The ground water was and is 65 degrees year round. We had a swimming hole that the well discharged into where my brothers and our friends would cool off during the hot delta summers. The water was too cold for snakes, but not for us. Big Bard would throw watermelons in the swimming hole and they would float until we’d cut it open after a swim. My dad would always challenge other men to wrestle on the end of the pipe. The loser would fall in the ice water but no one ever took him up on it.
My Pop was a big man, full of mischief. He was raised in Memphis and he said on the river he was known as Fish Selden. Riverboats would have to dodge him swimming under the Harahan Bridge which sat at the end of Crump Blvd. in Memphis. Captain Tom Meanly, owner of the Memphis Queen Lines, and his son Capt. Jake aged 25, the youngest river boat pilot on the river, said we’re at awe at Big Bard’s stories of the river pirate’s in the early years on Mud Island.
Mud Island had an airport on it in the early 30s, until the mid 60s, and on the west side – the Mississippi River side of Mud Island – when I was a kid the banks were lined with wrecked river boats. Dad said that’s where the river pirates lived in the cabins on those wrecked river boats. Most of the wrecked river boats belong to Mr. W.C. Ellis, who had a machine shop at the end of Beale Street, right at the ICG Railroad across River Side Drive at Tom Lee Park, where the mouth of the Wolf River ran into the Mississippi River. On a cold winter day smoke would be bellowing up just beyond the RR trestle from the pirate’s stills there.
My Grandmother, Ms. Connie, was a Tate and owned Hollywood Plantation at Hollywood, just north of Tunica on Hwy 61. My dad was told that he would have to move to the farm that spring to run it. So the next clear day he went to Mud Island, took 3 flying lessons, and that Friday morning soloed in a Piper Cub. Big Bard took off Saturday morning from Mud Island, flying under the bridge as a prank to Cousin Johnny, who was an Engineer on the ICG RR. heading west out of Memphis, to Hughes and points West.
It was all the talk. Some nut had flown under the bridge and vanished in the river fog south of President’s island. Dad took the river south to Lake View on the state line. That’s where the city of Memphis’ street cars had a turn-around, and Hwy 61 came right past that turnaround. Dad said old man Duke Perry waved as he went by. Mr. Duke was the straw boss for what is now the Perry Plantation at Hollywood.
Well, Dad followed Hwy 61 South past Walls, Lake Cormorant, Clack, Robinsonville, Bowdre and New Store to Hollywood. He had a map of the farm and recognized it, he landed on Tate St. and pulled into the farm commissary. Dad talked with Cousin Simp, rode around the place on a Mule, clumb the water tower to get his bearings and check on the plane, then headed back to Mud Island.
When he landed he went to the office to check the plane in. They tried to give him some lip about flying under the bridge but none of them fellers wanted to wrestle Big Bard, so, back across Market Street Bridge to 1390 Venton Ave., and Mona’ s house, he went.
By the way, if you ask an old timer around the Cutoff they can still show you the old Bordeaux Point airstrip, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. Maybe I’ll tell it to ya one day.