Early in November,
someone forwarded your letter (below) about collecting ideas for a project
in the spring of 2003. I finally reached the place in my pile where
your letter was, and just sent you a postcard of a skier in front of
a cotton combine, thinking maybe that would stir someone's creative
juices for an event.
I live in the boot
heel of Mississippi, the state, not on the river. However, New Orleans
is a regular visit, for a little shot of culture. Here are some things
I thought of:
1) There are those
poverty-stricken black communities in the Delta, some along the river
where the prosperous cotton farms grow from rich soil that was once
river mud. One of the communities without plumbing had a ditch that
served as a latrine--they called it "sugar ditch."
2) Now, next door
to #2 above, are floating casinos all up and down the river. These feel
like hell inside, with the smoke and the slots binging. They help the
devil in his work by contributing to the River's pollution too.
3) There is an island
off Memphis--I've never seen it, but it's in the river. I think it's
been developed now, but there might be some interesting old pictures
and legends about that island--maybe it shows up in R&B songs. (I'm
sure you have already thought of the role of the River in R&B.)
4) I heard years ago
that the navy was leaving the port of New Orleans because it was filling
up with silt and there was no way to stop it. The series of dams that
the WPA/Corps of Engineers built during the depression apparently is
falling apart and can't be fixed. (I don't know if this is true or not.)
5) N.O. itself, of
course, had Storyville and still has voodoo (Stephen King apparently
did some research on that and lost a bit of a finger, I heard). The
same fellow who wrote "Gangs of New York" (Herbert Asbury)
wrote a book about the N.O. underworld, "The French Quarter."
(You've probably heard about that too.) Surely the River plays a role
in some of this stuff.
6) Jesse Winchester's
songs "Mississippi, You're on My Mind," and "Biloxi"
(again, more the state than the river--but "the storms come in
from New Orleans").
This postcard caption
"Ski the Mississippi
Delta - Enjoy skiing at its finest in the glorious Mississippi Delta.
One continuous down hill run of 200 miles from Valley Hill at Memphis
to Catfish Row in Vicksburg with a vertical drop of 66 feet. Choose
between the beginner' slope on fluffy cotton fields and the more difficult
intermediate runs on the obstacle laden sand bars on the Mississippi
River. Or ski your limits on the moguls of mud ruts and dikes in the
rice fields along the way."
pub. by V&G, PO Box 278, Boyle, MS 38730
JPG HERE (ac)