Ricky Dickerson grew up in Bastrop during the 1950s and '60s and has returned after spending 30 years in the defense industry with a major contracting firm. This year he reflected on his formative years in Morehouse Parish before, during and after integration in a book named "Puff Ditch," which was written in memory of Charles Ross Strickland, a former band leader and educator in Morehouse Parish.
In the introduction to "Puff Ditch," Dickerson writes, "This short story is about a remarkable man [Charles Strickland], and the town where he lived...He was by no means a Dr. Martin Luther King, but to us, in our own little world, in our own small town, we genuinely felt for him that way."
Throughout the book Dickerson always returns to the central core of relating the story of Strickland's sacrifices for the youth of Bastrop and for his band program, but there are also several side journeys that talk about Bastrop life in the '60s and Dickerson's experiences in town at places like Dotson Park and around the Blue Front.
Dickerson cautions that his book is honest and not meant to offend.
"I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings," Dickerson said, "but it is a honest and true story as to my recollections and the persons I talked to and interviewed."
When speaking about Strickland, Dickerson emphasized his generosity and the efforts he went to to help his band program succeed.
"He was so kind-hearted — the thing that emanated from him was that he had your best interests at heart," Dickerson said. "We didn't have much growing up in that era. Mr. Strickland kept us out of trouble really, and he did a lot for us. He sacrificed so much for us to get music, cases and instruments and teaching us. That's all we had."
In both his book and in an interview with the Enterprise, Dickerson related how band programs weren't valued as much back then and how hard it was to find someone like Strickland to teach choir and music. He also discusses how Strickland sold snow cones to kids in Dotson park to help finance the program for his students.
Dickerson is currently circulating a petition to have Charles Strickland's name added to the Willie Fitch Memorial Stadium at Morehouse Junior High and hopes to collect between 1,000 and 2,000 signatures during the Morehouse Training School and Morehouse High alumni reunion, which features students from 1916 through 1969.
A copy of the petition is at A&C Quick-Pac in Bastrop and will also be at the "Puff Ditch" book signing hosted at the Activity Center in Morehouse Jr. High at 10 a.m. on July 3 and at the Morehouse High alumni's greet and meet session, which will be held at 8 p.m. on July 3 at the Municipal Center.
In the book, Dickerson looks forward to the future of Bastrop and hopes that a reunion can be hosted where all of the baby boomers of Morehouse Parish come together.
"My dream and aspiration is to have a reunion of baby boomers during that integration age," Dickerson said. "I think that people in this country are ready for this type of thing. If we could show the young people the mistakes we made, I believe it would help them and us to move forward."
"Puff Ditch" is currently for sale at A&C Quick-Pac, Arnett's Jewelry and Anytime Fitness in Bastrop as well as online at Amazon.com.