When you grow up in a place like Soso – running barefoot between the old country houses as neighbors wave from a nearby porch, watching as progress and decline fight for the upper hand, knowing that this place will always be the same because of the people who make it home – sometimes it seems the rest of the world just can’t ever measure up.
When you grow up surrounded by family – cradled in the knowledge that you are endlessly loved, surrounded by swirling stories of times come before told over a table full of favorite family recipes – it seems like every step you take is a reflection of the people who gave you the simple gift of a name.
When you grow up in the Mississippi woods it seems like nothing else ever seems as peaceful as those days spent playing among the spindly, stretching shadows of a forest of towering pines.
For Lauren and Bill it was as if their childhood was one continuous adventure split up between Rasberry’s store (later renamed The Nester Company), the folks of Franklin Street, the Jasper County prairie land of Fouke, and one special place nestled deep in the towering piney woods just west of Soso proper.
It was here that they watched their father, year after year, caring for the animals he so dearly loved, obsessing over every wayward blade of grass and, most of all, dreaming of what the future might hold for the serene little spot in the woods he cherished so much.
Bill recalls, “I clearly remember going to feed the cows at the farm during the school year. That was our daily ritual as soon as he got home from work. We all had a “thing” for animals – cows, bulls, dogs, not so much cats. Daddy would talk to them and say what a “fine” whatever they were. I do the same thing to my dog now!
He spent many hours on the green Deutz tractor making improvement any way he could – the majority of which took place with just him and the tractor. He had no concept of when to stop, getting dark didn’t matter. There was always a project he wanted to get done. Any project involved a mandatory amount of prep work on the equipment before he could get started. I swear, it seemed like he’d sharpen the lawn mower blade every week.
He took great strides to take care of everything and keep all in top-notch condition. He never forgot what it was like to not have an abundance and would find ways to make things work.”
Betty would take the children to check on Joe late at night, even though she wasn’t quite thrilled with the idea of spending so much time in the woods – she was a Soso “city girl” after all! She wrote, “I would gather them up about 10PM to go down to the farm to see if we could hear their daddy’s tractor. He would go to plant rye grass or bush hog at night after working in the store all day!”
For the Rasberry and Nester grandchildren, their greatest hope is to see the land their father and grandfather so diligently maintained become something bigger, something to continue their greatest family traditions of story telling and honoring relationships and the making of new stories to be told again and again as time moves on.
Bill remembers his father’s greatest wish for the farm, “After Daddy decided to get out of the cattle business, trees became the focus of the farm. He had so many hopes and dreams for “the prosperity of the operation” as he called it.”
The land that was once so carefully tended by first, the tireless hands of Bill Rasberry, and lastly, the careful hands and heart of his son-in-law, Joe Nester, is ready to become home to a new story with new hands to care for it as lovingly as those who have come before.
Tomorrow the future of the place they loved so dearly, deep in the piney woods of Soso, MS, will finally be revealed.
We ask that you continue this journey with us and help us to open a new chapter in this little story of ours, and to prepare a way for us to give back to the people, and town, we cherish so much.