Thursday, September 27, 2018

Bears and Rainbows

A trip to the local Walmart the other day provided the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda -- and her manly-man, the Colonel -- with more than enough laughs for the week.  

The Colonel's vast holdings here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere lie a few miles north of the center of the southern cultural universe: Oxford, Mississippi.  Oxford would be just another unremarkable southern town, were it not for the presence of its raison d'etre -- a rather remarkable university whose nickname is tattooed on the hearts of its alumni...  

Ole Miss

Home of the Rebels...

Former home of Colonel Rebel...

Former home of Rebel Black Bear...

Current (and temporary) home of Tony the Landshark...

Future home of some other spineless attempt to appease a tyrannically unappeasable minority with a politically acceptable mascot.  Heck, at the current pace of the administration's race toward the event horizon of the soul-sucking black hole of political correctness, a lump of mud will eventually be entertained as mascot material... and be found wanting by some progressive (the most incorrectly used word in the current cultural zeitgeist) social justice whiner for its passive aggressive retro-reference to a by-product of a culturally appropriated geologic process.   

But, the Colonel digresses... 

There is a remarkable love-hate relationship between Oxford and Ole Miss. The town loves their money, but hates the students -- particularly their rich daddy-bought SUV-causing traffic that congests a local road infrastructure designed for half as many vehicles as travel the streets when school is in session.  (And, don't get the Colonel started on the choking carmageddon of an SEC home football game.)

To drive down one of Oxford's main thoroughfares during rush hour is to invite collision with either, a rich daddy-bought SUV driven by a coed dividing her attention roughly 90/10 in favor of the latest OMG text over the vector and velocity of her minimally-guided wheeled missile; or a rich daddy-bought monster pick-up driven by a testosterone-overdosed frat-rat dividing his attention roughly 90/10 in favor of the OMG-texting coed over the lyrics of the latest rapine rap (for the LSU fans following along, that leaves zero percent of attention to the velocity and vector of the rich daddy-bought monster pick-up). 

If one survives the death-race on Jackson Avenue, one still must negotiate store parking lots through which race coeds and frat-rats at very nearly the same velocity and errant vectors achieved on surface streets. 

So... the Colonel and his best friend limit their trips to town to coincide with the ebb of the daily traffic tide (settle down, Bama fans -- this is an rtr-free zone) and minimize their trips to town by maximizing the errand-running and resupply efficiency of each trip.  The SOP (Standing Operating Procedure for the meager civilian readership of this egregious waste of precious rod and cone time -- not to be confused with Standard Operating Procedure which would imply universal use of the Colonel's and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's unique spouse squad procedure) employed by the Colonel and Miss Brenda upon safe arrival at a store front is a sacrosanct routine born of years of shopping survival success.  

Step 1. The Colonel vigilantly escorts the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda across the parking lot and through the store's front door.  Great care is exercised to ensure that a minimum 5-yard buffer zone is maintained surrounding the Colonel's bride to prevent inadvertent jostling of the most precious of the Colonel's possessions (yes, he used the word possession to describe the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda -- deal with it). 

Step 2. The spouse squad member whose personal shopping list contains the least number of items located in the least disparate aisles of said store procures a shopping cart.  Great care is exercised in the selection and preparation of the shopping cart to ensure it is clean and serviceable.  

Step 3. The spouse squad member whose shopping list contains the least number of items is responsible for security, navigation, and efficient loading and organization of the shopping cart.  Ordinarily, particularly when shopping at Kroger, the Colonel has cart duty.  This does not preclude, however, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda from taking temporary custody of the cart and sending the Colonel back to a previously navigated aisle to procure a missed item.  At Walmart, on the other hand, the Colonel normally has the most items on his list and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda navigates the cart on her slow meander, while the Colonel ranges throughout the store finding his items on disparate aisles and rendezvousing frequently to deposit said items in the cart.

But the other day, the Colonel had just a few items on his list and they were all in the pharmacy/over-the-counter meds section.  Sounds simple enough -- but, in reality, finding just the right personal medication and/or toiletries in Walmart is actually one of the most challenging acts of shopping the Colonel ever attempts.  Ranks right up there with finding trousers in the appropriate length and waist size.  The Colonel was taking, in the estimation of the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, an inordinate amount of time, so she said, "Knucklehead, you find what you need and come find me.  I'll either be in housewares or mumbledemumble."  

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda returned a few minutes later and dropped a couple of items in the cart.  The Colonel was bent over scanning the bottom row of a disheveled shelf looking for the second item on his list.  Miss Brenda spoke from behind him, "I just found the cutest mumbledemumble for mumbledemumble. I'll be in mumbledemumble or..."  The ringing in the Colonel's tinnitus-ravaged ears drowned out the rest.  The Colonel stood to face her and ask for a say-again.

She was gone.  


The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's super power is her ability to disappear in a store in the blink of an eye.  Turn your head on her and she'll beam up right there in the antihistamines and roll-ons, and back down instantaneously in the dairy and orange juice.    She can also unconsciously sense the direction in which the Colonel will begin his search pattern and adopt a diametrically opposed path.

The Colonel has learned not to panic in these situations.  If he doesn't find her in his first pass through the store, he heads for sporting goods and waits for the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda to come find him -- she knows that's where the Colonel always ends up.   

Ordinarily, the Colonel pushes his cart through Walmart with hardly a glance from fellow shoppers.  The coeds have their noses in their phones and the frat-rats have their noses in the coeds.  The adults are too busy trying to keep from being run over by coeds and frat-rats to notice the Colonel.

But..., something was different.

A few coeds smiled at the Colonel.  A frat-rat looked at the Colonel and snickered.  A man about the Colonel's age smiled and winked at him...

The Colonel quickly checked his fly.  Barn door all secure.

What was going on?!?

Then the Colonel looked down into his cart and his blood ran cold.

Perched at the back of the cart facing forward was a stuffed animal.  
A pink stuffed Care Bear.

A pink stuffed Care Bear with a huge rainbow across its chest.

The Colonel quickly reached down and pushed the pink, rainbow-bedecked stuffed Care Bear over on its stomach.

But it was too late... 

The Colonel looked around and found a circle of folks grinning at him and one particularly dapper gentleman smiling broadly at him.

The Colonel dug his phone out of his pocket and thumbed Miss Brenda's number.  She answered in the way she lovingly reserves for only the Colonel, "What, knucklehead?  Are you lost, again?  Just head over to sporting goods and I'll come get you."

The Colonel summoned his deepest and most manly command voice, "Brenda!  You need to find me right now and take this cart!" He raised his voice a score decibels higher so as to be clearly heard in a 100 yard radius, "Your pink, rainbow-bedecked, stuffed Care Bear is drawing way too much attention!"  

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda was understanding and sympathetic as always, "C'mon, Knucklehead!  Thought you were secure enough in your manhood to handle something like that. It's just a pink stuffed animal."

The Colonel's voice climbed another 20 or 30 decibels, "With a huge rainbow on its chest!"

"I know, Knucklehead.  Isn't it cute?"

"Brenda!"  The Colonel's voice was drowning out the loudspeaker calling for clean up on aisle five.  "You left the Colonel to wander around alone in a store with a pink stuffed Care Bear that has a huge rainbow on its chest!"

"Ohhh... Hahahahahaha!!!

The Colonel didn't need the phone to hear his best friend's cackle.  Everybody else in Walmart heard it.

Everybody else in Walmart heard it for the next two minutes as she slowly made her way back to sporting goods.  


Saturday, September 08, 2018

Stranger in a Familiar Land

Mississippi Counties in 1845
In the Fall of 1974, the Colonel left home and began his matriculation at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi.  Over the next four years, he spent an inordinate amount of time (compared to the amount of time spent studying and attending class) exploring the kudzu-clad, stream-cut, clay hills of North Mississippi.  Although he was a stranger -- having lived elsewhere as an Air force brat for the first 18 years of his life -- the land of the Chickasaw, Faulkner, cypress bottoms and loblolly pine hills inexplicably felt like home.  

When he graduated from Ole Miss in 1978, the Colonel's travels spun an ever-widening web, but Mississippi was always in the close knit center of his heart.  Admittedly, he felt guilty every time someone would ask where the Colonel was from and he answered with "Mississippi" -- he really wasn't from anywhere.  But the farther he traveled -- sailing every sea and walking on every continent save Antarctica -- the tighter the elastic band connecting his heart to the shallow valley of the Little Tallahatchie River stretched until its inevitable rebound drew him back; a stranger in a familiar land.   

There had to be a reason for it, and the Colonel searched for that reason in the only place that ever made any sense to him -- history books.  Here's what he found, and in the finding, found himself:

Sometime very early in the 18th Century, the Colonel's great (x 8) paternal grandfather -- John Gregory -- left his ancestral home in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, England and immigrated to America.  

The Colonel wishes he could be more precise about the date on which his great (x 8) grand progenitor landed in the New World -- the best he's been able to nail down through research is the latter part of the first decade of that momentous century.  And that timing is deduced from records showing that his son, James, was born in the now extinct tidewater community of Nansemond, Virginia in 1707 or 1708.

Suffolk, Virginia stands where Nansemond was first established.  Nansemond, and old John, are all but erased from memory, thanks to a courthouse fire that destroyed most of the records genealogists use to establish family history and pedigree.  All that remains (at least that the Colonel can find) is conjecture and a date and place of death for John Gregory -- 1760, Nansemond.  

In fact, the link between John and his (supposed) son James is itself forged in fragile conjecture.  But, even if old John ain't the Colonel's "great x 8", the evidence is pretty solid that the paternal line of James Thomas Gregory extends now 12 generations, through the Colonel, and to his grandsons (aka the Hope of 21st Century Civilization), with the name "Thomas" recurring like a generational stepping stone.    

As best as the Colonel can determine, James lived his entire life farming in and around Nansemond.  He doesn't seem to have been struck with the wanderlust that infected his progeny.  His son, Thomas Bry Gregory, on the other hand, headed west as soon as he reached majority.

Thomas Bry Gregory was born in Nansemond around 1730 and sometime shortly before 1750, close on the heels of earlier piedmont pioneers, moved into north-central North Carolina -- specifically, the area around Hillsborough.  The original county encompassing the area, Orange, was later reduced at its edges to form other smaller counties and Thomas Bry's home county, in which he earned a living as a farmer, became Chatham.  

Thomas Bry married Susannah Benton coincident with immigrating to the Hillsborough District and fathered seven children.  Thomas Bry was an active participant in the colonial rebellion against the British Crown, serving in the Chatham County militia and fighting in the pivotal battle of King's Mountain in 1780.  Evidently a relatively learned and well-respected man, Thomas Bry served as a justice in Chatham County in 1781.  Sometime around 1795, Thomas Bry (about 65 years old) sold his land in Chatham County and, along with several of his grown children and their families, headed further west.

In the run-up to, and during, the war for American Independence, so-called "long-hunters" and pioneers in disobedience of the King's prohibition began exploring the territory west of the Appalachian Mountains.  In American folklore, Daniel Boone's leadership of early settlers from western Virginia northwestward through the Cumberland Gap (a pass through the Cumberland range of the western Appalachians) into Kentucky garners the lion's share of historical attention.  But as important as was the opening of Kentucky and southern Ohio via the Wilderness Road through and beyond the Cumberland Gap, the opening of a cross-mountain route into north central Tennessee (along the Cumberland River valley) was just as important to the growth of the new nation, if not so well known.  

At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1783, the newly independent states struggled to pay veterans for their service.  States like Virginia and North Carolina, with borders stretching beyond the Appalachians all the way to the Mississippi River, granted parcels of land in that "unsettled" territory in lieu of monetary compensation.  North Carolina's problem was that while it had lots of land on the map to grant to its soldiers, it had no way to get them there.  In 1787, the state of North Carolina commissioned a road to run from the vicinity of modern day Kingsport to modern day Nashville, and detailed detachments of soldiers to provide security for parties of settlers heading west.  

For the first few years, the new "road" was little more than a barely discernible trail following "blazes" marked on trees.  By the mid 1790's the road was widened to allow wagons, but much of the roadway was all but impassable... and, it was Indian Territory. Throughout the early part of the decade, attacks by Cherokee war parties on traveling settlers and settlements along the road made immigrating to Tennessee the most dangerous of all pioneer endeavors at the time. 

Thomas Bry's oldest son, and the Colonel's direct paternal ancestor, Harden Harley Gregory, had also served in the North Carolina "patriot" militia.  A few, scant records indicate that Harden Harley's first wife, Hannah Curtis, died early in their marriage and he then married Lucretia Cox, by whom he had two sons and two daughters.  He was about 45 when he and his family, including three children under the age of 10 (the youngest, at five, being John Benton Gregory -- the next in the Colonel's direct paternal line), crossed the Clinch River and headed toward the new settlements near Nashborough (Nashville) 300 miles away through the wilderness.  

Although the Colonel has found no exact record of the date of this trip west, nor any recollection of the certain hardships along the way, he has been able to bracket the trip between a record of Thomas Bry's sale of his Chatham County land in 1795 and a record of the birth of the first Gregory in Tennessee -- Zinniah (daughter of Harden Harley and Lucretia), born in then-Sumner County, northeast of Nashboro in 1796.   

The Gregory's settled in Nixon Hollow on Peyton Creek, between the present day communities of Pleasant Shade and Carthage on the north side of the Cumberland River in what is now Smith County, Tennessee.  Harden Harley and his two sons -- Byrd and John, and their families -- stayed in Nixon Hollow for less than two decades before wanderlust struck again. 

The main impediment to settlement of the North American continent by Europeans had always been the fact that somebody else had already settled there.  Resistance to germs and steel proved futile in the long-run for the "native" peoples extant in the New World at the time of European arrival, but the archaeological record of the North American continent is replete with evidence that native populations themselves were rarely peaceful and sedentary from the beginning of their own arrival at the end of the last Ice Age.  The human processes of assimilation, genocide, and supplantation were in full force on the continent millenia before the arrival of Europeans whose vastly superior numbers and technology only served to accelerate those processes.  The Colonel makes no judgment, nor apology -- he simply observes and reports.

As the ever-increasing tide of European immigration flooded westward from the Eastern Seaboard in the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries, remnant Amerindian populations (those who survived the shock of germs and steel) were faced with three contained choices -- assimilate, resist, or move.  Many assimilated.  Some resisted -- winning a few battles, but losing every campaign. Most moved, or were removed.

As a result of land cession treaties signed between the U.S. government and the surviving Amerindian tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole) in the Southeast in the late 18th and early 19th Century, the vast majority of native populations were placed on "reservations" encompassing a small portion of their original claims or were "removed" to new lands west of the Mississippi River -- predominantly in what is now Oklahoma. 

Immediately on the heels of these cessions and removals, and with the threat of resistance all but eliminated, white settlers flooded in.  The Colonel's paternal ancestors in the late 1700s and early 1800s seem to have always been fairly close to the leading edge of the initial surge into new territories opened to white settlement.  Cherokee cessions in eastern Tennessee drew Thomas Bry and his sons into the Cumberland River valley in about 1795.  Chickasaw and Cherokee (whose "hunting ground" claims overlapped in the region) cessions in middle Tennessee, beginning in 1805, spurred those Gregorys to leave Nixon Hollow and move south. Records indicate that John Benton Gregory settled in what is now Giles County, Tennessee (on the Tennessee/Alabama line opposite Limestone County, Alabama) sometime shortly after 1810.  It was here, in Giles County, that John Benton married Sara Jane Brown in 1817.   (Sara Jane was from a quite extended family of Browns, many of whom immigrated to Tennessee from Brunswick, Virginia, and three of whom served as early governors of the state of Tennessee.)

The next Gregory in the Colonel's paternal line was John Benton's and Sara Jane's son, Brown Lee Gregory, whose birth records indicate was born in Limestone County, Alabama in December of 1819.  John Benton had been named for his paternal grandmother's maiden name (Benton) and he and Sara Jane named Brown Lee for her family name (Brown). (Incidentally, the Colonel's first son -- Joshua Lee -- carries his great x 4 grandfather's middle name.)  

The land which Limestone County currently encompasses was the scene of pitched battles between the Chickasaw and U.S. government troops on one side and "intruders" on the other.  The 1806 treaty with the Chickasaw had reserved the land west of a congressionally demarcated line running through present day Limestone County.  Intruders (a term which had been applied to white settlers as far back as early 17th Century who disobeyed government prohibitions from entering and settling on "Indian land") began squatting on land west of the demarcation line by 1808, and when conflict with the Chickasaw began to escalate, U.S. troops were sent in (in 1809) to "remove" the illegal immigrants.    

The Colonel has actually found a list of the families involved in this removal from Chickasaw lands and there is no Gregory on it. However, county histories indicate that the removal of the initial wave of "intruders" in 1809 was no real deterrent to hundreds of families who streamed into the area over the next half dozen years. The land west of the demarcation line was finally legally opened to white settlement following another Chickasaw cession in 1816 and by the end of the decade there were over ten thousand settlers in Limestone County.  

John Benton Gregory and his wife, Sara Jane, evidently moved from Giles County, Tennessee down into Limestone County during this flood of immigration into former Chickasaw lands.  Records indicate that all of their children, beginning with Brown Lee Gregory in 1819, were born in Limestone County.  Harden Harley, John Benton's father -- the patriarch who initially led the Gregory family out of the North Carolina Piedmont and into the Tennessee wilderness in 1795 -- died in Limestone County in 1830.  

The territory along the Tennessee River in north Alabama is a fine land, fertile and well-watered.  The Gregorys evidently prospered there -- John Benton and Sara Jane had eight children.  Many Gregorys from members of that family still live in Limestone County.  But, the Chickasaws were being pushed out of more and more land to the southwest and the Colonel's ancestors were soon on the move again, following the call of new land.

In 1832, the Treaty of Pontotoc Creek, signed near what is now the city of Pontotoc, Mississippi, ceded all remaining Chickasaw land to the United States in exchange for equal land west of the Mississippi in Oklahoma Territory.  Settlers poured into north Mississippi in the wake of this Chickasaw "removal."  At first, the entire northeast corner of the State of Mississippi was incorporated into one county named Monroe, after the fifth president of the United States.  As population grew, Monroe County was carved up into more than a dozen smaller counties.  

At some point in the decade or so following the final Chickasaw cession, John Benton and his family moved west from Limestone County over into the northeast corner of Mississippi.  The Colonel is still trying to document exactly when and where this move happened, but John Benton died in 1836 and is buried in present day Tippah County, Mississippi -- the first of five generations of the Colonel's family to be buried in Mississippi.  (The Colonel's father and he will make the sixth and seventh.)  When John Benton died, his wife, Sara Jane, moved back to her parents' (Brown) home in Giles County, Tennessee, where she died in 1840.    

"New" land and opportunity always lay further west for the Colonel's patrilineal ancestors, and each succeeding generation seemed to feel the pull to somewhere else.  John Benton Gregory's son, Brown Lee Gregory, left Tippah County shortly after his father's death and his mother's move back to Tennessee and struck out for Mississippi.  There he met and married Sarah Elizabeth Zinn, whose ancestors had immigrated from Germany in 1727.  Sarah Elizabeth's family had arrived in Mississippi by way of Philadelphia; Chatham County, North Carolina; Orangeburg, South Carolina; and Jasper County, Georgia.  Her family appears to have arrived in Pontotoc County shortly before 1840 -- her father Edwin Zinn is not listed in the 1837 Mississippi (Pontotoc County) Census, but is listed in the 1840 Census as a head of household in Pontotoc County.  

Brown Lee and Sarah Elizabeth settled on land in the southeast corner of Lafayette County, Mississippi, in the vicinity of a now-extinct community called Dallas.  Their first, of ten, children, Sarah Agnes, was born in 1848.  Their next child, the Colonel's great (x 3) grandfather, was born in 1850 and was named James Edwin (evidently given his middle name for his maternal grandfather).

James Edwin married Elizabeth Mauldin of Pontotoc in 1877.  Their son, and the Colonel's paternal great grandfather, Thomas Edwin, was born on March 9, in 1881.

The 1900 Census for Pontotoc County lists Thomas Edwin (the Colonel's namesake) as a 19 year-old farm laborer.  As a young adult, Thomas Edwin surrendered to the call to preach the gospel and served as a pastor in the Mississippi Convention of the Methodist Church at churches across the northern half of Mississippi.   He married Janie S. Robison of Pontotoc County and fathered four children, the first of which was Arville Vernon Gregory (the Colonel's paternal grandfather), born on January 25th, 1902.   Each of Thomas Edwin's and Janie's children were born in a different city in North Mississippi -- the Methodist Church frequently reassigned Thomas Edwin to pastor different churches; their policy of pastoral itinerancy designed to keep the focus on Christ and not on any particular preacher/pastor.

The 1920 U.S. Census lists Arville Vernon Gregory as a "monument engineer" in Columbus, Mississippi (where his father was serving as a pastor).  Around 1930, working as a monument salesman in Pickensville, Alabama, he met and married Mary Stillman Pulliam.  They had two children -- the Colonel's father, Arvel Vernon; and his sister, Marilynn.  

Arvel Vernon was born on the 21st of June, 1932 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The 1940 U.S. Census lists him, and his parents, as living in his grandfather's household in Tunica, Mississippi (where Thomas Edwin was serving as a pastor) -- it was the height of the Great Depression and multi-generational households were commonplace. 

The itinerant nature of the Colonel's direct Gregory line, beginning at Nansemond in the early 1700s and wandering westward, generation by generation, until arrival in north Mississippi in the late 1840s, seemed to attenuate for several generations thereafter.  Mississippi became the geographic anchor to which the Colonel's line was tethered.  The Colonel's great grandfather lived the first half of his adult life not unlike the Colonel and his father -- moving every two or three years on assignment.  Thomas Edwin's assignment authority was the Methodist Church -- the Colonel's and his father's was Uncle Sam.   But, Thomas Edwin never left Mississippi, and he was buried in Friendship Cemetery in Columbus, Mississippi following his death in 1950.

Thomas Edwin's son, Arville Vernon, spent the first decade of so of his adult life following the elusive prospects of gainful employment in the Depression-era South.  But, he finally settled in Columbus, Mississippi, and was buried in Friendship Cemetery in Columbus Mississippi following his death in 1981.  

The Colonel's father (and the man the Colonel once thought gave acting lessons to John Wayne) graduated from Stephen D. Lee High School in Columbus in 1950.  He married Gladys Elaine McCrary on September 13th, 1952.   He enlisted in the United States Air Force early in 1953 and thereafter the itinerant nature of the Gregorys re-intensified.  Over the next two decades, Vernon (a family tradition of calling oldest Gregory sons by their middle names had begun generations earlier) travelled the world with his family in tow (with the one exception of his year in the Republic of Vietnam).  Orlando -- Birmingham -- Orlando -- Morocco -- Little Rock -- Nha Trang -- Alexandria, LA -- Panama; by the time the world tour ended in 1974, the Colonel felt alien to any place on the map.

The Colonel's father retired from the Air Force the same summer -- 1974 -- that the Colonel graduated from high school, and his family moved from Panama (where they had been stationed for the past four and a half years) back to Columbus, Mississippi.  The Colonel was barely in Columbus long enough to figure out which side of town he lived on before he packed his bags and headed to Oxford. 

Mississippi that is.  

Warm beer; sorority girls. 

Four years later, the Colonel and his bride, the former Brenda Kay Cannon (known more popularly now as the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda) left Oxford and took off on their own Uncle Sam funded world tour: Virginia, North Carolina, the Philippines (without Miss Brenda), Virginia again, North Carolina again, Georgia, Alabama, Hawaii, Rhode Island, South Korea, and South Carolina.

When it came time to hang up the spurs, the Colonel and Miss Brenda (whose own father had taken his family on their own two-decade world tour) didn't know where to go.  They tried Florida, but it didn't feel like home.  Something kept drawing them back to north Mississippi, and they established their forever homeplace at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere in 2007.

In between the myriad chores and responsibilities of managing the Egeebeegee Wildlife and Timber Plantation, the Colonel began to dabble in genealogical research.  He really only knew the barest facts about his family going back only three generations.  The same with the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's family.  The more he dug into their family histories, the more he began to understand.

North Mississippi was his ancestral home.  The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's, too (more about her family's American journey in a later post).  The land he holds today is not but a day's walk from land his great (x 3) grandfather, Brown Lee Gregory, settled 170 years ago.  Same county.  Same former Chickasaw hunting grounds.

(Not to be outdone by his older sibling, the Colonel's brother himself traveled the world for twenty years on Uncle Sam's dime and now lives just across the James River (in Newport News) from the land settled by John Gregory over three centuries ago -- Nansemond (now Suffolk) Virginia.)

This place -- north central Mississippi -- is as much the Colonel's homeland as even the longest-lived families hereabout, and yet he remains a stranger in a familiar land.  

That's his lot.  But, his grandchildren are gonna be natives! 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

More Mower

It has been a wetter than normal year so far here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere and the vegetation growth across the breadth of the Colonel's vast holdings has been a small percentage of nitrate short of explosive.

The Colonel and his child bride -- the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda -- spend an inordinate amount of their retired time maintaining scores of acres of the Colonel's vast holdings in a state of manicured perfection the likes of which won "Yard of the Month" several times when they were stationed at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.  

The yard at Parris Island was less than an acre.

The Colonel has -- he kids thee not -- a veritable fleet of yard machines (in various states of repair and disrepair) and a bushog attachment for his tractor, Semper Field.  The Colonel has worn out his tractor and needs a new one, but the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda hasn't been convinced of that need just yet.  What she has been convinced of -- because she is the primary driver of them -- is the need for a new yard machine.  But, not just a new yard tractor...

She wanted something bigger.

She wanted something stronger.

She wanted a commercial grade machine that would cut grass quicker than the clippers cut recruits' hair at the Parris Island barber shop.

She wanted a machine that would mow a four foot swath of yard at velocities approaching the speed of stink at a chitterling cooking contest.  

She wanted a machine that would plow through the acreage surrounding the Big House here aboard Egeebeegee like Sherman through Jimmy Carter's home state.

She wanted a machine that she could strap on and fly. 

The Colonel and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda will celebrate (with appropriate pomp and circumstance) forty-two years of wedded bliss on the last day of the current month.  The Colonel has expended considerable effort finding just the right gift to symbolize his appreciation for the unwavering faithfulness, indomitable patience, and indefatigable fighting spirit displayed by his bride over the last forty-two years.  

He got her a Husqvarna MZT52 zero turn mower pushed by a 23 horsepower Kohler engine (imagine the Colonel's best Tim the Toolman monosyllabic man grunt here).

The Colonel wonders what she'll get him.