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A travelling salesman comes up the embankment, mops the sweat from his face, shifts a chaw of tobacco from one bulging red cheek to the other, and says:.

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A Negro straightens up, rubs the kink out of his back and begins to scratch his head in obvious puzzlement. The strangers eyes twinkle. He cackles softly and walks on down the track. Yaller Dawg. The story was circulated and the idea spread until one branch of of the Yazoo Delta was known as the North Dog. For reasons equally suggestive, the fast, direct train from Clarksdale to Greenville was known as the Cannon Ball, while its slow-time, round-about companion between those points was called the Peavine.

Negroes had nicknamed all those roads. For blues historians, Tutwiler, Mississippi is probably best known as the place where W. At that time, Handy was managing a band based in Clarksdale, Mississippi. The photo below shows the site of the Tutwiler, Mississippi train station as it appears today.

Southern Cross the Dog by Bill Cheng

The train station has been demolished but the concrete pad on the left of the photograph is what remains of the foundation and floor of the Tutwiler train station. Handy described it in his autobiography. We played for affairs of every description. I could call every stop, water tower and pig path on the Peavine with my eyes closed.

It all became a familiar, monotonous round. Then one night in Tutwiler, as I nodded in the railroad station while waiting for a train that had been delayed nine hours, life suddenly took me by the shoulder and wakened me with a start. A lean, loose-jointed Negro had commenced plunking a guitar beside me while I slept. His clothes were rags, his feet peeped out of his shoes. As he played he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar in a manner popularized by Hawaiian guitarists who use steel bars.

Handy was describing, watch this video of Bukka White playing Poor Boy in the early s]. Personally I found Chengs description of this family tragedy a common theme at this time one of the most moving I have read on this subject. Additionally the section set in a brothel where Robert grows up was both moving and endearing.

Perhaps suggesting Chengs strength lies in short extracts of poetic work rather than the complex and epic story this book has taken on.

Unfortunately I found much of this book unpleasant and unrelenting, as barren in some parts as the landscape it is set in. Your email address will not be published.

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Currently you have JavaScript disabled. In order to post comments, please make sure JavaScript and Cookies are enabled, and reload the page. Click here for instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your browser. About a year after the historic for Yazoo City arrival of the Y. Perhaps initially, Pond leased his section of the Yellow Dog from the Y. Yazoo Delta R. Besides, it was well known in Mississippi around the turn of the century that although the Y. Hence the monopoly scare of when the I.

The L. In , N. Adams referred to the section of the Y. In any case, the train would have to jump the tracks in its efforts to branch from Moorhead to Clarksdale on its arrival in Tutwiler! Even if there had been a Yazoo Delta R. Patton would only have been about 12 years old when the latter railroad was allegedly swallowed up by the Y. In he sang the verse Handy had heard in Tutwiler:.

Cynophobia Blues

By this time, the Y. In this form the tune was recorded by jazz bands and vaudeville-blues singers in the s. However, in a Louisiana-born singer, who played in McComb, Miss. Just as sure as the train leaves around the curve. I am open to any suggested alternative transcriptions, especially in the second stanza! Apart from including the oft-quoted line which inspired W.

Where the Southern Cross the Dog

The various reasons for calling the Y. Apart from the rather obvious one about a dog chasing the train as it passed through Rome, Miss. It is however, a term used by railroad and others workers that I believe explains why they called the Y. This involves an industrial setting commencing in the 19th. Such a weapon would be only too readily appropriated by other employers including the railroad companies. Pond, used non-Union labour on his initial section of railroad in the middle s. As late as about 30 miles of the railroad was leased to other smaller railroads see 20 , which in all probability would have been non-Union.

If one of these companies had leased some of the Y. After all, he would know right away if the letters stood for the company who was paying him! Although based in Birmingham, Ala. If the latter were indeed a non-Union company they would have usually been paying well below Union rates and hence become the Yellow Dog.

If indeed the Yazoo Delta R. The Yazoo Delta was a designated geographical area from way back in the 19th. The name was even applied to a locomotive on the Y.

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Nor is my proposed theory entirely new. In Frank Smith alluded to the yellow dog contract as a possible origin for the Y. Webb W, Preface.

Bill Cheng's debut is a devilish tale of the American Deep South

Cohen N. Oliver P.