I just returned from visiting my Mom and friends in the MS Delta. These are my roots. I grew up walking and riding along gravel roads, cotton turn rows and the MS levee. My first introduction to the outdoors was through the eyes of my grandfather. He was a consummate outdoorsman. He hunted and fished about every season you could think of. But hunting and fishing was not his passion. Being in the outdoors, free to walk, listen, feel nature was his passion. He enjoyed watching the turkeys, listening to the ducks on their migration, watching squirrels hop from limb to limb in search of a better nut. Unfortunately he died too early for me to enjoy much of his company. I was 6 when he succumbed to a heart attack. But the memories I have of riding in the back of the jeep as we went to hunting camp and in the boat as we fished the little oxbow lakes off the Mississippi, these are what inspired me to love nature. Maybe the love of nature is in your nature when you’re born. Maybe my grandfather passed that down from his generation. I know that many people don’t have the same love of nature that I do.. That’s ok as long as they learn to respect nature..
My trip to the Delta brought back many memories. But I also made some new ones. I was able to travel to Cleveland to visit with my friend Henry Outlaw. Henry was my advisor at Delta State University. My mentor. One of the reasons I went to Delta State. When I called up DSU in the summer of 1977 and asked if their scholarship offer was still open, they said yes and someone would call me back. Henry was that person and the next day my Dad and I visited DSU all day long with Henry showing us all around campus. This is pretty unusual for the Chairman of the Physical Sciences Department. Except with Henry.. He is as much a people person and philosopher as he is a scientist.
Another stop along the way was out Highway 49 to visit Hopson Commisary and Shack Up Inn. After hearing so much about both, I thought it was time to go out and photograph these Delta landmarks. I had a great time and got to meet one of the owners of Shack Up Inn, Guy. As soon as he told me his name, I knew he was the brother of one of my high school classmates. So if you are ever in the Delta and need a place to stay near Clarksdale, look them up.. But my Mom says that you sometimes have to make reservations a year in advance. While you are in Clarksdale, there are now several great places to eat, but the one that has been there forever (1924) and we also go back to is Abe’s BBQ.. Abe’s is an institution.. You can’t go to the Delta and say you have visited without going to Abe’s. If you have a good appetite, order the Big Abe’s pork.. yummm!!!
Ok, so why “Fear the Okra”? Well, we were the Delta State Statesmen.. But somewhere along the way they wanted to change the mascot to something else. Henry told me that the DSU Baseball team was thinking “Ok, what’s green? Okra.. It’s prickly and green.. So we will be the Fighting Okra..” It caught on, somehow.. And now my alma mater are the DSU Fighting Okra..
FEAR THE OKRA