"It's in the nature of things that whole worlds disappear," writes the poet Robert Hass in the foreword to Jimmye Hillman's insightful memoir. "Their vanishings, more often than not, go unrecorded or pass into myth, just as they slip from the memory of the living."
To ensure that the world of Jimmye Hillman's childhood in Greene County, Mississippi during the Great Depression doesn't slip away, he has gathered together accounts of his family and the other people of Old Washington village. There are humorous stories of hog hunting and heart-wrenching tales of poverty set against a rural backdrop shaded by the local social, religious, and political climate of the time. Jimmye and his family were subsistence farmers out of bare-bones necessity, decades before discussions about sustainability made such practices laudable.
More than just childhood memories and a family saga, though, this book serves as a snapshot of the natural, historical, and linguistic details of the time and place. It is a remarkable record of Southern life. Observations loaded with detail uncover broader themes of work, family loyalty, and the politics of changing times.
Hillman, now eighty-eight, went on to a distinguished career as an economist specializing in agriculture. He realizes the importance of his story as an example of the cultural history of the Deep South but allows readers to discover the significance on their own by witnessing the lives of a colorful cast of characters. Hogs, Mules, and Yellow Dogs is unique, a blend of humor and reflection, wisdom and sympathy—but it's also a hard-nosed look at the realities of living on a dirt farm in a vanished world.
This volume is a fascinating memoir by one uniquely qualified to write of his years growing up in the culturally remote and depression poor 'piney woods' of Southern Mississippi. Jimmye Hillman has preserved for us in his inimitable style the almost-lost stories of life in a different time. It holds invaluable lessons for all of us who seek to understand better the richness and diversity of our history and culture."—Governor William F. Winter
Jimmye Hillman has written a beautiful book about a place I know well. Yet it's a testament to the exactness of his prose, and his very acute vision, that on every single page he told me something I didn't know and could never have imagined. This work is brimming with life. I almost never find a book I love like I love this one."—Steve Yarbrough, author of Safe from the Neighbors
Jimmye Hillman grew up in southern Mississippi, going on to receive his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and become an agricultural economist at the University of Arizona, where he spent thirty years doing groundbreaking work in agricultural trade policy. He is now Professor Emeritus and lives in Tucson.
Foreword, by Robert Hass
The Suddy Sow
The Easiest Way to Pineville
The Avera I Knew
Widow Smith’s Blue Boar
The Old Turner Place
The No-yer’d Bar
Greene County Dictionary
Life on the Farm
One Mississippi Christmas, 1931
Humoring a Mule
What We Ate Back Then
Sex on the Farm
God and Politics
Old Washington Baptist
Yellow Dog Politics
Soft Womb of Greene County
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