Saltillo Mississippi Part One

        The sign said, “Like Coming Home.”  If Saltillo is any indication, Mississippi means it.

        It took some doing to get there.  We left Atlanta and wondered if we’d make it.  A gas shortage on the East Coast meant you had to get fuel at twenty bucks a pop, but forty dollars of gas and twelve bucks worth of catfish and chicken later, we were there.

        We no more than got unpacked and headed for Saltillo Methodist to play a Hee-Haw show.  Talk about enthusiasm- as soon as I laid eyes on the place I was inspired.  This was a beautiful old church (the first paved road South of the Mason Dixon line runs right by it) with a modern family center in the back.  The steeple was destroyed by Katrina, but they had fixed it.  The stain glass windows weathered the storm intact.  I was glad- I am sure they would be hard to replace.

        I found Smitty and went back stage.  We had time to run through a couple of songs.  I was familiar with the tunes, and the folks were bluegrass friendly, so I fit right in.

        They say there are 3,8000 folks in Saltillo, and I bet 2,800 were in that gym.  The excitement was palpable.  I’ve played enough of these to know.  When the house is packed, and everyone hangs out in the aisles, they are there to take it in, and our job is to give them our best.  All the kids sat down front in anticipation- a sure sign it’ll be a good show.

        The lights went down, the spot light came on, and a blond girl fiddler/singer kicked off ‘Love of the Mountains.’  It rocked.  We cruised through old standards like ‘Power in the Blood’ and ‘Sunnyside.’   It was a tight band.  The girl could sing and fiddle.  There was a fine Scruggs style banjo man, two guitar player singers, and the bass player kept perfect time.  Me and Smitty mirror imaged twin mandolins- he is a lefty and I play right-handed, so it was excellent visual symmetry as well as fine music.

        For the most part Smitty directed traffic and nodded when it was turn to take a break or sing some harmony.  The banjo man signaled the end of the tune with a lift and a shake of his right leg.  I see the old time people do this a lot, and my friend who came in from England one time used the same code.  Bluegrass folks is the same everywhere.

        The skits and joke were polished well beyond the showmanship you’ll expect in such a small community.  There was a Conway Twitty, and Loretta Lynn was so spot on I almost went to to the parking lot to look for my old ’57 Chevy.  The only thing I couldn’t figure is why all 3,800 residents didn’t turn out.  If you live in Northeast Mississippi for heaven’s sake don’t stay home and watch re-runs on T.V.  Get out and see the Saltillo folks play when they put on another show.  It’s a good’un and for a good cause too.

        While I was in Mississippi I went to visit Saltillo High.  It was my primary purpose of the trip.  I wanted to meet the kids in the Bread Loaf program.  We were pen pals last year, and they were a major inspiration for me to write.  I read over their e-mails the night before the visit.  I was amazed how their advice mirrored my agent’s as to character development, dialogue, and how to constuct a tight story.  Their teacher, Ms. Turner is a gem who has taught them well.  

        When I met all those kids, I sure was struck how old I have become, but my heart is right there with ‘em.  I hope they realized your opportunity to learn never goes away.  Here this old guy shows up at High School, but is still digging.  They were way ahead of the game, though.  I think part of it is this Bread Loaf program, and I plan to learn more about it.  Ted Lehmann has told me it is very big up North.  Next year on my New England tour, I’m gonna go see for myself.

        We also talked about some tough issues like age old human problems of greed and prejudice.  There just wasn’t enough time.  Like one of the students said, we coulda gone all day and it’d been too short.  Thanks to all you guys- you are an inspiration.

        The students bought cookies and smiles and told me of their dreams and plans.  It made me want to be a teacher.  As a Doc and a writer I like to think I am to some degree, so I appreciate being teacher for a day.  My mom was an English teacher, and a big influence on me, so maybe with this whole writing gig I am reliving my youth.  Old guys do things like that, so I thank you.

        There is much more to tell you about our trip to Saltillo, so I’m gonna post on this over several days.  I just can’t type fast enough to tell it all at one time.  When I was in High School, my typing teacher was old and had cataracts.  I sat in the back of the class and we’d slip out a window and go to Popeye’s store to pick the blues on the guitar.  (Kids, I don’t recommend this approach)  I pay the price to this day, as I am a lousy typist.  That is why I never do long posts, and my book is will take two and a half years instead of the six months it should have.  But I am about there.  One more revision and a bunch of prayers and maybe a publisher will look at it by the first of 2009.

        Of course they might read it and decide, like the first agent who rejected me did, that I ain’t chick litty enough.  If they do, and knock me out, I’ll get up off the canvas and try again though.  I can’t stop now.  

Dr. B

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8 Comments on “Saltillo Mississippi Part One”

  1. Cindy Carter Says:

    Sounds like you really did enjoy your trip. And, surprise! You are a teacher each and every day. We don’t have to stand in the classroom to actually have an affect of people. You, my friend, teach by example.

  2. MJ-Skywalker Says:

    Dr. B–

    “When I was in High School, my typing teacher was old and had cataracts. I sat in the back of the class and we’d slip out a window and go to Popeye’e store to pick the blues on the guitar. ”

    Just thought I’d give you drop you a line to say that I remember this story! It made me smile so big when we read it in one of your letters to our Accelerated English class. That kind of thing–kids our age don’t get to hear it from real authors. I don’t know about my classmates, but I definitely enjoyed that.

    Please don’t let those gung-ho chick litty folks knock you down. You are what you are, and you’re writing from your heart…which just isn’t the chick litty kind.

    Glad to hear you enjoyed your stop. You’re always welcome back.

    Signed (under my penname, ha),
    MJ

  3. Smitty Neuse River Pres. Says:

    Well Doc, we are just so proud of making it big time with a blog post this far west of the Neuse River. I cannot talk enough about the show. I am planning on discussing the Hee Haw show with the fan club. The DVD of the show is in production. I will send a copy.

    We really enjoyed the show with Doc. If anyone reads this post, he can really play. I mean we practiced a couple of songs to remind him how they go, (yep, he has been playing a long time) and then the only thing I had to do was give him a nod and to the mike he went.

    Mrs. T emailed me today and was still baking over the great visit. I did a few follow up things for her and she was thankful again for the visit. You have not heard the last from her.

    Doc, sorry we did do a key to the city thing. I will pass along the blog to the mayor. If he can figure out how to squeeze a few votes out the event, well, a key to the city might be in the mail.

    Finally ,if anyone wants to know what Doc looks like, just think of a great citizen to the country of the USA, treats people like all are special, eats chicken with his fingers, helps all he sees, cares and notices all ages,drives the speed he talks and finally has the understanding,loving wife anyone would love to meet. He checked on her before the show and she had already made it over to to sit with my mom. Great women always seem to find each other. Later kindred spirit.

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Ms Cindy,

    I’ve got a bunch of stories yet to tell-visits to book stores, golf matches with Conway Twiitty look-alikes and more. Had a blast- stay tuned.

    Dr. B

  5. drtombibey Says:

    MJ,

    Great to hear from ya kid. Y’all check out MJ- she is writer, too.

    Nothing makes a parent prouder than a fine child- I know ’cause I have two. Tell your folks ole Dr. B said they done good. (Did well that is.)

    Went to Oxford after we left Saltillo- will post on that soon. You’re gonna do great at Old Miss. Study hard, but take time to write too.

    Dr. B

  6. drtombibey Says:

    Smitty,

    Twas a great time. My hat is off to all mandolin players who can outdrive my best Sunday punch five yards or more.

    Saltillo is the southern Lake Woebegone. I’ll be back.

    Smitty made me take off my sunglasses, and sure enough it was old green eye, blue eye.

    Went to Reed’s- fine visit- will post on that soon.

    Dr. B

  7. pandemonic Says:

    LOL… Dr. B! Save the chick litty genre for me! :-)

  8. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Pande,

    Yeah, you Ms. Susan are far more expert than me at that genre. One thing I have known all my life is know when to call a specialist who knows more than me about a subject.

    Like most men, I find the verbal abilities of woman to be fascinating. They are far more subtle than men.

    Dr. B


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