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Burger Shack – West Helena

Some places have been around so long that they become part of the identity of a community. That’s Burger Shack in West Helena. It’s one of those little dairy bars that used to be in every town before McDonalds. Unfortunately most of those greasy food joints have closed, but some remain. That’s Burger Shack. Just look for the sign, “Best Coke in Town.”

It’s better to call ahead. At lunch there will be a line around the building and out the door. There is a small dining room but most people get their food and drinks to go.

They have all types of sandwiches and other entrees. Below is a chili cheese burrito.

Burger and fries combo. When you get a tooth pick with your sandwich, then you know it’s gonna be an old time burger.

Burger Shack is open seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

372 Sebastian Street. West Helena, Arkansas. 72390

Trotting Fox Trail


First Day Hikes at Arkansas State Parks was created as an annual initiative to get people out and start walking at the beginning of a new year. I joined in this year for the first time.

The Trotting Fox Trail is a well maintained small 1/2 mile path located at the Mississippi River State Park – Marianna, Arkansas .  The trail takes you around a small lake near the visitor’s center.


As visitors walk the trail they get to experience natural Arkansas. There’s a good chance you will see deer tracks and other animals.  Geese in the lake add to the scene of tranquility.



Although not a long trail, it’s a relaxing experience and gets you ready for more demanding walks.  Then go hike the Bear Creek Loop . Make sure to get out and experience the Trotting Fox Trail. Make a day of it and get your fishing gear.  Try out the lakes or picnic.  Just have fun in nature.



Bear Creek Loop


Bear Creek Nature Trail is a one mile loop through some beautiful hills and small streams. It is located just west of Bear Creek Lake Day Use Area.  I’ve been to the Mississippi River State Park – Marianna, Arkansas numerous times, but I’ve never tried the Bear Creek Nature Trail. To be honest I’ve never completed a nature trail before in my life so I was excited to try.  What brought this notion into mind was an email I received at work a few weeks ago advertising First Day Hikes across all state parks in Arkansas.  Since I had been walking a lot for exercise and health reasons I started thinking about this and decided I liked the idea of it.  Since the Mississippi River State Park – Marianna, Arkansas is less than an hour away, I decided to give it a try.  They actually have four trails there .  These are the Trotting Fox Trail (a 1/2 mile barrier free path), the Bear Creek Lake Nature Trail (a one mile loop), the Hornor Neck Lake (short wildlife viewing trail) and the Base Line Trail (a four mile roundtrip).


Mississippi River State Park Visitor’s Center


First Day Hike is designed to encourage people to give the new year a healthy start with a hike through an Arkansas  state park.  I got to the Visitor Center about 9 a.m. and joined the ranger and a few others on the Trotting Fox Trail.  After this hike I decided to try the nearby trail just south of the visitors center at Bear Creek Lake.


This one mile loop takes hikers up and down a series of hills and across several small branches of water. There are a number of signs that discuss vegetation and the trail is well marked and easy to follow.






I really enjoyed these two hikes and plan on making this the start of something new.


Mississippi River State Park

2955 Arkansas 44.  Marianna, Arkansas 72360.   (870)-295-4040



Helena River Park


Helena River Park is located on the Mississippi River at Helena, Arkansas.  The River Park features a 60 foot boat ramp and one of the largest public access ramps on the lower Mississippi.


A boardwalk takes visitors out to the edge of the river. Interpretive panels are found along the way discussing nature and the Civil War.



Todd Demers


Todd Demers is the WREG News Channel 3 Daybreak news and weather anchor form 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m.  Then again for News Channel 3 at Noon. Demers started work for Channel 3 in April 1986 and has been involved with the daybreak program ever since.  Before that his first job in television  had been at a station in Orlando where he worked with news and weather.

He grew up in Florida and attended the University of Central Florida.

I was able to meet Mr. Demers when he was in Helena judging the Delta Cultural Center “Beans, Greens and Cornbread” competition on January 19, 2019 at the Hunt Education Building.


Carla Hayden


Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress on September 14, 2016.  She is the first woman and first African American woman to lead the national library and was nominated for this position by President Barack Obama.  She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

In 1993 she served as CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland.  Hayden was then nominated to be a member of the National Museum and Library Services Board in January 2010 and confirmed by the Senate in June of that year. Prior to the Pratt Library she was deputy commissioner and chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library from 1991 to 1993.  Mrs. Hayden had been an assistant professor for Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh from 1987 to 1991.  Before that she had been library services coordinator for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago form 1982 to 1987.  Carla Hayden began her career with the Chicago Public Library as the young adult services coordinator from 1979 to 1982 and as library associate and children’s librarian form 1973 to 1979.

Source: Library of Congress – About the Librarian.

Carla Hayden was born in Tallahassee, Florida on August 10, 1952 and holds degrees from Roosevelt University and the University of Chicago. She has ties to Arkansas because her mother’s side of the family comes from Helena.

The Librarian of Congress is the head of the Library of Congress and appointed by the President of the United States with consent of the Senate for a term of ten years.

Carla Hayden and her staff visited Helena, Arkansas on June 30, 2018 and I was lucky enough to meet her.  Pictured above, I am giving her one of our books from the Delta Cultural Center Museum Store.

Moon Lake – Coahoma County, Mississippi

Whether a permanent resident or one of the countless visitors, Moon Lake takes hold of you and never lets go.  It’s a beautiful lake great for fishing, boating or just enjoying a relaxing picnic along its shore.

Going north along Highway 1 in Coahoma County, visitors will notice a sign for Moon Lake Scenic Overlook next to a large pecan grove.  If you have time, pull over into the parking lot and take a walk along the scenic path to this public pier overlooking Moon Lake.


Moon Lake is a 2,200 acre ox-bow lake in northern Coahoma County.  The lake started its history off as part of the Mississippi but was created when the river changed course. After the Choctaw and Chickasaw left, the area around Moon Lake became one of the first places settled in Coahoma County.


Through the years the shore along Moon Lake has been home to politicians, planters, singers and criminals.  It has calmed recently though.  The famous Kathryn’s Restaurant is still serving up its great food.


Uncle Henrys, famous site of what was called Moon Lake Casino by Tennessee Williams, continues to face out to the calming waters.  Where small shacks and trailers once stood, well built new homes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars now hold reign.  The bars and dance halls that once beckoned  men and women from as far away as Memphis are  gone.  Only a few posts standing lonely just above the lake’s waves are reminders for this wild history, but Moon Lake maintains its beauty.


Uncle Henry’s on Moon Lake

Summer time brings hundreds of locals and visitors each year for boating and fishing fun. A number of hunting clubs have lodges along Moon Lake as well.  You will see the trucks packed with decoys and shot guns parked nearby as their occupants are enjoying their time along the lake. Fishermen will be busy near the banks with their rods and reels. Sundays will see party barges meeting up between the two islands of the lake.

Alcorn Island is named after the Reconstruction Era Governor and Coahoma County native, James Lusk Alcorn.  The other is named Texas Island.  Texas Island really isn’t an island by definition, but locals still refer to is as one.


There are two state maintained boating ramps.  One is located at Moon Lake Park on Paradise Point just off Highway 1. Along with the ramp visitors have access to picnic tables and a fish cleaning station.  The other ramp is located off Highway 49 on the Yazoo Pass, which runs into the lake. This ramp also offers picnic tables and a fish cleaning station. In addition to these two sites, there are several more private or non maintained boating ramps along the lakeshore.



Unfortunately there are no bait stores nearby so fishermen should bring everything they need.  A Jordan’s convenience store along Highway 49 serves the needs of locals and visitors.  Great prices on beer and tobacco.  Also serves Chester’s Chicken and has Citgo gas for customers. There is another smaller store located in Lula that serves prepared food too.



There is a winding road that runs along the edge of Moon Lake that is perfect for a road trip or a bike ride. Overall Moon Lake is a nice and quiet place to unwind and rest in the Mid South.


John Elliott You Tube

Town of Tunica Veterans Memorial Park- Tunica, Mississippi


The town of Tunica has a wonderful little space just south of downtown called Tunica Veterans Memorial Park.  It was completed in 2002 to honor our veterans and remember the wars they participated in.  On one end lies swings and a playground for children.  There is a quarter mile walking trail that encompasses the entire park.  Benches allow visitors to rest and take in the beauty of this unique little Southern town.


At the other end lies a statue to our soldiers.  Around it are tablets concerning past conflicts and honoring soldiers from Tunica.  It is a well maintained park and one of my favorite walking trails.


Location: Tunica, Mississippi

You Tube video of Tunica Veterans Memorial Park Walking Trail



Maggie Busby – A lonely grave, but not forgotten by me


On a lonely road out from Lula there is a small gated cemetery in the middle of a cotton field.  During summer, grass takes it over so you can barely make it out.  About the only time to go visit is during winter after the first few frosts.  The cold winds cut you to the bone as you are making your trek out to see what the rusted gates hold.  Once there, you notice only one marker.  A small, squatty marble marker with the following inscription:

Maggie E.  Wife of Thomas Busby and daughter of Jack Miller.   Born in Winchester, Tennessee October 28, 1866.  Died in Lula, Mississippi September 22, 1905.  She died as she lived, Trusting in God.  

How had this small cemetery survived all these years?  The Mississippi Delta can be an unforgiving place to cemeteries left uncared for.  Also, why would Maggie Busby be buried in such an isolated place with nobody else around her?  When I asked my father, he said he always heard she had died from the plague and everybody was scared to move her.  People were even scared to go visit the grave.  How sad. This made me want to find out even more about Maggie and who Thomas Busby was.

Winchester, where Maggie was born, is a small town in Franklin County, Tennessee on the Alabama state line.  She was the daughter of Jackson Steel Miller and Priscilla Ann Estill.  Maggie was part of a large family with twelve brothers and sisters.  Jack Miller made his living as a carpenter, but made sure his children attended school.

Maggie married Thomas Bailey in 1889 and moved to Lula.  She is listed on the 1900 U.S. Census living with Thomas and his two sons, Willie and Ferdel.  Thomas was identified as a farmer.  Willie was a farm laborer and Ferdel said he was a book keeper. Life was hard in the delta during those times.  Fevers and diseases spread quickly wiping out entire families.  Poor Maggie took ill with typhoid fever and died September 22, 1905 and was buried on the family farm. Her parents had already passed. Priscilla had died in 1900 and Jack had followed in 1901.  Maggie left no children and Thomas had to persevere.


Thomas Busby had quite a history himself.   He was born in 1854 in Mississippi.  He and his brother Joseph were the sons of Levi Busby and Elizabeth Lee.  According to family history, Elizabeth was a slave who had been the daughter of Jim Lee.  She had been a favorite daughter of her father and lived in his house until she grew into young womanhood.  When he died, she was left to Levi Busby who had worked as an overseer for Lee.  They had two children.  According to family history, Levi was extremely proud of his sons with Elizabeth and they lived with him after her death.  Even though he later married, Thomas and Joseph remained in the household as his children.  He would have two more sons by his wife who would both serve in the Confederate army. Not much is known about Levi and his family before the Civil War though.

Levi and most of the family migrated to Brazil after the Civil War as hundreds of other Confederates did. Apparently they decided Brazil wasn’t for them because the family returned to the United States on March 19, 1869.  Along with Levi were his two sons, Thomas and Joseph. Joseph would soon marry and move to Arkansas.  Thomas remained near Levi and owned a large estate outside Lula.  Thomas first married Rachel Beasley, who was white, and a daughter of a local farmer. Although unusual at that time, it was not completely illegal.  It wasn’t until the 1890 state constitution of Mississippi where strict laws regarding marriage were put into the books.  Rachel and Thomas would have two sons, Willie and Ferdel.  Rachel passed away and he soon married Maggie.  Tragedy would hit sixteen years later with Maggie’s death.  Thomas and his two sons kept their farm going and were still living at Lula in 1910.  He soon remarried and moved across the river to Helena.  Others bought the land and Thomas passed away in 1944.  For a number of years after, a Busby or two would come visit friends at Barbee service station in Lula.  They would always go by and visit Maggie’s grave.  As time went by, those visits came less and less.  Soon they stopped altogether and Maggie was forgotten at her lonely grave in the field.  My life came along much later, but I noticed that gated cemetery when I went drove by.  I never knew Maggie.  I’m not related to Maggie. I care about Maggie’s story though and her husband Thomas’s story.  Their story is one of courage to tame a hard land; their story is one of hardship caused by this hard land; their story is one of triumph over this hard land.  She remains part of the history of this hard land.

Maggie E. Busby, always remembered as part of  the Lula history. 



Hugh Jack Stubbs Recreation Trail – Coahoma County, Mississippi

The Hugh Jack Stubbs Recreation Trail is a recently completed walking and biking trail that starts at the Mississippi Welcome Center located at the intersection of Highway 49 and 61 in Northern Coahoma County, Mississippi.  It’s winding path follows the Yazoo Pass, which is an historical area from the Civil War.  Restrooms and water are at the visitor center.  The trail ends where the Pass empties into Moon Lake.  Restrooms are also available there as well.  For those interested, you can continue on across a walking bridge and complete a circle.  This will carry you on a much traveled road so caution is advised.


There is a picnic area and kayak ramp for those that are interested.  An historical display discusses the Yazoo Pass and it’s importance in the Civil War. Exercise stations can be found along the path as well.


Hugh Jack Stubbs Recreation Trail.  US Hwy 49 and US 49N; Coahoma County, Mississippi. 38644.