Checking in from Greenwood, MS …
On Monday and Tuesday, April 30 and May 1, I walked the final miles of the Mississippi hill (really hilly) country and stepped down into the Delta. While this is not to be confused with the Mississippi River Delta that is slowly extending the mouth of the river further into the Gulf of Mexico, the Delta is a “largely flat alluvial plain created by the deposit of rich sediment over a long period of time (500 to 5,000 years).” This is cotton country, and huge fields are evident in every direction being plowed in preparation of the planting of this year’s crop. For 150 years, a full one-fifth of the US cotton has been shipped though Greenwood, first by barge and now by train.
On Tuesday afternoon, Brenda and I visited the Cottonlandia Museum (aka Museum of the Mississippi Delta) in Greenwood. This is an excellent museum with exhibits including prehistoric Mastodon bones, an extensive collection of Indian artifacts and a history of cotton and the Delta. Much of the history is focused on Greenwood LeFlore, the last Principal Chief of the Choctaw Indians. LeFlore was the son of a French fur trader and a Choctaw princess. As the relocation of the native tribes was taking place in the first half of the nineteenth century, LeFlore negotiated for the Indians and signed the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830 that ceded most of the Delta east of the Mississippi River to the US Government and the white settlers.
Also featured at the museum is an exhibit on Robert Johnson who was referenced in an earlier blog and is ingrained in the blues lore of the Delta. Born in 1911, Johnson spent his early years drifting from plantation to plantation. His love was blues music, but he lacked playing skills. Miraculously in his early twenties, Johnson displayed an amazing ability to play the guitar and an uncanny skill at songwriting. Legend claims that in his wanderings, Johnson met the Devil one midnight at a crossroads south of Greenwood and sold his soul in exchange for an unearthly ability on the guitar. In the mid-1930s, Johnson traveled all over country and recorded 42 tunes (29 which he wrote) that have stood the test of time and have been covered by countless artists including Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Bonnie Raitt and The Rolling Stones. Johnson, a notorious womanizer, died in 1938 at age 27 when an irate husband poisoned his whiskey while Johnson was performing at a juke joint in Greenwood. Brenda and I visited Johnson’s grave at the Little Zion MB Church in rural Greenwood. While there, we stumbled upon a birthday party for a blues enthusiast. Also nearby, we found a restored sharecroppers village.
Greenwood has done a great job of maintaining and restoring its downtown area. We recommend visiting the town if you are in the area, and be sure to include a visit to The Crystal Grill which is famous for its delicious food and chocolate or coconut crème pie with four inch high meringue.
Finally, we discovered that Greenwood is the home of Bobbie Jo Gentry. Remember “Ode to Billy Joe?”
We found the Tallahatchie Bridge on Choctaw Ridge but didn’t jump off. Our projected schedule for the next few days follows:
Wednesday, May 2 … thru Itta Bena to Moorhead
Thursday, May 3 … thru Indianola to Leland
Friday, May 4 … thru Greenville and Refuge across the mighty Mississippi into Arkansas