A gem worth looking for
By guest columnist R. Shaw Furlow
Mississippi, like every state, has local gems hidden in the most obscure places. A mom and pop store at the crossroads of two county roads. A small diner that serves a rare special. Or a church long abandoned. These places are out there. You just have to look.
Down a road in the Loyd Star community is just such a place. It’s a museum of sorts. Because it is a private residence, I’ll not give you the location. Suffice it to say it’s down a road that could better be described as a path.
Drive through the gates, and you are welcomed by old oil signs and rusted cars. Across the road two bicycles are suspended to look like ET. Around the last curve is a wall constructed of old television sets.
Our host, Mike Case, meets us in front of a very rustic cabin. He instantly begins showing us around. One of the main attractions on his property is an old stair lift. “This old thing came out of somebody’s house," he explains. "A young couple bought a grandma’s house and didn’t need it. So here it is.” The old chair lift leads to a platform where a zip line will take you over a pond. “It takes more time to ride the chair lift up than it does to fly across the pond. Then you gotta' walk back. A lot of work for a few seconds of fun.”
Another curiosity is a display case housing an Elvis costume originally made for Kenny Cothern (more about him in a second). If you’ve ever been to Graceland, you can envision this display. Next to it stands an old elevator -- you know, the kind with the gate you have to close. It just stands there. No function other than to add to the quirkiness of the place.
Case built two cabins on the property with the help of a couple friends who wired and plumbed them. The main cabin, which he started in 1992, has two rooms and a bathroom. The other cabin, affectionately known as the love shack, has power but no plumbing or air conditioning. Pretty much storage right now.
Inside the main cabin, the guest room is part of the the kitchen. There are pictures throughout, some of family, but most of anything but -- all over the place, even on the ceilings. There are also political posters, concert posters, all kinds of memorabilia pinned to the walls. And baseball caps all over the place.
I asked Case about a piece of stained glass in his kitchen. “Yeah, Lauderdale did that," he says, making reference to his late friend, Brookhaven artist Bill Lauderdale, who also crafted the windows of The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Brookhaven. That piece really stands out against all the Americana memorabilia. “Yeah...it’s really pretty,” he admits.
Are there modern conveniences? A few. Yes. There is a window air conditioner that keeps the temperature comfortable. The kitchen, while not glamorous, is functional.
Back outside on the front porch, Case rocks in a chair that has a stuffed buzzard attached to it. “Ya know, we used to have a music festival out here," he recalls. "The cabins were the venue for The Lincoln County Music Awards for several years." The prizes were old trophies, both found and made. I believe local artist Don Jacobs actually won an award for his first album. Earlier, I mentioned local singer Kenny Cothern. He wore the customized Elvis suit when he emceed the awards ceremony.
Case implores: “You know what this is?” We were asked that question several times. While I got close to guessing correctly on one item, I missed the others badly. One was a machine that punched out the form that makes cartons for eggs. Another was a piece that helped steer an old Ford. It was just hanging on the fence next to other things I didn’t recognize.
If you follow the walkway on the property, you’ll see spark plugs, an old police badge, bottle caps, marbles all embedded in the cement. Why? Why not?
The place is a little grown up now. Weed eating it would be a nightmare. There is a lot of stuff crammed into a small space. There are lots of unique places in Mississippi, but this one has to be in the top ten, at least my top ten. Walt Grayson may have another list.
With the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully winding down, things are opening up. Live music, theatre and art shows are just over the curve. Let’s play safe. That’s it for now. Support the arts, my friends.