Kenny Ladner

“The kids today are stuck in this era, and a lot of the parents are, also… The kids don’t get out and do the activities that we did…”

Kenneth (Kenny) Ladner was born December 19, 1947 in Bay St. Louis, MS.  He’s lived in Mississippi for most of his life, except a seven year time in Texas.  He grew up on a farm, with what today might seem very little.  Everything that they had to eat was from off that farm – vegetables, meat, even syrup.  While it may seem to an outsider that he didn’t have a childhood due to the need of tending the gardens and livestock, he notes that it was a good childhood.  They accepted their duties, and certainly made games from it, including pecan nut wars (hurling the nuts at each other).

Kenny loved to fish, but not with a pole and line like many kids learn today.  When he was little, his grandfather made him a cast net, and that is how Ken learned to fish.  It was his favorite thing to do.  As he looks at today’s youth, he sees them so taken with technology that they are missing the physical and outdoor activities that Ken and his peers experienced.  This to the degree that he worked alongside a Native American of the Coushatta tribe aged about 28 in Texas.  They hunted and fished together, and one day Ken asked him about a tree he didn’t recognize, and the young man didn’t know.  Here is the full story:

Kenny now works as a site manager for Habitat for Humanity in the Mississippi Gulf Area.  Following Hurricane Katrina, many young volunteers visited the Gulf from all over the United States (and world) in order to show support and aid the recovery.  Working with so many young people, Kenny began noticing a change in work ethic between the generations.  To Kenny, when you’re handed a task, you get it done, then return for more until your work day is done.  He’s not seeing that as regularly with the youth he’s in contact with:

Kenny worries about the general population and their ability to care for their own homes, or to get tasks done with their own hands.  Many of the tasks he takes care of at Habitat are easily accomplished without hiring a specialist.  Things like painting a wall, using a screw driver to correct a loose nob, or caulk a crack between the window and wall are all very simple items that don’t need to hired out for $100 / hour.  But many people do hire such simple tasks out because they’ve become so removed from using their hands.

Taking it a step further, Kenny sees many young people that don’t know how to plant a seed, let alone grow something.  One can grow enough food to feed an entire home in a few square feet, but they don’t realize it.  Kenny has helped vegetable gardens in his community, and is happy to do it.

“My youngest daughter would rather text me than had pick up the phone and talk to me for five minutes.”  Kenny can feel a gap in communication, both in his family and in the public due to technology.  But he also recognizes that technology bolsters our abilities greatly.  He used the example of the CB Radio, that the network of civilians and police men are able to catch a criminal on the loose much faster than just police would have.

I always give my interviewees the chance to say final words on any subject of their choosing.  Kenny chose to speak to drugs and prejudice.  He worries that alcohol and drugs will be responsible for bringing America to its knees, just in the same way it did to the Native Americans. With regards to prejudice, he says it best:

Bones Rhodes & Family

I was referred to Bones because he has lived a lifestyle compared to his surroundings, and is very opinionated.  I didn’t expect, however, that I would end up meeting three generations of the family that night in Pass Christian, MS.  Though it’s not the intended format of the project, I decided to interview them all, in tandem.  With some special instructions to allow for full answers, we accomplished the goal over some iced tea (and I managed to be the one that walked away with several souvenir mosquito bites).

The participants are as follows:

  • Charles William “Bones” Rhodes – born July 30, 1947 in Hattiesburg, MS
  • Honey Rhodes LeBlanc (daughter) – April 25, 1972 in Hattiesburg, MS
  • Rodney LeBlanc (Honey’s husband) – born Sept. 2, 1975 in Houma, LA
  • Mark Rhodes (grandson) – born April 1, 1997 in Gulfport, MS

Bones grew up in a family that was considered ‘rich’ for the time period.  He stated, however, that his father didn’t tend to spend the money in a way that was extravagant.  They didn’t take vacations, wear fancy clothes, or live in a particularly large home.  Bones didn’t realize they were wealthy until he got his first job during high school at a local grocery store.  He then saw true diversity and began to understand that the things he had taken for granted, though not earmarked as particularly fortunate, were very different from the folks he served at the store.  It was this experience that drove him to live a liberal life rather unique to Mississippi.

Bones raised his own family on what they called “The Compound”, a series of homes on a single property that he received from his father.  Honey recalled growing up around many families, and riding motorcycles (which Bones loves) beginning at a very young age.  Bones was careful to make the distinction that these are not big hog motorcycles – that they’re not “1%-er motorcyclists”.

Alternatively, Rodney grew up a “coon-ass”, hunting, fishing, and playing sports with the other kids in his area.  Mark, Rodney and Honey’s son, recalls fighting with his siblings in his youth.  He laughed as he said it – “I’m just being honest.”

What really struck me during our conversation was in speaking about school.  Honey, a history and algebra teacher, is worried about our youth as they come up surrounded by all the tech.  Many of my interviewees have highlighted that young ones have their noses constantly down at a screen, but Honey provided insight to how it’s affecting their very ability to think.  The description of her student’s ability to process was haunting.

The family had a really interesting perspective of how technology is affecting us, and where it is coming from.  They discuss the laziness and apathy that technology is creating.  Bones wonders at who is inventing the tech, and who has access to it based on wealth.  Honey refers to the unlimited knowledge we have, but instead we sit and “crush candies”.  Rodney talks about watching the men he works with offshore, and how tech has affected their work and social lives.  Mark shares a perspective on apathy and global friendships.  I think this conversation is a good summary of their thoughts on the matter.


b. 1947
Pass Cristian, MS

I met Charles “Bones” Rhodes, his daughter Honey, her husband Roddy, and their son Mark, through a mutual friend.  We had all gotten to know each other soon after Hurricane Katrina, for which I was a relief worker.  I didn’t expect to interview multiple generations at once, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

In this episode, my dear friend Steve joins me to provide an outside perspective on these intimate stories.