Rivers and remembrance –

We returned to San Antonio yesterday after a road trip to the past. My husband’s family is from East Texas and mine is from Louisiana and Mississippi. We visited family (and family cemeteries) in all three states, and reconnected with our roots. On the trip, I came to realize how rivers connect all my memories of childhood.

The Ouachita River near flood stage, March 11, 2018

In Louisiana, we walked along the Ouachita River which flowed near my maternal  grandparents’ farm near West Monroe. That river provided energy and materials for the paper mill, which is still in production. The distinct stinky odor of paper production took me right back to nostalgia-land! Anyone ever smelled a paper mill? You don’t forget it!

My father’s family roots run deep in the Mississippi Delta on the Yazoo River. He and his brother were raised in the town of Itta Bena near Greenwood. On Tuesday, we visited the family cemetery there, which is filled with Haleys and Reeses and Lees, all family names (my middle name is Rees and my maiden name is Haley).

Family graves near the Yazoo River

My cousin, Jesse Lee (“Skip”) Haley, came with us to tell us about the “Who’s-Who” in the Itta Bena Cemetery. One of the older graves in the cemetery is that of Ransom Reese, who was in the Infantry in the Civil War. I love his name.

The cemetery is bordered by the Yazoo River, which runs along the edge of Itta Bena. Incidentally, the crossroad near Itta Bena is supposedly where famed blues musician Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil.

Below is a photo of my father and mother in 1943, fishing just across the street from my paternal grandfather’s house on the riverbank near the cemetery. It was easy to imagine them there. There is a strange nostalgic peace in the Delta that I’ve never encountered anywhere else.

My parents fishing on the riverbank in Itta Bena

This beautiful, sorrowful angel was on the back side of the cemetery close to the river.

Angel in Itta Bena Cemetery, Mississippi

After all the rivers and memories, we went down to the biggest river of all, the Mississippi, to spend a couple of days in New Orleans. As usual, I visited galleries to see what local artists were up too.

They, too, seemed influenced by the rivers of the South. There was a wonderful show at the Degas Gallery on Julia Street by Lafayette artist Kelli Kaufman. She works in oil and cold wax.

Kelli Kaufman, To the Wetlands, 60×40″

I also found some great clay assemblages at the Ariodante Fine Crafts Gallery on Julia Street created by Nancy Susanek. This is called a Story Box – I brought it home with me to remind me of the trip and all the river stories that I learned along the way.

It’s good to be back home again to my favorite river – the one that runs through beautiful San Antonio.  I hope you get the chance to visit your own past – it’s an important journey. Thanks for letting me share!

15 thoughts on “Rivers and remembrance –

  1. Roots, roots, roots.
    Either you are starved to know about them or not.
    I share the never ending joy of digging Roots with you, Lyn.
    Thanks for taking us with you and Welcome Home!Laura

  2. You covered a lot of ground and water on this trip. Sounds like it will influence your work. Loved hearing about yourtrip, i love cemetary exploration.

  3. What a wonderful idea: a story box! Thanks for this lovely description of your trip, Lyn. I do lots of journeys to reconnect with the ancestors, too…

  4. I, too, grew up with the nasty smell of a paper mills in upstate NY. Water from the Hudson River was used in production.

  5. I went to college in Monroe and student taught at West Monroe HS. When the wind shifted, the rotten egg smell of the paper mill would waft through the open windows – the schools were not air conditioned then. My husband’s family still lives south of WM, and we own a portion of the family homestead there. We drive by the mill at least once every time we’re there.

    My husband’s family also came west by way of Mississippi, settling near Natchez and running a ferry across the river. The town where they lived was once known as Thompson’s Corner. He travels over there every spring to clean out the old family cemetery.

    Thank you for your lovely travelogue.

  6. Beautiful trip pictures, Lyn. Thank you for sharing what seems like a peaceful experience. I, too, loved the story box image.

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