Down on the Farm

We were happy have a sunny day and to be able to reach both of our goals on Saturday: a visit to the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, and a short bike ride along what appears to be the only stretch of actual bike path along Natchez Trace.

We started the day with scrambled eggs and toast. Since we were staying in an extended-stay type hotel, we were able to cook for ourselves for a couple of days again. That was nice.

After breakfast, while not feeling at all rushed, we headed out. The museum was supposed to be near to our hotel, which ended up being fairly well located for all of the day’s outings.

It was a little unclear if we were in the right place at first. The entrance to the parking lot for the museum takes you into what looks like the entry to a high school and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. It turns out that the entrance to the museum property is at the end of the parking lot, next to the hall of fame, except a construction crew that is working on the hall of fame property knocked the sign down, and it’s now resting against the construction fence! After a while we figured out where we going and set off to see the exhibits. I need to mention here that the staff at the museum entrance were quite lovely, and not just because they gave us advice about places to check out along the Trace, including insisting that we check out the food at the Council House Cafe at French Camp.

The museum has many areas to it. We started our tour with the Fortenberry-Parkman homestead. This is a collection of buildings that were relocated to the museum from Jefferson Davis County in 1981.

It’s actually a farm that was moved pretty much intact from its original site. The entire area of the homestead contained interpretive signs, although some of them were a bit worn and hard to read.

Next to this section is small town Mississippi, which is a reproduction of some of the key components of a small town, including a doctor’s office, gas station, cotton gin, blacksmiths shop, and a general store that is open for overpriced snacks and tchochkes but also displays some of the things that would typically have been sold in a general store back when towns only had one store.

There were two other sections of the museum that we were interested in seeing after this, exhibits of the main building, and the Fitzgerald Collection. We decided to take it in turns to look at these areas so that one of us could stay with Rebbe instead of leaving him alone the whole time.

Angie went first, and when she came back didn’t say much because she wanted me to form my own impressions.

When I went over I started with the exhibit hall, thinking I was saving the best for last, based on the enthusiasm the staff used to talk about the collection. The exhibit hall was pretty huge and covered the evolution of agriculture in the state and how different stages of technological evolution impacted agriculture. One thing that was very fascinating too in the exhibit hall was a massive model railway system. Not sure why it was there but it took up a lot of space.

Again, we saw the impact of unparalleled growth and greed resulting in the abandonment of sound conservation methods and the deterioration of farmlands as a result. The other thing I noticed was that the descriptions were written from a different perspective than those at the memorial park yesterday. My first clue was a caption that talked about the war between the States, which, in case you didn’t know, is what people in the South tend to call the Civil War. Angie also drew my attention to the fact that slavery was presented in, shall we say, a very gentle way, in comparison to other places we’ve read about it?

I moved on to the Fitzgerald Collection. This had been talked up by the women at the front desk so I was expecting great things. The collection was the private collection of a couple and is focused on a native artifact collection and many tools and other items from country life. I have to say I was pretty disappointed. Most of the artifacts were arrowheads and there was no systematic information about it. I guess the best I could say is that I didn’t get it.

After lunch, Angie and I were able to take a ride. When we pulled off the Trace at the currently-closed Jackson information cabin on Friday, we noticed that there seemed to be a bike path there. Angie researched it, and found that this section of the Trace is paralleled by a multi-use trail. It seems that a 5-mile stretch of the parkway near Ridgeland gets very heavy motor vehicle traffic, so the city built the path. Apparently, the National Park Service has also stepped up and added some connecting trail going back to the south for a few miles, though we didn’t notice that bit as we were driving along. We started the ride by the information cabin and rode north as far as the Ross R. Barnett Reservoir overlook, which is where the trail ends. 

The ride was actually a bit climb-y compared to some of the rides we’ve done lately, and I definitely got my heart rate up a bit. 

I’ve heard that the Trace north of us is even more rolling, so I’m a bit disappointed we probably won’t get to ride any of it due to impending wet weather. It wasn’t as long a ride as we might have liked but it was a good workout and very pretty. It was also great to see so many people out enjoying the path and the nice weather.

We finished the day with a homemade dinner, making one of the one-pot recipes we had been looking at for while we were camping. 

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