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Posts Tagged ‘Yazoo City’

YazooCity

Yazoo City— can you even say the name without smiling?  Yazoo City is not really a town you go out of your way to visit—unless you know the work of writer Willie Morris (1934-1999). That’s what caused me to make a slight detour there Sunday afternoon. Yazoo City is located about an hour’s drive north west from the Mississippi state capital of Jackson. It’s not really convenient to I-20 and I-55. Though it has been called “The gateway to the Delta,” so it is one of the ways you can get to the famed Highway 61.

“Its name is Yazoo City, from the Yazoo Rover which flows by it—a muddy winding stream that takes in the Tallahatchie, the Sunflower, and countless other smaller creeks and river before it finally empties itself into the Mississippi a few miles north of Vicksburg. ‘Yazoo,’ far from being the funny name that many think it, always meant something a little dark and crazy for me. It is an old Indian name that means ‘Death’ or Waters of the Dead,’ for the the Indians who once loved here as fighters and hunters had died of some strange and dreadful disease. Stephen Forster at first meant his song to be ‘Way Down Upon the Yazoo River,’ but he found out the meaning of the word and felt he had been tricked. Years later when I left to go to college, I was called ‘Yazoo’ —such was the spell the very name had on you long after you left it, for its people have always been given to somber fancies and the most peculiar fears and hallucinations.”
Willie Morris
Yazoo: Integration in a Deep-Southern Town

Some of the others book by Morris include My Mississippi,  The Ghost of Medgar Evans, A Tale of Race, Murder, Mississippi, and Hollywood, and The Courting of Marcus Dupree. But the book and/or movie that people are most familar with is My Dog Skip. I love that movie. It stars a young Frankie Muniz, Kevin Bacon, Diane Lane—and a couple dogs playing Skip. The script was written by Gail Gilchriest (based on Morris’ book) and directed by Jay Russell.

Yazoo City today doesn’t look much like the Yazoo City in the film which is set in the 1940s. I was only in town long enough to take a few photos, but it appears its former glory has departed. But they’re working on it. And people have been living there since the 1600s, and the area has survived floods, tornados, a yellow fever epidemic, and the town being burned by Union troops during the Civil War—so I imagine the small town will endure. And more stories will be told. Commedian Jerry Clower often made mention of Yahoo City where in once lived. One of his albums was even called From Yazoo City—Mississippi Talkin.’

P.S. The movie Miss Firecracker was shot in Yazoo City, and Yazoo City also gets a mentioned in both O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Crossroads.

Scott W. Smith

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