By JOEL McNEECE
J.W. Rodgers has been parking his small pickup truck full of fruits and vegetables on the Calhoun City Square since 1999. “It’s fun for me seeing everyone,” Rodgers said. “It’s better than a part-time job because I set my own hours. I just come up and set up when I feel like it and go home when I feel like it. I really enjoy it.”
Rodgers was raised in the Sabougla-Dentontown area where he farmed with his father Tommy Lee Rodgers. One of four sons (George Thomas, J.W., Lynn and Danny), Rodgers said they principally raised cotton, corn and hay.
“We did a little bit of everything,” Rodgers said. “I plowed with mules, chopped and hoed cotton, hauled hay, pulled corn, just whatever come handy.”
He attended school at Slate Springs where he was in the final graduating class at the school in 1954 before it consolidated with Calhoun City.
“I think there were only six of us that graduated that year,” Rodgers said. “Mr. Josh Adams was our principal. Our coach was David Whitworth from Bruce.”
“There were a lot of good ole days there,” Rodgers said.
After school he joined the National Guard for seven years and later went to work for Hawkins Auto Parts in Calhoun City, whom he stayed with for 28 years before retiring.
“I really enjoyed selling auto parts,” Rodgers said. “I did it on my own for about 12 years, but put a lot of good years in at Hawkins.”
Rodgers started coming to the Calhoun City Square after visiting with a Vardaman man who routinely sold watermelons there.
“He told me where he got his watermelons from so I thought I would try it,” Rodgers said. “I was still working at Hawkins at the time on a part-time basis and just decided to try something a little different.”
Rodgers said his family always had a vibrant garden growing up.
“Daddy raised good watermelons and cantaloupe,” Rodgers said.
Most of Rodgers’ produce recently has come from Tom Weeks in Bruce. He typically picks up some watermelons, peaches, strawberries, squash, plums, pecans.
“Just whatever’s in season,” Rodgers said. “Tomatoes are usually the best seller when they’re in season. Although watermelons are big sellers in July.”
The money made from the selling isn’t anything grand, Rodgers said, but it’s more something to do, a way to meet a lot of people.
“I make a little spare money,” Rodgers said. “But I really just enjoy seeing all the people. It gives me something to do.”
Rodgers’ wife Bonnie, a cancer survivor, died last year from a heart condition.
He has two children – Judy Tingle who lives in Holcomb and William Lee Rodgers of Calhoun City. He also has two granddaughters and one great grandson.
Rodgers’ eyesight is beginning to fail him now. He can no longer drive at night and is in the process of moving from his home on the Bluehouse Road into town near the Calhoun City Library.
“I think it’ll be a good move for me,” Rodgers said. “I’ll be able to walk to the grocery and post office when I want to. I’m looking forward to it.”
He also plans to continue coming to the square a few times a week selling his fruits and vegetables.
“As long as God lets me,” Rodgers said. “I’ve got to do something. If I can work a little, that’s what I like to do.”