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Out On The Mudline

Loading Logs Requires A Smart Mule

By W. P. Sissell

    Last Thursday eve-ning Nannette and I had an invitation to attend the annual Water Valley Chamber of Commerce Banquet. That invitation was extended by Barron Caulfield. I was one of a group recognized as continuous promoters of Water Valley and the surrounding area. My first purpose today is to express my thanks to all the  members of the Water Valley Chamber of Commerce.

  The interruption of our lives by the construction of Enid Reservoir caused many of us to make new friends. We realize that these friends might not have been found if it had not been for that interruption. At the time we despised the interruption but now we, most of the time, count it as a blessing.


  Someone asked me (and I have truly forgotten who) if I wished I had all the timber on the hills of the Cottoner Place (also called the Herman Nolan Place). My answer was many-worded for I can remember when a logger asked Dad about a right-of-way to get the timber from the adjoining farm on our south side. He gave the man permission to cut a gap in the south line with no permission to cut any tree on the now Sissell Place. If we found any stump cut by him (the logger) he was to pay four times the value of the stump. At the close of his (the loggers) use of the gap he was to completely close said gap.

  You may think that odd but there were several different kinds of timber in those hills. Some of the last chestnuts in the area were found in those hills. At the time of purchase by the Corps of Engineers, most of that timber was hardwood—several kinds of oaks, hickory, a few locusts (which Dad had set out to grow fence posts), along with a block of pine, which Dad had let me set out as a 4-H project. The only gap in our south line belonged to Mr. Noel Johnson, whose land was mostly in Hobuck Bottom. Mr. Johnson usually came out that way when he went to town on the weekend in his wagon. His road came down through our pasture to an exit across the Mud Line from our gate. It was a part of the place when purchased.

  The only timber cut from the block happened when a tornado cut across the fields from our house to the pines along the road. The Corps gave us permission to turn the downed timber into lumber. In the short distance that tornado traveled in the pines we logged enough lumber to build a house for Mom and Dad and a pole type hay barn on the Taylor Place.


  At the time of the tornado I was in school at Mississippi State. Over the weekend, with the help of Sam Adams’ grandsons, Snip, Hugh T., and Bob, I marked all the downed timber. Those three boys cut the downed trees into saw logs. For three or four weekends I snaked logs out into the open field, again with the help of the boys.

  In snaking the logs I used old Jim, who was one of the few mules that had survived our barn fire several years earlier. Jim was a smart mule who learned fast. After taking three or four logs out along a now clear path, I did not have to accompany him back to the cut logs. Jim would drag those logs back along the path unattended and one of the boys would hook him to another log.

  Now that our saw mill had “taken legs and walked away” we had to find another mill. That didn’t take long. We found another “ground hog” mill north of Taylor. If anyone knows why those little mills were called “ground hog” please let me know. I was asked this question by one of the attendees at the Chamber banquet. I have been unable to find the answer, even though I have my Dad’s little sawmill book. The attendant photo is from that book and show how we loaded our logs in the late 1940s. (Scribner’s Lumber and Log Book 1920 Revised Illustrated Edition—35 cents, postpaid).

  Cubell Morgan told me that her husband, Emmet, drove Mr. McCullar’s oxen, snaking and loading logs before they, Cubell and Emmet, got  married. I sometimes used a rubber tired tractor and trailer instead of Jim for the loading.

  We did not know how useful hydraulics could be prior to World WarII. Next week, because we are logging one of our quarter sections, I’ll tell you about the changes that are a reality.

  Thanks again, Mr. Caulfield, and the Chamber of Commerce for the honor and a great program. I had one of the Surrette boys (Kevin) in class at Northwest years ago now. He went on to Mississippi State and became an agriculture teacher. Kevin is over in Georgia now.

  Our wish for all of you is a great week. Spring has sprung and our entire world, almost, is wearing green again.

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