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Episode #21008

Rocky Springs

Air date 02/18/10 | CC
Host: Walt Grayson

Mississippi Roads travels down the Natchez Trace to the ghost town of Rocky Springs.  While in the area we tour the Grand Gulf Military Park, which is dedicated to preserving the memory of that once prominent town and the Civil War battle that took place there.  We also explore the ruins of Windsor and a special connection shared between two local men.  James “Super Chikan” Johnson belts out the blues while picking his custom guitars and a Bolton man’s lack of sight hasn’t curbed his zest for life.

 

 

James “Super Chikan” Johnson
James “Super Chikan” Johnson is described by his friends as “the real deal.” He’s a well known blues musician and entertainer but he’s just as well known as a true folk artist from the handmade guitars he creates in his shop behind his house in Clarksdale.

Those guitars, or “Chikanars,” as James likes to call them, are made from bits and pieces of old ceiling fans, cigar boxes and even some old army gas cans. Mr. Johnson provides the imagination. The final result is true folk art. Mr. Johnson’s true gift is to be able to see the art that is contained in that “junk.”

Many of these one of a kind guitars have sold for quite a large sum of money and in 2008, Super Chikan even received a Governor’s Arts Award for his work. To Super Chikan, it’s nice to receive all these accolades but to him the most important thing of all is to share the music and the art he creates with others.

Reverend Eric Pridmore
If you agree with the expression, “attitude is everything,” you should meet Reverend Eric Pridmore. He’s a Religious studies teacher at Hinds Community College in Raymond, a husband, a father of two and he’s legally blind.

Despite having Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease, Eric has become an ordained minister and, in May of 2010, he received his P.H.D. Instead of focusing on all the things he cannot do, Eric concentrates his efforts on the things he can accomplish.  

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Rocky Springs
The town of Rocky Springs was established along the Old Natchez Trace in the late 1700’s. The natural spring flowing through the area was the initial attraction and the town soon prospered with several stores, a tavern, a church and a number of large homes. In 1860, the thriving community reached its maximum population of 2,600 residents. A rusted out safe and a few cisterns are the only artifacts that remain of the once thriving town of Rocky Springs. The decline of Rocky Springs began during the Civil War. Then, in 1878, the town was struck by Yellow Fever. In the early 1900's, the boll weevil destroyed most of the cotton crop and one hundred years of poor land management resulted in the erosion of the rich soft soil in the area. In 1930 the final store in this once thriving town closed up shop signaling an end to Rocky Springs.

Ruins of Windsor
The stately columns of the Ruins of Windsor have inspired and awed people from Eudora Welty as she photographed the place in her WPA years, to Elizabeth Taylor as she surveyed the ruins in her role in the movie “Raintree County.”  But the effect the ruins have had on two Port Gibson men may be the most interesting ever. Their identical reactions to the place have bonded them as fast friends for life.  

Grand Gulf Military Park
Grand Gulf Military Park is dedicated to preserving the memory of the once prominent town of Grand Gulf and the Civil War battle that took place there. Some of Mississippi’s grandest towns have all but vanished over time.  Some remain in memory only. A few may still have a cemetery or a church left to remind us that there was once much more to the place. Grand Gulf is one such town, and but for the persistence of a few people in Claiborne County, what little is left of it may have disappeared years ago. 

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