Bobby Blair Letter to Editor 5/17/13

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 17, 2013

Easy to criticize before walking mile in Memphis shoes

Paddle Faster! I hear banjos!

 I read the letter (May 10, “Child of sharecroppers praises American heritage of hard work”) with the same motivation I read all newspaper articles and/or letters to the editor.  I’m interested in what people have to say.

When I left Batesville for Memphis in 1967, I was barely past 20. No one has ever offered me a job nor asked me to come back to Batesville. Well,  except for Mama. You see, she wanted all of her little chickens to stay around Batesville. 

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

 But I met and married one of those North Memphis girls (we just celebrated our 39th anniversary). Yep, me and that young lady still live in Memphis because it is our home of choice. It is home even though we recognize there are problems in our fair city.  But if we abandoned the city then that would make us quitters and Mama and Daddy “didn’t raise no quitters.”

Mama stayed on me to move back to Batesville. She would buy me my very own subscription to The Panolian.  She wanted to show me what an idyllic place that little city on the banks of the Tallahatchie really was. I had lived there. I knew what it was like..

We talked on the telephone every Thursday night for decades. It was always the same, “Bob, move on down here. You can (1) get a job or (years later) (2) you can open your own practice here in Batesville and Barbara can get a job with the Board of Education. (My wife was the secretary to one of the assistant superintendents of Memphis City Schools.)

But Mama almost never came to Memphis to visit me. Why? She was convinced she was going to be raped, robbed, and murdered if she got out of her car at Southland Mall, much less my home in East Memphis.

My Panolian would usually arrive in Friday’s mail. One fateful day, the paper arrived on Thursday. The headline was a story about how a murder victim had been found in the yard across Van Voris Street from her home.

I called and the conversation went something like this: “Well, Mama, anything new going on around Batesville?”

Mama: “No, same old stuff.”

Me: “Mama, hasn’t anything different happened around town. Surely something is going on in Batesville that’s worth talking about.”

Mama: “No, I went over to Mrs. Flint’s and we swapped a few flowers that I put in the front yard.”
This went on for two or three minutes before I finally said, “Mama, I heard they found a dead body in Mr. Wilson’s yard (across the street from her house).”

Mama: “Yeah, Bob, we woke up Monday morning and the police were out there.”

Me (with all of the righteous indignation I could muster): ”Mama, I’ve lived in Memphis for over 20 years and all you’ve done is talk about getting robbed, raped, and murdered up here, but I’ve never woke up in the morning to find a body in the yard across the street. Now, until I do I don’t want to hear anymore of that garbage about how unsafe Memphis is and how much better things are in Batesville.”

Mama never mentioned the crime in Memphis again. Why?  She finally realized that crime is everywhere.  Sure, we’ve had our little skirmishes between a few drunk or drugged out kids/young adults, but so has Batesville.

We’ve had more than our share of gang killings, but so has Batesville.
We have our gangs but so does Batesville.

We have our drunks, drug addicts, and thieves, but so does Batesville. (Do ya’ ever read all of the Panolian?)

We have crooked politicians, but Batesville and Panola County has had ‘em too.

When you say that you would be scared to walk two blocks to the movies during the daytime in Memphis — at least we’ve got movie theaters and we aren’t scared to go.

What’s my point? When you can wake up and tell me, honestly, that your hometown is perfect, pure, and without crime, then go ahead and criticize others. But, first, spend some time in Memphis and see if what you think is really true. Remember, it’s easy to criticize what you don’t know, but it is intellectually dishonest.

 Besides from what I see, hear, and read about Batesville and Panola County, y’all have a might tall hill to climb before you get to the top of Mt. Olympus and can look down on other folks and criticize them.

 /s/ Bobby Blair
(Contact Blair: <>)