Another stolen summer is drawing to a close for me. Back in England severe rains are causing floods and in just a few days I’ll be back there splashing around with everyone else. The prospect of going home to that doesn’t excite me, so to see Mississippi’s State sign telling me that “It’s like coming home” isn’t a filling me with excitement. But you know what they say about all good things…

While Hurricane Katrina might have first brought me to this part of America, I didn’t need anyone to twist my arm to make me return. The welcome here is as warm as the Gulf Coast breeze, and little towns like Bay St Louis feel like a place anyone might be happy to make home. This isn’t big city America relentlessly chasing the holy dollar, this is the ‘Deep South.’

Previous visits here have always been fun but this time Susan, my friend and host in this part of America, wanted me to have a more ‘eclectic experience’ of her home state. She put it somewhat differently than that, but when plans involve sampling some Moonshine, eating deep fried shrimp, and visiting a bar where a full set of teeth might well set you apart from the regular patrons, you know things are going to be more Dixie than Disney.

A weekend flea market provided me with a few opportunities to photograph another side of America. Long before eBay this was the kind of place where you could see first hand that one mans junk was another mans treasure. This is perhaps eBay for people who like to walk, fleaBay if you will.

I would imagine that the kind of person who buys a gold painted sculpture of an African American couple might also be pleased to find a second hand copy of ‘Love and Sex’ at the same stall where a lady is also selling old curtains and the kind of jeans that old people pull up over their bellies.

After ‘fleaBay’ another stop on this ‘eclectic’ tour had to be a bar in Kiln, Mississippi, called ‘The Broke Spoke.’ I can’t say I’ve visited many bars where the front door doubles as the guest book with scrawls like, “Two naked bikers were here 08/08,” and “Tammy K heart’s Jascon C. Always ‘n’ forever” and with that introduction I felt sure the bar would live up to it’s colorful reputation.

Inside bras hung from the ceiling and every inch of the place was covered in yet more scrawls, many written in honor of a guy called Brett. I assumed that Brett was perhaps the owner and quite possible the guy behind the bar who served us beer and threw a packet of matches at me (a traditional welcome perhaps), but it turns out that the Brett everyone writes messages to is in actual fact a footballer named Brett Favre who was raised in Kiln and apparently used to frequent the bar.

I’ll confess that, being an Englishman, I had never heard of Brett Favre, but for the sake of the locals and for my own personal safety I faked realisation when the patrons told he who he was. “Oh yes, Brett Favre. Yes of course I’ve heard of Brett Favre. I mean c’mon, who hasn’t heard of Brett Favre right?”

It doesn’t appear that the Broke Spoke have a website I can link to, but there are a few reviews online offering differing views about the place. “I’ve been there and loved it for the re-open and there are good people and bad one just like there is everywhere. So either you like it of you don’t.” Wrote Brandie from Chickamauga, Georgia. She added “My name’s on the wall… and my bra is hangin’ too.”

“I’ve been to the Spoke, but it is not a place for civilized people. If you have all of your teeth, or are planning on keeping them, you will not fit in there.” Wrote one reviewer who sheepishly chose to remain anonymous.

Of course, we had a great time. We drank a few beers, played a few rounds of pool, chatted with the locals, and listened to their attempts at mimicking my English accent. In the end we probably left before things got too wild. My only regret was that I didn’t ask for a pen to sign the guestbook door on my way out, ah well, maybe next time.

And so my stolen summer comes to an end. Tomorrow I’ll be flying east and back into the clutches of the coming English winter. My blood has again been warmed by this American adventure that hasn’t stop here, it’s merely paused until the next time.

Return to Waveland
Here’s to you Mr Voda
Out there
Mr Blue Sky
A town called Waveland
Mission to the town that vanished
Mississippi here I come
A town called Waveland