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Out On The Mudline

Dry Bayou Family Knew The Value Of Education

By W. P. Sissell

A Phone Call

  Late one afternoon, when I came in from work, Nannette told me that Ralph Monteith had called and wanted me to call him as soon as I came in. This was long before the fancy phones that we have today. This probably meant that something important to the two of us had happened so I immediately returned his call. Clayton Kennedy’s wife, Mildred, had called to tell him that Clayton had passed and it was the families wish that Ralph and I be informed if something happened to Clayton. Mildred wanted the two of us to come and sit with Clayton’s body that night. She gave Ralph exact directions on how to find their home.

  Ralph told her that we would come, although it would be late. I think it was after midnight when we got there and Mildred did not retire until after we arrived and we had talked for a while. This man, although younger than Ralph and I, had worked alongside the two of us—swapping work and helping one another out every year. When Clayton moved back to the hills, Ralph and I missed him. Ralph incorporated our Jones place into his operation. I never had a rental contract, other than verbal and a handshake, with anyone until Ralph quit farming.

The Clayton Kennedy Family

  I have repeated many times that Clayton and Mildred did not keep their children out of school to help in the fields. This was the case in many families in that day and in some areas school was dismissed during the chopping season. Clayton and Mildred, year after year, kept their children in school, after he got my message that he could, almost always, get enough help to chop that cotton without using his children.

  After a few years on the Jones place they were doing well. One of their big pluses ever year was getting the crop in. We had a neighbor back in the Enid Reservoir area that my Dad described as “an excellent crop maker but a poor crop gatherer.” He seldom, if ever, got his crop gathered before the winter weather set in. Clayton and Mildred, although those children stayed in school, got their crop out and usually snapped three other crops of the same size. Clayton told me one time that they made enough money gathering other people’s cotton to carry them through the winter. That’s mighty good with three children in school.

Danny, David, and Linda

  Those three children never had to work much in the field and I don’t know, but I’ll bet they knew how to do that field work if it turned out that there was aneed. (As I rode the turn rows one day I saw Danny working with Mom and Dad and David looking after baby sister—all in the field on a Saturday.) As I’ve repeated many times during the last few weeks, this Mom and Dad valued the education of their children. Maybe Clayton picked up something while working in the CCC camps. In talking to an acquaintance I heard repeated several times—you just can’t get by to do any good without an education today.

  I think that I’ve already told you that Danny became a veterinarian. I have a good friend of like learning who worked with Danny as a health inspector in the chicken industry. He held a very high opinion of Danny. His Dad would be proud of him. Danny died as a rather young man. I was told of his death and attended his funeral.

  As I walked into the fuenral home I asked to be pointed to David Kennedy. As Nannette and I walked toward him he recognized us and greeted us. In the conversation he told us he was going to be the head of the Physics Department of East Mississippi Community College that fall.

  As one enters our driveway today there is a large Mimosa tree along the road. That tree is a descendent of a small Mimosa given to Mr. Bill and Ms. Nannette in a little clay pot for us to remember him by. We think of you, David, when we enter that drive.

    Linda taught in one of the schools in Marshall or Benton counties. That would require a college degree. She and her husband owned a flower shop. Those three children all got the education that Clayton and Mildred wished for them.

    Thank you for your interest. Next week I’ll tell you about another of our neighbors in the years we lived on Dry Bayou. Do have a good week.

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