Heading south on Hwy 61, Milton Chambliss drives to visit an icon of Mississippi culture, The Old Country Store in Lorman, MS. We are driving through the country of southwest Mississippi where the geography is rolling hills and deep ravines covered with kudzu and pine trees; everything is still green this time of year. The west side, toward the Mississippi River, of the modern divided Highway 61 holds an antique wooden structure with a covered boardwalk front porch. Mr. Arthur Davis has been in this place for 20 years now and we have a great afternoon lined up to visit and find out all about this historic restaurant and gift shop.
Blues Man McKinney Williams arrives in Lorman, MS for lunch with his guitar.
I think there is a chance Blues Man is hungry, but he agrees to pause for a moment while I try to get a descent picture.
The covered boardwalk porch will make great location for some front porch blues.
The Chalkboard shows Mr. D’s Buffet show the prices, Thank You!!! and the hours are listed as 10 am to 4 pm Sunday thru Thursday and 10 am to 9 pm Friday and Saturday.
As I walk in to the dining room, a gentleman in a white apron comes down from the office space at the back and walks toward me and I immediately spoke up “You are the owner! Mr. Arthur Davis himself!” Arthur agrees with me and comes over and we shake hands and have our introductions. I then point out Blues Man McKinney Williams, our 2015 Blues Artist of the Year and I continue to take photographs. Milton and Mr. D are well acquainted, as this lunch stop seems to be getting onto Milton’s calendar regularly and they have become famous friends.
I look around the dining room and find nicely appointed tables with white table cloths and comfortable chairs. Along the walls are shelves that hold an interesting collection of things.
Arthur tells me the building used to be a mercantile store, many, many years before he came along.
I’m not sure how much of the current inventory came with the store 20 years ago, or how it comes and goes now.
Later, while eating lunch, I mentioned to Blues Man that I saw a blue flower vase I needed and wanted to purchase, but since there was no price tag, wondered if these things for sale. Blues Man commented that Arthur would probably sell you anything in there you wanted.
Blues Man is, of course, correct.
Arthur Davis moved to Mississippi 20 years ago from the State of Florida after taking his retirement from a career with Florida Power & Electric Company. Somehow, this makes the presence of a marlin on the wall seems just normal, right? Interior decor in Florida isn’t complete without a big game fish on the wall, just like in Alabama some deer antlers or a raccoon skin is completely appropriate decoration for any room or exterior treatment.
Blues Man McKinney Williams presents Arthur Davis a copy of “Big City Rhythm & Blues” magazine because the inside cover ad is Visit Mississippi by MDA Tourism Division with Arthur’s picture on it! And a good picture it is, holding a platter of his famous “Mr. D’s” Fried Chicken. Arthur recalled to day that the Touism folks came and took lots of photos and talked with him about The Old Country Store and his personal journey, many of the same things we want to learn. Mr. Davis had not heard about the ad design or his photo being placed in a magazine until today. Ms. Peggy Brown, owner of Hit the Road Entertainment, passed this copy of “Big City Rhythm & Blues” magazine to Blues Man, his name is mentioned in her article there, several days before our trip to Lorman. Blues Man showed me the article and when I looked through the rest of the magazine, I discovered Arthur’s photo.
Arthur Davis, Milton Chambliss and Blues Man McKinney Williams talked about Arthur’s place in history and the recognition he gets from all the folks that pass along Hwy 61 that stop and have lunch with him. Arthur is an amazing character and often entertains his audience with songs.
So we take a few really good pictures and now it’s time to eat and tell stories. Blues Man piles up Mr. D’s Famous Fried Chicken on a plate and can’t quit smiling.
Arthur tells us that 20 years ago he was visiting Lorman, MS on the campus of Alcorn State University where his son was a student. As he drove along Highway 61, he observed this beautiful building on the side of the road and pulled over to go inside. It wasn’t long before Arthur was telling the owner of the building that we wanted to buy it and began asking about a price. The mercantile store and building owner replied “Why don’t you just come on a get open for business and you can pay me a something as we go along. Arthur Davis starting cooking fried chicken and having ribs and lunch and hasn’t stopped. Now Arthur Davis is part of Mississippi, the owner of The Old Country Store. He told me about the welcoming spirit of the people here, how they changed his name from Arthur to “Mr. D” and encouraged him with the lunch kitchen, to fill a need in the community.
Blues Man and Arthur begin comparing notes, talking about all the people they know in the Port Gibson area. Milton tells us the latest news about economic development efforts in Claiborne County.
I am concentrating on Fried Chicken, Sweet Potatos, and Black Eyed Peas! This was after a crisp salad and some side dishes and before the second trip for ribs and things.
I enjoy dessert and the gentlemen each look ahead to the afternoon and we begin to say “So Long” to Arthur Davis.
Milton Chambliss takes up our itinerant conversation on the Civil War to stop at the site of a battle that envolved the US Colored Troops and his grandfather that served in those units that fought here. Travel to Lorman, Mississippi and take a place in history that is rich and diverse, farm country of homesteads and little towns that become more colorful the longer we stay.