“I was born in south Georgia, grew up in Alabama, moved to Mississippi, worked years for a Tennessee newspaper, then, moved to Atlanta, which I disliked. I sometimes felt as if I had no real home. Mississippi had come closest to being that anchor most of us seem to need. I love my farm in north Mississippi, but even there I have no roots. Hill people are a bit suspicious of outsiders, which you will remain no matter how long you live there even if you were not born there. I’ve been spending time--at times, all my times--in the Iuka, Mississippi, area for more than two decades. And I still wouldn’t be invited to join the Newcomer’s Club if they had one. I think the distrust of outsiders in the hills harkens to a day when the best way to make a living was moonshine. Anyone who moves to town without a really good excuse is a potential revenuer, or the twenty-first century equivalent.
My own parents often sit around and rhapsodize about their hometown of Colquitt, Georgia, reminiscing about childhood and weaving genealogical tapestries that make my head spin. She was so-and-so before she married so-and-so’s youngest son and became so-and-so. My friends in Iuka who are natives feel the same way about north Mississippi. Listening to them talk is like reading the biblical begats aloud.
I, on the other hand, had no place on my private map that felt like the county seat of my heart. That can be a good thing. It can prevent you from boring others with non-ending stories about the Good Old Days in Pleasantville. It can give you perspective and help you keep an open mind about different cultures and mores.
But one Christmas day on a houseboat in the swamp, I identified with the floating water hyacinths. They blow with the wind and visit one shore one day and another the next. The locals cuss them.”
~Poor Man’s Provence
Rheta Grimsley Johnson