Indeed, it takes a village

I’ll admit it: I’m addicted to those stupid little personality quizzes that you find on the internet.

I’m sure you know the ones I mean. They can be found prominently on websites like BuzzFeed, and they help you determine important things like the minor character you would be on the popular TV show “Friends.”

I know. It’s a vapid hobby, and I should be doing better things with my time, but here we are … and again, I’m using my column as a confessional.

Anyway, I came across one a few weeks ago that posed some rather interesting and deep questions. One of them was about the people you’ve encountered in your life that have really left a mark. The quiz got me to thinking, and I realized the old adage of “it takes a village” is very true. I’ve been blessed with quite the cast of characters in my 30 years.

Of course, the cast starts with my parents, and they really deserve a special shout out. They’re exceptional, salt-of-the-earth people, and one of them has a double celebration this week. My dad, Roger, turned 62 on Wednesday, and he also officially marked his retirement. This time, I think retirement will hold for him, too.

You see, he’s done this charade of “retiring” before. After 28 years with the Brookhaven Police Department, he retired with the rank of captain in 2008, and he was supposedly done working for anyone but himself at that time. He was back at work within a few months because he was bored. He’s that type of guy.

Anyway, he spent another 12 years working for a company called Primos as their master hunting call tuner. He’s been in their national ads before, and he’s quite talented, but he was ready to call it quits and come home. He has a lot of projects to do, including finishing the house he’s building. That’s been in the works for many years, and now he’ll have the time to finish it. I’ll share some pictures of it sometime, but just know it’s beautiful.

I could go on and on about my dad, who’s also a U.S. Army Military Police veteran and an all-around awesome dude. The same word – “awesome” – holds true for my mom, too, who is also in her second “tour of duty” with work. She retired after more than 25 years as a social worker with the Mississippi Department of Human Services, but her love of people drew her back into the profession. She’s still a social worker, and she helps people on a daily basis with life-altering matters.

Like I said, I have awesome parents, and it’s totally OK to be jealous. They’ve been outstanding role models and influences.

There are so many others in my life’s cast of characters who deserve recognition, and I’ve talked to you before about how close I was to my grandparents. There are also the many folks who influenced my education and career, such as Tammie Brewer, who helped me get a start in the newspaper business way back in 2005. I was a pimply faced, smart-mouthed kid, and she saw something in me. I had no idea I’d still be in newspapers 15 years later, but Tammie deserves a lot of credit for that start. Thank you.

Who else? Oh, the list could go on and on, but there’s not enough ink and paper to print the names of all of the people who’ve guided me along the way. However, I’ll never forget the folks I’ve encountered, the ones who helped shape my life, even in the smallest of ways. I’m talking about the people who did the major things – like, you know, raising me – and also the folks who were just kind when I needed it the most. Kindness goes a long way, and I remember a lot of big smiles and nice words.

Those positive encounters far outweigh any negative ones I’ve experienced, and I cherish them all.

I encourage you to spend some time this week thinking about your village. If you haven’t properly told someone thank you for the way they’ve influenced you, give them a call or write them a letter. The Postal Service needs our support more than ever, and a heartfelt letter warms the insides like nothing else.

I promise, it won’t be a vapid exercise like a dumb BuzzFeed quiz, and it’ll light up someone’s day. The world needs that joy, and you do, too.

Beavers, snakes and other tales from Perch Creek

Perch Creek isn’t a big tourist destination, but it’s been at the center of many of my life’s formative moments.

“The Creek” is a beloved – and revered – spot for my family, and it runs through our property in rural Lincoln County. “Runs” is a strong word, really; it’s more of a lazy flow, and that only happens when its path isn’t obstructed by beaver dams. And, let me tell you, those beavers are a pest, and they can build a dam quicker than you can finish this column.

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, who lived a hop, skip and jump away from “The Creek.” My grandpa Jerry, who died at age 90 in 2016, was always at war with the aforementioned beavers, and we’d get on his old John Deere tractor and travel to that narrow stream of water to lay scary-looking traps. I thought I was a real big shot riding with him on that tractor, and I knew we were fellow soldiers united against a common, furry enemy.

My grandma Bernice would sometimes ride with us to “The Creek,” but I can’t for the life of me remember how we all fit on that single-seat tractor. I’m reminded of the introduction to “The Beverly Hillbillies” and specifically the scene where Granny is strapped to the top of the truck in her rocking chair. We probably looked something like that, but we had a lot of fun, and we made it back and forth safely each time.

Grandma was an expert worrier, and she always admonished me to watch out for snakes, which were a common sight. Her eyes were always on me, even as she dipped her toes in the cold water, and I knew I was safe at her side. She passed away – also at age 90 – in 2019, but I think of the two of them daily. I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing them.

I spent a lot of time at “The Creek” with my parents and siblings, too. Our weekend visits were like mini-vacations, and we’d ride four-wheelers through well-maintained paths or find a deep enough hole to go swimming. My mom would spend her time there looking for distinctive rocks to add to her rock garden, and my dad, who is a skilled carpenter, would look for trees that could be used for his latest project. As for me, I’d build sand castles, fight imaginary monsters or pretend to be a U.S. Navy captain on an epic voyage.

One summer, I decided to build a little ship and set it to sail in the mighty waters of “The Creek.” I don’t recall all of the items I used to construct my fine vessel, but I do remember using some old scraps of material for the sails and two empty water bottles for flotation. I think a piece of cardboard served as the deck, and I taped a Power Rangers action figure to the ship to serve as its navigator and commanding officer. I’m pretty sure it fell apart the minute it hit the water, and that was my first – and last – attempt at shipbuilding.

I had a lot of good times at “The Creek,” and I’ll always cherish those memories. I think I’ll pay it a visit soon, and I’ll leave my phone in the car and enjoy nature for a bit. I may even take my shoes off and wade in the water. Don’t worry, Grandma. I’ll keep an eye out for snakes. And, Grandpa … I’ll yell at a couple of beavers for you, too.