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.
Edd Peyton Guest ColumnistI recently read about the astonishing high number of students at Yazoo City High School who are in danger of not graduating this year.
As harsh at it may seem, I suggest that Yazoo City High School’s administration let the children fail.
At some point in life, parents and their children should learn and realize that special accommodations cannot and should not be made in every instance where a child fails to live up to his or her potential.
A Yazoo Herald article suggested that Yazoo City High School offered after school and weekend programs to assist the failing students to achieving the necessary qualifications for graduation. The school board also went to apartment complexes and handed out flyers explaining what was occurring and requesting parental intervention.
I do not know whether these acts are effective. What I do know is that every time a child is bailed out of a hard spot, the child becomes one step closer to developing an expectation of being bailed out of whatever issue they face. These children are destined to become dependent on a paternalistic system until the day that no one is willing to extend a helping hand. It is at that point that these children in extremis (or perhaps young adults) hit rock bottom and will finally be forced to make a personal decision to accept failure or to work to overcome the obstacles they face.
I am not one who believes that there shall never be cause for exception. In the cases where exception arises, the exception should be driven by proactive steps taken by the parents and the students, each requesting help before they reach the point of no return.
It should be the children and their parents who reach out to the school system with a mutually agreeable solution, instead of the school system expending resources to inform parents and students of a situation that they should already be aware of, having seen poor grades on tests and report cards.
The school system is charged with educating our youth to minimum standards. Parents should send their children to school ready to learn, already at or near the minimum standard. Parents and children should then strive to push the school to offer more complex and better course offerings. In this day and age there is no excuse for failure. Technology has made the answer to almost any question available by simply typing a plainly worded question into Google. Google is available at school, the library and on the cell phones in the possession of many youth. Through Google and YouTube, parents and students can find lessons on almost any subject.
Yazoo City High School, through the Class of 2013, can send a message to all classes that follow. That message shall be proclaimed as follows, “When you walk through these doors, come prepared to learn. We will do our best to teach you. We ask that you do your best to learn. If you are having problems, ask for help. If you do not timely ask for help, we will not hesitate to fail you. The responsibility to learn is upon both you and I.”
This year’s graduation should be held highlighting both those who graduate and those who fail. There should be a seat on the field for every student who was enrolled in the Class of 2013. If that student failed, his or her seat should be reserved and covered with a black sash. Their name should not be read aloud. Instead the announcer shall read, “Failed.”
Perhaps upon witnessing fifty empty chairs and hearing “failed” fifty times, the school board, parents and citizens alike will become motivated to do better next year.
One way to do better is to demand more of every student. Beginning in the younger grades, expose the children to a variety of experiences. Figure out how to incorporate field trips and interactive learning into the curriculum. Increase participation in extracurricular activities. Instill pride in participating in school sponsored activities.
Expose children to places different than the neighborhood they grow up in. Work with Parks and Recreation to provide year around recreation and positive mentors for children. Sports provide an excellent opportunity to develop team work and leadership skills. Teach well above the minimum.
While the child may not become proficient in every item that is taught, the student will become aware of a greater universe of knowledge. I’ve passed a many of tests, not because I was intimately familiar with the subject matter tested, but because I had a life experience that I could relate to the subject being tested. With more academic and life experiences in his or her bag, Yazoo City public school students may become better suited for success in school and in life.
Edd Peyton, Attorney, currently serving as a Rule of Law Field Force Officer in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Jamie Patterson Managing EditorI grew up with an old fashioned grandmother.
She was the kind of woman who prepared a homecooked meal every night. She snuck me an extra soda pop. She made me milkshakes whenever I asked.
She took me to church every Sunday. She tortured me with every “at home” remedy from days gone by.
And...her switch for us kids was her favorite companion.
I still see a good switch every now and then. But not like those grandmothers had when I was coming up. Every elderly lady within the town limits of Monticello had a long, skinny switch with a few leaves at the end of them.
They took them everywhere. Maw Maw carried hers in her purse. She placed in on the dash of her car on every road trip. She left it in the purse holder of every shopping cart. She even carried that thing in between the pages of Proverbs inside her Bible at church.
Sometimes only a quick shake of it would make us stand at attention. If you were acting up, all Maw Maw had to do was make a quick move towards that switch and you straightened up real quick.
I don’t like to let on like my Maw Maw tortured me with a switch, but it was most certainly her favorite form of discipline. And, believe me, it worked.
I can remember the day when my cousins and I thought we would outsmart my Maw Maw by destroying her beloved switch.
My great aunt had dropped her own grandkids off at the house so she could take her husband to a doctor’s appointment. The two boys didn’t mind staying with Maw Maw. I was a tomboy and would hold my own during any wrestling match or exploration in the back yard.
But, like many Southern families, they were open to any and all punishment from any other close kin. In other words...they were fair game.
It was a hot, summer day when our scheme began to brew in our little minds. We had just been spanked actually for knocking on the neighbors door and running away.
“I hate that switch,” Chris said, rubbing his leg. “Granny has got one too. That’s all they do is switch folks all day.”
“No kidding,” I replied. “Maw Maw tried to get me the other day because she forgot that I talked back to her at breakfast.”
“Well, I don’t know,” Junior said. “I would rather get it over with than something else.”
“What do you know,” Chris asked, with a sneer. “You’re the favorite anyway. You barely get touched. Meanwhile, they beat Jamie and me.”
I shook my head in agreement.
It was then that Chris and I decided to steal Maw Maw’s switch and destroy it. We would even try to do the same with his Granny’s switch next time.
Maw Maw was on the couch, taking her daily afternoon nap. Chris and I eased up to the kitchen counter and snatched that switch as fast as we could.
All three of us raced out the back door and made our way behind the barn. As if we had pulled off a great mission, we celebrated.
Jumping in the air, patting each other on the back...we were unsure of what to do with it.
And then Chris just started snapping the switch in two. Breaking it off piece by piece, it took him a minute to finally destroy the slender stick of pain.
We never heard her coming. We never saw her shadow. But Maw Maw came around the corner like a Major Leaguer stealing homeplate.
Junior just fell to the ground and started crying. I admit that I abandoned everybody because I took off running.
Maw Maw’s elastic arm caught Chris by the neck of his shirt. I am not sure what happened because I never looked back but I heard his cries of anguish.
I stayed away as long as I could. But when I heard Maw Maw bellowing my name, I knew it was time to face the music.
When I made my way to the back porch, Chris stood by Maw Maw with a red face and the sniffles. Junior wouldn’t even look me in the eye, but I can tell he was let off easy. Besides, it was Chris who tore the switch up.
“Well, the three amigos here thought they would outsmart me,” Maw Maw said. “When you ran out giggling, the screen door slammed shut. I woke right up. Came outside to find ya’ll making a fire pile here behind the barn.”
“Get her good,” Chris yelled, looking at me. “It was her idea.”
“Get real, creep,” I replied. “You always try to drag us into stuff.”
Maw Maw broke it up before Chris and I starting rolling in the dirt.
Then she told us to go pick our own switch. I hated when she did that.
As the sun went down that summer day, we accepted our defeat. Maw Maw had won the battle. The switch was returned to its throne.
And the world kept turning.