Three years ago Papaw was still alive, I strolled into their house and said, "Have y'all ever been to Po Monkey's?"
My Uncle Ronnie kind of laughed and went, "Boy, have we?!"
Notorious for its ceiling decor, cheap beer, and outdoor bathroom, Po Monkey's was one of the most widely recognized Juke Joints in the Delta and you still see it today in photographs and memories.
"He was Papa's mechanic!" said Granna.
I've known these people my whole life and not one word of the man until now (...typical). In town for Juke Joint, I had come down to Jackson to pay a visit and low and behold, Willie Seaberry was a longtime friend.
My great grandfather was a car salesman from a Merigold lumber yard during the 50's and Willie Seaberry, Po Monkey, was his right hand man for repairs. Granna and her boys alike would travel with him to Memphis, purchase the car with their pre-written check (who cares if it's a few thousand dollars shy of asking price?), stop at the Blue and White for a burger and make their way back to Merigold.
I didn't make it to Po Monkey's until after it closed down and I'm still irked by that fact because I was so close. After Willie passed, my mom, aunt, grandmother, and I went back together a few days before it was auctioned off and, being the scavengers we are, seriously contemplated taking one of the signs for ourselves. Knowing that would be ethically and socially a foul move, we reigned it in, but I cherish the fact that it was considered because I was finally in on a collective plan.
Po Monkey's was a good time respite gold mine for many that I cannot represent. Willie Seaberry was much more than a mechanic and he is missed. Those who knew him speak of his ability to balance respect and a party with both hands. He wore three piece suits and smoked a cigar and couldn't care less who you were as long as you followed the rules and eventually went home.
Juke Joints, both the structures and the festival, are nothing short of authentic fun, but they carry years with them that those in my generation will never be able to understand. I'm lucky to continue to experience them alongside people that do.
Granna in front of Po Monkey's - Merigold, Mississippi
"Take a left at the stop sign."
Joy, Anna, Suzy, and Claire Brandon scheming behind those smiles
Visits from a crop duster