Writing stories to pass values from one generation to the next

Star Proper (A Lines in the Gravel Excerpt)

Star Proper (A Lines in the Gravel Excerpt)

“Star proper.”  I chuckle at the phrase.  Star, Mississippi, is a small dot on the map 18 miles south of Jackson right along Highway 49, and it is my hometown. Since Star was then and still remains an unincorporated town, its boundaries are nebulous. When I think of the Star of my childhood, I remember what my dad and I now call “Star proper.” As kids, my sisters and brother and I could have walked, ridden our bikes, and (eventually) ridden my motorcycle to any place within those boundaries.

Just a tenth of a mile west off the highway was the main intersection of Star proper. To turn left was to go toward Star Baptist Church. To turn right was to go toward Wesleyanna United Methodist Church. To continue on straight was to go toward the Star Volunteer Fire Department and Rankin Academy. And right there at the intersection was the hub of industry in Star–Mangum’s Store. The post office was located inside the store until the Star post office opened in its very own building halfway between the store and the Methodist church.

Star proper was once a booming place with much industry. However, as the automobile gained traction in the mid-20th century, much of the activity of Star proper ground slowly to a halt. The Star proper I know was defined by the….

A Key Word in Remembering Star Proper

When my family spends time re-telling the stories of our childhood, I notice an interesting word coming up time and time again: the. The is a most-often unobserved article used to point out a specific noun as opposed to a general noun (the store versus a store). While it may also indicate a lack of choice, the has endeared itself to me as an article of stability straight from Smalltown, USA.

Allow me to re-describe Star, starting from our house about a mile from the intersection that unofficially marked Star proper:

  • From our driveway we would turn right onto the road.
  • We would follow the road around a turn and Aunt Sissie and Uncle Cecil’s house, down the hill by Pop and Granny’s house, and around a slight turn until the road dead-ended into the big road, where we would take a right toward town.
  • As we neared town, we would cross over the railroad tracks and pass the fire department.
  • Just over the hill from the fire department was the store. And from there we could easily get to the Baptist church, the Methodist church, and the post office. Or to the highway.

Directions were easy. We didn’t have to define which fire station, which store, which Baptist or Methodist church. The only problem was that there was nothing signifying our road; it wasn’t until much later, with the implementation of the 911 emergency response system, that our road was officially even given the name Ainsworth Road and that a sign indicating it as such was installed. Throughout this book, I will be relating different childhood adventures from Star, Mississippi. Occasionally, I will mention the this or the that. Don’t spend your time fretting about which one; chances are, there was just one.

Values Learned From Star Proper

When I read Ephesians 4:4-6 in my Bible, I smile. “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (HCSB). I’ve never struggled with this passage and the exclusivity of Paul’s claims; after all, I grew up in Star, Mississippi, where there was only one of most everything. And one was generally enough.

We never called them “traffic lights.” They were always “red lights.”

Through the years, as I have told people from different parts of the state and country that I am from Star, Mississippi, I have often been asked something like, “Is that one of those one-traffic-light type of towns?” I would respond, “No, but we’re hoping…”

In waxing nostalgic about my hometown, I am not longing for days gone by. Instead, I want to give bygone days their proper perspective on the legacy of my family. Star is part of my story. Many of my values came from living in a small town. I desire to capture them and pass them down to my kids, not try to relive them. Trying to bring back the past is always in vain as time marches on relentlessly. Not forgetting where you came from—well, that’s part of building a legacy.

Star Proper Today

The Star proper of today is not the same as my childhood memories, not by a long shot. The Baptist church burned years ago and was rebuilt right at the main intersection. The old school burned and remains a pile of rubble.

Star proper

There’s my dad in the green jacket, anchoring the back corner of the veteran’s float in the Star Christmas parade. Hi, gang!

Today, Star has names for its roads. It has a birdhouse manufacturer that sends top-of-the-line birdhouses all over the nation. It has a chemical industry and, until recently, two gas stations. It has a Family Dollar Store (known locally known as the Star Wal-Mart.) It has a Woman’s Club, an annual Christmas parade, a homecoming parade for the local high school, and an annual 5K run.

Oh, and Star now has the traffic light out where the big road crosses the highway. Just past Star proper.

Note: Since the latest printing of my book, Star now has a Mississippi Country Music Trail marker down by the stop sign officially designating Star as Faith Hill’s hometown.

Check out the story behind the title, Lines in the Gravel.


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About Al Ainsworth

Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell.

Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel, Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and the Coach Dave series. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.

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