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Betty’s Week

By Betty Shearer

After delivering papers Wednesday morning, I caught up loose ends for the week at the office and then went home early to cook a typical family meal for Jim. He arrived a little after six and we enjoyed pot roast, purple hull peas, field corn (from the freezer) fried okra, cornbread, lemon pie, brownies and ice tea (he didn’t get it sweetened though). Jim always says that when he comes south he has to have sweet tea, even though he drinks it unsweetened elsewhere.

Jim had arrived in Mississippi about noon on Wednesday, went by the nursing home to visit with his Mamaw about noon, then went on the Ole Miss Library to do research on William Parks Grant, who was head of the Music Education Department for many years, retiring in 1974. Jim had found a piece of music written by Dr. Grant in the Eastman library and had played it once before and had it on his concert to be played Saturday. 

As far as Jim can find, none of Dr. Grant’s music has ever been published. To play a piece of his music, you have to find it in a library and obtain a copy. Jim says he wrote many good pieces of music and this one for tuba was commissioned by a famous tubist, Arnold Jacobs. But Jim says he cannot find where Dr. Jacobs ever played it. 

It was performed Saturday as a duet by him and Dr. Gail Robertson, euphonium and low brass professor at Central Arkansas State in Conway, Ark. She had also previously played the piece. They thought they might have been the only two people to ever play it. Was great music, they both encouraged the students in the audience to go to the Ole Miss Library and find the piece so they could also perform it.

On Thursday, I went to the Ole Miss library with Jim, I thought simply to be with him. I took my book to read, but did not even turn a page. We were the only people in the room, so we were free to talk. The librarian brought out the material Jim wanted to research and it was a lot. With one day to go through about 10 boxes, Jim says, “You can go through these, I’m looking for performances by Dr. Grant.” 

I read all the programs, finding other performers names that were familiar, along with Dr. Grant. Some of these programs I’m sure Ed and I had attended. Then I got to go through the box of his personal life. 

Found out his first wife, who had been a violinist, had became very ill. After her death, Dr. Grant remarried and this second wife was the donor of all of his material to the Ole Miss Library. If he had children, I never found them. His life is meticulously documented, from high school, through his undergraduate, masters and then doctorate at Eastman School of Music. 

Then his teaching history is equally covered, with a handwritten list of ever student he ever taught and he began teaching in public school, first through 12th grades. He taught in many colleges and universities, ending his career at Ole Miss.

My nest assignment was to wade through his writings (not music), where I found his Psychology 1 term paper, one of the most interesting articles I’ve ever read. It was 16 pages written in long hand (very neatly written) and I’m a pretty good proof reader and I did not find an error in spelling or grammar. It was an article that should be read by everyone—no matter what your station or vocation is in life. Beside his  professor, I may be the only person to ever have read this work. 

Then Jim lost his helper. I discovered eight little children’s stories that could be made into a book. Had to read them all and they really should be published. I told the library personnel that, but they assured me that it wasn’t possible since they did  not have permission and did not know how to find anyone who could give it. 

I was told that I could give a general overview of one of the stories—the one I liked best. It was of a little boy and his horse named “Oatburner.” This young man lived in Pennsylvania, some distance from Philadelphia. He wanted to see the Liberty Bell, so he set off on Oatburner, but quickly decided to take the train. They were soon stopped due to rail repair. Holding up the repair job was a horseshoe curve for which they had no drawing to show them how to construct it. 

The boy quickly went in, removed one of Oatburner’s shoes, brought it back to the construction crew, and with that picture of what they needed to do the rail was quickly completed. Then it was on to Philadelphia and the Liberty Bell. The young man took one look at the bell, saw the huge crack, rushed out to Oatburner and hopped on him, headed for  home thinking, “I don’t want them to think I broke that bell.” There is a lot more to the story, but that is the jest of it. The other seven stories were just as remarkable and with a good illustrator, some publisher would  have a best seller.

Pressed for time we ate lunch at Starbucks in the library. Had planned to eat with Friend T. J. Ray or brother, Rance. Have to catch them next time. Enjoyed visiting with Vallian Kevin Herrera, who is one of the librarians. His office was near the research room we were in and his door was open so in we went—we did knock. Was sorry to disturb a visitor, but it was good to see him. It’s really bad that we have to go out of town to get in a visit with a friend. Had visited with his Mom a few weeks ago, though, and caught up on what was happening with him and his family.

The library closed at 5, so we called Betty and Al and they met us at Taylor Grocery for Jim to get his southern catfish meal. While there he got to see Kay Nelson, who was working. Came on home and watched several games of the Sweet 16 and went to bed.

Jim got up early Friday to go on to Delta State, where he and Mrs. Robertson were clinicians for a Tuba/Euphonium Clinic. Jim’s concert was at 3:30 Saturday afternoon, so Betty and Al drove me over. 

We met Jon, Jaxon and Katie Alvarez, son-in-law and grands of the Davises, for lunch—Tracie was in Jackson for a meeting. After the concert, which was excellent, we met the low brass professor at DSU, Dr. Douglas Mark, and Jeff Triplett, son of long-time band director at Northwest Community College, Glenn Triplett. 

Glenn and Ed played in all the bands at NWJC, while we were students there in the mid 1950s, and Glenn and I were in several classes together. Glenn eventually came back to NWCC as the band director and we were privileged to hear his groups play many times. We had fun swapping stories of our days together. Jeff and Jim had heard some of the stories and I was able to add a few more. 

Jim left for home around six Sunday morning and called earlier today (Monday) to say he’d made it home safely last night—trip took a little longer than expected due to heavy traffic. 

Jimmy reported that Mom was doing fine. I did not go to see her last week—first time in a while. Thanks to all who ask about her each week.

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