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Batesville II

A while back, we happened upon an article in Mississippi Magazine...or maybe it was Southern Living...about “the bathtubs of Batesville,” and it really piqued our curiosity. Seriously...a collection of bathtubs just sitting beside Highway 6, watching traffic go by? How interesting!

Well, not really. We set off with high hopes, only to find that somehow we had managed to miss the fact that there was also a bathtub restoration business on Highway 6 and, well, you can guess the rest. While there are few things we love more than investigating our state's quirky offerings, we don't go in for making up our own. So, let us start over.

There is a place on Highway 6 near Batesville that refurbishes sinks and bathtubs. Antique lovers that we are, we found it interesting that there are so many cast iron tubs without owners, and we learned that, no matter how bad they look, they can be beautifully restored. And beautiful is the operative word here. They can actually look new.

Upon first glance, old cast iron sinks and tubs are a nasty business...they tend to see pretty hard lives before they get dumped...and then the drain gets stopped up and they collect rainwater...then they rust and their legs fall off...and, generally speaking, they just get uglier with each passing day. But that is at first glance. Look a little closer and it's easy to see that these things have soul. It's no wonder they have made a comeback.

As long as we were so near Batesville, we decided to drop in and check things out. We visited a couple years ago and remembered that the town has a railroad running right through it – and by “right through,” we mean that it actually bisects downtown Batesville.




The first thing we happened upon was a really great gift-shop – what a stroke of luck. We loved the store and we loved Diane, the delightful owner. We had a great time looking at all the cute things though, and – while we know this is hard to believe – the Dos Equis man actually lives there. In the store. Really. We have proof.



But alas, it appears that the Dos Equis man lived there, past tense. For all we know, he may be homeless now, because we recently heard that the store has closed. That is sad news indeed.

Shopping (and pretty much everything else) makes us hungry, so our new friend (Dos Equis's significant other, Diane) suggested we have lunch at Court Street Catering. It's only about a block and a half from downtown, and it's locally owned and operated; that's all we needed to hear. When we got there, we saw that the special was barbequed chicken, potato salad, beans, and slaw. We weren't in the mood for that, but it seems that everything we were in the mood for wasn't available due to it being a holiday (MLK Day). So, we thought it over and became in the mood for barbequed chicken. And were we ever glad! It was great – really great! The restaurant itself (a converted house) was charming, and it has a killer bathroom.



Batesville has many downtown buildings that have been beautifully redone, including an old theater, The Eureka. And they outdid themselves with their murals – there's a great one on the side of the theater and a beautiful series on the side of a block of offices. They really add a lot to the town's vibe.



On our way out of town, we happened upon Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, which was hosting a large MLK Day celebration. We pulled up in front to read this sign and were pleased we had timed our visit so well.



So, while we still feel, deep in our hearts, that one of our beloved and trusted magazines lured us to Batesville under false pretenses (or that we should read these articles more carefully...whatever), we are awfully glad we went because we had such a good time.

Want to see our first visit to this Mississippi city?Yes

Water Valley Revisited


We love Mississippi's small towns. We've visited communities that are flourishing, communities that seem unable to make a go of it, and everything in between. But some places just seem to draw us back time and again to ogle their progress and enjoy their hospitality. Water Valley is that kind of place.


Quite a number of local residents work in nearby Oxford - or used to - but prefer elegant Water Valley's quiet charm. There is a plethora of beautiful old homes, many of which have been recently renovated by the growing number of artsy folk who call W.V. home. You just never know what you'll see next in this quirky little town.


As lovely as the neighborhoods are, it's the downtown area we like to check out periodically, and we were happy to see that one of our favorites, BTC Grocery, has expanded. They've moved their primary dining into a delightful area that used to belong to their next-door neighbor (note the "Cafe" sign).


We can personally recommend the Hammy Wayne, the Lola Burger, and the Harvest Moon with Sweet Potato Mayo, but we are fairly confident that you can't go wrong, whatever you choose. 


The food was great, but our hearts fairly fluttered in our chests when we saw the sign pictured below. The former dining area will feature antiques and the like for sale!


Food+Antiques=Happiness for Tiny Travelers!

Want to know more about Water Valley?  Check out our original article here.



Snow Lake Shores and Graceland Too

Some things just niggle at you. A few years ago, we were driving along Highway 4, about four miles west of Ashland, when we spotted a beautiful lake with houses all around it and boat docks jutting into the water! In a landscape of crop fields and trees, it seemed to pop out of nowhere. We slammed on the brakes – stunned! – and took a picture or two.  After a few minutes of gawking, we drove on and spotted a sign that said “Snow Lake Shores”. Over the years since, we often mentioned the shock of stumbling upon a resort we had never heard of. We couldn't quite believe it. And then one day we thought, “Maybe we should go back and take a better look...just to make sure we didn't just dream it up.” So, we did.

But, this time we decided to learn a little bit about the place beforehand – in case it was really there to explore. It turns out that Snow Lake Shores was the brainchild of a New Yorker named Walter Utley, who moved to the area in 1947, looking for a place to build a resort. And, by golly, by 1958, Walter and his business partners had created a big lake and started building houses around it. Interestingly, they marketed the resort as being “safe” and “family friendly,” which seem like rather unnecessary things to bother pointing out in 1950's Mississippi.

The neighborhoods are a mix of large new homes, lake houses of varying sizes, rustic cabins, and simple post-war ranch styles. The houses sit on the rather large hills that surround the lake – at least, the areas we saw. There are homes high on the hillsides, homes fairly close to the water, and homes located between the two.
 
Snow Lake in January
Our favorites were the ones near the water, in large part because of the “extras” most of them seemed to have – boat docks, charming gazebos, beautiful terracing, and the like. Some look really idyllic, and we're guessing they all have absolutely stunning views, even in winter, which is not the best season to sight see. Our first visit was during warm weather, and SLS is stunning when everything is green.
Snow Lake in January

From the beginning, this was a place where people could vacation or live year-round, and that seems to be the case even now. About 300 folks call Snow Lake Shores home, but apparently during the summer the population triples. We saw a lot of homes that are obviously year-round residences, many that appeared to be closed for the season, and quite a few houses for sale.
Eastern Shore of Snow Lake in Mississippi
Snow Lake Shores isn't large when compared to places like Pickwick, but it's plenty big enough, and interestingly shaped, with three fingers of water protruding from the main body – talk about a wealth of waterfront lots! We tried to drive around it, only to discover it was much larger than it looks, although, supposedly, the community is less than one square mile. We made one loop along the body of the lake and over a bridge, but we found that all those forested roads and turnoffs look pretty much the same and we weren't sure enough about the overall layout to ensure we weren't going to get lost. We figured that trying to venture up around the three forks area was just asking for trouble, so we went down to the highway and admired SLS from there (our favorite view anyway).

Then, because we were only fourteen miles from Holly Springs and we never pass up a chance to visit that charming place, we drove through town just to check on things. Our most important discovery concerned Graceland Too. When we heard the sad news that Paul McLeod had passed away a while back, we wondered what was to become of all his beloved Elvis memorabilia. And now we know.
Graceland Too with a whitewash. Note the "TLC Mary TCB" on the porch.
A chance to buy a piece of famous Elvis memorabilia.(Spurkauctions.com)



Arkabutla, Tunica, Hernando, Senatobia


We finally made another Tiny Travels trip! Guest travelers Meredith Black and Kay Collins came along for the ride as we explored northwest Mississippi.

ARKABUTLA

We started our trip by heading west, toward Arkabutla. The area is well known for its lake of the same name, which is reportedly the windiest lake south of Chicago, making it really popular with folks who sail or windsurf. But our interest lay in the town itself. Arkabutla is the birthplace of James Earl Jones, surely one of the most famous of the almost infinite number of famous people from our fair state. So, we cruised the main street – or what seemed like the main street – looking for a sign pointing to his birthplace or mentioning that he was from here. We didn't see anything, so Marian went into a post office and then a store and asked a few locals about his birthplace. The first person she asked was a young man in his twenties, feeling sure he could tell us exactly where “Darth Vader” was born. No such luck – with him or anyone else. We couldn't believe it!

TUNICA

We toured the more famous spots around Tunica and the upper Delta in 2009, but I was traveling with a broken ankle then, so we missed a lot. One of the things we missed was downtown Tunica. Someone has – many someones have – been hard at work...it's a lovely little downtown. There is a beautiful park-like median, complete with a playground, and the storefronts have been painted cheerful colors. 

Downtown Tunica -- clock centerpiece of the downtown park.

Downtown Tunica

We drove around the pretty little town, did a little shopping, and then headed out for an early lunch.

Whoa!  What is this?  Car 54?  Remember that song and television program from the old days?
Downtown Tunica right next to the police department - that is where Car 54 is!  
We discussed several possible places to eat, but there simply aren't words to express how grateful we are that we settled on the Blue and White Restaurant. Housed in an old service station on the corner of US 64 and MS 4, it's been around since 1937 and is famous for its Southern food. What is wonderful about it is that it actually lives up to its reputation. So often that's just not the case.
This is a must-stop if you are in the area. Southern cooking at its best!

We opted for the lunch buffet rather than ordering off the menu, but there's probably no way to go wrong at the Blue and White. We piled our plates full...well, more than full. No prissy Southern Belles here – we love food and we don't care who knows it. (Really we do care, but we were unlikely to see anyone we know so we all felt free to chow down.) We were beyond overjoyed to find that their mashed potatoes are made from real potatoes. That's almost never the case on a buffet. The sweet potatoes were the best ever. The mac and cheese? Heavenly. Same for the green beans, etc. The food was wonderful, just wonderful. But, it paled in comparison to the homemade rolls. First, they are huge, as big as softballs...and they're still not big enough – you want more. Seriously, all four of us come from families of great cooks, and that bread threw us all for a loop. In fact, when the waitress took dessert orders, I asked for another roll rather than cake. They're not sugary or anything, they're just that good.

We saw on the menu that they make their own doughnuts fresh every morning. It only makes sense that the bread dough and the doughnut dough are, if not one and the same, very closely related, so they must be wonderful. Our next trip to northwest Mississippi will include an early trip to Tunica's Blue and White for breakfast, then some nearby touring, and a return in time for lunch or dinner. This is a place worth the trouble of backtracking.

HERNANDO

Hernando is a pretty little town featuring the stunning DeSoto County Court House. We passed up the opportunity to go inside and see the murals that depict Hernando de Soto's life from his voyage to America to his death and burial (in the Mississippi River). The murals date to 1902 and are worth the better part of a million dollars, so we really should have had a look. However, we were all but comatose from our giant lunches and the weather was threatening, so we took the easy way out.


The courthouse is huge!



Downtown Hernando

We also took the easy way out when it came to the Historic DeSoto Museum. We passed right by it and the old log cabin once used as a field hospital during the Civil War. They both  looked interesting, and any other time we would have been eager to explore, but we just weren't in the mood. We'll be back.


The clock tower is really very pretty.  You can see the clouds
coming at us in the background. The deluge began very soon after this picture was taken.

There is, however, no need for us to revisit the many antique stores in the area. Like the consummate antiquers we are, we bravely summoned the strength to climb out of the car and spend hours strolling through room after room after room of old interesting stuff. And yes, we do realize that sounds a lot like what we would have done had we visited the courthouse, museum, and log cabin.


What a collection of stuff...all in the hands of someone who can weld!  
The gate was a collection of metal wheels!




The welder used his fun side to create a dinosaur to pull the hearse.

We drove north out of Hernando, toward Nesbitt. Like everywhere else in Mississippi, small country lanes and old highways wind through the area's soybean fields and kudzu-covered forests. We had plenty of these roads to choose from, so we picked the one that would lead us to Jerry Lee Lewis's house! What's more, we think we may actually have seen The Killer himself!

There we were, sitting in his driveway taking pictures of the pianos on his gates and listening to his kinda frightening dogs bark, when we saw a man heading down the driveway with a couple dogs on leashes. And what did we do? We panicked and took off! But, as we were leaving, we noticed that the man with the dogs looked for all the world like Jerry Lee. Once safely away, we collected ourselves and thought, “Why did we do that? He probably just wanted to talk to us.” So, we turned around and went back, only to find he was gone. No man, no dogs. We'd been silly and probably missed a golden opportunity. This is Mississippi, after all; people speak to strangers here. We should have known better. 1595 Malone Road, Nesbitt, MS; just south of Horn Lake

Jerry Lee Lewis's ranch.  We panicked big time when we saw 
Jerry Lee and his dogs coming toward the gate.
A real junior high flashback - we jumped back into the car.  
What we would give to have waited and talked to him!  Bummer!

Speaking of country roads, ten miles northwest of Hernando is a sight that is a wonder to behold. As we drove through northeast Mississippi's rolling hills, thick with trees, we didn't realize that our whole perception of heights and depths had become skewed. When we reached our destination – a certain point on the aptly named Delta View Road – it took our breath away. We'd been driving along, thinking we were on just another Mississippi back road, when we suddenly found that we were actually on a high bluff and that, just a few feet away, the ground had dropped off into the flatest landscape imaginable.

It's the great alluvial plain, otherwise known as the  Mississippi River Delta, and from the edge of that bluff it appears to be endless, Our pictures don't do it justice because the drop off is so sudden that it photographs as though it were completely flat. But trust us, the view is stunning. It's hard to wrap your mind around the fact that, although you are looking down on it, you aren't actually all that high. The Delta is just that low.
See those "little" trees?  They are 30-40' tall.  The green in the foreground is a deep, lush carpet of kudzu that covers everything that is not moving. (Check out the big leaves in the lower left corner.) The brown strip is an open field, ready for planting...the plowed rows can't be seen because the field is so far away. The dramatic transition between flat delta and rolling hills must be seen to be believed.  

When we poked around stores in Hernando and Tunica, we spotted some beautiful Joseph Eckles Stoneware. So, we decided to pay a visit to the birthplace of these beauties. It's located at 2650 Scott Road in Hernando, but the address is a little deceptive. It is – or at least, it appears to be – in the country (sometimes it's hard to tell “country” from “town”). It is set way back from the road, hidden from view down a long driveway. As we drove down the driveway (it's a little road really), we all looked at each other, as in, “Should we be here?” There was nothing threatening about the big industrial-looking buildings we found, but we had begun to feel like we might be lost and trespassing...and that can be dangerous. We finally spotted a small sign saying “Eckles Pottery” though, and were we ever glad! 
Just one of our selections from Joseph Eckles Pottery.  

Sadly, Joseph Eckles was not there; he had packed up and headed off to a show. But David, a talented potter in his own right, was home and there was still a ton of pottery on the shelves. We got a great tour of the studio, met the resident cat, and then we oohed and aahed over (and touched!) every single piece of pottery he had. He didn't seem a bit put out that we were getting it all out of order. It was all beautiful, which really made it hard to choose, but we finally managed to decide on a few pieces and everyone left happy.

SENATOBIA

What a surprise! Senatobia is a town of about 8,000 people, and we expected to find another attractive small town, albeit one with a community college. It is lovely, but we also found that it is a vibrant place – with an absolutely beautiful college.

Senatobia is home to the main campus of Northwest Mississippi Community College, which looks for all the world like a major university. Really lovely. We drove through campus and were amazed at how large the school is. Beautiful buildings and well-kept grounds. 
Northwest Mississippi Community College


The buildings on this campus are beautiful.  

We made it a point to drive through a second campus as well: The BaddourCenter. An outreach of the Methodist church, it serves as a home for adults with mild/moderate intellectual disabilities. There are fourteen group homes and four apartment units (among other buildings), and it is an absolutely stunning campus, full of activity! (It looks like an upscale gated retirement community.)

When we left, we made a detour through Como, mainly because Marian and I love Como, but also because Meredith had never been there. We drove down the main street and were sad to see that the green grocer's has closed. Nothing else seems to have changed though, so we showed Meredith the beautiful little Episcopal church and then drove through the neighborhood near downtown. Once again, we were impressed with how beautiful and well kept the homes and yards are. 

As usual, we came home through Oxford. We always try to swing by on the way to or from nearby Tiny Travels, and really, it only made sense this time. All our favorite antique places had closed by the time we got there, so there wasn't much to do other than drive over to Eli Manning's house and admire it. (It's very homey and very, very beautiful, by the way.) 

It was dinner time, but none of us could even think of eating dinner after that huge lunch. We could, however, think of eating ice cream, so we stopped at Yaya's on the Square. If you've never been, it's one of those places where you help yourself to ice cream and toppings and then pay based on the weight of your dish. Kay, Marian, and Meredith went prissy, spending three or so dollars on dainty little dishes with sprinklings of toppings. My dish came in just under $9 and I ate every bit of it.



Water Valley, Charleston, Tutwiler and Beyond!



At long last, we’re back. It seems like forever since we last went exploring – life has been more than enough of an adventure these last twelve months. But, things are looking up and there is no better way to celebrate than by doing our favorite thing: snooping Mississippi. 
Guest traveler Kay Collins joined us on a lovely September Monday. We had few specifics on our agenda, just a loose plan to work our way over to Charleston and see what Highway 32 had to offer. 

We made Water Valley our first stop because we like the place and we hadn’t been there in a while. First stop was Turnage Drug Store to see their legendary soda fountain. While it serves up old fashioned ice cream dishes nowadays, this beauty used to serve something much stronger – it’s rumored to have begun life as the bar in an 1800’s saloon. Whatever it’s serving, it is a beautiful addition to this lovely town. 
 
Turnage Drugs Lunch counter / soda fountain.  



A small portion of the downtown area of Water Valley.


We also paid a visit to BTC, the fresh food market/bakery/restaurant. It’s in a wonderful old building on the corner of Main Street, across from the park. We snarfed up some delicious homemade pastries and hoop cheese to hold us until lunch and generally just enjoyed sitting around in a place that has seen so much history. They have refurbished, but they had the foresight to leave old signs and old brick and all the other things that lend soul to a place.   


Beautiful old building which now houses BTC in Water Valley
BTC  interior
Too early for bologna for us but the hoop cheese was awesome
The rear portion of BTC has exposed brick.
This is one of the eating areas -- seating available seven or eight --   complete with a
beautiful old back door, a window and an antique Coca Cola sign.
What a sign it is!

Leaving Water Valley, we got sidetracked by an antique store – something that happens quite frequently – so it was almost noon before we found ourselves skirting Enid Lake and approaching Charleston: Gateway to the Delta. It’s a delightful little town (population around 2,100) with lovely homes and a beautiful town square and court house.

 Tallahatchie County courthouse.  Located in Charleston, MS.
Charleston is one of the two county seats of Tallahatchie County; Sumner is the other 

We enjoyed a quick lunch and a bit of shopping at the China Cabinet and set off to see Charleston. 

Located just of the square, Harrison House 1902
The first thing we saw was the Bank of Charleston building with its homage to three famous native sons: actor Morgan Freeman, jazz and blues legend Mose Allison, and beloved Bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson. 
Left to right -- Morgan Freeman, Mose Allison, and Sonny Boy Williamson.  
(Okay, Allison is actually from Tippo and Williamson is from Glendora, but they’re all from Tallahatchie county and Charleston is one of the county seats.) Morgan has a large ranch just outside town, but we were told we wouldn’t be able to see anything from the highway. It’s interesting that he chose to live here (he also has a home in New York), but it’s not surprising since he grew up in Charleston.

But the Charlestonian that really caught our attention was the late – and apparently great – hog, Scissors. Scissors was a Duroc-Jersey breed, for those who know their swine, and a real prize winner: World Champion at both the 1917 and 1918 Omaha Livestock Shows. He was also huge! And by huge, we mean massive; guestimates range around the “one ton of pig” mark. 

Scissors’ owner, Col. Tom Griffin James, took great pride in the porcine that brought such honor upon him. He pampered Scissors to the point of building him a special house on his Pine Crest Farm, although it’s hard to say whether James was being kind or cautious. Scissors’ size may have necessitated a place of his own just to protect the other pigs. If the photos on Scissors’ Facebook page are any indication, this was one gigantic, and gentle, hog. His house is actually quite homey, by the way, more reminiscent of a swanky modern-day chicken coop than a pig sty(click here to open a new page to see the Facebook page of Scissors) 

Located on Highway 32, approximately 3 miles east of Charleston.
Susan and Kay in front of Scissors' house 
A small, but more than adequate, house for a pig.

We had originally thought we might head north out of Charleston, up I-55 to Batesville, stopping anywhere that looked interesting. But so many places are closed on Mondays that we decided to hop on Highway 49 toward Tutwiler and loosely follow part of the Blues Trail through the Delta. Although we aren't die-hard blues fans, it’s a fascinating part of our state’s history and we’d never been to many of those small towns.  

The site of the old Tutwiler train station is now a small park with Blues Trail markers telling the story of W.C. Handy coming to town and hearing the blues for the first time. 

Marker in Tutwiler explaining the beginning of the blues by W.C. Handy.
Blues Trail marker for W.C. Handy

The park also has a military monument and a platform (A stage? The old railway platform?) painted to look like a quilt. Tutwiler is known and recognized for its beautiful quilts (which can be ordered through www.tutwilerquilters.org). Across the street from the park stands an old brick building whose wall displays lovely murals depicting Tutwiler’s history.  
Quilt platform



Murals on the building next to the park

Since Kay, Marian and I are all Ole Miss grads, it should come as no surprise that we made a pass through Drew – we were kinda sorta in the neighborhood anyway. We looked a while, hoping to spot a shrine of some sort, but we came up empty, so we went on to pretty little Ruleville, home of blues great Jimmy Rogers and the world’s shortest stop sign.

Ruleville downtown.
Jimmy Rogers Blues Marker
  Does this mean you should "stop shortly", or "stop short", or perform a brief stop?
There appeared to be a nice selection of stores and such downtown, but we didn’t spend any time there because we wanted to get to Mound Bayou before Peter’s Pottery closed. Kay had been before, but it was a first for Marian and me and we weren’t disappointed – beautiful pottery!

Mount Bayou, the oldest U. S. all black municipality.
Peter's Pottery




                         
When we were finally able to drag ourselves away from all the pretty pottery, we continued up Highway 61, making it a point to note Hushpuckena when we passed just so we could say we saw it. And we drove through Alligator too, because who can resist a town named Alligator? 


Actually, it seems that Alligator is categorized as a village rather than a town – there are only about 220 people who call the place home. One of their former residents, Fred Coe, went on to make quite a name for himself as a television and film producer, a real pioneer in those early days of the industry. 

Fred Coe Blues Marker

Locals are rightly proud of where they live, as evidenced by the decorative murals someone was kind enough to paint (although we do wish they had welcomed more than just the one tourist).





As anyone who follows the Blues Trail knows, at some point you must go to the Mecca of the Blues: The Crossroads. 

The Crossroads -- intersection of Highways 49 and 61
Supposedly, it was here, at the intersection of Highways 49 and 61, where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for instant mastery of the guitar. Few facts about Robert Johnson’s life are not up for debate, so there are multiple opinions about which crossroads Johnson was referring to when he claimed to have had this meeting…but 49/61 is the most well known version and really, we were on 61 anyway so we’ll accept that and move on.

Since Morgan Freeman was on our mind and we had been stymied from actually seeing his house, we did the next best thing and drove into Clarksdale in hopes of having dinner with him at Ground Zero, the blues club he owns. Marian and I ate there years ago and the food is great! It’s a unique place, to say the least, given the writing on the walls and windows and ceilings and doors and tables and mirrors and framed photos and….We wrote our names on the wall too, something neither of us had ever done and something we still don’t feel good about to this day. Unfortunately, GZ was closed (and we couldn't go back and erase our names). Big disappointment. Monday travel is tricky.