Jimmy Reed

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran, former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer, and retired college teacher.
Please join Old Man Reed's Celebrated, Illustrious, Renowned, Inimitable Newsletter-- [email protected]
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:

Sufficient Unto The Day Is The Evil Thereof

Aug 8, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

On his Mississippi Delta farm, my father operated a small cotton gin, and during harvest season, my after-school and weekend job was hammering together the flat metal straps and buckles used to bind cotton bales. When my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird wasn’t busy doing something else, he helped me.

One-eyed Deacon, who also worked at the gin during harvest, hauled cottonseed in a trailer truck to the oil mill in town. His glass eye frightened me. Cornflower blue, it neither matched the brown one, nor was it synchronized with it. The good eye bulged like a bulldog’s, while its store-bought mate floated constantly … up, down, sideways. 


Jul 29, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

As a Little League baseball player, when I stepped to the plate, bunting was the last thing on my mind. Instead I focused on slugging the ball over the outfield fence. A bunt, I thought, was an insult to my Louisville Slugger bat.

“You ain’t big enough or strong enough yet to hit homeruns,” my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird said. “That will come someday. Right now, you need to get good at what you can do. Become the team’s best bunter; Coach Coleman will notice, and he’ll play you more.”

’Pologize, Dice!

Jul 19, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

’Pologize, Dice!
As a boy on my father’s Mississippi Delta farm, I looked forward to Saturdays, mainly because I didn’t have to go to school, but also because Friday’s paydays were 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 loaned me some money and let me join in.

The Day Frantic Frankie Fay Flew

Jul 9, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

The Day Frantic Frankie Fay Flew
Sometimes, a well-intentioned plan to provide enjoyment for others leads to an experience one soon wants to forget. Such was the day when this old pilot and Frankie Fay flew.

“Dad, will you take us for a plane ride today?” one of my three daughters asked.

The Peanut Lady’s Paradise

Jun 29, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

The Peanut Lady’s Paradise
“He was such good man,” the tiny Oriental woman said in tortured English as she handed me a bag of peanuts. A solitary tear coursed down her leathery, grieving face. “One minute we talk, next minute he fall dead.”

She made change from a battered cash box, and then looked up at me with that courageous, stiff-upper-lip determination I had grown to admire in her. “I miss him much,” she sighed, staring past me at something only she could see, and turned to her next customer.

The Great Rainmaking Hoax

Jun 20, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

The Great Rainmaking Hoax
Because my lifelong friend and mentor Jaybird had seen hucksters, hawkers, and horse thieves come and go, the old black man often warned me: “Boy, if somebody offers you sumpin’ that sounds too good to be true, it is.” But even he fell for the great rainmaking hoax.

Before large-scale irrigation was feasible, droughts could be disastrous for Mississippi Delta farmers, as was the case one year when my father’s cotton seedlings started off well and needed only a timely rain to bloom and begin setting fruit. But no rain came.


Jun 10, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

J-3 Piper Cub
On a cold, clear February day in 1978, my eighty-year-old flight instructor unbuckled his safety harness and stepped out of the airplane.

“You’re on your own, boy,” he said. “Control the four forces — lift, drag, thrust and gravity — and you’ll be fine, but remember what I’ve always told you: If you’re going get killed in a plane crash, odds are it will happen when you first learn to fly. So, don’t do anything stupid — focus on flying the aircraft at all times.”

You Eat Gar?

May 31, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

You Eat Gar?
Whenever folks on Dad’s Mississippi Delta farm saw my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird “whuppin’ gars” early in the morning, they hoped to be sitting at his supper table later that day. The old black man could cook anything to gustatory perfection, even garfish, which most folks consider inedible. Unchanged since the Jurassic Period, gars are bony on the inside with thick skin and scales on the outside.

In a nearby creek, Jaybird caught gars on trotlines baited with gar hors d’oeuvres: putrefied carp chunks. To determine if the catch was edible, he used a short piece of four-inch-diameter pipe. If a gar’s body was too thick to pass through the pipe, bones in his flesh would be difficult to chew, whereas bones in flesh of gars that passed through the pipe would be soft like cartilage, and therefore edible.

Unlucky Lucky 13

May 20, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

Unlucky Lucky 13
Some folks are naturally accident-prone. I am. My boyhood best friend and mentor, Jaybird, said I should write a collection of stories about my accidents. If I do, the first story will be about the time we discovered the honey hole.

In angling parlance, a honey hole is a place nobody else knows about, and we found one. A creek flooded its banks, filling a cow pasture, and bass were thrashing minnows in the shallows. 

No creature is deadlier at ambushing than these bucket-mouthed behemoths. Lurking in shadows, they attack anything that swims close by, and the pasture’s fence posts provided ideal cover.

I Hate That Dirty 830

May 10, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

I Hate That Dirty 830
Dust swirled behind my father’s pickup as he sped through the fields on his Mississippi Delta farm, delivering lunches to tractor drivers, one of whom was Jaybird, my boyhood best friend and mentor. The old black man and I had been riding together on his tractor since daylight.

I loved everything about that John Deere 830 — its bright green color, its long, broad nose, the large cleated tires, the engine’s powerful roar, the smell of diesel exhaust blowing in my face, and especially the big lever that engaged the clutch.

This Beats All

May 1, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

Araucana hens, CHICKEN HILTON
Cotton was my father’s whole life. On his Mississippi Delta farm, he grew it for fifty-two years, and from the time he plowed with mules until the day he shipped his last bale from his own gin, he devoted every waking minute to his crops, and for the life of him he couldn’t understand why I was interested in other things.

One day he remarked to my lifelong friend and mentor Jaybird, “If my son paid as much attention to managing this farm as he does to his honeybees, garden, ducks, geese, turkeys, guineas, and chickens, he might amount to something — especially those chickens.”

Gravy Chin

Apr 20, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

Gravy Chin
His name was Richard Mortis, but folks called him “Rigor” Mortis because, like a two-day-old corpse, he walked with robot stiffness, and when he stopped, nothing moved, except his Adam’s apple, which cycled constantly up and down his long, thin, bony neck.

My boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird and I called him Gravy Chin because that part of his face protruded out and up, like a sockeye salmon’s lower jaw, and always glistened with the sheen of gravy grease.

Mortis grew produce on land next to my father’s Mississippi Delta farm, and sold it in town. One day, Jaybird and I were preparing to chop weeds out of cotton in a field adjoining Gravy Chin’s truck patch.

There’s No Such Thing As A Free Ride

Apr 11, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

There’s No Such Thing As A Free Ride
The July sun pecked us like a fierce-eyed fowl, and the humidity was so high we needed gills to breathe. Way out in the middle of a Mississippi Delta field, I was working alongside Jaybird, my boyhood best friend and mentor. While my schoolmates enjoyed the summer, I was chopping weeds out of cotton.

When Dad brought us lunch, I asked, “Why must I work all summer? My schoolmates don’t.”

Don’t Bet On Beatrice

Mar 31, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

Don’t Bet On Beatrice
Glaring at the Volkswagen Beetle in front of the commissary store on Dad’s Mississippi Delta cotton farm, my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird said, “That ain’t nothing but a coffin with wheels on it.”

The car belonged to Bennie, the rural mail carrier who always stopped at the store for the ultimate Southern snack: a Moon Pie and RC Cola.

The Craziest Pilot Who Ever Flew

Mar 21, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

The Craziest Pilot Who Ever Flew
When the caller asked if I would fly to the Gulf Coast and get his dead brother, I didn’t know what to say.

“He died while vacationing, but the local ambulance company charges too much for the trip,” he said. “If you’ll do it, I’ll rent the airplane and pay you $100.”

His offer came at an opportune time. I had completed every student pilot requirement but one — a cross-country flight requiring a refueling stop and an airport attendant’s signature in my logbook. I promised to meet him the next day.

I Won’t Die Sinning

Mar 12, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

I hope to die praying
Shortly before sundown, we drivers finished cultivating my father’s Mississippi Delta cotton fields, and no sooner had we parked our tractors than a long, steady, soaking summer rain began drumming on the shed’s tin roof — just what the bolls needed to finish filling with fiber.

As the thirsty earth drank its fill, we knew this downpour wasn’t just a “sharrain” (Dad’s way of saying “shower of rain”), but what he called a “sho-nuff, chunk-floatin’ crop maker.”

Can And Will

Mar 2, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

Can And Will
At her country store, Maya Angelou’s grandmother tolerated a few customers who were chronic complainers, but no matter how tough things got, her outlook on life remained positive, and she instilled that attitude in her granddaughter.

Once, when a bellyacher entered the store, she told Maya to listen. Sure enough, he whined about everything — work, weather, and so on. After he left, Maya’s grandmother spoke words of wisdom that became a guiding principle of Maya’s life:

A Crawfish Cook Calamity

Feb 20, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

A Crawfish Cook Calamity

That warm, spring Mississippi Delta Saturday was ideal for doing anything outdoors, but the calamitous way it turned out was less than ideal.

When it comes to preparing delicious, deep-south cuisine, nobody outperformed my lifelong best friend and mentor, the old black man known affectionately by all as Jaybird. When we asked him to boil several hundred pounds of crawfish, he said, “Sho’ — get the water boilin’; let’s enjoy some country-style cuttin’ up.”

“Tio Amo”,  Two Words that Lasted a Lifetime for my Grandparents

Feb 10, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

Ti Amo
Pietro Menotti stood on a ship’s deck among throngs of weary, penniless immigrants like himself. Staring into the haze of a hot summer day, he saw the first of two women who would determine the course of his life.

She was the mighty lady with a torch whose message to foreign lands had attracted millions: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The Mother of Exiles brought tears to Pietro’s eyes. Another woman brought his heart into his throat. She was the petite, raven-haired beauty standing next to him on Ellis Island. The name on her tattered suitcase was Videlma Zepponi. In his eyes, she was an angel sent to earth by the God they both worshipped. 

You’ll Love Flying The Pup

Jan 30, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

You’ll Love Flying The Pup
Inflated egos are dangerous. When my flight instructor certified that I was a licensed pilot, my ego and I were flying high … too high, as was made terrifyingly evident the day I flew the Pup.

Elliott, a student pilot, was constructing an ultra-light, tube-and-fabric, aircraft known as the N3 Pup, and asked me to go with him to look at one that was completed.

The Pup resembled my airplane, a J-3 Piper Cub, but was much smaller — indeed tiny. After discussing its construction, Elliott asked Susanne, the owner, about its flight characteristics.