Monday, December 14, 2009

Day 59: Tomatopolis of the world

Terry to Gallman. 20 miles/1032.1 total

Monday, December 14, 2009

Leaving from Terry Road and Wynndale Road, a few miles outside the village of Terry, heading down through Crystal Springs and Gallman. Mostly a rural walk, just filling in the gap between Jackson and Hazlehurst.

I come up to a cemetery that looks like it serves the village of Terry. I walk past the grave of Carolyn Donahue McGee, known as Minnie Ruth. There’s a nice photograph of her on the tombstone. I like that photo thing. More common in Europe than here. It really helps fill in the blanks. Especially for a wayfarer like me who doesn’t know the local players--the Minnies and the Willies.

I’m bypassing the village of Terry, walking down the access road parallel to the expressway. But just so you know, Terry is a town of about 650 first settled in 1811 by people from Virginia. That’s as much as anyone is going to learn about Terry from me.

I go by the Temple of Yah Hebrew Israelite Assembly. Minister Bobby Dixon. I’m not sure what kind of weirdness goes on in this church. Maybe it's some warmed-over version of Rastafarianism, an already pretty weird religion, even as religions go. [Later I looked up Temple of Yah on Google, and my guess proved pretty much correct although I had to wade through quite a bit of verbiage to figure it out. There is more than enough zaniness to go around there, folks. And that’s saying something, since we’re living in a society in which the accepted “normal” theology includes the belief that a virgin got pregnant by one-third of an indivisible three-part god, and the offspring god-man grew up, performed miracles, walked on water, then was executed and rose from the dead. Oh, and he was born on Christmas, died on Good Friday, and rose on Easter. That's a hell of a coincidence, if you ask me.]

I’m walking past some very large houses, costing probably 400,000 to 500,000 dollars. It’s been a bit of an adjustment over the past several days to see this kind of affluence, normal as it is, because of my trip through the Delta, where the poverty is so pronounced. But Mississippi isn’t all like it was up in the Delta.

At a little past the halfway point I enter the corporation limits of Crystal Springs, a pretty good sized city, population over 5,800. It was established in 1823, and according to a sign on the road, was moved to its present location in 1858. I don’t know where it was before that. I have to think it was in Mississippi somewhere. Crystal Springs once was known as the Tomato Capital of the World (seems a bit excessive, but then you never know). According to one source, it was the Tomatopolis of the World. Apparently they still have a tomato festival here every year, in June.

I turn onto U.S. 51, a two-lane highway that I’ll probably be on for most of the rest of my walk through Mississippi. I’ve left Hinds County behind and am now in Copiah County. Copiah comes from an Indian word meaning “calling panther.” Calling panther, hidden tomato.

I have observed that Missionary Baptist churches sprout like mushrooms, everywhere. Yesterday in Jackson I saw two Missionary Baptist churches within one block of each other. The buildings are never huge, like the mega-Baptist churches, but also not tiny and dumpy. Decent-sized churches, maybe with a capacity of one hundred to two hundred, but all over the place and almost on top of each other, even out here in the country, as if people are constantly getting fed up with one church and starting another. You’d think they'd stick together and make larger congregations. I have to assume that inherent in this denomination is the idea that where two or three are gathered together, there’s a congregation. Keep ‘em small.

South of Crystal Springs I pass Wilson’s Meat House and Custom Processing. The sign features a happy-looking pink pig. Just once I’d like to see a pig being chased by a guy with a gigantic meat cleaver on one of these signs. I go in to check things out. The smell of smoked meat is tantalizing, and the meat looks good, but not enough to make me buy anything. If they had some head cheese, maybe. But I don’t think they go for head cheese down here. Or blood sausage. I'll have to wait until I get to Louisiana for some boudin.

A couple of hours ago it began to rain, and now it’s coming down hard and steady, like it was on that day I walked into Yazoo City. And fortunately, like that day, it’s pretty warm. There’s nothing like the rain to make you focus on the goal at hand. Walking and slogging and looking straight ahead, while the water drips off the bill of your hat.

Nearing the end, I arrive in Gallman, a small community mostly on the west side of Highway 51. The Gallman Baptist Church is a big, sparkling beige pole barn. The sign says, “Come Grow With Us.” Just south of Gallman some delicious smells are coming out of a plant in the Copiah County Industrial Park. But the place from which I thought the smell was emanating turns out to be the Georgia Gulf PVC Division, Gallman Plant.

Next comes the Copiah County Sheriff’s Office, and the county jail. Next I pass Sanderson Farms, Hazlehurst Production Division. That's the food place, I guess. Down the hill and around the bend from there the white top of the motor home comes into view, and I have just a hundred yards or so to go.


Anonymous said...

The "normal theology" has a long line of precedents: Hercules was a man/god as well as Augustus Caesar. Christians were not very original, or historically accurate.

Peter Teeuwissen said...

Right. Not that historical accuracy has anything to do with theology. But if you take a look at the Temple of Yah stuff, which is hard to wade through, there's some "historical" precedent for it, too. Dispersed tribes of Israel wandring through the world, all that. Interesting, in a wacky way.

Peter Teeuwissen said...

Answer to the comments from "mlg" from yesterday:

I got the idea while walking on weekends years ago in Connecticut. Lots of time alone on the road leads to strange and grandiose thoughts, as you all know by now.

My nephew, having been raised down here from the age of six or so, just sort of rolls his eyes and sees the Confederate stuff as an evil part of the landscape, so to speak. He's accustomed to measuring progress in tiny increments. He told me that not too long ago they finally banned the rebel flag from Ole Miss games, and some people were upset.

Flopping around for Jesus was just an image that came into my head while I was walking by all the churches, picturing people swinging and swaying and falling out into the aisles like they do sometimes, all dressed in their Sunday best.

So who are you, mlg?