Next Stop, Mississippi

This stop was to last for almost forty years. When Vernon first began his work in agriculture aviation he dreamed of flying in the Mississippi Delta. That was considered crop duster heaven. The vast acreage in the cotton plantations there was dream flying compared to the one-or two-acre tobacco plots of Kentucky. It was not unusual for a cotton row to extend almost as far as you could see, for acres and acres. So when the opportunity came to go there, he didn’t hesitate.
In the spring of ’54, about the end of the forest fire patrol season in Florida, we left for Mississippi. We had never been to that part of the country. However, Vernon knew where he was going from his phone conversations with W.C. Boland, owner of the cotton plantation in Estill, Mississippi. A job was waiting.
We had never heard of Leland, Mississippi, but according to the map that’s where we left Highway 82 to go the few miles south to Estill. Estill rated scarcely a blip on the map, consisting of a general store, a cotton gin, various plantation buildings, and of course a flying strip located out in the middle of the cotton fields. That’s where we parked the trailer.
I’m glad that we got there at that particular time in history because we got a glimpse of an era that was disappearing (it’s good that it’s gone). Each plantation had it’s own general store. This one was known as Pryor’s Store. Mr. and Mrs. Pryor stocked just about anything needed to sustain life – but no luxuries – unless you consider moon pies and RS Colas as luxuries. Employees of the plantation shopped almost exclusively at this store because they were given credit throughout the year. The bill was paid in full when the crop was harvested. There was seldom enough from the crop to clear the bill so they were kept in constant debt to the “company store”. (Tennessee Ernie’s old song about 16 tons and deeper in debt to the company store – post civil war slavery.)
There were row after row of “shotgun” houses along the turn rows of the cotton fields where the black families lived. Segregation was in full force and poverty was a way of life. During the ensuing decades that we lived in the Delta we saw those houses torn down and replaced with small mostly brick houses, but poverty and segregation were slower to leave.
We lived in the trailer at the airport until a small house was remodeled. It was on Highway 61 a short distance south of the Pryor Store, but still on plantation property. The nearest town to Estill was Hollandale, four or five miles down on Hwy 61. When our house was ready for occupancy we sold the trailer. Furniture shopping facilities were severely limited. So in order to have more of a selection, the owner of the furniture store of Hollandale flew with us to Monroe, Louisiana to his wholesale dealer. We picked the furniture there.

Pryor Store

Margie and neighbor, Brenda Matthews