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Yalobusha Historical Society Minutes – Oct. 16, 2008

The Yalobusha Historical Society held its monthly meeting October 16 in Coffeeville. There were 40 members and guests present, representing several counties.  President Mike Worsham welcomed everyone, especially the speaker and other visitors. The opening prayer was spoken by Lawrence Litten.

There was no business to discuss, So Mike turned the meeting over to Program Chairman Opal Wright. Opal stated that the November program will be given by the Bailey twins, Jean Kirk and Joan Bailey. The subject will be “Life in Coffeeville in the 1930s and 1940s.” This is a subject that many of us can relate to, and all former and current residents of Coffeeville are especially welcome to attend, as well as the pubic in general. Opal then introduced the speaker for the day, Stephen A. “Sam” Marter, of Grenada.  Sam is a Wildlife Biologist for the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, working both Enid and Grenada Reservoirs. (Also present was Justin Wilken, Manager of the new Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks fish hatchery at Enid Lake)

     Sam was born  in Winona,  MS and raised in the Grenada area while attending Kirk Academy.  After graduating high school, he attended Holmes Community College for one year before completing a degree in Forest Management from Mississippi State University.  His career with the Corps began as cooperative education student while attending MSU.  Since then, he has served as a park ranger at Sardis for one year, park ranger at Grenada Lake for 3 years, and as wildlife biologist responsible for Enid and Grenada lakes for the past 10 years.  His wife of 20 years is Melanie Campbell of Grenada. They  have 3 children – a 15 year old girl, Kelsey,  and two boys:  Landon, 12 and Dallas, 6.

  Sam’s subject was “The Bobwhite Quail.” He explained why the quail population had declined the last several decades, and spoke of  the efforts underway to bring the numbers up. The bobwhite, of course, is a ground-loving bird, feeding on seeds and grains. They build their nests on the ground, and when the eggs hatch, the quail chicks feed on a protein-rich diet of insects for a couple of weeks, after which, the chicks gradually change their diet to one of plant seeds.They become members of the ‘covey,’ as a flock of bobwhites is known.

  Sam said that, in Colonial times, before settlers moved into this area and started clearing lands for homes and fields, there were not many quails present. The average farm, in the mid-1900s, was about 50 to 60 acres. There would be weed covered creek banks, fence rows and field borders, surrounded by grazed woodlands. This landscape was ideal habitat for the bobwhites: forage and cover.

  One factor contributing to the decline of the bobwhite population was mechanization in the farming industry. More  and more land was cleared, and small farms became huge cultivated fields, making it easier for the large machines and equipment to operate.  Gone was the little meadows surrounding the fields, bordered by grazed woodlands. Gone, too was the bobwhite’s habitat, thus forcing the birds to areas where food and cover were not sufficient to support the population. Too, the numbers decreased because of predators, such as foxes, bob cats, etc.

   Sam spoke of the work being done by the Corps to  protect the bobwhite. Cleared land is planted in grain crops that not only provide food, but also cover, when the stalks fall over, sort of stacking up on one another, giving the birds hiding places.

  A Q & A session followed Sam’s excellent presentation, and it was veryevident that Sam knew his subject. This was a most interesting program, andthe Society is grateful to Sam for taking the time to come to share his expertise with us. We look forward to hearing another program, a THIRD one!

  An enjoyable social period in the fellowship hall  followed the meeting.The front of the sanctuary, where meetings are held, was a place of interest to everyone, since the “Harvest Display” graced the area formerly used as the choir loft. This feature was begun by Tom Moorman several years ago, and is always good. Unfortunately, Tom was unable to attend, having suffered a fall from the loft of his barn. He spent a week in the hospital in Oxford and was released the afternoon of the meeting. We really missed him, and Alma, of course. We are glad he had gathered most of the material before his accident, and are grateful to his daughter, Johanna Hood, and Opal Wright for their work in setting up the exhibit, on the huge table Tom had set up. 

The large table, covered with a tablecloth in earth tones, was laden with all sorts of fruits of the wild, including acorns of all sizes, ‘horse apple’ (the fruit of the bois d’arc (bodock) tree,) maypops,  (passion vine fruit) wild nuts, seed pods and even a type of wild cotton plant. Then there were the unique items brought by some of the members: the running peach vine, (Carl Vick) running spinach, huge Japanese persimmons and lodoc. (it looked like a huge radish, weighing probably a pound or more) brought by Lawrence Litten. There were many garden vegetables: okra, peppers of all kinds, tomatoes, squash, white and purple eggplant, and a sweet potato that grew in the shape of a duck. The beautiful wooden railing in front of the choir loft was decorated with all sorts of colorful leaves, vines and fruit. It was truly a fascinating sight, and we wish Tom and Alma could have seen it. Thanks again, Tom, and do get well soon, but try to stay out of the barn loft! 

ATTENDING: Sam Marter, Justin Wilken, Martha Short, Bill Adams, Mike Worsham, Peggy Boyett, Betty R. Miller, Opal Wright, Dot Criss, Pat Brooks, B. B. Billings, Mary Floyd, Nancy Floyd, Vida Corley, Lawrence and Bettie Litten, Carl and Mae Vick,  Tom Cox, Ray Cox, Harold and Lena Jones, William and Ruth Upchurch, Barron Caulfield, James Person, Joe Moorman, Rina Chaney, Ben Harris, Sarah H. Williams, Kent McFarland, Joy Tippit, Jimmie  and Francine Pinnix, Thelma Roberts, Sue Fly, Betty B. Pechak, Sarah Saucier, Bill and Josephine Davis.

Betty R. Miller


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