Jamie Patterson Managing EditorJames JacksonThe wind had a slight chill to it as Paw Paw buttoned his light wind jacket up to his neck.
He was sitting under the carport that November day, all alone. I watched from behind the kitchen screen door as he packed his pipe with his signature Prince Albert tobacco.
I slowly made my way outside to Paw Paw, who had a brand new flag in his lap.
Tomorrow was Veteran’s Day, and he wanted to replace our old flag with a new one he purchased at Hudson’s Pharmacy.
“Can I help you,” I asked, grabbing the back of his wheelchair.
“Why sure,” he said, shoving the pipe in his mouth.
I pushed Paw Paw’s wheelchair out to the flag pole. His arms weren’t as strong as they used to be, and it was becoming more difficult for him to push his wheelchair through the grass.
As the wind brushed past my face, Paw Paw began to fish through the series of ropes that held up the flag. I could tell he was getting aggravated with it, but he never complained.
Leaning forward as much as he could in his wheelchair, Paw Paw pulled on the ropes until the new flag could be seen flapping in the breeze.
And then he just sat there. He didn’t say a word. He just looked up at the new flag for a little while.
“It’s pretty, ain’t it,” he asked, as I ripped up a few blades of grass.
“Yeah,” I responded, not really thinking about it. “But it’s just a flag.”
I didn’t really think about what I said that day. I was only a child and meant nothing by it. But now as an adult, I understood why Paw Paw looked at me so strangely that afternoon.
“It’s more than that,” he said.
I nodded my head and jumped onto my tire swing. Paw Paw kept smoking his pipe and began making jokes about Maw Maw’s new haircut.
But he was right...it was more than just a flag.
It was something he risked his life for during World War II. He was only in his early 20s when he headed off to Germany, but he was ready to fight and possibly die for a country he loved.
While his family carried on with their lives, he fought for his own. When Maw Maw was busy clipping ration stamps, he was clipping strips of clothes to bandage the wounds of friends.
When his younger sister was complaining about the Mississippi winter, he was struggling to stay warm in a German forest as his friend’s foot showed signs of frost bite.
When his nephews were writing letters to Santa, he was writing a letter to a woman he never met to give her words of encouragement after the death of her son.
While his neighbors were wondering what the weekend would hold, he was wondering if he would live to see tomorrow.
And while his little brother waited in the woods for that next squirrel to shoot, he was waiting on a German tank to cross over the snow-covered hills.
Paw Paw returned home from the war with a warm response from friends and family. His entire community even assembled a parade for many of the county boys who made it back safely.
But there were also a few new tombstones in the rural cemetery.
Paw Paw slowly made his way back into the woods and began his hunting obsession again. It took him several months to even fire another gun. He never complained about the bitter winters again. And he always honored Veteran’s Day with a phone call or two to an old Army friend.
He got a job at the paper mill. He got his garden back in order. And he made a living for his family.
Paw Paw may not have been a millionaire, and his name isn’t found in any history book. But he was a good man who served his country, loved his family and held his chin high.
And I am extremely proud to have his blood running through my veins. Not a day passes that I don’t ask myself what he would do in a situation.
As this Veteran’s Day rolls around, I understand now what he meant that day several years ago.
It is more than just a flag. It’s an honor. It’s a blessing. It’s Paw Paw. It’s every veteran.
I pushed Paw Paw into the house that night, and we settled in with a hot supper and a few moments in front of the television.
Later on a cousin from down the road stopped by for a quick visit.
“I see you got a new flag,” he said. “It looks good.”
“Somebody’s got to do it,” Paw Paw said, with a laugh.
And now I know why he did.
Jason Patterson Editor & PublisherSome observations while preparing for a long night of awaiting election results:
A penny saved may be a penny earned, but a penny made is two pennies lost.
At least that’s the case these days for the federal government as the cost to produce a penny in 2012 is more than twice its actual value. After the pennies are manufactured the taxpayers cover the difference.
That, my friends, is one of the many absurd examples of what’s wrong with our country today. Common sense is all too uncommon these days when it comes to government. I would love to believe that Tuesday’s elections will change everything for the better, but I’m skeptical – no matter the outcome.
But there’s no sense in picking on the federal government when we have so many problems of our own right here in Yazoo.
Business and job creation have been the hottest issues of this election cycle. That’s been the case on the national stage, and it’s true here as well.
Most of our local politicians list promoting business as one of their top priorities when they’re seeking your vote, but you would probably be surprised at how many of them have never set foot in many of our local businesses, even businesses in the areas they represent.
It was surprising to me at least, and it’s a common complaint I hear when I visit with many local business owners.
Don’t take my word for it. Go ask them.
No wonder so many decisions seem counterproductive as far as the local economy is concerned. It’s hard to represent local business if you have no idea what the needs and concerns of the owners are.
The Jones Saga
One thing I can say about Ward 3 Alderman Clifton Jones is that he definitely does things his own way.
Whether he’s voting against paying the bills, claiming to have an understanding of city finances that none of his peers comprehend or making controversial statements, Jones attracts plenty of attention. Unfortunately it’s usually for all the wrong reasons.
Jones seems like a pretty nice guy on a personal level, but for the most part he has been hard to get along with as an alderman. He’s done a lot of things during his tenure that I have considered strange, but suing his fellow board members over a Public Service Commission Appointment takes the cake.
If Jones had shown similar concern when the board hijacked Ward 2 Alderman Jack Varner’s school board appointment, I might be able to take his argument a little more seriously. But this is business as usual for Jones, and I can’t imagine that the citizens of Ward 3 will be in the mood to tolerate any more foolishness when his term is up.
Parade Needs You
If you are a member of a church group, school or civic club, I urge you to consider participating in the Christmas Parade this year. The parade has declined some recently, and some people have been discouraged by the bad acts of a few.
We’ll never have anything good in this town if good people give up when things aren’t going their way. As one of the organizers of the parade this year, I can promise you that we’re making a good faith effort to eliminate the problems we’ve experienced in the past.
If you think that’s a worthwhile effort, we sure would like to have your support. The best way to do that is to either participate in the parade or come out and enjoy the festivities.
Don’t let yourself become one of those people who sits around complaining about what we don’t have while never lifting a finger to help us improve.
End of the Election
This paper will go to press before Tuesday’s elections are decided, but I am glad it’s finally over. On the national scale it seems sad to me that undecided voters are probably going to determine our next president. It troubles me to think that that people who are so uninformed that they don’t know who they’re going to vote for until the final days could decide the outcome of the presidential election. No matter who you support, that just doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.
On the local level I don’t think that I’ve ever seen such a spirited campaign for a local supervisor’s race. Looking at the numbers it’s likely that there will be a runoff for District 4 Supervisor. I’m usually pretty good at forecasting local elections, but I really don’t know how this one will turn out. Maybe someone will win it outright this week, but I doubt it.
The good news for Yazoo County is that a lot of very qualified candidates entered the race. Hopefully those who don’t win will continue making positive contributions to Yazoo County. You don’t have to be an elected official to make a significant difference.
Jamie Patterson Managing EditorAll the ghouls, goblins, witches and ghosts have gone back into hiding until the next Halloween.
It was a real treat for my husband Jason and I to dress our son James and daughter Elsie up for their second Halloween together.
James is nearing his fifth birthday so he thinks he has this Halloween thing down to an expert level.
James was Darth Vader while baby Elsie was a pirate.
Before tucking them into bed, their tummies were filled with sweets and other goodies. It took a long time to get them down from their sugar high, but they loved every moment.
When I was a little girl, I loved Halloween so much. It was so much more than costumes and candies. It was about visiting with family and neighbors. The whole evening was perfect as a child.
With the exception of the one year that I dressed up like a Glo Worm, I was always a witch. With a black dress, black tights and black hat, I kept it pretty simple. But I remember this strange necklace that Momma found in a costume store that wrapped around my neck like a snake, with ruby eyes.
Once the parties at school were over, I eagerly waited to be picked up so that I could hop into my costume and begin my night of festivities.
I would knock on the door of every house in our neighborhood. Some neighbors who were family friends would have special bags made up just for me.
And I can remember the temptation of looking into other people’s houses who I didn’t know so well. It must be a “kid” thing because James will run inside a complete stranger’s house in a second during his trick or treating rounds.
After we made our way around the neighborhood, Momma would load me up and take me to the “rich” neighborhood across town.
I would gaze up at the mansions and dream about living in a house that large one day.
This was the land of Snickers, Hershey bars and Sugar Daddies. There wasn’t any candy corn or peanut butter taffy.
This was the good stuff.
Then we would make our way to the homes of family members. As they continued to snap pictures, I would be shoving another Baby Ruth in my mouth.
Maw Maw and Paw Paw would always have an entire bucket waiting for me at their house. It would be filled with candy, cheap carnival toys, wax lips and stickers.
And Paw Paw would sneak me a Coca Cola on the side. Since he was a diabetic and wasn’t supposed to have sugar, he and I would sneak outside and guzzle the pops down before anyone noticed. It was our little secret.
We would visit with my grandparents until the last group of kids rang their doorbell.
A few times Maw Maw ran out of candy and gave them cans of vienna sausage and canned oranges.
When I went to bed that night, I would be filled with sweets and on top of the world. It was the only time of the year that I was allowed to eat mountains of candy and run around the town crazy with the other kids.
And judging by the amount of toilet paper hanging from trees I saw on the way to take James to school this morning, kids are still running around the town crazy on Halloween.
Halloween seems to bring out the kid in everybody.
Even though I am 30 years old now, I still dig around in my kids’ buckets looking for a Kit Kat bar. I “steal” a few pieces of bubble gum from them.
I like to dress up in costumes and run around with the kids.
Jason is just as bad.
Shoving fake blood in his mouth, he fell out in the kitchen last night with a “serious ailment.” James loved it, but poor Elsie thought it was real, rushing to her daddy’s aid.
It was a night filled with candy, costumes, havoc and fellowship.
It always has been and I have a feeling it always will be for years to come.
Jason Patterson Editor & PublisherI was trying to keep a herd of cows from escaping our hastily assembled catchpen while Dad went to get the trailer when I saw my uncle Walter coming down the hill.
He mumbled something about the weather, but I knew right away that he hadn’t come all this way to provide a weather forecast.
I knew what he was going to say next before he said it.
That was 20 years ago today, and it doesn’t seem possible that so much time has passed since my grandmother Elsie Patterson left this world. Twenty years should seem like an eternity; it’s over half of my life.
At that time I would have encouraged someone to seek a psychiatric evaluation if they predicted I would one day become the publisher of this newspaper. I was a decade from meeting the girl who would later become my wife. My kids weren’t even imagined yet.
And yet although I’ve only seen her in family photo albums and her occasional visits to my dreams over the last two decades, not a day has passed without me thinking about her at some point and missing her.
I can still hear her singing “I’ll Fly Away” on the front porch swing and taste her chocolate pie and sweet tea. I can still remember exactly what it smelled like when you walked into her kitchen. Or sleeping every night on the pillow that she made for me before I was born. My baby girl sleeps on it today.
Or riding to Sunday school in the backseat of a baby blue Mercury Comet with her and Paw Paw. After Paw Paw died she started driving that car, even though she’d never really driven before. She’d show up with a jug of ice water while we were working in the hayfield, and we’d be worried about her after she left until we knew she made it home safely.
She touched many lives outside of her own family. Since I named my daughter Elsie after her, I have been amazed at how many people have shared stories about my grandmother. Most of them were about how she helped someone or did something kind.
I saw a lot of those things with my own eyes as a child, and it was truly a blessing to grow up in an environment where that kind of thing was just considered normal everyday life. In today’s society it seems like many people just ignore their neighbors whenever possible.
She was one of those people who had less than many and still found a way to do more than most. She gave many people in her little community a helping hand along the way when they needed it.
She raised four children who all became successful as adults and spoiled all of her grandchildren. I’m sure that all of us think we were her favorite.
Hopefully everyone reading this has someone who has made the kind of impact on their lives that Elsie Patterson had on mine.
The realization this week that she has been gone for so long was shocking to me because she is so often on my mind. I have a hard time remembering some things I did last week, and yet so many memories of her are as vivid as if they just happened.
I know that there has to be others out there wondering how long it will be before they stop thinking about someone they love every day or missing them.
All I know for sure is that the answer isn’t 20 years.
If that day ever comes, I’ll let you know.
Jamie Patterson Managing EditorAs I dragged our son James towards the back of the church, it was apparent he wasn’t going down without a fight.
My face was beginning to turn red as James did the “dead weight” routine, collapsing his whole body on the floor while tugging at my arm. He even let out a few shouts of “Momma” and “I want Daddy.”
And as we “quietly” made our way out of the sanctuary, I thought to myself that this is punishment for all those times I gave my grandparents and mother more than they bargained for during Sunday services.
Where does he get this from, I asked myself as we make our way back to the nursery.
My husband Jason and I are trying to transition James from sitting in the nursery to actually being with us in “big church.”
He is four years old, and the time has come for him to sit between us during services.
I have this misconception that James will sit ever so quietly between us, hands folded in his lap. He will bow his head in silence with every prayer. He will attempt to sing every hymnal. And he will quietly take his seat in front of the congregation during children’s time and pay attention to the lesson.
When James enters the sanctuary, a few ladies immediately start praying. I have seen a few men give Jason that look of “I’ve been there, buddy.”
He never quietly takes his seat in the pew. He flings himself down, stretching his legs out like he thinks he is fixing to take a nap.
I have to threaten taking away a toy just to get him to sit up straight.
And then the questions start.
What are those people doing up there?
Why can’t I have another doughnut?
When are we going to sing another song?
Why can’t I color on this book?
Can I pretend I’m a bear?
And these questions are never whispered. They are questions shouted to the roof top. The pew in front probably has some spit sprayed on it from my aggressive “ssshhh.”
And James has only actually made it to “children’s time” about three times. The last time I had to remove him from the lineup at the altar because he began hitting himself in the face to get a few laughs. Somehow he was surprised to discover that I wasn’t laughing.
I know that James is still young and “boys will be boys.”
But as I drag him out every Sunday, I notice other children sitting quietly with their parents. They occasionally snicker or jump up for no reason. But they have never had to be escorted out.
When I was a little kid, Maw Maw would either give me “the look” or come over and pinch me. That was all it took for me to get in line.
And when I was really bad, she would get up in the middle of services and drag me to the back. I would return with a sore bottom, red face and a case of the sniffles.
But she certainly got my attention.
I know it’s just part of being a parent, and James will eventually get out of this stage and become more civilized in church. But it’s a long journey.
I know we will get down it soon enough. I managed to survive it myself when I was a kid.
As a child during church, I have been pinched, spanked and moved. I have received the Word of the Lord and the order of Maw Maw, all at once. I have been herded like cattle down the aisles. And I think the preacher said a personal prayer for me along the way.
But I came out all right, and Maw Maw and Momma survived too.
Sometimes I just wish they would have left me some tips or advice.
But where would the fun be in that?