Delta Ramble

Don and I went on the AHPA Delta Ramble the end of March, and then I spent a while thinking I couldn’t upload photos so an entry about the trip was just frustrating. Now that we’re about to do two (!) house walks this weekend, I wanted to get this entry out of inventory.

Neither of us had been to the Delta in years. In 1993, I stopped in Cotton Plant, AR and did some antiquing, while on my way from Raleigh to Chicago via Magnolia, AR, but hadn’t been back, except to drive I-40 to Memphis after my grandmother’s memorial service. (Considerably cheaper to fly Chicago to Memphis than Little Rock that trip.) Don has been to Memphis (to see Graceland), but never been on the Arkansas side of the Delta.

The stretch of I-40 between Memphis and Little Rock is supposed to have the highest ratio of trucks to cars in the country, and you could feel it. The interstate felt like a washboarded gravel road. The water was (and is) still high in the White and the Mississippi. Nobody knows when it will recede.

Despite the rain, we had a great time, visiting the train depot in Brinkley (now the Central Delta Depot Museum and one of the last examples of a “union” station” in Arkansas), eating barbecue from Shadden’s Grocery* in Marvel, touring Helena, and seeing a great Italianate, Palmer’s Folly, out in the wilds near Blackton.

shaddens-bbq-marvel-ar.jpg helena-ar-cemetery.jpg palmers-folly-through-the-bus-window.jpg

We went to the Louisiana Purchase State Park and squished our way across 950 feet of board walk through a swamp to see a granite stone marking the site where the 5th Principle Meridian and a baseline intersected. This point was the basis for the surveys of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and part of South Dakota. The actual site was ignored or lost from 1815 until the 1920s when two witness trees were found, which pointed the way to this swamp.


In Helena, we visited the Delta Cultural Center, the Moore-Hornor House, the cemetery, and shopped and toured Cherry Street (more architectural salvage — arts & crafts sconces for outside). We had a great dinner in the Pillow-Thompson House.

My camera seems to have focused on floors and finishes. I was especially excited to discover circle tiles. (Not hex, although the grout makes them look like hex.) I saw some in the Washington County [AR] courthouse, and have never seen them anywhere else. Until now. Aren’t they great? Anybody know where I can get some?




(OK, those last two are square tiles, but I like them, too.)

* Shadden’s was reviewed by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette** last spring, as part of a barbecue road trip through the Arkansas Delta. Don and I thought then it would be neat to go out that way, but we hadn’t yet. Apparently, Shadden’s is famous even farther afield since an Austin columnist knows its barbecue. And John T. Edge does, too. The internet is an interesting place, where you learn about the Southern Foodways Alliance in Oxford, MS just by following links from one place to another. (The SFA is hosting a field trip to Chicago to showcase Southern Food “up south.” Ever hear of a mother-in-law sandwich? Me, neither. And I lived in Chicago thirteen years. It seems to be a tamale in a hot dog bun, and part of Southern Food up south.)

**The Dem Gaz story doesn’t seem to be online, but this is a related piece. Note that there is a recipe for Shadden’s sauce. It reminds me that I still need to do another entry about The Band. Maybe I’ll save that for another day.

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One Response to “Delta Ramble”

  1. Lisa says:

    I just figured out what these round tiles are called: penny round tiles. (I was watching Divine Design and there they were.)

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