House. Visit the blues museum. Visit the hardware store. Have fun!

  2. Susan Sims McCreary says:

    I love your work. I have been a Mississippi delta girl for 63 years. You make the delta more attractive through the eye of a camera than it really is. Even though many of the small delta towns have fell by the wayside, and the stores are boarded up or look like they have been blown out by dynamite, I am still proud to call it home. Thanks you for sharing your delta journey through photos.

  3. Judi Otts says:

    I enjoyed your photos of the Delta and your writing about the Delta.
    I was born in Shaw, MS. and have seen all the changes take place in our Delta towns. Shaw was a busy little town when I was young. It had a hotel, three doctors, two grocery stores, two drug stores, several clothing stores, a dry cleaners and several great places to eat. It is sad to see how it is now.
    Thanks for sharing your memories of the times you visited here.

  4. Make time to visit downtown Ruleville. Diff Dorrugh’s three murals are not to be missed.

  5. Wow! Thanks for all your comments on Donald’s excellent article and pictures! You bless us as does Donald! Stay tuned for Donald’s Part Two installment this week! Cheers! 🙂

  6. Donald Christian says:

    Thanks to all for the kind remarks… I continue to believe that, The Delta IS the most Southern Place on Earth…. and with that good comes some bad…… must have been something to live there 1940-1970 when all the small towns were bustling and the post war economy was booming…… as we see so often on the gravestones … Gone but not forgotten..
    DLC

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