Quote of the Day:
“The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” William Faulkner
It’s probably been fifteen years or more since TB first read about the Mississippi ghost town, Rodney. I even tried to go find it once, before the iphone-gps era began, and failed. In fact I damn near failed last week with the gps in hand. A planned thirty minute detour turned in to a couple of hours, but we finally found the place. It was-almost-all I’d hoped for. The town was indeed there, the clapboard Baptist church and the Presbyterian brick church with a Union gunboat cannonball lodged in its face, a couple of decaying homes and several crumbling commercial buildings, the cemetery on the heavily shaded hill, evermore the physical home for the spirits of Rodney. It was like going back in time, intruding silently and respectfully upon a scene from a bygone era. There was only one problem. Noise. A dog began yapping at us from clear across town, piercing the reverential, isolated atmosphere of discovery. Moments later a tractor fired up, it’s motor painfully loud in comparison with the stillness of our arrival, now lost. As ghost towns go, there were suddenly way too damn many living beings around for my taste.
It turns out Rodney isn’t now and apparently never has been completely abandoned. Internet accounts mention an old spinster who never left and who at least as recently as the 2000’s loved to meet explorers in town and regale them with tales of her lost city. Whether she yet remains I do not know, but someone with a small herd of cattle and a large fleet of pickup trucks and one loud-ass dog does indeed live at the edge of town. I could abide this intrusion into my idyllic vision of the perfect Mississippi ghost town, but the other interlopers were worse, for they are changing the place with their infernal racket. A hunting club has taken up residence on the north side of town, bringing tractors, trailers and congestion to my erstwhile abandoned historical curiosity. They even closed ingress to Rodney from the only way I could find in there via internet search, though my trusty gps easily found another route.
Rodney, I learned from the eight historical markers surrounding the brick church, was once perched above the Mississippi River, which explains how that cannonball could’ve made it, since the river now flows miles away. This also explains why the town dried up. They lost the river and then the railroad went through Fayette. The signs, and the historical markers for that matter, also told me that Rodney was once a town of consequence. Located north of Natchez and south of Port Gibson, it lies in the geographical center of the area that made antebellum Mississippi wealthy and influential through slave-labor based agriculture. Only a few miles away is the famed Windsor ruins, once among the grandest of American castles. Rodney was once a town of such notability that when President Zachary Taylor learned of his election as President of the United States, he happened to be sitting in a Rodney parlor.
If you have ever seen the movie “Big Fish” there is a scene with a lost village that comes immediately to mind when you get to Rodney. A whole network of city streets is still identifiable, though they are now only grassy pathways. The Presbyterian church could still be made usable, if anyone wanted it to be. The Baptist church and even a couple of the houses could still be saved. I hope they are too, but never for any practical purpose. Rodney is a beautiful place, still mostly empty, and the right person or group with a little imagination and a lot of money could turn the place into our own little version of Williamsburg. But closer to real. And without paving the roads leading in. Thus allowing the ghosts to linger, if they like, still near enough to sense. At least, to sense after the dog is fed and the tractor shuts down.