It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton and my brother was balin’ hay
Nothing captures the mood of a place — the heat that penetrates, the dust, the humidity — like the Ode to Billie Joe:
Although Ms. Gentry was born in nearby Chickasaw County, the song has long been associated with Greenwood, where the Tallahatchie and Yalobusha come together to form the Yazoo. It’s where she started school and learned to play a variety of musical instruments. As an aside, “Greenwood” doesn’t appear in the lyrics — the only actual places mentioned are Tupelo and the “Carroll County picture show,” neither of which are in the Delta.
To get to the point, Greenwood is also where my wife, Ginger, was born. So the song has always had a lot of significance to us.
If you’ve never been to the Mississippi Delta, it’s worth a trip. Home of the Delta Blues, of course, and one of those supernatural places where, to quote Faulkner, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”