Jimmy Reed

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran (Vietnam Era), former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer and ginner, author, and retired college teacher. His short story anthology, Boss, Jaybird And Me, is available at Squarebooks.com (telephone: 662-236-2262). His latest collection of faith-based short stories, entitled One Hundred By Five Hundred, is also available at Square Books (telephone: 662-236-2262) and at amazon.com. To receive Reed’s free weekly newsletter, send an email address to [email protected]

Most Recent Articles by Jimmy Reed:

An All-Day Sucker

Mar 11, 2019 — Jimmy Reed

An All-Day Sucker“Folks who think money is all that matters are fools,” my boyhood 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 should have, especially about money.

One day while lolling with my pals on Uptown Avenue in our Mississippi Delta hometown, I learned the hard way to abide by Jaybird’s words about money. I didn’t have a cent, and needed a quarter to buy an All-Day Sucker at Peach-Eye’s Grocery. As we meandered up and down Uptown, Billy Clyde Rakestraw, known as Mr. B.C., blared his horn, scattering us from a spot near the bank where he wanted to park.

Junior’s Dead!

Mar 1, 2019 — Jimmy Reed

For some kids, surviving until adulthood is nothing short of a miracle. When I was ten years old, my yearning to fly like Superman almost nipped me in the bud.

At that age, I idolized comic book characters — Batman, Robin, Spider Man, Plastic Man, and Wonder Woman, but my number-one hero was Superman. I marveled at his strength, his X-ray vision, and the way women fell all over him. But his flying skills fascinated me most.

Often I daydreamed … what must it be like to zoom through the air at supersonic speeds, to alight wherever I wanted? I had to find out. With a child’s fearless, innocent faith, I decided to parachute off a barn on my father’s Mississippi Delta farm, and for a brief few moments, experience the exhilaration of breaking earth’s surly bonds.

The Pebble In His Shoe

Feb 19, 2019 — Jimmy Reed

The Pebble In His ShoeIn a discussion following a tour of William Faulkner’s home, I asked students in my creative writing course how the great writer felt about mankind’s capacity for endurance.

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

Another great thinker, my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird defined man’s capacity for endurance by living it, day by day.

I Will Be Your Valentine

Feb 9, 2019 — Jimmy Reed

I Will Be Your ValentineJoe was tall, strong, and athletic, and girls in the little Mississippi Delta town of Leland thought he was oh so-o-o-o handsome, but as much as he longed to, he never talked to them. He couldn’t. Around guys he did okay, but around girls, he felt shy, and when he felt shy, he stuttered.

During Joe’s high school senior year, along came a February Saturday afternoon that was perfect for football — a crisp, sunny, windless day more fitting for April, yet a day when one cloud before the sun would make it more fitting for December.

Joe and his teammates challenged their archrivals from nearby Greenville to a sandlot duel, and classmates from both towns gathered to witness the war.

God Looks At The Heart

Jan 30, 2019 — Jimmy Reed

When a well-dressed young woman named Rachel walked into my British Literature class, I noticed that one of her most attractive features was a thick, glossy head of brunette hair, perfectly coiffed. I thought … if only all female students would go to such trouble before appearing in public.

Nowadays, many don’t. The way some dress is appalling. With shorts that are little more than panties, T-shirts sagging from underneath their blouses, unkempt hair, and dirty, unlaced sneakers, they look like tramps.

To my dismay the following week, Rachel, having succumbed to a peer group fad, came to class not only in tramp-like attire, but also with fluorescent green hair.

I Thought I’d Seen It All

Jan 20, 2019 — Jimmy Reed

I Thought I’d Seen It All
Some folks are naturally accident-prone. I am. My boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird said that 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 where a creek had overflowed its banks, flooding a cow pasture. Big bass were thrashing minnows in the shallows.

No creatures are 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.

Trotline Bait

Jan 10, 2019 — Jimmy Reed

Trotline Bait
On his Mississippi Delta farm, my father built a commissary store. Between its front porch and the only paved road running through that remote corner of the county stood a huge sycamore tree. Its limbs were broad enough to hold my pal Lamar and me on summer nights when we threw hard, green sycamore balls at passing cars.

Serve Others — Serve God

Dec 26, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

Serve Others — Serve God
Because long years of farming permanently set my circadian cycle, I rarely sleep past four o’clock, which provides time to take early-morning walks during which any worthwhile thoughts I have that day are likely to be formulated.

Out walking one late December morning years ago, I began ruminating about how I could turn past failures into future successes. Few things relieve, and delude, the human mind more than those annual promises to oneself: New Year’s Resolutions.

The Gift Of Honesty

Dec 16, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

The Gift Of Honesty
In Hollandale, a town near my father’s Mississippi Delta farm, Purlene and Ug Upton owned a mom-and-pop store, and paid top dollar for pecans.

One look explained Ug’s nickname: A mule kicked him on the cheek, and his jaws no longer matched, giving his face an ugly twist. The blow also affected one eye, which focused momentarily and then roamed.

The Greatest Gift Of All

Dec 6, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

The Greatest Gift Of All
[Author’s Note: Kaitlin Childress, Macey Clarkson, Irene Fondren, John Harkins, Eulita Mack, Michael Parker, Lonna Pearl, Miranda Satchell, Jacob Surrette, and Abby Williams, students in Reed’s Creative Writing class, wrote this story.]

While sipping a cup of coffee at the top of the stairs, I heard little feet pitter-pattering into the living room where a Christmas tree was surrounded by beautifully wrapped gifts. Dawn was just breaking and my grandson Corey was already up. I sat quietly, watching his excitement. The scene reminded me of a Christmas morning, long ago.

Kindling The Flame That Is God

Nov 26, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

Kindling The Flame That Is God
When my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird, a master teacher, intended to plant life lessons indelibly in my mind, he often clarified the unfamiliar by discussing the familiar. Once when I asked how I could serve God as well as he did, he pointed to flames flickering in his fireplace and began a lesson that made the unfamiliar familiar.

“Imagine a little flame inside you wanting to join the big flame from which it came: God Himself. Even if a man ignores his conscience — God’s voice — for so long that only a tiny spark of that little flame remains, even then it yearns to burst into a roaring blaze, signifying a loving bond with the Divine Flame that is God, the light of the universe.”

Thanksgiving At The Gin

Nov 20, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

Thanksgiving At The Gin

In 1968, when I returned to the Mississippi Delta after overseas military service, my father hired me as his farm manager.  One year, when harvest season was near, he said, “Son, we’ve got a fine cotton crop to gather. I’ll spend all my time in the fields. You’ll have to manage the gin. Jaybird will show you the works.”
Even though I found comfort in knowing that my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird would train me, I was still petrified. I not only had to keep the gin’s machines synchronized and running at peak efficiency, but also I had to manage an eight-man crew: four Blacks and four Hispanics.

Sometimes It Bees That Way

Nov 6, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

Sometimes a fellow stumbles into calamities worse than he could ever imagine. Consider mythological Actaeon. He and his dogs were out hunting when he spied Artemis, bathing butt-naked in a stream. Lusty, red-blooded god Actaeon froze as he ogled the gorgeous goddess.

Suddenly, Artemis spotted him, and residing higher on Mount Olympus than he, and therefore having more powers, batted her eyes, clapped her hands, turned him into a deer, and his own hounds made hash of him.

The Blessing Of Balance

Oct 27, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

The Blessing Of Balance
Until Jaybird joined his Heavenly Father, just shy of his ninetieth birthday, my boyhood best friend and mentor enjoyed good health, although the beloved old black man’s lifestyle was not entirely healthful: He smoked cigarettes and drank beer, both of which he enjoyed in moderation.

Ta-Wit All You Want

Oct 17, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

I’ve never asked Gene “Spook” Knight a question about birds he couldn’t answer. The Audubon Society should bestow upon him an honorary Ph.D. degree. Then he would be Dr. Knight, son of “Doc” Knight, the beloved University of Mississippi football team’s trainer for so many years, who patched up countless gridiron warriors and sent them back on the field to render opposing warriors in need of patching up by their trainers. Recently, my neighbor Mrs. Munn, Spook, and I were having a backyard chat, and I described a bird.

Mistuh and Miz Goat

Oct 7, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

Mistuh and Miz Goat
“He’s cute now, but won’t be long,” Mama said, when I brought home a baby goat for my daughters. As Italians are wont to do for emphasis, she fluttered her hands in my face, and said, “Remember that old Italian proverb, ‘He who lets the goat be laid on his shoulders is soon after forced to carry the cow.’”

I shrugged, as if to say what I wouldn’t dare say aloud, “Mama, that’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever said.”

Put Me In, Coach

Sep 27, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

Put Me In, Coach
In high school, football was more than a sport to me; it was an obsession. I dreamed of strapping on pads, cleats, and helmet and doing battle with worthy warriors from other schools.

At the start of my senior year, when I weighed in for the Leland High School Fighting Cubs, Coach Ruscoe snickered as he jotted down 109 pounds.

Dressed out, I resembled a malnourished mannequin. The thigh pads were halfway down my shins, the kneepads almost touched my shoes, and my helmet was a size too large. Even so, when I gazed through the facemask I felt invincible, and fantasized about crowds cheering as I streaked for glory.

You Ain’t Fishing If You Ain’t Fishing Cane

Sep 17, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

You Ain’t Fishing If You Ain’t Fishing Cane
All day long I watched the fly. My arms ached; I had a crick in my neck; I was tired and hungry … but determined not to quit.

My father, watching from the lake’s edge as he grilled hamburgers, thought I was wasting my time. Even a kingfisher seemed to smirk at the futility of my efforts as he preened himself and whizzed in blue blurs from one cypress knee to another.

My Fingers Were Crossed

Sep 7, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

Our parents believed a halo adorned my brother Rodney’s head, and horns protruded from mine. No story had two sides: I was always wrong — which was the case when we fought the Mexican standoff.

For his birthday, Mama gave Rodney a pirate outfit, complete with feather-festooned hat, Jolly Roger eye patch, and a long, curving scimitar. Rodney jabbed and slashed at me until I could take no more.

I Knotted Not Nary ’Nother Noose

Aug 28, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

I Knotted Not Nary ’Nother Noose
If my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird hadn’t shown me how to tie hangman’s nooses, I wouldn’t have lynched Gloria’s dolls.

My sister’s passion was dolls. In her upstairs room, they cluttered her bed, dresser, and bookshelf. These weren’t ordinary five-and-dime Raggedy Ann dolls; they were aristocratic debutantes, celebrities, princesses, and queens.