June 12, 2011

Cotton Fields, Casinos, Southern Hospitality and Author Linda Rettstatt of Mississippi

Hey, y’all, from Mississippi. Now that I’ve greeted you properly, I must add my disclaimer to this article. I am not originally from Mississippi, or from ‘the South’. I was born and raised in Pennsylvania. When I tell people that and then add, “But I’ve lived down here for over ten years,” they just nod and smile politely—that southern ‘bless her heart’ smile. You’re not a southerner unless you were born and bred and have at traceable family history rooted here.
That doesn’t mean Mississippi hasn’t welcomed me. I came here in 2000 to take a social service job with a non-profit organization. My first big move away from Pennsylvania. I needed to stretch beyond my boundaries and comfort zone. I couldn’t have chosen a better place for doing just that. The term ‘southern hospitality’ proves to be alive and well in Mississippi. For us Yankees, Mississippi was the state voted most fun to spell in grade school. Go ahead, spell it out. It’s lyrical.
Mississippi is a state rich with history and culture, and the small museums that have cropped up just about everywhere are testament to pride in that history.
One of the more recent is the Tunica Riverpark and Museum that sits on the banks of the Mississippi River in Tunica County and tells the history of the Delta. While you’re there, take a ride on the Tunica Queen.
In towns like Holly Springs, the Marshall County seat, several antebellum homes, like Walter Place still stand as proud testament to the pre-Civil War era, and house tours are year-round events. Holly Springs is the quintessential old Southern town. It’s been written about by Jan Karon and was site of filming of the movie Cookie’s Fortune.
Eateries in Mississippi feature traditional southern fare, everything from barbecue to catfish and okra to greens. In terms of commerce, Mississippi has always been associated with cotton and ‘pickers’. Today, however, machinery does the work of picking and in some areas like Tunica County, cotton fields give way to five-star hotels and casinos—part of the growing gaming industry in the state.
Mississippi is the home of Medgar Evers and site of the ‘Freedom Summer’ in 1964, and the state held a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s.
Tupelo is the original home of rock and roll king, Elvis Presley.
I consider myself to be in good company with other Mississippi writers including William Faulkner, John Grisham and Tennessee Williams.
Like theirs, one of my works in progress is set in the Mississippi Delta but I’ve got other novels set in many parts of our country.
While life in Mississippi has undergone significant changes over the past decades, some things always remain the same--southern pride and southern hospitality. If you come to Mississippi, be prepared to answer two questions: Who are your people? and, Where is your church? Family and faith are held in high value. If you’re an ‘outsider’ like me, you’ll find friendly smiles and warm handshakes ready to welcome you. So, come on down!
Linda Rettstatt, writing for women--stories of strength, love, humor, and hope, is the autor of Next Time I’m Gonna Dance – 2011 EPIC e-Book Award Finalist and also awarded 2010 Champagne Books Author of the Year.
Linda's web link: http://www.lindarettstatt.com/
Linda's blog link: http://www.onewomanswrite.blogspot.com/


Nora LeDuc said...

Hi Linda,
Mississippi as much to commend it. I understand about the two questions. I moved to TN for a short time and was surprised to be invited by the Postmaster to visit his church. I'd stopped in to let them know I was there. Up North that would never happen. I enjoyed the hospitality offered to me the moment I stepped foot in the South.

linda_rettstatt said...

Thanks for stopping by. There is a lot to be said for Southern Hospitality. When I first moved down here, I was astonished when I went to the grocery store and the teenaged checkout girl asked me how I was, and really expected an answer!


jrlindermuth said...

Thanks for giving us this insight into your adopted state, Linda.
As a Pennsylvanian, though, I have to add there are also towns here where you're likely to be regarded as a foreigner if you aren't native-born.

linda_rettstatt said...

That's very true, JR. Pennsylvania will always be home to me. The Pittsburgh area is very neighborhood oriented--you're from the neighborhood, or you're not. Here is Mississippi, it's more regional--you're from the south, or you're not.

Thanks for stopping by.


linda_rettstatt said...

I should add that, though I have a book in the works that is set in the Mississippi Delta, several of my books are set in Pennsylvania and highlight places like Ohiopyle State Park. I am finding the research for my locally based book to be fascinating in terms of studying not only location, but culture.


Pauline B Jones said...

Hubby and I have loved our time spent in Mississippi. Evacuated there once (from Georges) and love taking family up to Natchez and then driving along the Trace. Miss it! Fun blog!

Debby said...

Mississippi does sound like a beautiful state. I always think of weeping willows when I think of Mississippi. it is fun to spell
debby236 at gmail dot com

linda_rettstatt said...

The Natchez Trace is a wonderful drive. Just don't do it if you're in a hurry. I think the speed limit there is 50 mph, and there's plenty of wildlife to doge on the road.

And, yes, Mississippi has it's share of willow trees and magnolias.

Tina Donahue said...

I love southern food. I envy you for living where you do. :)

linda_rettstatt said...

I love most southern food, too. I've found that okra and greens are both an acquired taste, but I sure do love barbecue, corn bread, and black eyed peas.

Thanks for stopping by.

historywriter said...

I haven't been to the deep. I really should go. I grew up in Pittsburgh. Have lived in the NW for 34 years.

I understand you are looking for writers for your 50 states tour. I'd love to do Hawaii where I lived and went to school. Still have a strong connection.

Allison Knight said...

Mississippi is my favorite state after Alabama, my home, and Colorado for its beauty. Mississippi is home to some of our best memories for the family. We enjoyed Christmas at a casino, all the kids together, and some of the saddest. I lost friends in Katrina, and the sights after the storm will stay with me forever.

Annette said...

absolutely...you should find a way to get pasty to me!