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Pre-WWII sawmill job had outdoor perks

As part of my rehabilitation from a moderate heart attack, my children Mabry and Vicki have been doing everything possible to keep me in line and free from boredom. I am enjoying a 30-day stay in a quite lovely assisted living facility in Southhaven, Miss., where Mabry lives. Vicki is close by in Bartlett, Tenn., a suburb of Memphis.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of having my son drive me all over most of the northern part of DeSoto County, Miss.

We visited the little town of Eudora, where I spent four years just before World War II broke out. At the time I was working as a general handyman for Sen. Simon Dean, who among other things, operated a large sawmill and general store in Eudora.

I worked at every job that a mill or a store could provide, but you can be sure that I was much more interested in the outside work dealing with the sawmill. As a matter of fact, I often dealt with supplying provisions to timber-cutting crews that usually camped in the rather wild Coldwater River bottoms. I found it necessary to spend a good bit of time in and around these logging operations, taking pleasure in shooting squirrels that were very abundant.

Unlike it is now, there were then virtually no deer and turkey in any of that habitat. I did see an occasional track and once heard a jake turkey trying to gobble (having never before heard that sound, it was not until years later that I realized what it was).

At the time I lived in DeSoto County, it was very rural, with only a few houses in the town of Eudora and just a small scattering of farm houses along all of the roads leading to Hernando, Miss., and Memphis.

I recall that one farm owned by Sen. Dean was in debt to the county for back taxes that amounted to only about 25 cents an acre. He threatened to give it to the county for the taxes but was persuaded not to do so by his astute bookkeeper, O.B. Speck. Mr. Speck made him hang on, and the value of the land after the war was unbelievable.

Today fine houses are spaced nicely along all roads leading in and out of Eudora. It is a choice spot for retirees or working people from Memphis, all of which adds up to making the price of even a lot quite a large sum.

In those old days, the area had large numbers of quail coveys. With two new Eudora friends — Herman Craven and A.W. Earnheart — I hunted quail every chance I got. At the time I owned the best bird dog of my life. It was a little solid-white setter named Shot. Believe me, he did it all.

As a courtesy and for good public relations, I often was required to take wealthy Memphians and other important lumber customers bird hunting. That suited me just fine. I got the whole day off and did what I liked to do best (and was even paid for it).

One customer, a Mr. Taylor who owned a flooring firm in Memphis and a rabid hunter, hunted with me regularly. He had a pair of fairly good dogs, but he soon found out they were not in the same class with my little setter Shot. Many times he tried to buy my dog, offering what was then some rather fantastic prices. I always managed to decline. He once almost won out, offering me $400.

Ironically, old Shot wandered off one day shortly after the hunting season closed. I'm sure someone picked him up and carried him off to parts unknown.

Nevertheless, I did not regret not having sold him, no matter the price offered. Mark Twain once said, “A man is entitled to one good woman and one good dog.” Believe me, I've had them both.

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