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Today is May 30, 2020

Mississippi Seen

Fall is in the air, conjuring memories of family

Fall is in the air, conjuring memories of family

Roosevelt State Park in Scott County is the closest to us in central Mississippi with the old CCC cabins. The cabins are very popular. The weekend waiting list is already into 2020. Weekdays you may be able to catch one open, especially in winter when you can build a fire in the fire place and cook bacon on the stove. That's my favorite time to go.  Photo: Walt Grayson

Our spider lilies were late blooming this year. Typically they’re up around the first week of September, sometimes as early as the middle of August. But it was late September before they sprouted this year.  

One of the other names for the spider lily is surprise lily because one day they just surprise you when they’ve popped up and bloomed. But I watched for them so long this year they weren’t so much a surprise as they were a relief when I finally saw them.

Just as the dogwood is a forerunner of spring, the spider lily is a marker that autumn is on its way. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to rush the seasons. From my experience, seasons don’t need rushing. They’re quick enough on their own. But when summer drags on so long, and the heat just won’t let go, you (or at least I) start looking for any sign that things are about to change.

Besides, I enjoy fall. Our annual family reunion for Mama’s side of the family was always the last week of September. Migrating yellow butterflies would drift past us flying southeastward as we drove north up Highway 25 to the Ratliff community in Itawamba County, just the other side of Mantachie. Mantachie used to be about as obscure as Ratliff back then. Now they manufacture Toyota parts there. And it has an interstate highway running past it. Times change.

We tried to keep the reunion going for a year or two after the last of the old folks passed away, but couldn’t do it. People are too busy nowadays to drive way off like that just to visit for a couple of hours and eat and turn around and drive back home. Besides, most of the people we’d really like to see are in the graveyard down the road.

So now when I see yellow butterflies while I’m driving along doing stories for “Mississippi Roads” or for WLBT it reminds me of family reunion and how nice it would be if only time had slowed down a bit through the years and everybody was still here.

Mama’s family was from “pioneer stock,” as she liked to put it. There’re five generations of us buried in the family plot in Itawamba County. Well, six generations now, with our sister passing away this summer. It’s all passing it seems. Things I thought had been here forever when I was a child are pretty much either gone or unrecognizable now.

The house Granddaddy built is still here, but it started changing the week Grandmother died. The uncle who inherited it proudly hauled the huge coal heater from the living room that we cousins played hide-and-seek behind, along with the small wood-burning heater in the dining room and Grandmother’s wood stove, and as he put it, “dumped ‘um in a hollow in Alabama.”

Later occupants have added their touches and removed our childhoods to the point where if I want to pretend to go back to Grandma’s, I just head to one of the CCC cabins in a state park.

The old cabins smell of wood smoke and cooked bacon like Grandma’s kitchen did. And they are rustic like my imagination remembers her house.

I tell folks that Miz Jo taught me to cuss at Tishomingo State Park. Monday night was blissful. No cell phones, no television. Just the crickets. Same Tuesday, no phones or TV, just crickets. Wednesday night Jo said, “If I hear one more damn cricket I’m going to lose my mind.”

Evidently, Miz Jo isn’t from pioneer stock.

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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