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Out On The Mudline

Baseball And Swimming Were Activities In The 20s

By W. P. Sissell

(Editor’s Note: Sissell’s column is a continuation from last week in which he described finding out his big brother had been killed in World War II.)

My Big Brother

Let me begin today by saying,  “I know that I have told you a number of things that involved my big brother.”  However, because I have had several requests to tell more about him, I know that I can avoid repetition to a great extent.  

John Reuel Sissell, Jr. was eight years old when I arrived on the scene.  I’m almost positive, after several conversations with cousin James Crocker, that I got in the way many times.  All in all the older children of the entire family treated us “younguns” pretty good.  

First, if you wonder about that second name look in your Bible and find the name of Moses father-in-law.  Grandmother Sissell chose that name for our father and he, Reuel Junior, was the first son in our family.  

The Big Event

Reuel, Junior and his big sister were born on the dairy farm on the land that a lot of people  still call “Frostland,” south of  Water Valley at the intersection of Mississippi Highway 7 and 32. Serious health problems caused mother and father to sell the dairy operation and move into town.

Father worked for Mr. Will Wilbourn’s bridge building company for several years. After that he bought and operated the creamery and then the Community Grocery.  I do not know any actual calendar dates for all these events but the great depression probably took precedence over all the others.   

Folks aren’t kidding when they say, “dollars became as big as wagon wheels (the back ones—most back wheels were the biggest).”  My father did—managed—some kind of trade with his dad and we moved to a 240 acre farm, just past O’tuckalofa Creek Bridge, out on the mud line.  It was truly a mud line at the time for the levee from Swindoll Hill to McFarland Hill was a mud road.  

New School and Neighbors

When we moved to the country we were in Camp Ground School District.  Brother Reuel, Jr. was in the ninth grade while I had two more years before starting school.  Our older sister, Lucile, lived in town with her aunt and finished high school.

The Earnest Houses lived across the road and further back, at the foot of the hills, the Albert Wilbourns who had several children near Reuel’s age.  All these people lived on the Cotoner place.  I’m about to forget the Willingham’s who moved to a small house up next to Spring Hollow.  

Reuel, Junior, got to be and remained, good friends with the Wilbourn boys, Huck (Otis), Frank and Billy.

Uncle Nace and Ivy McFarland lived on the edge of the “second bottom” out past the barn.  There were several boys in their family who became good friends.

Brother Reuel played baseball, at school and in a summer league.  My memory of that is Reuel, Huck, and Frank taking off walking to go play baseball, sometimes as far as O’tuckalofa. Walking was an often-used mode of transportation in those days (I couldn’t go cause I couldn’t walk fast enough.)   

One of the summer fun things was swimming. O’tuckalofa and Yocona were too shallow in our area so other than the McFarland Pond, the closest real good swimming hole was below the Will Austin Levee. They, the older boys managed to conquer the distance factor as they grew older. I’ll tell you about that next week.

Please do have a good week.  Thank you for your interest.  You can reach me, most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606, 662-563-9879 or

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