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August 25, 2018
Greenville, Mississippi: “It’s a sin not to stop and talk to people”

Today was the second port where we diverged from the Mississippi River. Greenville was another victim of the river changing course. Once the highest point on the Mississippi between Vicksburg and Memphis, today Greenville is on the banks of Lake Ferguson.

(Fun fact: Greenville is actually the third city in Mississippi to bear that name.)

We don’t know why we’re stopping in Greenville. There isn’t anything to see here. The highlights on the hop-on hop-off bus are a Hebrew Temple and a casino. The only premium excursion drives you to another city (Indianola) for the B.B. King Museum.

For us, this was another day to ride bicycles. We made another attempt to ride along the levee, and this time the path was paved with asphalt. After two miles the path ended, so we cycled around through town.

Another day to ride bicycles! Frank, the Watchman who checks people in and out at the dock, is impressed with us. He thought we were 10 years younger than we actually are.

Riding on the levee road (Yes, Russell is taking photos from a moving bicycle)

Riding around residential Greenville

The part of Greenville we saw was poor and entirely inhabited by blacks. Multiple families were out having neighborhood barbecues (today was Saturday). Gail is on this adventure to socialize, so she stopped and chatted with the local folks.

Some of the houses we passed

A Greenville neighborhood barbecue… and Gail

One of the locals, Anthony, saw Russell and got very excited. He said there was another Chinese man just across the street. We found it hard to believe there would be a Chinese person living in the middle of a black neighborhood in Mississippi. But sure enough, Rob Chu has been living here for 40 years and runs a small grocery store. He also grows all of his own Chinese produce in a garden behind his store.

Gail and Anthony (flashing “L” for “love”)

The exterior and interior of Robert Chu’s neighborhood store (Rob asked that we not take a photo of him)

Gail saw another man weed-wacking an empty lot, and stopped to chat with him as well. The more we talked to Jesse, the more incredible he became. First we learned he was in construction. Then we learned he taught construction skills to prison convicts. Then we learned he was an attorney for decades. Then we learned he was appointed as a judge for decades after that.

Jesse was a friendly and humble man. He said that “in Greenville, it’s a sin not to stop and talk to people.” He also mused that the town used to be even friendlier before the current political situation.

Jesse and Gail

At Lake Ferguson, there was a speed boat drag racing fundraiser for the local police. A lot of well-off white folks came with their expensive speed boats. And there we were, a lot of well-off white folks arriving on a steamboat.

And yet, we found the locals to be incredibly friendly, waving at us wherever we rode by. With only a half-day in a town with nothing to see, we greatly enjoyed meeting the warm and welcoming inhabitants of Greenville.

Gail on the shore (boat ramp, actually) of Lake Ferguson


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