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Hogs, Mules, and Yellow Dogs

Growing Up on a Mississippi Subsistence Farm

By Jimmye Hillman

Publication Year: 2012

"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.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Foreword, by Robert Hass

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pp. xi-xvi

It’s in the nature of things that whole worlds disappear. Their vanishings, more often than not, go unrecorded or pass into myth, This book ensures that one of those worlds survives by setting it before us in its vivid lived life. It does for one patch of ground what historians, centuries after the fact, hunger for; it makes a memorable ...

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pp. xvii-xviii

From my den in Tucson, I look out over the Sonoran Desert to the Santa Catalina Mountains on the northern skyline, and I consider how fortunate I am to have lived these many years in two wondrous places. Although southern Mississippi and southern Arizona differ in many ways, there are striking similarities. Each has a rich natural ...


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The Suddy Sow

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pp. 1-15

His eyes were sharply focused on the objects of a lifelong avocation, which had, in the Great Depression, become a source of family subsistence and income. The hogs’ wary eyes ...

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The Easiest Way to Pineville

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pp. 16-26

The search for my own human kinship began with the place of my origins: Pineville. And getting there meant going through New Orleans.
On a recent day in April, I flew to the airport named for Louis Armstrong, for the Satchmo himself, after the Crescent City had for ...

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Discovering Sounds

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pp. 27-38

She died believing there was a body in the box. They called it a radio. She departed Earth skeptical of the noises and sounds emanating from that audio device that her husband, Charlie, had slyly deposited in the parlor of their five-gabled ...

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The Avera I Knew

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pp. 39-48

...front, they formed two lines according to class, waiting to march in when he gave the signal. A young man, already gray, his face reflected not only worries of being principal but of being community leader, caretaker of his parents, and ...

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Thad Hill

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pp. 49-62

In 1935, my parents moved the family from the teacher’s home in Avera back to Neely, the geographical center of Greene County Hillman origins. Employment possibilities as teachers were bleak, but they decided to build ...

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pp. 63-73

Over the dog’s whine, the voice of the nightly freight train spoke forlornly. Its message through the moist evening air above Thad Hill wafted as clearly as that sent by the odor of creosote from the paper mill upriver from the town. Sound plus ...

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Widow Smith’s Blue Boar

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pp. 74-86

The old man took a deep breath in contemplation. A late-vintage Model T Ford jerked its way forward over ruts, made principally by mule and wagon. Balloon tires had not yet been perfected, and the ride was rough. As we neared ...

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Charles Hillman

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pp. 87-103

“Who was Pinckney George?” my granddaughter Louisa asked. “I can barely read his name on the headstone. It says, ‘Born 1829.’ Lots of Hillmans in this graveyard.”
We had been wandering through Old Washington cemetery on the first leg of a trip to my boyhood stomping grounds in Neely. We...

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The Old Turner Place

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pp. 104-110

“Grandpa, of all your properties, what’s your favorite?” I asked, risking another of his condescending grunts, as he and I were walking toward the barn. Only seven, I was sufficiently adroit to know that he himself had...

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The No-yer’d Bar

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pp. 111-124

In the end we all come to be cured of our sentiments. Those whom life does not cure death will. The world is quite ruthless in selecting between the dream and the reality . . . Between the wish and the The ancient prenullHellenic nullreek practice ...

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Greene County Dictionary

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pp. 125-138

I have just read two small, delightful books: Simon Winchester’s The Meaning of Everything, the story of the evolution of the Oxford English Dictionary, which is the culmination of a ...

Life on the Farm

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One Mississippi Christmas, 1931

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pp. 141-148

Last night, I went to Midnight Mass at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, with its Santa Fe architecture and southern Arizona desert setting conducive to memory of ancient ...

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pp. 149-158

She came to us in 1931, mostly on her termsnull At the beginning Avera and we lived at the teacher’s home. She had come to replace Iola Pipkins, our white helper who had to return home because of white, she needed ...

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Uncle Bo

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pp. 159-165

“Jim. Jim!” he exclaimed plaintively as he pulled up his shorts hurriedly to hide his hot rod. “Jim,” he begged, “you won’t tell nobody bout this, will you?” I was on my way back from ...

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Humoring a Mule

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pp. 166-171

In my eighth and ninth years I spent time during the summers helping Grandpa with many farm chores at Old House. I enjoyed helping him draw water from the well, chop stove t..

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What We Ate Back Then

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pp. 172-188

On a hot and humid June Sunday in 1934, Aunt Liz invited us for dinner. The day was typical and routine—preaching, then eating. The females busied themselves cleaning up and washing dishes before moving ...

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Sex on the Farm

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pp. 189-197

“Wha dey doin! Wha dey doin, Daddy?” he shouted. “Pecker, pecker, pecker! Wha dey doin, scriddlin? Scriddlin, Daddy?”
The right side of his brain was busy picturing the scene in the pasture. The left side was occupied with processing: what’s going

God and Politics

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Old Washington Baptist

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pp. 201-233

“Oh! Why not tonight? Oh! Why not tonight?” the small congregation wailed plaintively at the end of a week of revival-meeting preaching, singing, praying, and not a small amount of indulgent ...

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Yellow Dog Politics

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pp. 234-256

Huddled under a kerosene lamp in our parlor one late summer evening in the mid-1930s, the candidate in the soft chair and one of his precinct workers on the floor pored over a handwritten list of names. It was hot, and a dank smell ...


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Soft Womb of Greene County

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pp. 259-265

It appeared not unlike a thousand other rural villages. But the place where I was born and raised wasn’t anything like them. In fact, it was very dissimilar, because that spot of Earth was ...

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About the Author

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p. 267-267

Jimmye Hillman was born in 1923 and grew up on a subsistence farm in southern Mississippi. He received his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, and has been associated with the University of Arizona in ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599707
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816529919

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2012