The Choctaw County Geological Society says that most of the early Choctaw settlers were farmers, but forestry later became the leading source of economic growth in the county.
The Tombigbee River was first used for trade before the railroad was finished in 1912. The geological society affirms that this railroad went from north to south, but the railroad that I’m most familiar with went from east to west, cutting through the Findley fields. The Meridian & Bigbee train system was chugging down these tracks by the time I was around. I liked the sound of its shortened name: M & B.
There was a sawmill about a half-mile from our farm—the Gihon Springs Sawmill. My Uncle Gene worked there.
I used to like watching the empty boxcars being filled with sawdust, which would be taken to the nearest paper mill.
A long shoot was attached to the sawmill and hovered high above one of the tracks. A boxcar would be waiting below while the shoot released cascades of yellow sawdust, until the boxcar was filled.
The sawmill had what everyone called a “whistle” that called the workers in to work. I think it blew at lunch and at quitting time, too.
Our store and house was a half-mile away, but we could still hear the wailing of the sawmill whistle. It was low and high-pitched at the same time. Mournful. The closest thing I’ve ever heard to it is my tea kettle when the steam builds up in it.
Once in the middle of the night, when I was a pre-teen, that whistle woke me from my dreams. It was too early for the workers to be called in to work. There was a fire….But that story will have to wait for another day.