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:

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.

Take A Cold Tater And Wait

Aug 18, 2018 — Jimmy Reed

Take A Cold Tater And Wait
When he wasn’t busy on his Mississippi Delta cotton farm, my father visited other farmers, and sometimes took me with him. In one grower’s office a plaque with a quote by German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe read, “A useless life is an early death.”

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.”