I’ve been up to the Delta recently, all the way to Clarksdale. I love going to the Delta–any time of year, it’s always interesting and it seems to have a certain light that makes it all seem more lush. People outside of Mississippi don’t realize that the Delta is “up” in the northwestern part of the state. Before I moved here, many many moons ago, back before the World Wide Web, I assumed the Delta was around Natchez, since I figured “The Delta” was the delta of the Mississippi River. I was quickly disabused of that notion when I moved here–it is actually the delta formed by the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers, the frequent flooding depositing rich soil many feet deep. While cotton has been King for a while (actually corn has supplanted it these last couple of years), pretty much anything can grow here, including soybeans, rice, and even catfish (yumm!).
I’ve often heard people say that the Delta is never-changing, that it’s a place that time forgot. In fact, I think it’s changed the most of any section of the state in the last half century. If you look at old maps even as late as the 1950s, you see black dots all over the landscape, indicating houses lining every country road–those are almost all gone now, even the roads have changed alignment. The land is too valuable to leave empty buildings sitting there: I’ve seen areas that formerly held substantial brick school campuses now turned into farmland, no trace of the previous occupants. You’ll often drive past a cemetery in the middle of a field and realize that once a church building stood nearby along with probably a community of houses–all gone. Mechanization of agriculture has caused a mass exodus, leaving only a few hundred residents in some Delta counties.
I especially love Clarksdale–it’s rich with cultural complexity and it has a great downtown area that still seems very urban, unlike Greenville, which has suffered from demolitions over the years. When I first went to Clarksdale way back in the 1990s, the downtown was dead as a doornail. Today, even though it’s not back to its former self, it is definitely showing signs of re-birth, much of the new life having to do with the Delta Blues Museum and Ground Zero Blues Club. I didn’t take pictures of either of those two places–you can see them elsewhere I’m sure–but I did take pictures around town, even in the midst of rain showers. Why? For you, my readers, always for you!
And now for something completely different . . .