Shannon Bardwell: Eccentricity runs in families

September 4, 2010 8:27:00 PM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


Sam and I attended the wedding of my cousin, Mandy Powell. Momma and her nine siblings were from Natchez. Then "Powell" came to visit one day and stayed. Momma said that happened a lot back then.  


When Powell''s son married a cousin, there were whispers that this might be an incestuous union, until someone remembered they weren''t blood kin. Everyone sighed in relief. Mandy is their progeny. At Mandy''s wedding I thought of her great-grandmother, Edell. There are lots of "Edell stories."  


Momma said that Edell worked at the Holiday Inn and drew a map of Natchez marking tourist sights. The Holiday Inn printed the maps on placemats. You used to see those in hotel restaurants all the time; the family credited Edell and said she''d be rich had she copyrighted the idea, but she didn''t, so instead she worked at the Holiday Inn. 


Next door to Edell lived her kids and their pet monkey, George, until the day George bit Edell''s finger. If you''ve ever had a monkey bite, you know that''s not good; so George was zipped off to the Jackson Zoo. We would all go to the zoo and visit the monkeys. Some kin swear they''d call George and one of the monkeys would come near. Edell never went. 


Later Edell worked at the pharmacy. She was widowed by then and worked all the time for a lot of years. Everyone in town, from sick kids to the infirmed elderly, knew Edell. 


One morning she was headed to the pharmacy when a young highway patrolman signaled her to pull over. He approached the driver''s window and said, "Mrs. Rogers, do you know that your license plate has expired?"  


"Well, of course I do," she answered. 


"Mrs. Rogers, there is a fine for driving with an expired license plate," he continued. 


"Young man, you must be new around here. I don''t have time to get a new license plate. I work five days a week from six in the morning until six in the evening, and your office is closed when I am off, so how do you expect me to get a license plate if you are not open?" 


The young patrolman stepped back, apologized and motioned her on her way. 


The following day the patrolman appeared at the pharmacy. "Mrs. Rogers, I understand that you are a very busy lady, and I have brought you your license plate and if you''ll permit, I''ll put it on your car." 


After that, Edell told young and old alike that Natchez had the finest patrolman in the entire state of Mississippi. 


That night, as Mandy glided across the dance floor into her new life, I thought how Momma would have said that Mandy came from good stock, though maybe a bit eccentric.

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.