Delta folks are friendly. That’s not news to anyone who has spent a little time in this fertile, unique, fascinating part of the country. Those of us who grew up in the South (My formative years occurred in South Carolina.) sometimes take for granted the welcoming smile and a “How you doin’ sweetheart?” from people we meet on the street, serve us biscuits and gravy at the local diner, or greet us at the grocery store check-out counter. It’s Southern hospitality personified.
It’s interesting, though, to see how southern manners affect someone who has never set foot on buckshot soil, eaten a meatloaf sandwich and chocolate pie at the Blue and White Café in Tunica, Mississippi, or enjoyed a hearty welcome to Mississippi from a security guard outside Abe’s barbecue in Clarksdale.
Tim Hearden, our new staff writer for Western Farm Press, came in for some Farm Press orientation from his home in Redding, California, this week, and I enjoyed introducing him to the folks at the home office and showing him a little bit of the Delta. We stopped at the Blue and White on our way down from Memphis. The meatloaf sandwich, Tim says, was delicious. The chocolate pie, however, was “the best I’ve ever eaten.”
The staff was, as usual, was cordial. Everyone welcomed us and asked, “How y’all doin’?”
Tim bought tee-shirts.
We had lunch at the Ranchero the next day with Farm Press colleagues. Tim had catfish. Well, you can’t visit Mississippi for the first time and not try the catfish. He was not disappointed.
We tried Abe’s that evening and the pork barbecue was superb. The pecan pie was delicious. The conversation with the security guard was a bonus. I told him Tim had never been to Mississippi. “Never been to Mississippi?” he asked in astonishment. “What took you so long?”
We went downtown to check out Ground Zero, the blues club created by Morgan Freeman. He was not in attendance that night, but a cheerful waitress, Teamina, took right good care of us, convinced me to try a Ghost River beer instead of what I’d usually sip on, and made sure we knew that the place is open for lunch, and southern fried chicken is on the menu.
I somehow let it slip that Tim was from California. “Well you better bring him back and get him fed,” she said. “He’s probably used to eating sprouts and salads. You need to get him some good southern cooking—fried chicken, black-eyed peas, and corn bread.” I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Tim said” we’ll be back for lunch.” He bought two tee-shirts.
Tim says he’s not particularly surprised at the warm welcome he received in the Delta. Neither am I, it’s as natural as buckshot clay. They should put that on a tee-shirt.