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Out On The Mudline

Just How Did French Fries Get Their Name?

By W. P. Sissell

The Carnival

Certainly I remember that first Watermelon Carnival.  I was a little boy and it was something for my granddaddies’ Dap and Frank and Dot and Dolly to pull a float in the parade. Mr. Alma McCain rode the wheel horse. He controlled the team with voice commands most of the time but carried a whip which was infrequently used.

I had an army friend from St. Louis  Missouri who was a whip expert. He told me one day that he could cut the ash off my cigarette—I never accepted his offer. I thought those horses pulled the  prettiest and best float in the parade. The carnival is like a town reunion and maybe I’ll see you there but I’m not much for crowds in hot July and August. Maybe the almost three inches of rain we got last night and this morning will have cooled it off enough to be bearable.


Today I want to relate a story that comes again from my friend Harold Vaughn. We have quite a time in our Cardiac Rehab meetings (the MWF sessions). Harold comes from the community called Ptocowa (just let that “P” be silent like in pneumonia).  The name means healing waters.

Throughout America we have these community names. On a trip to pick up school busses in Richmond, Ind., I stopped at a country store in Indiana. While in that store just a few minutes I heard several communities named by the men sitting around the warm morning heater there. Sometimes these names are native American like O’tuckalofa (meaning Chestnut) and sometimes not.

I remember that as a child when I went with mamma to visit Aunt Mamie we went to Velma (I do not know why it was called Velma. Perhaps some of you can help me). Then there was my mother’s favorite “Land of Goshen” (about my only expletive). That term is Biblical—the land where Joseph put his people in Egypt.  

One of my favorites is “Air (Ary) Mount “ (someone told a friend back in North Carolina that “there warn’t ary mountain in the whole area.”) That could have been one of my ancestors, John Brower, who came from Randolph County North Carolina to the Coffeeville area.

Back to Ptocowa

Ptocowa is in the area in Panola County where the hills meet the delta. There are many stories about the entire area. This is the area where Harold Vaughn grew up. At one time there was a railroad to the area . Many people visited there to avail themselves of the curative properties of the water. In Yalobusha we are familiar with Ford’s Well.

I’m pretty certain that I told you about how French fries got their name earlier and the great iron pots that Harold’s English ancestors had in their villages.

Now he tells us that the family brought one of their pots with them when they came to America. These pots were enormous. When their ship got into trouble in the harbor at Virginia the Vaughn family managed to get their pot into the water and boarded it to get to land there in Virginia. It was a family heirloom.  They brought it to the Ptocowa hills with them. It sat in the yard of their home for many years.

School Days

The Vaughn children rode the bus to Pope School and got home from school before mamma who had taken a job at the factory in Batesville. In the spring of the year, not long before school was out for the summer Mrs. Vaughn got worried about her children’s safety when they were at home without her. With the children’s help she got the storied old cast iron pot that had saved the family in Virginia turned upside down with one edge resting on a large block of wood. From that she proceeded to lever the edge of the pot upward until there was room for the children to crawl beneath it. Now she told her son Harold that if they heard a tornado coming  they were to get under the pot and he was to take the axe and knock the prop down.

Anybody Seen A Pot?

One afternoon, not many weeks afterward, the children heard what they thought was a tornado.  The clouds were low and dark and there was a great noise coming from the hills. Harold did as mamma had instructed. He got all the children under the pot and lit the lantern. They were safe.  Then they noticed first one and then several mosquito bills emerging on the inner side of the pot.  Harold took the axe and braded the protruding bills. Suddenly the pot became airborne and went away with the cloud of  mosquitoes that they thought was a tornado. They have never found that pot!

 Our wish for you is a great week. Our soybeans are again being thankful for the amount of rain along with several acres of corn.  I thank you for your compliments.  You can reach me most any time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606 or 662-563-9879

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