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7. Oxford Alcohol Laws Bringing End to Ole Miss Tradition?

CountyLineA “Walker’s County Line Run” or for those in the know, a “Walker’s Run” for short, has been a tradition for many of Oxford’s beer drinkers over the past 15 years. Walker’s County Line Store sits on the Lafayette and Panola County line and was once a mecca for Oxonians trying to buy beer on Sundays, as well as cold beer throughout the week.

Now Walker’s is just one of many options for Oxford residents. On Sept. 19, the Oxford Board of Alderman approved cold beer and Sunday alcohol sales.

“It is great to be able to run down the street and grab a case of beer and only miss a commercial of football on Sundays. Before, you could miss a full two quarters,” says Ole Miss senior and self-proclaimed beer connoisseur Johnny Corneley.

It’s true that, before Sept. 19, Marshall and Panola Counties were the two closest options for Oxford residents to indulge in alcohol on Sundays. Walker’s County Line Store of Batesville is listed as 12.5 miles away on Google Maps. Betty Davis Grocery of Waterford in Marshall County is listed at 15.3 miles from Oxford.

Jerry Walker of Walker’s County Line Store said the new law changed his business overnight.

“Oh, man, it cut my business in half. A few students come out and do the challenge but that’s about it. If they want to have a store out here, to do the challenge from, they better start coming back,” said Walker.

”The challenge Walker mentions is considered by some a rite of passage at Ole Miss.

“We [passengers] would buy cold beer with the intent of drinking it in Oxford and get a six-pack of Miller High Life minis for the ride home, excluding the driver of course! Almost no one ever finished the six-pack, the foam was unbearable,” recalls Ole Miss senior Michael Sullivan.

Mississippi’s open container law, one of the most relaxed in the country, facilitated the beer challenge. The state is one of seven, which allows the consumption of alcohol in motor vehicles. In fact, the driver of a motor vehicle is allowed to consume alcohol and drive so long as their blood alcohol content stays under the state’s legal limit of .08 percent.

That may be one reason why the county-line challenge experience started long before today’s Ole Miss students arrived on campus.

“You know it’s not like they just started this county line challenge. Before it was Walker’s challenge, it was Rick’s challenge, and during the 1960s when all beer was illegal in Oxford it was known as Pete’s challenge,” said Walker.

But Oxford’s new beer law has clearly changed things.  Walker has tried to adapt and regain customers, changing his ads on local radio station Q93 to say “keep the tradition alive at the county line.” He insists his prices are cheaper than most gas stations in Oxford, too. Yet, even he’s not optimistic about the future.

“Convenience trumps everything; tradition is OK, but the one thing that trumps tradition is convenience.”

Though there is not much you can get at Walker’s that is unavailable in Oxford, Walker promises that the beer is colder there in the old time refrigerators. So, if you have the time and desire to buy some cold beers for the weekend, a relaxing and scenic Walker’s Run could be worth it.  After all, it’s tradition.

Go along for the ride with Ole Miss journalism student Jordan Driggers, jbdrigge@go.olemiss.edu.

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