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March 2005

On the Porch
by: C. Richard Cotton

Home. I don’t ever think much about the concept of home; most people probably don’t either.
     A couple weeks ago, I spent a long, long day in the Mississippi Delta shooting photographs and conducting interviews for a story about folks there for an Atlanta-area newspaper. It’s one of the poorest parts of the country – always has been.
Part of the story was about the number of people who have moved away from the Delta to find jobs. The phenomenon is similar to the exodus of Delta people in the middle of the last century to cities like Chicago and Detroit. It’s happening again.
But what is also happening is all Delta folks aren’t leaving. They’re staying and working to save their towns, their homes. It would take deep pockets to revive some of those towns but people are trying. Moving to greener pastures would, indeed, be an easy solution, an alternative one can hardly blame someone for choosing.

     I asked the mayor of the tiny Delta village of Mayersville, whose husband recently lost his job when the plant where he worked for nearly two decades closed its doors, if she might end up moving away. “This is a safe haven, I was born and raised here and I can’t picture myself raising my three children anywhere else,” Mayor Linda Short declared.
     And I got to wondering about that, the concept of home. Raised in a military family, we moved often and almost always great distances, once even across the Atlantic Ocean and then back across a few years later. Moving was always part of my life; we never unpacked everything.
     It was a major part of my childhood and remained so until well into adulthood. I moved often and usually great distances.

     Home was wherever I was.
     And home was nowhere.

     Sure, I’ve left places where I would have rather stayed – Denmark, San Francisco, Colorado – but it wasn’t because they elicited in me any great feelings of being rooted. They were pleasant, fine, beautiful places, forever burned in my mind as places to where I’d gladly return.
Or not. Sure, I could make a home in any one of them or elsewhere but it wouldn’t be home. My home is in Saltillo with my wife Terri. But, if times got tough enough, we could pull up stakes and seek opportunity in places with different scenery.
Which brings me back to the Delta, where people are in a daily struggle to make ends meet and to bring some prosperity to their hometowns. Their efforts are worth noting, their quests are noble.
They have a home, where they were born, where they were raised, where they raised their own children and where they want to die. They know where they want to be buried and who will be near them when that time comes.

     It doesn’t get anymore basic than that.