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A sense of Place

Carroll Smith

Carroll Smith

A sense of place is a combination of the physical and the abstract. In physical terms, it can be a country, a community or, on a smaller scale, a neighborhood, a house or even a particular room. Some “place” with which you personally identify. Your sense of that place refers to abstract characteristics, such as how it makes you feel or what memories it evokes. Sense of place is difficult to define in a generic manner because it involves a personal connection between the physical and the abstract that helps you understand who you are.

An example from my own experience is the attic in my grandparents’ home that was filled with books, trunks of clothes and various family keepsakes that held too many memories to be tossed away. I remember climbing up the old wooden stairway whose boards had been pieced together by a carpenter when the house was built at the turn of the last century. I spent many hours there playing with all the bits and pieces of the past and wondering which of my relatives they belonged to. But in doing so, it gave me a sense of who I was and a connection to those who came before me.

I was reminded of “sense of place” when I traveled to the small town of Como, Miss., to interview Sledge and David Taylor, who are featured in the article on page 6. We sat in the front room of their office building, located on Main Street, the hub for the town’s activities – past and present. Not long into our conversation, which pertained to the Taylor family history and early involvement in local agriculture, Sledge invited me to “go back in time” via a tour of the old general store located in the rear of the building. Artifacts hung on the wall, and two screened-in areas were still standing where sacks of flour and sugar had been stored, complete with tin baseboards to keep the mice at bay. A large, green ledger book lay open on the desk in a small office in the back of the store where his grandfather had handwritten all of the family business transactions. After taking that brief tour, I could appreciate the sense of place that this area held for the Taylor family.

“We have roots here,” Sedge says. “Cotton and agriculture are in our
heritage.”

Old photos of men gathered around large bales of cotton placed in the Main Street median to sell to buyers solidified the important role that cotton had played in Como for generations.

The Taylors know who they are and where they are from. They have their own sense of place. And cotton is the common denominator that connects them to their past. Although acreage has slipped, their love of the crop has not. Sledge and David plan to plant more cotton this year.

“I don’t know if Mississippi will ever go back to the record acreage it once had, but I believe the pendulum will begin to swing back to cotton,” Sledge says.

And everyone who has an affinity for this crop hopes that it will, too.