He’s a city boy, she’s a country girl

Published 12:11 am Sunday, February 28, 2010

Virginia “Jinny” Patterson has lived on Church Hill Road in Jefferson County, right off the Natchez Trace, for most of her 77 years.

She’s miles from town, miles from a major grocery store and a lifetime away from city living.

Certain surroundings have been constants her entire life, such the Episcopalian church on the hill near her house and the general store close by it that her family once operated.

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“We had no electricity until I was in high school in the late ’40s,” Patterson said. “We had no running water — you had to have a tank. Of course, it was awfully hot in the summertime; you had no fans. My parents grew most of the food we had. We had sheep, cattle, chickens and we had pork that they raised, and they raised a big garden.

“I’m definitely a country girl.”

Modie Mascagni, 50, by Patterson’s account, must be a city boy.

Mascagni grew up in downtown Natchez overlooking the Mississippi River.

“As kids we would ride bikes through downtown all the time.

“It was a big family, six of us. My mother worked, and my daddy was always somewhere, so we just kind of raised ourselves. Every time a tourist would come in for the Pilgrimage and ask for directions, we always gave them bad ones. We’d send them down Cemetery Road as a joke.”

“We would fish on the river, swim in the river. We felt like we lived in the country, because we weren’t but 200 to 300 yards away from the woods, so we stayed in the woods all the time, just like a regular kid.

“We grew up with BB guns in our hands. My mother would drop us off at the hunting camp the first day of hunting season, and she’d come back and get me after a couple of days, and I hadn’t had a bath.”

But Patterson and Mascagni both strayed from home later in life.

Neither, they’ll tell you, found happiness.

Patterson can point to the house in which she was born from her current residence.

“I lived there my whole life, until I went off to college at Bowling Green, Ky,,” she said.

That college stay would only last a year; then she moved back to Natchez after marrying Charles Patterson.

After the marriage, the couple decided to try out city living for a few years.

“That first two or three years, we lived on South Union Street, upstairs at the Patterson house, and then we moved to Church Hill, around 1958 or 1959.”

For Patterson, Natchez was no cup of tea.

“There was nothing to do in town, if you didn’t care about partying and all that — Natchez is a partying town. It was just a different life than here.”

Twelve years ago, Mascagni traded in small-town Natchez for much larger Baton Rouge while attending Southern University.

“I lived in Baton Rouge for seven years, and the difference between Natchez and Baton Rouge was, in Natchez you knew your neighbors. In Baton Rouge, I didn’t know any of my neighbors, and I lived there for seven years on that street.

“It didn’t have a family feel. Then I went from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, and I couldn’t tell you who my neighbors were.”

After another hop to Shreveport, Mascagni finally returned home to the Miss-Lou.

“I moved to Vidalia, and I know all my neighbors,” he said. “Across the road, down the street, everybody knows everybody, and I like the hometown feel. Being away from Natchez was one of the reasons I was miserable.”