From The Arbor February Warms Our Hearts
February is not the coldest month in Northeast Mississippi, but it sometimes provides the lowest temperatures for our winter and if not our best chances for snow then at least the last good chances for snow to remember. Thus far, the winter of 2008-2009 has yet to yield a snowfall for Pontotoc, but counties to our north and counties well to our south have enjoyed some snow. With no snow, and plenty of cold temperatures, its a good thing for us that Valentines Day falls in this month to warm our hearts.
Valentines Day is celebrated on February 14th, the day of St. Valentines feast, which was observed among Roman Catholics for centuries prior to 1969, when, according to Wikipedia Encyclopedia, its commemoration was removed from the Roman Catholic calendar of saints for universal liturgical veneration. The day became associated with romantic love during the Chaucer era of the Middle Ages. Today, sweethearts and lovers send notes to loved ones in the form of Valentine greeting cards and/or flowers or candy on February 14th.
Generations of public school children exchanged valentines in the classroom from the early nineteen hundreds until administrators, teachers, and parents deemed the practice ill advised beyond a certain grade level. Small pockets of extremists continue the tradition, but the embarrassment of not receiving any valentines at school is largely a thing of the past.
February is also the month we celebrate the birthdays of two of our nations most prominent presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. While the third Monday of February was originally set aside as a Federal holiday to honor George Washington, it is now marked as Presidents Day on most calendars. Lincolns birthday is the 12th and Washingtons birthday is the 22nd. Congress has never authorized the observance of Presidents Day, only Washingtons birthday, but that hasnt stopped advertisers and others from rolling Lincoln and other Presidents into the observance.
February is a birthday-busy month in this writers household. The birthdays of several of my family members fall during this month; my brother Fred (21st), my daughter Rayanne (27th), my granddaughter Katherine (19th), and at least seven nephews, nieces, and cousins.
In Pontotocs recent history, February 24, 2001 is recalled as the night a deadly tornado tore a mile-wide path of devastation through much of Pontotoc County. Six people in Pontotoc died, numerous homes were destroyed, historic Lochinvar was heavily damaged and the states largest bodock tree which stood behind Lochinvar was destroyed.
Though the lives of many were disrupted, there arose an effort on the part of the community to work together. Members of different church denominations throughout the city and county sought to help others in their respective time of need. A spirit of oneness developed the likes of which this writer had not previously observed in the community. An Inter-Faith Agency was formed to administer the relief funds that poured in to help tornado victims reclaim their lives. Remnants of that spirit of cooperation are still evident today in the work of Habitat for Humanity Pontotoc County, an organization uniquely suited to help provide simple, decent, affordable housing to the working poor of the county.
While Valentines Day may garner the most attention for any single day this month, its appropriate that we at The Bodock Post celebrate and associate February with acts of love beyond that of romance. Readers will note that not every article in this issue is a love-related one, but some of the articles do reflect acts of kindness among family members, marital bliss, and efforts by certain groups to share Christian love both materially and spiritually.
As always, we welcome submissions from our readers and encourage your feedback. Contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
~ By Wayne Carter, Associate Editor and Publisher
Summer of Mary Ellen A Time To Remember
She came to the hill country of Mississippi the summer I turned eleven, the summer of 1949. She arrived with a group of young people who were traveling with the evangelist preacher that year. Her name was Mary Ellen. She was an older woman, probably at least eighteen. She was about the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. She could sing like a bird and paint like an artist.
I dont think she even knew I was around. Well, maybe she did notice me just once. She was staying at our house for a few nights while the church revival was taking place. As usual I was out doing my chores and wearing no shirt or shoes. I am surprised that my mother allowed me to go without my shirt when company was around.
Mary Ellen happened to see me and said, "What a nice tan you have."
I did not know if that was a compliment or not. I never wore a shirt or shoes from early spring until the weather got cold in the late fall. I did not really know if a tan was something nice or not. Other than that one time, I dont think Mary Ellen ever spoke to me.
Up until the summer of Mary Ellen, I dont think I had noticed girls, except maybe as something to avoid. I dont know if it was because of Mary Ellen, or because I had turned eleven, but all of a sudden those same girls my age had sort of gotten pretty. Also, that summer the church services did not seem so bad. As a matter of fact, I, as well as my cousins, had kind of started to look forward to getting dressed in our better clothes, Sunday clothes my mother called them, and going to church. We even wore shoes to church.
Mary Ellen could sure sing, but the most amazing thing was that she could also paint. She would sing, and then when the preacher would start his sermon, she would set her stand up by the side of the pulpit, and she would start with a blank stand up pad, and she would start to paint. She would paint very pretty scenes, and I thought she must be the best artist anywhere. She may well have been. All I know for sure was she sure made the sermons easier to take. She would sell her paintings after the service. People could not buy them fast enough.
Usually the traveling preachers spent about two weeks in our community. I guess we had lots of sinners. It seemed to me, they were always preaching against something. Most of the men smoked during that time, so the preachers spent a great deal of time preaching against smoking.
The revivals seemed to always be in the hottest part of summer, which was probably the only time the farming community had time to go to church every night. There was nothing else to be done until the cotton was ready for picking, which started for the hill cotton in late August. There was no cotton to chop or pick. This was a time of watermelons and swimming holes. It was a time for sitting outside at night. It was a time of fields filled with lightening bugs and the stars so plentiful and close you felt you could touch them.
That was the summer that my sister dated the hillbilly boy from across the creek. Usually my sisters dated the boys that went to our school, but that summer during the revivals, my sister found herself a hillbilly boy.
That was the summer the grass in the back pasture grew tall and sweet. The cows always stayed way back at the back side of the pasture that summer. It was always my duty to go and drive them in for milking time.
The creek ran full and cold that summer. We went swimming until it was time to herd the cows in for milking, and to get ready for church. I can remember how the night air felt, how the fresh turned soil in the bottomland smelled, and how free I felt down by the creek. This was the summer all that would change. This was the summer of Mary Ellen.
This was the summer of sling shots, and finding arrow heads, and shooting the newly placed road gravel in our sling shots.
This was the summer my sisters made the prettiest dresses out of flower sacks. They would spend days trading flower sacks with the other girls in the community. There were sacks with print designs, sacks with flower designs, and just sacks. They could not wait to see what the new designs would be so they could make a different color dress.
This was the summer of my best tan, and when we roamed the hills in search of treasures. This was the summer I wore shoes to church and saw pretty pictures being painted during church services. This was the summer of watermelons and swimming holes, and of fishing and lazy afternoons. This was the summer the creek ran deep and cold. This was the summer I turned eleven. This was "The Summer of Mary Ellen."
~ By M. G. Russell, Contributor
Biographical sketch: M. G. Russell is a Pontotoc County native and grew up on a cotton and dairy farm near the Lafayette County line. Memphis has been home for him and wife, Jan, for over fifty years. Russell retired in 2004, after 47 years in the transportation industry. Apart from writing, Russell enjoys running.
English Peas Plant Them In February
How luscious lies the pea within the pod. ~ Emily Dickinson
Gardeners are as competitive as some folks and more than most. We like to have something new and different and earlier and bigger and tastier than our friends and neighbors have. But we gladly share with anyone.
It's January. The seed catalogs have arrived. My winter daphnes are in bloom. My crocuses will poke they little heads above ground soon. Hester, my hawthorn, will bloom soon.
The garden calls out to me. Our latest frost date is April 15. I can begin gardening now if I proceed with care. Some cool weather crops can abide a frost, just not what Uncle Aubrey of Laws Hill, MS calls a killing frost. Even that can be ameliorated with a light covering of straw or more expensive row covers. I am without excuse to tarry.
The earliest veggie is what we in the South call English peas. I like the ones you shell and eat, not Chinese snow peas or sugar peas you eat pod and all. The old folk say plant English pea seeds on Valentines Day. A layer of straw will help them survive the inevitable frost. If they fail to germinate in about ten days, it is little trouble and expense to replant. Inexpensive inoculation powder will boost their nitrogen supply and encourage growth. They need sunshine and a southern exposure, which people could use, too.
If you want an even earlier start and better seed germination rates, plant the seeds in potting soil in egg cartons. I have hundreds if you need some. Mimi has been looking askance at the large box in the garage filled with hundreds of egg cartons made of decomposable material.
You need fifty plus vines to make a mess for a family. We Southerners know how much a mess is.
Momma made her fair-headed boy a bird's nest: mashed potatoes with a nest of English peas. Mimi still does.
In the Collierville Victory Garden we will plant English peas and onions around the bean poles. We may not have enough to take to the Food Pantry, but they make a crisp sweet snack while working in the garden. Plus, the gnomes, who work all night in the garden correcting our mistakes and herding the earthworms, are more than worth their pay: one pea each per day.
We will plant beans among the English peas and onions as they are harvested to make best use of space and time and the nitrogen the peas fix in the soil.
I usually sow the Alaska variety since it is the earliest, Green Arrow which grow large, Little Marvel which are small but highly productive, and Wando which are late and heat resistant.
Next we will be planning Spring cole crops and potatoes, but that needs to wait for March.
~ By Carl Wayne Hardeman, Editor
Bunk Beds Bible Class Helps The Needy
Most churches try to go a step beyond the norm around Christmas time for people in need. Our church, Bellevue Baptist, and especially our Bible Study Class attempt to do so as well. The class, made up of about a hundred people in their seventies and eighties, are a most generous group. Many came through hard times, the Great Depression, World War II, and other times and kinds of hardships. They know first hand what it is to hurt, to have little, even to be hungry, possibly.
Each year our class, "The Family of Friends," sponsors a family or two who appear to be in need and are deserving. These families are screened as much as possible. Couples from the class visit in their home to try and evaluate what the real needs might be. Our people are willing to give to many in order to minister to the one who really needs help, rather than to cut back and possibly miss the ones who really hurt. Most in our class feel they would rather give freely, and let our Lord deal with those who seek only to deceive.
This year we received names and addresses of two families in a low-income section of our city who were in need. Although both families were not in the same need category, one stood out.
The second family was a rather large one, seven children and another on the way. The oldest was a twelve-year-old boy and they stair-stepped down to a one-year-old. The mother was expecting their eighth child in just a matter of weeks. There was a father in the home and he was working hard at a regular job, although at a minimal wage. The children were all clean, respectful and it appeared they were cared for as good as possible under the circumstances. In the home there was no furniture to speak of; an old sofa and one stuffed chair. That was all! The kitchen had a few cabinets, a stove and refrigerator, but no table or chairs. The bedrooms were very small and had no furniture whatsoever. They all slept on the floor on makeshift pallets.
One of the men who went to visit this family, a gentleman formerly from upstate New York, was moved by the conditions they were living under. The children warmed up to him almost instantly. Before our team departed, the parents were asked about their church affiliation and salvation. Their answers gave proof of their salvation. They attend church regularly with their children, and it showed. As they talked with the children, our former New York class member, whom we lovingly call "Bubba," asked the twelve-year-old boy what he would like for Christmas. Of all the choices he could have made, toys, a bicycle, clothes, a TV, games, etc., the youngster answered with a statement that broke Bubbas heart and many of ours as well. He said he would like a bed . Something we all take for granted each day, but here is a twelve year old not wanting toys or gadgets, but a bed. Well, needless to say it built a fire in Bubbas heart and he let that fire spread to the class as well.
In order to get enough beds into the small rooms it was determined that bunk beds was the only choice. Three sets of bunk beds were sought, but they are hard to find. Finally three beds were located but at a cost of about six hundred dollars. That amount did not include the six mattresses necessary for the beds. That was more money than had been received for both families.
Bubba was persistent; any child who only wants a bed for himself and his siblings for Christmas would have a bed, one way or the other. The youngster had not asked for play things; "just a bed" for them all. The proverbial hat was passed again, and the total came up to the amount of the bunk beds, but it had to be shared with the other family, plus mattresses had to be bought and the mother and dad still needed a bed as well. Much prayer was made by the class, and class members began to catch Bubbas spirit. Bed linens, pillows, blankets, and all sorts of bedding were beginning to arrive.
A discount furniture store in the area gave us a discount on mattresses for the bunk beds and on a mattress and box springs for the parents bed. Other class members donated other items, towels, wash clothes, childrens books, a table and chairs for the kitchen, a nice sofa-bed, toys of different kinds, and even a couple of bicycles for the older children. The littlest daughter had stolen Bubbas heart away, and all she wanted was a baby doll; it was furnished, too. Even before the doll could be removed from its cardboard backing, she was carrying it around and hugging and kissing it as if it was a real baby.
Finally, the total money received was enough to do what was needed at this home and the other one as well. So many people got involved, even merchants and others with no real connection with these families got into the act. In a final meeting with the latter family all the children of sufficient age were given the plan of salvation and four of them prayed to receive Christ as their Savior.
Two families were blessed by a Senior Bible Class. Or was it the other way around? A Senior Bible Class was blessed by two needy families and their children. How wonderful it is to see how God will provide if we will truly seek to do His will, and to see Gods hand move for a young twelve-year old who only wanted a bed for Christmas.
Three bunk beds, $600, six mattresses $600, one double bed $300, four precious children brought to the Lord, priceless!
~ By Ralph Jones, Managing Editor
Solar Lighthouse Works Sporadically
At some point during the years I crafted the Ridge Rider News, I decided to have some new business cards made. The first ones were rather plain looking, and after my nephew helped redesign my website, I thought it appropriate to update my business cards. In choosing a design, among the free offers at VistaPrint.com, I selected one with a lighthouse on it. I liked the soft blue, red, and white color combination, because the website for the Ridge Rider News already boasted a similar color scheme.
In introducing the business card to my readership, I mentioned how I also thought of my newsletter as a lighthouse for its readers in that, for some, it provided a guiding light and for others a beacon illuminating the important people, places, and things in my life.
Though theres not a nautical bone in my body and Pontotocs landlocked location does not lend itself to identification with a lighthouse, reader acceptance was surprising. Soon, folks were offering me their lighthouse experiences from among their travels, and, in time, I began to receive pictures of lighthouses, mementos, Christmas Tree ornaments, set-abouts fashioned as miniature lighthouses. My sister surprised me with a hand-sewn shirt with a pattern of sailing ships and lighthouses.
While I appreciated the various gifts, I appreciated more the thought behind each gift and the fact that individuals made an effort to show in a tangible way their need to give something back to the giver, the one providing them a weekly journal of sorts.
The most recent lighthouse-themed treasure I have received came from my sister, Sarah C. Brown, who, well in advance of my August birthday (back in May, Im told), purchased a solar powered lighthouse to present to me on my birthday. Its about fifteen or so inches tall and made specifically for the use outdoors.
In my mind, a lighthouse needs a proper setting, so the next morning I positioned it on our deck near the hot tub, making sure it would receive plenty of sunlight on its photovoltaic cells in order to charge the battery, and I made certain the power switch was on. I expected to see a beacon that night and was disappointed there was none.
"The batterys probably no good," I thought, "and, theres no telling how long it sat on a shelf before it was purchased."
Two or three nights later, my niece, Felicia, and her husband, Cullen Pollard, were over. Felicia wanted to know what I had done with the lighthouse. I opened the door onto the lanai to show her.
"Hey, look its blinking," she exclaimed, and to my amazement, I observed how the light grew in intensity, then dimmed, and repeated the cycle about every second or so, practically creating the illusion of a rotating beacon.
Since that night, my wife and I have peered out the window almost nightly to see the lighthouse. (It doesnt take as much to entertain us as it used to.)
Oddly, though, it doesnt light up every night. One cant fault the weather, either. Even on some cloudy days the solar panel charges the battery enough for a few hours worth of illumination after it becomes night.
The solar lighthouse may work for two or three consecutive nights and then stop working for a night or two. There is simply no rhyme or reason to it, that I can determine, but my wife may have figured out the process.
"Maybe, it just shines when there are ships in the area," she suggested, recently.
Stranger things have happened. Ive not checked out the neighborhood, but there could be a few solar powered ships in the area. On the other hand, my sister may be right.
"You need a new battery," she suggested.
Sure I do, and just maybe the lighthouse does, too!
~ By Wayne Carter, Associate Editor and Publisher
My Valentine Mimi Sweeter As The Years Go By
Faith aside, the best thing that ever happened to me was when Mimi, my bride, agreed to marry me, poor prospects and all. It's been forty-two years; it's getting better all the time; and I hope it goes on for at least that many more years.
For our generation, we were almost late getting married. We married in January 1967 just after I turned twenty years old in December and just before she turned nineteen. She was eighteen. A college education was just a dream for me, which happily became a reality over time.
I was in the US Air Force and had begun what has been my life's calling: doing and teaching all areas of information technology. I had three more years to go at HQ SAC near Omaha, NE. It must have been one of the hardest things she ever did to leave her close knit family and make our little apartment a home while she worked until our precious little girl was born a few months before the end of my enlistment.
That time together away from family and most friends brought us closer. We learned to love our time with each other and relish the small things like going for a car ride, getting DQ'ed, or seeing a movie on base for twenty-five cents.
Mimi is an only child and has been "petted" all her life. But that's all she knows, so me, the kids, the grandkids, and granddogs have long enjoyed the love and attention of her doting affection. Men, when your sweetie marries you, she's giving you all she has: herself, and you need to understand and place a high value on that.
Now don't get me wrong, no couple will ever see eye to eye on everything. Young people need to understand that. A couple will have some differences of opinion which don't have to ever be resolved.
I am convinced every couple considering marriage should take a canoe trip together. Relationships are magnified on the river. There can only be one captain in a canoe at a time. You have to work together unless you want to get a good dunking, in canoeing or marriage.
We once went canoeing with two other couples. One couple argued all the way down the river about who was in control and were miserable. Mimi and I paddled together with me steering and had a happy trip down that river, and lived happily ever after. Some times she steers; sometimes I do.
What has kept us close over the years? More than the deep and abiding love we have for each other, we are dear friends with common values of faith and family based on our commitment to God and to family.
We wouldn't dream of missing a family reunion, a wedding, or funeral. We both would skip a pork chop and mashed potatoes dinner to visit with relatives, and gladly put on another few potatoes to share supper when they come visit us.
Living with Mimi, worshipping our Lord with our whole extended family, and eating her Southern country cooking: it don't get no better than that.
~ By Carl Wayne Hardeman, Editor
Growing Up Happy Security In The Forties
Recently, I had the privilege to speak with Leoda Morrow, a fellow classmate, over the phone. After our initial conversation on the object of the call was completed, we began to reminisce about how great it was to grow up in our small country town of Pontotoc. It was a joyous time to say the least.
It was a time when families knew and visited one another. Boys mowed the lawns and girls baby-sat and we all did odd jobs for friends and neighbors. Many, if not most, of the houses in our town had no lockable doors. Oh, some had a "night latch" on the inside of the door that was hooked upon retiring for the evening, but keys for real locks had long since been lost. Few locked their doors when they left home.
You did not have to look for the car keys because they were usually left in the cars ignition. Fact is, many of the older Fords had a key on the steering column that locked the wheel and shut off the electricity flow. However, most folks turned the key to "on" then broke off the key in the ignition so that they would not have to bother with it anymore. There was a separate toggle switch that controlled the ignition and a push button for the starter.
Many times on Saturday we would go to town to do some shopping and return home to find family or friends sitting inside our home waiting for us. Often they would have made themselves a pot of coffee or a glass of tea while there.
Almost immediately Mom would say to me, "Ralph, go back to the Frozen Food Locker and get two large packages of chicken and several containers of strawberries."
In nothing flat shed have hot biscuits, gravy, some veggies and a whole passel of fried chicken ready for everyone to devour. Shed "throw together," as she called it, a little white cake and wed have the strawberries over the cake for desert. What a wonderful time we would have with our guests.
If we had much to bring home from town, I would take my red, "Radio Flyer" coaster wagon with us to bring the packages back home. It was such a joy to walk to town with Mom and "be a help" to her. As usual, in a few years all that changed. Boys grow up and they do not cater to the fact of walking to town or anywhere with their mother, but alas, it would be such a joy to do so today.
In nice weather the kids of Happy Hollow would play together at some homemade game we had conjured up. If there was a bunch of us, "Piggy wants a Signal" was a favorite game. Basically it was a game of "Hide and Seek," however, when you were caught and put in "jail," one of your fellow players could give you the signal and you could legally escape. However, if the seeker saw you and the signaler, hed put you both back in jail. We played this in the late evening, and the darker it got the more fun it would become, easier to hide, easier to give a signal. Finally, the seeker would get tired of catching us and then us getting away again, and would declare the game over. Besides, it was then time to go in for supper anyhow.
Churches were never locked, and yet there was no vandalism or theft going on there. If you wanted to come in and meditate and pray, you were welcome. Sometimes the organist would be practicing for Sunday, and you were serenaded by grand music. Even those who did not go to church had a great respect for them.
Only once do I remember hearing of a theft in one of our churches. The Court Square "Spit and Whittle Club" bemoaned the fact that a youngster would sneak into the First Baptist Church and steal a small amount of change from a classroom. These old timers may not have darkened the door of anyones church lately, but they had a moral set of values that said the boys actions were wrong. Had they caught him they would have, no doubt, given him a good thrashing.
Being a small town, none of the churches had enough youngsters to have a first class Vacation Bible School of their own; however, the town had some of the best anywhere. The churches would schedule these events far enough apart so that all the kids could attend; most years us kids went to all three; Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian. It was so much fun with all the marching in, singing, bible stories, games, handmade crafts, and, to a great extent, the Kool-Aid and homemade cookies.
Somewhere in all our stuff here at home is a small, red New Testament, and on the fly leaf is written: Presented to Ralph Jones, for Perfect Attendance, Vacation Bible School 1943, First Presbyterian Church, Pontotoc, Mississippi. No, they did not pressure me to become a Presbyterian; they only pointed me to Jesus. What a wonderful time and place.
Was it a perfect town? No! Were there no problems? No! Was there no crime or violence? No! However, it was a great place to raise a family, a town of caring parents, and a community that provided good schools and churches. It was a place where even though things were not locked up tight, crime did not abound. The police force consisted of one man, and he did not even have an official patrol car. It was a village that stood for honesty, fair play, morality, and Christian principals. Most of our families had little money, but we were rich beyond measure! Thank you Pontotoc, for allowing us to feel secure and to grow up happy.
~ By Ralph Jones, Managing Editor
A Great Recipe Resolution Helpers
While its a little late to make New Years resolutions, its
never too late to resolve to improve ones life. The following tidbits are
Bubba Bodock All Puns Intended
There should be at least one of the following that will make you smile or groan, perhaps.
Our Mission Purpose - The Bodock Post
As this is our very first edition or issue of The Bodock Post, perhaps it would be in order to state our purpose or our mission, if you please.
It is our desire to provide a monthly newsletter about rural living with
photographs of yesterday and today, including timely articles about conservative
politics, religion, food, restaurant reviews, gardening, humor, history,
and non-fiction columns by folks steeped in our Southern lifestyle.
Copyright © 2008 - 2009 The Bodock Post.