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Splitting the Storm

Shaw, MS 1998

James Burgs brandishes a double-bladed axe against an approaching winter storm on his central Delta farm. An African-American folk belief dating back to slavery holds that a threatening storm cloud can be “split” by striking an axe in the ground in the storm’s direction. “The old folks used to trust in the Lord and get an axe and go out there where the wind was blowing and stick an axe in the ground,” said Burgs. “Been a many wind storm come by, cloud up, look bad. I take the axe out there and in 15 or 30 minutes, look like it goes around yonder way.” Burgs was one of the last Mississippians who followed what he called the “signs of the old people.”

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