Reaching down into the mailbag

Posted on: June 11,2014

Often readers comment on stories and columns on this website long after publication. And, for that reason, I fear a lot of readers, who might be interested, never read the comments.
Today, let’s catch up on what readers have said about some past columns and blogs.
Well over a year ago, I wrote a column on Mike Dennis, the former Murrah and Ole Miss football star, who was retiring from his Jackson dentist practice and moving back to Oxford.
Reader Tod Littlefield apparently didn’t see the piece until today. Wrote Littlefield:
I knew Mike as a child in 1968-1970 when he played for the (Los Angeles)Rams.  He, Jeff Jordan, Billy Truax and others would come to Kern County and go duck hunting with my dad.  He was the kindest man…he had an aura around him that was just good and I could sense this as a young boy.  My mom thought of him like a son and pointed to Mike as what it was to be a man. 
I was so sad when he injured his knee during the preseason in ’70, I think it was against Pittsburgh.  After his surgery his wife (I think her name was Lori) called us and said that he would not be able to play football again.  She also said, ‘Mike was so fond of y’all.’
I remember being so happy that Mike would think of our family in that way. I wanted to be like him so much that I played football in high school, made all-league, played in the Central California All-Star Football Game and received a football scholarship to Boise State (opening game against Ole Miss this year).  Like most great people, Mike has an impact on those around him far, far greater than he knows.”
Hall of Famer Bill Buckner died last month, prompting an outpouring of praise for Buckner’s character — and sympathy for his family. Buckner once played for Hall of Famer Bull Sullivan at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba and Big Vic Sullivan, Bull’s oldest son, did not learn of Buckner’s death until this week. Wrote Sullivan:
“I learned today that Bill Buckner died on May 23rd. Bill may have been the best player that Daddy ever coached but for sure he was the finest person to ever wear the Lions uniform.
“He will be missed.”

When long-time Jackson columnist Orley Hood died in February, I wrote about what had he had meant to Mississippi and to me, personally.
Others have since chimed in. Here are two:
From Mickey Spagnola, whose journalism career took him from the Jackson Daily News to Dallas:

There are certain people in your life you never forget. Orley Hood was one of them. He was my boss. He was my friend. That’s always a hard double. Why it’s been nearly 30 years since I left the Jackson Daily News for Dallas to continue my sports writing career, and when I look back, and I’ve seen this word thrown out liberally since Orley passed away, it was working for the Daily News that I think I found my soul as a writer, figuring out it was OK to look at things a tad differently, to not be afraid to bare my own. I’m guessing Orley rubbed off on me.There are also some flashbacks that are alive as yesterday. I remember my first spring in Jackson loading into Orley’s old jalopy (Mercedes I think), heading down to New Orleans for something they called Jazz Fest. Who knew you could have so much fun. Windows down, tape in, we’re singing Allman Brothers at the top of our lungs, Ramblin’ Man. His grin was priceless. Then the one of many times at George Street, sitting there over beers, both having been totally enamored by one of the waitresses who knew our names, me trying to convince Orley to finally ask her out. Come on Orley, she likes you. Told him if he didn’t I would. He did. Mary Ann said yes, and you guys know the rest of that story.Seems I’ve been saying this a lot lately. Too many times. But how lucky are we to have known someone worth shedding tears over in the end.”
And, from Lee “Scoop” Ragland, another former colleague at the Jackson newspapers:

In my former life as a newspaper man I marveled at (and envied) Orley’s talents. In the early 1980s we worked on the Jackson Daily News sport staff, which produced the afternoon paper. Orley would stroll in about 5:30 a.m. with brief case in hand and often uncertain of that day’s column topic. “O” would grab a cup of coffee, sit down at his keyboard and about 45 minutes later finish a piece that the rest of us would read and think ‘Damn, I just wish I could write ONE column like that.’
He did it three days a week.
The only drawback was being told to give Orley’s column “a read” and make any needed edits. Yeah right. It was telling someone who paints by numbers to touch up a Picasso. The man could just flat out write a column.”


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