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Today is August 13, 2022

Mississippi Seen

Sin in the camp

By Walt Grayson

Sin in the camp

As I walked outside to feed the cats this morning, it felt like I was treading water because the humidity was so high. It was even hard to breathe. 

Immediately, what came to mind was something one of my aunts told me one hot summer years ago. She said that grandma told her that the older you get, the more the heat and the cold hurts. She said when grandma told her that, she couldn’t imagine what she was talking about. But now she knew. Well, several years later, I know, too.

It’s not like it was when we were kids and would ride our bikes downtown on a hot afternoon to see if the time and temperature sign on the bank had hit 100 degrees yet. Nowadays, I don’t particularly want to ride in a car when it’s that hot, much less on a bike. But when you’re a kid, little things like heat bubbles don’t phase you.

We’ve started out this summer with the weather set all the way up to broil. That reminded me of a family story that I have told before, but not lately. However, this seems the summer to repeat it.

After dad retired, he and mom moved into the little house right across the road from the house where mom grew up. Mom’s oldest sister, Captola (Aunt Cap) and Uncle Red lived in the old home place. Another sister, Aunt Ermie, and Uncle Lloyd lived down the road. In an area in-between the three houses, every summer the three couples — mom and dad, Aunt Cap and Uncle Red, and Aunt Ermie and Uncle Lloyd — would grow the finest garden in Itawamba County. Then a heat wave and drought arrived. 

Now, that kind of weather isn’t uncommon in Mississippi. But it usually breaks after a few days or a week. But this heat spell just stayed. Pretty soon, Aunt Cap reached back into her Baptist roots and diagnosed the problem as being, “sin in the camp.” Now, the whole Southeast was in the same shape, but the root was someone living on that hilltop was not right with God. And it wasn’t going to get any better until they straightened out. (Maybe that’s why they used to have revivals in summer. To break heat waves!)

Anyway, they drug hoses out, watered, and wore hats and wrapped wet towels around their necks as they worked. And if the sun wasn’t blistering enough, Aunt Cap blistered them with “sin in the camp, sin in the camp.” 

Until one weekend Aunt Cap and Uncle Red went out of town to Birmingham. And while they were gone, it rained 3 inches on that garden. There was never another mention of “sin in the camp” again, except from Uncle Lloyd. Every time the garden started getting dry, from then on, he’d suggest to Aunt Cap that maybe she needed to go to Birmingham again. 


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.” Walt is also a reporter and 4 p.m. news anchor at WJTV in Jackson. He lives in Brandon and is a Central Electric member. Contact him at

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