You’ve heard the chant of Tiger Stadium:
We decided this year we needed to get back to basics and begin to look around for a more down to earth football team where football was more community, honor, pride and sportsmanship. So, bye-bye Big Business College Football LSU (we sold our season tickets) and enter the Itawamba Community College Indians from Fulton, MS. A friend is the Offensive Coordinator for the Itawamba Indians and so we hitched up Cajunville and headed north to the matchup between the Indians and the Pearl River Community College Wildcats in Poplarville, MS.
Enter our first drama of the trip — reservations at a Passport America RV Campground in Poplarville. We pulled into the Haas-Cienda Ranch and RV Park, we looked around, and you get that feeling… OK, listen to your gut, but don’t jump to conclusions. After speaking with the attendant and a quick tour of mostly permanent residents and a trash pile the size of a house, when we rounded the bend at the end of the ride around, we headed for the exit gate and the closest truck stop to regroup, get a little lunch and do a little research. After a few phone calls we pulled into Clearwater RV Park in Carriere, MS, just south of Poplarville. Forgive us if we’re a little gun shy by now but the proof is in the pudding, not to worry and what a difference – like night and day! We parked by a small pond, with fishing and more welfare ducks, always begging for food, than anyone needs. In the mornings, we watch the sun come up over the pond and in the evenings the water relaxed us after a long day.
No matter our destination, Laurie researches and finds things to do and see in the area. Poplarville was turned upside down and still nothing interesting could be found except the Community College. After a great football game and unfortunately the Indians lost 34-14, research was started for the area around Carriere and Picayune.
Picayune, MS was named by Elia Jane Poitevent Nicholson, owner and publisher of the New Orleans Daily Picayune in the late 1800s. Elia was raised in the area around Picayune and was asked to name the town which was known as Hobolochitto. She chose Picayune, a Spanish coin, and it is the only city in the world to bear this name. Elia Jane was also a poet with the pen name of Pearl Rivers.
During the early days of Picayune, there were immense stands of native loblolly and southern pine causing a timber boom. Once the native timber was depleted, Tung trees were planted with the nuts being harvested for oil, used in furniture finishing. Picayune became the Tung capital of the world. There were over 100,000 acres devoted to Tung orchards. Cattle grazed between the trees to keep excess foliage down. The Tung industry was destroyed by Hurricane Camille in 1969, yet the cattle stayed and are an important part of the local economy.
When the forest was being cut, a number of wood burning gear-drive locomotives were in operation. It is estimated that approximately 4,000 such locomotives were used throughout the south. Picayune has one of the few remaining locomotives – The Shay Locomotive. These engines operated on hundreds of miles of temporary feeder tracks laid out throughout the forest. The locomotives replaced oxen and drawn wagons and were in turn replaced by trucks and improved roads. Two unique features were gear drives instead of piston drives and inverted smokestacks. The smokestacks had a screen cover and were designed to catch sparks and prevent forest fires. The Picayune Shay Locomotive was in operation until approximately 1950.
We always have to intersperse food with our touring and today was no different. We chose Fat Boy’s BBQ for lunch and were not disappointed. A local establishment (aren’t those always the best), the ribs and chicken fell apart. Well worth the stop!
Picayune is also home to the Crosby Arboretum, dedicated to the late L.O. Crosby, Jr, a prominent forestry figure. The Crosby family transformed a strawberry farm into the arboretum and interpretive center for native plants of the Pearl River Drainage Basin. The foundation teamed with Mississippi State University to expand their resources. There are two main walking trails each approximately one mile in length. On our walk we experienced and learned about the Gulf Coast landscape as well as life in the wetland habitats. In addition to the walk, there is the Pinecote Pavilion, a Mississippi Landmark. The Pinecote Pavilion was designed by E. Fay Jones, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. The arboretum has a variety of programs including Wildlife Day, Forge Day, Bug Fest, Plant Sales, and Music Series.
As we left the reception center and headed toward the pavilion, the sounds of blues filled the hot September afternoon. Jesse Robinson and Band (The 500 lb Band) was playing down home blues and jazz classics. It was kind of surreal to round the dirt path and come upon this blues talent rocking on in the middle of the woods. The travesty was that only a handful of people were enjoying these truly great sounds of a traditional blues band. We were lucky enough to spend about an hour immersed in the soul searching sounds whose roots go back to the Mississippi Delta.
Our last stop in the area was for coffee and dessert at Paul’s Pastry Shop. The shop was more like a decadent palace with so many choices and so little time. We finally decided on a Key Lime Petit Four, a Hungarian Walnut Bar, and a cup of coffee and chicory to wash it all down. This was a great end to our adventure.