Saturday, March 5, 2011

Booger love Sissy: The back story

Several years ago my friend Steve was driving to the Delta National Forest when he passed a garbage dumpster west of Satartia, Mississippi, on which someone had painted a memorable proclamation: “Booger love Sissy.”

Steve’s first thought was to wonder why anyone would choose a dumpster to profess his love. He second was: OK, the guy was named Booger.

For some reason this roadside glimpse into the heart of a man Steve now calls “possibly the most romantic dumpster graffiti artist in Yazoo County” stuck with him. As random roadside glimpses go, this one had staying power. And thanks to the location, Booger's profession became part of the public domain.

Fortunately, at the time Steve told me, which was perhaps 15 years ago, his memory was fresh. Booger’s profession of love was there for all the world to see. And when I recently told my friend Chris about it, he was intrigued.

Chris and I had arrived in Satartia midway through a day devoted to dismantling a century-old log corncrib on his family’s land in the nearby hills, where he lives. Chris had offered it to me to move, because his grandmother had decreed that it should be bulldozed, and my friend Chad agreed to help. During our first visit to appraise the salvageability of the corn crib, Chad and I had roamed around the countryside looking for interesting abandoned buildings, of which there were many, and at one point had come upon a trio of men riding around in a low-slung pickup truck. We were stopped on a remote gravel road when they rolled past, very slowly, the driver eyeing us with an unsettling grin; in back rode a huge man who was reclining against a pillow propped against the tailgate, and who was also grinning. Chad and I aren’t particularly skittish about such things, but we remembered those guys when we got out to explore the next abandoned house, and as a result we didn’t tarry. I later told Chris about them and naturally he knew exactly who I was talking about. This would come up later, in the newly unfolding Booger-love-Sissy saga.

On our way back to work on the corncrib, Chris and I stopped at the store in Satartia, where they serve lunches. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows everybody, and no one uses cash because everyone has a credit account there, and the food is great. Satartia is a very small place on the banks of the Yazoo River, where the hills meet the Delta. As Chris and I were eating lunch I told him about the Booger-love-Sissy dumpster. He’s too young to remember the dumpster, but asked the women working in the store if they knew anyone named Booger or Sissy. They said yes, and Satartia being a small place, wanted to know why he wanted to know. He told them about the dumpster. They were young, too, and didn’t remember it. They said they didn’t know if Booger ever dated Sissy, but said they were definitely not together now. This was a bit of a disappointment, but not really much of a surprise.

The ladies didn’t have much more information, and we got interrupted by the brief appearance of the second-string quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, who hunts in the area and came in to buy a soft drink, during which the two women got palpitations and went on about him after he left, until Chris steered the conversation back to Booger and Sissy. Apparently the message on the dumpster had long since faded away, or had been repainted or whatever. It was gone. But its very evocation stirred interest. So it was that the idea of it, and the glaring absence of it now, sparked interest in remedying the situation. The result was a new can of spray paint and the resurrection of the old dumpster love message, an homage to Booger’s original. I’m not going to say who did it but it seemed, communally, like the right thing to do.

Chris then realized he’d left his phone at the Satartia store, and when we stopped back by, the ladies were going through his text messages, reading them and giggling.

“Who’s Allison?” one of them asked.

“None of your business,” Chris said.

Back at the farm, Chris and I discussed another message that adorned the local dumpsters, likewise scrawled in spray paint, apparently by a punctuationally-challenged county worker intent on stopping people from putting tree branches in the dumpsters (which no doubt cause problems with the unloading), which read: NO LIMBS? The question mark had apparently been used when what was intended was an exclamation point. Everywhere you looked across the county the dumpsters asked the same plaintive, cryptic question.

The corncrib that was the purpose of our excursion was said to be more than 100 years old, and Chris's grandmother had dismantled it and reconstructed it on her property in the 1970s because, in her view, it made no sense to destroy it (as she said its then-owner planned to do) when it could still be used to store corn. She had marked the logs with shoe polish, after which she and her oldest son had taken it apart and reconstructed it, which, in a sense, meant that it was a recreation, not unlike the dumpster message.

Later that night I received an email from Chris, who, after I left, had been hauling his garbage to the dumpster near his trailer when he ran into one of the guys in the truck Chad and I had encountered, and realizing he had the same surname that the ladies at the store had given for Booger, asked if he was related, which he was.

According to Chris, the guy said Booger had in fact once dated a woman named Sissy, but a lot had changed since then. In fact, a rusty dumpster appears to have been the perfect place for Booger to profess his love. Though I never saw the original and cannot personally vouch for this second or third hand information, it's interesting that the dumpsters of Yazoo County have more than the most obvious role to play.

1 comment:

  1. Dumpsters are much more the refuse bins to me now. From now on they will also be an institutional love canvas to publicly declare our affection...almost right up there with water towers and overpasses. I have a can of spray paint and I can't wait to see the delight in my wife's eyes when I drive her by my surpise Mothers Day gift.