It must go back to the whole em-eye-crooked letter-crooked letter-eye thing. That's certainly memorable.
Next, I'd have to say the Interstate rest stops made the most lasting impression. They were fancy all-brick affairs, very welcoming indeed. In my memory, there were antiques in these roadside attractions and my parents noted the paradox of Mississippi's poverty and this splendor by the highway.
Finally, for childhood impressions, were the roads themselves. Some landscapes and the roads through them are starkly and immediately recognizable. The pine-lined distinctively brown chip seal asphalt of Mississippi’s portion of Interstate 55 is one. On the way to New Orleans I recall marveling at the long stretches of macadam to the horizon in a tunnel of towering trees. This was Mississippi.
The more I read, the more Mississippi appeared. Shelby Foote – his narrative histories of the Civil War, but his fiction as well – Eudora Welty, William Faulkner. Mississippi was brutal and brutalized, rich in history, poor in resources.
Jackson, Biloxi, Tupelo, Vicksburg, Oxford, Tunica, Pass Christian, Gulf Shores. All of these names are evocative of extremes and as rich in meaning as the acts of some are bereft of humanity.
We’re going to roll through this Mississippi of my mind, my memory, and my imagination and see how it compares to what’s there on the ground beneath our tires. The only thing for it is to pedal on.