Clinic Stories

Neshoba County (Part I)

Neshoba County rests in northeastern Mississippi. It is rural and poor, even by Mississippi standards, with Philadelphia, population 7300 its largest city and county seat. The county is roughly one-third white, one-third black and one-third Choctaw Indian. While working in the poultry industry I had many occasions to visit the local chicken farms contracted to Marshall Durbin Poultry Company.

On my first trip to Neshoba County, I rode from farm to farm with two company employees and one of our company sales reps, Rusty Wood, whose family owned 800 acres on the Alabama River near Selma, AL, the remains of a 50,000 acre antebellum plantation. As we neared lunch time, they discussed where we should eat. The choices were not abundant but “the old house” was mentioned, then rejected for being too crowded. I interjected that popular usually means good, and off we went. We parked along with a dozen other cars on the front lawn of a home that bore no resemblance to a restaurant, not even a sign. Indeed it was a home, with the family cooking in the kitchen and tables scattered throughout the living, dining and family rooms. Family photos lined the walls. Food was placed in foil trays, fresh and steaming, next to the kitchen. Each person walked in, filled their plate and sat down where there was an available seat. The four of us wound up at three different tables and I sat at a table with ten chairs and nine strangers. Drinks and desserts were on the table and replaced frequently. The Old House was open only for lunch, five days a week, with a different entrée each day of the week, in an unchanged sequence for over 25 years.

When we left, the owners were still cooking in the kitchen, except for an occasional trip to remove dishes or replenish the supplies. The most remarkable aspect was the payment system. Next to the door was a cigar box filled with bills and coins, and each patron paid $4.50, honor system. By the time we left there were hundreds of dollars in the box. Despite being rural and poor, the folks there are trustworthy.

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