Joanna was born in Natchez, Mississippi. She left there as a baby, and never returned — until we spent a couple of days there as part of a recent 5,700-mile road trip.

Natchez is a beautiful city, with antebellum homes and a fascinating and often troubling history. And while there, we found the lot that once held the little shotgun house that Joanna’s parents lived in when she was born. We even saw her house, in a sense. Someone bought it and the neighboring shotgun house, moved both next door and incorporated them into a large southern-style house that still stands.

The visit was interesting, but Joanna was raised in California and feels no real affinity for the South even after we lived there for a couple of years. One thing that always amazed us was the religious tenor of the region — as exemplified by the number of people who heard our northern accents in restaurants or other public settings and approached us to ask us where (not if) we went to church before making a pitch for their own congregations.

And frequently it was their own congregations; you can’t swing a dead cat in the South without hitting a preacher. We had a running joke that if we found ourselves heading in the wrong direction (a not-uncommon occurrence) we’d just turn around in the parking lot of the Baptist church around the next corner. Because there’s always a Baptist church around the next corner.

Considering our experience there, it seemed highly appropriate — if not ordained by God — that we would hear “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” by Ray Stevens (better known for “The Streak“) on the radio on the day that we left her birthplace.

Lyrics here, with video below.

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