Robert Hitt Neill column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Guv’nuh had other things on his mind during racially torn south

Here in Mississippi, our Guv’nuh apparently is toying with the idea of running for President of the United States, and that naturally attracts flack from the national media. Lately there have been some mean-spirited commentaries from members of that ilk, who obviously were farther along than most Mis’ippi farm boys or small-town youngsters in their early teens.  

Maybe they simply skipped being teenagers and went straight to sanctified adulthood with a Silver Pen in their hot little hands. What a tempest in a teapot!

Guv was something like 13 when he just flat-out missed sensing the racial revolution in his home state, assisted by Yankees coming south to help out in a worthy cause, no doubt. He just didn’t notice.

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At 14, he overlooked the federally-forced integration that almost closed the state’s foremost university. By 15, he apparently missed the national implications of racially-motivated murders halfway across the state from where he lived. How could such a clod be worthy of Presidential considerations? How could any young man have missed such events?!

Well, I was there myownself, and can answer that riddle, appropriately enough, close to Valentine’s Day. It was at least partially Yung Luv.

That ain’t a Vietnamese soldier. It was the title of a song back in those days by, I think Neil Sadaka, bless his heart. He said it and spelt it differently, I know.

I cannot imagine what a young Yankee boy contemplates during his early teen years, but I can tell you exactly what a Mis’ippi boy was cogitating on back in those times, ‘cause like I say, I was there, Bubba.

At 13, a young man’s thoughts turned to not necessarily Yung Luv yet, but at that age he became gradually aware that some of his lifelong (12 years) playmates were exhibiting strange bodily developments. Strange but increasingly worthy of noticing, in most cases.  

There came a day when you understood why watching Susie Little get off School Bus No. 13 wearing a sweater attracted a group of senior high boys. Instead of shoving Little John and the Dixie Tixie over for three on a bus seat so I wouldn’t have to sit next to Billie Faye Dickerson, maybe I found myself hoping there would be a place next to her.

This vague awareness that there were actually two sexes was of course not the only thing a 13-year-old male mind pondered: the mainmost thing was, am I big enough to shoot Daddy’s 30/06?

At 14, the specter of the Ninth Grade Prom reared its ugly head: every boy had to have a date with a girl, and dress up! We guys were torn: we didn’t really want to have to GET a date for the Prom, but we durn sure didn’t want to HAVE to take an ugly girl!

Brave more-mature classmates like Little Dave and George Rea just quietly got the job done, so a couple of the prettiest girls were gone before the rest of us quit griping. Worst of all, the Prom was during Turkey Season!  

That occupied most of our 14-year-old male minds. Fortunately, I managed to tear the cartilage and ligaments in my right foot playing handball with Bird Skelton, so was dateless on crutches when the Prom Night arrived, praise the Lord!

At 15, in those years, the mainmost thing on every youngster’s mind was: when can I get my Driver’s License? Of course, country boys like me and Little John and Troy and the Dixie Tixie had been unofficially driving for years, and we all got permits to drive with an adult when we were 14.

But who wants to take an adult on a date? Little Dave and George Rea once again led the way, for their birthdays were in February, whereas Little John and I had to wait until November and December, respectively.

Yet once we had that precious piece of plastic in our possession, Momma’s Buick was our target, so that we could actually ask Louise or Nancy Lee or Montie on a real date. That took a whole year of thinking!

So, please excuse us non-politically-savvy country boys like me and the Guv’nuh for not noticing things that may have been historical at that time, but were tee-totally secondary to what teenage boys were REALLY noticing about then!