Jimmy Reed

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran, former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer, and retired college teacher.
Jimmy's latest book, One Hundred by Five Hundred is available at Amazon.
His collection of short stories is available via Squarebooks.com, telephone 662-236-2262.

Most Recent Articles by Jimmy Reed:

Use Female Crickets

Jan 10, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

Mark Fratesi, who owns a country store in the Mississippi Delta, is an outstanding perpetrator of practical jokes, a skill shared by my boyhood best friend and mentor, the beloved old black man known by everyone as Jaybird.

At his store, Mark sells all kinds of fish bait, including worms and crickets for bream fishermen. Jaybird and I always bought our crickets from Mark before going after the biggest, scrappiest, best-eating bream of all: the Chinquapin.

Potiphar Got Plastered On Picayunes

Jan 3, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

This story did not spring from a warped imagination. The events chronicled herein are true, confirming beyond exaggeration, elaboration, or embellishment what Mark Twain said about truth: “Why shouldn’t truth be stranger than fiction? After all, fiction has to stick to possibilities.”

One cold winter day while hunting, I came upon a motherless fawn. The emaciated creature was so weak it didn’t even struggle when I picked it up, and its big brown sad eyes seemed to say — help me, please!

I Shall Not Live In Vain

Dec 27, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

Long years of farming cotton in the Mississippi Delta set my circadian clock. I rarely sleep past four o’clock, and take long predawn walks, during which any worthwhile thoughts I have that day are likely to be formulated. 

Out walking one morning after Christmas, I ruminated about how I could turn past failures into successes in the coming year. Few things relieve … and delude … the human mind more than those annual promises to oneself: New Year’s Resolutions.

Unto You Is Born This Day A Savior

Dec 24, 2016 — Jimmy Reed


That Christmas Eve, Jaybird leaned on the porch rail, looking across Mississippi Delta cotton fields he had worked for seventy years. In moon-blanched stillness, the rich soil was taking its winter rest.

The old farmer had seen good and bad cotton harvests, but none like the one just finished. The rains had come, plenteous and timely. Summer’s days had been long, hot, and humid, and cotton’s green blood, chlorophyll, raced in a delirium of photosynthesis from sunlight to leaves to soil to fruit, loading the plants with bulging bolls that produced a yield to top all yields.

Christmas At The Cotton Gin

Dec 17, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

When I complained to my father that the gin crew and I should not have to work through Christmas, he said, “Son, we finished ginning last year’s cotton crop early, and you duck hunted all winter,” he answered. “Be thankful for that. Fall weather hasn’t cooperated this season. The gin must run nonstop; this dry spell won’t last long.”

Back then, picking two rows of cotton at once was harvesting’s latest technology. It was a time when storing cotton in modules was unheard of. The threat of rainy weather put unrelenting pressure on gin crews. Empty trailers had to be available, meaning we had to work can-to-can’t, sleeping in snatches.

The Gift Of Honesty

Dec 8, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

Purlean and “Ug” Upton owned a mom-and-pop store in the Mississippi Delta, and paid top dollar for pecans.

One look explained Mr. Upton’s nickname. After a mule kicked him on the cheek, his jaws didn’t match, giving his face an ugly, frightful twist. The blow also affected one eye, which focused momentarily and then roamed.

Each year, my boyhood mentor and best friend Jaybird and I gathered pecans under my father’s trees and sold them to the Uptons.

A Giant Awakened

Dec 4, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

Born December 7, 1923, my father was eighteen years old on that day which will live in infamy: December 7, 1941.

When Dad learned that several thousand fellow Americans had been killed in Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, he knew what he had to do. Leaving behind a wife and baby son (me), he joined the Navy.

Two men would play key roles in those years during which my father served. One was Isoroku Yamamoto, Admiral of the Japanese fleet that pounced on the unaware and unprepared Americans at Pearl Harbor.

The Goodness Of Goggles Gordon

Nov 25, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

When our new geometry teacher entered the classroom, we high school seniors almost laughed out loud.

Well over six feet tall, Mr. Gordon was skeleton skinny, his clothes hung on him like a suit on a scarecrow, he walked with a wobbly limp, and the meek expression on his thin, bony face, along with his subdued, kindly tone of voice, convinced us he was a wimp. How wrong we were.

To keep his thick, black-framed eyeglasses — which earned him the nickname “Goggles” — from sliding down his nose, he wrapped rubber bands on the stems behind his ears. 

Diabolical Delegates Of Disruption

Nov 17, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

Bugsy, Bubba and I were happy teenagers that Saturday in June. Working chartreuse-colored jigs around willow clumps, we had filled two stringers with speckled crappie, and couldn’t wait to be back on the lake at daybreak the next morning.

“Fishing on the Lord’s Day?” Mama hissed, glaring holes through our sinful souls. “Heathens! You will do no such thing. You’ll attend church, and when I look up in the balcony during the service, y’all better be listening to the preacher, not cuttin’ up. Now, eat supper and dress them fish.”

That Two-Stick Night

Nov 9, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

My folks squandered a lot of loot sending me to college. Studying was the last thing on my mind; first on it was fun.

Weekends provided a target-rich environment for us ruckus-raising fun hunters, but on weeknights the only excuse not to study was provided by the town’s two picture shows.

They had uppity names like Ritz and Bijou, but nobody called them that. We called them One-Stick and Two-Stick … the latter because patrons were obliged to bring two sticks, one to hold up their seat and the other to fight off the rats; the former, a more fashionable establishment, required only one stick … for the rats.

We Gave Thanks At The Cotton Gin

Nov 2, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

When I returned to the Mississippi Delta after overseas military service, my father hired me as his farm manager. 

One year, when harvest was nearing, he said, “Son, we’ve got a fine cotton crop to gather. I’ll spend all my time in the fields; you’ll manage the gin. Jaybird will show the works.”

Even though I found comfort in knowing that my lifelong friend and mentor, the wise old black man everyone called Jaybird, would train me, I was petrified. I would not only have to make sure the gin’s components were synchronized and running at peak efficiency, but also I would have to manage a six-man crew: three African-Americans and three Hispanics.

Out-Bullying The Bully

Oct 27, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

All of us are crazier at night than in daytime — triply so on Halloween.

On that pitch black, moonless Halloween night, Wayne’ s plan was not only crazy — it was diabolical. Muscular, barrel-chested and an imposing six-foot, five-inches tall, he was an outstanding athlete at the college where I taught. He was also a bully.

Dressed in a white sheet with a bloody knife wound over his heart and a hood with slanted eyeholes and fanged, frowning mouth, he would drop from his hiding place in a tree above a sidewalk in front of approaching trick-or-treaters, raise his arms, and roar, “Y-A-A-A-R-GH,” causing terrified tots to drop their bags of booty and flee. Handing the stolen sweets to his cohorts in nearby bushes, he would climb again to his perch.

A Successful Strategy

Oct 20, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

When I was growing up on Dad’s Mississippi Delta farm, my mentor and best friend Jaybird often took me to The Old Rugged Cross Chapel, a tiny country church, always packed on Sundays.

I remember the towering, trumpet-voiced preacher, Reverend Moses Malachi Magee, whose sermons balanced hell-fire-brimstone admonitions with soft-spoken, impassioned pleas to do unto others, as we would have them do unto us.

I remember the ladies, so dignified in their Sunday-best white dresses and wide-brimmed hats, who writhed in rapturous moments, shouting hallelujahs, offering orisons to the Almighty and waving bright red bandannas.

I remember the powerful, moving, rhythmic, hypnotic, gospel music — how it coalesced the congregation into a collective, swaying mass, chanting in a unified, volcanic voice that rolled like a symphonic tsunami across the surrounding cotton fields.

The Rough And Ready Red Ryder Riflemen

Oct 14, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

Pace, Mississippi, is so small that a few paces in any direction are required to be out of Pace. In this tiny Delta farming community, everybody knows everybody … except on Halloween, when kids, disguised as ghosts, gangsters, goons, goblins and ghouls, roam the streets and terrorize the residents, who offer treats to avoid tricks.

One moonless Halloween Saturday night, my friend John and a pal, both ten years old, successfully pillaged the neighborhoods, and headed toward the main street to extort goodies from storekeepers and shoppers.

To get there, they had to walk across an unlit, rickety old footbridge traversing the Bogue Phalia, a Yazoo River tributary lined with gloomy, moss-covered cypress trees.

According to local yore, the eerie apparitions of those who drowned in the miasmic, phantasmagoric slough or were devoured by its resident alligators, arise from their watery crypt on Halloween night to bemoan their dreadful deaths.

Pretty Close To $2400

Oct 8, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

My friend Johnny Jennings was raised in the little Mississippi Delta town of Tutwiler, which during his boyhood years consisted of little more than a main street and a few stores, among them the Five & Dime, Etta’s Hot Tamales, Thornton’s Thrift Shop, and DGB Funeral Parlor, owned by Messrs. Diggs, Graves and Berry. 

Because Johnny and his pal Freddie were ghoulishly interested in embalming, they’d climb atop Thornton’s, across an alley from the mortuary, and peer through the window as morticians prepared cadavers for their final journey.

Early on, they discovered a way to enhance the experience and terrify passersby with lugubrious sound effects.

The Odd Man Ouch!

Sep 30, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

Although Dean and I were only in junior high school, we’ d already acquired hoodlum habits. Convinced that doing wrong was easier than doing right — and more fun — we devised a coin flipping scam to beat our schoolmates out of their lunch money.

Operating on the five-flip, odd-man-wins-all principle, we two con boys lured suckers in and contrived to have our coins land on heads and tails, thus insuring we’d win the third guy’s money.

We repeated this four out of five flips. On the fifth flip, we made certain both of our coins landed either tails or heads.

Each Time You Fall

Sep 23, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

Essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “There is always a reason for good or bad fortune … good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.”

For working folks, if having enough money to support their families is regarded as good fortune, then not having enough is bad fortune.

In 1993, fortune, that fickle femme fatale, ignored my two decades of working to build a career and support a family, and left me bankrupt. I fell into bad fortune — no job, and no way to support those depending on me.

Be Like Lamar

Sep 4, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

My composition class was discussing argumentation, and I mentioned that bias is often encountered when trying to persuade others to accept one’s point of view.

“Are bias and prejudice the same thing?” a student asked.

Caught off guard, I read the dictionary’s definitions: Bias is prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another; prejudice is a preconceived opinion, not based on reason or actual experience. The dictionary and I collaborated in creating more confusion.

B.A.D., R.I.P.

Aug 25, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

I named the golden cocker spaniel puppy Beauregard Augustus Dog — B.A.D. Southerners nickname people and pets, so Beauregard became “Bo” and Augustus “Gus.” B.A.D. became Bogus.

Though I bought him for the kids, Bogus chose me as alpha leader of the evolutionary hunting pack embedded in his canine cranial cavity.

Wherever my pickup went, Bogus went — even to church. Although he never became a bona fide Baptist, he attended every Sunday (except when his master chose to fish instead of worship), snoozing outdoors while we sinners sought forgiveness indoors.

Balaam’s Burro

Aug 21, 2016 — Jimmy Reed

Lawyers ply their trade with words, but not always wise words, which was not the case with famed attorney and consummate wordsmith Max Ehrmann, author of “Desiderata,” an inspirational prose poem in which every word contributes to the collective wisdom of the work’s ultimate message. 

When the world is too much with me, and — paraphrasing poet William Wordsworth —getting and spending and laying waste my powers stymie efforts to become a better human being, few items in my repertoire of memorized works are as therapeutic as Desiderata, especially the lines from it reminding me to “go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there is in silence.”