Bobby Blair column

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 1, 2007

Guest column by Bobby Blair

Disrespect for State led to meeting of man who grew up in ‘King’s’ house

Any time I hear about the death of someone from “home” it is a chance to think for a minute about the good things in life.

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Not good that someone died, but a chance to remember the positive in everyday life.

During grade school years, the opportunity to ride to Batesville on a Saturday afternoon was the reward for the good life we had lived during the week.

Down Highway 6 to Batesville, past “the Monkey Stand” and up to the red light at Highway 6 and Eureka. Every mile gave us new opportunity to enjoy life. Oh, the things that boys can learn in the back of a pickup traveling at what seemed like jet airplane speed.

As we turned right at the red light at Highway 6 and Eureka Street. I would always forget what I was doing because on the left side of the pickup was the most beautiful picture window in the most beautiful home in the best town in the world.

Many times the fantasy of looking out, not in, that big window was in my dreams. How wonderful it would be to live in that home. Everybody knew that Mayor Dan Ferguson lived in that house — the MAYOR — the King of Batesville.

I never saw the kids who lived there. There had to be one because every house had a bunch of kids somewhere around and, after all, da’ Mayor had his queen. She was beautiful. All queens were beautiful. I remember Mrs. Ferguson from my teenage years. She was, indeed, a beautiful, kind, and gracious lady.

But what about their kids? I often thought about what kind of kids grew up looking out that beautiful window in that beautiful home.

Through the years, when Daddy would get bored on a Saturday afternoon and wanted to go for a ride just to get out of the house, he would say, “I wonder who is up at Dickins. I think I’ll drive by and see.” We knew what he meant.

Later, as more and more family and friends were “up at Dickins” Daddy would refer to Dan Ferguson. I wondered how long one man could live and still be working up at Dickins. I never knew there was a Dan, Jr.

Spring forward many years to 1999 or 2000. I wrote sports columns for The Southern Reporter. With an editor and a publisher who forgave many, many grammatical errors and a reading public that wasn’t reluctant to tell me where I messed up, the entire experience was wonderful.

When I say “messed up” let me explain. Not everyone agrees with what is written in a newspaper. Readers will call the editor and gripe. (Ever wonder why the publisher of The Panolian lives, part time, in New Orleans and the editor lives way out in the country?)

That particular year Ole Miss was going to play in something like the Poulan Weedeater Bowl, and State was heading to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl. Both teams were a couple of plays away from staying home for the holidays. Pre-selection, the fans were saying, the one who plays in a game closest to New Years has the best team. Post-selection, State fans were adamant that Atlanta was a bigger bowl destination than Shreveport. Rebel fans were yelling, “We’re closer to New Years Day!!!!”

Seldom would I write or poke fun at one of the teams without skewering the other one as well. That was what I called “self-preservation”

In the column that came out around Thanksgiving, I made some joke about the State people getting to the game a little early because there was only room for a couple of hundred Farmalls and combines on the parking lot.

Not only did John and David, my editor and publishers, hear about that column. I did, too.

A few days later came another death in the family. Church services at North Batesville followed by the burial at Forrest Memorial Park.

I was standing in the cemetery talking to family members and to John Howell, Jr. who was then editor of the Southern Reporter as well as being married to my niece and the father to some of the smartest nephews and the most beautiful little niece a man can take pride in.

The conversation began to lag and someone said something to John and he turned away. Then I looked across the cemetery and there came a man with a somber look on his face. Well, somber isn’t quite the right  word. No smile. For all the world he looked like the undertaker who was coming to take me away.

With nowhere to run and it being obvious he was heading towards me, I had to stand and take my medicine. Surely he was some kinfolk from down in the Delta, somebody I just didn’t know.

He stood right in front of me, looked up directly in my face and said without a trace of love, sweetness, or happiness, “I’m a Mississippi STATE fan!!!”

I turned and looked to John, Jr for support. He was heading across the back part of Forrest Memorial Park and heading for the hills. Or so it seemed.

Suddenly, the man’s face broke into the biggest grin and he said something like, “I really enjoy your columns but don’t you think you could be a little harder on Ole Miss.”

He introduced himself as “Dan” and we had a wonderful conversation. He was bright, witty, and someone with whom you could sit around on a Thanksgiving weekend and watch the Egg Bowl on television and he would still leave your home as a friend.

Gary, my brother, later told me that the man with whom I had been speaking was “Dan Ferguson, the undertaker at Dickins.”

I had finally met the “kid” who looked out that beautiful picture window and he was the man that, I’m sure, his Mother wanted him to be.

He was a man who was not only very good at his profession but was, more importantly, a man who was the friend of many.

( Contact Blair at