Way Down South in Dixie

I hope this title is not too off-putting to all of my liberal friends (I am one myself, you know) and does not attract all the KKK crazies to my site who think this is a coded message for a meeting of the Klan.

I certainly do not want to offend my friends who are black, African American or whatever the politically correct term should be these days. I do strive to be politically correct and think those that do not are pretty insensitive since I myself at the age of 60 do find being called a “girl” almost as demeaning as a black man finds it being called a boy. (I know, petty on my part, but just a position I have taken for various reasons.) Those who know me know this; it is the ones who do not that worry me.

The fact is I grew up in Dixie. When I say Dixie, I mean literally the name of the community that I grew up in and the school that I attended was called Dixie. It’s not the Dixie referred to in the song though I would guess the name was taken from there. I’ve never bothered to find out where it got its name; it’s not like the place had a chamber of commerce handing out printed brochures to prospective manufacturers coming to town. There was no town of Dixie. There was a community and a school called Dixie.

The only businesses in the community were the gins my father and the other farmers took their cotton to and two grocery stores sitting across from each other at an intersection of a gravel road and the highway down the road from where the school was located.

As I said, the only two businesses in the community other than the gins were the two grocery stores. One was a rather new early forerunner of a supermarket, although the size of it was not much bigger than today’s convenient stores. We never went there.

We and everyone else I knew went to Batey’s store that looked every bit like the most classic old time grocery store anyone has ever been in or seen in movies

Hershel Batey was a friend of my dad’s. He lived in a nice “modern” looking ranch style house that my dad and his crew built during the winter months, which is what my dad did when he was not farming. Batey, as everyone called him, had a motor boat and invited our family and a few other families to go with him to ski and boat ride in the relief “ditch” of the St. Francis River.  He was on the Dixie school board with my dad. His family and my family and a few others took turns having each other over for fish fries, card games and other get togethers. We and everybody else I knew went to Batey’s. Saturday night’s at Batey’s was fun.

The thing I remember best about the store was the feed sacks piled almost to the rafters in the back of the store near the wood burning stove where the men gathered to play dominoes. On Saturday nights, the other kids and I sat on the pile of sacks and watched Gunsmoke while our mothers bought big sacks of flour, big tubs of lard, cornmeal and sugar. The staples.

They did not buy many canned goods because they all canned their own. Did not buy many fresh fruits, except maybe apples, because oranges and bananas were luxuries one only got at Christmas. I do not recall there even being a produce “department” at Batey’s. I think fresh produce was one of the things the “supermarket” across the road had that Batey’s did not. Nevertheless, my mother would drive 20 miles into Paragould or Jonesboro to buy the things she needed rather than set foot in the upstart “super market”.

No one bought milk and eggs, because they all had chickens and cows. They didn’t buy meat because everyone raised their pigs and calves that they had butchered in the aforementioned nearby towns and kept what they didn’t have room for at home in their freezers in a “meat locker” in town.

That was just the kind of the mindset my mother and father and their friends had about supporting their friend’s store. It must have been the same mindset many others had in the community since Batey’s was always more successful and the “supermarket” went out of business long before Batey closed his doors because of poor health from old age.

The school is now closed and so is the store. Old times there are not forgotten, but we have all gone away from Dixie land.


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