Parting Shot

Story & Photograph Birney Imes

Photographed by Birney Imes.

Photographed by Birney Imes.

The Cantrell brothers, Homer, Lewis and Zeke, lived in a four-trailer compound — the fourth trailer was for Homer’s ex-wife, Lula — on McCullough Road, a seldom-traveled thoroughfare on the outskirts of Caledonia, Miss. Beginning Thanksgiving weekend each year for a decade or so, these men and their wives swathed every inanimate object on the place with Christmas lights: trees, satellite dishes, old motor boats, the skeleton of a beach umbrella raised on a long pole, fences, trees.

Typical responses for first-time visitors to this holiday fantasia ranged from amazement, to laughter to quiet wonder. They often returned with offerings of lights, says Helen Cantrell, Zeke’s widow.

My guess is this was something the Cantrells did without a lot of deliberation. The people in their small universe of acquaintances enjoyed it — as did those attracted from afar — and that was justification enough. Homer and Lewis are in failing health; it’s been four or five years since they’ve decorated in a big way.

Once, on Christmas Eve, rather than take home a mounted deer head, my take at a family gift exchange, I drove out to McCullough Road and deposited the relic on Homer’s doorstep. When I returned the next evening, the deer was hanging from a nail on his porch garlanded in Christmas lights.