by W. P. Sissell
I have read the pro’s and con’s of the return of the land “seized” by the builders of the several dams which produced the reservoirs in the Yazoo-Mississippi watershed (those builders, “seizers,”) were you, the citizens of these United States. Yes, we were paid for the land, a pittance even at that time. The land which we owned—at present it is out of water but most of the arable land is in the state we found it when it was purchased from the Indian’s, grown up in brush. I wonder how many dollars was paid as a drainage tax, recouping the cost of dredging the channels of Yocona and O’tuckalofa. I have been told that Mr. Taylor Rotenberry, who owned many acres in the Yocona Drainage District but was still affected by flooding, tried to sell out but finally decided to stick with the increased tax. Most people in the Yocona and O’tuckalofa drainage way were in the same boat with not much of a paddle. Now we know that we helped elect the people who figured out the entire system with little or no cost to those whom it helped the greatest.
Some of those who have written letters to the editor want a place to hunt and play. I recently had a comment about what a great swimming place “Sissell’s Pond” was. It was built, primarily, as a water source for cattle water with the added special benefit that my mother, “Miss Sadie,” along with others on our farm would have a good place to fish and swim. When I got home from the service, 1946, I pulled stumps, excavated during the building of the pond, out of the pool area.
The farm, where I spent the happiest years of my life, suddenly was gone—to forever belong to someone else. All the various buildings—most of them built of lumber sawed on our own sawmill—once out behind the barn but now on our new Cottoner place, had to be bought back and torn down. When I came home from the service my folks had already sold all land north of the Mudline Road in preparation for the coming of the Reservoir.
That lost “wealth” of buildings is something I have never recovered from, for right now some fifty-three years later, I am thinking of, planning on, adding another storage building.
Sure, I would love to be able to take my grandsons and show them where Joe Stribling and Dave Folson showed me the art of handling one end of a crosscut saw—correctly and all the other facets of logging. I was proud to have such knowledgeable instructors. Then there was Shirley McCain whom I helped haul sand rock from the side of one of those mountains for Billy Boy Mitchell and me to break into one-inch rocks. Adams Mitchell, Billy Boy’s father, taught me how to chop cotton. There was Floyd McCain who religiously cut my hair every Saturday morning—one of the best barbers around.
One of the interviewers from Enid Reservoir asked me about the kind of community in which we lived. My answer: We were our own community—ten to twelve families—we all answered to Mr. Reuel and/or Miss Sadie. We had a good time amongst ourselves, working together.
Nannette and I had already selected a place for our home—with its back to one of those mountains or maybe up on the side of it a little bit. If you ask either of us today—we looked at a house just a few days ago where we might have lived—you would get a pair of resounding no’s. In those fifty-eight years, although we both still love the Taylor—Water Valley area, we’ve lived in two communities, four houses (one of the houses which we built was taken from us by the “seizers,” this time you of the state of Mississippi) . When we moved to Crowder my father told me one day, “Son, the people you should get to know here are the church people.” We heard him. We have many, many friends in that area. Just yesterday our daughter was complimenting a young woman who works for a friend of our son. That girl is the great granddaughter of a good, Crowder friend.
Today, Batesville, Mount Olivet Community, is our community. In 1947, if you told me that I would be a retired teacher in 2007, I would have thought you were mad—but I am and so is my wife, Nannette. We have children all over, not just the USA—the world. In talking to a former student several days ago, the young woman commented, “No, I can’t do that Sunday, for I’ll be in Brussels Saturday.” If you saw a comment about the U. S. attorney in Oxford making a statement—that’s another of my students.
We’ve loved our life. There haven’t been many hard times and we’ve gotten through those, standing by our faith. It would be hard to even think of not having some of those good friends alongside those we have from the early days.
I hope that you will treat all that ground as kind of sacred, for there’s a lot of us still around that put many a footprint on it—and I do hope that the Supervisors get the correct amount of tax money.
Our wish for you is a happy holiday season—Nannette and I sent our annual stack of cards yesterday—then we remembered a number that we forgot—some of them important ones.
You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606, 662-563-9879 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a good week