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Out On The Mudline

Rattlers And Yellow Jackets Fall To Plow

By W. P. Sissell

The Cooks

  I first met the Cooks when I was staking off the lands in that southeast quarter section of the Dry Bayou place. Their house and barn were just across the line on their forty acre place. Dean came out into the yard as I was scrounging up tall enough poles to  mark the lands and helped me complete the markers. He volunteered that he was sure proud to get those giant weeds plowed down. I knew exactly to what he was referring for I had come upon a dead rattler that my plow had done in. In addition, I had turned over several yellow jacket nests and gotten stung a couple of times.

  Mr. Cook volunteered that he and his family had traded a place in the Lock Station area for this one because it was getting  too crowded up there around Lock  Station (Lock Station got its name because it was the only gasoline station between Batesville and Marks). Mr. Cook would later trade this Dry Bayou place for another further down in the floodway—because it was getting too crowded on the Dry Bayou place.

  For me Mr. Cook and family were really good neighbors. If something went awry on the lower side of the place he always got word to me. I often wished I could keep our cotton fields as clean as those of the Cooks. Usually, on Monday, and until about noon on Tuesday, Dean, his wife and daughter, could be found, seemingly, walking in their cotton field with a hoe on their shoulder. Once in a while that hoe would swing down and get a sprig of grass. If you noticed above I said weekly. This cleaning of the field of grass went on until the cotton plants got large enough to shade the ground so that Dean’s sweep reached the shaded area. My Dad loved this explanation for he hated to see grass get that fertilizer rather than the cotton plant.

Dean and the Mules

  One of the things that I have not mentioned, in writing about our time in the delta, has to do with mules. It was a common practice for people in that area to turn their mules loose in the winter and get them up at plow time in the spring. When I planted most of the other than cotton fields in oats and/or wheat, I was told by several that they would have good grazing for their mules for they would love my oats. This did come about but one of my close friends and later qualifying as a north side neighbor had a remedy. We got a bunch of our hands together and chased those mules several miles away.

  Dean Cook loved our remedy and helped, in his own way. His cotton was ready to plant or partially planted when the following took place. One of our neighbors from down south in what we called the spillway area came by with his mules. Dean didn’t know what had occurred earlier up at the big barn. There his mules had been chasing our cows and calves. Joe had opened the gate to the lot around the barn. A young man who was living in a little house across the road from our house (a timber cutter working down in the spillway area) came sailing out of the little house barefooted and scantily clad, hollering to Joe to give him the gun. Joe gave him the gun and told him to shoot in the air—which he did and probably saved a calf or two (Joe was remembering Clayton). That spillway area neighbor was then able to catch his mules in our barn.

  When the spillway area neighbor got to Dean Cook’s house, there sat Dean with his cane bottom chair propped back against the wall and his shotgun propped beside him. The neighbor stopped and began to rant about Bill Sissell shooting his mules. Dean set his chair down on all four legs as he picked up his gun and said, “Friend I shot your mules to get them out of my cotton field.” The neighbor left!

  Our wish for you is a great holiday season. Our grandson graduated from Mississippi State yesterday afternoon. We didn’t get to be there but sent him a memento.


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