We visited parts of Cajun country for three years when we lived in Galveston, but we never did a swamp tour, so this time we remedied that. We took a two and one-half hour swamp tour in a nice quiet boat with our guide, Butch, who is a biologist and botanist and works as a forester as well as a swamp guide to Martin Lake and Swamp area. He is also a good old Cajun boy 'who know de swamp real good.' He was terrific and very knowledgeable. We had one loud mouth woman who I wanted to feed to the alligators, but my husband discouraged me. We saw lots of lovely birds - osprey, ibis, and egrets (among others), also lots of alligators and turtles, and the beautiful, if a bit spooky, flora of the swamp.
We left there and drove to Biloxi, Mississippi, pausing in New Orleans on the way to find a snack. Three years ago we had gone to Biloxi and found Spanish Trail Books, owned by Mike and Pat Hutter. It was very lucky and escaped hurricane Katrina. It is a wonderful bookstore in a very bad location, and actually the only good bookstore for many, many miles around Biloxi. It is in a dead, deserted downtown area which has not come back from Katrina. In fact, casinos are about the only life left in that area. Unfortunately, their prices are quite high and they are disinclined to offer much of a discount but we did pick up a couple of books - one for my husband's maritime collection and a couple of Western Americana for our store. I was surprised to find Mike quite uncongenial. I wondered if there was something in the water, or my approach, or what. I reminded him that I did a very complimentary article about their store in a previous issue of AEM, and even that didn't perk him up. Perhaps he was just having a bad day.
We stayed in Biloxi for several days, visiting with an old friend who is a terrific cook and a wine connoisseur. As you may imagine, that was great fun. We hit just about every thrift and book store for forty miles in every direction (not many at that) and found almost nothing but grouchy booksellers, paperback romance, and Christian books, most of which were way overpriced.
We headed up the map to the town of Jackson, Mississippi, stopping in Hattiesburg for lunch. We found a nifty little bookstore in Hattiesburg; Main Street Books, owned by Diane Shepherd. She has been in business since 2002. I told her I thought she was quite brave to tackle opening a store in an obviously poverty stricken, but historically interesting town, in this economic climate. But, she said, she's really the only place around and is doing okay. She had a lot of southern writers, lots of cookbooks, quite a number of sale tables with good, hardback and paperback novels. She also carried other knick knacks, some clothing items - T-shirts, scarves, and the like. I found three really neat Australian fiction books with colorful 1950s-style book jackets and a sailing ship book for my grandson. If you are cruising through the area, stop at 210 Main Street and say hello to Diane.