Parting Shot

Story & Photograph Carmen K. Sisson

Gravesite of Kelly Mitchell, queen of the gypsies, Meridian. Photographed by Carmen K. Sisson.

Gravesite of Kelly Mitchell, queen of the gypsies, Meridian. Photographed by Carmen K. Sisson.

It must have been a sight to behold in 1915 Mississippi. Gypsies — 20,000 of them — singing and dancing in the streets of Meridian, their dark-eyed children peering from the shuttered environs of horse-drawn wagons as they gathered for the funeral of queen Kelly Mitchell. Legend has it they tossed coins into her grave, the metal clinking against her silver-trimmed casket. Today, people still leave pocket change and other trinkets to please the queen. It’s a strange hodgepodge of items, a rotating tableau dependent upon the cares of the times and the whims of the visitors. A toy soldier. Cheap liquor. Bits of fruit. Word to the wise: According to superstition, Ms. Mitchell’s personal favorite was Orange Crush soda.