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Out On The Mudline

Melons Gave Boost To Yalobusha Economy

By W. P. Sissell


Lee and Kathleen Rowsey brought me their copy of the Coffeeville Courier this past week. It is full of articles about the upcoming Watermelon Carnival in Water Valley.  

Although several items caught my eye, I want to expand on one in particular “Looking Back.”  The first part of this section is at the 75 year level where they give the number of freight car loads of melons that have been shipped from Coffeeville, Oakland and Water Valley. I’m going to assign some figures (that means guess in some cases). Lee has helped me some but we do not remember how many pounds one freight car can safely carry. I do think I remember that my dad and I ordered (forty tons) one carload of fertilizer so I will use eighty thousand pounds for one car.

Lee remembers that they had a forty pound weight limit per melon—anything below that was a cull and brought thirty cents (this cull price changed daily). Using the figures quoted, our “guesstimation” comes to one hundred twenty-five thousand dollars turned loose in the economy at about the first of July—the object of the Chambers of Commerce of the county

All our culls were left in the field (several of us became extra good at hefting a melon) to be picked up for eating and feeding to our dairy herd.  The cull wagons sat in the barnyard for anyone who desired to share their contents –and yes, cows do love watermelons. In 1934 I was eight years old –going on nine and was one of the chief “hefters.”

That year we had thirty acres of Cuban Queens in one block just south of the “Twin Peaks” (they’re monadnocks) in Wildcat Break. We loaded that 1929 Chevrolet truck many times from the field.

Points of Interest

As  I read through the table of contents of the Carnival Guide, printed by The Herald, I came across the page devoted to the early utilities in Water Valley. Although I knew something of the history there was some of which I was not aware.

I spent many happy hours in the home of my Uncle Ray and family on Blount Street. As I grew older I spent the night with Cousin Kenneth whose room was in the little cupola upstairs. It took some “getting used to” to sleep with the continuous drone of those big engines and generators only about four doors west and across the street from our bed. Very shortly I began to pay the noise no attention.

I knew that Water Valley was one of the first municipalities to have electricity along with the artesian water system. As a little boy I knew the well man, Mr. Harvey, who was a friend of my father. He drilled the three wells at the swimming pool for Dad and probably was the originator of the idea for the waste line from the thawing vats being extended to the swimming pool where the water would cool the pool as it wasted into Town Creek. I think he was the builder of the ice plant just south of the power plant, later selling it to the Hale’s. I wonder if those original wells, like the one at Robinson’s Mill (Mr. Robinson lived just east of Mr. Harvey on Panola Street) and the one on our Crowder farm are still running.

In the year that I graduated from high school (1943) my Dad got very sick and I had to see to the gathering of the crop. Mr. Brown loaned me a trailer and I could carry two bales to the gin at one time. To help me out Mr. Ingram hired me to write seed tickets for the night shift. I would go to sleep in the cotton and Mr. Hugh Johnson, night shift boss, would come by and wake me.  We would go across to the power house and shower before going on duty—don’t think we paid anything for the water.

I am also aware that at one time it was against the law of the town to drive your car down Main Street (probably made horses and/or mules run away). For years there was a tax evaluation in the top of our piano. If you had a piano it must be declared for tax purposes—like the water price if you had a bathtub in the house.

 It’s been a rainy week—but someone said to me—don’t you just love to sit and hear the rain fall—and I do. I, at one time, was charged with teaching a meteorology section in general science.  The frontal movement of the weather systems are an amazement to me.

Do you realize that a one inch rainfall from those clouds equals 27,154 gallons of water per acre (I taught irrigation data in a Soils course).  Water weighs about 8.5 pounds per gallon.  When I can see one layer of clouds moving in relation to another layer all I can say is WOW!  I’ve seen pictures taken recently during tornadic action that fully explains the odd occurrences in tornados.

Do have a good week—I know that most of you will be worn out after the carnival activities.  Things have about leveled out for me and  I’m getting rested.  

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

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