Sessums

SUMMERS IN SESSUMS


Long hot days, gravel roads, ponds, creeks, pastures, cows and the store were all necessary ingredients for summers in Sessums. Small dairy farms lined the gravel roads that led to the big, green store. Worn planks on the front porch let you know the store had been there for a long time. The benches, where some played checkers on pieces of cardboard with hand drawn squares, were smooth and shiney from years of contact with overalls. The screen doors, which never seemed to close properly, creaked as you opened them and served to announce each new customer. No child in Sessums could ever imagine a day when the store, and the man who gave them bubble gum, would be gone.

Sessums is located just seven miles from the town of Starkville, but in the summers, before the roads were paved, it was a world away. After all, Starkville was a real town. It had the Rex and State theaters and Pyron’s ice cream parlor. There were paved streets, next door neighbors and two pharmacies on main street. There were places of mystery where teenage boys played pool and smoked. You could get a haircut, see a doctor, buy clothes or eat lunch at either cafe. Sessums wasn’t like that at all. There was just one store and the best roads were gravel. It was at least a mile to the closest playmates.

One mile down a gravel road from our house was the store. For a young boy this could be quite a distance. There was no variety of transportation from which to choose. A trip to the store was a big deal and usually meant walking. With a keen eye and good luck you could pick up enough coke bottles on the way to finance a soft drink, some penny candy or cookies and of course, several pieces of bubble gum. No walk to the store would have been complete without an hour or so spent playing in the creek conveniently located about half way. The trip back was always longer, but a good haul of sweets made it a bit more tolerable.

Companions in Sessums consisted of your dog, and of course, imagination. Both were essential to passing time. Pastures, woods and creeks provided the backdrop for exploration and wars. No summer week was complete until my collie, Tippy, and I routed the hated bluecoats and sent them packing to the north where we, or at least I, believed they belonged. Outgunned and undermanned, we never lost a battle.

There was no paved street on which to ride a bike with friends. Come to think of it, there were no friends around either. But there were two creeks. One ran north and south, the other east and west. Either one provided ample places for wading, forts, and exploring. Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett lived in Sessums, repeatedly overcoming the hostile wilderness and angry natives.

With luck and determination you could find something to eat without a trip to the store. It was important to learn where all the wild plum bushes were and keep an eye on them. When they began to ripen, it was time for a trip to the largest grove of wild plums. If the timing was right, and someone else hadn’t picked them all, there would be a feast which often resulted in some stomach discomfort. Early summer explorations provided an opportunity to spot blackberry plants for future picking. Sessums also had its share of apple and pear trees. They seldom had the chance to fully ripen. Eating green apples and pears was just part of growing up in the country. Of course summer was not complete without all the sweet sorghum you could eat. The sorghum grown then was similar to sugarcane. Three to four sticks of sorghum would fit comfortably in your back pocket, ready for peeling and chewing.

Sessums is simply the community in which I was raised, but it could just as easily have been Sarah, Money or Neely. We children of rural Mississippi have much to be thankful for. The concept of right and wrong was well understood and taught by example. We learned early that getting the things you want and need meant working. Cows require milking and crops must be planted, tilled and harvested. The lessons were taught by the lives of those who lived in Sessums. You might choose not to learn the lessons of rural life, but you could never pretend that those lessons were not clearly taught.

The roads are paved now and the store is gone. Most of the dairy farms have ceased to operate. New people have moved in, but the community club provides neighbors with a chance to be friends. On hot summer days in Sessums Daniel Boone or Amelia Earhart still explore new lands and make the world a safer place for all. Rural life requires a lot of you, but the rewards will be remembered for a lifetime.

© Jack Kean 1996

 
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