Ring of flowers

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 26, 2014

He was the man in black who started his performances “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” Today would have been Cash’s 82nd birthday.

Cash is remembered as a man with a tough exterior who loved his wife June fiercely. He was also thought to be an outlaw, an image he encouraged through his choice of clothing and his numerous prison concerts.

The truth is, Cash was only arrested a handful of times and he never spent more than one night in jail for any one offense.

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One of those overnight jail stays was in Starkville at the Oktibbeha County Jail on May 11, 1965.

While in Starkville one night, Cash decided to pick some flowers. While this would not seem like a valid reason to conduct an arrest, it is a matter for law enforcement when people decide to pick flowers late at night on private property.

Cash would later write the song “Starkville City Jail” about his overnight stint in Starkville.

On his record “Live at San Quentin,” he recalled his version of the story before performing the song.

Cash said he went for a walk to get cigarettes after a show one night at about 2 a.m. and as he was walking he saw some flowers and decided to pick them and that’s when the cops showed up.

“Thirty-six dollars for picking flowers and a night in jail,” Cash said in the recording. “No telling what they would do if you pulled an apple or something.”

In November 2007, four years after Cash died, Starkville held the “Johnny Cash Flower Pickin’ Festival,” to symbolically pardon Cash for picking flowers more than 40 years prior.

Longtime fan, Robbie Ward, decided to hold the festival as a way to celebrate the artist’s life and legacy after Cash died.