I really want to dislike Mississippi. It's all down there in the South with its big fat no mountains and its big fat Haiti of the United States and stuff. I want to drive into Mississippi, look around, sniff the air, dry heave, and then leave. But the truth is, I can't
|Early bird gets the worm. Hardy, Arkansas (Spring River).|
|Near Imboden, Arkansas.|
About lunchtime I burst from a heavily-wooded and wet County Road 306 into Independence, Mississippi. Independence is so small it's not even incorporated. Even Kids
are incorporated, so I don't know how Independence avoided it. As I ease down what I'll loosely term "Main Street," I spot Bucksnorts, and I know immediately I want to eat there.
|Beauty sometimes resides in the unlikeliest of places.|
Trucks are haphazardly strewn around the "parking lot," sharing blacktop with an huge old black smoker with a collapsed tin roof sort of shielding it from the rain. Three middle-aged guys in plaid and mesh-backed camouflage hats are sitting out front, having a beer or eight. This place reeks of true southern legitimacy. They no doubt serve nothing but glorious grease.
The girl behind the counter has called me "hun" and "sugar" before I've even finished ordering. I wanted some fried chicken, but the fat guy in front of me literally cleaned the place out (he bought 14 pieces -- I counted). I ask the girl how far it is to Alabama, not because I really care what the answer is, but because I want to get her talking to see how nice she is.
|I kind of felt like this looked like SE Asia, but it's just Mississippi, west of Arkabutla Lake.|
Within ninety seconds I'm in the kitchen where all five employees on duty have a map spread on a table and are good-naturedly arguing over the quickest route to Alabama, their cigarettes wedged between their pointer and middle fingers, lightly raining ash on the floor. Grungy, grease-stained curtains wall us off from the dim eating area where the the lovely lilt of boisterous southern drawls harmonizes with the clink of silverware and a human-interest story on the local news. One of the ladies takes a swig from a bottle of RC Cola and I think to myself, man, this -- right now -- is a beautiful moment in time.
Holly Springs, Mississippi is a couple hours northeast. I didn't really mean to pass through -- I'm just winging my route. But Holly Springs is a happy stroke of serendipity. I'm giddy at its carefully maintained antebellum mansions, one of which Ulysses S. Grant used as a residence at times during the Civil War. Informational plaques grace the front yards of a historically-important house on seemingly every block.
|I can't imagine why you'd ever be in Holly Springs, MS, but if you are, stop in here for a chat.|
I'm looking for the chamber of commerce because I want to find out about this magical little town, but I can't help but stop and take pictures outside a cute little flower shop. A couple of aproned employees inquire what I'm up to, and an hour later I'm still standing in the lobby, looking at one young lady employee's wedding pictures and getting indoctrinated about all the virtues of the South. You ought to go to Charleston, says a thin 40-something belle with short, shocking blonde hair that clashes with the tan she picked up last week on the Florida panhandle. You must
see Savannah, says the slight 20-something, brown-haired girl with impossibly blue eyes who just got married last month. I'm so mesmerized by the whole experience that I'm literally 45 minutes down the road, heading southeast toward Charleston (remember I'm supposed to be pointing northeast, toward DC) before I snap out of this southern-hospitality-induced daze and realize I have to work on Monday. I have no time to traipse around the South looking for charm. Genuinely disappointed, I sigh and angle back toward Tennessee. Another time, Deep South, another time.