“The acquisition of memories is the business of life.”
—Carson the Butler in Downton Abbey
While I was composing the last few posts for my blog at the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 I received several tidbits and updates from friends on subjects they thought might interest me.
During that same time period I collected several other items (such as the opening quote above on memory) that seemed to fit into the theme of my entire blog.
Since I finally closed my regular blogging of the seven-part series titled “You Might Be from the Country, Parts I-VII,” I thought I would try to make up a new post to share some of these various new tidbits I have received or collected over the past few months. However, after beginning that project I discovered that there was so much material I had to divide it into two posts.
I have titled this varied collection “Delta Addenda, Etc., Parts I and II” because in fact the items in these two posts deal with more than just the Delta, as you will see as you peruse each one. But regardless of their relationship to the Delta I think you will see why they were of interest to me and to those who sent them to me.
The items in this first post do relate directly to the Mississippi River Delta and its sharecropper-tenant farmer agriculture, the historic but rapidly changing plantation culture of the Delta, the importance of the cotton industry on which the Delta depended for so long, and a couple of recent winter storms that covered the cypress sloughs of Arkansas’ “Bayou Country” in a rare blanket of snow and ice.
Lake Dick Farm Cooperative
“Lake Dick represents the most socialistically oriented of the many cooperative farms established in the 1930’s.”
—Donna R. Causey, online article about Lake Dick,
a Depression-era Arkansas farm cooperative
The first of these Delta-related subjects is a link to a site about Lake Dick, an Arkansas Delta farming cooperative, that was sent to me by Paul Talmadge on January 18.
As noted in the opening quote above, Lake Dick “represents the most socialistically oriented of the many cooperative farms” established by the U.S. government during the Great Depression.
The site contains more information about the Lake Dick cooperative with photos of some of the farmers who lived on it. It also includes a photographic section on the importance of the general store in rural Arkansas in 1938, which happens to be the year I was born in rural Southeast Arkansas and the subject of another one of my previous posts titled: “Selma Store Evokes Boyhood Memories.”
To visit the Lake Dick site and view the photos of some of the farmers, the cooperative, and the general store there, click here.
For more photos, be sure to click on the other links on the Lake Dick site.
“Listen to the sounds of [Blues singer] Charley Patton
as you travel through history back to the birthplace of the Delta Blues.”
—“A Personal Video Tour of Dockery Farms”
On January 23, Pat Scavo sent me a link to a ten-minute video tour and history of Dockery Plantation, located across the Mississippi River from our hometown of McGehee, Arkansas. The video, narrated by Blues music legend B.B. King, claims that Dockery was the birthplace of Mississippi Delta Blues music.
To view the fascinating video, click here.
Empire of Cotton
“In 1862, British merchant John Benjamin Smith boasted that the manufacture of cotton yarn and cloth had become ‘the greatest industry that ever had or could by possibility have ever existed in any age or country.’”
—Glenn C. Altschuler, “Book Review:
‘Empire of Cotton: A Global Industry,’”
Tulsa World Online, January 25, 2015
On January 25, the Tulsa World published a book review about cotton production written by Glenn C. Altschuler.
According to the reviewer, the book, titled Empire of Cotton: A Global History, written by Sven Beckert, shows how the cotton industry shaped the world. Interesting, despite the decline and virtual disappearance of the once predominant Cotton Kingdom in the Arkansas Delta, it is claimed in the article that “worldwide cotton production is expected to triple or quadruple by 2050.”
To read the informative review of this book about the history and future of cotton production, which I also examined in several of my previous posts, click here.
A $75 Cotton Branch!
“‘Leben-cent cotton and twenty–cent meat,
now that’s a combination ya jus’ cain’t beat.
How’n the hell they ‘spect a man ta eat,
with ‘leben-cent cotton and twenty-cent meat!”
—Depression-era cotton farmer’s lament
(quoted in earlier post
“Wish I was in the Land of Cotton, Part II”)
On the subject of cotton, here is a photo of a cotton branch that was sent to me by Pat Scavo on February 15 with the cryptic note: “$75 for a branch of cotton . . . better than making a dress out of a flour sack.”
My wife says that at those prices cotton farmers ought to quit trying to pick and bale and sell their cotton crop as fiber and simply break off the branches, put them in vases, and sell them as art decorations!
For the source of this photo, see the Sources section at the end of the post. For links to other sources of cotton art, simply Google “cotton branch art” or “cotton stalk art.”
Delta Winter Storms and Cypress Trees,
Baby Doll House in Snow
“In the Delta, snowfall, like an alligator sighting,
is just rare enough to cause a stir
among the locals and make headlines
in the newspapers.”
On February 18, 2015, the McGehee Times, our hometown newspaper, published several photos of a recent ice storm that had struck the Arkansas Delta.
Here is a photo of the cypress trees in the McGehee city park which are loaded down not with Spanish moss but with Southern ice! (To magnify, click on the fuzzy photo.)
The photo caption read:
“A shot of winter weather covered trees and powerlines with ice Monday. While these reports of brief power outages in McGehee affecting nearly 1,200 customers, there were longer outages in rural areas west to Drew County [in which I was born in 1938]. Officials say the brief period of freezing rain did not cause any major road problems in the McGehee-Dermott [Mari’s 1942 birthplace] area. The storm that brought winter precipitation also brought frigid temperatures behind it. (Photo by Debbie Gilbert.)”
Shortly after I had inserted this segment about the icy cypress trees in the McGehee city park, on March 2 I received Joe Dempsey’s Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind post which contained abut thirty photos of a six-or-seven-inch snowfall in his Delta hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The very first photo on that post was of a cypress-studded lake covered with snow, a much clearer photo than the one I had scanned of the McGehee ice-covered cypress trees. As Joe noted:
“Enough snow has accumulated on the boughs of these fine cypress trees to make them bend with the weight — and the snow continues to fall.”
What is interesting is that Joe was the one who suggested and helped to establish the Wiley A. McGehee Memorial City Park. To view Joe’s entire Weekly Grist post with all his professional-grade photos of snowy scenes in Pine Bluff, click here.
After I had prepared this part of the post I received the following photo from Pat Scavo showing the Burrus (Baby Doll) House in Benoit, Mississippi, just across the River from McGehee, as it looked after a recent snow storm. (To learn more about this house and the Hollywood plantation on which it sits, click here.)
The photos and link to the Lake Dick farm cooperative from the 1930s were provided by Paul Talmadge from:
The photo and link to the video about Dockery Plantation in the Mississippi River Delta was provided by Pat Scavo and taken from:
The link to the Tulsa World January 25 review of the book Empire of Cotton: A Global History was taken from Tulsa World Online at:
The photo of the cover of the book Empire of Cotton: A Global History was taken from:
The Depression-era poem about the price of cotton and meat was taken from a previous post titled “Wish I Was in the Land of Cotton, Part II” at:
The photo of the cotton branch was sent to me by Pat Scavo and was taken from:
The photo and caption of the McGehee city park with the cypress trees covered with ice were taken from the February 18, 2015, issue of the McGehee Times and used with permission.
The photo of the snow-covered cypress trees in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, was taken from Joe Dempsey’s Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind blog post published on March 1, 2015 at:
The photo of the Burrus (Baby Doll) House in the snow in Benoit, MS, was sent to me by Pat Scavo on February 27, 2015, and was taken from: