Through a World Capital

Euna spent more than two decades in the U.S. Navy.  It agreed with her.  She looks half her age.


She was an aircraft repair specialist.  Once she was the only woman on a team with 42 men.  She’s kind and confident.  You don’t mess with Euna.

Euna told Jeffrey that the only problem with immigrants to the Tupelo area is that some come from countries with class systems and aren’t familiar with American egalitarianism.  Once they learn, she said, the newcomers fit well into the community.

This morning, a few aggressive drivers got uncomfortably close.  Most were respectful.  We made good time during the morning coolness, and stopped at several historic sites (related to the Chickasaw Nation, the De Soto expedition, and more) and natural overlooks.


Life imitated art when we spotted a turtle by the Natchez Trace center line.  (What is it with turtles and yellow lines?  We encounted two “line turtles” on an earlier Ride.)  Like the turtle in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, flipped across the road by a driver who tried to hit the turtle, this one had grassy seeds stuck between a leg and the shell.


Jeffrey gently picked up today’s turtle.  The animal hissed and withdrew into its shell.  Jeffrey placed it in a safe spot where the rising sun soon would warm it.  When the turtle emerged from its shell, its movement may have planted those seeds.

Part of our planned route was on a quiet country road and a trail.  We started down the 1.4 mile (2 km) road and saw that pavement ended and sand began.


No thanks!  We backtracked and continued on a busy paved highway.

Vardaman calls itself the Sweet Potato Capital of the World.


The smaller sign says, “Jesus is Lord Over Vardaman”.  We are indeed in the American Heartland.

In Vardaman we stopped to cool off at Sweet Potato Sweets.  Soon a couple from Columbus, Georgia, joined us inside.


L to R:  Pauline, Susan, Ben.

Pauline recently retired from the Columbus police.  Ben, also a cop, will retire soon.  Ben grew up in the Vardaman area and when he visits, he stocks up on sweet potatoes and pies for himself and his friends.

Jeffrey told them about our Ride.  As police officers, Pauline and Ben have seen courts up close.  They are sympathetic to anyone who has to navigate our legal system without a lawyer.  Both shook Jeffrey’s hand.

We passed what we think are sweet potato fields on our way through oddly named Derma . . .


. . . passed a house flying the Mississippi flag, which, startlingly in the 21st Century, incorporates the Confederate battle flag . . .


. . . and reached the R & L, the only motel in Calhoun City.


Casey, who does rustic woodworking, is renovating the place.


He said there have been big changes since he was a Calhoun City kid, with Spanish speakers now comprising perhaps 20% of the local population.  He said the newcomers are hard workers, and when they stay at his motel, they pay their bills and don’t make trouble.  He recognizes immigrants’ importance to America, believes that nationality and race have no effect on whether an individual is good or bad, and believes the solution to the “undocumented” is to give people documents.


And after Jeffrey explained that asylum seekers can have a lawyer only “at no expense to the government”, Casey said that’s just not right.

To support the Ride, Casey gave us a very good rate on two motel rooms, and paid for David and Jeffrey to eat next door.


David expertly carrying the camera Nancy loaned for this Ride.

Jeffrey and David were the only customers.  They enjoyed talking to 5-year-old Erin Beth (“EB” to her friends).


Here they are with EB’s mom, Torri, who went off the meaty City Limits Cafe menu and made the chauffeur and the videographer cheese sandwiches and sweet potato fries.


Tune in tomorrow.  There’s more Mississippi to come.


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