If you find yourself in Delta, Alabama, don’t go looking for the river because there’s not one. No cotton, no corn, no rich alluvial farms that stretch out so flat and far that heat shimmers upward in waves in summer, and a good shade tree and a cold drink of water might be worth a thousand bucks if you had it to spend. No history of callused black hands picking cotton, or of poor white tenants buying their supplies on credit based on cotton futures that never seemed to quite pay-out at harvest time. No dynasties in this Delta, be they Duck or otherwise. You might find the blues down at the crossroads, but don’t go expecting to make any deals with the devil for your guitar licks. I suspect that even he has limited time, and the selection is better where the souls are more concentrated. Maybe just up the road in Anniston.
On the west side of Highway 9 you’ll find the post office and general store. Not much on the shelves in store, and I wonder if a couple of thousand dollars might buy the entire inventory. It does offer “Hunt Brothers Pizza!” and “Wing Bites!” — but you won’t find much of a selection of liquids to wash them down with. The coolers aren’t full and the selection of soft drinks is limited. You won’t find a beer because Clay County is “dry,” one of the last counties in Alabama to carry that distinction.
Next door is the “Delta Mall,” an old-style brick and glass-front facade building that is largely empty but for a few items that look like they might pass for antiques. A handmade sign near the door near reads “Come Buy Honey!”
I wonder where Honey lives, but there is no one to ask.
Across the highway there is “G & S Auto Sales” which has no autos to sell. Next to that is “Morrison Feed and Meat” which I assume has got a man covered from calf to freezer.
I head west of the crossroads and find the Clay County public lake, which offers fishing for three dollars a day. Business is good for a weekday, and a man with a heavy stringer of bream looks to be getting his money’s worth.
Headed back I notice my friend The Land Man has a nice old farm for sale. Sturdy country house with a big front porch. I let my mind wander for a second and see the picture postcard potential. A little sweat and diesel fuel would put that land back as it should be. A porch swing and a dog or two is all the house needs.
Back at the crossroads I notice that everything here is neat as a pin. Prosperity may have moved on down the road (if she ever lived here to begin with), but nothing looks run-down or neglected. Mostly it looks lonesome, like some stray lyric in an old Hank Williams song.
Lonesome suited Hank in a convoluted way, and sometimes it suits me too. I reckon we both believe that the best way to view it is in the rearview mirror as you head back out on the road.