Donna Gainey grew up here in the picturesque fishing village of Bayou La Batre, Ala., – went to school only a mile away, married a local boy, and made the tiny City Hall on Wintzell Avenue her home away from home. This is all she’s known. All she’s ever wanted to know. For 32 years, she’s watched mayors and council members come and go, but still she remains.
Traffic is jammed, bumper to tailgate, but no one seems to mind. Drivers cruise along at crawl speed, hanging out their windows from time to time to wave and yell friendly greetings to one another. The smell of barbecue hangs like Southern perfume in the sweltering heat, and strains of “Sweet Home Alabama” blast from roadside speakers. In the heart of Dixie, where college football is religion and every day is a good day to celebrate, the World’s Longest Yard Sale might as well be redubbed the Biggest Tailgate Party.
If you want to be elected in the Bluegrass State, there’s only one place to be the first Saturday in August: Fancy Farm, Ky., where old-fashioned politics meets dyed-in-the-wool religion, and the differences are evened out by the glorious, gluttonous, gastronomic magic of charred pork and mutton at the annual Fancy Farm picnic-cum-political rally.
The moment Gulfport, Miss., resident Megan Jordan feared has arrived. The viscous onslaught of crude is no longer an abstract horror belonging to Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida. The first globules of oil have slipped through the Mississippi Sound and washed ashore in nearby Ocean Springs. For Ms. Jordan and her neighbors, this isn’t just any beach – it’s the keeper of memories, the provenance of dreams. The destruction is hard to bear. Their passion, properly channeled, could become a crucial element in future oil spill defense.
In the end, Magnolia Springs did not need BP or Mr. Obama or the governor in Montgomery. It needed the grit and determination of the people themselves – people like Hinton, who says he will stand chest-deep in the waters of the bay, linked arm in arm with his neighbors, if that’s what it takes to stop the encroaching oil from despoiling the sublime latticework of bogs and bayous that he calls home.