December 9, 2017 9:07:30 PM
All week I'd worried with a column about Mississippi, today being its 200th birthday. I wrote about the layers of complexity of our culture; our tormented history and the impossibly rich legacy of writers, musicians and visual artists the state has produced.
Where else are you going to find a Leontyne Price and a Tammy Wynette; a William Faulkner and a Jim Henson; a Richard Wright and a Barry Hannah; a William Eggleston and a Walter Anderson; a Mississippi John Hurt and an Elvis? One could go on.
But, when I finished, the thing sounded like a book report. And then, Thursday night, as I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling, I remembered David Kanter's letter.
David is the son of dear friends who live in Syracuse, New York. Beth met Deborah, David's mother, in a racquetball class at the The W 40 years ago when Deborah was in nursing school at The W. They've been friends since.
For spring break, Deborah and her husband, Bob, often traveled to Mississippi with their three children where we regaled them with nocturnal adventures such as visits to the tomb of Miss Munro in Friendship Cemetery, the house of the Three-Legged Lady on Nash Road and games of freeze tag on the MUW front campus. What could be better, right?
Not surprisingly, when David's teacher asked the class to write about their favorite place, he wrote about where else, Mississippi. Deborah faxed us David's classroom project, which we ran as a letter to the editor on a day he was in town. In fact he was getting a tour of the pressroom as the paper with his letter came off the press.
Friday I emailed Deborah, now a grandmother, hoping she remembered when the letter ran.
... David was about 10 when the little letter ran, so it was probably 1998 or 1999. And it would have been April, as it was spring break time. A misnomer here, as we have to go to Mississippi in April to find any spring, usually. ...
Mississippi is getting a fair amount of press about the museum opening in Jackson this weekend. I can only imagine how Trump will manage to offend the fine people, black and white, of your wonderful state.
For the first time in my life, even through Vietnam, Watergate and Nixon, I feel despair at the depths to which our once great country has sunk. More importantly, I feel helpless to change anything. I vote for the people who supposedly will support the issues that are important to me, but short of running for office myself, I'm at a loss.
So I just keep going to the clinic, taking care of those who need our help and try to keep my little corner of the world healthy and safe. But man, my heart is heavy most days ...
PS - I tell people Mississippi is a hidden gem -- don't talk it up too good, or you'll be over-run with retirees in campers!
Here is David's letter from the April 20, 1999, edition of The Dispatch:
The coolest place to ride a bike and eat barbecue
My favorite place is Mississippi. Even though we don't go too often, it is still the coolest place. We always get there by taking a train with a sleeper car. Mississippi is always really warm. It is a great place to play baseball. One of the reasons it's my favorite place is the barbecue sandwiches you can get there. They are really, really yummy.
When you're in Mississippi it is almost always quiet and peaceful.
Mississippi is the coolest place to bike ride. There aren't many cars, so you can just ride all over the place.
Another reason we go there is my mom's best friend lives there. She is extremely nice and has three kids.
Two years ago when I went there, I rode a double-seated bike with the girl. It was really hard to stay on, but it was fun.
Probably the best reason I like it, is it is the nicest place to read. It is so quiet and peaceful.
Those are all the reasons why Mississippi is my favorite place.
As I'm sure David's teacher did after reading his paper, many stare with incredulity when you extol the richness and beauty of our often misunderstood state.
As Mississippi enters its third century, let's resolve it to do all we can to make our state healthy and safe.
Do that and Mississippi will become an even better place to ride a bike and eat barbecue.
1. Ask Rufus: A potpourri of history LOCAL COLUMNS
2. Partial to Home: Avalon, my hometown LOCAL COLUMNS
3. Roses and thorns: 7-15-18 LOCAL COLUMNS