Mississippi on My Mind Tonight… #Gordon

I’m from Mississippi. I was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta (“The Most Southern Place on Earth” as in, characteristically Deep South) and went to one of the best public high schools in the US in Columbus before heading to Vermont for college (I went to Bennington, for the record).

The state is constantly glossed over in so many ways. I get it has a low population, little industry, and is stuck in 1950. But as another hurricane comes to shore (Gordon), I’m thinking about my home state tonight.

Clarksdale Mississippi

I grew up in Clarksdale

Just wanted to share a few thoughts.

The Mississippi weather I know

Total flyover state. It’s one of (if not the) poorest and least educated states and leads for most obese, with high rates of heart disease and diabetes. So… a bunch of poor, fat, uneducated people – which of course, is the stereotype anyway.

It’s also been getting scraped with violent weather as Tornado Alley shifts east (some people call it Dixie Alley) and more hurricanes pulverize its shores to literal shreds.

I was in Memphis on the night Katrina hit. And didn’t sleep at all because the air felt so sickeningly bad – just stayed up watching The Weather Channel. Then watched all the images filter in.

Everyone focused on New Orleans, of course. But the storm actually made landfall in Mississippi. And the physical damage along the Mississippi coast was far worse than what happened in New Orleans.

I’ll never forget driving through the state during the weeks after – so many trees turned over and roads blocked for repairs. Things that were there one day were gone the next – homes, businesses, land formations. It was chaos.

Clarksdale Mississippi

The south has its own sort of strange beauty

I also remember the sky turning literally purple a couple of times – and hearing the dead calm give way to train whistle sounds as tornados formed. Nothing will freeze your blood faster (well, except maybe hearing a rattlesnake and then seeing your foot next to it).

One summer, a couple of my high school’s buildings were simply swept away. There one minute, and then completely gone, right down to the studs in the ground.

A new hurricane, but old problems

I tend to watch the weather there because all of my family lives scattered around the area. So of course, with a new hurricane making landfall tonight, I’m hyper aware of what’s going on.

We rarely get national coverage.

We’re “the area between New Orleans and Mobile” for hurricane coverage. The hurricane is beelining to Mississippi, but might graze New Orleans or Mobile.

I know it’s a “small” hurricane – but that hurricane is targeting my home state.

a map of the united states

I mean…

I’m obviously biased. It just seems, time after time, no one wants to mention our state by name. It’s a niche topic – I just wish the focus of stories would shift when we’re obviously the target.

And I bet if it were tracking to Louisiana or Alabama, it would be trending on Twitter right now, with only a few hours left before landfall.

Mississippians are an amazing bunch

You might not know these people were all born in Mississippi:

a statue of a man holding a golf club

Elvis was born in Tupelo

The cultural contributions of Mississippians is immeasurable. And obviously, it has a complicated place in US history.

You’ll probably never go there

And that’s OK. They don’t make it easy to visit. There aren’t any major airports. And if you really wanted to go, you’d have to drive a LOT to get to your destination.

Plus, flights are expensive – and there’s not much to do. It’s not even a particularly beautiful place. There aren’t many cultural happenings – no plays or big concerts, no epicenter of… anything, really.

We are forever driving to Little Rock, or Memphis, or New Orleans, or Birmingham when we want to experience a “big city.”

With costs and time considered, you could visit pretty much anywhere else for the same price (or cheaper!) and spend more time doing cool stuff. So yeah, you should probably do that. But it means you’ll probably never visit my home state. Not that I blame ya – just an observation more than anything.

When I mention I’m from there, nearly everyone says, “I’ve been through there.”

“Did you stop?”

“No… well, for gas.”

But I get it – they’ve kinda set it up that way: to fly over or drive through. It’s got that in common with a lot of middle America.

Clarksdale Mississippi


Still, Mississippi will never have a cool tech tub like Des Moines, a St. Louis or Kansas City like Missouri, or a happening cosmopolitan city like Tennessee with Nashville (and to some degree Memphis and Knoxville). We certainly don’t have a draw like New Orleans or Atlanta. And even Illinois has Chicago and Wisconsin has Milwaukee.

It’s sad in a way, but comforting in another. To know it will likely stay just as it is for a long time coming. But yeah, a travel destination it ain’t. (Yet?)

Bottom line

Mississippi is one of those places that exists outside of time and influence. It’s a strange place. Rural, reliably red, religious.

We never get coverage for much of anything except how backwards, dumb, or fat we are. But there’s a lot of good there – and a lot of good people. I’m thinking of my home state as they prepare to get battered by yet another storm. Seems like there have been so many by now, even in my lifetime.

Tonight I’m thinking of home. My home state is a place with its own unique set of issues. But it’s given me a family and a personal history. I have a huge soft spot for the place.

Most people will never experience it. Admittedly, there’s not much to see or do unless you have a good reason to be there. I’m still sad to see them deal with so much violent weather and so little coverage of it.

Anyway, I’m thinking of Mississippi this evening and will follow the hurricane coverage as it happens. I hate to see places I know get ripped away. I just hope it passes quickly.

Ah man, what a place. Have you been there? Share your memories, impressions!

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Memphis, traveling, and working toward financial independence.

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  1. I’ve been through MIssissippi many times. I miss the old beach front homes of Biloxi prior to Katrina. Jackson isn’t too bad and the airports in Memphis or New Orleans aren’t too hard to reach. I actually I think Mississippi is better than many parts of Alabama. The river casino’s south of Memphis do draw some tourist. You also forget all the great historic sites like Vickburg and the beautiful homes of Natchez. It’s a wonderful place to visit.

    • Thanks for sharing so many great places – I can see them all in my mind’s eye! I always fly into Memphis and head south. And Tunica is actually a HUGE gambling destination – it’s just that folks tend to head right back to Memphis when they’re done.

      And yes, Natchez – I didn’t realize anyone went out their way to visit! Thanks again for sharing, made my night!

  2. Mr. Carter prophesized most of us would be teachers, but most of us just left to make a living somewhere else. As my mother says, Mississippi is a great place to be FROM. I actually told my husband before we moved that I wanted to move somewhere where our town was shown on the weather map (and the movie theater didn’t have tape on the screen!)
    I will be making quite a few calls this morning, too.

    • I think I remember you, Brandie! I would love to connect with you again.

      And yes, it’s a great place to be FROM. I dunno about living there again, though…

      Looks like the storm passed without too much damage. Hope your family was OK!

  3. From Ocean Springs to Olive Branch to Biloxi to Starkville to Gulfport to Laurel, I have been to Mississippi countless times.

    In fact, I have even assisted in the cleanup on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, Harlan. Please read this article…


    …which contains links to seven other articles in the series — as well as plenty of photographs.

    I remember residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast feeling abandoned and forgotten with the media coverage of New Orleans. Many blocks of homes had been completely wiped out because of Hurricane Katrina.

  4. Love your write-up on Mississsippi. Having graduated from Mississippi State, I have strong affection to the State. After many years, I decided to visit the State and my campus last Spring, and was totally delighted to have done that. Our three days in Biloxi were exciting, in spite of the sad memories of two major hurricanes Katrina and Camille everywhere. However, the spirit of reconstruction and resilience of locals is incredible. As far as development, there were several huge car manufacturing plants around Meridian. My campus town of Starkville, although developed, has still an incredible and inviting hospitality.

    Thanks for reminding everyone of this often “forgotten” State and hope that Gordon leaves it alone.

    • That’s awesome, Phil. Glad you went back for a visit all those years later and found it in better shape than you remembered. Here’s hoping they keep up the progress – and that other discover the many hidden gems in Mississippi. <3

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