Friday, January 14, 2011

Batesville, Mississippi

The Chickasaw name for cotton was Panola, the name given to the port established on the south side of the Little Tallahatchie River in 1839. River commerce was limited to three to six months a year shipping commodities, mostly cotton. During the Civil War they had a gun foundry that employed "one people."

It was the summer of 1967 when I first heard the word Tallahatchie. I stopped working and listened to Bobbie Gentry sing "Ode to billy joe" in her haunting, gravely, alto voice smooth and rhythmic as a slow moving river. I felt the heat and humidity, sorrow and hopelessness. Did it really happen, or is it just a song?
Conjuring a picture of billy joe about to jump, I asked JB where the Tallahatchie bridge is. "On the Tallahatchie River."

Per the Chamber of Commerce, the name Panola was changed to Batesville in honor of Mr. Jim Bates, a conductor on the MS & TN Railroad and prominent Methodist Minister. In 1866 the town received it's charter. The well-maintained tracks and bed are still operational under another name.

Today shopping malls and businesses line Hwy 6 running east and west and 51 north and south. I55 cuts across 6. The city center has more empty store fronts than occupied, but it is still worth the look: great crafts, gifts and clothing, a pharmacy, jewelry store, hardware store and restaurant to name a few. A couple of blocks off the square is Court Street Catering. We had a lovely lunch on linen table clothes with Kenny G in the background; a pork chop and scalloped potatoes to die for, lima beans and lemon cake for dessert.

I'm looking forward to a trip to the cemetery to study old stones, soon as the snow melts.

2011 Red Convertible Travel Series

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