Jimmy Reed


Jimmy Reed photo
Jimmy Reed ([email protected]) is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran, former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer, and retired college teacher. His collection of short stories is available via Squarebooks.com, telephone 662-236-2262.

Most Recent Articles by Jimmy Reed:

Crime Never Pays

Jul 19, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

No doubt American humorist Mark Twain could not resist stealing a few watermelons because as he once said, “The true Southern watermelon is a boon apart, not to be mentioned with commoner things. It is king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took. We know it because she repented.” 

I couldn’t agree more. Nothing tastes better than sweet, juicy watermelon. It’s good store bought, better home grown, best stolen.

“You won’t believe the watermelon patch we found hidden in a bend of Deer Creek,” my pal Clyde said one Saturday morning. “Let’s rob it tonight.”

The Paper Towel Pilot

Jul 10, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

My Piper Cub airplane was due for an airworthiness inspection at a large airport, but since the little airplane had no radio equipment, I called the control tower and requested permission to fly in from a nearby crop duster’s strip.

The controller assigned an arrival time and said that he would blink a green light if I was clear to land. What should have been a routine procedure turned out to be one of the most bizarre incidents in my flying career.

Since the day was warm, I locked the airplane’s doors in the open position and strapped myself into the rear seat. Directly behind my head in the cargo area, I had stuffed three large bundles of paper towels, the kind that overlap so that when one is pulled from a dispenser, the next one is available.

God Bless You, Montague

Jun 29, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

As always, I started walking when the sun first lightened the horizon. This daily routine provides time to pray and to recite poetry.

A favorite quotation from Lorraine Hansberry’s play, “A Raisin In The Sun,” came to mind.

“Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most? When he’s done good and made things easy for everybody? That ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in himself because the world has whipped him so! When you start measuring somebody, measure him right … make sure you’ve taken into account … the hills and valleys he’s come through … to get to wherever he is.”

Persistence Always Pays

Jun 19, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

When I was a boy, my father worried that I was unlikely to go far in life until I overcame my stubborn nature, and whenever he tried to convince me of that, I stubbornly persisted the he was confusing stubbornness with persistence.

One day, after putting up with my hard-headedness as long as he intended to, he said, “Junior, since you work with Jaybird every day, I’ll ask him about all this persistence you profess to have.”

Early the next morning, my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird took his work crew to a field on Dad’s Mississippi Delta farm where the cotton seedlings needed thinning so that they wouldn’t crowd each other as they matured. After handing all of us sharpened hoes, he said those words we’d heard so many time: “Start yo’ rows.”

Humongous SOB

Jun 9, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

Ichthyologists use long complicated nomenclature to identify the fishes of the sea, among them the name for one of the most aggressive, predatory denizens of the deep: the sapphire-scaled omnivorous bushwhacker.

A friend of mine who never exaggerates nor prevaricates related the following account of an Irish priest who caught one of these fish, and certain that my honest friend is loath to evade absolute truthfulness, I am passing the story on as fact. Because it is so complicated, I have reduced the fish’s actual name to its acronym: SOB.

Vacationing near his rectory and desiring to deep-sea fish, Father Obadiah O’Hoolihan rented the Pequod, a boat captained by Sylvester “Stubb” Shaughnessy, whose nickname derived from the ever-present stubby pipe in his mouth.

He Saw Catamounts A’Comin’

May 30, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

After a just-right, late May rain gave my father’s young cotton crop a much-needed soaking, halting fieldwork on his Mississippi Delta farm, my boyhood best friend and mentor, Jaybird, offered to take my cousin Hunter and me fishing.

The night before, we boys pitched a tent in Jaybird’s yard, knowing the old black man, a master storyteller, would entertain us with breathtaking tales as we sat around the campfire.

I couldn’t help envying Hunter. Only fifteen, he was an athletic Adonis, well over six-feet tall, with what the girls called “come hither” cobalt blue eyes, perfect teeth that he often flashed in a devil-may-care smile, and thick, raven-black, curly hair.

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

May 21, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

Someone once defined military veterans as those who recognize that love of God, fellow man, and country is the willingness to write a blank check, payable for an amount up to the last full measure of devotion: life itself.

On August 16, 1960, Colonel Joe Kittinger proved his willingness to write such a check by ascending in a helium balloon to an altitude of 102,800 feet — almost twenty miles.

Wearing only a thin pressure suit, he placed his life in God’s hands, and stepped out of the gondola.

“’Pologize, Dice!”

May 10, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

As a boy growing up on Dad’s Mississippi Delta farm in the 1950s, I looked forward to Saturdays, mainly because I didn’t have to go to school, but also because Friday’s paydays were always followed by Saturday’s dice games.

I watched and listened, crouched beside Jaybird, my best friend and mentor. After I grasped the fundamentals of craps, as the old black man called the game, he spotted me some change and let me join in.

“If you win, repay me and keep the rest,” he said. “If you lose, repay me from your allowance for doing chores.”

Virgilene’s Mean

May 1, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

Uncle Virgil wanted a son to name Virgil, Jr., but ended up with a bunch of girls. When the last one came along, Aunt Lillian refused to let the child be named after her father, reasoning that a girl named Virgil would be worse than a boy named Sue. Grudgingly, Auntie agreed to let Virgilene be the child’s middle name. Everybody but me called her Alice, her first name.

Virgilene was as uncomely as they come, and because her buckteeth poked out like a piranha’s, she was so ugly that she’d make a freight train take a dirt road. I not only made fun of her middle name, but also of her frightful fangs.

A Real Fool

Apr 20, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

“Only fools think money can solve any problem,” my lifelong best friend and mentor, Jaybird, once told me.

As a boy I didn’t always pay attention to the old black man’s wisdom, but one day, while lolling with my pals on Uptown Avenue in our Mississippi Delta hometown, I learned the hard way to abide by his wise words about money. I didn’t have a cent, and was certain money could solve a problem I had: coming up with twenty-five cents to buy an All-Day Sucker at Peach-Eye’s Grocery.

Easter Hands

Apr 10, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

One fine spring day, on Dad’s Mississippi Delta farm, my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird told a story to a group of us children, a story he called “Easter Hands.”

As the old black man slipped into the hypnosis of his bullfrog bass voice, we little ones clustered at his feet, leaning toward him like eager flowers toward the rising sun. He told us the story of Easter.

We had heard Jesus Christ called different names — Savior, Messiah, the Nazarene, Son of Man — and our young minds were confused. Jaybird told Jesus’ story in a way we could understand.

One Helluva Bad Day

Mar 31, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

It was a torrid July day in the summer of 1961. On my father’s Mississippi Delta farm, a huge field was covered with 80-pound hay bales that had to be loaded by hand onto trailers and hauled to the barn. 

At five o’clock, Dad opened the bedroom door. “Hay time, boys, git up. Jaybird is waiting outside for y’all.”

The Rock

Mar 21, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

Following a tour of Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner’s home, I asked students in my creative writing class how the great writer felt about mankind’s capacity for endurance.

A student replied, “He summed it up in one line from his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech: ‘I believe man will not merely endure; he will prevail.’”

What Winning Takes

Mar 11, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

In reading and writing, I found rhyme and reason, but not in arithmetic.

One afternoon, when Jaybird and I were lounging on his front porch looking across my father’s Mississippi Delta farm, I told him that my teacher’s explanation of percentages went right over my head.

Three “Hots” And A Cot

Mar 1, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

When I showed Jaybird the pistol, he gave me a withering stare.

“Where’d you git that gun, boy?” the old black man who was my best friend and mentor asked.

“I borrowed it from Dad. Late in the evening, me and my buddies shoot rats at the garbage dump a few miles from the university.”