By Mickey Howley
Last Wednesday a new art fixture was hoisted on the side of the North Mississippi Herald building. Bill Warren created the piece; it is muralesque in scale, enlarged from an illustration that was in the Herald 106 years ago. Larry Bell brought his bucket truck and his friend, David, and along with Herald owner David Howell, Bill, and myself–we all installed “Miss Valley” up on the wall. One of the great things about working outside on Main Street with a project like this is you’re the entertainment for all passing by.
No sooner was the piece up did Sheriff Lance Hum-phreys drive by and speculate that Betty Shearer was the model for Miss Valley. Andi Epes made a similar comment. While we all know Betty has been a Main Street fixture for some time, and I say that with the highest respect, simple math would have the model for Miss Valley being born between 1880 and 1890. Let’s just say she could have been Betty’s grandmother and leave it at that.
There are a number of things I like about the image. It is clean and elegant, uses a simple color combination of black, white, and gray. And most of all it really speaks to the optimism of 1907 when Water Valley, as a 50-year old town, was right in the middle of a period of solid growth and prosperity. The period from 1870 to late 1920s was a time of steady construction downtown. Look around and you’ll find most of the significant residential and commercial structures, structures that define the town, were built in that period. Miss Valley was emblematic of that turn of the century positive energy. And maybe she is now, too.
Nic Brown is a writer with Valley connections. His grandmother was a Water-melon Queen. No, she was not the model for Miss Valley, either. But though he never lived here, he has this familial connection to the Valley. So it seemed a natural fit when Preservation Magazine called him to write a piece about the present new optimism in Water Valley. Preservation Maga-zine sees the Valley’s current optimism grounded in Miss Valley’s 1907 optimism. Hence Nic’s visit this week and perhaps Miss Valley’s knowing smile.
Monday morning was cold, wet, and nasty. And my morning surprise was my power/telephone pole had fallen over in the night. There it was, all nice and horizontal on the lawn, hot wires just lying on the ground. The phone and power were still on, so I called the Water Valley Electric Department. Andy Hall answered. He came with Robert Walker and some other guys and a big truck and in no time at all I had a new power pole. Done with an efficient and professional ease on the most miserable of mornings. So this week of Thanksgiving, when we are just usually thankful for beaucoup food and too much football, be a bit thankful for the folks who work round the clock and in all weather keeping the city going. People like the electric department folks, the police and firefighters and EMS, and the street crew and the sanitation guys. Tell them thanks, they earn it.