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Hill Country Living

It’s 7 a.m. and I just came in the door from an hour long walk around town. This means I had to leave the house at 6 in the morning. And you can do the math on what time that means I had to get up. It’s the end of June and the temperature outside is, shall we say, starting to get hot. There will come a time in the next few weeks where any outside physical activity past 8 a.m. is just not good for the body, mind or soul so you have to get it all in when the birds get up. 

I especially enjoyed my walk this morning because all the street construction seems to be done. For a while there I thought driving down Main Street was probably akin to navigating The Rover on Mars. That is if Mars had a Sprint Mart. At one point during the road construction days, our earthly Spring Mart went from being next to the main intersection in town to actually being the main intersection in town. I was yielding at gas pumps to merge into the traffic flow. And it was dusty, like the Wild West. That intersection would have made a good scene-setting in a dystopian novel.

But, there’s really no other way to repair what’s under a road without actually digging up that road so ya gotta do what ya gotta do. On the bright side,  when traffic was blocked off from Sartain’s to Nallie’s and you had to get to Dollar General, this provided a wonderful opportunity to turn on your GPS and explore Water Valley. I got lost several times trying to leave town. A few of those times I admit to having had a moment of panic that the road construction had trapped me in this place and I couldn’t ever escape but eventually I reached Highway 7 and could breath easy again.

But I digress, because the primary reason I got up at dawn to walk around town for an hour was to listen to the second to last episode of the podcast “In The Dark.” I have briefly mentioned this podcast in my column before. But that was right when the podcast came out, very early on. Since my first mention of it in this column, the podcast has exploded and become a national sensation. At least in terms of the podcast world. I imagine, if the podcast leads to an overturned conviction and release of a seemingly innocent man (which is surely the podcast’s goal) then it will make the big news.

Here’s the gist: For the last year, a very small group of investigative journalists secretly lived on Blount Street in Water Valley while digging into the 1996 Curtis Flowers quadruple murder case out of Winona. Curtis Flowers has been in jail for 21 years and convicted six times for the murders. Each time the conviction is overthrown due to prosecutorial misconduct, which includes but is certainly not limited to, an exorbitant rate of race-based jury strikes. 

The podcast reporters have revealed numerous occurrences of coerced eye witness testimony and dodgy prosecutorial practices including clear Brady violations. Yet, there seems to be some merit to Curtis Flowers being named a suspect, to begin with, at least.

There is a very good chance that many of you all know about this case and there is also a good chance that some of you all know people involved in this case. I encourage everyone reading this column to pick up their phone or computer right now and download this podcast. Again, it’s called “In The Dark.” It’s free! I feel like I just assigned homework. 

There will be lots of opinions about this case and, to me, that’s part of what makes it fascinating. The political and social dynamics of small town life that put the building blocks in place for a case like this to exist are important for us all to acknowledge, especially since we are the ones who live it. 

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