15-Nov-2010 -- The legend of Scissors continues to grow! OK, let’s get it out of the way right up front: In the nearly ten years since Danny Strickland posted the first and to date only visit here, not much has changed at 34N 90W. I approached from the opposite direction, coming through Oxford, MS, then south on I-55 until I turned west on MS 32, about ten miles from Charleston, which, coming from the east side, is definitely (as it calls itself) the “Gateway to the Delta.” About 5km before the center of town, I could see the confluence point in a bare field just north of Highway 32. Stepping carefully to avoid the recent fall planting, I walked out and quickly took my pictures. I hurried, as the morning’s on-again, off-again rain looked like it was about to turn back on. Plus, the local site I was most interested in seeing was still another 500 meters on down Highway 32 to the west: the historic home of Scissors the Hog.
As you may recall from Danny Strickland’s 2001 conversation with John Burnett Jr., back in the day, Scissors was at least as well known as Charleston’s most famous current resident, the Academy Award winning actor Morgan Freeman. The pride of Col. Tom James, Scissors was a Duroc-Jersey boar who earned “World Champion” status in 1917 and 1918. Col. Tom had constructed a special house for his prize winning pig, which in 2001 was in bad need of repair. Danny reported a local campaign under way to raise money to restore the building and have it placed on the National Register of Historic Places. A decade later, I was excited to see how this project might have developed.
Before setting out for Charleston, I had taken to my computer to learn as much as I could about the famous Scissors. I somehow stumbled on the “Deer Camp Blog” (which one reader describes as “this is the X-Files of the hunting world”) and found a strange combination of fact and fancy that told how “People bussed in from Bugtussel, walked in from Water Valley, and traipsed over from Tippo to see the giant animal.” Fortunately, this mostly concocted myth had brought out comments from modern members of the Col. Tom James family, and I was able to confirm a few facts. According to Keith Pruett of Tupelo, Scissors was documented at 1800 lbs. in 1920: “At one point, he reportedly reached 2300 lbs. but this documentation is unreliable. My late father-in-law, the son of Col. Tom James, was an honorable and truthful man. He told me on numerous occasions Scissors weighed right at a ton as long as he could remember. The family children commonly rode him like a pony.” This last fact was confirmed by Keith’s distant cousin and a great-great-grand daughter of Col. Tom, Kate Holden, who reported her grandfather Tom Gray rode Scissors as a child. She also has posted some photographs of Scissors and friends.
As I came over a small rise just west of 34N 90W, I found the former home of the rotund swine has indeed been restored by C.A.R.E., the Charleston (MS) Arts Revitalization Effort. A newer west wing to the structure has been removed and the whole building surrounded with a nice concrete pad. Although the interior still needs some work, and I couldn’t find any documentation that the house has been added to the National Register, its condition has definitely improved since 2001. This past March, C.A.R.E. hosted an art and history event in downtown Charleston. If not from Bugtussel, Water Valley, and Tippo, a crowd of over 60 people from as far away as Memphis, Oxford, and Greenwood gathered to hear Sallie Holden of Gulfport tell about the life and accomplishments of her great grandfather Colonel Tom James, and of course talk about his famous hog. Glenna Callender, the Executive Director of CARE said the event was held to educate residents about her small city’s history and heritage. Although she wished more young people had been in attendance, she deemed the meeting a great success. CARE president Louanne Cossar added: “Charleston is a close-knit town. We are trying to build upon the town’s history and success to keep people here and to attract new residents.” With two world famous attractions like the preserved home of Scissors and the nearby 34N 90W confluence point, it seems Charleston is also well on its way to being a prominent tourist mecca…