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Out On The Mudline

Uncle Nace Grew Three Rows Of Tobacco

By W. P. Sissell

The  Voice

  The phone rang—as I answered “Hello” a strange (to me) voice said, “This is Sam McCain.” I think before answering, “Who, in the world is Sam McCain?” The strange voice continues, “I am Pearlie McCain’s son.” I still do not remember a son named Sam, but after I let him continue I find out who this voice is—I have known most of the children of all the sons of Minnie and Alma McCain. After an interesting, close to an hour, phone conversation, I know who Sam (Sammie Joe as a child), is and he’s now seventy years old. The voice I was hearing came from somewhere close to Pie Sale, New Mexico.

  When I came into this world in 1925, Mr. and Mrs. Alma McCain lived on my Granddaddy Sissell’s farm (now a part of the sewage lagoon). Mr. McCain took care of granddaddy’s horses. Granddaddy loved those horses. I’m not positive, but I think Grandad Will and Mr. Alma had known one another because they were neighbors on grandad’s first farm somewhere near the boat ramp area on Highway 315.

  Grandad bought one of the first, if not the first, 10-20 Farmall tractors Mr. Trusty brought into the county—complete with external geared steering. Mr. McCain despised the thing and his oldest boys, Pearlie and Shirley, weren’t old enough to learn to drive (they could already handle the horses). My dad, Reuel, relished the speed of the tractor over that of the horses and/or mules. He worked out an agreement with Mr. Trusty and took up the payments on the tractor. Remember a recent column when I told you that I took only two teams of mules to the Delta place. These were used only for “water furrow” work and first cultivations of cotton. Today most of the cotton and/or soybeans get the first, and maybe only, cultivation with chemicals as the crop is planted.

The Farm

  For the first years of their marriage Mother and Dad got into a large dairy operation south of town where Mississippi 32 intersects number 7. They continued this until Mother’s health broke. Dad worked with Mr. Will Wilbourn’s bridge crew for several years and then got into other things.

  When the depression hit, Dad and Mother were running a community grocery in Water Valley, along with the Creamery. They were going broke. They owned their house on the east side of the tracks just below the depot and an interest in the swimming pool. Dad and his dad worked out some sort of deal on our house in town and the farm he owned west of town on O’Tuckolofa out on the mud line. Suddenly granddad claimed a half interest in a part of the original place. Dad had again gone into the dairy business, and also the feeder pig business, and cotton and corn business.

  He shortly became a very successful farmer. At the time when I entered the service during WW II, we were milking an average of 25 cows year round. Our one limiting factor was that we could not get a milking machine which required electric power.

  On that, our first farm on the mud line, there was only one vacant farm house. One, out behind the barn on the edge of the flood plane, in typical style of the 80’s, was a log house occupied by Uncle Nace McFarland and family. I will never forget Uncle Nace’s gardens. There were always three rows of tobacco there. He cut this at the proper time and hung it in his barn to cure. After that he coated the leaves with molasses and made his own chewing tobacco. Those three rows produced just the right amount of chewing tobacco for him.

  Every Sunday morning, at daylight, you could find Uncle Nace in his cane bottom chair propped back against the wall reading his Bible. Any foolishness by the children was at the back of the house.

  Uncle Nace’s brother was the one who brought the wounded Captain McFarland back from Corinth.

  Down at the road, almost at the foot of McFarland hill, there was another house. Pearlie McCain and wife, Lumpy, moved into that house. They stayed there about five years. They were hard workers. Their two boys and I played together after school for many years. Their sister, Sis, was born there. During work time when Lumpy had to help with the hoeing and picking cotton Sis was kept by my mother. My sister, Ruth, and I referred to the baby as Sis. We loved her dearly.

  Pearlie moved to Mr. Wiley Brown’s place. Later, the McLarty’s asked my Dad about someone to manage the clearing of the trees on a farm  and Dad sent them to Pearlie. He took the job and stayed a number of years over in the delta. Sam told me that he came back and managed a farm on Peter Brown hill.

  When I asked Bertha McCullar how long she had known Sissells, her immediate reply was “forever”. It has been a long time. Next week I’ll follow this story about more of this family friend.

  Our wish for you is a great week. Thank many of you for your encouraging words. You would be surprised by the circulation of the Herald.

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