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Birney Imes: Snow day


Birney Imes



It began Wednesday evening, snowflakes coming down like in a Christmas movie. By the time I headed for home at 7, the streets were empty and white. 


On a friend''s recommendation, we''d rented a creepy video starring Robert Mitchum. About half way through it, I got up and went to see what Mother Nature was up to in the backyard. She had layered everything in sight with a 4-inch frosting, and all of it seemed to glow as if lit from within. 


By morning a flock of cardinals had filled the tree outside the bedroom window. With manners that would please the most demanding schoolmarm, they were taking turns at the two bird feeders hanging in its limbs. The birdseed Beth had spread on the back patio was not going unappreciated either. 


The beehives were topped with snow. I left in place the snow banks on the entrances, thinking they might provide insulation. During cold weather, the girls huddle in their hives using body heat to keep each other and their precious queen alive. On warm days they take cleansing flights, but this would not be one of those days. 


I used a broom to sweep the snow from my windshield before taking a roundabout route to work. The only car I passed was a small Honda containing William Roberts and son, Porter, the two of them also out sightseeing. I stopped to take a picture of the watermelon red cottage belonging to Bill and Annis Cox. With its bright siding and green shutters the little house looked like a spring bloom that had mistimed its flowering. 


Up the street a parka-clad photographer named Joe Boggess was photographing his family home, Whitehall. Joe''s parents lived there before him and Carol. When we were kids, the Boggess backyard was the site of many a sandlot football game. We affectionately called our field of valor the Pecan Bowl, so named for the blanket of nuts deposited by the trees overhead. 


Having seen Joe prompted me to e-mail his brother Bill; the two of us were classmates, K-12. Bill lives outside of Paris, where he is a Baptist missionary. He responded right away and, before the presses were rolling, the picture had landed on two continents. 


With the snow and the remodeling we''re doing in The Dispatch front office, the morning had taken on a holiday air. Peter went out for hot chocolate, coffee and donuts for those who made it in. By then papers were coming off the press and there across the top of page 1 was Joe taking his picture. It''s not the Internet, but you can hold it in your hands and marvel. 


An old friend, Axel Kustner, is visiting from Germany, and mid-afternoon, he, daughter Tanner and I took a drive in the prairie. Out from Macon we sat agape as a handsome buck sprinted across a fallow corn field. The creature''s magnificence was all the more evident against a white background. 


Just south of Brooksville we stopped at Hancock Hardware where Axel tried on and, after much deliberation, bought four pair of Carhartt dungarees. "In Germany I''d pay 130 Euros a pair for these," he said. 


"Do we have time to go by Crawford?" he asked. In 1978, in his early 20s, Axel traveled to America in search of the blues, namely in the person of Big Joe Williams. In Crawford he found the aging bluesman living in a battered green trailer on a road suitably named for a bluesman, Sugarhill. 


There, over three decades ago, our paths crossed. 


In front of Crawford''s city hall we stopped to take pictures of the Blues Trail marker honoring Joe. The maker bears photographs taken by the both of us. Axel pointed to his. "I took that picture on Sept. 26, 1978, the day Peter was born." 


Downtown we stopped at Charlie Jones'' jot-''em-down store, also known as John''s Grocery. The place boasts an inventory that would make Sam Walton envious. Formerly a juke joint, the Capricorn Castle, John''s Grocery is one long room in which every wall is covered with merchandise. There are shelves of random canned goods, poster board for school projects, point and shoot cameras, condoms, beads, sardines, plastic and rubber tubing in dozens of sizes, motor oil ... hundreds, if not thousands, of items. 


Tanner bought four pickled eggs. Charlie put her purchase in a small brown paper bag, and we went outside to enjoy the scenery in the late afternoon light. 


"Hey, Fat," one of the locals yelled to a large man in camo getting out of a small yellow station wagon parked in the middle of the street. Maybe it was the weather, but nowhere to be seen was the assortment of stray dogs I remember being a feature of Crawford''s downtown. The only canine in evidence on this frigid day was a husky crossing the street with a small rodent in his mouth. 


We then rode to Sugarhill where we met a toothless man who remembered some of the people Axel had befriended during his stay with Joe, in particular, a fellow named Cush, who had regaled the German boy with tales from his days working in the levee camps along the Mississippi.  


Leaving Crawford, we hurried back to town, arriving at the Nissan Auditorium on the MUW campus just as Tom Velek was introducing comedian Dick Gregory. 


Birney Imes is the publisher of The Commercial Dispatch. E-mail him at [email protected]


Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.


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