Recently, I’ve been thinking about the time I lived in Mississippi, in our little WW2 POW-Built house at Number 7 Trinity Circle on the Vicksburg Army Corps of Engineers Station. The more I think about it, the weirder it seems. We lived at the top of the hill, overlooking a horribly polluted pond, surrounded by labs containing all kinds of experiments. Because we lived on the station, and Security was three hicks with walkie-talkies who rarely did rounds, we pretty much had the run of the place at night and on weekends. I never got caught doing anything, but my brother did once. I’ll let him tell the story if he wants. I really want to talk about dating.
My dad up and moved us to Mississippi in February of my Junior year of High School. Needless to say, I was not happy. I had friends, girlfriends, a social life and Northern Virginia iis just a great place to live. Mississippi? I went from on of the highest ranked school system in the country to one of the worst – one that was desegregated in 1987. Yeah, that’s not a typo. I went to a high school that refused to have a prom because the races might mix. There are lots of stories, I could tell, but I want to tell you about the Sherman and the girl.
I loved to impress dates by taking them to weird places on the station and trying to “make magic happen” (oh, I was a pathetic creature in high school, but I was earnest). We’d dance, talk, sometimes more. One night, after dinner and a movie, I took my date for the evening to the tank course. I parked the car next to the World War 2 vintage Sherman tank and cranked up the romantic tunes. We danced for a while, and then she noticed the tank. She kind of gasped and got so into the tank that she lost all interest in me. She climbed up in it in her nice dress and look at all the little moving parts. She was so excited. I, on the other hand, was pretty put out. But, that’s how it usually happened. I found all kinds of great places. There was the tank, there was a place near the wave labs where it sounded like you were at the beach. On of my favorites was the hyproponics labs, in these quaint little greenhouses that gurgled and steamed and smelled nice next to the causeway that was filled with singing frogs in the spring.
I hated living in Mississippi at the time, but the farther I get away from it, the funnier it all seems. The anger fades, but the quirky goofiness of being a Yankee and Mormon in the deepest, darkest cranny of the Bible belt, living in a house built by German POWs on an Army Station filled with experiments and labs filled with science and weirdness shines through. I’ve got stories to last a lifetime, like teaching high school civics, creating a winter drama at the school that I starred in – and wore a dress in, the time I drove around town with the town’s first ever black mayor and asked him tough questions about Vicksburg, and all the stupid things my brother and I did to keep ourselves sane. I don’t ever want to go back, except maybe for some blues and barbecue, but I don’t really regret living there.