Masingill responds to budget proposal eliminating the Agency

Delta Regional Authority (DRA) Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill issued a statement Thursday responding to a proposal from the White House Office of Management and Budget to eliminate numerous independent federal agencies and commissions, including DRA, in the fiscal year 2018 federal budget.

The following is Chairman Masingill’s statement:

“Since being created by Congress in 2000, DRA has been the leading advocate for supporting job creation, building communities, and improving lives across the eight states and 252 counties and parishes we serve in the Mississippi River Delta region and the Black Belt of Alabama.

“Our nation’s top goals include building our infrastructure and ensuring greater security for Americans. These are important and admirable priorities, but it is important to keep in mind that agencies such as DRA are proven vehicles for delivering a modern infrastructure, and security also means providing economic security to our people. DRA has an outstanding track record of making strategic investments in the physical and human infrastructure that supports the economic security of some of the poorest, most underserved communities in our nation.

“DRA is on the ground every day working to improve rural communities. We’re doing our part, and we’re not alone. Our eight Governors, congressional delegation, local mayors and community leaders work well with DRA regardless of political affiliation. We conduct business with the highest standards of public accountability and operational excellence.

“Our agency is not government as usual. We are a lean and effective organization that builds partnerships to invest in infrastructure improvements, workforce development, strengthening competitive communities and supporting small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. Throughout its history, DRA has added value to the budget approved each year by Congress. DRA has invested $163 million into more than 1,000 projects that have partnered with other public and private investments for a total of $3.3 billion. Those investments have helped to create and retain more than 26,000 jobs, train more than 7,200 workers for 21st Century jobs, and deliver water and sewer improvements to more than 64,000 residents.

“You cannot advocate for infrastructure development and economic security in rural America without also supporting the mechanisms, such as DRA, that make those projects a reality. DRA has a dedicated team that will remain focused on the projects and programs that are building the Delta while we work through this long budget process.

“As Chairman of DRA, I will continue to fight for the residents and businesses of our region. The people and communities in the Delta will always be worth fighting for.”

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Creativity skirts Mother Nature

Everybody was so ready for Spring Break but Mother Nature had other ideas for us. SURPRISE!! SURPRISE!! The joke is on all of us.

The rain was bad enough but then we have to deal with a cold spell — Mother Nature is mixed up. I am thankful that we aren’t further north where they got snow, snow and more snow. This weather messed up our little trip to the Memphis Zoo. Granted it wouldn’t have been the most glamorous of trips but it was what we could do at the moment.

Crawford was so excited to go because there is a Lego sculpture exhibit showing there and he knew that would be cool to see. We will go but not until the weather figures out which season it is in.

So with all the weather craziness, I still had to come up with little things he could do throughout the week. I didn’t want him to be a couch potato. I even took two days off to be able to spend time with him.

Friday, we went to Bear Pen and fed the ducks. I am thinking that those must be new ducks and geese because they wouldn’t come to us to eat the cereal we brought them. Instead they just watched us. Crawford even tried to throw it out to them but the wind kept blowing it back towards us. As we walked away the little “fellas” made their way to the food to feast. Crawford could tell they were all happy due to all the quacking and honking sounds they were making.

We embraced Mother Nature that afternoon. We took advantage of the wind and flew a kite that Aunt Beverly had given Crawford years ago. It was so much fun. Crawford took to it like he had known how to fly it forever.

As a proud mama, I had to get video of this event. I am not a great photographer but I was desperately trying to keep both Crawford and the kite in the frame on my cell phone. Focusing hard on my task, that kite took a dip and the bird’s beak slammed into my jaw. Oh man, it hurt like the devil! Looking back on it, it is funny and I even put the video on my Facebook page but in that moment it hurt so, so much. Tears ran down my face as I was trying to be brave so I wouldn’t upset my son. The tears made me colder and I was freezing to my bones. My cheek started to swell and by the time we got home I had a scab and a knot where the kite bird collided with me.

Crawford was upset but I assured him that it wasn’t his fault. We flew that kite for several hours despite the fact that I was really ready to go home. When Crawford got tired and hungry we decided to hit the road home.

Saturday was spent going to Connor Brackin’s birthday party and later Crawford finished the day by putting Lego kits together. He was so excited about getting them finished and I didn’t have to go outside.

My nephew Jon-Albert came to spend the night on Sunday. The boys played basketball, video games, Nerf war and even watched a movie. I was surprised that they didn’t fall asleep early since they played so hard.

I was still on vacation on Monday and had lunch with my whole family. It was nice and relaxing since nobody had to go anywhere. I enjoy the family times I have with my cousins and uncle. I hope that it never changes.

Work was calling me on Tuesday, so Crawford did watch some television but when I got home I took him to buy a new Nerf Gun and I treated all of us to Delta Dairy. After eating our yogurt, my child found targets in the house to shoot until it was bedtime.

The Batman Lego Movie was our Wednesday excursion, which also consisted of a good dinner out. It was a silly but funny movie and of course, nothing is better that movie popcorn. It was another great way to get out of the cold and do something fun together as a family.

At this point in writing this column plans haven’t been made for the rest of the week but I feel confident that I can find something for all of us to do. Maybe we will make a craft or do some baking. If the sun would come out David and Crawford could work outside together.

You may not be able to fool Mother Nature but there is always a way to work around her. In the process, we had so much fun. So if your plans have changed due to the weather, be creative. You can think of something fun to do anyway. Hope you all had a great break!

Caroline Laster is an employee of The Bolivar Commercial. She may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Everybody picks on the linemen

Had a call one day from an old high school football teammate, and in the course of the conversation, he made a quote that indirectly came from his wife, something about "dumb lineman." He didn't mean like climbing a light pole.

Pat and I played together on a pretty good Leland High team, and had a lot of fun growing up. After he hung up, I spent an hour with our old (there's that word again!) high school yearbook, and there was the same quote next to both our names: "Everybody picks on the linemen!" For the life of me, I can't recall where that quote came from, unless it was one of the coaches, but I do remember that we got a lot of mileage out of it.

It seemed to be a rule when we watched the game films on Monday that the only plays we saw were when we had missed a block or a tackle. "Neill, you let that Number 62 whip you again, boy!" At least, that was the rule for linemen. But seems like the replays of backs were: "See, now that's the way to run over a tackler, Dave!" Or, "Way to turn that corner, V-Shape!" Of course, the guy on the ground in that paused frame was the guard who had pulled and blocked the opposing defensive end, so V-Shape could get around him! Yet if that were noted, it would be as, "Neill, you can't just lay there, son! You got to get up and make another block downfield!" So what if there was a 230-pound end laying on you?

I went on to play at Ole Miss when the Rebels were Number One, back in the glory years. I was too small for a college lineman, even in those days when we were winning National Championships with guards weighing less than 200 pounds, who played both offense and defense back then. I played just over a year, and stayed hurt: separated shoulder, broken thumb, ruptured artery, ruptured hip joint that finally ended my playing days. Yet I was there, by gum, with a bunch of All-American linemen who pounded me into the ground during scrimmages.

But you know what people ask when the subject comes up? Not, "When did you play?" but, "Who was the quarterback when you played?"

Not once has anyone asked, "You played at Ole Miss? Who was the left tackle when you were up there?"

Matter of fact, we did have an extraordinary left tackle whilst I was there. On the day of the first freshman-redshirt scrimmage, this big blonde redshirt called all freshman linemen into the locker room, and seated us on the floor around a table, upon which was a helmet. "Watch this, boys," the tackle said. Then he poised with one elbow over the helmet: "Ready? Crash!!"

He brought his elbow down onto the helmet from a foot over it, and the headgear smashed into little bitty pieces. "Remember that, when you got to block me today!" the blonde tackle growled, and stalked out. He didn't get blocked much that day, nor the next three years he played, making All-American. The story was, he had polio as a child, and his elbow had been replaced with a steel elbow. I can't vouch for that story, but his demonstration was excellent!

So, what Pat and I learned in high school pretty well proved true in college and thereafter. Yet some of the finest folks I know are guards, tackles, and centers. A center that went on to become a doctor saved my life by finally diagnosing the Babesiosis anemia that accompanied my Lyme Disease, and curing it.

Oh, well, it was a team effort, and usually the quarterbacks don't go out seeking the glory, it's the media people who focus on them. If God had gifted Pat and me with accurate rifle arms and bodies unlike fireplugs, we'd have been quarterbacks, or split ends. But He didn't, and we blocked for the guys who ran and passed, congratulating them when they scored, or made a good play. In retrospect, I never played with a quarterback who wasn't a pretty quiet nice guy, off the field. And that was well before the days of modern “Hot Dogs.” If one of us had done a dance or beaten our chests to the crowds back then, we'd have “run the stadium” every afternoon for the next week! 

Hometown Teams! Seems like we were truly molded into real teams back then, both in high school and college.

And I never thought of it before now, but that prepared us well for the period right after college, when many of us were pressed into service for our country, fighting a real shooting war. A squad, or platoon, or landing party, in my case, was a team. We fought for each other, that we'd all come back safely, hopefully on the winning team.

This is part of the Smithsonian Institution's Hometown Teams Exhibit programming, funded by the MS Humanities Council. The views expressed are solely the Author's, and do not represent those of the MHC, NEH, DSU, or Smithsonian Institution. Friends may visit the exhibit until Nov. 11, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. To schedule tours or for more information, contact Archivist Emily Jones by calling 662-846-4781, or by e-mailing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Is Santa in danger?


My house is adorned with its Christmas attire and it is warm and cozy feeling but throughout the world there is violence and tragedy that plaque the peacefulness of the season. Crawford apparently has been listening to David and I talk about the news and even has been paying attention to the network news.


Don’t forget the reason


We’re nearing Christmas time, a holiday where the stores are packed every weekend. Everyone rushes franticly to get that gift they’ve been looking for. Some people are worried that each child gets the right amount of gifts — spending the same amount of money. Others are worried that they don’t forget anybody in the gift giving.