Trashy Mississippi

CATEGORY: Letters

AUTHOR: JOER

Trashy Mississippi

shames its citizens

Over the Christmas holidays I had relatives visiting from the states of Washington, Florida and Alabama. These particular members of my family have a curious hobby: they plan to visit the highest geographical points in each of the 50 states. They have seen around 30 so far and decided to make Mississippi their next stop, since they were here for Christmas.

Mississippi’s highest geographical point is located atop Woodall Mountain in Tishomingo County. It is an impressive height by Mississippi standards, towering some 806 feet above sea level. That does not sound very high, but stick it in the Delta and it may as well be Everest.

My supposition was that we would drive up Woodall Mountain and gaze down at the three states beneath us with a quiet appreciation. Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee are each viewable from the top of Woodall Mountain.

When we reached the top of the mountain, I was sorely disappointed. Instead of noticing the green and untouched beauty of our surroundings, we were appalled to find beer bottles and cans strewn in every imaginable direction, not to mention countless other types of garbage. Instead of getting to show my pride in our state, I subjected my relatives to utter ugliness, not to mention the fact that nowhere on the mountain was it designated as the highest point in Mississippi. A sign had been erected apparently, but destroyed beyond recognition by pitiful vandals probably in a whiskey-soaked night of teenage angst.

So we spent our hour atop Mississippi’s highest point cleaning up the place. We filled the back of my truck full of various sorts of rubbish. Glad I had enough room; we needed every inch.

It took us two hours to drive from my parent’s home in West Point to the site. And I spent the two-hour drive back apologizing to my relatives that I had not only wasted their day by driving to pick up trash, but I apologized for my state in its careless disregard for such a noteworthy place.

I am one of the growing few twenty-somethings who elect to stay in Mississippi, and I have no intention to leave. I find myself constantly defending this state I love so dearly. I never grow tired of telling both Mississippians and non- that this is a state of undeniable character, rich beauty and the primary contributor to American culture as we know it today. And I never will.

I wish, however, that we could get at least a tenth of our 2.6 million people to feel the same way. I hope this letter will stir not only the Board of Supervisors of Tishomingo County (or other appropriate powers-that-be in Tishomingo County) but also Mississippians in every county.

How poorly does it reflect on Mississippi when out-of-state visitors are taken to her highest point only to have to clean up piles of trash?

I am forwarding copies of this letter to various officials statewide. I am also including a photograph of my relatives and me and a small sample of fruits of our trash-collecting labor. Picking up a few beer bottles in the woods on a Saturday didn’t bother me that much. But the symbolic ramifications of having to do so is something I hope somebody somewhere will believe deserves attention.

Various Mississippi native celebrities have been doing the “Mississippi: Litter Free by 2003″ campaign for some time. I was at Mississippi’s highest point and could look down and see we have a long way to go. Why not start with Woodall Mountain?

Whit Waide

Oxford