Man shares insight from the porch alongside friend

Published 9:04 am Saturday, February 11, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — White wood went creak, squeak, creak, squeak as it moved against a brown deck. Don Walley’s rocking chair rocked back and forth on the porch at his home on West Minnesota Street, close to where The Dart landed Friday morning. 

White clouds dotted a blue sky and green clover emerged from hibernating grass. Birds whistled tunes as Walley and his friend Ben Bledsoe rocked and carried on in conversation. Walley introduced Ben as a former football player at Brookhaven High School who was a “good ball player.” Sometimes their conversations will devolve into arguments about sports, Walley said. 

“I have been friends with him for about five years. He just comes around and stops by to sit and talk,” Walley said. “He used to do some handy work over here. We met and now he comes here regularly. We just talk. Ben knows a lot about sports and keeps up with it pretty well but I don’t.”

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Bledsoe’s sports knowledge is mostly on the pros and college athletics. His prediction for the superbowl is the Eagles will win. 

A retiree, he will bike over from East Brookhaven and stop to talk to Don in his spare time. 

“I grew up here and went to BHS and graduated in 1980. I worked at the Old Coke plant. My dad worked there before me for 30 something years,” Bledsoe said. “I worked at the Lawn mower plant after that. I’ve stayed in Brookhaven because it is a nice place to be.” 

Walley retired from working at MDOT in 2007 and is an active member of First Baptist Church Brookhaven and has been for nearly 40 years. He wore a Mississippi State sweatshirt and khaki pants. His uncle ran the barbershop on campus at Mississippi State for many years. 

In his free time, he does yard work, takes care of a property out in the countryside and is a volunteer at Brookhaven Hospice Ministries. He started out building wheelchair ramps for Brookhaven Hospice Ministries but ministers when people are closer to the end.  

Additionally, Walley serves on the board of the Center for Pregnancy Choices in Lawrence County. It is a pro-life organization who serve people from the surrounding counties. 

He bought his home on West Minnesota Street about five years ago. If you drive by you are likely to see him rocking there on the porch especially in the summertime. He enjoys how Brookhaven feels like a Norman Rockwell painting and it is one of the reasons he stayed. 

“I’m too old to go anywhere else. It is a quiet town. I have the best neighbors I have ever had. The white house across the street used to be a Presbyterian ministry,” Walley said. “There are doctors all over this neighborhood. I know if something were to happen and I fell in the yard someone could help me.” 

For 50 years, he lived out in the country on Nola Road. His friend told him the older he got he needed to be closer to town in order to have better access to groceries and healthcare. 

While there is some noise from lawn mowers and leaf blowers in town, he appreciates some sounds which take him back to his ole country roots. 

“A horse fly could whiz by and it will bring back old memories, as will cowbells. I can hear the clanging of a cowbell and thing of a calf wanting its mother and the momma cow lowing back. I love to hear the wind blowing in the pine tops. It is peaceful. Ford Motor Company would make these small magazines and they would have paintings inside in the Folk Art style. It would show images of people skating and little stories. My great-granddaddy would get one. This little town is like that. This is a Norman Rockwell type town. It is my town and I like it.” 

A couple walks down the street pushing a stroller with a little girl running in front of them laughing with joy. Walley pointed to them and said “see like a Norman Rockwell painting.” He added “I would have liked to have been the all-American dad.” 

Six years ago, he received the Golden Deeds award from the Brookhaven Exchange Club for the work he does in ministry, chauffeuring people to doctors appointments and hosting students from the Mississippi School of the Arts. The same warm kindness and hospitality is in him as he rocks on the porch. 

“Come back again anytime. We will find a good story sitting out here. There are a lot of characters in Brookhaven,” he said as he waved goodbye.