Those railroad tracks mark the location of probably the most important spot in bluesdom--Where the Southern Crosses the Dawg.
When W.C. Handy heard the "first" blues song in the Tutwiler train station, the unknown singer was singing about that spot in Moorhead.|
The Southern Line runs east to west and is now the C & G Line. When I visited that historic spot late one afternoon in 1995, a C & G freight train roared by me on its way from Greenville to Columbus, Mississippi. I am perhaps the only person who witnessed that 100th anniversary event, at least the only person aware of its significance.
The Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Line, affectionately know as the "Yellow Dawg" or simply the "Dawg," ran north to south. Alas, railroad officials with no love of history or cool names moved that line fifteen miles eastward to Greenwood, Mississippi, and renamed it the Illinois Central. To me it is almost sacrilegious--the Yellow Dawg Line with a Yankee name.
Here's a photo, taken in 1995, of the exact spot Where the Southern Crosses the Dawg. The camera is facing north and looking up the remaining maybe 600 feet of northbound Yellow Dawg tracks. There's a Baptist church smack dab in the middle of the tracks. You can barely see it in the photo.
Yes, I think that's kind of strange. Why a church? Why not a garage? Do you reckon that old religion/devil music dichotomy/controversy is at work?
When I took this photo, I was standing in the middle of the crossing and looking down the southbound Yellow Dawg tracks. They end about 100 feet from the crossing, just beyond that large shadow. Look closely at the object in the edge of the clearing to the left of the tracks. It's a dog. But it's more than just a dog. It's a yellow dog. To my astonishment, no more than 5 seconds after I took this picture, that yellow dog crossed the Yellow Dawg!
I thought that was a little eerie. Still do.
Well, y'all, hang on to your hats because Junior's about to climb on his soap box again.
Take a look at this picture of a huge sign at the front door of Moorhead, Mississippi.
I never heard of Johnny Russell. Have you?
If you're traveling Highway 82 across the great state of Mississippi, you can't help but see this sign when you reach Highway 3 and the turn-off to Moorhead. Notice the neatly trimmed hedge. Notice the spotlights.
At the back door of Moorhead there's another sign located where Highway 3 meets the city limits. To read that small and faded sign, you have to get out of your car and walk up to it. It informs the local farmers--with good eyes and legs-- that Moorhead is the fabled location of Where the Southern Crosses the Dawg.
I'm not a tourism expert, but I believe most country music tourists travel to Branson, Missouri, and Nashville, Tennessee, and not across the Delta. I do know for a fact that, every year, several hundred thousand blues fans attend various blues festivals near Moorhead. I can't estimate how many of those thousands of blues fan/tourists travel Highway 82, but I can guarantee you this: If that huge sign at Moorhead's front door read LOCATION OF WHERE THE SOUTHERN CROSSES THE DAWG, lots more tourists would visit Moorhead.
The problem is what I call "white column mentality." In other words, city fathers and travel and tourism agencies with a "our columns are bigger and whiter than yours" mentality. They seem to think there isn't a soul in the world with an interest in the other Delta culture, the black one.
I'm reminded of an incident on the Louisiana side of the Delta. An old and rich white man told me this about an old and poor black man: "Who'd want to listen to that old n____r twang his guitar?"