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Playing hard, working hard in Snooky's town

By By Sid Salter / syndicated columnist
May 1, 2002
WATER VALLEY Longtime readers of this column will recall rather frequent references over the years to my friend and Neshoba County Fair neighbor M.B "Snooky" Williams Sr. who resides in this beautiful Yalobusha County town.
Snooky and his brother, Harold, share a fair cabin due west of the one I share with Gale Denley. Both of the Williams boys are married to lovely ladies named Mary Lou which is confusing for the uninitiated but we have no trouble telling them apart.
Along with the George Mars family, we have spent wonderful summers together with the Williams at Neshoba. If there were an All-Star team for fair patrons, Snooky and Mary Lou would lead the squad. In addition to the wild mix of five families worth of kids, grandkids, in-laws, outlaws, guests and interlopers spread among the three cabins, Denley and I have learned to keep our eyes on Snooky.
Taking a look around
Snooky plays hard. Pranks, jokes, hokem-and-pokem, he's always up to something. I think of Mary Lou as the cruise director for the north side of the Square. Children simply love Mary Lou, for she sees the campground fair as a place where people never have to grow old least of all her and Snooky.
So when Snooky invited me to speak at the Water Valley Chamber of Commerce annual meeting, I admit that my mind was more on visiting with Snooky and Mary Lou than taking a serious look at Water Valley. Most of my prior visits to Yalobusha County had been spent spelunking with Gale Denley at his old family homeplace or attending Denley or Simpson family funerals in Coffeeville.
After a very late night in the Faculty Row bungalow in the mid-1980s, I let Willie Morris talk me into an ill-fated run to Taylor for catfish that eventually found us lost on a moonless night in the general vicinity of Enid Lake.
Monday afternoon, I arrived in Water Valley with a little time to spare and took a drive around town taking in the sights. While Snooky and Mary Lou and their real neighbors indeed play hard, it's evident that they and the leadership of Yalobusha County work hard, too.
The city's 3A public school system is in good shape and competitive in extra-curricular and academic pursuits. There is an active downtown revitalization program underway.
Playing hard, working hard
The county just landed a $32 million beef cattle slaughter plant through some $27 million in state-guaranteed loans and grants the largest state investment in a single food production facility in Mississippi history that should employ 350 workers. State Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Lester Spell says the facility will add value to the herds of cattlemen across Mississippi.
South Mississippians, particularly business leaders in Walthall County, had earlier lobbied for a similar facility in their area. But Yalobusha County's legislative delegation along with the strong hand of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Billy McCoy apparently steered the project north. The excitement over landing the agri-business facility is palpable.
Rep. Tommy Reynolds, Rep. Steve Holland and State Sen. Grey Tollison joined Spell in receiving a lot of grateful pats on the back for bringing the plant "home."
Water Valley is a small town of only 3,677 souls. The county cut the ribbon on a new multi-purpose facility on the afternoon I was in town. There are new buildings on the school campus as well.
Monday, I found a small north Mississippi town that works hard and plays hard. The people there seem determined to be second to no one. Like Snooky, they seem to know when to play hard and when to work hard. In the life of a town, sometimes that makes all the difference.

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