Jamie Patterson Managing EditorI felt so ridiculous with that gigantic blue bow on top of my head.
It was picture day at my elementary school, and my mother had dressed me that morning. Needless to say, I wasn’t really excited about her outfit selection.
I had on an itchy, wool white sweater with a pastel blue trim. The look was completed with some tan slacks and the largest, neon blue bow this side of the Mississippi.
And Momma didn’t put the bow toward the back of my head. She didn’t even try to blend it in within my brown locks.
No, she put it smack-dab on top of my head. It gave me an additional six inches in height.
I wasn’t the only one made to suffer that day. When I walked into my classroom, all my friends were subjected to Sunday-best attire.
Chris had a button-up shirt that was too tight for his husky frame. The top button had about three extension things, and his clip-on tie was digging into his skin. When he talked to you, he had to turn his body completely around because he couldn’t move his neck.
Stephanie’s mother made her bring an actual bouquet of flowers that she was to hold up to her face when it came time to snap her photo. She had a long brown dress with a miniature bouquet, complete with ribbons.
Paul’s daddy put a giant Woodmen of the World pin on his breast pocket because he said he dropped jelly on it during the morning car ride.
Ricky had a multi-color sweater vest that he kept informing the teacher he had to swap with his older brother in the third grade. Apparently, they were both going to utilize the sweater.
And then there was me. The only kid with a giant, blue ribbon on top of my head. The bow craze hadn’t hit yet, so I was alone...with my giant bow.
“Move your head,” Chris whispered to me as the teacher put our vocabulary words on the board. “I can’t see nothing because of that silly bow.”
“Hush up,” I snapped back. “You can’t even turn your head cause your button will pop off.”
I gloated to myself as Chris eased back into his seat. I had won that battle. I noticed he kept adjusting his tie after I said that remark.
For some unknown reason, the school photographer wasn’t going to arrive until right before lunch. The younger kids, including my class, were to go first so that we wouldn’t get any food on our clothes before the picture.
That worked well for Tom. You can only put so many Woodmen of the World pins on a six-year-old kid.
But the bright idea really came when we were allowed to have morning recess. Looking back, I never understood why they let a class full of first graders head off into a recess filled with dirt, grass and other mess right before pictures.
But they did.
I forgot all about picture day. I hit the swings, slide and monkey bars all within 60 seconds. A great game of hide and seek was held with the girls. No one found me underneath the giant pirate ship.
I was clotheslined during a rough game of Red Rover.
And I managed to break the school record of jumping out of my swing and landing almost to the slide.
By the time my class returned to their classroom, we looked like returning soliders from a battle. The teacher’s assistant thought we had already taken our pictures and let us run wild.
When Mrs. Coleman saw us, she immediately went into panic mode. Grabbing wet washcloths and a hairbrush, she went to work, trying to save picture day.
That top button on Chris’ shirt finally popped. But Mrs. Coleman fixed it with a safety pin and covered it up with the clip-on tie.
“But it’s digging into my skin,” he moaned.
“Let him go first before he passes out,” Mrs. Coleman ordered to the photographer.
Stephanie’s bouquet needed a little “fluffing.”
Tom got an additional pin for his shirt. A silver cross covered up a dirt stain.
Ricky’s multi-colored sweater looked more like a brown blob from all the dust. He was taken outside and shaken like a rag doll until hints of red, blue and green began to shine through the muck.
And my bow had moved from the top of my head to the side. My white sweater had a giant grass stain from the Red Rover game.
Grabbing an extra sweater from the “spare clothes” closet, Mrs. Coleman yanked a pretty pink sweater over my head. She took the blue bow out and replaced it with a light pink ribbon, and she brushed my hair out.
To be honest, I felt better in my replacement outfit.
When Momma picked me up from school that day, she had a confused look on her face.
“I didn’t send you to school in that,” she said.
Mrs. Coleman explained to her what had happened and apologized for the teacher assistant letting us go crazy on the playground. She assured Momma that the picture was perfect.
A few weeks later, Momma got the picture package. She was actually very happy with the picture. The pink sweater looked good against the background, and my hair looked fine with the pink ribbon.
“Pretty in pink,” she even said.
I am just glad she didn’t notice the piece of grass sticking out from behind my ear.
Tim Kalich Guest ColumnistDuring the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Georgetown University was joining the nation’s college basketball elite, its coach, John Thompson, had a rule.
Freshmen players were not allowed to be interviewed by the media.
Sports reporters bristled at Thompson’s gag order on freshmen at my alma mater, particularly after he landed Patrick Ewing, a highly prized recruit who ended up leading the Hoyas to three national championship games.
Thompson felt that freshmen needed time to adjust to college and the exposure that playing on a big stage would bring. He wanted them to learn from the upperclassmen how to handle themselves when a tape recorder or microphone was thrust in front of their mouth. It seems like a quaint idea now, with 18-year-old phenoms going straight to the NBA and even some high school programs getting face time on ESPN.
But Thompson wouldn’t budge. When pressed whether he was being fair to his younger players by shielding them and thus hindering their national exposure, he said, “I’m not running a democracy here.”
That memory struck me last week after our veterinarian began quizzing me about the election of the new pope.
The vet is a Methodist who, after marrying a Baptist, is now attending a Baptist church. He was curious about the papal selection process, questioning why 115 cardinals got to decide in secret who among them would be the next spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
“Why don’t all of you get a vote?” asked the vet, knowing that I am a Catholic.
“Because the Catholic Church is not a democracy,” I told him.
The election of a pope is not the only thing about the Catholic Church that throws non-Catholics for a loop here. At times in the past, our theological differences with Protestantism and our relatively small numbers in all of Mississippi except the Gulf Coast have caused Catholics to be maligned in this state. These days, anti-Catholicism has largely disappeared, or at least it seems to me it has. But there is still a lot we do that non-Catholics find strange.
We are fond of rules, for one thing. No meat on Friday during Lent. No eating anything an hour before communion. Attendance at Mass on Sunday (or Saturday evening) is obligatory.
We are restless worshippers. We stand, we sit, we kneel — all according to verbal or visual cues from the priest or other ministers that seem like a secret code to the uninitiated.
We are high on authority. If you don’t particularly care for the priest who has been assigned to your parish, tough. The congregation doesn’t get to hire him, and it doesn’t get to fire him.
As far as the new pope, I like what I have seen so far.
The former archbishop of Buenos Aires appears to be a humble, godly man with a special connection to the poor. His history is one of being uncomfortable with the trappings of privilege, prefering more to follow the model of Jesus Christ as a servant rather than one being served.
It was time for the Catholic Church to break out from its European domination of the papacy. The selection of the first Latin American as pope firmly acknowledges that the population center of Catholicism has moved far away from Rome.
The former cardinal of Buenos Aires demonstrated, though, a respectful sensitivity to the transition. He picked Francis, also a first, as his papal name, in honor of the patron saint of Italy, St. Francis of Assisi. It also didn’t hurt that the Argentine is the son of Italian immigrants and is fluent in Italian.
I’m also partial to Jesuits. Francis is the first from that religious order to become a pope. The Jesuits are big on social justice and on education. They run more than 100 colleges around the world, including Georgetown. They also operate more than 50 high schools in the United States alone, one from which I also graduated.
The American press has focused on the troubles that Francis has inherited, from financial scandals at the Vatican to the continued fallout over the sexual abuse of minors by a small percentage of priests.
One of his biggest challenges, though, is the declining number of priests in the developed world. There is a reason most of those cardinals look so old. For decades now, the pipeline of new priests has been shrinking in places where wealth has been rising. Mississippi feels the shortage as acutely as any. The two Franciscan priests in Greenwood are spread thin, caring for two churches and an elementary school here, a church in Lexington and another one in Winona.
I might have preferred a younger pope. At 76 and despite being in apparent good health, Francis does not seem ideally suited to inspiring young men and women to enter the religious life.
As Catholics, though, we are asked to trust that the right choice was made. Although the cardinals cast the votes at the conclave, we believe it was the Holy Spirit who actually did the choosing.
Jamie Patterson Managing EditorThis past week really showed me some of the great things that we have going on in Yazoo County.
It’s easy to dwell on the negative side of things or to complain about what is not being done right. But I am a firm believer in trying to focus in on the positive things. I have my bad moments, but I try my best to stay on the sunny side of the street.
My work week starting with a notepad of notes I had scribbled down from a visit I had with the newspaper students at Woolfolk Middle School.
I instantly began to smile when I thought about the future journalists, editors and photographers we have at our local middle school. Those students really impressed me with their genuine interest, detailed questions and overall excitement about the business.
All complaints that I may have encountered over the week seemed to disappear when I saw the smiling faces of those Woolfolk students. Not only were they possible future Herald employees, but they are the future of Yazoo City.
Despite the way it seems things are going sometimes, I saw hope in the small faces of those students that day. They were eager, smart, polite and ready to learn. I hope their enthusiasm continues when life begins to really come their way.
The positive things Yazoo has going for it didn’t stop there.
I had the privilege of formally meeting Rev. Joe Freeman and his wife this week. Along with five other local pastors, a community-wide revival was held this week in an effort to unite the community together, crossing social, racial and other lines.
After publishing the information in The Herald, my husband and I decided to attend as many of the services as we could. That was the most uplifting experience I have had in quite some time.
It was so refreshing to see the most diverse group of people coming together under one roof for prayer, fellowship and worship. I pray that the unity felt within those walls this week will flourish over into the community.
I started to look at Yazoo a little different this week. I am well aware of the negative things that are going on in our community. There are concerns about education, crime and other quality of life issues.
But there are some great and positive things going on here as well. You just have to take the time to notice them, or better yet, appreciate them.
Take the time to mingle with a few local students. Even if it is just a simple greeting or hug, those children will remember it. They are the future of our community, and they are about to embark on a journey into the real world. Help them out by giving them that dose of kindness and love. Looking back over my own life, I remember those people who took the time to reach out to me. I never forgot them.
Take a moment to pray and fellowship with others outside your normal circle. It can be easy to stay trapped in your comfort zone. But when you close your eyes in prayer, you can’t tell the difference with whose hand you are holding. You are united in faith.
Stop and talk to people you meet within the community. I had more handshakes this week with various meetings, ceremonies and other community events. It really is a special moment to realize that we live in such a small yet tight-knit community. You know your neighbors. You work alongside each other. You are all in this thing together.
Take a stroll downtown. Stop in on a local ball game. Take a ride out in the country. Visit one of our local farmer’s markets. Sign up for an art class in town.
Simply experience Yazoo.
I am aware that negative stories will come my way. It’s my job to cover all the bases.
But I have to look at the good things we have going on in Yazoo. They are out there, you just have to be open to see them.
I may not be a native Yazooan. But it’s those positive things that keep me here. I’m am not going anywhere.
This is home, and I hope that more people take the time to realize why.
Wyatt Emmerich President Emmerich NewspapersOne of the great Mississippi success stories is C Spire, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
What a great ride it has been. They’ve come a long way since the one rural telephone exchange in Calhoun City.
Wade Creekmore Sr. had worked as an attorney for the Public Service Commission and gained some understanding of the operations of rural telephone exchanges. With two sons fresh out of Ole Miss, Mr. Creekmore expanded, sending son Wade to Franklin and Jimmy to the Delta. They did everything from sales to billing to repairing the phones.
By the early 1960s the Creekmore family was running telephone exchanges in Louise, Holly Bluff, Calhoun City, Franklin and 12 other small Mississippi towns. They still run those small telephone systems today. But instead of a dozen employees, they now employ 1,200.
When the Federal Communications Commission authorized cellular telephone service in the 1980s, the Creekmores were in the right place at the right time. The licensing process required that every cellular license have a telephone operator as one of the two parties. Opportunity met ability and vision. The huge expansion was on. Today C Spire has nearly a million subscribers, making them the largest independent cell phone company in the United States.
“They saw it coming and were all over it,” C Spire CEO Hu Meena told me. “You remember what it was like. People were asking, ‘Why would you need a telephone in your car?’ Many people in the telephone business thought it would be a fad, but not the Creekmores.”
The Creekmores are a big Northside clan of 21 and are part of the fabric of our community. It is a blessing that we are able to have a locally owned and operated company at the forefront of technology. C Spire creates jobs and capital that stay in Mississippi. They support numerous charitable endeavors.
Meena has been a big part of the success, running the company during most of its rapid growth. The Creekmores realized the importance of investing in the latest and best technology. Hu Meena has kept that strategy going with nearly a billion dollars invested in thousands of cell tower sites. This is not a business for the faint of heart.
Over the last 25 years, there have been many critical moments when the family had to make huge bets on new technology. One wrong move would have sunk the company and led to a sale. But they made all the right moves and stand today as perhaps the most successful privately owned company in the state today.
Mississippi cell phone penetration is greater than 100 percent because many people have more than one phone. Now the battle is turning more toward the software aspect of smart phones. C Spire doesn’t plan to rest on their laurels.
Meena has added chief operating officer Kevin Hankins to the team, investing heavily in software systems designed to customize their service to the unique requirements of each individual customer. C Spire was recently designated as one of the cutting edge technology companies in the country.
Listening to Meena and Hankins talk made me thankful I work in a simple business like newspapers. C Spire is taking it to a whole new level. It’s a brave new world out there and the competition from the Googles and the Facebooks of the world is intense. But they did it before. I bet they’ll do it again
Jamie Patterson Managing EditorShaking his plastic piggy bank, our son James is quick to tell you why he is saving up his money.
He is going to buy an excavator. He says it with such certainty and authority that there is no way you can doubt him. For some reason owning one of these large earth moving machines has been a goal of his for years – even before he could say it. I can remember when he used to tell us he wanted an “excabatah.”
And with $54 in the bank, he feels that he is getting pretty close to having enough money.
James may not realize just how expensive an excavator runs these days (probably more than our house), but I can’t help but smile when I see how excited he gets at the possibility of buying one in the near future.
I can remember the joy of finding that loose penny in the couch or that shiny nickel in the dryer. You really hit the jackpot when you found a quarter discarded on the kitchen table.
I had a bank that was shaped like the head of Mr. T from the A Team. There was a slot on top of his mohawk where you shoved your coins. That bank sat on top of my bookcase at my grandparents’ house until I was a teenager.
Like James, I had goals of what I wanted to buy with my collection. My goals may not have been quite as ambitious, but I had my wish list.
It was raining one Saturday, and with nothing to do, Maw Maw thought it was as good a time as any to hit the Sack & Save in Brookhaven. We would be inside out of the rain, and Maw Maw loved to spend money even if that meant loading up on canned goods or hamburger meat. It didn’t matter to her as long as it involved shopping.
I had grown tired of saving my money, and I asked if I could take my change with me to buy me whatever I wanted. After I was given permission, I ripped the plastic cap off the bottom of my Mr. T bank. Filling about five small Ziploc bags with my change, I rushed out the door. The money was burning a hole in my pocket, and I needed to spend it.
At the end of the day, I was exhausted and ready to head back to Monticello. My belly was full of an entire plate of green beans I ordered from the deli. I ate that whole thing, sitting under the grocery cart. Being able to sit where you normally put a bag of dog food, I watched the shoppers above me as I gulped down spoon after spoon of bacon grease-soaked snap beans.
My next purchase was a paper doll book I found near the magazine racks. I had a hard time determining if I wanted to take my paper girl on a sailboat or on an Asian tour. In the end, I settled for the sailboat collection.
Then I grabbed the latest Archie comic, a box of powdered doughnuts, a soda pop and a package of Stage Planks. I almost had enough to get a Flintstone sherbert Push-Up. Maw Maw said my credit was good, so she loaned me some change.
By the end of the day, all I had to show for my bank was a stomach ache and a paper doll that was already missing a leg. Turns out I already had the same Archie comic.
James is already showing much more will power with his money than I ever had. He has a goal, and he is going to reach it. He doesn’t have time for snap beans or comic books. He needs an excavator.
More importantly, he has a dream.
Completely unaware of how truly unattainable that excavator may be, James has that child-like determination that often seems to disappear when you get older.
Nothing is impossible, and anything can be done.
It’s funny how a simple piggy bank, a lone penny and a wide grin made me think about reaching your dreams.
And as I tuck away some change to give him tonight, the dream begins to seem more real.
I may just have to buy him a bigger bank if we are going to do this thing right. From what I hear, Mr. T is making a comeback.