CATFISH AND THE DELTA: Confederate Fish Farming in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Schweid

CATFISH AND THE DELTA: Confederate Fish Farming in the Mississippi Delta

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One hundred thousand acres of the fertile land of the Mississippi Delta are under ponds; where cotton was king for more than century, the channel catfish now rules. As with cotton, the money involved is big-time. Schweid (Hot Peppers, 1980), who has lived in the Delta, describes Belzoni (""THE CATFISH CAPITAL OF THE WORLD"") and its unofficial catfish capitol building, the Pig Stand--a barbecue pit at the side of Highway 49. There, the handful of farmers in baseball caps and work clothes, exchanging gossip over cups of coffee, have a collective worth in the tens of millions. Catfish farming requires big outlays, Schweid tells us, and although there is no more sharecropping (as with cotton), it brings its own host of unskilled jobs filled by blacks. Those who once chopped cotton now net the catfish from the ponds, scooping fish eggs out of underwater hatcheries (trying to keep their hands away from angry males brooding on their nests) and cleaning fish in plants. Meanwhile, there is some hope: Ed Scott, Jr., owns Pond Fresh Catfish, making him the only black owner of a catfish processing plant in the US: ""I said to my son, 'I'm not gonna let them stop me. Let's go on down to Indianola, go through one of those plants and see what it is they're doing that we can't do.' ""Deltans, Schweid explains, love good times: the World Catfish Festival in April; the annual Catfish Races (there are bleachers and an announcer); and B.B. King Day in Indianola. King, who left his hometown a tractor-driver and returned a world-famous musician, plays a show in the city park for his old neighbors. A most interesting tour of an old and unique American enclave--fecund, unchanged, and inward-looking.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1992
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Ten Speed