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From 'North Toward Home' by Willie Morris

By Bluestalking @Bluestalking


"Its name was Yazoo City, from the river that flows by it from farther up in the delta - a muddy winding stream that takes in the Tallahatchie, the Sunflower, and God knows how many less ambitious creeks and rivers in its southward course before it empties itself into the greater River a few miles north of Vicksburg. "Yazoo," far from being the ludicrous name others would take it, always meant for me something dark, a little blood-crazy and violent. It is, in fact, an old Indian name that means "Death," or "waters of the dead"; the Indians who once inhabited the region as fighters and hunters had died by the scores of some horrible disease. Stephen Foster at first meant his song to be "Way Down Upon the Yazoo River," but it was rumored he found out about the meaning of the word, and felt he had been tricked. Hence the town was "death city" to its detractors, and to my contemporaries when I left the place later for college, I was called "Yazoo," such was the spell the very name exerted on you long after you had left it. When the Greyhound out of Jackson stops at some dilapidated grocery store covered with patent medicine posters to pick up a few Negroes, or a solitary traveler waving a white handkerchief in the middle of nowhere, the driver will ask "Where to?" and the passenger will say "Yazoo," with the accent on the last syllable, rich and bass like a quick rumble of thunder."

- Willie Morris, North Toward Home



Highway 49 - Jackson to Yazoo City, MS



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