3Qs: William Winter about Willie Morris

By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal

Tupelo Reads recently announced “My Dog Skip,” written by famed Mississippi writer Willie Morris, will be the book residents are encouraged to read in September. Special events are also planned that month. On Sept. 25, one of Morris’ neighbors – former Gov. William Winter – will speak at the Lee County Library. Gov. Winter answered three questions for staff writer Robbie Ward.
Q: What do you like most about the book, “My Dog Skip”?
A: “My Dog Skip” was one of my favorites because it reminded me of a dog named Sip that was one of my schoolboy pets. I found that Skip and Sip had a lot in common, especially their love of football. Both were excellent open field runners, but unfortunately they had a tendency to run out of bounds when they were about to be tackled. Willie and I used to compare notes on those two dogs. Skip of course, went on to acquire a certain amount of literary fame, while Sip was destined to live in obscurity.

Q: What makes Mississippi such a breeding ground for great writers?
A: When Willie Morris was asked that question, he would frequently tell of his conversation on that subject with the caretaker of the cemetery in Oxford where William Faulkner is buried. The old man’s response to that question was, “Willie, most folks just couldn’t make a living farming this old dry red clay.”
A more serious response would be that since so much great literature arises out of adversity and conflict, Mississippi’s troubled and conflicted past has provided an almost unsurpassed background for storytelling and deeply held personal memories.

Q: I’m sure you have plenty of Willie Morris stories from being neighbors. Can you share one?
A: For six years in the 1990s, Willie and his lovely wife JoAnne were our close neighbors, our homes separated by a little shallow stream to which Willie gave the colorful name Purple Crane Creek. One night shortly after he moved to our street, my phone rang, and I heard Willie saying apologetically, “Governor, I hate to disturb your evening but in examining the deed to my lot, I have found that I own half of your front yard.” Having been forewarned of his fondness for playing tricks on his friends, I was able to overcome my shock at his words by replying, “But, Willie, my deed reads that I have an easement on your property that permits my dog Fritz to play in your backyard anytime he wants to.”

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