A friend once asked, “What is the deal with you people and your mud?”
She was referring to Mississippians’ love for pottery. And, honestly, the answer is pretty simple: We know that God made us all out of dirt, but we’re certain He used Mississippi mud to create His best works of art.
This answer might ring truest in Merigold where people come from all over to visit the famous McCarty Pottery.
In 1954, Lee and Pup McCarty began experimenting with unique glazes, and their work became legendary. With its distinctive “river” watermark, McCarty’s Pottery is one of Mississippi’s most beloved treasures.
Those muddy treasures don’t come cheap. But the very definition of “treasure involves valuable, prized, costly objects, so the average Mississippian buys one precious piece of McCarty at a time.
But we have another way to enlarge our collections without depleting our wallets or selling our homes: the McCarty Pottery Second Sale.
Held each April on the streets of Merigold, it’s a lottery-styled sale of flawed pottery pieces that did not meet the strict artistic standards required for sale in McCarty’s shop.
Let me confess! This was my first-ever trip to the Second Sale, and it left me speechless.
Well, that’s not true; my speechlessness was momentary because as soon as we stepped out of our vehicle, we found old friends and immediately began making new ones. It’s like a huge family reunion with dinner on the grounds at Mamaw’s church with Bob Barker (who is evidently a long-lost cousin) conducting an all-day version of The Price is Right.
And the entire time, you hear everybody and their momma shouting and clapping when (and if) they call your name.
But let me warn you! The rules of this game show are strictly enforced.
So strictly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go because we had to get up at the crack of dawn. Then, in the dark, we drove to the Mississippi Delta to get in the registration line between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.
Beware! If you arrive at 8:31, you’re out of luck; no registration for you (I read that 1,500 people registered this year).
Once everyone is registered, all names go into a huge tin can, and the fun begins. In sets of 10, the lucky contestants are called by name to “come on down.”
They line up like Miss Mississippi contestants, waving sweetly (and a bit smugly) as they march down the street to a small warehouse – to wait in another line – all day long, if necessary.
Finally, the shoppers enter the long-awaited doors to find two awe-inspiring aisles, each filled with stacks and stacks of pottery pieces packed on multi-tiered shelves.
It is pottery paradise!
Sadly, I didn’t get through the pearly gates this year. Neither did my sister.
After clapping and shouting for 400 winners, we gave it up. Despite our denied entry, it was still a wonderful experience.
So, we packed our chairs, coolers, blankets, and pocketbooks and headed to the car – hugging old and new friends, each one a beloved member of the Mississippi Mud Club.
Yes, we were a bit disappointed but not bitter. Well, maybe a little, but we got over it quickly as we drove to Mound Bayou and visited Peter’s Pottery.
I know. Those are sacrilegious words for McCarty purists. Try and get over it, my snobby friends, because I found some beautiful pieces of Mississippi mud there.
But have no fear, Merigold. I will return. In fact, I’ve already penciled you into my calendar for April 2024.