July 26 '03

Volume 373


Successful Party RRN and Friends

At the most recent Dot and Jerry Bellgathering of subscribers to this newsletter, they, along with friends and family members of this writer, found the food was nothing short of wonderful. There was a plethora of desserts that included pies, cobblers, cakes, cookies, and brownies. There were several freezers of homemade ice cream including both vanilla and chocolate. I had boasted in an earlier newsletter that Pontotoc County had great cooks, and they proved me to be correct. And, while the host had already provided tartar sauce and coleslaw, two thoughtful guests contributed homemade versions of the same, and another brought a plate of sliced onion and tomatoes.

Four men volunteered their service to assist Lee Gordon and Jim Hess in preparing the fried catfish, hushpuppies, and fries. These individuals, all from Pontotoc, were Bobby Davis, Joel Hale, Mickey Gentry, and Jim Mogridge. Additionally, my son, Jason Carter and our houseguest, Joe Millham of Wichita, KS, helped shuttle the food from the kettles to the serving tables. In all, the crew served up some sixty pounds of catfish filets, twenty-five pounds of fried potatoes, and enough hushpuppies to feed Cox's Army.

Of the sixty pounds of catfish, about five pounds of catfish filets were grilled over a charcoal fire by Jim Hess. Jim left the party earlier than most, in order to get back to Vicksburg, MS, by midnight, and he missed the compliments and recipe requests from those who enjoyed the grilled fish.

Each of the six cooks was presented an apron to shield their clothing from spills of grease, or greasy foods. The aprons, souvenirs, as well as tangible thank-you's, were beautifully embroidered with a cluster of grapes, above which were letters spelling out, RRNews. The embroidery work was courtesy of my sister, Sara Sue.

The cooks finished their work in record time; due in large part to the use of three, huge, gas-fired cookers that Lee Gordon borrowed from a friend in Houston, MS. The handmade cookers were shaped like a giant wok and mounted on a three-legged cylinder that may have once been a large metal storage tank or pipe. Each cooker held thirty-five pounds of peanut oil, and, once heated to three hundred twenty-five degrees, made quick work of the frying process.

Most guests were able to handle the late afternoon temperatures that hovered near ninety degrees and thus remained outdoors. However, a handful of folks did find the temperatures inside the house more to their liking. At least, that was my impression, though they may have simply wanted to be near the dessert table.

While those indoors held the advantage with respect to desserts, those who ate outside were treated to a live band and not just any band, either. This band had real Carter Family roots. Though they may not be related to the original Carter Family, who helped pioneer country music, they were in fact Carters. The band consisted of my older brother, Fred Carter and his musically talented son, Bobby. Fred has four sons, but Bobby has developed his musical talent to a greater extent than his brothers have. They played country music, particularly music made popular prior to the advent of the modern country music. I was not able to sit and listen to their entire performance, but I heard enough comments from guests to know that most folks appreciated them.

Once Fred and Bobby were done, Rayanne plugged up an electric keyboard and treated listeners to several hymn arrangements. Before everyone went home, we Carters had a brief jam session. Fred and Bobby picked and grinned, while Rayanne played the keyboard, and Sara Sue and I helped our brother and nephew on the chorus of I'll Fly Away. We're not ready to go on the road, but we entertained ourselves.

The total recorded attendance at the fish fry officially stands at one hundred three, which is slightly less than we had last year. Yet, with many folks being on vacation, others off to their own family reunions, and still others obligated to attending their children's summer athletic events or other prior commitment, the turnout was not a disappointment, plus it was a first-time occasion for twenty-six individuals.

Special recognition is in order for two large groups in attendance. Cheryl Radford, our niece who lives in Southaven, MS, brought along five of her friends. It was the first time her friends had been able to attend, and they all promised to return again next year. Rayanne, my decorating daughter, not only reworked the arrangement of several rooms inside our house and was largely responsible for the various table centerpieces, accounted for another six guests.

Persons living outside of Pontotoc and Pontotoc County accounted for almost one-fourth of the total attendance. Outside of family, some RRN subscribers attending from out of town traveled a great distance. I didn't check with Powell Prewett, Jr. concerning his route, but my computer's map program sets the preferred overland route from Oak Ridge, TN, at 400 miles. Linda and Martin Reeves of Gulfport were most likely in second place with respect to distance traveled to attend the gathering. However, there is no second place status of any guest. All are first place in our hearts, and my family appreciates each and every guest who graced our party with their presence. We say thank you to everyone who brought food to share. Since we didn't get a complete list of these special individuals, we choose to let them know of our appreciation via this newsletter. If you missed the fish fry this year, it is hoped you'll be present next year, assuming Barbara and I are up to the task and our cooks can come back to help us again.


Mama Ruby The Funeral Of Mrs. Ruby Ball

I went to her 90th birthday party two years ago. It was the first time I'd seen her to know who she was since I worked as a teenager in my dad's grocery store on Main Street in Pontotoc, MS. I knew her then as Mrs. Ball, the mother of one of my classmates, Linda Ball Reeves now of Gulfport, MS. Linda reminded me a few years ago that she and her mother once shopped at Carter & Austin Grocery. The day of Mrs. Ball's party, Mrs. Ball may not have remembered me but did associate my name with that of my dad's business.

Mrs. Ruby Ball died Wednesday, July 16, 2003, at Graceland Nursing Home in Pontotoc, at age 92, having been a resident of the home for the past sixteen years. Mrs. Ball, the widow of Theo Ball, is survived by two daughters, Linda Reeves of Gulfport and Clarice Collums of New Albany, three grand children, and seven great-grandchildren.

Linda phoned me Thursday morning seeking help lining up an instrumentalist and a singer for her mom's funeral service scheduled at 11:00 a.m. Friday morning. I shared that I would be glad to help and would get back to her within a few hours. I know a number of capable musicians but felt I should first check with Dot Bell at First Baptist Church to see whom she might suggest. By one o'clock, I had secured a commitment from Ellouise Dallas to play the piano and Rev. Mickey Gentry to sing.

Barbara and I stopped by the funeral home Thursday evening to pay our respects to the Ball family and to give Linda an update on her request for musicians. We cut short our visit due to having a hungry household of seven waiting our return to finish dinner preparations.

Barbara was unable to attend the funeral service with me Friday morning. I arrived about thirty minutes early and had enough time to visit with four former classmates of Linda and mine. Bill Pound was on hand as a pallbearer. Herbert Jenkins, Phylis Crane Wardlaw, and Linda Jones Wingo were the others.

Earlier, Linda shared how the family had planned out the funeral service several months in advance. Besides musical selections, they planned to have some of her mom's other children give a eulogy. Seeing my perplexed expression, she explained that her mother had once kept children in her home for working Moms.

I found the eulogies the by Mrs. Ball's "other children" to be the most touching part of the funeral service. Two young men, Marty Brown and Mike Gentry, and one young woman, Carmen Crane Bond, tearfully shared heartfelt memories of a lady they knew as Mama Ruby.

Carmen Bond recalled being dropped off each workday at Mama Ruby's and actually feeling sorry that her own parents couldn't share the privilege of being one of Mama Ruby's children. She recounted the storm cellar where everyone was herded at the onset of threatening weather conditions. She remembered a shady porch and being lovingly rocked by Mama Ruby whose lap often held three children at the same time.

She expressed regrets in not having told Mama Ruby, in recent years, how much she loved her and committed to sharing her feelings with other loved ones while there's time to do so. Apart from the love given to her by Mama Ruby, she best remembered the food served at Mama Ruby's table. In fact, she declared she'd never eaten a pancake that was as good as those cooked by Mama Ruby, and how, to this day, Golden Eagle syrup is the only syrup she'll buy.

Marty Brown recalled similar experiences at Mama Ruby's, too. He said she would help him dig worms to fish with in the creek that ran near the house, but now he doesn't recall ever seeing a fish in the creek. He too, remembered how Mama Ruby would pour Golden Eagle syrup on his plate for him to eat with biscuits and that she used a fork to mix butter with the syrup.

I felt a bit of pride in hearing about the Golden Eagle syrup, partly because it's my favorite syrup, but also because I remember when Dad first began to sell Golden Eagle syrup in our grocery store in the fifties and since Mama Ruby bought groceries from us, then there's a good chance she purchased her first Golden Eagle from our store.

Ellouise played several old hymns as persons were seated in the chapel of the funeral home. I particularly remember, I'll Fly Away and I'll Meet You In the Morning. Bother Mickey's singing of Holy Ground and Sweet Beulah Land was greatly appreciated, too. Normally, funerals are tough times, not only for family members but for others as well. However, the balance of singing, piano music, eulogies, and the inspirational message by Rev. Bill Everett, the minister conducting the service, served to soften the emotional impact of losing a loved one.

There was one other person on the program who deserves mention, a young woman named Sophie Gates. As an employee at Graceland Nursing Home, Sophie explained that her life had been touched by Miss Ruby in many ways over the past several years. She sang the favorite song of many Christians, Amazing Grace. She sang the words a cappella, and she sang with the expression and beautiful feeling of the African American community.

I expect to see Miss Ruby, or Mama Ruby, again one day, and when I do, I fully intend to ask her about the Golden Eagle syrup that her special children remember so well. However, the readership of this newsletter will need, in advance, to forgive my failure to write about that day "beyond the blue."


Reader Response Who Were Those Serenaders

Reference RRN article (Serenading) by Lou Ramsey, I believe that he has mistaken me for someone else or that he had a senior moment when stating that I was in the party shooting fireworks at someone's home, and I certainly do not recall anyone ever shooting in my direction with a .22 caliber rifle.

I have driven by Turnpike many times, but I don't know of nor have I ever know of Rockyford Road. Maybe it was called by some other name in the fifties. I have wracked my brain, what there is left of it, and I cannot recall any such event, as Lou described, happening in my lifetime. In my youth, I got into a lot of trouble and was very mischievous in some ways, but I have never been in a place where I was being shot at.

Yes, my name is Fred; William Fred Carter is on my birth certificate. When I was a child and in my teens, some people called me Freddy and I hated that. I hated it so much that I swore that when I became old enough, I would legally change my name.

I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force three days after my eighteenth birthday. My first name being William, I was called Bill and that is the name I use except when I'm in Pontotoc or around relatives. I never legally changed my name because that is the name my parents gave me and neither Mom nor Dad ever called me Freddy.

Getting back to Lou Ramsey's story, Lou, I'm sorry, but I just can't remember any of the events that you mentioned. I do remember that sometimes on Sunday evenings that you and I and some others used to socialize after church.

Signed, Fred Carter

Note: At press time, both Lou and Fred were sticking to their respective points of view.


Bodock Beau Dinner Table Mathematics

Some stories are just better when they are told aloud. They sometimes lose something in print, but the following was heard around the editor's dinner table the other evening.

Felicia was making sure everyone knew that the following day, July 22, would be her birthday, when the editor asked, "Do you know how old your Granddaddy Carter would have been today?"

"Ninety something?" I think, she responded, "Ninety-three?"

Sara Sue chimed, "All you have to do is add sixty-nine and twenty-five."

"Why add anything?" the editor reasoned. "Why not subtract his birth year from this year?"

"He was almost sixty-nine when he died, and it's been twenty-five years," said Sara Sue.

"When's his birthday?" Felicia asked.

"1909," came the reply from the editor.

"You mean your daddy and my daddy were the same age?" Barbara questioned.

 "Well, I don't know, dear," the editor replied sarcastically, "Was your daddy born in 1909?"

"No," Barbara snapped in less time than it takes to write the word.

"When was he born?" the editor quizzed as he, Sara Sue, and Felicia erupted in violent laughter.

It took a minute or two for Barbara to regain her composure and say, "I think he was born in 1912."

After more side-splitting, jaw-cramping laughter, the editor managed to conclude with, "Then, I don't guess your daddy and my daddy were the same age."

With respect to hot weather, It matters little whether it's July or August, and it's as true of Mississippi as it is of Louisiana, but the following came our way from Ed Dandridge of Louisiana. A few weeks later, a Mississippi version was received from Dena Kimbrell of Mississippi.

YOU KNOW IT'S JULY IN LOUISIANA WHEN...

1. The birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground.
2. The trees are whistling for the dogs.
3. The best parking place is determined by shade instead of distance.
4. Hot water now comes out of both taps.
5. You can make sun tea instantly.
6. You learn that a seat belt buckle makes a pretty good branding iron.
7. The temperature drops below 95 and you feel a little chilly.
8. You discover that in July it only takes 2 fingers to steer your car.
9. You discover that you can get sunburned through your car window.
10. You actually burn your hand opening the car door.
11. You break into a sweat the instant you step outside at 7:30 a.m.
12. Your biggest bicycle wreck fear is, "What if I get knocked out and end up lying on the pavement and cook to death?"
13. You realize that asphalt has a liquid state.
14. The potatoes cook underground, so all you have to do is pull one out and add butter, salt and pepper.
15. Farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying boiled eggs.
16. The cows are giving evaporated milk.

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