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Out On The Mudline

Farewell And Goodbye From The Mudline

By W. P. Sissell

Long Ago

  Until I met Nannette I really knew nothing about “sitting up” with someone’s body. I could guess at several factors but will not. Not many months after I first met Nannette and her family I did get introduced to the practice. Someone in the distant family passed away and Nanette’s brother, Russell, asked me about joining him in “sitting up” with the body for the night (strange things often happened at these “sitting ups” if you would believe Jerry Clower).

  This we did, along with several young people from the community. As I said this was a new experience for me. We spent the bigger part of the night in all kind of pleasant conversations, many of which dealt with the life of the deceased. This was a part of the customs of the community and followed the death of many of the older people of the community. Many of the conversations just passed the time of the night.

  On one occasion, and I will avoid names in most occasions, a gentleman who was a visitor to the group, asked another what his line of business was. The man replied that he was in the part time earth moving business until recently when he got a government contract to build a number of erosion control dams He went on to tell the gentleman that the contract required that he have sufficient equipment to construct the structures during the coming summer months. The contract specified that he have at least four, preferably five, TD-14 International crawler tractors. The man asked, “Could you meet those specifications?”  The other man answered, “Oh yes, I have already made an agreement with Road Builders in Memphis and as soon as I call them they are going to deliver the tractors to the Mississippi state line, where I will have five drivers to bring them to Taylor. When those drivers get to Taylor I’ll have five trained operators.” Apparently the first gentleman knew little about earth construction, for he seemingly believed the entire story.

The Delta Too

  Many years later I was invited to be a member of the “sitting up” group for our neighbor on the delta place. Everything went as usual until a few of us began to excuse ourselves for we had to work the next day. Joe Stribling was the first to leave, explaining that he had a date with a tractor early the next morning. A couple of others followed. Now it came by turn leave after I’d finished a cup of coffee. I felt slightly dizzy as I finished the coffee. After politely excusing myself (I thought) I stepped out of the door and off the porch. I made it to the giant oak in the middle of the yard and sat down (collapsed) on the roots of that big tree. When I came to, my watch (by the light of my cigarette lighter) told me that I had been there several hours and it was now about time for the sun to come up. Later, Joe told me that he, after drinking some of the coffee, had experience some dizziness. We never did find out why the coffee affected us.

Wakes and Visitations

  I think the number of wakes and/or visitations or funeral services that Nannette and I have attended in the past week was five. We stayed busy keeping up with the time, which funeral home, etc. The last of these was the wife of a long time friend, Hosey Mac White, who fell into their swimming pool and apparently drowned. We have, since the funeral, found out that she suffered a massive heart attack prior to falling into the pool. Hosey Mac is a brother to Ira Gail White, owner of the SuperValue store which was in Water Valley a few years back.

  We have also learned that we have one more death which we have expected for a long time now.

Final Column

  My dear friends it has been a lot of fun writing Out on the Mudline for these several years. My cousin, James Crocker, has asked, “How do you always find a story?” Well, the stories are getting scarcer but there are a few left. It is in Nannette and the children’s plans to publish a book which will contain all the stories, plus the enhancing pictures, credited to Mr. Howell. I do thank all of you out there who have put up with me for these many years. With that I must say Farewell and Goodbye.

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