PHOTOGRAPH | BILL STEBER
HOUSTON INSTITUTE FOR CULTURE | FEATURED ARTIST
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 storms 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, says 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 is one of the few Mississippians who still follows what he calls the signs of the old people.