Author Hank Burdine’s latest book is a collection of his stories about the people, places and things that make up the Delta.
And Burdine is the perfect person to share those stories with his Southern drawl and storytelling ease that leaves one craving a sip of whiskey as they sit along the banks of the Mississippi River.
Burdine was in Clarksdale on Thursday, reading passages from his new book, “Dust in the Road: Recollections of a Delta Boy.” The event, held at the Cutrer Mansion, was part of the Community Book Talks lecture series that is sponsored by the Carnegie Public Library in partnership with the Coahoma County Higher Education Center.
The book is a collection of stories Burdine has shared in the monthly Delta magazine. He has been writing for Delta magazine since its inception in 2003. His first column was titled “Why Mississippi Will Always Be My Home.”
“That was 67 issues ago,” Burdine said.
During Thursday’s event, Burdine read the introduction in his latest book, as well as the story “The Night I Lost My Pants at a Debutante Ball.”
He is proud of the work and thankful for contributions by “two dear, dear friends of mine”– authors Julia Reed, from Greenville, and Richard Grant, who wrote “Dispatches From Pluto.” Reed wrote the foreword, while Grant wrote the epilogue.
“I’m honored those two cats wanted to put something in the book,” Burdine said.
In an article, Grant wrote, “Hank Burdine is a writer, raconteur and bon vivant, a big-hearted, loud-drawling, whiskey-loving son of Greenville, Mississippi.”
Burdine said he hasn’t received many compliments in his life, but one of the greatest compliments he ever received was when he was described “as a Rule from Ruleville.”
The introduction to his book reflects on the Delta and memories of his mother.
“So, it is my belief, in agreement with my momma, that while the people of the Delta are what makes it so unique, it is the fact that in most cases, it was our grandparents and great-grandparents that were the true pioneers of this region.
“And it was that pioneering spirit and blood and guts and tears and sweat that beat the Mississippi River back, felled the trees and began to plow and mold the richest land imaginable in order to give us, today, the Mississippi Delta.”
Burdine said Clarksdale and its surrounding area “has got a real, deep part in my heart” and is a special place for him. He talked of Coahoma County’s Robert E. Bobo and his exploits as a bear hunter.
Burdine, who is also a commissioner on the Mississippi Levee Board, spoke of the twists and turns of the Sunflower River as it makes its way through the county and eventually heads to Ruleville and the rest of the lower Delta.
“We’re all so connected and it’s such an integral part of everything as this Delta is. It’s the uniqueness of this Delta, not only to us that live here and have been here, but to folks who want to know about it,” he said.
“The Delta is very special right now. It’s very hot right now,” said Burdine, who recently hosted the second annual Hank Burdine Blues and Greens Festival at the Shack Up Inn near Clarksdale. He pointed out that 80 percent of the inn’s clientele are visitors from Europe.
That’s an example, Burdine said, of the people learning about the Delta and wanting to know more about it.
“It’s not the high glitz and neon glory, but it’s the old stuff, the way we know it. It’s the Delta stuff,” Burdine said. “It’s the deep stuff. It’s the stuff in our guts. This is what we got. This is who we are.”
He said when people ask where he’s from, the answer is simple.
“I’m not from Clarksdale. I’m not from Greenville. I’m from the Delta.”
He said that simple statement covers a lot of people, a lot of races and a lot of creeds and nationalities.
“But, it’s us and it’s our Delta.”
Want a copy?
Hank Burdine’s book, “Dust in the Road: Recollections of a Delta Boy,” is sold exclusively through Delta magazine and authorized dealers. Call 662-843-2700 or go online to deltamagazine.com to order a copy.
(This article first appeared in the Dec. 12, 2018, issue of The Clarksdale Press Register.)