Ramblings from the Cove...
February 13, 2013
By Lars Gren
Days come and go departing with most leaving no impression on the mind and if one were to be asked, “Where were you?” the old Vaudeville reply would be. “Out, “What did you do? “ Nothing.” Then comes that rare occurrence of a never to be forgotten day. After some years of saying that the Magnolia winters were too cold for our comfort and we should head south for a reprieve; action was taken. We flew to Dallas and after some days there began a drive towards Florida meaning to stop in various areas that held special memories from the past. For me the capstone of the trip would be a day in Picayune, MS including a drive of twelve miles or so to Catahoula where the farm lay that we had back in the late forties. Now some might wonder why I was keen to go back there with virtually no time or hope of seeing anyone from the past but to me it was there that my fondest memories of early teen years had its roots. Oh yes, the town has spread out along route 11 with shopping center-sort of a strip mall–the fast food spots as well as the various local industries but when we got to Main Street I saw what was the Ford Hotel albeit not open, the post office and the old drug store, still serving the town, where on Saturday’s when we went to town I would have a malted or ice cream soda for all of I think 15 cents and along with that you could read a comic book without having to buy it. The old bank building on the corner is still there but across the street the pool hall that we used to try to see into and wonder what all went on there has disappeared. The Saturday midnight shows at the local Cinema are only a memory as I pass the shuddered building. It was also the place to go when on Wednesdays it was bargain day with double features for kids price of 15 cents while adults had to dig deeper for 25 cents. Of course, back then there was also a news reel along with some cartoon “thrown in” to the bargain.
As we headed out of town toward what was named Pine Vista Plantation, we passed a small house still being lived in that we had rented for a year or so. A bit further on the other side of the road was an area that I would bike through whenever I had a possum or a coon from a hunt that I would sell, if my memory is correct for fifty cents. Driving on we passed the furthest point that the Picayune school bus would go to pick up students. At the time when I moved on to that school from the two room school house just a “stones throw” from our farm I was the “grown up feeling chauffeur” for my sister and another girl for the 10 miles to get the bus. This even though I had to sit on a two by six wrapped in canvas to see over the steering wheel of the old ‘43 or so Oldsmobile that was the family car. All went well until one day when there were some chickens in the road and one of them just didn’t make it out of the way. It didn’t take long before my father heard about it and told me that I had to be more careful in my driving. On this day as we neared the area of the farm I missed two of the landmarks and I realized we had driven too far. I stopped at the store and asked the cashier if she could give direction to the place. She was not sure but gave me a general idea of what to do. Well we followed that but still places were not looking as they should. So another stop where a man said that we were only a couple of miles from the sought after road but suggested I stop at Seal’s Grocery store just to be sure. Seal was the most common name and Jack Seal had been a good friend who I knew had died some years ago.
When we got back to the store I realized that’s where our first stop for help had been but I had not noticed the name on the building. As I walked in I saw the same cashier and went to her. After saying hello again I asked If any of the Seals were there or if she could give me a phone number to call and talk to them. She could not give me the phone number and didn’t know when they were coming in. Thinking that this was the end of a small quest I told her of living in the area and that Jack Seal was a good friend and that we went to school together. With that, she pointed to a man who had just finished talking to her and said, “That’s Ray Seal, Jack’s brother–well talk about two surprised ol’ men–there we were ten feet from each other–when first meeting in sixty five years. You can believe we reminisced–of the old three room school house–two classrooms and a room where we had a cooked lunch–home made biscuits as the vehicle for sopping honey or syrup. Four rows of desks in each of the classrooms. When a year was finished the next year you moved a row to the left until it was time to move to the school in town–and how when Uncle Oran had finished with one “row” and there were three more rows of students to teach, if I had finished my work I’d ask to go out and practice basketball on the dirt court with just a metal ring for a basket. Down below were two outhouses well set apart. I never again saw the little school house for by the time that I made my first return there in the seventies all was gone and it was an overgrown piece of land. I went on to ask about Elizabeth Seal and her sister Jeanette. “Why that’s Elisabeth behind the deli- counter.” At first she did not remember me but then all of a sudden she thought of my last name and then it came back, “yes and you had a sister–what was her name?” and on it went. I told her that I had been “sweet” on her but she got married, I said, when you were fifteen to a man who had two children. “No, I was fourteen.” Imagine fourteen, two children to take on and a husband. Jeanette also got married but I guess not at fourteen. Ray also mentioned that it was Jack’s son who owned the store.
Ray and I got to talking about the farm days and of us as “strangers” coming in to take over a nice Tung nut farm. He went on to tell how my father got to know the neighbors and fit in for he was not just the owner but a hard working man and those as J C Seal who worked for him appreciated that. He also would at some occasion dress out four or five suckling pigs, roast them and my mother would “platter” them up on trays complete with an apple in their mouths inviting the neighbors in for a feast. Ray remembered too that when the Tung nuts were gathered and put into burlap sacks us younger ones would tie off the sack add a identifying number for the person who gathered up the nuts and throw the sack up on a branch of the tree to be loaded on to the trailer when that section had been picked. There were not many opportunities for us young ones to earn money and he appreciated the opportunity my father had given them. I recalled that too and also that I picked pecans for three cents a pound–sounded better when we said three dollars hundredweight. Well we stayed going over the old times interspersed with “I can’t believe that we met this way. I never would have believed it.” Ray told of his continuing work on the Sheriffs department and trying to help out youngsters before they are in big trouble. Then Rosalyn who is traveling with us took a few photos that I’ll send the two of them for a reminder of a must unexpected and pleasurable meeting. With Ray’s instructions we had no trouble finding the old homestead less than two miles away. Since our days there the tung trees are gone but the old hay barn was in sight as was the tractor shed where as a kid I had a small plug of “Bloodhound” hidden just for a bit of a chew now and then. I’ve often wondered how many rodents jumped over it? Since I saw no-one, I did not go over the cattle guard and drive in but perhaps our house still stands unless Katrina took it down but I had seen enough.
Our visit ended with a bit about the hard times of earning a living before NASA came to the area with a project on the Pearl River where Jack found a good job. The time that I saw Jack he told me how he used to run a little “White Lightning” for Ol’ man Dossett as we knew him and get paid twenty five cents a quart. He said times were tough and you had to scratch. I never knew who was the maker but once while hunting on the farm and going through a wooded area where there was a small stream, I saw some smoke and then the still and all I did was turn, deciding to hunt a different parcel of the farm .
Leaving the farm I glanced again at Seal’s grocery store as we headed north for the less than 30 minute drive to Picayune to share a lunch with Larry and Jane Voss who had driven up from Biloxi. They had arrived earlier and had found a lunch spot that closes at two o’clock. With less than two minutes to two we walked in with only the help there but they graciously said, “Come in–have any table” and we sat down to a most delicious meal of char-broiled shrimp on a bed of greens with trimmings along with the best remoulade sauce I’ve ever had. So if you find yourself in Picayune, don’t leave without a meal at the Crescent Café on W. Canal Street. From there it was a parting with Larry and Jane returning home while we headed north on Interstate 59 to stop off at David and Maureen Sellers. They are long time friends of Walt and Valerie. Maureen who is a pianist has played for several of the Shepard children’s weddings. She was also very good about visiting Elisabeth at Woodland Court when Elisabeth stayed there for three months after last May’s accident when I could not care for her.
If you have “stayed” with these meandering thoughts you might be asking, “Why am I making so much out of nothing or out of a chance meeting,” but I wonder whether there is a chance meeting or not? God knows our every move, thought, desire but do we not go wherever we choose to as and if we have the means to? In a sense yes but He knows ahead of time what we will do and leaves us free yet He works in some way “behind the scenes.” Might there be a sense of pleasure for God to see two men—especially ol’ men -- make much over the past? Well think about your own life – the big events, the chance meetings – what if you had picked a different store to stop in. In the end it is a mystery but we made several stops and at the very last effort there was Ray who had needed gas and we both arrive at the right time. Is it just a chance or in some way a “divine appointment”?
I’ll end there with Elisabeth doing well in traveling even on the day that we covered 400 miles. God bless you and that’s it from the Cove (or might I say, from the road as we head for Minneola Fl and the African Inland Mission retirement community until mid-March).
God bless y'all,