Red Bay, Jacinto

We had only a few hours free on Friday, so we decided to take a little side trip we had been talking about for some time, despite the fact that it’s not in Mississippi. (Turns out, that’s not always a bad thing!) We went to Red Bay, Alabama to see “the house” or, more accurately, “the yard,” Mecca for concrete and plaster of Paris dealers the world over.

The house, which sits on Highway 23, merely yards from the Mississippi/Alabama border, is a brick ranch style in a nice neighborhood. It’s tidy enough, but the front yard is a virtual savannah of wildlife…and other things. Mercifully, much of it is white. The very idea of such a gathering being every hue of the rainbow doesn’t bear thinking about.

Although we took plenty of pictures, it’s hard to get close enough to get really clear shots with a point and shoot camera, and we’re not quite brazen enough to nose around someone’s yard given all the gun owners in Mississippi and Alabama. It's impossible to get the full impact in a photo, so let us help you. There are planters, carousel horses, jockeys (with horses and without), baskets, dogs, lions, geese, swans, ducks, wagon wheels, and elephants – and there are multiples of all of these, especially the elephants (more on that later). And, when we say multiples, we don’t necessarily mean just two. There’s also a stagecoach, a well, a chimenea, a windmill, a liberty bell, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, a large plastic or metal dump truck (?), and, lucky us, they were drying the floor mats from their cars/trucks, so they were draped over the porch railing. It was a nice touch.

Presiding over this menagerie, front and center, are the Statue of Liberty, Mary, and Jesus. Mind you, they are all 4-8 feet tall. You can’t miss them. And, should any of the lesser ornamentals get out of sorts, there’s an eight-foot grizzly guarding the front door to keep order. Those dogs, lions, geese, swans, ducks, horses, and elephants must be terrified! I know it scared us.

Yep, Bama fans.

We couldn’t see the back yard. Okay, we didn’t really want to, but we noted that, on the side of the yard near the driveway, they have constructed a gazebo with lounge chairs and all. It looks like a nice place to relax, although I can’t imagine the owners would want to be in the front yard with so many people driving by – all of whom must have a thousand questions for them. At any rate, it’s there and decorated (almost solely) with elephants. Turns out they’re big Bama fans. And they’re dedicated – they must have at least twenty elephants.

Anyone who does business in/travels through Red Bay seems to know about “the yard” and, incredibly, we hear that things have actually been tidied up and that much has been removed. This seems difficult to believe, but there were open places on the lawn and these are credible folk saying these things, so….

Red Bay, birthplace of Tammy Wynette, seems like a nice enough little town. They have a fine old downtown hotel that’s being fixed up, there are some other cute buildings, some laudable attempts at murals on downtown buildings, etc., but we were not there to tour Alabama, so we scampered back to TMI Sales in Belmont, Mississippi for a little shopping and accidentally stumbled upon Golden, Mississippi. We had tried to find Golden years ago and couldn’t, so we had thought it was another one of those “map dot only” places, but no…it’s real (small but real), and we were happy to find it. Then we set out for another of our “Bucket List” sites. We went to Jacinto Courthouse.

For decades now, Marian and I have been intrigued by the sign on Highway 45 directing folks to Jacinto Courthouse, and we always planned to visit it “someday.” Turns out May 20, 2011 was the day. For the record, it’s pronounced JUH-sin-toe (or, JUH-sinter), despite the fact that the town was named after the battle of San Jacinto.
Jacinto Courthouse
Cupola of the Jacinto Courthouse

As I sneaked around the exterior of the building taking pictures, I saw the 'ghost'" that I was expecting....see his back? See his coat? Hear me scream? I'm sure it's still hanging in the air around Jacinto.

Yeah, he was a mannequin as you can plainly see, but, from the window behind him he was much scarier...
Jacinto Courthouse is in the middle of nowhere. Well, not really. It’s located in Alcorn County, just off Highway 356 on County Road 367, east of Rienzi and south of Corinth. This is remarkable since it was built in Tishomingo County and has never been moved. (Tishomingo County was huge back then and was later divided up into Tishomingo, Alcorn, and Prentiss Counties.) The courthouse dates from 1854 and is made of hand-quarried foundation stones and handmade bricks. It was a courthouse until 1870, then a school till 1908. From 1908-1960 it was a Methodist church. But the not-so-prescient town fathers had opted out of being on the railroad line along about the turn of the century, so by mid-century Jacinto was almost a ghost town, down to a store or two and a few houses. The Methodist congregation, which had dwindled and virtually disbanded, was offered $600 for the bricks and it seemed a good deal so they agreed. Thankfully, local residents stepped in and set about trying to stave off this impending catastrophe. They succeeded, thanks to a doctor in West Point who wrote a check for $2000 to buy back the building and then set up a foundation to watch over it. Whew. That was close. Really – it’s one of the finest (and one of the few) local examples of Federal style architecture left, given Mississippi’s history of tornadoes and poverty. Although it was closed when we got there, we peeped into windows and supposedly the courtroom is almost intact; other rooms have been furnished to the period – enhanced by the original brick or wood floors. It’s a beautiful structure and well worth a visit.

Hours: May-September: Tuesday-Friday, Sunday – 1-5 pm. Saturday – 10 am - 5 pm April, October, November – Saturday 10-5, Sunday 1-5 It’s free, but they appreciate donations. We can’t give a first-person recommendation for the July 4 celebration at Jacinto, but it’s supposed to be a lot of fun – music, crafts, etc.

When we left Jacinto we were delighted to see signs for Hickory Flat. (Marian --No, this isn't the Hickory Flat that we all know exists on Highway 78 just outside of New Albany. This is another Hickory Flat.) We thought it would make an interesting side trip, but we couldn’t find it. We found other signs directing us to Cairo, however. We had tried (unsuccessfully) to find Cairo just the day before, but this was a different Cairo. Like so many places in Mississippi, there are multiples. We have concluded that surely only one can qualify as a town and the other must be a community. That’s what we think anyway.

Rienzi, however, is real and we found it a little farther down Highway 356. We just drove through, but it appears to be the quintessential small Mississippi town and may be worth another visit. There was even an auction going on! We wanted to stop and check it out, but we ran out of time. Well, really we were hungry so we swung by Booneville and stopped at Fisher’s Family Restaurant. Lucky us – it was catfish buffet night! And it was delicious.

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