We are standing in the graveyard of a country church talking in hushed voices, about 60 of us. Hollywood could not have come up with a more beautiful setting for a funeral.
I was almost to the church that lost its steeple to the tornado, when the rooster started crowing. It sounded like he was a block away, somewhere on Third Avenue South. I was driving down College Street, windows down, headed to Mark Stokes' to have the pick-up's brakes checked.
In a world trending toward one-click-and-it's-on-the-way commerce, it's reaffirming to run up on someone who grows and sells watermelon plants from seeds found in a deceased uncle's freezer 20 years ago. Or white eggplant from seeds stashed in a baby food jar in the house of a grandmother named Zada.
At 5:30 in the morning it sounds as if the motel I'm staying in has been transported during the night to trackside at Talladega where time trials are going on. Outside on Airline Highway, pickup trucks, bumper-to-bumper, are roaring east in the dark toward the refineries at Norco and Destrehan.
On a rainy morning last week, William "Peppy" Biddy stood in front of a computer next to his desk in Cromwell Hall talking via Skype with a student in Italy. The student's name is Tristan, and he and Biddy were going over a marked up version of the student's M.F.A. thesis discussing Biddy's suggestions for improvement.
OK, here's a math problem for you, one I was faced with one day last week. A 1-cubic-foot bag of topsoil at a big box store costs $1.50. A yard of topsoil from the Lowndes County Co-Op is $40.
The only time I ever went deer hunting was when Bull Sullivan was recruiting me to play football at Scooba. A group of fellow recruits and I spent a night or two at a deer camp somewhere in the wilds of Noxubee County. (A friend who was similarly recruited two years earlier said the deer camp belonged to the Sparkmans of Macon.)
Ross, a kayaking buddy, likes to take a garbage bag on our river outings so we can police the take-out area after we've finished paddling.
Most of us, one time or another, have been called upon -- or taken it upon ourselves -- to serve as a tour guide. The call came for me a couple weeks ago. An eminent musician would be here for three days and his host wondered if I would give him a tour, share with him some of the "historical richness" of our community.
On a recent, brilliantly cold morning while navigating a kayak down the Buttahatchee somewhere between Lawrence Bridge Road near Caledonia and Highway 45, I thought about the late Robert McG. Thomas Jr., the celebrated writer of obituaries for the New York Times.
For as long as I can remember, I've been walking the trestle. By that I mean walking out on the old railroad bridge over the old channel of the river near the south end of First Street near Carrier Lodge. My children have "walked the trestle," so have the grandchildren.
In January 1996, when I took this job, I had little idea about the inner workings of a newspaper. As a kid, I had grown up running up and down the halls of this place, and I'd had a few summer jobs here.
"The Lower Mississippi River is suffering from gross misunderstanding & neglect. Most people think of it as either a drainage ditch or a super-highway for tugboat commerce. Its neither. It's a wilderness in the heart of the South."
One evening this past week, at the urging of James "H.D." Taylor, the subject of last week's column, Beth and I headed east toward Mac Davis Road to see the herd of plywood cows in a pasture next to Mitzi and Tom Green's home.
H.D. allowed he had made the cows for the Greens and even made a set for a woman from Tennessee who saw them and had to have some of her own.
Early Sunday afternoon, on the day Mississippi observed its 200th birthday, Larry Priest and James "H.D." Taylor unloaded two fishing kayaks from the back of a battered GMC pickup and dragged them to the river's edge.
The other day, while waiting on the papers to come off the press, David Plyler, a high-school classmate, and I were talking about baseball and our shared love for the New York Yankees when we were kids.
Margie Hall is talking about the Ranch House, the restaurant that has been part of her life since she moved to Columbus from Gordo in the early 50s to carhop for her brother, Bill Hall, who owned the place.
When an abusive husband called her a "dumb ass," she drove to a nearby college and took and passed the Mensa test. That's Jane: intrepid, confident, irrepressible.
Earlier this year Doug Wheeler, 76, broke his ankle while water skiing. During his seven-week convalescence, his wife, Pat, chauffeured him on his daily rounds.
While most of us would declare the study of Latin and Greek terra incognita, Bob Wolverton would argue vehemently otherwise.
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