Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Little Mr. Ackerman
Annoyed contestants waited in line under the Choctaw Lake Pavilion for the annual Little Mr. Ackerman Contest. Mommas spit shined shoes, carefully combed and parted hair for the tenth time, hoping their son would win the silver cup.
“Contestant eight, Jimmy Sunn!” Curly blond locks brushed against his shoulders as he walked forward donning a shy but confident smile.
Behind cupped hands, parents whispered, “When ya’ thank they gonna cut that boy’s hair?”
Moon Sunn took first prize in the contest. He was destined to more than live up to his new designation. He entered first grade in Ackerman, Mississippi, in 1942.
In the post-depression, pre-WW2 South, most families in rural towns kept a few farm animals; mostly chickens, pigs and a milk cow. Mack and Willie were no exception.
A loud thump reverberated through the backyard when Patty hit the ground inside the pig pen. Moon recalls, “Patty tried to climb that fence around that pig-pen because she wanted to hold one of them cute little baby pigs. She fell straight down right in front of the trough. That big sow charged her instantly and was gonna’ tear her to pieces.”
Hearing the commotion, young Moon scaled the fence and in one huge leap landed on top the charging sow. Grabbing her two floppy ears for reins, he rode the big sow rodeo style around the pen. Othermother, hearing Patty sobs and Moon’s yells, ran out, reached over the fence and pulled Patty to safety.
Aunt Patty recalls, “Momma told me when she got out there your daddy was still riding that pig around and around.”
A predestined rescuer from birth, Moon would save many others from the jaws of death in years to come, but sometimes he arrived on the scene too late.
Crickets and tree frogs created a rhythmic cadence in the towering oaks as heels clinked against the boards of the long echoey hallway. On opposite ends, Othermother and Jimmy, slowly walked forward exchanging places, eyes glued to the text they held in their hands. “Start again from the beginning.”
Aunt Patty recalls, “She would recite one line, your daddy the next, Longfellow, Keats, Poe. Your daddy had a gift. He could memorize entire long poems and he would never miss even a single word.”
Moon Sunn can also remember every minute detail of every fishing article he’s ever read, thousands over a lifetime, they are all sacred to him.
“My sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Ruth Mabus instilled in me my love for poetry.”