“I am a retired school teacher from Florida. I played a little minor league baseball and coached football. My brother, Ernest, played pro football for the Houston Oilers and the Jacksonville Jaguars. We started a summer sports camp in Mileston, MS but then COVID hit and we had to shut it down. We hope to start the camp up again.
A lot of folks can’t understand why I left Florida to come here. This is the poorest area in Mississippi and the United States. There can’t be more than 300 people in Mileston. Sometimes the GPS doesn’t even bring you here. Four years ago, I had never heard of places like Belzoni or Yazoo City. My buddies said, ‘You are crazy. You come from the hood and now you’re in the woods.’ Sometimes the Lord tells you where you need to be and what you need to do. The Lord called me to help this community, so I am still here.
I got tired of driving 30 miles to Lexington or 20 miles to Tchula for groceries or gas, so I bought this gas station that had been closed for 10 years. Now I run a gas station.
I am like a fish out of water here and I am not used to the scenery. I went to school in Nebraska and remember outhouses, horses, and open fields, but I never saw cotton in real life until I moved here. The soil is so rich. I wanted a mural to help bring people together and show what this area is all about. A young lady drew a picture for me on a sheet of paper. Before she was halfway done, I asked her to paint it on this wall. It took her about two days. The people love it and take pictures next to it. They are hungry for something different and this gives them a little pride in where they live.
I got a four-wheeler to try and fit in, but I am not going hunting in the woods. There was a big buck behind the building with those big things on his head. I didn’t know they were called antlers. I told someone he had two football goal posts on his head. She told me never to say that again. But you could kick field goals between them.
I hope this gas station provides a service to the community. Gas is expensive and some people don’t have transportation to go out of town. We have some groceries and things they need in the store. We hope it grows into more. Mom always told me, if you don’t imagine big, then why even waste your time. We’ll just keep putting our best foot forward and see what happens.”