Return To Choctaw Ridge

It's been a real long time, Billie Joe...more'n thirty years since I been back to Choctaw Ridge, I reckon. It ain't changed much. I ain't changed much neither, apart from being a good deal older and a might wiser than I was then. I see they ain't done a lick to clean up the river. It's still as muddy as it ever was.

I hung around for a couple of years after it happened. I didn't feel right going nowhere while Mama were still alive.

I was hoping perhaps my brother and Becky...Becky Thompson that was. Did you know they got hitched in the summer of '62, shortly after Papa died? I saw 'em maybe five or six years ago. They're grandparents now, Billie Joe. Hard to imagine, ain't it? Anyways, I thought maybe they'd take Mama with them to Tupelo when they bought that convenience store, but they didn't even offer. Guess they figured she was my responsibility...me being the daughter of the family and all.

Mama never were the same after Papa passed away. Didn't never make another apple pie. No buttermilk biscuits neither. Papa sure was partial to them buttermilk biscuits. Seems like he was a-pouring gravy over a heap of 'em when Mama mentioned she'd heard you done jumped off the bridge. I won't tell you what he said about you, Billie Joe. It weren't so flattering.

I eventually got to Vegas, Billie Joe. Remember we used to talk about that? I worked the blackjack tables. Good money, not to mention the tips. Met this gal there. She was a dancer but wanted to be...you know...one of them pop singers. Called herself Bobbie something-or-other. Don't quite recollect the last name, but it don't matter none 'cos it weren't her real one anyway.

Well, we got to talking some and I told her what happened here in Choctaw Ridge. Oh...don't go churning up them waters now. I didn't tell her everything. She wrote a song about it, Billie Joe. I do believe it was on the top of them hit parade charts for about a month. That would have been '67, if memory serves. Kinda made you a household word for a while and had everybody speculating.

That gal changed a few things though. I guess it's what they call "poetic license." Said it happened in June and that my brother was baling hay...like he ever baled hay in his life! She also said Papa died of a virus. Fact is, he just went to bed one night and never woke up. Mama put her foot down about doing any cutting on him to see why he died, so I suppose nobody will ever know for sure. Not necessarily a bad thing. He wouldn't have liked it.

Still, a lot of what she wrote were true. Like that conversation we had after church on the Sunday before you jumped off this here bridge. Thought they'd never quit questioning me about that. I didn't give nuthin' away though, just like I promised.

Course, you know Preacher Taylor thought he saw you and me up here throwing something into the river? Didn't think they'd ever stop badgering me about that neither. In the end, I told them it weren't me. There were lotsa girls in Choctaw Ridge at the time who were about my size with long, brown hair...right, Billie Joe?

Know what I find so strange? That nobody ever did wonder what you was doing up at the sawmill the day before...not even after my brother told everyone he'd seen you. I mean, you had no reason to be there. No good one, anyhow. They never did put two and two together.

Still, that fact don't surprise me none really. Simple arithmetic always did elude most folks in these parts.

Oh, now don't go getting in a snit, making them eddies in the water and disturbing all that nice, thick river mud. Never know what you might stir up there, Billie Joe. That's another thing that ain't changed none. You sure ain't mellowed out over the years, boy!

Take it easy, honey pie. You ain't got no cause to worry. As long as you keep my secret safe, Billie Joe, then I'm honor bound to keep yours.

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