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Today is January 22, 2019

Mississippi Seen

The last sortie for a historic fighter

The last sortie for a historic fighter

The jet fighter that has been displayed beside Interstate 55 at Hazlehurst for 50 years “flew” again in May as volunteers from Chennault Museum in Monroe rescued it. I will notice that it’s NOT there more than I noticed it when it was. Photo: Walt Grayson

If you’ve traveled I-55 south of Jackson then you’ve no doubt seen the F-86L Saber Jet at the Hazlehurst VFW, south of the Hazlehurst exit. I suppose you could call it the mascot of the VFW Post.

Well, the post closed about a decade ago and the neglected old jet became prey to vandals who broke the cockpit cover and stole the instrument panel. It started looking as if the plane’s next stop would be the scrap-metal yard.

However! The folks at the Chennault Aviation Museum in Monroe found out about the rare fighter and, long story short, rescued the plane a few weeks ago. It is slated for restoration and display within a year and a half or so at their museum in Louisiana.

It’s good that the plane will not become a casuality of neglect.

I really hate to lose our landmarks. But we’ve been losing landmarks ever since we started creating them.

I think about the almost-lost town of Rodney. It used to have two banks and a slew of stores and two newspapers, and on and on. When Eudora Welty went to Rodney to photograph it in the 1930’s, she lamented how little there was left of the town from its heyday. She wouldn’t even recognize Rodney today, so much of it is gone.

When I was a youngster at a family reunion, I rode with one of my uncles through the hills of northeast Mississippi as he was trying to find some landmarks from his youth. He had a hard time finding anything, just like Rodney today.

I do remember his excitement when he saw some old millstones in front of a country store and was told they came from the gristmill he was looking for.

Years later, as a young man I drove my oldest aunt around that same area one Sunday afternoon while she searched for similar landmarks. She particularly wanted to see if the old house where she grew up was still standing. I was mildly interested in it, to see an old place where my grandparents had lived.

It was only much later, after I had lived long enough to start seeing places of my past slip away, that I realized it wasn’t so much the old house itself that she missed, but the living that went on there that she was homesick for.

It seems life goes by so slowly and so quickly at the same time.

A while back Miz Jo and I went on a float trip down Red Creek in south Mississippi. I was videoing the creek for a “Mississippi Roads” show. She was trying her hand with a casting rod, fishing. It ended up being a story about fishing Red Creek because her rod got into so many of my shots.

I noticed, as we lazily drifted with the slow current, occasionally we would pass a stick poking up out of the water. Even though we passed it so slowly, pretty soon it was out of sight.

Time is like that. Events are the stubs sticking up out of the water. But time drifts us slowly but steadily on downstream, leaving them behind. We remember them by landmarks of memory.

Stuff like that came to mind as I watched them load up the F-86L, our old landmark for 50 years, and haul it off to become someone else’s new landmark at the museum in Monroe. We got so used to it we didn’t notice it anymore. Now we will, since it’s gone.

Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television, and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” Contact Grayson at

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