Thursday, January 22, 2009

Highway 61 North: Gateway to the Mississippi Delta

Yesterday afternoon was so pretty I decided to take a short ride from Vicksburg, up Highway 61 North towards the Mississippi Delta.

Highway 61 North is also known as the "Blues Highway," because it runs through the Mississippi Delta country, which was an important source of blues music. US 61 has been referenced in music by various artists with roots in the region.

As you leave the hills of Vicksburg, you will see miles and miles of flat fertile lands stretching out in some places as far as the eye can see. I took this picture at Rolling Fork, Mississippi (about 45 miles north of Vicksburg), to give you an idea of the vastness of the Delta farmlands ...

Huge tractors like this one churning up the rich Delta soil are a common sight this time of year ...


It was around 1:30 p.m. when I left Vicksburg, so I didn't go any farther than Rolling Fork, but there are several little towns in between which I found interesting.

The first little town I encountered was Valley Park, which has a tiny little post office ...



Valley Park is also home to a railroad aficionado and I captured these pictures of his railroad memorabilia, which included this wooden caboose mailbox ...

I love cabooses and sometimes wonder if I am the only person who misses seeing a caboose at the end of a train. It's like a sentence without a period ... or an "i" without a dot over it -- a train should have a caboose!

And bless his heart, this guy not only has a caboose but part of a train to go with it! (If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can see an old tire swing hanging from the oak tree) ...


Can't you just imagine what fun his children or grandchildren have playing on all that stuff! He even had a miniature train in the building to the right of the caboose, but I couldn't get close enough to get pictures of it.

The next little town ("little" being the keyword) was Onward, which became well known because President Theodore Roosevelt's famous bear hunt was held close to there in 1902. The old Onward Store is known for its hot tamales and hot bologna sandwiches, but I didn't sample either.

A historical marker next to the general store in Onward tells about the bear hunt ...

As the story goes, Roosevelt's hunting guide was a famous Mississippi bear hunter named Holt Collier. This hunt was a late birthday gift for President Roosevelt from his friends. According to the story, Collier, in an effort to make the hunt a success, went out early on Friday, November 14, 1902 to scout for bears. Luck was with Collier and he trapped and tied up a 235-pound black bear. Collier sent his hunting friends to get Roosevelt for the kill.

When Roosevelt arrived, he refused to kill a tied-up bear and the bear hunt was stopped. Local and national newspapers began to run political cartoons about the President refusing to kill the bear. The Cracker Jack Company and toy companies created stuffed bears which were called "teddy bears." Interesting, huh?

Cary is the next community between Valley Park and Rolling Fork, and these three crosses caught my eye ...

I love seeing these along the highways across the country and plan to write a post about them someday. There is an interesting story behind them, too.

My next stop was Rolling Fork, where visitors are greeted by this welcoming sight ...

It seems that bears are a popular subject in this part of the Delta, because there were bear "monuments" all over Rolling Fork ...


I also passed this highway sign cautioning about bear crossings ...

I was hoping I would see one, but I guess they're still hibernating for the winter.

One of Rolling Fork's claims to fame is the fact that renown Blues musician Muddy Waters was born in Rolling Fork ...

This bottle tree in a residential area caught my eye as I passed by ...

I enjoyed my afternoon drive up Highway 61, and hope to go back someday and visit more of the sleepy little Delta towns along its route. I love exploring them, because you just never know what wonderful stories and sights await you in "Small Towns, America."

21 comments:

southerninspiration said...

Janie, you should really write a book with all of your great stories and photos!! I love reading your posts about Mississippi!! It still feels like home, and I love your perspectives about all the sites. I did NOT know that about the bears in Ms!!
thanks!

Suzanne
If you go south on 61, that is nearer to where I grew up!!!

Barb said...

I love your photos, I have always wanted to do one of those blue bottle trees....Barb

StitchinByTheLake said...

You always have the best pictures! My husband's Dad rode one of thos cabooses for many years. Great memories for us! blessings, marlene

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Janie, this was a sentimental journey! I particularly love the bottle tree. I remember those from childhood.

I think I know whose place that is in Water Valley. If it belongs to who I think it does, the couple didn't have children. Their only child died. I know because they were long time friends of my parents and were particularly close to my sister and me when we were young. The wife is widowed now, but if this is connected to the little museum there, it's who I think it is. A dear family friend whom I haven't seen in about thirty years. I haven't been to Water Valley in longer than that.

Thanks for sharing...

XO,

Sheila :-)

Leigh said...

What a fun post! And I am a lover of the blues!

Jon said...

Janie,
As usual on your blog...another nicely illustrated post of a trip you've taken, and it is generous of you to share your very informative observations with us. My friends in Valley Park would be amused at your thinking you were in Water Valley and had somehow taken the wrong highway. Reminds me of myself once telling someone I was going to Crystal Springs for the weekend when of course I meant to say Ocean Springs. Funny how our tongues, mind, and fingers get discombobulated sometimes, isn't it? Happens to me all the time.
Jon at Mississippi Garden

Tonja said...

I loved the trip! There is something so peaceful and relaxing about driving out in the country from one small town into another. You have interesting stories to go along with the pics, too...that makes it even better!

Southern Lady said...

JON: Thank you for telling me where I was yesterday, because I obviously didn't know ... lol.

And to make matters worse, I mentioned "Water Valley" three times and even had a picture of the VALLEY PARK post office!

Funny how the mind works ... or doesn't work sometimes, isn't it!

Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

My dear Janie, what a wonderful post. We live, just off hwy 61, in Missouri...of course ours is called the Avenue of Saints...we're about 14 miles west of the Great River Road and travel it often. Always wonderful things to see and do along the "road".

Stacey said...

I do remember watching and waiting for the caboose to come by. We just hoped that the conductor would wave out the window! Remember?

Hey, I had no idea that you have bears in MS.

Your pics are beautiful. The light is really shining through very beautifully in some of them.

ksarra said...

I always love your road trips. There's so much to see and learn about America, and you capture the beauty of your area so well. I love small towns too!!!

Beautiful Pear Tree Lane said...

Don't you just love taking trips through the country,even though I live in a rural area I never tire of riding and seeing the country sites. Believe it or not I passed by this home today who had 3 crosses displayed in their yard..
Looking forward to reading your post about them.
Blessings,
Sue

Denise said...

Janie, thanks for the trip! It was nice to visit someplace that's not covered in snow!

I, too, miss seeing a caboose on the end of a train!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Hi Janie
i found this post so interesting! I often take my camera and take pictures and post about what I see in NYC in a similar fashion, but since it is familiar to me I sometimes don't appreciate how different it might look to others. Seeing your wide open vistas and the railroad aficionado's home and the bottle tree, etc, were all so interesting and unusual to me and I was fascinated by the story about President Roosevelt and the bear!
Thanks for the nice jouney through your eyes!

The Gulfshoreslife.com Team said...

Nice post! I lived in Rolling Fork for 43 years and farmed there, in Cary, and Onward so all of your photos were very familiar. Used to live a mile form the Onward Store. It was nice to see your post come up in my Google Alerts!

I will twitter this so all of my Rolling Fork friends can read it!

Cal Carter
www.gulfshoreslife.com
www.mygulfcoastbeachteam.com

Sincerely Yours said...

Morning Janie! Looks like it was a pretty day; I never imagined it was soo flat there, and I really miss good dirt like that!lol I can't believe how we are always on the same wave length; my husband and I were waiting for a train the other day and I kept saying where's the caboose, I can't tell when we don't have to wait for much longer!!!lol I miss those cute little cars too they were always my favorite on my brother's train set growing up!!!lol Always a good memory here! Have a fantastic weekend dear. Sincerely, Jeannette

jidgede said...

you have such a gift w/words and pictures to go along with them....i feel like i'm watching samantha brown on the travel channel.......keep up the good work (blog)!!!!!!

Barbara said...

Janie what a great adventure, would have loved to have gone with you. I like doing those kind of things. Thanks for sharing with us.

Scooterblu's Whimsy~Rhonda said...

Great post and pictures! I love exploring old towns and the countryside! The railroad collection was great!

Thanks so much for your prayers and kind comments for my family last week! We really appreciated them! ~hugs, Rhonda :)

Jon said...

Janie, you and Quin. Magpie might find it interesting to note that all that wonderful railroad collection of cabooses, equipment, and buildings in Valley Park, MS is from the labor of love of its resident, Mr. C.B. "Buddie" Newman. He was the Speaker of the House in Jackson from 1976-1988 and was a pillar of the "Old Guard". For more info on this award winning Valley Park collection click:

http://www.mississippiheritage.com/awards00.html

Reminds me of amusing truth in the saying: "The only difference in men and boys is the price of their toys".

Jon at Mississippi Garden

YaYa's Funhouse said...

Awesome pictures...I found your blog through Pickets Place...I live in Brandon,MS...so I knew of the places you were referring to. I still enjoyed the "look back" ....it has been a very long time since I traveled that area. What kind of camera did you take the pictures with? BEAUTIFUL