The arrival of the Puckettians

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The other day a visitor to our little beach town remarked that she could not recall the coast being so crowded during the week after the 4th of July – a time when Independence Day vacationers usually pack up and leave.
“Where did all these people come from,” she asked.
My answer was simple –  “Puckett.”
Her time at the coast coincided with the annual arrival of the Puckettians, a migration from Mississippi that for a week in July transforms our staid shoreline into a party place. As their made-for-the-occasion t-shirts proclaim, “We’re not here for a long time, but we’re here for a good time.”
The visitor gave me a look that said “you have told me more than I needed to know” and hurried off.
But I really hadn’t.  And if she had hung around longer I would have told her that if “Puckettian” were found in the dictionary the entry would read something like this:
Puckettian (Puck’ett ian) n. resident of Puckett, Mississippi. When not working they can be found hunting,  fishing, riding around in trucks or on four-wheelers, listening to country music, drinking beer, playing sports and going to church.  Particularly notable is the physical attractiveness of Puckettian women. There are no ugly girls in Puckett.
Then I would have told her that Puckett is a rural Mississippi village located in the lower end of Rankin County, about an hour down from Jackson, which most Puckettians think is as close as they want to be. According to the sign welcoming you, “300 good friendly folks and a few old soreheads” live in Puckett.
Puckett is noted for the athletic teams.  The Puckett Attendance Center, as the K-12 education complex was once called, regularly sent teams to state playoffs. This tradition continued even when the Attendance Center picked up five more students, moved up a division and became Puckett High School. This year pretty girls from Puckett High were on the softball team that won the state championship.
For the past few summers roughly half of the “good friendly folks” of Puckett come to Seagrove Beach.
They leave the soreheads behind.
The yearly migration started innocently enough. The Bentons, a prominent Puckett family, have had a house in Seagrove almost as long as we have.  Every summer they bring their children down and a good time is had by all.
Naturally, when they returned to Puckett they told friends what a great place Seagrove is.
The next summer other Puckettians came down. They rented cottages and enjoyed the beach.  Then they went back and told others and pretty soon – you get the picture.
They all come at the same time for Puckettians do things in a bunch. The bigger the bunch, the better. And they bring the whole family, for what’s a bunch without kids? So where you find a bunch of Puckettians, you find their offspring.  All ages, from toddlers to teens. Everyone assumes the responsibility for watching theirs and the others as well. Big folks look after little folks. Big kids look after little kids, and so on and so on.
That was what the visitor had seen when she asked about the crowd – a bunch of Puckettians.
It can be pretty overwhelming. They arrive, loaded with beach gear and coolers.  They bring golf carts down on a flatbed cattle trailer. They rent big houses – packed 20 of ‘em into one. They unload and head for the beach.  There they put up tents, side by side to form one big canopy under which the grownups gather out of the sun. They set up a volley ball net and other games. The whole thing takes on the appearance of one big family reunion – the addition of t-shirts this year added to the imagery.
For a week they sit on the beach, drink beer, eat what they want to eat, watch the kids, play in the surf, and, it seemed to me, think as little as possible about the things they would be doing back in Puckett if they were there, which they aren’t.
I mentioned this observation to my tanned and terrific wife, who quickly corrected me –  “oh yes they are?”
“Are what,” I asked.
“Doing what they do in Puckett.”
Then she explained.
Where most folks come to the beach to do things they can’t do back home, Puckettians come to the beach to do for a week what they do in Puckett when they have a day off.
She was right.
We have been to Puckett and seen it done.
And later this summer, when they have a day off, they will bunch up and do it again – right there in Puckett.
The only difference is that it won’t be at the beach and the pretty girls won’t be wearing bikinis.
At least I don’t think so.
With Puckettians, you never know.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University.  He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.

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