Travel offers reminders of assets of home

I am writing this to you from my makeshift office, a.k.a. my son’s dining room table. I have been in the mid-south for almost a month now. Specifically, we have been in Southaven, Mississippi.

We were called down here abruptly due to some business that we conduct in this area. What is so unusual about that? Well, interestingly enough, quite a bit.

As I have mentioned several times, my wife and I enjoy living in New Palestine and Hancock County. But this month caused an abrupt about-face in our lives. Part of the trip had been somewhat pre-planned but the abruptness had not been.

We had planned to make our somewhat-annual trek to see the grandkids and do what all grandparents do: spoil them.

We got down here in time to watch the first of three high school football games our No. 1 grandson played in. Zac is a sophomore at Harding Academy in Memphis, Tennessee, and is also the starting quarterback.

Readers, one must understand that in this area of the country they take their football very seriously. Southaven, Mississippi, is located in the northern part of the Magnolia State. From my vantage point, I am about 30 miles south of the Liberty Bowl, which is located in Memphis. The Liberty Bowl was the site of the recent duke-out between Ole Miss and the University of Memphis. UM is located right around the corner from Harding Academy.

Southaven is also located about 20 miles from a town call Olive Branch, or as they say down here, OB.

Please allow me to explain their love of football to y’all. Football ranks right up there with Mississippi’s other sport, duck hunting. OB just announced plans for a $95 million high school. On this high school campus, OB will have a 5,000-seat football stadium. Now folks, that is some serious fanatical football.

Lest you think these are only pipe dreams, let me assure you these lofty goals will be accomplished in the next five years. Being a retired educator, I discussed these plans with my son. My son has lived in Southaven for 10 years. (To say he is a football fanatic would be putting it mildly).

Chad was an outstanding defensive back at Anderson University. Also, while at Anderson University, he did a three-year internship with the Chicago Bears. This was during the glory days of coach Mike Ditka and the legendary Refrigerator Perry.

So I asked No. 1 son this question: Do you think this rather ambitious plan will come to fruition? He said absolutely. My comment: $95 million is a lot of money for a high school.

Then he pointed out to me that Fred Smith, the owner and founder of FedEx (headquartered in Memphis), lives in Olive Branch. Mr. Smith and FedEx are very generous with their donations to local schools in the area.

The area that we are in is absolutely gorgeous. We have done business down here for about 10 years. At one time we had thought about moving to this area. However, I doubt that we will ever leave beautiful Hancock County. There are a lot of similarities between DeSoto County, Mississippi, and Hancock County, Indiana. But there are also dissimilarities.

When my son first moved to northern Mississippi, I must admit I had reservations. Because I was born and reared in Indiana, I just assumed that not a whole lot of good things could come out of Mississippi. Boy, was I wrong. But let me tell you about the similarities.

DeSoto County, Mississippi’s county seat is Hernando. It is named after the famous explorer Hernando DeSoto. The courthouse square reminds me of Greenfield. Oh, yes, the history is different, but on Saturday they have a farmers market. Our Lincoln Square Pancake House is their Mississippi Café. There are quaint shops. There are offices dotting the square; it is true that the names of the attorneys and accountants are different.

How is this for similarities? The county jail is also located in the next block from the courthouse, just like in Hancock County.

DeSoto County has eight rather large school corporations. Hancock County has four. Both counties’ educational systems have won many national honors. So as an educator, I was pleasantly surprised as to the quality of education down here.

Before I leave the education/school arena, I would like to make another point. You might remember that sometime back I wrote an article chastising Indiana for its silly school zones. You may remember that I was dismayed at the lack of uniformity and so-called safety in our school zones in Indiana.

Mississippi seems to have solved that problem. How? By uniformity. If one drives through a school zone in Mississippi, there is no guessing. Why? Because every school, be it public, private or parochial, is clearly marked. The signs say 20 miles an hour from 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 5 p.m., not “when children are present.”

Also, one must conclude that the folks from the Magnolia State care more about their kids than we Hoosiers. Not only is every school zone clearly marked by easy-to-read signage, there are also yellow flashing lights to alert a driver. Then in addition to that, there are uniformed police officers in each school zone in the county, rain or shine. Call your legislators and tell them that our next generation is just as important to us as it is to Mississippians.

Also, they do have the same familiar McDonald’s restaurants down here. The biggest difference in the McDonald’s in Mississippi? They give us seniors free coffee if we order the coffee with a food item. Ummm? Now what was I saying about moving down here?

C.O. Montgomery of New Palestine is a former teacher and Sugar Creek Township trustee.