“CHAPTER ONE” of Billy’s memoir about Jess contains the following perspectives.
“After a short romance, Jessie married Millie Starr, the only child of a Choctaw Indian.
“Jessie, Millie and ‘Papa’ as they called William Starr, Millie’s father, settled on a small, broken-down farm, with only a mule and an axe. Times were hard in the early twenties, and Jessie was in a strait between two desires; one, he wanted to be a successful farmer, and then there was that boyhood tugging of the Divine Call. . . . His farm was yielding produce but the market was low. With the aid of the unknown, Jessie worked at a rock crusher to maintain a living.” (24)
According to Billy, during the fourth year of Jess’s marriage to Millie, “a great battle started in Jessie” — he began to wrestle “with two great forces” (good and evil). (24)
“Even though Jessie worked hard on his farm, cotton prices were cheap. His efforts, however, were not lost; there was enough earned from his share-cropping farm that enable him, Millie, ‘Papa’ [Bill Starr] and their first child, Virginia, to survive a hard winter; one which yielded snow, ice, and long terrible nights.” (25)
When the Depression came in 1929, Jessie had a wife and two kids to care for. Men lived in fear of rumors of this national disaster, but somehow Jessie found a way of livelihood at the rock quarry as a rock crusher.” (25)
“Sometimes Jessie found temporary relief from day to day pressures through moonshine whiskey. During those moment Jessie was being schooled in the forces of vil. For it was commonly known that Jessie, when ‘dead drunk,’ as folks said then, would, with the aid of a tree stump, attempt to explain the Bible, in a struggle only Jessie understood. If there were no neighbors to listen, Jessie would, in his limited effort at that time, expound the Holy Word at night to the moon.” (25)
“By the act of Providence Jessie found his way to a Pentecostal ‘brush arbor’ meeting, and there the battle intensified. Jessie was determined to win the battle between the hard times of the depression and the struggle to make a living on a 40 acre farm.” (25)
Billy indicates that “for a while it seemed that Jessie would become a faithful church ‘goer’” but he soon slipped back into the old ways. (25)
“The battery radio found its way into the rural community of Freedom, and Jessie and his family worked their farm, and churned their butter, and bought a battery radio. From this simple instrument Jessie was in touch with voices from the outside world from which he would gain new truths for his inward search. Sam Morris was one of those voices which led Jessie to see that distilled whiskey was an evil of despair, of which there was no end.” (25)
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