Speak Up And Say ‘I Don’t Understand’
by W. P. Sissell
A Busy Week
With very little warning, on Thursday morning, Nannette and I got a trip to Pontotoc to pick up wire and posts for a new fence along the highway (Miss. Hwy 6) that passes
through our farm. Although I was scheduled for exercise the following morning we got another Pontotoc trip for more materials when son Shipp came in early to tell us he needed additional materials from Pontotoc.
Musing While Driving
How many connections do you have with Pontotoc? We, Shipp and I, have bought materials from Moore Feeds for many years. This started when our lime spreading contractor told us about his sister being Mrs. Moore and the pricing schedule of their company. For several years Shipp worked in the auctioneer’s booth at the livestock sale there writing tickets. But there have been, for us, many connections over the years. The first for Nannette and I came about when her great, great granddad, Josiah, bought the first section of land sold at the Pontotoc Land Sales under the watchful eye of Indian Agent, Benjamin Hawkins, my great granddad (4 times removed). I doubt if the two discussed the relationships of their grandchildren at the time.
There have been many others. Many of you will have no idea who Billy Howard was but there are many of us, including those around Pontotoc, who will recognize the name Dr. Billy Howard. Then there are a few who will remember an afternoon when several boys were bird hunting in Spring Hollow, on our Otuckalofa (chestnut) farm. We, in thick sagegrass (sedgegrass), walked into a covey of quail. Billy Howard hollered, jumped straight up and emptied his shotgun (three shots), I think almost before he hit the ground. We didn’t find a dead bird. Dr. Billy spent many years of practice in Pontotoc.
In my years of teaching, chemistry especially, I often started or injected into a lecture or explanation the following statement: “If you do not understand, tell me.” One morning, as I explained the balancing of a chemical equation using the oxidation reduction method rather than the “by guess or by gosh” method I knew that I had done a magnificent explanation. The only thing lacking was that I bang a period on the board. Everything was quiet. I still stood with my back to my students—a very small meek voice cut the silence in the classroom like a knife—“Mr. Sissell, I don’t understand.” You could have heard a pin drop. The ball was in my court—suddenly. I erased the equation and went through the explanation once more.
That young lady who spoke up that morning helped many other fellow students who would not speak up. She became a teacher. The last time I heard from her she was employed in the Pontotoc schools. When I asked, in Pontotoc, about her the last time the answer to my question was, “Oh yes, I know Dr. Belinda and we all love her.”
The last time I saw her at a class reunion a few years ago—I did not recognize her—her greeting was, “Mr. Sissell I don’t understand.”
I had an extended conversation with Mr. Hayles of Mesa, Arizona, last week. We thank all of you for your encouragements. Our wish for each of you is a great week.
Don’t worry much about the weather for we live in a recognized change area. I drove to work for a week when that change line was the Tallahatchie River. When I got north of the river the whole area was covered with ice.
You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Hwy. 6 (they are beginning to strip and overlay the westbound lane) Batesville, Ms 38606 or 662-563-9879.