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Out On The Mudline

Fourth Generation Mudliner Makes Oldtimers Proud

By W. P. Sissell

A New Ground

Out on the wall of our change room on the deck at our Hotophia home, there hangs an odd looking tool that most people question.

What’s that?  That little tool has two horizontal handles at the top and a hopper on one side.   It is a new ground hand corn planter.  Some of the people I will talk about today left hand prints on that little planter many years ago (in the thirties).  The planter’s source was more than likely Sears Roebuck and Company.

In the early years of my life, on much of the land on the first place our folks owned, it seems that there was always an area of land being brought into cultivation called a “new ground.”  Because  Otuckalofa Creek split two quarter sections as its waters gained entry to Yocona River, we had quite extensive uncleared land on both sides of the creek.      

Much of that land on the south of the creek was used as a part of our pasture.  I think that I’ve told you about how scary it was to have to search for a missing cow in those woods after dark.

One of the people who cleared up a lot of that land south of the creek was Mr. Joe Surrette and his boys.  They cleared the land in return for the total use of it for three years.  Most of the clearing was done in the winter when no one was busy in their crop.  At the time Mr. Surrette was working land, I think renting it, from Mr. Charlie Robinson and living in the house across the road from Robinson’s Mill (where the artesian well still flows.)  Mr. Surrette had a passel of boys and kept them busy.  To us his method of clearing was rather unique.  

Mr. Surrette and boys began a clearing by starting a fire to keep warm, as well as ridding the plot of brush.  Then they began felling trees across the fire.  As the trees burned, they kept the unburned wood pushed into the fire.  When they finished clearing a space about twice the size of the small trees length, all the brush was gone.

Larger trees were left standing and poisoned (done after the trees leafed out) or cut for saw logs.  As the poisoned trees died and the dead limbs fell to the ground, they were piled around the base and burned.  This left many blackened tree trunks standing in the field. It was on one of these that my brother, Reuel, Jr. demonstrated to me that they looked like they were falling if you stood, against the trunk, looking up at the sky above—when there were moving clouds above.  This will still work.  Mr. Joe left other things behind.  When I opened our Panolian (Batesville newspaper) last week I found an article which attests to this.   

The Article

The article was headlined: “Surrette selected for leadership forum.”

Pope School student Zane Surrette has been accepted into the People to People World Leadership Forum joining a select group of students in Washington, D. C. March 16-21 to study leadership and explore some of the United States’ most prominent monuments and institutions.  

Besides exploring monuments, Surrette will also examine characteristics of American leadership during times of national challenge and prosperity.  

In addition to knowing his great grandfather, Mr. Joe and  grandfather, George, I had the privilege of teaching George’s son  Kevin, Zane’s father, at Northwest Community College.   Mr. Joe would be proud of you, Zane, as are all of us old mud liners.

Our wish for you is a great week.  Its cold here but you can still reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606 or 662-563-9879.

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