By Robert Hitt Neil, Syndicated columnist
The Picayune Item
A couple of us were standing on the creekbank one afternoon, watching the City crews electrify the Christmas Trees and Floats on the stream. It’s a gift that our small town has made to the rest of the world for nearly half a century, called “Christmas on Deer Creek.” If you haven’t been to Leland for this event during December and early January, please come over one evening and enjoy the beauty, peace, and tranquility of a ride up and down Deer Creek, one of the longest creeks in the country, but only a couple of miles of it get decorated like we do every year.
Anyhoo, one of the Deer Creek Drive residents walked over from putting the lights on his front porch (“I wanted to go hunting, but I got this Look!”) to greet me with, “Bob, I met someone in Iceland who knows you and asked me to tell you Hi from them.” Then, typically male, he declared, “But I can’t remember her name.”
Iceland? I had a limited number of acquaintances in that part of the world. Maybe it was Al Bjournson, from the Navy? Perhaps our personal Viking, the foreign exchange student Johan Fintland, and his family were sightseeing? He’s a doctor married to another doctor and they practice in Sweden with their two kids, a boy and a girl. We’re hoping they will visit us at Brownspur soon. It might have been Asa and Big Yawn, who came to B.C. & John’s wedding 15 years ago. Jan was quick to point out to us menfolks from his 6-foot, 5-inch height, that his name was spelt like a woman’s name in America, but he wanted no confusion on the matter. He must have endured some teasing somewhere. However, Adam and I assured him that we already knew him vicariously through a couple of other authors, Robert Ruark and Clair Huffaker, as Big Yawn in The Cowboy And The Cossack, and as inebriated Jan in The Old Man And The Boy: “Yump, Yawn, Yump!” To which the wobbly one eyed the pitching deck and equally-appearing-pitching dock, “Yump? How can I yump ven I got no place to stood?!”
Well, our greetings-sending friend was none of the above. “No, her husband was an ag pilot who lived with you for a couple of years, with his son. Seems like he’s passed away, but she was on a cruise with her sister.”
Aha! Sally Morgan, from Southern California! True enough, her husband John, a chopper pilot in Nam whom I knew, had called when son Matt (later to acquire with us the call sign “Napalm”) had been accepted to Commercial Aviation at Delta State, where he was roommates with my future son-in-law. “Bob, I have suddenly realized that my son is almost grown, and I haven’t spent the amount of time with him that I need to. If you will rent me The Store (our old plantation commissary store that we converted into a guesthouse), I’m going to give the Station a deal they cannot refuse on their ag spraying for the next two years.”
We enjoyed those next two years as much as any in our lives! John was not only pleasant, but he was a fix-it guy, like Big Dave was. By contrast, I have been declared by all who know me as a tear-it-up guy. It’s Momma’s fault, but true nonetheless. John “Clip” Morgan had the house in better shape than ever.
He acquired his nickname during those years when one afternoon late we were down at the bridge shooting, and his .22 shot dry. He had just started to reload a 30-shot clip when Adam drove up and announced that Betsy had said to come on to supper Now! John never broke stride: “Tell her we’ll be there right after I empty this clip,” he advised, inserting the cartridges into the spring.
John had only flown “Slick Ships” in Nam, so his first chance to initiate big explosions came with us, blowing beaver dams in the Mammy Grudge. He loved it! Matt even…well, I probably don’t need to chase that rabbit. We had a ball with the Morgan boys, but sadly, Matt called the next Memorial Day after he had graduated and gone to work flying. His dad had died in a flying accident in CA. Matt went on to be a Top Gun pilot in the Navy. Still drops by at times.
Now Sally was sending us greetings from Iceland! It’s a Small World!