Jimmy Ray Lee: Corncob fights and old Whitesand swim hole

Published 10:38 am Friday, May 15, 2015

Before there was Lee’s Pigskins, before there were Sarah and John Robert or even wife Anita JDC entrepreneur Jimmy Ray Lee remembers a time when kids had no cell phones, video games or TV to keep them inside and enjoyed just being kids. Since selling his franchise and slowing down a bit Lee has begun to reflect on life ventures and has become quite a writer and storyteller. He tells childhood memories with great fondness and detail and related this story of corncob fights and the old Whitesand swim hole.

“I often catch myself wondering, where have the years gone,” states Lee, “I remember days long ago when I was a young boy, running barefoot in short pants with patches on top of patches, playing in the corn and cotton fields, and woods on my grandpa’s farm. Dirty and sweaty, thirsty and hungry, my cousin and I would run through grandma’s house, drink a glass of cool water, grab a handful of teacakes, and out the screen door we would head again on another adventure to some other place on the farm.”

“A couple of times a week, some of the neighbors boys would walk across the woods and pastures to come play with us. Grandpa (Tot Lee) had a huge barn. It was two stories high. In other words it had a loft in it. On the right side, on the ground floor, it had two huge rooms in it. One was for corn and feed, the other he would put oat seeds in it. On the left side were pens, that later was used for hay and corn if needed. They were actually built for mules, but that was before my time. We would put bales of hay in the loft and the shed on the backside of the stalls. On the right side of the cribs was a pen for cattle and where we milked our cows.”

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“When we got out of school on the weekends and summer, life was simple. You were told what to do, and you done it then, and when you were through you could go swimming or play as long as you did it outside and was home before dark. That was the last work I done for the day. Then it was suppertime, then a bath, and it wasn’t long before it was bedtime.”

“All during the week, my cousins and I would gather up corn cobs all around the barn, and carry them up into the hay loft and hide them in the hay. When our friends would come over we would play around the barn, and it wasn’t long before we would wind up playing war, or have a corncob fight. The ones of us in the hayloft had the advantage over the ones on the ground. We already had the corncobs hidden in the hay. The war began and corncobs would start flying. If you got hit by one it would hurt like the dickens, but they would not kill you! A good corncob fight would last a couple of hours. Sometimes my two sisters would sign up for corncob military duty, but most time it was me, Alton (Lee), Randy (Breeland), Glynn (Griffith), Bobby Wayne (Griffith), Will (Griffith), and sometimes John Greene would stay with us, and we had enough to start a World War III. (It would be wonderful if the wars of today could be fought with corncobs and when it was over, we could go get a cool glass of water and a handful of teacakes, and set around and plan a fishing trip down at the pond.)

“As we got older, our folks did not worry as much about us. Ninety percent of our off time in the summer was spent behind John Mark’s (Greene) house in the old swim hole on Whitesand creek. I believe that was where the word COLD came from, and it’s just as cold today as it was forty years ago. There were three places in our part of the world that 95% of the people could go during the summer to cool off–church, the barber shop, and the quickest was a dip in old Whitesand. There was always a crowd on the weekend, and during the week always someone to swim with. I know my daddy (Tubby Lee) loved that hole of water more than anyone I have ever met.”

Lee who graduated from Prentiss High in 1975 becomes thoughtful and says, “My wife and I have two children. Sarah is 21 and John Robert is 15. It is hard for them to believe the way we grew up, and sometimes I think it is hard for my wife to believe some of my stories. We were very lucky growing up. We got the opportunity to grow up in the real world. Now, we did not go to town or to the stores 2-3 times a day like people do today, and it would not have done us any good if we had, because we didn’t have any money. Back then money was a pleasure – just like the corncob fights and days spent in the old swim hole. Now, money is a necessity. You have to have it to survive, or most people do. No one enjoys the pleasure of life anymore. Who do you know could plan a good corncob war anymore, or go spend a whole day in the old swim hole at Whitesand? Those days are long gone. The ones of us who were able to experience those days, can always pull them up from the back of our minds and remember the good times we had as young boys and girls growing up in the Whitesand community. The only bad thing about it is that it will never happen again, because a lot of the ones who were with us have long gone, and old Whitesand is just a trickle of water. I don’t think it will be long before it will just be memories, like the corncob wars, and some of the people who were with us.”

Perhaps we need to introduce our children to the joys of growing up in the country, limit or eliminate the distractions of the electronics world and give them a taste of what is truly living, not an electronic fantasy. Jimmy Ray Lee learned to use his own imagination and dream his own dreams without those distractions and successfully developed his own product lines. Perhaps it would be beneficial to teach our children to use the technology of the future in reality and not spend much time living its fantasy world and enjoy corncob fights and an old swim hole.