In the Middle of Nowhere – Are People from Everywhere

I’m talkin’ about Clarksdale, Mississippi. The Mississippi Delta. The Most Southern Place on Earth.

black and white of old gas signage

It Felt Like A Throwback

In this little town, about 18,000 residents, I met people from Michigan, Maine, Ireland and Germany. The guest book was signed by folks from Spain, Italy, France and the UK. What brings them here? [geo_mashup_map]

It’s All About the Music

We were completely unaware of Clarksdale’s draw. For us, it was a good midway stop. But, when we stumbled upon the Shack Up Inn,

Yes, it says “Lobby”

we just had to stop. One owner explained, it was “in this exact spot that Delta Blues took hold.” We came to understand this place is practically holy. A destination to make a music pilgrimage. People from all over the world come here to touch the roots of blues, jazz and rock and roll.

Accommodations at the Shack Up Inn are on the former Hopson Plantation. You could choose from old sharecropper shotgun shacks, a houseboat, grain bins or a cotton gin.

Sharecropper House at Shack Up Inn

Sharecropper Shotgun For Let

Sharecropper Shack at Shack Up Inn

Sharecropper Shack For Let

Grain Bin at Shack Up Inn

Grain Bins for Let (in black and white)

The cotton Gin at Shack Up Inn

Cotton Gin

Cotton Pickin’ Blues

This Mississippi Delta region has a horrific history. Let me provide a rough outline:

  • The “removal” of Indians in 1837 (Trail of Tears,)
  • Slavery in the name of the almighty King Cotton 1845-65.
  • After the Civil War treacherous sharecropping terms allowed former slaves to tend plantation land.
  • By 1920 those that could get out, did.
  • In the 1940’s there was a surge known as the great migration. Essentially African Americans were outsourced by machinery, and most would move to northern cities like DC & Chicago.
single row cotton

The original single row cotton picker  on Hopson Plantation – driven by Joseph William “Pinetop” Perkins, who became a significant and influential blues artist

By 1944 soil could be prep’d, seeded, picked and bailed entirely by machines.

On top of all that, throw in the Jim Crow crap and the climate of racial hatred. It’s no wonder if any music could come out of this, it would just have to be the blues.

BBQ, Juke Joints and Musicians

We were a bit out of our element – it seemed everyone could just pick up a guitar, harmonica or belt out a lamented rap. We, on the other hand, could only tap our toes, or clap for more.

Man playing a suitcase guitar

How about a Suitcase Guitar?

Even though, we didn’t feel awkward. The Bar-B-Que was on the sweet side. . . and the names they have for the musicians were on the spicy side: Josh “Razorblade” Stewart, Dixie Street, RL Superbad. . .

After two and a half days in Clarksdale we moved on. I bet you can’t tell by the looks of it, but it was a bit of a splurge staying here. Prices kept bumping up as the weekend drew near.

sun rising on old outbuilding

Good Bye Shack Up Inn

Throw Off the Bowlines

Onward we head along Route 61 which follows the Mississippi River. We wanted to see the quaint town of Hannibal, Missouri. Samuel Clemens’, aka Mark Twain, boyhood home is here. All things Tom Sawyer come to life.

Woody painting the Tom Sawyer

Oh yeah, Woody would’ve paid Tom to paint a special fence….

diorama of Sawyer classroom

One of several dioramas depicting the stories of Tom Sawyer

In the Mark Twain Museum we were reminded of Tom Sawyer antidotes. There’s something timeless about his stories. The diorama above captures Tom being “forced” to sit with the girls. Sly dog that he is, knew this would happen. Wanted it to happen. The only seat left was right next to the darling Becky Thatcher.

We toured the caves depicted in Tom Sawyer stories. As a young kid, Mark Twain would “never tire of exploring the caves.” And I could understand. They were huge! Much bigger than the ones I explored as a kid in Hollister, CA. It was, of course, a guided tour. But, I couldn’t help imagine the adventures I would’ve had in such a great web of darkness.

a "hall" in Mark Twain Caves

Other-worldly, a cave hallway

photo of quartz in Mark Twain Cave

Buried Treasure – or at least some quartz to discover on the cave walls

Now We Head WEST

Not sure our exact route to Colorado. Thor has been a bit unpredictable the last couple days. It has been chillier than we’ve become accustomed, and are hoping that may be part of the issue. We’ll see. . .

Here’s to Adventure!

 

About Hali

Just a travel junkie trying to find my voice in the blogosphere. I enjoy sharing my photography and fast facts I learn in the places I travel through.

4 thoughts on “In the Middle of Nowhere – Are People from Everywhere

  1. Michelle Velderrain

    I finally had a chance to sit down and read this and really enjoyed being taken away by your pictures and narrative! Beautiful stuff so looking forward to the next post! XXOO

    Reply
  2. Audrey P Adams

    Poor Thor! He has a long way to go yet. Sing him some of those blues you learned, and keep pushing west! We are waiting for you. Just finished reading Hillbilly Elegy (J.D. Vance) which is an eye-opener about people who live in that country. Pick up a copy if you can. Love you.

    Reply

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