Thursday, March 27, 2014

Heart of the Mississippi Delta

My husband and I recently had the pleasure of driving up US Hwy. 61 North, from Vicksburg to Belzoni, Mississippi, which took us straight through the heart of the beautiful Mississippi Delta. 
After leaving the hills of Vicksburg, Highway 61 is as about as flat and straight as a road can be, bounded on both sides by hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile Delta farmlands, literally stretching as far as the eye can see. 
Hwy. 61 is also known as "the Blues Highway," because legend has it that blues music was born in the cotton fields and "juke joints" of the Mississippi Delta.

I love the Delta, because no matter how many times I go, I always find new and interesting things (to me, anyway) to capture with my camera.   Like this single tree standing in the midst of the plowed fields, like an oasis in a desert. 
Come August, I can imagine several of the drivers of the big cotton pickers resting in its shade for a quick lunch.

The landscape is also dotted with farms, barns, and cabins like the one in the picture below ... silhouetted against the horizon. 

Along with the rustic farm cabins, you might also see homes like these ...





If I had to choose between the two, I most definitely would choose the second one, which is Mont Helena, a colonial revival style home built atop a ceremonial Indian mound in 1896. 

Another familiar and fascinating sight in the Delta, especially this time of year, are the brightly-colored crop duster planes flying low over the newly-plowed fields spraying whatever they spray in preparation for planting (herbicides, insecticides, fertilizer?).

I've always admired the daredevil-like skills of the pilots as they swoop down, barely clearing power lines and treetops ...
  

On the outskirts of Yazoo City, I got a glimpse of a rusty tin roof on an old barn, partially hidden behind the tangled vines of a fence row.  I asked my husband to turn around so I could get a closer look.

 
 I love the contrast between the rusty tin roof and the brilliant blue sky in the background ...

And while I'm on the subject of barns ... as we approached the town of Rolling Fork, I was saddened to see the two large silos which are all that remains of one of the Delta's most picturesque and treasured landmarks, affectionately known as the "big red barn at Rolling Fork."  


This is the way the barn looked a few years ago ...


During the early morning hours of Saturday, April 29, 2011, a strong storm with damaging winds passed through the area, destroying the barn.  Only its twin silos remained standing.  I captured the following pictures the next day ...


As we approached Rolling Fork, I told my husband that I needed to get some pictures of the silos so I could complete the final chapter in my collection of pictures of the barn. 



That old barn was one of my favorite places to photograph, and it saddened me to see that the silos were the only reminder that it had ever been.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this story, we were traveling up Hwy. 61 North from Vicksburg to Belzoni, Mississippi, which is proclaimed "the Catfish Capital of the World."

 
But that's not why we were visiting the Belzoni area.  We were looking for one of Mississippi's hidden treasures ... a wildlife management area called Sky Lake, which is home to some of the oldest and largest bald cypress trees in the world.
 

 I hope to share my pictures and the story of our tour of Sky Lake soon. 

5 comments:

racheld said...

Laying aside the expert photography, and the immediate recognition of the familiar FLAT vistas of those Delta fields, as well as the remembrances of all the myriad seasons of hearing and seeing (and smelling) those flighty little planes, like yellow-jackets buzzing the ground and teasing the trees---I purely want to say that THIS IS WHAT YOU WERE MEANT TO DO.

Capturing and preserving those moments and scenes in time which will never be again---even the Spring flowers you so exquisitely bring right into the screen, or the animals and birds which would make Audubon sigh are all kept in your Treasure Box and shared with a free, glad hand.

Just the keeping of the barn in its glory, its fall, and the towering monuments to its having BEEN, standing like turrets of some vast, crumbled castle against the sky---there's the price of the camera, the travel, the hesitant steps and climbs and trudges across fields and fences and unscouted territory, for the prize.

Things we'd never have seen or admired or treasured ourselves are right here for the seeing and the returning to, and I hope you know how many hearts and memories you've touched with your talents.

I keep on about a BOOK, but these are simply too wonderful not to scatter to the widest spaces. I'm awed by your gifts, for you have the eye, AND the Heart.

rachel

The Quintessential Magpie said...

"It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day..."

That song started playing in my mind.

I hate it when beloved landmarks disappear. I pray some of my favorites are spared.

xo

Sheila

Dorothy said...

Hi, love all your pictures! Sorry to see the big barn destroyed. I think that storm came on into north Mississippi. It did major damage to the trees in our area and destroyed to East Webster school. That crop duster looks about like the one we see around here. It's fun to photograph them :)

The Subtle Details said...

I must raise my voice in agreement with the others and say that you have a such a gift...a book would be wonderful!
I was fortunate to travel through the Delta last spring with my husband and children. He had been working in Tupelo and we joined him for Spring Break. We ended up in the Delta looking for the plantation house that once belonged to my great-aunt and uncle. Unfortunately, we were about a year late....it had been torn down for a new road. I treasure the one photo I have of the house and I'm sure others feel the same about the 'lost' places you photograph.

Pat said...

Janie,

As always I LOVE your beautiful photographs. My favorite was the plowed field with the single tree in the middle.

What a treat to drive along with you through the fields of the Mississippi Delta.

Looking forward to the next post.

Blessings,
Pat in Tallahassee