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The Shot for Relief

October 5, 2014
Terry Vaughan

The Magnolia State is getting lots of pub these days for its college football exploits.  Over 30 years ago a former fertilizer salesman from Yazoo City put Mississippi on the map by capturing the imagination of country music radio listeners all over this nation.

Howard Gerald Clower played football at Mississippi State and eventually became the top sales agent for Mississippi Chemical Fertilizer Company. Seems his clients always asked him to come back and tell the side splitting stories of rural life he experienced growing up in the sticks.

Jerry Clower eventually began to be in demand on the speaking circuit and was discovered by MCA Records. His  recording of a story entitled "'The Coon Hunt" went platinum, with over one million in retail sales. The homespun comedian was the toast of country radio and his 5 minute snippets helped boost ratings while eliciting laughs from an audience that wanted more.

Clower made a memorable concert stop in Bradford County 30 years ago and the event was recorded for his album "Starke Raving."

"The Coon Hunt" routine was a re-telling of a story of a hunting party Jerry was part of in backwoods Mississippi. The guys had turned loose their dogs to sniff out and tree racoons and sure enough, the entire pack was soon baying up a huge sweet gum.   

One of the hunters was a fellow named John Eubanks who fancied himself a conservationist. He convinced the group that it would never be proper to simply shoot a racoon out of a tree. Rather, he opined, that is was only fair to give the coon "a sporting chance." John decided he would climb to the top of the sweet gum tree and knock the poor animal off its branch with a sharp stick and to the ground. At least this would provide the furry target a running start before the dogs took pursuit.

John shimmied up the base of the sweet gum until he was obscured by the tree's foliage for the hunting party below.

The team of crusty outdoorsmen began to cheer John on with chants of "Knock him out John!!"

Sure enough, John kept on climbing until he found himself eye-to-eye with the racoon. The problem wasn't a racoon sitting on the limb. Unbeknowst to the hunters below, John had encounted a fiesty linx. Or as Jerry described it in his routine-"A souped-up wildcat."

The entire tree began to shake violently and screams of anquish eminated from every limb. Meanwhile, John's friends continued to encourage with their cheerleading chant-"Knock him out John!"   

John and the fired up feline went toe-to-toe for what seemed an eternity in the top of the sweet gum, with leaves flying everywhere and noises that could curdle a cup of coffee. John finally yelled down to his puzzled friends below-commanding them to take a pistol and to fire indisciminatly up into the tree.

"But John", one of the hunters replied, "we can't see what is going on up there..we may shoot you!"

"I don't care" John answered.."One of us has got to get relief !!!"

Last Friday the 0-5 Tornadoes found themselves on the end of a limb when an 0-5 Interlachen team climbed up their tree and looked them straight in the eye.  Both teams were in pain-enduring the bites and scratches of a brutal schedule. Both had a sharp stick in hand ready to dislodge the other from its perch.

What happens when a ruffled Ram meets a testy Tornado up in a tree?

When the leaves stopped flying and the shouting was over, Bradford found its relief. I am not sure, but I think I heard  few shouts from the homecoming crowd during the battle. Something like: "Knock 'em out Corey !"

For Corey Green, the players and Tornado fans everywhere, the 35-13 victory has provided relief, a spring in the step, wind in the sails, and a new lease on life.

But this Friday the Tornadoes must climb a tall sweet gum planted in the heart of Wakulla County where they will encounter a powerful 5A War Eagle team waiting on a limb, sharp stick in hand.

Impossible task? Maybe. But who would've thought back in the day that a lowly country fertilizer salesman from Yazoo City, Mississippi would slay the audience of country radio?