Thursday, December 10, 2009
Today's just a journey from one parking lot of an abandoned gas station, in South Bentonia, to the parking lot of another abandoned gas station, at the northern edge of Jackson. The walk will take me through Flora and Pocahontas.
The temperature's in the 40s under mostly sunny skies, with some high clouds coming in. I don’t think it’s going to get much over 50, if that.
I might as well get this out of the way while I'm walking through several miles of nothing before Flora. My comments yesterday about the cause of the Civil War elicited, as I expected they would, a response from someone out there in the blogosphere. For those of you who don’t read the comments, I’ll summarize. The person agreed to a certain extent that slavery was the cause of that war, with the qualification that it was the secession of the states that forced the north’s hand, and that the “nullification of secession” was perhaps the chief impetus for the war. This seems to me to be a little bit of a tapdance. The only issue over which the states seceded was slavery—its continuation where it was and its expansion into new territories. So we’re back again to slavery as the prime cause of the Civil War, and the cause over which the two sides fought. I’m not sure why that’s so difficult for southerners to admit. I think it’s just too simple and straightforward for the obfuscating and self-deluding minds of some people.
I’ve left Yazoo County and am now in Madison County. I veer left off of Highway 49 in the direction of Flora. The first place I pass is the Primos Hunting Calls fulfillment warehouse, which looks like it employs to a few scores of people. Duck calls and the like, I suppose.
The road down to Flora, population 1500, is lined with horse pastures and middle class houses. I take a look to the left at the downtown of Flora, and am satisfied that I will not miss anything if I skip it. I get a snack at one of the three stores at this intersection, and walk on down the road. South of town I come to the municipal cemetery, a handsome-looking place. I wander around a bit and sit on the stone of Elizabeth H. Bentley, while a dog from a big house across the street comes over to bark at me. I don’t know if he’s trying to tell me this cemetery is part of his territory, but I can understand if he takes a proprietary interest in the place. It must be great to urinate on all these stones. I put out my hand for him to lick, but he’s a little shy, although he does quit barking.
At a little over eleven miles, I enter Hinds County, of which Jackson is one of the county seats (the other is Raymond). It was named for Thomas Hinds, an early U.S. Congressman from Mississippi.
I’m thinking of modifying the format I’ve been using for the blog so far. It’s getting a little hackneyed, and I’m growing tired of the “at so many miles I enter such and such a place” language. Maybe you are too. Also, I won’t guarantee that I’ll give you the weather every day, which is not to say that I won’t talk about the weather if it’s important to the walk. For now, since I don’t have anything to put in its place, I’ll probably keep doing it this way, but after the new year, all bets are off.
I guess I’m just tired of this whole thing, feeling generally out of sorts today. I think I’ve said it before, but I thought I’d get to the point where I felt pretty good walking twenty miles a day. Instead, I’ve just gotten used to being achy and tired for a good portion of the time.
I go over to the other side of the highway to the cemetery of the Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church, to have a little stroll around and see if it helps my mood any. Cemeteries seem to have a salubrious effect on me, which I suppose is a bit odd. I wander for a bit then sit down on the tombstone of Delouis Kennebrew. Her husband Robert is still above ground, waiting things out. Seeing what develops. I put my feet up on the stone flower vase on his side of the double marker and look around, thinking about the meaning of this walk, my life, and of all things. This is what walking all day by yourself will do to you, and where being by yourself all night in a motor home will take you.
Now that I’ve communed with the dead a bit, I can think more clearly. I should be thinking about all the things I have to be grateful for in connection with this walk. First, I have the leisure to undertake the project in the first place, and can afford to do it. Also, I have the health for it, and have enjoyed good health throughout the walk so far. Sure I have aches and pains, but I haven’t been injured so far. And the motor home and my car are working reasonably well, and all systems in them work okay, too. Each day I leave the motor home and the car and so far no one has touched either one. I’ve had safe places to stay every night. Everything I have planned to do I’ve been able to do. People on the road have treated me decently, and I’ve been offered rides by friendly folks all the way from Indiana to Mississippi. And I have friends and relatives who follow the trip and offer encouragement. So what am I bitching about?
Next I come to Pocahontas. It's a row of old shops on the east side of 49. There’s the Big Tee Pee (Barbecue and More), J.C.’s General Store, The Buck Shop (Quality Deer Processing), and some houses behind the shops. Also there is a rest area between the lanes of Highway 49 which I cross over to. It looks like this rest area was where there was once an Indian village. Cool. There’s something called Mound A, which is a big man-made hill, about thirty or forty feet high, with a flat top. I decide to walk up the mound, out of which are presently growing about a dozen large oak trees.
Well, that was fun, and I trot down the other side. It isn’t until I get down that I see the signs (facing the other way) that say “Keep Off Mound.” Too late for that. I see another marker with some descriptions of the mound culture. This was a platform mound, and the other kind is a burial mound, which is conical. I love the way they talk about these Indians as if they weren’t like us at all. “The burial of individuals in conical mounds was undoubtedly an elaborate and dramatic ritual meant to bestow honor upon the deceased.” Well, duh. That’s what our burial rituals are for, too, isn't it? Not to mention creating a place where people can go and commune with the spirits of the dead.
I pass a sign in front of a church that says, on both sides, “Jesus Love You.” He sho’ do. I stop to talk to a horse, but he doesn’t want me to pet him. A cow a few hundred yards down runs away from me. Maybe she knows that my favorite meat is beef.
At 18 miles I see the sign that tells me that Tougaloo College is off to the left. Tougaloo is where my brother taught English for about twenty years. In fact, the last time I came to Mississippi was when he was there on the campus, in the late 70s. He left Tougaloo years ago, but his son still lives around here and he’s just been appointed the city attorney for Jackson.
It’s time for me to get the iPod out and listen to Howlin’ Wolf singing “Highway 49.” It’s the version from the album entitled The Howlin’ Wolf London Sessions, recorded in 1970. To me, this is the best of all possible worlds, as far as the blues is concerned. It combines the top English guys who established their careers by covering the old bluesman with the masterful voice of the Wolf himself and the guitar work of Hubert Sumlin, his longtime accompanist. On the Brit side it features Eric Clapton on guitar, Steve Winwood on keyboards, Bill Wyman on bass, and Charlie Watts on drums.
I’m gonna get up in the morning, hit Highway 49,
I’m gonna get up in the morning, hit Highway 49.
I’ll be looking for my baby, Melviney’s the gal on my mind.
It’s a real up tempo piece, whose cadence exactly matches the speed at which I’m walking now. I give it a couple of listens.
Suddenly I come upon a bonanza of coins. Twenty-seven pennies, a dime, and a nickel--forty-two cents. Somebody emptied their ashtray out the window, I’ll bet, and forgot they had this stuff in it. That brings my Mississippi total of change up to $1.38. A good note on which to end this day.