Ronnie Raney (1962-2004)

Ronnie Raney (1962-2004).  Middle son of Vernon and Margaret “Molly” Raney in Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Married to and murdered by Louanne Borden (Raney).  His brother Lonnie is sheriff of Warren County.  He has a younger sister, Ginny.

Ronnie works for his mother distributing drugs and in general running the business.  He started out dealing at University of Mississippi where he meets and seduces Louanne.  They begin living together in a shotgun house in Vicksburg and as Ronnie becomes more and more responsible for the operations of the Raney drug enterprise, Louanne also becomes involved in running a bar and trailer when her girls turn tricks.

Ronnie is a basically a “good ol’ boy” and means well, but has trouble controlling his temper. Because he feels intimidated by Louanne’s intelligence and background (she comes from a well-to-do Dallas family) he often resorts to threatening behavior, and even physical violence, when he is at a loss for any other way of controlling a situation.

After suffering from this kind of behavior for years, in 2004 Louanne kills Ronnie for continuing to get drunk and raise his hand to her. She was tried and convicted of second degree murder (unjustly) and was sentenced to twenty years at the Mississippi state penitentiary for women (see song, “One Time Too Many“).

“One Time Too Many”

One Time Too Many
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

She’d like to fix up her dinette
Yellow wallpaper with nosegays
A hard wood floor would do the trick
Those stains’ll take more than paint

A buzzer spoils this daydream
Lights out and the bars clang shut
It’ll have to wait twenty years
This cell is where she’ll stay put

She’d had enough
Taken too much
He treated her rough one time too many
She did the crime
She’ll do the time
Regrets? No, she don’t have any

She brought him his beer and a slice of pie
Then shot him with his deer gun
It was worth it just to see him surprised
Once he realized just what she’d done

She’d had enough …

His brother was sheriff of Warren County
There was no doubt the fix was in
A jury of his peers showed no mercy
But if she could she’d do it again

She’d had enough …

© 2017 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

Lonnie Raney (1958-2006)

Lonnie Raney (1958-2006).  Oldest son of Vernon and Molly Raney; brother of Ronnie and Ginny Raney.  Elected sheriff of Warren County (Vicksburg, county seat) and is generally a well-liked but corrupted law enforcement officer.  One of his prime responsibilities was protecting his mother and brother in the pursuit of their marijuana growing and drug business.

Although sister-in-law Louanne Borden Raney murders his brother Ronnie, and is convicted of second degree murder (see song, “One Time Too Many“), she later refuses cut a deal in an DEA investigation into the Raney family criminal activities and instead warns Lonnie of the investigation.

In 2006 Lonnie is killed in a shootout while attempting to protect his mother and the drug business when the DEA comes to serve warrants for their arrest.

Warren County, Mississippi

Warren County is a county located in the U.S. state of Mississippi. As of the 2010 census, the population was 48,773.  Its county seat is Vicksburg.[2] Created by legislative act of 22 December 1809, Warren County is named for American Revolutionary War officer Joseph Warren.

Part of the Mississippi Delta and the historic cotton culture, Warren County is included in the Vicksburg, MS Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Jackson-Vicksburg-Brookhaven, MS Combined Statistical Area.

“When Louanne Met Lucy in Prison”

When Louanne Met Lucy In Prison
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

When Louanne met Lucy in prison
Lou was halfway through her twenty
For killin’ Ronnie Raney
Who hit her once too many
Lucy would talk all about Levi
In words tender and soft
It was old friends and old sins
Got Lucy caught

Ain’t that how it is sometimes?
Ain’t that how it is sometimes?
You’re on the verge of change
Life sends you the same ol’ same

They gave Lucy eighteen months
Easy time for most but for Lucy hard
Day by day she faded away
Behind stone walls and steel bars
Louanne tried to keep an eye on Lucy
Easy in there to come to harm
August night when they found her
Needle was still in Lucy’s arm

Ain’t that how it is sometimes …

Louanne got word to Levi
Said it best she knew how
Lucy only had six weeks left
She ain’ never gettin’ out
Levi read that letter and then
Put it in his dresser drawer
Got drunk in Vicksburg went a little further
Did a little more

© 2017 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

Parchman Farm (Mississippi State Penitentiary)

Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP), also known as Parchman Farm, is a prison farm, the oldest prison, and the only maximum security prison for men in the state of Mississippi.

Begun with four stockades in 1901, the Mississippi Department of Corrections facility was constructed largely by state prisoners. It is located on about 28 square miles (73 km2) in unincorporated Sunflower County, in the Mississippi Delta region.

It has beds for 4,840 inmates. Inmates work on the prison farm and in manufacturing workshops. It holds male offenders classified at all custody levels—A and B custody (minimum and medium security) and C and D custody (maximum security). It also houses the male death row—all male offenders sentenced to death in Mississippi are held in MSP’s Unit 29—and the state execution chamber.

Female prisoners are not usually assigned to MSP; Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMFC), also the location of the female death row, is the only state prison in Mississippi designated as a place for female prisoners.

CMCF opened in January 1986 with a capacity of 667 prisoners. CMCF was the first prison facility of the Mississippi Department of Corrections outside of the Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP) in Sunflower County. Upon the opening of CMCF, female prisoners were transferred from MSP to CMCF; previously women were held in MSP Camp 25.

“Levi After Lucy”

Levi After Lucy
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Levi staggered up the stone church steps
A slice of moon hung above a wooden cross
Inside the door he stared at a concrete font
Then walked down the aisle, drunk and lost

He eased himself into a pew and sat
Musty scent of incense hung in the air
Worn leather knee-benches underfoot
Levi tried to find the words of a prayer

Vicksburg, Greenwood, Greenville
Gone down many roads, travelin’ still
Pavement, gravel, then dirt
But what he’s lookin’ for ain’t in this church

His head sank to his chest; he slept
A priest shook him; he struggled to his feet
The priest asked him, “Do I know ye?”
“No,” Levi said. “You don’ know me.”

Vicksburg, Greenwood, Greenville …

“Please, Lord, please keep me still
From sinkin’ lower an’ blowin’ away
I’ll straighten out I swear I will
Least that’s how I feel today”

Priest looked him over and said
“Were you waiting to see me?”
Woman was dustin’ the altar with a rag
“No, sir, I just fell asleep.”

Vicksburg, Greenwood, Greenville …
© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

Nellie Phelps (1855-1922)

Eleanor “Nellie” Davis (1923-2007) was Louanne Bowden’s paternal grandmother.  She was named Eleanor and called Nellie for her own great-grandmother, Nellie Phelps (1855-1922).  Nellie Phelps had died the year prior to Louanne’s grandmother’s birth.

The Phelps family had come from England to America in the 1690s, the first Phelps born in Pennsylvania was William Phelps (1721).  From Pennsylvania the family went to Tennessee and began farming.  Nellie Phelps had two brothers, Burch and Jethro (“Jed”).  Their parents, were another William Phelps (1834-1872) and his wife Martha Massey (1835-1862).  Martha died when Nellie was eight, probably from some kind of “heart sickness” after Burch, their oldest, had died from a fever.  She had never been happy on the frontier anyway, and just went to bed one day and never got up.

Nellie and her brother Jed were left with their father to tend to the farm, which they did for nearly a decade before William, too, got sick with consumption.  He died when Nellie was 17 and Jed only sixteen (see song “I Didn’t Know What Else to Do”).  When Nellie got married the next year to Robert Abbott, they and Jed all went to Texas where the Abbotts had a nice sized ranch.

Nellie lived a long life in Texas, but Jed died young, only 32, as a Texas Ranger in the Indian wars.

“I Didn’t Know What Else to Do”

Jed Phelps is sixteen and dealing with, along with his sister Nellie, the death of his father.  The Phelps family were on Louanne Bowden‘s father’s side.

I Didn’t Know What Else to Do
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Got the lantern, walked out to the barn
Raised the axe, split a log in two
Much as I hated splitin’ wood
I didn’t know what else to do

Wasn’t that long ago that Pa could lift
Hunderd pound sack under each arm
He looked tiny now under all those quilts
Still, Nellie couldn’t keep him warm

[…]

Was about six when we lost Burch
Can’t hardly see his face at all
Ma went to bed and never got up
Now ten years later, looks like it’s Pa

The torn wood smelled green and sour
I started feelin’ pretty loose and relaxed
I’m sixteen and figure it’ll fall to me
Even if he got better Pa won’t ever be back

[…]

I looked up, Nellie was on the porch
Asked her, “How’s he?” She said, “Pa’s dead.”
We buried Pa next to Ma and Burch
I found a field stone and set it at th’ head

I swung the axe it stuck in the wood
Raised it again split that log in two
We had plenty wood already in the house
I didn’t know what else to do

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

Waxahachie, Texas

Waxahachie was founded in August 1850 as the seat of the newly established Ellis County on a donated tract of land given by early settler Emory W. Rogers, a native of Lawrence County, Alabama, who migrated to Texas in 1839. It was incorporated on April 28, 1871, and in 1875 the state legislature granted investors the right to operate a rail line from Waxahachie Tap Railroad to Garrett, Texas, which greatly increased the population of Waxahachie.

From 1902 to 1942, Waxahachie was the 2nd home of Trinity University, which was a Presbyterian-affiliated institution founded in 1869. Then-Trinity’s main administration and classroom building is today the Farmer Administration Building of Southwestern Assemblies of God University. Trinity’s present-day location is San Antonio.

Waxahachie was the home of Constance Maddox Haynes (1928-2015), Louanne Borden‘s maternal grandmother, and the only member of her extended family to which she had a special closeness. Louanne’s release from prison coincided with Constance Haynes’s funeral in Waxahachie.

In the mid-1980s Waxahachie became popular with the movie industry.

The majority of Tender Mercies, a 1983 film about a country western singer, was filmed in Waxahachie. The 1984 film Places in the Heart starring Sally Field was also filmed in Waxahachie. The 1985 film The Trip to Bountiful starring Geraldine Page was also filmed in Waxahachie.