You'll find this peaceful spot in the Greenville Cemetery in Greenville, Mississippi. Go through the main gate, then turn right and follow the little road for maybe a hundred yards. Can't miss it. There lies the two men who had more impact, good and bad, on the Mississippi Delta than anyone else. |
On the right:
Nov 9, 1869 Dec 24, 1929
In the middle, his son:
May 14, 1895 Jan 21, 1942
Notice the tombstone erected by William Alexander for his father. It's a bronze statue of a Crusader resting on his sword. Large letters carved on the pedestal below the statue read: PATRIOT
Etched in the bronze near the statue's left foot and in much smaller letters is the name of the artist and the date: MALVINA HOFFMAN 1930
That bronze statue is about seven feet tall. I'm over six feet tall, and I stood on the pedestal beside it and it towered over me. The granite slab behind the statue must be ten feet tall. Even standing on my tip-toes I couldn't touch the top of it. Chiseled into the other side of it–without credit to the author–are the last two stanzas of "The Last Word" by English poet Matthew Arnold (1822 – 1888). Here's the entire poem:
Here's where Leroy Percy's tombstone money came fromout of cotton sacks like this one hanging from the front wall of Roy's Store in Chatham, Mississippi. Stretched on a frame to the right of the cotton sack, you see a possum hide. If that possum lived circa 1929, the sweat from the brows of the people who ate its carcass probably helped buy Leroy Percy's tombstone.
Using the front doors of Roy's Store as a reference, you can see that the cotton sack is about six feet long. On the left and open end, the looped strap goes around the picker's shoulder. The picker drags the sack between two rows. The procedure is a seemingly endless pick and drag . . . pick and drag . . . pick and drag. . . . All out in the middle of a huge field with the sun blazing down and, to the picker's eye, at least a mile to the shade and the water jug at the end of the row. All with blood oozing from where the strap rubbed the picker's shoulder raw and with blood dripping from where the thorn-like cotton boll husks pricked the picker's fingers.
Not only sweat bought Leroy Percy's tombstone, so did blood.
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|For a much closer look at the Percys read Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood Of 1927 And How It Changed America by John M. Barry. Click on the prices and get it at Amazon.com (Paperback about $12 or Hardback about $19) or check it out of your local library.|