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Out On The Mudline

Dynamite In Firebox Cleared The Deck

By W. P. Sissell

How Do I Start

I first met Joe Stribling when I was about ten years old.  He was living with his sister and her family along with brother Mitch, nephew Russell Wright, and grandpa Stribling, his father.

In a short time Joe became an almost fulltime worker with/for my Dad; Russell and my brother mechaniced together;  Grandpa became like a grandpa to most of the kids on the farm; Miss Collie (as we called her) was a lot like Joe—just fit in well everywhere and the two Lantrip boys, James and Frank Jr., were regular fellows. The Stribling family had grown up in the Sylva Rena Community and Joe whether he realized it or not was/became a story teller. In previous articles I have alluded to and used him as a reference many, many, times. The only one I can think of that I have not used is one about Mr. Buffe Williamson packing the silage in the silo, as it was being filled, with a yearling calf. To get the calf out, after the filling, they started lowering the calf with a rope windlass and the rope broke. Everyone had fresh beef for several days.

Dredge Boat Stories

Although my father-in-law, Bowen Shipp, could have given me many of these dredge boat stories, I never thought to ask him for I did not know at the time that I would have a reason for using them. Probably the favorite of mine from Joe was about the men gathering on the wood piled on the fantail to talk—getting in the way of the man stoking the firebox of the steam engine. The boss engine man threw an un-fused stick of dynamite into the stove and those congregated talkers became wet and cold as they dived into the water of the river (un-fused dynamite burns brightly).

Joe worked some on the boat. But he, Mitch and Grandpa cut many cords of wood along the right-of-way. They cut suitable trees in the right-of-way and stacked it in measured stacks so that it could easily be moved to the boat as it passed. Joe spent many hours, after supper, sitting around the fireplace at our house. I was an avid listener. Most of the time Mother had to send me to bed—unwillingly.

Listener, Learner, Top Hand

I’m sure that I have told you that Dad sent me to the field or the woods with Joe and/or others many times to learn something from experts. Joe, as long as I knew him, was always ready to learn something new. At our sawmill Joe was the carriage man—the block setter—the one who moved the log so that the desired thickness of plank was cut. Joe did this several years when he was living somewhere else. When a carpenter was needed Joe and Russell replaced the outer walls of the barn and painted same. The two built an additional wooden silo.

A great deal of Joe’s lifetime was incidental with the depression years. He was a World War I veteran. During the off-season Joe always had something to do so that he had income. One of the interesting ones to me was work that he did for a company in Hughes, Ark.  During the winter months he found, cut and had delivered “suitable” Hickory logs for making special “lumber scaling sticks.” I wonder today how he got in touch with Mr. Hughes. I just know that there’s a story there.


If you look in my basement you will find a carbide light made so that it will fit on a certain type of cap. I ordered that lamp and the cap that went with it (the cap is gone—lost) from Sears Roebuck so that I could hunt at night with Joe and Russell. They caught possum and rabbits. Most of the time you cold see skins of some kind on the walls of the smokehouse. And more than likely you would find a possum in a barrel being “fed out.”   The rabbits were hunted mostly at night (it was legal then). Joe taught me how to find (really see) a rabbit hidden in a grass bed.  In the winter—especially in snowy weather Joe hunted rabbits using a “tap” stick (branch from a small tree with a large nut (the tap) slid down the stick until it lodged.

Often Joe was rather droll with me. I really loved to hunt birds (quail) with his Winchester. It was worn so that one had to be sure and hold the action forward. Once on a hunt around the Bayou, Joe with his old Winchester and me with my new fancy

Remington, I missed an apparently easy shot.  Joe said, “Let me swap guns on the next shot.”  I complied just as another bird got up. Joe immediately got that  bird—with my gun—whereupon he handed my gun back as he said, “You do have shot in your shells I see.”

All the men on the farm in the delta “Dry Bayou” always wanted us to use our little house dog “Pandy” on the hunt for he could negotiate the brushy banks or a brush pile and run birds and rabbits out.

I thought that I could do justice to Joe’s memory in only one article but I find that I have just a couple of other “Joe Stribling” stories that I must tell.  Look for them next week.

Thank you for all your good wishes.  They are appreciated.  Our wish for you is that you have a wonderful week.  Hopefully this last cold snap will precede much warmer weather.

You can reach me most of the time a 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, Miss. 38606 or 662-563-9879.                  

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