May 25, 2010

Mississippi Makes the News...

... and this time, it's in a positive light.  Below is an April 2010 article written by award-winning journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, currently a writer for King Features Syndicate.  I had to conduct a Google-search to find the particular article online, as it was originally sent to me via e-mail.  It's a little sappy for me, but I both enjoy and appreciate her sentiments regarding my homestate.

RHETA GRIMSLEY JOHNSON: Mississippi's rhythms pulse with sight, sound, aroma and relationship

by Rheta Grimsley Johnson

OXFORD - I forgot the address of my old friend Martha Lu Jackson, but got close enough, and she stood and waved and yoo-hooed me in from a jasmine-draped street corner.

Where else but Mississippi?

It was one of those weeks when I felt sorry for all people who live anywhere but old Mississippi, much less north of Tennessee. Bless their hearts.

I had driven the back roads through a wisteria jungle to get to Oxford, the town with a courthouse the color of homemade ice cream and so many good writers they must take a number and wait for national recognition.

I'd tell you it was a Thursday, and I went with most of the rest of the town to a live radio show called "Thacker Mountain" and heard a former Miss Mississippi named Mary Haskell, still blond, belt out a Patsy Cline number, and the with-it, bluesy young Memphis band Star and Micey wail into the tangerine afternoon, but you might not believe it. Well, I did.

Mississippi is something you have to experience, a seamless blend of small town and sophistication and anachronistic delights. This state is a secret still, which keeps it nice.

I had supper in what used to be an old grocery store where once the grocer cut and wrapped the bologna on the wooden countertops.

Now at City Grocery there's fine dining and wine, imported beer and no less than five specials, including panned pickle duck rillette cake, pork belly beggar's purse and country-ham-wrapped saddle of rabbit with mushroom cornbread pudding. It might be Savannah or Atlanta, except with manners.

And you can't go through food like that without dark descending. It didn't much matter because the streets are safe, and the courtly, movie-star-handsome former chancellor of Ole Miss, Robert Khayat, walked me to my car, positioning himself on the street side as his mother taught him, greeting everyone we met on the busy sidewalks by name and often with a hug.

Where else but Mississippi?

I drove home in less than two hours to a hollow so dark you can see all the stars, no competing lights anywhere. And I sat for a while on a porch where the best moments of my life, so far, have been spent, and I felt so grateful to be breathing Mississippi air.

It was a circuitous journey for me to Mississippi, from my native Georgia, to the Florida Panhandle, finally across Alabama's Rooster Bridge into the romance and history of a whole other world. It was 1979. I was dubious. I didn't have any idea at the time how much I'd love the state, or that Mississippi would seem, almost instantly, more like home than anywhere else.

You must forgive me the periodic and rhapsodic pitch for Mississippi. For every now and again, when I least expect it, the privilege of being a part of this place - with its gut bucket blues and its accessible heroes and uncontrolled profusion of sweet-smelling vines - overcomes me. And like an adopted child with a troubled past who has landed in the lap of love, I weep.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist. She lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.

No comments:

Post a Comment