Friday, February 3, 2023

Ol’ Man River — The Mighty Mississip’

Carroll Smith, Editor of Cotton Farming Magazine, poses smiling for a picture in a cotton field.
Carroll Smith,
Editor

F

or most of my childhood, I grew up about 10 miles west of Vidalia, Louisiana, where the Mississippi River bridge crossed over to Natchez, Mississippi. But when I was about 2 years old, we actually lived in Vidalia for a couple years in a little eggplant-colored house close to the levee. Later on, the houses on that side of the street were torn down to make way for the new bridge that was completed in 1988. So, then there were two — eastbound and westbound.

In looking back, Ol’ Man River — the Mighty Mississip’ — has always been an integral part of my life, something I took for granted that would always be there.

I learned to water ski on nearby Lake Concordia and, as a teenager, spent hours on Lake Saint John skiing, tubing and boat riding. Both of these bodies of water are oxbow lakes formed from the Mississippi River.

My mom, sister and brother-in-law owned and operated restaurants in Natchez on Silver Street, which ran right alongside the rolling Mississippi. If patrons showed up at just the right time, they could enjoy a gorgeous sunset along with their evening meal.

During my travels around the Mid-South as an ag journalist, I know exactly
where I can cross over the river to move from state to state. Vicksburg, Mississippi, to Tallulah, Louisiana. Hwy. 61 in the Mississippi Delta to Helena, Arkansas. And Greenville, Mississippi, to Lake Village, Arkansas. Of course, there are other connecting bridges, but these are the ones I use the most.

At one time, my parents lived in a house on the bluff on the Mississippi side of the river. You could stand on the upstairs porch and see for miles upstream and downstream. At night, I loved watching the passengers (who looked as small as ants) dance to the band in the upper lit-up ballroom on the fancy paddleboats that passed by. And during the day, it was breathtaking to see the large barges loaded down with crops make their way to New Orleans.

This is a particularly bittersweet memory to me as I observe the toll the drought has taken on this magnificent body of water full of fast-flowing currents moving the crops from field to market. In many places, Ol’ Man River has dried up to what can almost be called a trickle compared to its normally robust power.

I pray for rain to help save my old friend and restore its role as the marketing corridor so desperately needed by farmers to cash in on the crops they worked hard to grow. God willing, it will come soon.

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