We’re about half way through a 10 day road trip across three Southern states. Such a trip deserves a lengthier reflection than this, but a morning of driving and listening to the blues has made me pensive.
Things are different here. Gas is less than $2/gall, for starters, and I paid $2.47 for two donuts and two coffees. Best donuts in Greenville, MS. Trust me.
We’ve been driving through the farmlands of the Mississippi delta most of the morning, and it is flat as a really flat thing. The horizon is very far off, and occasionally interrupted by the water towers peppered across the landscape, emblazoned with the names of the town they serve.
Coming out of Memphis this morning along US 61 – the Blues Highway – the roadside billboards seemed to run on a theme – casino adverts for weekly giveaways, health department reminders to choose low calorie sodas, military recruiting posters.
The towns we pass are small, the fields enormous. Fluffy cotton on spiky plants stretches for miles, and the verge is littered with clumps of soft white. Swirls of dust rise and fall on seemingly empty fields. The largest structures are the occasional clusters of gleaming farm buildings, and the gargantuan irrigation gantries sprawling and swirling across the fields. Cotton is a $25billion/year industry in the US. Mississippi is the poorest state in the union.
It is hot. Even in late October, it’s 29°C outside. I am thankful for my air conditioned car.
Most homes are small, and a fair number are made of brick. This surprises me, although I’m not sure why. Almost none of the buildings are more than one story high, apart from the churches. There are a lot of churches.
Every so often, signs point to something of wider significance. Many places proclaim their spot in the history of the Blues. We pass through the home town of Jim Henson. We do not stop.
The river winds past us occasionally, its banks thick with trees. We get excited when we see cotton being harvested, but get over it quickly. There is a STOP sign riddled with (bullet?) holes. The horizon stretches on.
In towns, we pass restaurants smoking meat, and regret that we cannot eat again so soon. There is a street called “Moon Road” and we wonder why. “Roy’s Store Road” needs no explanation.
There are more trees, laden with ivy and curving strangely. I had been told the trees were different. Some fields have different, greener crops, and we try to figure out what they are – soy, rice? Internet coverage fails us, and we remain uninformed.
We decide to stop in Vicksburg for coffee and a stretch. I know that this is a Civil War town, although I cannot remember why. We shall soon find out.