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Out On The Mudline

Brother Made A Lasting Impression Prior To War Death

By W. P. Sissell

I suppose that my first order of today should be an apology.  Do you ever get so wrapped up in “goings on” that you forget.  Miss Betty said that David said,  “Mr. Bill must be out of town,” when he could get nothing but our answering machine.  

The missing article (two weeks ago) was right there on the desk by that answering machine but it would not, inanimate thing that it was, talk to David.  I was happily on my way to the annual Methodist Conference knowing that I was going to see many old friends that we usually see once a year.  

John Reuel Sissell, Jr.

Today I want to try to sum up my thoughts about how he stood as a brother.  That’s simply said.  He was great and I still miss him, at times, today.  Reuel, Jr. and I exchanged many letters after I went into the service and he asked for and got sea duty again.  I got one letter that followed me home about two weeks after I got home.

In that day and time anything concerned with troop movement or naval destinations was censored from all letters.  Unlike today when the enemy knows about such things long before they take place. Reuel, Jr. and I had a hidden language.  Example:  One of the chores that fell to me, as the young kid, was riding the corn planter.  

Almost all the excess land was planted to corn for there were many mules, dairy cows and hogs to feed.  My riding the planter involved hanging on, handling the dust (from the tractor and planter wheels) raising and lowering the planter at the end of the rows.  The last was the main reason for my being there.      My explicit instruction from Dad was, “William always be sure the heel of the planter sword shows moisture” (in other words put the corn seed in the moisture). The two of us were good at planting corn.  If, in a letter or phone conversation, I said, “do you remember how the rows ran on that big cornfield on the McClarty place?”  He could , without hesitation, answer, “Sure, toward Huck’s house”(East). If I wanted the other direction I would say, “No, toward our first cotton field or toward the pump.”

All the Things He Introduced Me To

When I started writing these articles, especially at the request of my son, I made a list of the many things that Reuel, Jr. had a hand in my learning.  I’ve told you about many scattered along through the many articles. Here is most of that list.

I’ve told you about the “Swinging Bridge.” By the way, when the men were digging the trenches for the anchors (cypress logs), six feet deep, one of the men in the pit, exclaimed, “I wish you would look at this—a Johnson Grass root—in the bottom of this pit.”           

He let me drive his Model T, just steering, on the way from swimming in Yocona  down below Will Austin’s levee.  Probably it was on a return from swimming in McFarland Pond that he taught me that ghosts didn’t exist.  Later, after he and Russell Wright got the Star running good, he let me drive, using the clutch and shift.  I obliged by running into the crib wall as I parked in the shed.

As I mention Russell I must say that he and Reuel, Jr. were great friends.  Both loved working on old cars.  Reuel, Jr. became a Chief Petty Officer rated as one of the top steam engine men. Russell became a top aircraft mechanic in the U. S. Air Force.  Sometimes I think about what a shame it is that they did not get to visit after the service days because of Reuel, Jr.’s early death.  

One of the things that I’ve left out of my stories is the daring that was a part of his nature.  I don’t know how familiar you are with the steel bridges on the Mud Line, the Robinson Mill Crossing, the Will Austin Crossing and the new Bynum Bridge.  

I say that because that first crossing, poured by Mr. Will Wilbourn’s crew with about four foot concrete sides.  Those steel bridge supports and top rails were about fourteen inches wide studded with rivets.  The real fun was to climb to the top and walk that rail about twenty feet up when the muddy water was boiling almost at the bottom of the bridge floor. I also remember, a couple of those big boys swimming O’tuckalofa when it was running that high.  They were good swimmers.

I’m especially grateful to those of you who were concerned about my missing column, thanks. Our wish for you is a great week, as always.  I know that some of you are in the heavy rain areas.  I hope that you are safe.  You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Hwy 6, Batesville, MS 38606, 662-563-9879-or

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