The town on China, Mississippi grew out of the timber industry, like most small towns. When the long leaf pine and live oak was stripped from the wide woods in the early 1940s, the town was left in the depression with nothing but black and white photographs of their glory. One showed fourteen men standing around a single tree felled and laying on a cart drawn by oxen.
As the greatest generation fought their war and came back to travel, a small industry grew up around China, Mississippi. Whatever it was about the town that attracted the factories that made small knickknacks, cute signs and animals displaying slogans for various tourist attractions, the town flourished with jobs and comfort. As the nation traveled, China, Mississippi exported thousands of bears and mountain lions and squirrels holding signs that said “Don’t tread on me” and “I’m not fat, I’m fluffy.”
No matter that the country of China became a nation of godless heathens in the eyes of the men and women from China, Mississippi, producing massive quantities of electronics and consumer goods as the decades passed. No matter that the outer world continued to travel, the factories spit out small replicas of Mount Rushmore and the Empire State Building. The residents of China, Mississippi stayed where they were, stamping “Made in China, Mississippi” on the bottom of each one. They never dreamed of far away places.
The logo came, “Made in the U.S.A,” the movement driven by the rich and powerful to bring work back to American workers. All through the 1980s and 1990s, the workers of China, Mississippi stuck the little sticker, the little logo with the sweeping red, white, and blue, and were proud to be Americans. They still stamped “Made in China, Mississippi” on every raccoon on a log and fish that sang the national anthem, too, because they were proud of where they worked and lived and died.
The Internet came and shipping got easier and more and more trucks came to China, Mississippi to take away the bluebirds, red birds, ravens and sparrows, all cast molded in resin and covered in lacquer to preserve the image. The men and women in the factories retired and their kids took over the positions of foremen of the white-tailed deer floor and the lead designer of new napkin holders made from real bark from whichever national park they were being shipped to. The town went on, continued, until it didn’t.
“Made in China” became a disgusting thing to some, the rich and powerful looking to buy American, only American made goods, not reading the “Mississippi” behind the China. The shoppers and travelers and retired RV stage coach drivers all over turned over plates with wild turkeys and bear cubs and fawns and made noises in their throats and proclaimed “Made in China, of course” and put down the little item and bought a t-shirt or jacket because you need something with a logo when go visit.
The demand for “Made in China, Mississippi” goods fell as the nation stopped reading at the word they were taught to loathe. No one would believe their ever was a China, Mississippi, a small town with big factories and hard working men and women who loved their country. The town died, the last person moving out as this is written, the last factory closed and dark with only a fish on the wall that sings the national anthem as the raccoons pass it while they hunt frogs and other vermin.