This past week my wife and I did something we have never done – we shacked up! We have been married forty-four years, so in a sense, we are old timer shacker uppers, but this time it was different. We drove to North Mississippi and spent five nights at the Shack Up Inn located on the Hopson Plantation outside of Clarksdale on Highway 49. The rustic stopover with authentic renovated tin roofed, rough wood-sided sharecropper houses as well as a cotton gin and grain bins reimagined and converted to overnight hotel apartments may not be for everyone, but it is certainly unique, and for us, a perfect getaway. The whole complex is a historical marvel to behold, but at the same time, it is one of the most ironic places I have ever visited. Over seventy-five years ago, families scrapping out a meager living farming another man’s land lived in these two maybe three-room shotgun style houses. They spent their lives struggling, working from first light to sunset, to have a better life than living in a shack. In contrast, today, people pay more money for a night’s stay in one of the shacks than most poor sharecroppers made in a year. It is also sobering to think there are families across Mississippi still living in such poverty.
We stayed in the Crossroad Shack, relocated to the Inn from nearby Duncan, Mississippi. The shack, although weathered and worn both inside and out was clean, warm on the cool nights we encountered, free of leaks from the rain that came later in the week, and peaceful and relaxing for a good night’s rest. It would have been difficult to find a speck of paint anywhere, but it had all we needed for an enjoyable and comfortable stay. The little two room building had indoor plumbing complete with a flushable toilet and hot water for a shower. There was also a piano, a microwave oven, a coffee pot, a refrigerator, a gas wall heater, adequate lighting, and glory of glories NO TELEVISION! The Internet was a bit sketchy, but that was okay. Few people go to the Shack Up Inn to watch television or roam the Internet, but if that is your thing, some of the bins are equipped with television. Like my wife and I, most people go to the Shack Up Inn to escape the everyday hustle of life, and relax away from Facebook, CNN, and Fox News. The Inn is a place to put worries and trouble on hold and relax in a rocker on the screened back porch, read a book, take leisurely strolls around the grounds, and in the evenings kick back with a cold drink of choice and listen to the best Mississippi Blues you will find anywhere. Of course, you can always jump in your car and head into Clarksdale to visit Ground Zero, The Blues Museum, Hambone’s, and Reds Lounge as well as many other local establishments and landmarks. Despite being off the beaten path, there is no shortage of things to do at the Shack up Inn and in Clarksdale.
While at the Shack Up Inn, I attended a songwriting workshop I have been wanting to attend for some time. Songwriting is a passion of mine regardless of success or lack of it, and by writing my own stuff, I don’t mess up anyone else’s music. The workshop exceeded all expectations! I have never been made to feel more at ease and appreciated in a workshop, and I have attended many. Songwriters from all over the country were there, and I can truthfully say, I learned something from each of them. If you are a songwriter or would like to be, and you are interested in learning the nuts and bolts of the songwriting craft, Ralph Carter’s “Songs at the Shacks” workshop is a no brainer. However, don’t go if you are not serious about your craft! You will work your butt off writing and performing, but by the end of the week, you will be thankful of the blessings that allowed you to attend. I found the workshop well worth the money, time, and effort. Thank you, Ralph, I can’t wait to be a part of another of your workshops. I left the Shacks, tired, renewed, and for the first time ever with confidence I am headed in the right direction. As an important bonus, the friendships made during the week were worth the price of admission alone.
To say, we had a wonderful week at the Shacks would be a huge understatement. We had a super week! How can shacking up with a beautiful woman, writing music, singing your songs, listening to great music, and being around friends be anything but fantastic? We will certainly do it again soon, but for now it is back to writing songs, writing my blog, and writing short stories. I hear a song, “Mama, Take Your Teeth Out,” calling.
©Jack Linton, March 16, 2018