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:

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.”

Unshakable, Unfaltering Faith

Feb 19, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

In graduate school, I memorized material that would likely appear on examinations, and forgot it after taking them, a practice that got me through required courses, but did little to enhance my goal of leaving the university with a well-rounded education.

As a college teacher I don’t want students to cram material into their heads for the sake of passing tests as I did, and mindful that experience is the best teacher, I assign exercises that provide them opportunities to utilize, and therefore retain, learned material.

This strategy works well in developing better word usage. Many college students possess limited vocabularies, and their addiction to text messaging worsens this deficiency. To improve students’ vocabularies, I provide lists of words as semesters progress, and require that they be used in compositions.

Those who are sincerely interested in enhancing communicative skills soon realize that, just as palettes containing the complete spectrum of colors enhance an artist’s capability to imitate nature, a large vocabulary helps students to paint with words, that is, to articulate.

Those Three Most Beautiful Words

Feb 9, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

On that unusually warm February evening, a fresh breeze wafted through the window, and no doubt the full moon’s alabaster face gazed down on lovers everywhere. One of my favorite singers, “Babbling” Brook Benton, crooned across the radio waves, and I thought … I’m a romantic!

Why? Women. But since no such creature shares my humble abode, and since the babbler rolled back the years to my youth, I couldn’t resist an overpowering urge to get up and dance. Living alone isn’t fun, but has its advantages. If you want to act a fool, you can, so I waltzed with a broom.

A Fish No Man Could Catch

Jan 30, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

Deep down in his mute, cool, dimly lit domain, the monarch of the Mississippi Delta swamp hole lay in patient ambush while the terrified shiner just inches above him swam round and round in frantic arcs, desperately struggling to break free of its tether to the red and white bobber floating on the surface. 

My mentor and boyhood best friend Jaybird relaxed, mopped his sweaty brow, and set his pole aside for a while.

Think no mo’ o’ Dolly Jo

Jan 20, 2017 — Jimmy Reed

I always wanted to be a cowboy, but once I lost my enthusiasm for being one — all on account of Dolly Jo.

Now, a fellow can’t depend on his eyes when his imagination is out of focus, and at age seventeen, I imagined Dolly Jo was the most perfect female the Lord ever created.

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.