Jim Jewell: On birds, mules, basketball

Hummingbirds have become an attraction for us in the Southwest corner.
Apr 8, 2014
Jim Jewell

Hummingbirds have become an attraction for us in the Southwest corner. 

We enjoy watching them feed on the lavender outside our breakfast room most of the year. But our relationship has become more personal in the past month.

My parents have always been enchanted with birds. My father always was erecting bird houses where he and my mother could watch them. His last birdhouse still proudly stands on the fence of their condo in Deer Park. They too had a hummingbird feeder, but for some inexplicable reason, the little critters quit coming around.

Recently, Bill and Kathy Denny installed bird feeders outside my mother’s window at Elmcroft. I get daily reports of the visiting avians.

Back out on the left coast, a hummingbird built her nest outside our family room window. We watched the mother sit on her two eggs, each the size of an M&M and feed them after they hatched. 

Last weekend, one of the hatchlings left to discover the world. The other remains, the mother patiently feeding her frequently. She will be gone soon, and we will feel like we have lost some friends.

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Somehow this hummingbird thing made me think of Mule Day. My father once told me about Mule Day on the square in Lebanon, an annual spring event when folks from all around would bring their mules to the square for selling, trading, and showing off. I’ve seen photos of the event showing the entire square filled with mules. Jimmy Jewell and his high school buddies all got together, I believe it was in 1934, and made their plans for Mule Day. 

I’m sure H.M. Byars and Jim Horn Hankins were involved in the plot. All of the boys played hooky on Mule Day and enjoyed the mule antics on the square. The next year, Lebanon High School made Mule Day a school holiday.

I’m not sure when the square quit hosting Mule Day so I searched the internet for information. To my surprise, I found Columbia still has a Mule Day, and it has turned into a big festival of sorts. I was even more amazed to learn Columbia considers itself the “Mule Capitol of the World.” I wondered if the winner of the beauty contest is titled “Miss Mule,” or perhaps “Mule Queen.”

My other mule story also came from my father. Jimmy Jewell quit high school before his senior year began in 1934. His father, Hiram Cully Jewell, had contracted tuberculosis, and Jimmy was the son who could go to work to support the family. Jesse and Wesley had their own families; Naomi was a switchboard operator for Ma Bell on Gay Street, but her income alone was not sufficient to support the family; and Huffman was still a few years away from being a full-time employee.

Wesley got my father hired at Philpot Motors, later McDowell Motor Company on the west corner of North Maple and Main Street. There was a flatbed trailer behind Philpot’s, and my father, after lunch on the square, would climb up on that flatbed and take a nap. The mule barn was just north on the corner of North Maple and West Market. The barn had a loud horn that called the workers back after lunch. That was father’s alarm for his nap.

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Talking to my mother Sunday, I heard another story I had not heard before. As readers of this column should know, Estelle Prichard, was an original inductee into the Blue Devil Hall of Fame for her star performance on the basketball court. Approaching 97, she remains interested in the sport and was watching Notre Dame beat Baylor when I called. 

She mentioned she had read a piece in the Sunday paper about the Nashville Business College’s women team. It was an AAU team sponsored by the now defunct college beginning in the early 1930s. When Estelle graduated from Lebanon High School in 1935, she took a position with Commerce Union Bank, then on the northeast corner of the square and East Main. The Nashville Business College team came calling and asked her to play for them.

She said her family discussed it and decided she should keep her new job.

She also mentioned Jimmy Jewell didn’t want her to leave.

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Hummingbirds, mules and basketball: Stories I could have never made up.

Jim Jewell, a retired Navy commander lives in San Diego but was raised in Lebanon. His book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, is now available through Author House, Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Jim’s email is jim@jimjewwell.com.

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