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What Would Kermit the Frog Say About His Latest Honor?


The impoverished but fertile Delta region of the Deep South state of Mississippi, where rich soil spills across the cotton and rice fields when the great Mississippi River floods, is home to the mournful, uniquely American music called "the blues." And to southern-fried food that makes your mouth water just thinking about it.

So tourists find their way to the Delta. And now there are a few thousand more of them. They're heading for the small town of Leland, Miss., where there's a hot new attraction. It's . . . well . . . a frog! . . . maybe the most famous amphibian since that frog of legend who, when kissed by a beautiful girl, turns into a prince.

Leland's frog is named Kermit. He's an impish, green, cloth hand puppet who sometimes breaks into the forlorn song "It Ain't Easy Being Green." Kermit is the creation of a Mississippi boy named Jim Henson, who grew up catching real frogs at Deer Creek near Leland with a friend named Kermit Scott.

In movies and on the TV show "Sesame Street," warm-hearted Kermit was the star of a wildly creative company called "the Muppets." Kermit the Frog even hosted the live, late-night "Tonight" show all by himself one time. Fresh versions of "Sesame Street" are still in production, all over the world.

Jim Henson died suddenly in 1990 from a severe bacterial infection. In his memory, the Jim Henson Company has donated Kermit the Frog artifacts for a two-room exhibit in the town where the idea for Kermit was born.

These days, bookish types head to Oxford, Mississippi, where William Faulkner wrote obtuse novels. Pilgrims flock to Tupelo to tour the birthplace of Elvis Presley — "the King." And now folks are finding their way to Leland, Mississippi, whose favorite son is a frog.

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