John Howell Sr. Editorial 12/6/2013

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 6, 2013

Mounds Trail marker may need to share its space

(With apologies to Garrison Keillor and anyone else who feels like they need apologizing to.)
It’s been a not-so-quiet week in Batesville, my hometown, out here on the edge of the Delta.

Which also places us at the edge of the Hills. That’s been a predicament for us throughout my memory. Hill folk regard us as Delta. People from the Delta consider us in the Hills.

The federal government proved no arbiter when it defined the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area as including Panola County “to the east of Interstate 55.”

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Sponsors of the Rotary Club’s footrace early last month named it the “Gateway to the Delta 10-Miler.” Talk in council chambers has also come up with claiming our town as “Gateway to the Hills.” The matter appeared near resolution recently when a solution was proposed to place a new sign along Highway 6. The west side of the sign, facing eastbound traffic approaching from the Delta, would proclaim: “Batesville, Gateway to the Hills.” The east side of the sign facing motorists headed west would borrow from the Rotary run title: “Batesville, Gateway to the Delta.”
Talk of the town this week has been the live nativity scene near Highway 6 at Covenant Crossing that included live camels in the cast, brought in to enhance the Oriental setting.

The weather cooperated and considerable numbers of spectators arrived in their vehicles to find seating thoughtfully arranged to allow viewers to leave their vehicles and enjoy a respite while contemplating the camels.

It was a needed respite for most, having navigated two new stoplights recently placed in locations where they had not been previously, bringing the total number of stoplights in Batesville to eight. Batesville is now an eight-stoplight city. All on Highway 6.

Discussion continues in council chambers about Batesville’s designation as a stop on the Indian Mounds Trail and plans to place a marker along Highway 35 to inform passersby of the mounds’ archeological and historical significance.

Bill Mitchell of Como recently added to the lore of the Batesville Mounds when he recalled a story he heard from his uncle, W. M. “Son” Harmon, who once owned both the land that is now the industrial park bearing his name and the mounds property across Highway 35.

Son Harmon’s wife, Wattine, was the sister of Bill Mitchell’s dad, hence the connection. Mitchell said that on quiet summer evenings the couple, Son and Wattine, placed lawn chairs in the front yard of at their home that once stood about where Crown Cork and Seal stands.

Today one has to use considerable imagination to recreate the scene Son and Wattine found on those summer nights of 60 or more years ago. There was no interstate highway with its convenience stores, truck stops and high-mast lighting, no industrial park, nothing but a quiet country setting in the bend on the road to Sardis Dam. And across the railroad tracks there was then no sight barrier of trees, giving the Harmons a good view of the largest of the mounds, especially on moonlit evenings.

And one night as they watched, Son told Mitchell some years afterwards, a flying saucer came down and hovered over the big mound, just hovered there for an hour or more before departing the same way it came. Son Harmon stuck to his story for the rest of his life, Mitchell said. And though no other Harmon kith or kin yet interviewed heard Son tell the story, Mitchell said heard it from Son several times before Son’s death in 1984.

The possibility of placing a second marker at the site, this one to acknowledge the flying saucer sighting, has not been discussed in council chambers.

Meanwhile, at the round table there is some speculation about the future of nativity scenes in the city. Styrofoam and plastic figures representing the familiar cast of the Nativity scene were subsequently replaced by costumed people and local animals. Now that exotic animals have been added, there is some speculation about whether we’ve entered an era of Nativity one-upmanship and what we might look forward to next December.

And that’s the way things are in Batesville, where we’ve got one foot in the Hills, one in the Delta and an Interstate runs through it.