Chuck's — the Only Constant - PhMuseum

Chuck's — the Only Constant

Rory Doyle

2019 - Ongoing

For nearly six months in 2019, the lower Mississippi Delta flooded due to monumental rainfall and a historically high Mississippi River — combined with the key factor of drainage pumps blocked by the Environmental Protection Agency out of fear of destroying a neighboring wetland forest. Roughly 500,000 acres of land remained under stagnant water that had nowhere to go without the pumps.

In unprecedented fashion, the region flooded again in 2020, sounding the alarm for many conservative residents that climate change is real. Agriculture is the regional lifeblood, and the flooding has presented immense challenges to local farmers and businesses. With COVID-19 presenting additional trials to one of Mississippi’s poorest regions, survival has become a real struggle.

The one iconic eatery in the area is Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. Chuck’s has been a mainstay for generations, feeding farming families and serving as a meeting place where locals stay connected. For many impacted by the floods, the restaurant is the only gathering point around where they can stay fed, while simultaneously supporting each other through the growing obstacles.

Chuck's is a rare enduring fixture in an area that has faced two years of natural disaster, followed by a pandemic, followed by an economic disaster. With continued imbalance in 2021, Chuck's remains the one constant in a place faced by unparalleled changes.

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  • A sign asking the government to complete flood drainage pumps remains on the wall at Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Dec. 4, 2020. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • A customer poses for a portrait with his handmade jewelry at Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Dec. 4, 2020. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • Tracy Harden, owner of Chuck’s Dairy Bar, poses for a portrait at her restaurant in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Dec. 5, 2020. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • Late light casts on Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Dec. 9, 2020. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • Backwater flooding surrounds a farm in the lower Mississippi Delta June 14, 2019. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • A crop of corn is engulfed by backwater flooding in Sharkey County, Mississippi June 14, 2019. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • Mack and Hazel Shorter pose for a portrait in the home that once belonged to Hazel’s mother in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on July 27, 2019. The Shorters were forced to evacuate their home in Fitler, Mississippi due to the flood. “The only thing I can do is pray and ask the Lord to give me strength,” said Hazel. “Basically, we feel forgotten. A lot of people don’t realize that our lives have changed forever. When you have to uproot and move, it’s almost like starting life all over again. For the people who haven’t followed what’s happened here, I want them to know what this part of the world looks like — and how many people are suffering in the South. They need to see how the other half lives. Each year, it seems like the water is getting worse and worse. What’s going to happen in the next 5-10 years?” (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • Jessica Cole, right, serves customers at Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Dec. 5, 2020. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • Jacob School (left) and Chase Dolly eat lunch at Chuck’s Dairy Bar after hunting in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Dec. 5, 2020. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • A customer watches the news as she dines at Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Dec. 9, 2020. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • Carmen Hancock (left to right), James Hancock and Rodney Porter boat down a flooded road near their homes in Valley Park, Mississippi on July 16, 2019. They’ve spent the past five months helping their elderly neighbors survive in their homes surrounded by floodwater. “We’re living by the good Lord to do what’s right,” said James. “There’s a number of older people living in this neighborhood, and It’s just the right thing to do. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. That’s what I live by. You do what has to be done.” (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • A farmer exists floodwater and navigates the little dry land remaining on his property in the lower Mississippi Delta June 14, 2019. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • Stormy Deere boats outside her home in Warren County, Mississippi on July 16, 2019. Deere’s home was built high enough that it didn’t succumb to the floodwater, but she did have to boat in and out of her property beginning in March. “The isolation is tough,” said Deere. “It’s such a pain having to boat where I use to drive. The emotional effect is awful. You think you’ll see the light of day when the water drops a little, and then it pops right back up again. It’s really hard. This isn’t fair — just because we have a lower population, and we have a lower income per household, we still matter. We should be treated equally.” (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • David Sellers breaks into laughter after setting up a sandbag levee around his home in Holly Bluff, Mississippi on Feb. 21, 2020. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • The Sharkey County Courthouse is reflected in the window of an abandoned building in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Dec. 10, 2020. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • An abandoned Subway restaurant remains in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Dec. 10, 2020. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • Lee Rees pays for his order through a sheet of plastic serving as a Covid-19 precaution at Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Dec. 9, 2020. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • A customer’s shadow casts on the menu taped to the takeout window at Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Dec. 4, 2020. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • Carolyn Washington, an employee at Chuck’s Dairy Bar for 32 years, poses for a portrait in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Dec. 11, 2020. (Photo by Rory Doyle)

  • Tim and Tracy Harden (back) worship near Shauna Henderson (left) and her daughter, Josephine Bridges, at the Church of Christ in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on Dec. 13, 2020. (Photo by Rory Doyle)


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