August 28 '99
The White Fence Between Crenshaw & Como
Seeking a different route from Indianola to Memphis became a priority late last year, as I grew tired of driving in the congested traffic along Hwy. 6 through Batesville, MS. Upon consulting a roadmap, it appeared that, should I continue on Hwy. 3 northward from Marks to Crenshaw, drive eastward to Como, and travel Interstate 55 for the remainder of the route, my journey would be less stressful. Having worked as a meat specialist in the Como/ Senatobia area years ago, I was familiar with the Como area but had never made the trek from Crenshaw to Como. I wondered if the road would be full of curves and or else be in bad need of maintenance. As it turned out, the road was in relatively good condition with a minimal number of curves. Crenshaw sits at the base of the hills described as "The Bluff Hills" that delineates the Hill County from the Mississippi Delta. Therefore, a traveler pushing eastward from Crenshaw finds himself in the hills practically before he is out of the city limits of Crenshaw.
Driving along the rolling hills that support some crops, but mostly pasture and timber, I noticed a beautiful white rail fence along the north side of the highway. The first time I saw it, I was more impressed with its length than anything else, for it seemed endless. In fact, it reminded me of waiting for a long freight train to pass, in that if I knew it was going to be so long I would have counted the boxcars, or in the case of the fence, I would have checked my car's odometer reading and calculated the length of the fence. In the following months, I had several opportunities to pass by the fence, but it was about the fourth trip before I remembered to measure it. It measured almost exactly two miles in length along the main highway, and then ran beyond my line of sight at each corner.
Still later, on a return drive from Memphis, I noticed the evening sunlight reflecting off the shiny white surface of the fence, and for the first time realized the fence was not wooden. Here, I had been admiring the craftsmanship of the immaculate fence, marveling at the near perfect centering of the mortise-tenon joints of rails and posts, and suddenly discovered the fence was a prefabricated vinyl fence. Though, I could continue to admire the beautiful fence as it snaked across the rolling hills framing the hillsides in a ribbon of white, the realization it was not wooden seemed to cheapen my impressions in the same way replicas have less value than do the originals.
In the springtime of this year, I decided to investigate just how far the vinyl fence ran away from the main rode and alongside the gravel section-line roads on either end of the fence. I do not know the landowner, but he has, by my calculations, fenced in 2560 acres of land that supports a large herd of cattle and some horses. I remember from my grade school mathematics that one square mile is a section of land and each section consists of 640 acres. (Do you remember that a quarter-section is 160 acres? What about the song lyrics, "I've got a 160 acres full of sunshine, I've got a 160 million stars above, I've got an old paint hoss and it knows who's boss on the 160 acres that I love?" I don't think the songwriter just made up a number to fit a poetic meter, he was talking about a unit of land, commonly understood and a unit big enough to support a small family farm.) The gravel roads intersect the highway at right angles and run two miles northward before intersecting with another gravel road that is parallel to the highway. Thus, the configuration of the tract of land is two miles by two miles or four square miles. Therefore it is four sections or 4 times 640 acres which computes to be 2560 acres. The vinyl fence extends about a quarter of a mile down each gravel road before joining an "old standby" fence of the barbed wire variety.
Since my sighting of the long vinyl fence, I have noticed more and more vinyl fences. I see many of them used to decoratively define a homeowner's frontal property line or a portion thereof, though some do have a more commercial purpose in the containment of domestic farm animals. I don't need a vinyl fence, at this point in time, so I have not researched the costs associated with the product or its installation. However, I imagine, a great benefit would be "low maintenance" in that it would not require repainting and is certainly more weather resistant than wood. I did look at a few web sites on the Internet and found that the rail fence is only one of a great variety of fences that are available for residential or farm purposes.
Meanwhile, the next time you see a really sharp looking white fence, look closely, and see if you can determine whether it is wood or vinyl.
Arcola Laundromat Backs Up To Deer Creek
The community of Arcola is located a few miles southeast of Greenville, MS. It is located near the juncture of U.S. Hwy. 61, and MS Hwy. 438. In bygone years, Hwy. 61 ran through the town. I sometimes pass through the small community as I travel from Greenville toward Yazoo City. There are three or four routes that will get one from Greenville to Yazoo City, and, except for the change of scenery, they all require about the same amount of windshield time.
Arcola is one of those small Delta towns that you have to wonder if it will even exist in a few more years. I suppose, as along as our generous Federal Government passes out funds to support dead communities, then it could hang on another century. However, it does not appear to have a self-supporting tax base to maintain city services or even a city government.
I can count on one hand the number of times I have had occasions to stop in Arcola. Today, 8/19, I was a little low on gasoline and opted to stop at the corner Phillips 66 station/ food mart to refuel rather than risk running on fumes to Hollandale which is about 20 miles further south. Phillips 66 is not my preferred choice of gasoline, but ranks in the top five, somewhere after Amoco, Shell, and BP. I was a little irritated to notice none of the gas pumps could accept credit cards at the pump and a little more irritated to discover the four pumps did not offer multiple choices at each pump. I have become spoiled to gas pumps that offer a choice of regular, mid-grade, and premium from a single location. I spent the better part of a minute locating the premium pump.
As I exited the car, I read a sign on the pump that irritated me even more. "Please Pay Before Pumping," it proclaimed in bright red letters on a white background. I have always been a little insulted by such signs and have resolved not to obey them. If I am ever required to pay for the gas before I pump it, then I will tell the clerk I'll just drive to the next station, where hopefully such is not the case. (And hopefully, I won't be on empty at the time or else, I may have to eat crow.) After putting the gas spout into my gas tank and flipping the gas lever to begin fueling, no gas was dispensed. I waited what I considered long enough for a clerk to activate my pump before walking inside where I was prepared to ask that the pump be started. Naturally, by the time I got inside, someone realized the pump needed to be activated and turned it on for me.
Standing alongside my car, waiting for the tank to fill, I surveyed my surroundings, all the while thinking it sad that some folks call the town of Arcola 'home.' I saw a row of dilapidated buildings directly east of my location. The one best illumined caught my eye. It was lit by the rays of the morning sun streaming through plate glass windows which bore the name of the business, Arcola Laundromat. There was no roof on the building so the sun had no trouble streaming through. The building was but a shell with no rear wall or roof. It was difficult to determine if the buildings on either side of the laundry mat held thriving businesses, for the one with the faded name of some 'lounge' probably would not have been a morning business. Neither did I suppose the one on the other side of the laundry mat, Bozo's Stompin Ground, to have early morning customers. I would not want to be inside either of the buildings in the morning and especially not at night.
Still, the laundry mat building intrigued me. Immediately behind the building ran Deer Creek. Yes, that would be the creek made famous by Jim Henson of Leland, MS, the creator of Kermit the Frog and other muppets whose imaginary lives were lived out along Deer Creek. I imagined folks could walk through the open door of the Arcola Laundromat, stumble along the rubble, amble up to the west bank of Deer Creek, and wash their clothes along the creek bank. Though, I can't imagine anyone wanting to wear clothes washed in muddy water. The Arcola Laundromat surely must have shut down long ago, and, but for the musings of my imagination, remains so today.
Somehow, as I drove away from Arcola, my thoughts continued to dwell on the shell of a building that was once a laundry mat. I thought of how the lives of many persons are like the old building. There is a hollowness there, an emptiness that longs to be filled. Perhaps, that life was once productive and valuable, but is now hobbled by infirmities of age or disease. Perhaps, the hollowness was a result of a marriage gone bad, crippling the self-esteem of one or both parties. Perhaps, the emptiness evolved from a life of misplaced priorities, such as a workaholic father who had no time for his family, or a parent attempting to relive his or her youth through a child, or equally as bad, a parent so devoted to a child as to neglect the greater priority of their spouse. Perhaps, the emptiness is best symbolized by the spiritual dearth of countless souls. Those are some of my thoughts concerning unfulfilled lives, what are yours?
Reader Response Bowled Over
The recent RRN article concerning commodes prompted two readers to contribute.
Beverly Carlyle of Indianola, clipped and sent the following from the August 13 issue of The Clarion-Ledger (a Jackson, MS, newspaper):
"Some members of Congress want to flush away a federal law that requires new toilets to use less water. Critics say there's no water savings because you have to flush them again¾and maybe again. A 1992 conservation law requires less water for any new toilets installed in homes, along with lighter sprays in shower heads. New toilets are limited to 1.6 gallons of water per flush; the older toilets allowed 3.5 gallons."
Billie Jean Sewell of Pontotoc tells of a recent experience.
"Katie Jackson and I were in Jackson overnight this week and experienced one of your 'whoosh' toilets! What a noise! See, you enlightened us. We probably would have complained to the front desk, had we not read your [news] letter!
As it was, we just lifted the tank and said "See - there IT is!""
A third response was received from relatively new subscriber to RRN, Jerry Young, who had not previously read the "Golden Eagle Syrup" article and sent the following comment:
"I subscribe to three magazines, Time, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair. I read most of the Time every week. I usually find at least one article in the New Yorker that I thoroughly read. I also check out the movie and book reviews. I've given up on their fiction. It doesn't do anything to me. But, I realized that thirty years ago, no, forty years ago, because I tried to read the New Yorker while we were in high school. Anyway, I keep up with some things by going through the New Yorker every week. And, I usually find several articles in Vanity Fair that I will take the time to read. My point: I am finding the Ridge Rider News to be much more entertaining than any of those magazines. How long things like the way you put syrup on a biscuit can keep my interest I don't know. But, for now, I'm really enjoying [reading] it. You have a gift."
Bodock Beau Seen In Mobile
Beau was in Mobile recently and toured the Nicholas and Alexandra exhibition. He reports seeing a sign inside the convention center that struck him as poorly worded. Though he hails from an area known to have a goodly population of rednecks, he allowed only a redneck would take the sign seriously.
"Restrooms - Use Hallway To The Left"
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