Day trips. They’re an adventure that I don’t allow myself very often. But this summer, as I watch my daughter ease ever closer to the day where she’ll leave my nest, it seemed time to put other parts of my life on hold. At least on a few Saturdays over the next month or so.
I’ll be documenting our travels here, of course.
I found myself lost in thought as we hit the open road, and it was as if someone unstopped a faucet of creativity and inspiration within my artist spirit.
I resisted the urge to write as we went. Maybe that was a mistake, I don’t know. But I don’t think so. I think I was simply meant to explore, both out in the bright June sunshine as well as the recesses of my writer’s psyche.
I wasn’t thinking about my day job. About the pile of clothes I still hadn’t put up. About what I was going to cook the next week. About anything pertaining to my daily life. I was perfectly lost within my imagination. And it was a fabulous escape.
You see, I have roots in the Delta. And they intrigue me. Beckon me. I’ve been, that I remember, to this part of my state only a total of 3 times. And only really gotten to explore once.
Even as someone who uses words as a form of artistic expression, I find it incredibly difficult to describe the feeling I get when I cross over from piney woods to the farmlands of northeast Mississippi. Every time I’ve been, even when I was a child on a rainy January day for the funeral of my great grandmother, it was as though a spell was cast over me.
The thing about Mississippi is every region of the state is vastly different. There are the farmlands of the Delta, the Piney Woods, where I live, and the coastal region bordering the Gulf of Mexico.
To step into either region outside of my own is to go a world away from where I spend most of my days. Each has their own set of beauty, rich history, and stunning landscapes.
But y’all. There’s just something about the Delta. As we passed field after field of corn and soybeans, silo after giant silo, sleepy quiet town after another, I swear I could feel the rich soil itself telling me stories. Hear the Blues. Smell the grease.
(photo by Reagan)
After a less than impressive start to our trip with an early lunch in Yazoo City, we made our way to Drew. My grandmother was born and raised there. My mother spent countless summers there. My great grandparents are buried there.
(photos by Reagan)
We drove past their old home place, which I don’t recall ever seeing before that day.
We also went downtown Drew and visited the high school where Mawmaw graduated.
(photo by Reagan)
It’s closed now. The schools of Drew were recently consolidated with others in the area.
I cannot speak to this issue really. I have never been part of the public school system. My daughter doesn’t attend a public school. But I will say this: there is abject poverty throughout the state of Mississippi. I see it in my own hometown on a daily basis, and more than I’d like to in my line of work.
But it is so stunningly obvious in areas like Drew, MS. And while many people think the answer is for people to just “get a job” or pull themselves out of the perpetual cycle of poverty by working their way out of it…. Well. I daresay those folks wouldn’t find it so easy if they had been raised under similar conditions.
But I didn’t bring this up to start a debate. I just mention it because some 49% – FORTY-NINE percent- of the people in Drew live at or below the poverty level. And it’s hard not to mention it. Or notice it. Or have some feeling about it when traveling through the area. And it gets me thinking about a lot of different things.
From Drew we traveled to Ruleville where my great uncle is buried. One of the most interesting fellows I can remember knowing, Great Uncle Charles was intelligent. Well traveled. Someone who had a dry wit and an amused smile always on his lips.
At the cemetery in Ruleville, a monument caught my husband’s eye. It was of an angel. When we stopped to look at it, I felt weak.
The angel looks over 4 graves. One for each member of a family killed in a car accident in 2009.
I remember when it happened. Because it happened one town over from mine. Father, mother, 15 year old son, 13 year old daughter. All traveling to see relatives one minute, and then suddenly….gone..
I have never seen an entire family buried together like that before. It choked me up. I know what tragedy feels like. And it never stops hitting you in the gut, no matter how much time goes by. I thought about the ones left behind by this family. What a hole their passing left on their community.
It was an unexpected sobering moment. One that made me that much more grateful for the beautiful June sunshine and the opportunity to spend the day with my family.
From Ruleville we traveled to Leland, taking in two rooms of Jim Henson memorabilia and embracing the artistry that the man bestowed upon a world that would fall in love with puppets. First though, we stopped at Dockery Farms and signed a guest book with signatures from China, Spain, and other wanderers from around the world. This stop on the Blues Trail is the only one we purposefully visited. This time.
(photo by Reagan)
But back to the Muppets. Y’all, I grew up with the Muppets. Kermit and Miss Piggy and Gonzo and Fozzie. Sesame Street helped me learn to read and spell and add and subtract.
I have a lot of nostalgia for these characters. Visiting the “Birthplace of Kermit the Frog” seemed like a no-brainer for this trip.
I have to say, however, that the experience was……less than satisfying. Though it was definitely amusing.
It doesn’t take much to rattle my husband. He has no shame and will act a fool just about anywhere. But when people freak him out? It’s time ta go.
The docent at the “museum” (if you can call two rooms a museum) acted like she was higher than an August-in-Mississippi electricity bill. So we didn’t linger. Bought no souvenirs. Just took Reagan’s picture with the life size Kermit and got the hell out of Dodge.
This is Reagan’s totally freaked out face, by the way. The docent had come over and put Kermit’s arm around Reagan for the picture and it took all I had in me to not bust out laughing at the look on my child’s face when that lady starting posing that frog.
So much for nostalgia. I’ll just find a Jim Henson biography and read it.
At least we weren’t charged for admission. I read online that there was a fee….but stoner lady didn’t charge us. Pretty glad she didn’t because I would have asked for a refund.
After our stimulating experience in Leland, we made our way to Rolling Fork. We pulled over beside a rural corn field to watch a Cropduster spraying the fields around us.
(photo by Reagan)
While in Rolling Fork, we visited a place that I’ve only seen in pictures. Until Saturday.
On a back road, in the middle of nowhere, stands Mont Helena.
(photo by Reagan)
This breathtaking home was built on a 26 foot mound out in the middle of the delta landscape. 10 feet of the mound was removed to build the current house in 1900 after a fire destroyed the original structure. The house is open for tours, but by group reservation only. So, we contented ourselves to just take some distant photos and continue heading down Highway 61 for the last stop of the day.
As the sun began to wane, we landed in Vicksburg to quench our parched tongues, and take a stroll by the river of all rivers: the Mighty Mississippi.
We had supper at Rusty’s Riverfront Grill. I’m not sure if I was just that hungry or if those really were the best fried pickles I’ve ever had, but they really hit the spot. The stuffed softball crab wasn’t too shabby either.
After supper, we took a stroll along the riverfront. Huge murals have been painted on the walls, each documenting some part of Vicksburg’s history and community. There is a fantastic park right across the street from the mural walls and a splash pad for kids as well as an impressive playground.
Reagan and I saw several places we will be back to visit, including a quaint little bookstore. I brought her to Vicksburg once on one of our mommy/daughter trips but she doesn’t remember much about it. I look forward to going back and taking in some of the places I’ve never visited, or haven’t visited in a long time.
I think it’s pretty obvious that we crammed a lot of activity into one day. And we all felt it the next day, considering all the napping that happened.
But as it was happening, I never rushed, or set to any type of schedule. We just drove. And stopped. And talked. And drove some more. It was such a good day. So freeing to get away from the everyday demands that hold us hostage sometimes.
One of my favorite things about living where I do is the opportunity for days just like the one we had last weekend. We could take Saturday day trips every day for a year and still not have covered all the interesting places there are to see and experience within a reasonable driving distance.
And I can’t commit to every Saturday for a year, but I can commit to several over the next month or two. And I have. Because it does my soul so much good.
I think it takes me back to a simpler time and mindset. It reminds me of when my sister and I would go “exploring”. Meaning we would just walk. On the road. In the woods. Over pastures. Whatever. We’d just go.
Sure there are things that need to be done around home. Guess what? There always will be. Seize the day, my friends. See something new. Or something old. Just see something. Learn about it. Appreciate it. Laugh about it. Remember it. And share the experience with your favorite people. Because that’s the best part of all.
(photo by Reagan)