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A charming day in the Golden Triangle

 

Sabrina Coleman of Starkville brought her collection of mixed media artwork to Saturday’s Art Walk in West Point. The images are comprised of thousands of words and phrases. In this portrait of Barack Obama, the image is made up entirely of the campaign catchphrase, “Yes, we can!”

Sabrina Coleman of Starkville brought her collection of mixed media artwork to Saturday’s Art Walk in West Point. The images are comprised of thousands of words and phrases. In this portrait of Barack Obama, the image is made up entirely of the campaign catchphrase, “Yes, we can!” Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff  Buy this photo.

 

Jerry Lincecum, great-great-great grandson of early Columbus resident Gideon Lincecum, speaks at Plymouth Bluff Saturday.

 

Blake Elliott, 11, jumps and flips on a bungee jumper at Grillin’ on the River Saturday at the Columbus Riverwalk.  Blake’s parents are Brad and Jennifer Elliott of Columbus.

 

 

Slim Smith

 

The South has its troubles, Lord knows. 

 

But it also has its charms, as a Saturday trip around the Golden Triangle confirmed. 

 

Southerners have a special reverence for their history. They are creative and artistic. And, of course, they love to eat stuff cooked over fire. 

 

Starting Saturday morning at the annual Art Walk in West Point, each passion was on display. 

 

A group of 54 artists representing just about every medium imaginable lined West Point's downtown sidewalks and shops. 

 

At one end of the block, George Berry, of Pearl, lingered near a folding table that displayed a couple dozen pieces of his prize-winning wood carving. "I've been doing this since I was six,'' said Berry, 75. "So, yeah, I have a pretty good idea of what I'm doing. When I pick up a piece of wood, I kinda know what it's going to be before I even start: 'Oh, this is an owl,' or 'This is a horse.' I make animals mostly, at least that's what the large pieces are. But I'll do leaves and flowers with smaller pieces." 

 

A few stores down the street, Bessie Johnson fielded questions from curious visitors. 

 

"This is really made from pine straw?" a lady asked incredulously as she carefully inspected an ornate basket. 

 

"Yes. Pine straw, corn husks, grasses. That's what I use," Johnson confirmed. 

 

Johnson grew up in Tibbee, watching her father weave cane-bottom chairs. Her work has won her great acclaim, including a showing at the Smithsonian Institute. 

 

"The best thing about this is I never run out of supplies,'' she said. "All I have to do is go out my back door where all those big pines are." 

 

On the far end of the street, Sabrina Campbell was glowing. She describes her artwork as "mixed media." To a layman, her art appears to be black-and-white drawings. She said several artists have complimented her on them. 

 

"I can't believe that," she said, smiling broadly while snapping photos of passersby who had stopped to examine her work. 

 

And her work certainly warrants scrutiny, for she has turned an old saying on its ear: A picture paints a thousand words? Campbell has it backwards: A thousand words (often far more) paint her pictures. 

 

From a few feet away, the artwork looks like a portrait. It is only upon closer inspection that you discover that every line, every stroke, is comprised of words and phrases repeated thousands of times to complete the portrait. 

 

"Basically, I start with a line drawing," Campbell says. "Then I go in and replace the lines with the words."  

 

Campbell uses phrases, statistics, famous quotes and Bible verses selected to emphasize the theme of the image she creates. For example, a portrait of President Barack Obama consists entirely of one of Obama's campaign slogans: "Yes, we can." 

 

Campbell lives in Starkville, where her husband is the baseball coach at Starkville High School. She teaches art at West Point High School. 

 

She said the idea of turning words into images came to her when she was writing her thesis at Mississippi State. 

 

"My thesis was about graffiti art and its role in expressing ideas," she said. "That had a real influence on my art. I doubt if I would have ever had the idea if I hadn't studied graffiti art. Images are powerful. They capture your attention. The words tell the story. I like to think my art combines the two." 

 

Saturday's visit to the Art Walk confirmed West Point's status as a place where great art abounds. 

 

It displayed the kind of creativity that Dr. Gideon Lincecum, one of the early settlers of the Columbus area, would have admired. 

 

Lincecum's contributions to the area were revisited Saturday at Plymouth Bluff, where his great-great-great-grandson, Dr. Jerry Lincecum, recreated the life and times of Gideon Lincecum during the almost 30 years he spent in the area. 

 

Gideon Lincecum arrived in the Columbus area in 1818 and lived here 30 years before relocating to Texas. 

 

Noted as an explorer, adventurer, naturalist, civic leader and self-taught physician, Saturday's talk focused on Lincecum's 30-year struggle to advance medical knowledge. Although a man of varied interests, Lincecum began to focus his keen intelligence after succumbing to heat stroke in 1827. He was immobilized for almost three years, mainly because the medical attention he received proved far worse than the illness.  

 

Lincecum, who had grown up near the Creek Indians in Georgia and quickly acquainted himself with the Choctaws and Chickasaws of Mississippi, began to focus on Indian remedies, which relied mainly on herbal treatments. The knowledge he gleaned from his Indian friends and his growing fascination with botany soon led him to believe they were superior to the conventional medicine, which relied heavily on "bleeding'' patients and filling them with mercury-based medicines. Essentially, Lincecum came to realize, such methods amounted to poisoning patients. As he developed botanical treatments, his medical practice began to thrive. After relocating to Columbus proper in 1841, his practice proved so successful that he amassed $51,000 in a seven-year period, a small fortune in those days. 

 

Lincecum left Columbus for Texas in 1848, mainly because of a concern for his 10 children. 

 

All of his sons' names began with the letter "L," including one son he named Lucifer. 

 

Lincecum decided to move because his kids had become lazy and frivolous. The boys drank and went to parties. The girls only cared about dresses and dances. They spent lavishly on their amusements and seemed to have no real ambition. 

 

So he packed them all up and moved to the wild country of east Texas. 

 

Columbus must have been a lively town in 1848. You know it's bad when Columbus is considered to have had a corrupting influence on Lucifer. 

 

The remarkable life of Dr. Gideon Lincecum is, by now, well documented. 

 

But in Starkville, the celebration focused around a subject that is less well-known. 

 

The event was the dedication of a commemorative marker for the Needmore community, which became the primary black community in Starkville in the early-to-mid 1800s.  

 

While Starkville's black community has never forgotten Needmore, the details of how the community began are few. 

 

"To tell you the truth, there's a lot we don't know,'' said Charles "LaLa" Evans, who led the efforts that resulted in Saturday's tribute to the community. "But what we do know, we want to make sure it isn't forgotten." 

 

Evans said the community grew up around the GM&O railroad spur that ran from Artesia to Sessums to Starkville. 

 

"We don't know really when the community started, but we do know that a lot of the people worked at the railroad as it was being built," Evans said. "Some worked at the cotton mills or the old Borden plant and the creamery." 

 

The most obvious question about the community remains unanswered: Why did they call it "Needmore?" 

 

"Nobody really knows," Evans said. "It was just a bunch of poor whites and poor blacks around here back then. Maybe they did 'need more,' but I doubt if they knew it. When everybody's in the same spot, nobody's rich and nobody's poor." 

 

Curiously, Evans said, he learned of another place called "Needmore'' just a couple of days before Saturday's dedication, which included changing the name of Spring Street north of Veterans and the Gillespie Community Center to Needmore Place and the Needmore Community Center. 

 

"I was coming out of Walmart and I ran into (former MSU president Donald) Zacharias' wife," Evans said. "She's from Switzerland and she told me there was a Needmore in Switzerland. Can you believe that? I wonder what they needed more of in Switzerland?" 

 

What they definitely didn't need more of at the Riverwalk Saturday was smoke. 

 

The smoke of dozens of grills mingled into the warm air above the Riverwalk as "Grillin' on the River" concluded its two-day competition. Thirty-one professional teams from such far-flung locales as South Dakota and Virginia gathered to compete. In addition, another 13 amateur teams tried their hands in the competition, which required each team to demonstrate its prowess with ribs, chicken, pork and brisket. 

 

The event made its return after a one-year hiatus, and 2011 champion Mike Wozniak returned in a bid to retain his crown. 

 

Wozniak has been on the professional barbecue circuit for 13 years. He'll compete in more than 20 such competitions this year. 

 

The secret to being a master barbecue pro isn't much different than being an expert pro golfer or baseball player, he said. 

 

It's all about timing and repetition. 

 

"You have to do it every week to be at the highest level," said Wozniak, who lives in Brimfield, Ill. "Like a lot of things, it comes down to timing. You have to have perfect timing." 

 

Saturday, as a whole, was pretty close to perfect. Words became images. Lucifer left Columbus on moral grounds. Needmore got more love. The Riverwalk became a vegetarian's worst nightmare. 

 

How's that for charm? 

 

Slim Smith is the managing editor of The Dispatch. You can reach him at ssmith@cdispatch.com

 

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is ssmith@cdispatch.com.

 

 

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