By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – There was a traffic jam on County Road 116 last Wednesday as a caravan of vintage vehicles arrived at the home of Janice and Odie Shuffield.
The roughly 20 street rods were part of the Redneck Power Tour that had been working its way north from south Mississippi since Monday.
The group of 50 or so auto enthusiasts had been through Meridian Monday, Tupelo Tuesday, and arrived in Water Valley Wednesday.
The Water Valley stop was to visit Shuffield’s shop and view his collection, according to Jerry Sides, President of the Mississippi Delta Street Rods. “You’ve got to visit Odie’s shop in person to appreciate it.”
In the background Shuffield moved from one set of visitors to another answering questions or demonstrating how something worked. Some of the visitors assumed the classic head-under-the-hood stance which allows a closer view of a car’s engine.
“You pick it out, there’s a story behind everything,” Sides said of the items in Shuffield’s collection. “He could sit here all day long telling stories about the things that he’s got, how he got them, and why.”
While the group is largely interested in pre-1949 motor vehicles, many were sidetracked by the many other things Shuffield has collected. His shop complex houses not only cars, but almost everything related to vehicles including service station items, toy cars, license tags, books and magazines.
“You name it and it’s here…plus some,”commented a visitor. “If they ever made two or more of something, Odie has one of them.”
In the center of the shop Shuffield could be seen pointing up in the air as a group of heads tilted straight up to view a working traffic signal hung from the ceiling.
Meanwhile, Fuzzee Russell, organizer of the tour and owner of Fuzzee’s Performance in Meridian, was cruising up and down the driveway on a mobility scooter. He was handling administrative chores for the tour and talking on the telephone.
Russell was using the scooter because of problems caused by a car crash in June. “I just totaled my ’57 Chevrolet,” Russell said. “Spent five weeks in the hospital.”
The expression on his face – even through his trademark beard – gave away his pain and disappointment at losing the classic Chevy. And, to make matters worse, his 1939 Buick has a hole in the oil pan. “I’m in no shape to fix it,” he said.
Russell is helped by his son, Eric, who travels with him.
The Redneck Power Tour is a take-off on the annual Hot Rod magazine power tour. This year it went from Madison, Wis., to Bristol, Tenn.
“Me and some buddies were talking about the Hot Rod power tour. I said we ought to do a redneck power tour. They never got around to doing it so I decided to do it myself,” Russell said.
“It’s the ‘fellowshipping’ that’s the biggest thing. I like seeing everybody and meeting new people,” he added.
Russell is already planning on next year’s tour, which will take a different route. “We’re going to make a loop around the state using two lane roads all we can. We’re not going to get on the Interstate.”
As the group left Shuffield’s shop on their way to the next stop, they passed through downtown Water Valley. Most of the group went on to visit Batesville, Clarksdale, and Tunica.