April 05 '08
Volume 618

UIC Volunteers Helping Habitat In Pontotoc

Seated (l-r) Sarah, Rana, Sam, Priya, Maggie - Standing (l-r) Beckie, Patrick of PCHFH, Carla, Archit, Greg, LisaMy sister says that bad things happen in threes. I doubt there’s anything scientific about her statement, but I’m inclined to agree with her. If there is a similar admonition concerning good things, I’m not aware of it. However, I can say with respect to Collegiate Challenge and Pontotoc County Habitat for Humanity, good things came in threes this year.

This year, for three straight weeks, college students from three separate institutions of higher learning traveled to Pontotoc to work as volunteers on two houses being constructed for two deserving families. The first group flew in from Brunswick, Maine, the second drove over from Georgia and the third drove down from Chicago. The first two groups were a delight for all who met them or worked with them. The third and most recent group was no less delightful than the others, and may have been more diverse. Of the ten students from the University of Illinois at Chicago, there were two students from India, two from Korea, and one from Puerto Rico.

There was considerable diversity among the degrees which the students were seeking. Priya and Maggie (picture on page 2) are striving for medical degrees, with Priya wanting to be a Physicians Assistant and Maggie an MD. Korean natives, Beckie and Sarah (their American names) are Business majors. Lisa, the runt of the litter (also the group’s leader) is majoring in Nutrition. Greg, the lone accounting major, aspires to become a CPA. Archit, from India, is studying to become a Computer Engineer. Carla is majoring in Education and Rana, pronounced to rhyme with Brenna, is seeking a Masters in MIS (Information Services). Last, but not least, Sam or Samantha, is working on a graduate degree in Sociology.

Keith Thomas, construction supervisor had words of praise for the work effort of all the groups and noted of the Chicago group, "None of them knew what to do when they got here, but they all stepped up to the task and were willing to do anything I asked them to do."

In the four days they worked on the job site, the group was able to get the house framed and almost "in the dry." Of course, these inexperienced carpenters were well supervised by Keith and his assistant Rachel Walker and a couple of local volunteers.

My time of association with the volunteers was limited to the evening meals that coincided with nights both the students and I were in Pontotoc. Lutheran Episcopal Services of Mississippi provided a spaghetti dinner for Sunday night. A Sunday School class at First Baptist, Pontotoc served a Cajun variation on fish and hushpuppies Monday night. I was out of town Tuesday night but back in time for a pulled pork dinner at First Presbyterian Church, Pontotoc. The group spent Thursday sightseeing in Memphis. A children’s group from First Methodist, Pontotoc and their leaders served the volunteer group another spaghetti dinner Friday night.

It’s worth noting the cooks who prepared the fish and hushpuppies Monday night also prepared some deep-fat fried jalapeno peppers, which they elected not to serve.

"We fried some jalapenos," Neal Anderson commented before the volunteers arrived, "but they’re too hot to serve anybody."

"Where are they? I want to try one," I bragged.

Picking up a small sliced pepper that had been battered and fried, I bit off perhaps a fourth of it.

A Supervisor's Job Has Its Perks"That’s not bad," I exclaimed, but as I swallowed, the capsaicin enflamed everything it touched in the back of my throat.

I struggled to get the words out, "Now, I feel it," as I coughed involuntarily.

Either Nancy Maxey or Allen Maxey told me to eat some sugar and it would alleviate the burning sensation. Skeptically, I opened a packet of sugar and emptied part of it into my mouth. As soon as it melted sufficiently, I swallowed and was amazed at how quickly the burning subsided. There have been other times in my life this method of pain-prevention would have also proved useful.

Barbara noted at the end of the week how different the group of volunteers had become during the week. When they first arrived, they didn’t have a lot to say and were relatively quiet, but as the week progressed they began to open up and share their thoughts more and more.

To accommodate the groups request to attend a rodeo in Pontotoc on Friday night, the closing ceremony was held in the middle of the afternoon. I wasn’t there, but Barbara stated the group shared they were overwhelmed by the hospitality shown them throughout the week and agreed their experiences during the week made them want to participate in more such volunteer projects.

My sentiments are those of Keith Thomas, who at the closing ceremony thanked everyone for the work they had done and concluded with, "I’d just like to keep every single one of you down here."

Steak Night Searching For The Longhorn

It had been a cold, windy day for fishing. Normally, either condition would have been sufficient to frustrate the average fisherman, but our foursome prides itself as being above average. I’m confident the light catch for the day was a reflection of adverse fishing conditions and not our collective skill as bass fishermen.

We arrived back at our lodging with only enough time to wash the scent of fish off our hands before heading into town in search of a meal. Lee had mentioned he was in the mood for a steak. Gordon and Jim were, as usual, unconcerned over dinner choices. None of us knew of a steakhouse in the area, so we stopped at a local Sunflower Food Store to ask for a recommendation. I was nominated to go inside.

The store manager was in the office helping a couple of folks who were purchasing a money order, so I asked a couple of bagboys standing around the register area, "Can you tell me where I can get a good steak in Kosciusko?"

The first lad deserves at least a commendation for his response, "Yes Sir! We have some good steaks right here in our meat case."

"No, you don’t understand," I laughed in responding, "I want an already cooked steak."

"Well, I don’t know…" he hesitated in thought. "There’s a Mexican place that also serves steak, and it’s pretty good."

My last experience with a Mexican restaurant left me and the Lord with an understanding. If he’d allow me to survive the bout of severe diarrhea that followed an evening of Mexican cuisine, I’d see to it that I didn’t eat at another Mexican restaurant.

"What about Penn’s?" I inquired of a restaurant near a motel at which I had stayed.

"It’s mostly chicken tenders and catfish," he replied.

However, the second bagboy suggested a really good steakhouse several miles out of town. He wasn’t sure of the name or how to get there, so he got the manager’s attention.

"What’s the name of the steakhouse out by the college…Long something?"

"Longhorn," came the reply.

"What’s the best way to get there?" he asked.

A customer volunteered the information. I made a decent mental note, thanked everyone, and returned to the truck.

"Go back the way we came," I shared, "and turn left at the third red light. That’s Hwy 43, then take a right on Hwy 14. It’s several miles from town and on the right."

The problem with those directions was there wasn’t a Hwy. sign to indicate the street was Hwy 43. We drove through the intersection and stopped at a convenience store, where Lee went inside for a second opinion.

Lee reported, "He said stay on 12 until we get to McAdams, and turn left on the new road. That road intersects with Hwy 14 and the steakhouse is on the right at the intersection."

"Oh, yeah," I mused silently, "This is gonna be an adventure. How are we gonna tell a new road from an old road at night."

Lee continued, "He said the sign where we turn says Goodman."

Sure enough, when we got to McAdams, there was no sign pointing us to Goodman and no way to see a "new road." I shared that we could continue along Hwy. 12 until we got to Durant, then drive south to Goodman, but Lee spotted a state-road sign a few miles west of McAdams, and we headed southward. We followed the highway through Sallis and finally arrived at Hwy 14. Supposing the restaurant lay somewhere east of where we were, Lee sped us on our merry way. After driving about four miles without seeing a restaurant, we turned around and retraced our journey back to where we connected to Hwy 14 and continued all the way to Goodman without finding the now fabled steakhouse.

We gave up the quest and returned to Kosciusko along Hwy 14 and Hwy 43, arriving at the red light, where we had first been instructed to turn. The hour was late; it was almost nine o’clock. We had spent an hour and a half searching for a steakhouse we would later learn was open only on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and we had driven over seventy-five miles looking for it. Needless to say, the Wendy’s fast food restaurant was looking pretty good to us.

The sign on the entrance indicated the restaurant was open until 10:30, so we ambled inside, and each of us ordered a chicken sandwich combo meal. It was a far cry from a steak dinner, but it was filling, especially after the Frosty that Lee and I each had for a dessert.

Back at the Baptist retreat everyone was ready to get in bed. Jim had told Lee and me, after we arrived that morning that we wouldn’t need our blankets or sleeping bags, as our beds were ready. I took that to mean ready as in the beds were "made." I had visited the bathroom and was returning to our bedroom when I saw Gordon had stripped his bed.

"What in the world are you doing?" I asked.

"Making my bed," he replied, before bursting into laughter at the expression he said I had on my face.

About then, I saw he had two flat sheets and a pillowcase that he was about to put on the bed.

I flipped the spread back on my bed to discover no sheets were on it. My disappointment gave me the chance to give Jim Hess a little grief concerning our accommodations.

"Hess! Get in here!" I ordered above the laughter of my bunkmate.

Entering, Jim asked, "Yes…?"

"These beds aren’t made! And, while I’m not too good to make my own bed, I refuse to do so tonight. I’ll put my sleeping bag on the bed, but I’m not making it out."

"That’s fine; whatever you want to do," Jim calmly responded, taking my criticism quite well.

As we crawled into our respective beds, I asked Gordon what time he wanted to get up and set the alarm on the clock radio, accordingly. Lying in the darkness, I reflected on the events of the day. Minutes later, I heard the sound of snoring in the adjacent room.

"Hess must already be asleep," I remember thinking, "I’m glad I shut our door to deaden the sound.

With that, I turned on my side with my good ear to the pillow and was soon asleep.

Note: Read the concluding article of this series next week.

Board Decision Smoking Ban Approved

On Tuesday, April 1, 2008, the Board of Aldermen for the city of Pontotoc, Mississippi, passed an ordinance banning smoking in all public buildings in the city. It was a bright day for the overly health conscious petitioners who had sought the ban and a black one for American freedom, particularly freedom from oppression.

Ignoring the fact that many businesses and restaurants in the city are already non-smoking facilities, a choice freely made by the owners of said businesses and restaurants, and the fact that all government facilities are non-smoking, the Board of Aldermen voted to strike freedom of choice from the rights of the business owners.

Sadly, there are too many citizens in this country who are willing to sell their own freedom while denying certain freedoms to others. Apparently, the Board of Aldermen feels there are individuals in Pontotoc whose ignorance regarding exposure to second hand smoke renders them incapable of choosing a non-smoking section in a restaurant and are therefore in need of the controlling influence of big brother.

The average citizen in Pontotoc will not be adversely affected by the board’s decision, but then neither is the frog in the pot of water being heated on the fire, until it’s too late to do something about it. Citizens who allow the erosion of individual freedoms will one day discover they have no freedoms.

This time, the board’s decision limited the rights of smokers and business owners. However, since obesity among all age groups is a growing concern, the next freedom denied to citizens of Pontotoc may restrict whether or not obese persons can be served in a restaurant. After all, the Board of Aldermen’s decision to ban smoking in public places was based on their interpretation of the "public good."

Bodock Beau Playing Church

A new spin on an old joke is always welcomed. While we’ve shared other instances on the theme of "Baptizing a Cat," this one, shared by Kim Goslin, is a little different.

Johnny's Mother looked out the window and noticed him "playing church" with their cat. He had the cat sitting quietly and he was preaching to it.

She smiled and went about her work. A while later she heard loud meowing and hissing and ran back to the open window to see Johnny dousing the cat in a tub of water.

She called out, "Johnny, stop that! The cat is afraid of water!"

Johnny looked up at her and said, "He should have thought about that before he joined my church."

A Baptized Cat


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