Attracted to the visuals of the past


Alan Huffman goes searching for a lost house in the Mississippi Delta @ Lost.
In the late seventies, on a remote road in the Mississippi Delta, I came upon an old dowager of a house standing in a cottonfield that must have stretched over a thousand acres. The rambling, one-story structure, with four tall chimneys, was almost hidden within a grove of formal gardens that had long since gone wild. It looked like a verdant island in a sea of dirt.Beyond the house the paved road mounted the Mississippi River levee and turned to gravel. It was a seldom-traveled route, even by the standards of Issaquena County, which holds the distinction of not having a single traffic light within its boundaries. Issaquena is the most sparsely populated county in the state, with only 1,500 residents, and is so isolated and quiet that you could practically picnic in the middle of the levee road without worrying about passing cars. Houses are few and far between, so the old one near the levee exerted a stronger presence than it might have elsewhere, assuming anyone noticed it there, enshrouded in greenery.

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The area where the house stood is known as Brunswick, though there is no sign, no place of business nor any other marker of a conventional community. It would be easy to pass through Brunswick and not know you'd been there, just as it would be easy to pass the old house without seeing it. Outwardly, Brunswick is just another forgotten corner of the lowest region of the low-lying Delta. Tangled forests of willow and cottonwood form a ragged cushion between the levee and the river, while on the protected side, broad, empty fields stretch unbroken for miles, bordered only by the distant tree line of Steele Bayou.To the untrained eye the landscape appears uniformly flat, but stop the car, peer down the long, straight cotton rows, and it's possible to detect subtle changes in elevation — rises and falls of a foot or two over the course of perhaps a mile, like the gentle swelling of a placid sea. Those rises and falls are crucial when high water comes, which happens more