Some stories are too good to be true
It may be hard to take a person’s word as the gospel when their nickname is “Lying Jackson.”
That was the name my grandfather was given when he worked at International Paper Mill in Natchez years ago. Instead of folks calling him “James” or “Jackson” or even his full name “James Howard Jackson,” he was known simply as “Lying Jackson.”
Paw Paw was known throughout the land for his tall tales. He had a gift for embellishing any kind of story. He would add his own twist to any kind of story just to make an otherwise boring event all the more exciting.
It wasn’t that Paw Paw was lying exactly. He was just adding to the story to get a laugh out of you. It didn’t matter how absurd something sounded. As long it is got a chuckle out of you, he had reached his goal.
Paw Paw had once told me, “if you ain’t got laughter, you’ve got nothing.” And he stuck to that with all his wild stories.
But Paw Paw was the kind of man that you accepted his crazy tales, shaking your head the whole time. You may walk away knowing it was a full-blown fib, but it felt good to laugh about it for a minute.
Paw Paw had this wild story about a family feud that had endured over “several” generations. Apparently, he and another young boy had rekindled the feud during their elementary school days, and it continued well into their senior citizen years.
Paw Paw said he and this man had it out for each other in every aspect. In church, one would race to sit in the pew in front of the other as some kind of status symbol. One would purposely skip the other in line at the local Piggly Wiggly. Old beer cans and other trash would be thrown in one’s yard, usually on a Sunday.
If the mailbox door was left open on a rainy day, one would always blame the other.
I never saw these “feuds.” I never even met this man Paw Paw spoke of. But I was under the impression that a little old man who lived across town despised my Paw Paw and vice versa.
Regardless, I would always laugh at the wild stories about the events that unfolded between those two.
One day sitting under the carport, I asked Paw Paw if this so called “enemy” really existed. He assured me that he did. He even told me that he ran for constable one year just so he could have the chance to possibly serve papers to his arch rival in the event of crime.
“I don’t care if he really did anything or not or even if the papers were the real deal,” Paw Paw said. “I wanted to have the chance to pull up in his yard in my constable car just so the neighbors would start talking.”
I never really believed the story, but continued to act as if I did just so Paw Paw would keep telling me his stories.
When Paw Paw died, many of his former classmates, co-workers and friends came to the funeral. I kept hearing people refer to “Lying Jackson” and the endless stories he shared over the years.
In one corner, I overheard two men talking about the time when Paw Paw ran for constable.
“He barely lost it,” one man laughed. “He never got to serve papers on old what’s-his-name.”
Surely, I must have heard that wrong, I thought to myself. The whole feud and running for constable thing had to be a tall tale.
It wasn’t until years later that I uncovered the old family Bible at my Momma’s house. Tucked away in the middle, there were an assortment of pictures, certificates and newspaper clippings.
And on one of those paper clippings, I found the announcement of all candidates who were running in the county election. It was there, plain as day.
It announced the qualification of James Jackson for constable in his district.
I smiled as I closed the Bible. I knew the real story behind his campaign. He had a score to settle.
And it had to be true.