If you live in New England, traveling in the South for the first time is eye-opening.
I appreciated the integration of music in everyday life. Music blaring on speakers in downtown Nashville on a Sunday morning. Live music at many locations. Music festivals abound. One four-day event was beginning in New Orleans. I came across another three-day event underway in Clarksville MS. Honoring the histories of jazz and blues seems like a deep part of the culture.
So MANY strip malls. And ALL that fast food (Sonic, Waffle House, Krystal, Cracker Barrel, Bojangles Famous Chicken, Chick Fil-A, Burger King, McDonald’s, KFC), which seems to dwarf (at least in number) locally owned food options.
More pickup trucks than I’ve ever seen.
A lot of poverty. Many trailer parks. Lots of homes in disrepair.
Some homes in very low lying areas.
Small farm houses near massive fields where sugar cane, cotton, and indigo grow. Most areas in the Mississippi Delta area now flooded from seasonal rains.
For shopping, frequent Walmarts and more varieties of Dollar stores (Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Dollar Store, Family Dollar, Mighty Dollar) than I knew existed. In some places, located adjacent to one another.
Lots of pawn shops. And a combination I’d never seen — jewelry stores that also sell guns (strikes me as an odd combination).
Literally, hundreds of billboards advertising personal injury attorneys. One practice was advertising in three states. Other billboards offered Bible quotes.
And churches. Large and small. Mostly Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian.
All around, there are remnants of plantation life — now, mostly large, often opulent homes you can tour. Most seem to tell an economic story.
One, the Whitney Plantation (Louisiana), focuses on the plantation experience of enslaved people. Enlightening and decidedly disturbing.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was seeing so many immense industrial manufacturing plants running along the Mississippi River.
Sprawling complexes representing so many large industries. Chemical production (Monsanto, Dow, Helena), fertilizer production (Mosaic, CF), oil and gas refineries (Shell, Phillips, Marathon, Valero), cement manufacturing (Continental, Vulcan, LaFarge), grain distribution centers (Zen-Noh, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill).
For the first time I realized how much of our country’s dirty work (that we ALL benefit from) is done in Southern states, particularly, it seems, in Louisiana.