Still holding hands and eating Mississippi catfish

Published 4:31 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2024

By Les Ferguson


If I’ve done the math right, it was 1983. We were oh-so-young, and so was the World Catfish Festival in Belzoni. The annual event was only six years old, and Belzoni was a tiny delta town. Current statistics show that the city has a population under 2,000. If it was more significant in 1983, it wasn’t by much. 

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As I said, my now wife and I were very young and with her parents. I only remember a few specifics of what the festival had to offer. Of course, an event celebrating Mississippi’s catfish industry and Belzoni’s epicenter meant plenty of catfish to eat, cooked multiple ways with all the sides and fixings. 

I explicitly remember eating hushpuppies, fried onion rings, and coleslaw. I was not tempted to eat chitlins that day — I’d already tried them before, and once was enough. Despite my young age and much higher metabolism, I suspect I’m still carrying a pound or three from that day. 

But the best memories of that long ago time were holding hands with my best girl as we wandered through the booths and displays of the event. I can still see her in the bright sunlight, the smile on her face, the twinkle in her eyes, and the highlights in her hair. 

This past weekend, Oxford hosted its annual Double Decker Festival around the town square. Before the event, it was estimated that some 75,000 would attend — quite a difference from Belzoni in 1983.

Like many others, my still-best girl and I shuffled from booth to booth. Shuffled is a perfect description — it was so crowded that one could hardly walk. As we did that long ago day, we held hands the best we could amidst the crowd’s crush. I ate catfish and hushpuppies again. My girl bought some art.

It was a good day. It was a day of memories. It was a day of making new memories. And in a funny way, the memories of that long ago day and those created this past Saturday all run together. They tell the story of a life blessed by the presence of another. 

I pray you will know, experience, and revel in good, strong, and beautiful relationships — and eat the Mississippi catfish, too!

As King Solomon says, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.”

(Ecclesiastes‬ 4‬:9‬-10‬ CSB‬‬)