Monumental Heroics

Monumental Heroics

by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

They came from many states and multiple countries. They were Caucasian, African-American, Oriental, Hispanic, various cultures, origins, and religions. They were police officers, fire fighters, National Guard units, Swat teams, the Cajun Navy, ordinary citizens, and even television crews. They utilized municipal trucks, military trucks, monster trucks, and dump trucks; they skippered large boats, small boats, john boats, ski boats, fishing boats, air boats, canoes, and jet skis. They were the heroes and heroines of the Hurricane Harvey rescue effort, and they employed whatever means they could to help bring their fellow human beings to safety.

An angry Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with, but the human spirit in Texas and Louisiana is proving it won’t be taken down easily. While there have been a significant number of deaths — around 50 — and devastating damage that will cause hardship and heartache for so many people for a very long time to come, the strength, courage, determination, and “unsinkable” will that is necessary to endure such a tragedy has already emerged.

Many of the victims of the recent flood have been through this horrible catastrophe before, hoping against hope that it would never happen to them again, but, sadly, it has. Some residents of the area have, in the past, escaped the grim ruin and loss that results from a severe tropical storm, but regrettably, not this time. And, to add insult to injury, so many of the victims didn’t have flood insurance. The harsh reality of recovery will be too much for some — rightfully so — and they will relocate, rather than rebuild. But, for a large number of South Texas and South Louisiana residents, they will dig in and face the overwhelming task of putting their lives and their homes back together again. They will be aided by friends and family, and they will also likely receive assistance from sources they have never met — and probably never will.

Not only have people lost all of their possessions, and their homes are damaged beyond belief, but schools and businesses have been critically damaged or destroyed. Hope, however, almost immediately began to materialize during the early hours of the reality of the destruction of Harvey. High profile entertainers and businesses have donated untold amounts of money to the relief effort. Organizations across the country have implemented “Adopt a Classroom” programs, and the Houston Independent School District announced that it had received approval from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Texas Department of Agriculture to waive the required application process for the National School Lunch/Breakfast Program. All registered HISD students will eat all school meals for free during the 2017–2018 school year.

The generosity of spirit, financial aid, and goods from people across the country and elsewhere has been awe-inspiring during this catastrophic event, demonstrating, yet again, the undying — yet often buried under political and religious differences — human bond. When tragedy strikes, basic kindness, more often than not, outmatches the tendency to do nothing or to exploit a situation.

Soon after Harvey began dumping water, the owner of a mattress company opened his doors to provide shelter for the evacuees and to offer some badly needed rest for the National Guard units. A beer manufacturer switched from canning beer to canning water to help victims. Bakers baked bread and gave it away. Barbers gave free shaves and cuts in evacuation centers. “Spider Man” entertained victims at shelters to boost morale, and gospel singers lifted spirits with their soulful music. Medical professionals from other cities provided their services for no monetary compensation. The owner of a ranch north of the flooded area in Texas offered free grazing land as well as food for the animals if the owners couldn’t provide it. Not only was the Humane Society rescuing animals from roof tops and attics, but ordinary people were moving them in Tupperware containers. There were staggering rescues by Black Hawks, and passers-by formed a human chain to save an elderly man who was caught in his truck in rapidly moving water.

Witnessing these compassionate, sympathetic, and generous gestures during this recovery effort, offers a glimmer of hope for the recovery of the human race. In the face of the frightening, troubled, divisive world in which we find ourselves, optimism is badly needed. The extraordinary acts of human kindness that began even before the storm hit and before the horrific damage became evident, offers that promise. I vote for erecting monuments to honor human benevolence.

 The flood waters in Texas and Louisiana are receding, but the support continues, as people recognize that the need will be there for a long, long time to come. As Hurricane Irma is already wreaking havoc and threatens to be one of the worst hurricanes in our history, the relief effort there has already begun. Below is an article published on Facebook that offers some valuable advice on how to help the victims of these catastrophic events.  DFC

Matt Williams/Houston, Texas

HOW TO HELP THE FLOODED

I’m not much for writing long posts, but I’m making an exception in hopes it helps the flooded.

TRAUMA IS TRICKY

A flooded home is a traumatic event. Like any trauma, it is tricky to know how to help someone experiencing such a terrible ordeal.

Jen and I flooded on Memorial Day 2015 (see photo) and again on Tax Day 2016. The second flood came just days after completing the restoration and decoration of our house from the first flood. If cruelty was a color, we saw red for a long time.

Flood victims often experience what I liken to shell-shock meets heart break meets chaos. Toss in moments of exhaustion, terror, and rage, and you’ve got a pretty fair description of what’s in store.

When people wrestle with trauma like this, one of the last things they will ask for is help, but it’s what they need most.

BE THE TORTOISE

The good news is that if you want to help someone who has flooded, the best way is to show up.

Helping the flooded comes with an understanding that this is a marathon, not a sprint. They’ll need you more in the weeks after when most have moved on, and the adrenaline has worn off. So pace your help and pace yourself. Be the tortoise.

If you know someone who flooded, get out your calendar and pick a day or two a week for the next ten weeks or more and write down “show up.”

One day drop off something and say hi. Another day work for an hour or two. And another day have them over for dinner on a weekend. If you can only do one thing, one time, then do it. No act of showing up is too small. Dropping off a hot cup of coffee will be remembered for years to come.

As a rule, don’t just ask if they need anything, ask if they need anything else. Say “I’m coming by with trash bags and lunch, need anything else?” This signals that you’ve already committed to coming by. They’re likely to tell you what else they need.

GESTURE UP

Jennifer Castillo De Williams and I will never forget when someone we hardly knew drove up to the side of our yard. It was so full of flooded belongings that the driver didn’t get out. She rolled down her window and handed over a giant bag of Chick-fil-A. She smiled, offered her sympathies and drove off. We were exhausted, caked in mud, and heart broken, and in that moment, Chick-fil-A never tasted so good.

We promised we would remember how simple gestures like this meant so much to us at the time. They offered beautiful brief moments of normalcy in between many long abnormal ones.

Help of this kind is fairly easy. Try to work it into your weekday or weekend routines. Plan ways to make thoughtful gestures for anyone you know who has flooded.

LIFE ON MARS

When you flood, you might as well be on Mars. Everything that was easy and familiar is now complex and foreign. You can’t find files, documents, cards, keys, devices…you name it. Simple tasks get sucked into massive black holes of work. It’s maddening.

Then there are the things of sentimental value: the drawings from the kids; the shoes they wore on their first step; the wedding album. Those treasures, they’re all gone.

Yes, it’s just stuff, but make no mistake, sifting through the filthy wreckage that was once your life’s memories is brutal. You will have some good, long cries as you toss them out en masse. But you will get through it, and you’ll be tougher for it, maybe even enlightened.

FLOOD CLUB

Those who survive the salvos of Houston’s floods enter a club that knows something about loss and have an appreciation for what matters most. For me, it brought a little less whining.

Be aware there is something unsettling that lingers for some club members. I suppose it’s a kind of PTSD that seeps in between the evacuations and ridiculous toil. When I hear the rain now, it’s no longer my soothing friend. It’s kind of a sinister thing that taunts me when I look outside to see what’s snaking its way up to the door.

It comes down to this: every thoughtful thing you can do to help someone recover from a flood is probably one less thing they’ll have to manage alongside their overwhelming grief.

So try to give the flooded a few moments of peace in what feels like a surreal unprovoked war.

SHOWTIME

Here are some practical ways to “show up” by bringing or doing stuff.

Stuff you can bring

-Face masks and work gloves to reduce exposure to mold and other particulate matter. Be aware that if you are using hazardous solvents for cleaning you may need half-face respirators with cartridges.

-Cases of bottled water

-Antimicrobial spray designed to fully kill mold (turns out that bleach is less effective than many believe, especially because it does not prevent the regrowth of mold). Concrobium brand mold control spray kills and prevents mold. It is sold at Home Depot and other home supply places. Remember to wear a face mask when you spray the studs to kill and prevent mold after damaged sheet rock has been removed

-Floor fans or dehumidifiers

-Old newspapers for packing items

-Cases of paper towels

-Cases of toilet paper

-Cases of sanitizing wipes

-Battery powered camping lanterns

-Power strips

-Work gloves

-Pop up tables to place and stage smaller important stuff

-Step ladders

-Drop cloths and tarps for staging bigger, good stuff that protect it from wet floors or yards

-Hammers, blade utility knives

-Sharpees of different sizes and colors

-Good first aid kit (many cuts and scrapes during clean up)

-Rolls of duct tape and packing tape

-Hand sanitizer

-Plastic bins/containers of different sizes with lids

-Cardboard boxes (small, medium, and large)

-Bags (contractor, trash, gallon zip locks) -House cleaning solvents

-Bug repellent (mosquitoes are vicious inside a hot, muggy, muddy flooded house)

-Fast Food. Forget the healthy stuff for the moment; it’s about convenience, comfort, and containers that you can eat from quickly and toss. Buy several kinds of fast foods and just leave it. Someone will eat it and be thankful.

-Boxes filled with easy to eat snacks (chips, bars, nuts, candy, and fun stuff) gives a happy break to long grueling days

-Paper plates, plastic utensils, cups, napkins

-Prepared Foods are nice but more complicated

-Gift cards for food (this is for a dinner after a long day, they can get take out at their hotel or temporary place instead of having to cook)

-Gift cards to Marshalls, Target, Walmart, Lowes (they can get clothes, supplies, and other needs)

-Clean old or cheap t-shirts that can be worn as “throw-aways” during clean up

-Clean bedding sheets, blankets, pillows

Stuff you can do

-Check electricity for hazards. You’re in a house where water and electricity have just been combined so be aware of a hazard of electrical shock and short circuiting. It’s hot, you need power for dehumidifiers and a gazillion other things, but think first and be sure before you flick the switch.

-Remove items destroyed by the flood and stage items not destroyed. This is an emotionally difficult thing and process. It’s understandable that you’ll want to believe some things can be saved and want to keep them, so keep them, reality will guide you soon enough. Just don’t bring wet things into storage units, they will stink up and destroy other good, dry things. No “bad apples.”

-Cut out wet sheetrock at least a foot above the water line. Wear a mask since there may be mold and other particulates you don’t want to breathe. Use an anti-mold spray like the one listed in my first list of “stuff to bring.”

-Laundry (We loved this. People would come by and put a bunch of dirty clothes in a bag, wash, and return them folded to us)-Write tasks that need to be done on big post it notes and put them on the wall near the entrance of the house or a pop-up table so people coming in can grab one and do the task. Tell them to try to write a new task on the wall to replace the one they did for someone else to do…create an auto filling “to do” board.

-Pull out flooring/carpet (wear gloves and goggles to protect from contaminated flood waters…mostly it’s the E.coli and fecal coliform that can get into open cuts, eyes, mouths, or noses).

-Position and maintain fans/dehumidifiers throughout house

-When sorting through good stuff from bad stuff our “general” rule is: if flood water touched it, it’s destroyed. But there are exceptions. Clothes, for example, can usually be cleaned. Photos and other documents and sometimes be dried out too.

-Haul what’s destroyed into piles in the yard for pick up by city -Pack and label belongings that might still be good -Stage “still good” boxes or plastic bin containers and load in a POD onsite; or on a rental truck for storage

I remember the first day after we flooded. The father of my son’s girlfriend asked me what to do. I was still looking at all the loss, so I struggled to give him any useful direction. He quickly realized the situation and said, “I’m going to separate good stuff from bad stuff.” I nodded and he and some other guys went to work. Hours later we had piles in the yard, and the house was beginning to clean out. I have many examples of people who came from nowhere to help us in many ways, then left without ever knowing their names to thank.

After a flood, there’s so much to do, just guess, and you’ll probably be doing something beneficial.

Last, there’s “stuff you can share” that takes more time and commitment but means a lot

-Share your car or truck for rides, pick-ups/drop-offs -Share your garage to store their stuff that survived -Share your home for temporary living, food, showers or laundry (obvious, but important)

No one who has flooded wants to live with someone else or use their stuff. Understand how much it sucks to be so helpless, it’s dehumanizing. The best thing you can do is quietly insist and get to it.

For those who are too far away from Houston to physically show up, there are a number of places to donate money. I like this one by the Texan football player JJ Watts.

See https://www.youcaring.com/victimsofhurricaneharvey-915053

There is a lot to unpack here. For those who made it this far down the post, I hope you found it helpful.

There were so many people who opened their hearts, homes, and hardworking hands to us that I still get overwhelmed by their generosity. People are a lot of things, but what we witnessed in our hours, days, weeks, and months of need was on the pure side of love. Know that it’s out there and it’s there for you.

For our friends who flooded from Harvey, no need to leave a light on, we’ll bring you a new one.

 

 

 

 

Photo 1: USA Today

Photo 2: ABC News

Photo 3: Chicago Tribune

 

 

 

 

 

OUR SPIRITUAL WATERING HOLE Carla Carlisle

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Texas as they endure nothing short of a disaster. The tragic events unfolding in towns and cities across the coast of Texas as a result of Hurricane Harvey are a painful reminder of the devastation reeked on New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina.

Our thanks to Carla Carlisle for allowing Porchscene to reprint this article on the anniversary of Katrina in August of 2015 and again this week.

1.Katrina people on roof

Laissez les bon temps rouler

New Orleans was our spiritual watering hole

Whenever I have a case of the blues, or even full blown melancholy, I take a ham hock and a pound of spicy smoked sausage out of the freezer and put two cups of red beans in a pan to soak. Thawing and soaking take eight hours, cooking another two, but the red beans and rice provide comfort which passes all understanding.

Red beans and rice is part of my culture. It’s also part of the culture of New Orleans, our ‘big town,’ my family’s escape hatch, our spiritual watering hole: a hundred mile journey that delivered Mississippians out of their ‘dry’ state where the sale of alcohol was still prohibited, to the amphibious city, where liquor flowed freely and the motto was laissez les bon temps rouler. (Let the good times roll). Last October I bought 10 lbs. of the red beans from the French Market and a dozen small bags of filé, the powdered dried leaves of the sassafras tree used to flavour and thicken my other edible cure, seafood gumbo.

Today while the red beans soak, I listen to the radio, read the papers, follow the news online and press the redial button. For three days my calls have been answered with a recording:  ‘All telephone lines are down. Please try later.’  Last night news as tangled as the mimosa and bougainvillea of the steamy grotto gardens of New Orleans itself, began to emerge via emails: my cousin Jamie, whose flat is on Conti Street in the French Quarter was safe out in California; cousin Steve’s house between Gulfport and Biloxi is damaged, but still standing. His family fled in their camper van, and are now living in Aunt Ruby and Aunt Edna’s front drive. English friends, whose daughter, Catherine, teaches at Tulane University, report that she stayed in New Orleans until Tuesday night because she didn’t want to leave her two dogs. Finally friends drove her and the dogs to Baton Rouge, picking up another distressed dog on the way. Alive. Safe.

Every few hours I go to www.nola.com to read the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the city’s newspaper whose presses are all underwater. They are publishing online and the first article I read began: ‘No one can say they didn’t see it coming…’ That rings true. Last October, sitting in the Café du Monde eating beignets and drinking the chicory-flavoured coffee, I read excerpts from a report issued in 2001 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency warning that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S. (The other was a terrorist attack on New York City. I’ve forgotten the third.) But by 2003, the federal funding for flood control was diverted to the war in Iraq. In 2004, the Bush administration cut by more than 80% the funding requested by the Army Corps of Engineers for holding back the waters of Lake Ponchetrain. Meanwhile developers were being permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that surround New Orleans, areas that historically have held back the surge of hurricanes.

But if a storm as Biblical in its fury as Hurricane Katrina was predictable, who could have predicted the panic, suffering and desperation, the fatal delay in establishing order, organizing shelter, food, drinking water, tents, lights, sanitation, the descent into violence and anarchy?

No one now remembers the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, when a million people lost their homes and black sharecroppers were forced to spend months on top of a levee without adequate food, shelter or medical care. My grandfather, a Delta planter, saw the ’27 flood as a parable of ineptitude, greed and the all-encompassing arrogance of the men in power. He believed that natural disasters expose man-made injustices, wash away the foundations of one society and plant the roots of another. The world is now witness to a powerful country’s long-hidden darkness and despair, to the limits of power. They say that after this, New Orleans will never be the same. I don’t believe that America will ever be the same.

Carla Carlisle 09/02/2005

2.Katrina flooded new orleans

Carla Carlisle was born on the banks of the Yazoo River in Greenwood, Mississippi. Her childhood was divided between two farms: her maternal grandparents’ dairy farm in the red clay hills and her paternal grandparents’ cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta. She dreamed of a world of paved sidewalks, and succeeded in living in New York, Paris and London before marrying Sir Kenneth Carlisle, Suffolk farmer and Tory Member of Parliament, with a thousand acres of arable land in the east of England. Within three years she had planted a vineyard, converted a 400-year old barn into a vineyard restaurant, produced a son and turned an ancient Suffolk estate into a hotbed of defiant utopianism. For twelve years she also wrote a weekly column for that most English institution COUNTRY LIFE. This piece appeared the week after Katrina.

www.wykenvineyards.co.uk

 

Photo of people stranded is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to Google Images, File:Katrina-14512.jpg – commons.wikimedia.org

Photo of flood is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to Google Images, New Orleans after Katrina, credit: Jocelyn Augustino –FEMA

Photo of flooded New Orleans is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to Google Images commons.wikimedia.org3008 × 2000Search by image

File:US Navy 050902-N-5328N-582 Four days after Hurricane Katrina

Sullivan’s Hollow

Sullivan’s Hollow

by Joe Goodell

 

The streams, Oakahay and Okatoma gathered strength from the creeks to become wider and deeper, while wandering their steady way through the future Smith County of Mississippi. It was a network of generous waterways, one to be named Sullivan’s Hollow Creek, which had contoured a terrain graced with elegant longleaf pine and rich with game, then southward into the Rivers Leaf and Pascagoula.

The territory was claimed by a new nation still small, wanting to grow larger, so encouraged the hardy and venturesome, President Jefferson’s “Great Migration,” to move in. Those who did were the Knights along the lower Leaf River, and the Sullivans northward where the fields had been configured into a hollow. First among these was Thomas Jefferson Harvey Sullivan from Georgia, around 1810, following a short stint at farming in Alabama.   With other Sullivan families, he staked his claim and branded his name.

Old Tom, as he came to be known, born most likely in 1785, was said to be strong enough to crush a bear, and hot of temper, picking fights even as an old man “just for the fun of it.” He was accompanied by his Alabamian wife, Maud Elizabeth Arnold, and the first of eleven children she was to provide him. They built a house of axe-hewn, v-notched logs, central dog-trot hallway, and two brick chimneys.

A few “outsiders,” including Mary “Polly” Workman, established claims too. It was she who presented Old Tom with another eleven children, some concurrently with Elizabeth’s, and whom he married after Elizabeth’s death.

The Sullivans farmed some but were primarily stockmen and hunters of the abundant game. From the start, they valued their privacy and favored an isolated, independent life style dedicated to well-kept homesteads. They termed themselves Scotch-Irish, became Baptists and Methodists, suited to the frontier, and thrived.

Their “Hollow” expanded to most of southern Smith County, plus parts of Covington and Simpson. Despite their prosperity, peaceable they were not, but neither were they highwaymen nor common bandits. Their rough ways went with them, and violence would be triggered by slights, insults, property disputes, revenge, even contrary opinions. Killing, though not condoned, was accepted for matters of honor, or to settle a grudge when whatever law there was might be insufficient to satisfy an imperative of personal justice.

Yet the raw frontier violence often merged with some raw frontier humor to enrich the Sullivan fable, myth, and folklore. Anyone who could establish acceptable reason for entering their land might occasionally be extended a rare hospitality. But in general, it was suspicion and contempt they handed to strangers.

Brothers “Wild Bill” and Cornelius (Neace), grandsons of Old Tom and Polly, earned a notorious reputation for bawdy mirth. Taking exception to an interloping peach tree peddler, they stripped him, then hitched him to the plow alongside their mule for a while. Another trespasser found his head locked between two fence rails adjacent to an active bee hive.

Such tales were embellished into legend and began to spread, establishing the Hollow as a mean place, one to be avoided. The Bishop of Louisiana spoke of their “pernicious maxims.” And there were, in fact, instances which did exceed prankish mischief, ending with lethal results.

Wild Bill, “King of the Hollow,” and Neace traveled, drank, and fought together, ordinarily in public places, even at churches. May of 1871 marked the “Battle of Shiloh Baptist” (unrelated to the one at Shiloh Methodist nine years earlier in Tennessee) over someone’s vendetta against Neace. It became a fearsome melee extended in time, diverse in weaponry. Two died, and Neace barely survived a near disemboweling.

In early 1903 a congenial “candy breaking” segued into heavy drinking, likely the popular moonshine called “Blind Tiger.” Insults and fighting ensued, ending with the death of Wild Bill’s brother Wils from knife wounds.

So you will understand the omen of apprehension which hovered around me en route to the Watermelon Festival, late one July in Mize, “capital” of the Hollow. I was both relieved and pleased when introduced to Paul, the current and respectable patriarch of that old log house on CR 35. He was cordial enough, but seemed a bit guarded, preferring to visit among the several oases of his kinfolk assembled about the grounds.

I appreciated an informative conversation with Neace’s great-great-grandson, Brad Sharp. He was busy chatting up the crowd to refine his own research: making more audio-videos for his superb website. And continuing his search for the sites of Neace’s home and grave.

The cemeteries, like the neighborhoods, of course, are dominated by Sullivans. Alex Sullivan Cemetery on CR 26 sustains its own stately “headstone” of three towering pines murmuring their requiem in the light breeze. It is a well-tended acre with testimonies to life spans of merely hours, to those exceeding seventy years, where Old Tom’s grave lies quietly between those of Elizabeth and Polly.

Sullivan’s Hollow, still thriving in Century 21, continues to display conspicuous pride in the appearance of churches, homes, and farms. But despite fancied expectations, you won’t see any peach tree salesmen hitched to plows, nor will you encounter furies of gunfire.

Quite the contrary. With a mannerly expression of genuine interest, you might instead find the tendency for aloof independence yielding to hearty greetings, and find yourself being regaled by irresistible stories. Even offered a draft of fine American whiskey, though unlikely will it bear the Blind Tiger label.

 

Photos:ONLYINYOURSTATEweb site and

http://bradsharp.wixsite.com/sullivanshollowfilm/bio

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

Black with Pepper

Black with Pepper

Collected and Edited by Gary Wright

 

Everybody is ignorant, just on different subjects‘— Will Rogers

Some sayings, you only hear in the South, and sometimes even Southerners have never heard them. There are also things people down here eat — like Poke Salat — that some of the southern folks I know have never heard of. But never discount the value of something until you understand its source, “‘cause there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

 “And it was just BLACK with pepper.” Well, it’s one of those ole time southern phrases that means that a particular food wasn’t very tasty, therefore, the consumer used a lot of black pepper to remedy the blandness. The meaning, though, is much more profound. In the so called ‘good old days, so many Southerners were abjectly poor that they — of necessity — ate the absolute poorest cuts of meat, such as pork fat back, ham hocks, pork brains, chicken fingers, (the real ones) and the cheaper cuts of beef. When they were lucky, they would supplement their fare with ’possum, ’coon, squirrels, rabbits, and feral pigs. The meat was usually boiled to make it palatable, or, at least, edible. Home-grown herbs, spices, and pepper, especially black pepper, were used to give it the slightest flavor.

 Never heard of it? Well, Poke Salat is a green vegetable similar to spinach, mustard greens, and turnip greens that’s not only tasty, but it’s downright healthy eating. A Southern favorite, it consists of the crisp leaves stripped from the poke berry stalk. The poke berry grows wild around old farm houses, barns, fence rows, and in places especially high in fertilize where cattle and horse provide manure.

The greens are quite strong in taste and should be cooked at least three times by boiling and then draining each time to soften the taste somewhat.  If not prepared thusly, the brew is toxic to mammals because of alkaloids in the plant. It’s normally cooked with a generous helping of fatback for seasoning, and should be served with vinegar from pepper sauce, which is available on every thoughtful Southerner’s dinner table.

Though delicious and a common sight on some Southern dinner and supper tables, I can’t recall ever seeing poke berry growing in any Southern garden and, in fact, I’ve never seen poke berry seeds for sale in any garden seed catalog. It is picked wild, only. Incidentally, the poke berry stains anything it touches, so it used to mark cotton-picking sacks so they didn’t get mixed up at picking time.

“You can bake your under pants in the oven, but that don’t make ’em biscuits.” Often said of politicians’ promises or Yankee peddlers, the saying means that you can call it whatever you want to, but it is what it is.

“Boy Howdy, you ought to see her cut a rug!” This has nothing at all to do with laying carpet or with designing Afghan throws. It refers to her dancing ability, and, man, oh man, can she ever dance! Her dancing is so precise and her moves are made so swiftly, that wearing new store-bought shoes with sharp leather soles, I’m afraid she’s gonna cut a slice out of the carpet. If you’re confused, this is a genuine compliment.

“A month of Sundays” is a long time. If you count one Sunday as a day, then the following week would have to be tacked on as well. That means that one day in a Southern-speak week consists of seven days. Therefore a month of Sundays would constitute 30 or 31 weeks, depending on which month, or, if February, then it could be 28 or 29 weeks, depending on whether you are referring to a leap year. I should have warned you that Southern-speak can sometimes be vexing and one should be math-inclined.

“Y’all are welcome to stay the night.We don’t have extra beds, but I’m sure we can find a nail to hang you on.” These barbed words are intended for company who have grossly overstayed their welcome and the family needs to get to bed. This would be said instead of what they were really thinking: “Bout time for you to go home, ain’t it?” Of course, it wouldn’t be hospitable to be that crass, so, most southerners would just wait it out until the company finally got tired themselves.

“Me and my brother picked cotton for thirty years one fall!” There’s hardly anything more insurmountable than just you and your little brother, Clem, looking across thirty acres of endless, glistening, white cotton, knowing that the two of you, alone, have to pick it! It’s an especially onerous task when you’re ten years old at the time but are now looking back through thirty years of time. Maybe you haven’t had to pick thirty acres of cotton and maybe you don’t even have a little brother named Clem, but you know what I mean.

Ain’t no watermelon quite so sweet as one what is stole. Though it purports, on its face, to suborn theft, it actually has a deeper meaning akin to the theme of ‘the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.’ It actually connotes the idea that anything that’s obtained free of charge is better than when it’s bought.

Some of these old adages may have you “lost as last year’s Easter egg,” and you may think some of them “are about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.” I, however, don’t “have a dog in this fight,” so it’s “six of one and a half dozen of the other” whether you use any of them or not, but if you can’t run with the big dogs, stay under the porch.”

 

 

 

Poke Salat image from Google images and Randy Tindall

Cotton field image from Google images

Old and New Converge

Old and New Converge
by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

 

Once a thriving town on the Illinois Central Railroad line, when the train repair shops relocated in 1930 and mechanization took over farming, Water Valley, Mississippi, like so many small towns, was frozen in time. The population of under 3,000 remained static, and in the ensuing years post railroad, Water Valley yielded to the status quo, and indeed, nothing in the small town evolved except the deterioration of its structures.

Change doesn’t always come from within, and that has never been truer than in Water Valley. In the early 2000s, fresh, new eyes fell on the little southern city, and thus began a slow, but significant, resurrection of Main Street, which spilled over to the rest of the town, including the residential areas.

 

The charming, but decaying, community held one noteworthy draw — inexpensive, mainly unaltered-since-construction, real-estate. The outside innovators, who hail from nearby Oxford, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and other parts of the South and the country, saw the value in the beautiful, old buildings, and began buying, and in most cases, reinventing them. Not only were the downtown and residential properties reasonable, but by doing much, if not all, of the renovation themselves, the investment risks for the buyers would be potentially less catastrophic, should the ventures not pan out.

 

Nobody’s making a fortune here, mind you, but the owners of the businesses in downtown Water Valley — new and old owners alike — have rearranged their priorities so that they are doing what they love. Main Street is a blossoming business center that has once again become the nucleus of the town — in no small part because the citizens vetoed the erection of a Super Wal-Mart in the area — but also due to the level of energy and enthusiasm the restorations have launched. The retail operations in this small town are supporting each other and putting most of their money back into the pockets of the residents. There’s a real sense of community in the town, and the old businesses are operating happily alongside the new ones.

 

The reimagined buildings have sparked new vitality into the town. Mickey Howley and his wife, Annette Trefzer, a professor at the University of Mississippi in nearby Oxford, turned an old drugstore into Bozart’s Gallery, an art gallery that features the work of regional artists. A barbershop is now another art studio, Yalo, short for Yalobusha, the county in which Water Valley resides. A building that was once Hendricks Foundry & Machine Shop, now on the National Registry of Historic Places, is today Yalobusha Brewing Company, who brew — what else — Yalo Beer. (The company offers four year-round beers and several seasonal offerings.) Crawdad Hole, a popular restaurant that offers Cajun and Creole food, was once a gas/service station.

 

The business that regularly draws, not only Water Valley residents and people from the surrounding area, but often tourists as well, is the B.T.C. Old Fashioned Grocery. The operation sells locally sourced vegetables, Billy Ray Brown’s Pasteurized milk, and ice cream made from the milk, locally made desserts, casseroles, and a variety of spices, teas, coffees and some staples that aren’t carried by the local grocery.

 

B.T.C. owner, Alexe van Beuren, says, “I’m not a big shopper, and yet food strikes me as one of the few things worth spending money on. I adore selling food, which I discovered nine years ago when I had an heirloom tomato and baguette stand at our local farmers’ market.” Dixie Grimes, once a chef at an upscale Oxford restaurant, came on board and built the café side of the business, called appropriately, The Dixie Belle Café, and according to van Beuren, “The cafe has proved to be essential to keeping our doors open.”


The Dixie Belle Cafe Menu

The Gandhi quote, “You must be the change you want to see in the world” was the inspiration for the operation’s name, a code that Alexe and husband, Kagan Coughlin, exemplify in their day-to-day pursuits. When they bought the once stately department store building that now houses B.T.C., it was in such disrepair that a developer was about to level it in order to salvage the bricks. Coughlin, while working full time at a lucrative job, gutted and did all the renovation of the huge space himself — upstairs and down — at night after he finished his “day job.” He has recently thrown his entire energy into buying and restoring other buildings on the street, including one, The Blu-Buck Mercantile Hotel that has several small apartments that overlook a ready-made mural . In one of his efforts to give back to the community, Coughlin collaborated with Glen Evans to establish the Base Camp Coding Academy, which  offers free computer training to local kids.


The Blu-Buck Mercantile Hotel balcony overlooks the storefront ruins-turned mural

Some  businesses survived the many lean years in Water Valley to provide the backbone upon which new businesses have been created. The Mechanics Bank has been in operation for 124 years, the North Mississippi Herald has been publishing for over a 100 years, and Turnage Drug Store is currently run by the fourth generation and has been operational for 111 years. It’s a wonderful old drug store, complete with a beautiful, functional soda fountain, as well as a pharmacy and the usual “drug store stuff.”

The National Main Street Association, which has approximately 1,500 towns nationwide in its membership, has been instrumental in the revitalization of the town. Mickey Howley, director of the Water Valley Main Street Association, says that people in the little town are excited about what’s happening and they want to participate in its growth.

Everyone recognizes that it is in the best interest of all for the businesses to succeed, so they collectively strive to help and promote one another. The town now has a new identity and a “sense of place” as a result of the ingenuity, spirit, and cooperation of old and new residents. Farmers and College Professors alike are working and playing alongside each other in a community that has embraced change.  Southern unity at its finest.

B.T.C. Old Fashioned Grocery: https://btcgrocery.com
Yalobusha Brewing Company: http://www.yalobrew.com
Bozarts Gallery: www.bozartsgallery.com/
Yalo Studio and Gallery: http://www.visitmississippi.org/events-and-points-of-interest/yalo-studio-and-gallery-27257
Blu-Buck Mercantile: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blu-Buck-Mercantile/1647602432194326
Crawdad Hole: https://www.facebook.com/crawdadholewatervalley/
Turnage Drug Store: https://www.facebook.com/TurnageDrugStore/
Base Camp Coding Academy: https://basecampcodingacademy.org

Photos: Deborah Fagan Carpenter

 

 

 

Ode to Billie Jean

Ode to Billie Jean
by Gary Wright

“There is nothing in the world like the devotion of a married woman.
It’s a thing no married man knows anything about.”
—Oscar Wilde

American Country music has no counterpart anywhere in the world. Its father was folk music and its mother was the blues, with just a little bit of sassy hillbilly and bluegrass music thrown in. It initially attracted working class Americans, with lyrics about hard times, drinking, partying, loving, not going to church, going to church, and losing a loved one. By the 1950s it had become America’s favorite type of music. Country music gave rise to many early super stars, as it took to the road and played in honky-tonks, county fairs, and radio stations.


Hank Williams
Many instances of apparitions of departed country singers have been recorded, including Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash, and Buddy Holley. Due to performances at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Hank Williams, Sr. — in his afterlife — has been dubbed “the Phantom of the Opry.” Loretta Lynn owns the tiny town of Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, which has been the site of many apparitions and other supernatural occurrences. Elvis is frequently seen at roadside cafes and in supermarkets.

Especially intriguing, are the stories about those stars who died under tragic, even mysterious circumstances. There are many of those, for country singers seem to be given to living and dying under dark stars. As the words of Faron Young’s song imply, “I’m gonna live fast, love hard, and die young.”


Faron Young
Coupled with the intertwining of his life and death with that of Hank Williams, there are few circumstances that can match the foreboding and eerie dreams that Johnny Horton had of his own death. John LeGale Horton, the country super star, was born in 1925 and died tragically in 1960. With such songs as “The Battle of New Orleans,” “Springtime in Alaska,” and “Sink the Bismarck,” Horton enjoyed tremendous success. But, he lived his entire adult life fully believing that he would die young and violently because of the actions of a drunk man. Throughout Johnny Horton’s short life, he harbored an intense enthrallment with spiritualism and the supernatural, sharing his belief in the great unknown with his close fishing buddy, Johnny Cash. There are even stories of the two hypnotizing each other or trying to reach Hank Williams’ spirit at séances. Horton eventually became so convinced that a drunk person would kill him violently, that he even practiced driving in a ditch as an evasive maneuver to avoid a drunk driver. Horton’s manager, Merle Kilgore, often told the story that occurred about six months before Horton’s death. Horton gave him his guitar and said, “I’ve got the feelin’ Ol’ John’s not gonna be around much longer, and I want you to have this.”

On November 5th, 1960, Horton’s worst nightmare came to pass. He had just finished playing at the famous Skyline Club in Austin, Texas, the same club where, seven years earlier, Hank Williams had made his last performance. After he finished playing, Horton would not go into the club’s bar, for fear that some drunk would start a fight and kill him there.


The next day, Horton, his bass player, Tommy Tomlinson, and his manager and songwriting partner, Tillman Franks were driving back to Shreveport, Louisiana for a planned fishing trip. With Horton behind the wheel, near a railroad overpass on Highway 79 near Milano, Texas, his Cadillac was hit head-on by a drunk man in a pickup. Franks suffered head injuries; Tomlinson’s legs were badly fractured, and one eventually had to be amputated. Horton died on the way to the hospital. The drunken driver, James Evan Davis, suffered a broken ankle, and later pleaded guilty to ‘intoxication, resulting in a fatality.’

We’ve all seen accounts of people who present coincidences and similarities in the lives and deaths of our presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Interestingly enough, there is a similar list of coincidences in the lives of Hank Williams Sr. and Johnny Horton.

While driving in his Cadillac near Milano, Texas, Johnny Horton heard of Hank’s death on the radio, eerily, on the same stretch of road where he would die in 1960. Both Hank Williams and Johnny Horton played their last shows at the Skyline Club in Austin. Hank was on his way to his first show in a month, a club date in Canton, Ohio, when he died in the back seat of a Cadillac; Johnny Horton was driving a Cadillac the night of his death.


Hank Williams and Billie Jean Williams
At the time of his death, Hank was married to a beautiful young woman named Billie Jean Jones. Country music star Faron Young had introduced Hank to Billie Jean, as Young had been a former boyfriend of hers. Before meeting Hank Williams, Billie Jean had a brief affair with Johnny Cash while Cash was married to his first wife, Vivian Liberto. For both Hank and Billie Jean, it was a second marriage. They had been married barely two and a half months when Hank died of drug-induced heart failure in the wee hours of January 1, 1953. Nine months later, in September 1953, Billie Jean Williams married Johnny Horton. It was his second marriage, and would end with his death seven years later. It was said by at least one reporter that both Williams and Horton kissed Billie Jean on the same cheek the last time she saw either of them alive.


Johnny Horton and Billie Jean
Faron Young shot himself on December 9, 1996. He died in Nashville the following day and was cremated. His ashes were spread by his family over Old Hickory Lake outside Nashville at Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash’s home. At last count, Billie Jean Horton was still living in a nursing home in Louisiana, an 83-year-old lady with striking memories that only few of us can imagine.


Billie Jean
Were the souls of Johnny Horton and Hank Williams somehow interrelated supernaturally, through the person of Billie Jean Jones? Consider the undeniable facts, then sort through mere coincidences. Can spirits intertwine?  Or, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said in his prize winning novel, ‘The Great Gatsby,’ “We beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

 

OLD’ HANK’S CARR

Old’ Hank’s Carr
by Gary Wright

“Everything is so random there must be a pattern.”

As the sun was rising on New Year’s Day about 65 years ago, a beautiful, shiny blue Cadillac pulled up the Hill, West Virginia hospital in the cold winter darkness. The driver, just 18, was very fatigued and very frightened. The passenger, barely 29, was very dead.

The driver, Charles Carr, was a freshman at Auburn University and had been hired at the last minute by Hank Williams to drive him to a performance in Canton, Ohio. Williams, who had been plagued since childhood with spina bifida, a painful malady of the spine, had been addicted to pain medication for years. In his later years he had commenced to augment his addiction with copious amounts of beer and whatever hard liquor he came close to. In addition to morphine and booze, Hank regularly took a dangerous sedative, chloral hydrate, to sleep. He was in a lot of pain and felt that in his medicated state he needed a designated driver.

The exact cause and time of the death of country music’s first superstar remains much of a mystery. Carr had stopped the vehicle some miles before the hospital when Hank had gone silent in the back seat. He stopped and, upon checking, found that Hank was unconscious. Roaring into the hospital, Carr pleaded with the attendant, “Give Hank something to bring him around.” But even a cursory exam revealed that Hank Williams was indeed, dead. The exact cause of death will never be known, for no autopsy was performed and no toxicology tests were run.

“I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry”

Hank’s new Cadillac was one thing he cherished more than just about anything. When Carr got behind the wheel of Williams’ convertible Cadillac, Hank’s career and soon enough, his life, was in a meltdown mode. He had been barred from the Grand Ole Opry for drunkenness, and demoted to the Louisiana Hayride, a definite step backward. He was now back to playing the very honky-tonks and dives he had just graduated from a few years earlier. Recently divorced from his first wife, Audrey, he had remarried to Billie Jean Jones, but was currently staying at his mother’s downtown Montgomery boardinghouse.

Williams was riding around in his beloved 1952 Cadillac with his stage suits, guitar, and other items he thought would be needed on a short tour through Ohio and West Virginia. During the tour, soon after the two drove across the West Virginia state line, Carr stopped at a gas station to fill the Cadillac’s tank. At that time, Carr noticed that Williams was passed out in the back seat. When he checked on him, Williams’ body was unresponsive and becoming rigid. Likely dead, the 18 year-old, terrified Carr raced to find the nearest hospital.

It’s unclear what killed Williams, but we do know that he drank often on the tour and had asked his doctor that night to give him a shot of morphine before he left Montgomery to help with his back pain. The sleep aid, chloral hydrate was never found, so, it is presumed that he took that chemical some time during the trip. Chloral Hydrate is the main ingredient in a “Mickey Finn.”


Charles Carr at the graves of Hank and Audrey Williams in 2007

They had planned to fly from Knoxville, Tenn., to Charleston, but poor weather canceled the flight and Williams canceled the concert. At a Knoxville hotel, Williams summoned a doctor and received two more morphine shots, along with some vitamin B-12, according to Carr. The Cadillac in which Williams’ body was found, the car he used on that final tour, is now preserved at the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. It is the centerpiece of the museum, which is also filled with memorabilia and portraits and more.

Charles Carr died at 79 in 2013, forever known as the Carr that drove Hank’s death car. Carr went on to complete college, serve in the U.S. Army in Europe, and become a successful businessman and family man in Montgomery. He shunned all the limelight connected to him driving Hank Williams’ death car. Carr’s father was a friend of the Williams family, and prevailed on his son to drive Hank on that fateful tour from Montgomery to a New Year’s Eve show in Charleston, West Virginia, and then to another concert scheduled for Jan. 1, 1953, in Canton, Ohio.

Hank Williams knew his destiny from a very early age. He always wanted to be a singer and a song writer. He wrote over 700 songs and more than 100 were hits and have been recorded by some of the biggest names in the business. Ol’ Hank wrote songs about the bible, about getting drunk, about losing a loved one, about walking out on a loved one, and about every other sad and lonely issue you can imagine. Some of his issues, you can’t even imagine. His songs still make you laugh, sometimes they make you cry and sometimes both at once.

Ol’ Hank had spent most of his life clawing his way to the top, and, when he finallyachieved it, he threw it all away and spiraled to the lowest depths. One thing, though, about his songs; they are genuine, for he lived every minute of every word in his songs. The last song he recorded, perhaps not coincidentally, was

“I’ll Never Get out of This World Alive.”

 

Photo of Charles Carr at the graves of Hank and Audrey Williams in 2007 (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Julie Bennett)

Is there a more magical place?

Is there a more magical place?

Deborah Fagan Carpenter

Guilty! Sometimes I buy books from Amazon, and sometimes I read on a tablet. Hey, it’s fun to anticipate the arrival of a book in the mail, and then to rip into the package with excitement when it’s finally delivered. And, it’s pretty cool to be able to decide in the middle of the night to buy a book, and with one click, have it appear like magic on my tablet. Nothing, (for me) however, can compare to the feeling of walking into an enchanting bookstore whose shelves are brimming from top to bottom with imagination and information; wandering endlessly, reading the descriptions of book after book; examining inspired cover after cover; and then, exiting with a bag full of amazing stories waiting to be revealed. For a book lover, a bookstore, particularly an intimate, charming, locally owned one, is like a candy store for a sugar-loving kid.

Could there be a nicer place than a bookstore? The very first bookstore that I remember shopping in was on Canal Street in New Orleans, sometime during 1967. Although I can’t recall the name, and I don’t know if it’s even still in operation, being in that shop remains one of my fondest memories. For me, the energy in that room was profound and magical.

Can small, locally owned bookstores survive, or, at least co-exist in the digital world? Well, that depends somewhat on the ingenuity, creativity, passion, and perseverance of the owners—with perseverance topping the list. But, chiefly, survival is firmly in the hands of the community itself. There’s a bond of like-minded folks amongst shoppers at small bookstores, and, if enough readers in an area value that experience and feeling of connection, along with the assistance and guidance provided by the staff, there’s a chance of co-existence.

The staff members of small bookstores love books, and, they live for questions about them. While it’s certainly convenient and economical to shop for books on-line, nothing can compare to the personal attention offered by the knowledgeable owners and staff members of small bookstores. They’re almost always avid readers who love to discuss books, to impart little-known facts about authors, or to make suggestions when you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for. Sometimes, they get to know their customers so well that they’re aware of their reading preferences, and can, with reasonable confidence, suggest a new author or book for them.

Clearly, there’s no chance that independent stores can compete with the prices or inventory of Amazon, and they aren’t in the business of matching prices with them either. But, the one-on-one assistance that’s always available at bookstores can more than compensate for the difference in costs, and, books can be ordered from physical stores just as they can on-line, and often, if not usually, arrive the next day.

Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi

Mississippi, widely known to have produced some of the finest writers in the literary world, currently boasts a gratifying number of flourishing independent bookstores as well. Not surprisingly, college towns regularly support bookstores, but the support is much broader than merely students. Square Books in Oxford, a good example, is well-known nationally, and it’s so successful that they’ve been able to maintain Off Square Books, which sells lifestyle and leisure books, along with used and bargain books, and Square Books, Jr. for younger readers. Off Square occupies space in a unique building that’s available for rent for special events, which is obviously one of the means the owners of Square Books use to generate revenue. But, the original Square Books is the cornerstone of the operation, offering an endless variety of books.

Turn Row Book Company, Greenwood, Mississippi

One of the survival tools for bookstores is to have small cafés—or at least coffee bars—as part of the everyday operation, and that’s always been the case at Turn Row Book Company in Greenwood. The simple menu of paninis, sandwiches, salads and light desserts, not only offers the store’s customers a place to relax and enjoy a quick lunch, but it’s a great meeting place for friends, which of course brings people into the store.

Turn Row Book Company, Greenwood, Mississippi

The beautiful bookstore on Howard Street, once a department store, also houses an upstairs gallery of works by regional artists. But the shelves downstairs are well-stocked with not only a solid collection of books by Mississippi authors, but a broad selection of novels in varying genres, including children’s books. The headquarters for Viking Range is located in Greenwood, so, cookbooks are naturally a staple of the shop.

It’s not uncommon to run into an author at a small bookstore. On a recent visit to Turn Row, I was told that, occasionally, visiting writers, particularly a couple of well-known Mississippians, will, time permitting, visit with aspiring writers, giving them encouragement and direction. Not a personal touch one is likely to find on-line.

Turn Row Book Company doesn’t have to look far to find an author to encourage new writers though. The owner, Jamie Kornegay’s first novel, Soil, has placed him firmly on the list of outstanding Mississippi writers. “Mississippi has done it again, given us yet another brilliant writer,” said Tom Franklin, author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, about Kornegay.

Turning Pages Books and More, Natchez, Mississippi

If you want a book signed by an author, an independent bookstore is the place to find it. #1 New York Times Bestselling Author, Greg Iles, hasn’t forgotten the Mississippi stores that helped him launch his career, and even though his publishers set up a grueling tour for him when he has a new release, he gives generously of his time to them. Turning Pages Books and More, in his hometown of Natchez, is naturally on the list of stores where he always does a signing, and they maintain a full inventory of his novels.

The newly released Mississippi Encyclopedia is giving the state’s independent bookstores a fresh, new enticement to help bring in new readers. The comprehensive look at Mississippi’s people, places, history, literature, art and architecture, music, politics, religion, and folklife is being introduced at independent stores all over the state, including Turn Row Book Company in Greenwood and Lorelei Books in Vicksburg. Senior editors of the collaborative work will be on hand on June first and second respectively to sign and discuss the project that began in 2003.

Lorelei Bookstore, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Independent bookstores regularly host similar events that not only bring community residents together, but add “texture and character” to the area. Mississippi-born writer, Polly Dement put it beautifully when she wrote: “A community’s cultural life is its soul, and where independent bookstores can be found, they are at the heart of the community. As long as we pull books from the shelves of bookstores, whether to stretch our minds or make us laugh, we can rest assured that our communities are growing along with us.” The author of Mississippi Entrepreneurs wrote that passage specifically about Vicksburg’s Lorelei Books, but it easily applies to most locally owned bookstores.

I, for one, will continue to shop for books on-line from time to time, and I’ll continue reading on my Kindle—on and off—too. But, as the Lorelei Books’ website once stated, that won’t replace “books of paper and ink, sold in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, by human beings.”

 

Photos by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

ME OH MY—JAMBALAYA!

ME OH MY—JAMBALAYA!

by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

Mardi Gras! It’s the South’s great party!

A prelude to Ash Wednesday and Lent, Mardi Gras originated in Europe, but it began in the U.S. in—still under debate—either New Orleans or Mobile. (In Louisiana it’s actually a legal holiday.) Although religious at its foundation, the celebration is enjoyed by even non-Catholics, and consists of several weeks filled with masked balls, costumes, elaborate parades, beads, libations, and of course, food.

At the top of the celebratory food lists are Cajun and Creole favorites like red beans and rice, gumbo, King Cake, and jambalaya. We’ve had several posts on some of these from our own Southfacin’ Cook, Patsy Brumfield: “Make a Cake like a New Orleanian”  and “Red Beans and Rice by Patsy Brumfield” http://porchscene.com/2016/01/15/make-a-king-cake-like-a-new-orleanian/ , http://porchscene.com/2014/03/13/southfacin-cooks-red-beans-rice-by-patsy-brumfield/, and a gumbo recipe by John Besh in Holiday Dinner a la New Orleans” http://porchscene.com/2015/12/21/holiday-dinner-a-la-new-orleans/. Today’s post takes a look at Jambalaya, which I’ve previously never prepared OR eaten, I don’t think, but it was a great Sunday afternoon endeavor and a delicious dinner.

Jambalaya is definitely a Louisiana dish, strongly influenced by the French and Spanish, consisting of a variety of meats and often seafood, but always rice. It also includes the “holy trinity” of onion, celery, and green bell pepper, and optional garlic, which I included in my execution of it. There are multiple ways to season it, and sometimes it includes tomatoes, and sometimes not. It seems that the farther away from New Orleans one travels, the less likely it is to incorporate tomatoes. As the crow flies, I’m 358 miles from New Orleans, however, and I used them in my version. (Chef’s prerogative)

Jambalaya

INGREDIENTS

2 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, butter, or vegetable oil

1 pound raw chicken  (I used white meat because it’s what I had, but dark meat has more flavor)

½ Pound or less Andouille sausage (I used Bradley’s sausage because it’s what I had.) Read about it in this article: http://porchscene.com/2014/01/16/oceans-of-inland-escapes-by-deborah-fagan-carpenter/

About a pound of large shrimp or crawfish (optional)

Two large cloves garlic, chopped (optional)

One large yellow onion

One green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

Two celery stalks, chopped

Two tablespoons parsley, chopped

One jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

Several green onions, chopped

About a tablespoon of thyme (I used fresh, but use less, if it’s dried)

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

A couple of tablespoons of Cajun seasoning OR a combination of three teaspoons salt, freshly ground pepper, ¼ teaspoon cayenne, ½ teaspoon chili powder, 1/8 teaspoon cloves, two whole bay leaves, ¼ teaspoon dried basil, 1/8 teaspoon mace

One cup long-grain white rice

One small can chopped tomatoes

Three cups chicken broth

 

PREPARATION

In a substantial eight quart pot, brown the chicken over medium-high heat. (About five minutes) Remove the chicken and add the sausage, cooking for several minutes. Remove the sausage and add all of the vegetables, sautéing for several minutes. Add the chicken and sausage back into the pot, along with the remaining ingredients, except the shrimp, if you’re including them, which go in the last couple of minutes before serving. Cook covered on very low heat for about 45 minutes, and turn up at the end for enough time to turn the shrimp pink if you’re using them. Serve with baguettes and salad.

Serves 4

Aside from a bit of vegetable chopping and slicing, there’s not much to this dish, so if you’re in the mood for a little Mardi Gras fare, give it a go!

(If you’re in Memphis, and you don’t want to go to the trouble of making a King Cake for dessert, pick up some Mardi Gras cookies from Frost’s Bakery in Laurelwood!)

All photos by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

 

Mobile Mardi Gras à la Joe Cain

 

Mobile Mardi Gras à la Joe Cain

By Gary Wright

 

 

Often, things are not as they seem;

usually, but not always, more so than ever

 

Joseph Stillwell Cain, Jr.

October 10, 1832–April 17, 1904

Widely known as the father of the rebirth of Mobile’s Mardi Gras, Joe Cain is a celebrated son of Alabama. Following the Civil War, Mobile, Alabama was still in the throes of reconstruction and very much under the hated jack-boot of Yankee occupation soldiers and money-hungry carpet baggers. The conspiracy theorist generals of the Union occupiers feared that Southern sympathizers were secretly planning to overthrow the Union government in the South and reinitiate hostilities. Mardi Gras celebrations were about the only source of gaiety for Mobilians, and the Mardi Gras partiers carried their roles to the extreme, particularly the secret societies which made up the life blood of Mardi Gras. The Yankee overlords, ever fearful of conspiracies, cabals, and free thinkers thought that the masks, the secret handshakes, and similar frivolities of the Mardi Gras were the hotbed of the imminent hostilities. Thusly, the Yankees outlawed all Mardi Gras parades, meetings, parties, and activities.

There was little for Alabamians to celebrate during those hard times of scalawags, scam artists, and cruel northern overlords. The one thing of mirth and merriment had always been Mardi Gras, and now even that was prohibited under threat of imprisonment. On ‘Fat Tuesday’ 1867, Joe Cain, in an unplanned and uncoordinated fit of pique, simply appeared and paraded through the streets of Mobile. He showed up—some say in a high state of inebriation—dressed in an improvised costume depicting a fictional Chickasaw chief named Slacabamorinico. The choice was an ill-concealed insult to the occupying Union forces, in that the Chickasaw had never been defeated in war. Joe was joined by six other Confederate veterans, parading in a decorated coal wagon, playing drums and horns, and the group became the “L.C. Minstrel Band,” now commonly referred to as the “Lost Cause Minstrels” of Mobile.

Joe Cain and his compatriots had to get liquored up to march, knowing they faced certain arrest. However, in that first parade, the Union soldiers, carpet-baggers, and Mobile citizens looked on in wonder and laughter as ‘Old Slac’ and his minstrels marched down Government Street and turned left onto Royal Street, ending up in a bar. Although that first parade after the Civil War may have seemed comical and unpretentious, perceptive Mobilians realized that this was history in the making and that ‘Old Slac,’ in his unpolished manner and drunken stupor, had put one over on the unaware Yanks. Secret societies, which quickly grew in number, were instantly born to plan for a Mardi Gras parade the following year. 1868 produced an even larger parade, and in succeeding years, it grew substantially.

Mobile had little hope for gaiety and fun while suffering under the heel of the jackboot by the occupiers. With little else to brighten their plight from occupation, the planning and organizing for Mardi Gras went entirely underground and took up the Mobilians’ entire year. Outwardly, the secret societies were made to look like nothing but a drunken party. Inwardly, it became a serious and expensive business. Mardi Gras had been 150 years old when it was abruptly canceled by the Yankee occupiers in 1865, and it had always been part of the fabric of Mobile society. Now, under Joe Cain’s guidance and ‘Old Slac’s,’ command, it resumed its rightful place as the centerpiece of Mobile’s formal and, at the same time, gaudy, culture.

Had the secret societies put as much effort into planning hostilities against the Union authorities as they did in planning their drunken parties, they might have succeeded in reconquering their homeland. However, much to the delight of the occupying Northern government, all the activities of the Mardi Gras societies was as it seemed—one big, drunken party. In their attempt to ferret out the conspiracies, the Union government spent lots of time, money, and effort in penetrating these societies. But, it is impossible to prove the unprovable, and most of the Yankee spies eventually joined the secret societies for real and became some of the best of party-goers.

As the years passed, ‘Old Slac’ became a permanent fixture in the Mobile parade, and is now an integral part of the festivities. When Joe Cain died in 1904, the drunken revelers couldn’t bear not having him in the parade. Quite naturally, and in the right sense of Mardi Gras, they knew Joe wouldn’t mind a good party. So, they dug him up from his grave behind the Mobile Public Library on Government Street and paraded him down the avenue in a wagon pulled by two mules and followed by a bevy of black-clad female mourners, each claiming to be “Joe Cain Widows.” The Sunday before Fat Tuesday has become a permanent tribute to his memory. Now known as “Joe Cain Day,” the entire day is dedicated to his memory, irreverent partying and merriment providing his legacy.

For moral, not to mention sanitary purposes, city officials quickly put an end to digging up ‘Old Slac’ every year, and on Joe Cain Day the Mobile Police Department still guards his grave to ensure that Old Joe stays put. However, a team of horses and a “borrowed” coal wagon parade his ceremonial remains through the City, followed by, you guessed it – his ‘merry widows,’ wailing and lamenting his passing. Usually fueled by liquor, his widows sorrowfully and loudly celebrate his passing in shrieks of wailing and lamentation while sporting outlandish black, widow-like dress.

Joe Cain, a celebrated son of Alabama.

Revelers outside Joe Cain’s former home during Mobile Mardi Gras

 

 

 

 

Mardi Gras image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to Travel Southern Comfort board on Pinterest

Black and white of Joe Cain is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to the Encyclopedia of Alabama

Float image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to Wikimedia

Reveler image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to Wikipedia

Visiting Pluto

Visiting Pluto

by Joseph N Goodell

As if being led by the hand through a looking glass into this wonderland of Mississippi, Richard Grant’s masterful Dispatches from Pluto genuinely involves a reader into his story. I had no more than finished Mr. Grant’s prologue than I judged that my involvement would be better served by visiting his “discovery” before I proceeded on to Chapter 1.

The straightforward way to get there from my home in Madison would have been via I55 and MS16 through Yazoo City, north on US49E past Eden, then left on Bee Lake Road (just over the Holmes County line) to the row crop processing operation, an economic hub which is Pluto, Mississippi. But there’s no pizazz or adventure in “straightforward.” Better to risk losing my way along rural byways through protean landscape and tiny hamlets with their resident dramatis personae.

So, from MS16 I turned north on MS433 through Benton, past the school and fire station, onto a slow-w-w but scenic length of road being resurfaced, which really did not need resurfacing, (The streets of Jackson, victims of relentless traffic above and Yazoo clay below, really do. Go figure.) and, into Midway—presumably, mid-way over the pine-forested high country between the valleys of the Big Black and Yazoo Rivers.

Midway is a confluence of five roads and a congregation of nondescript, randomly arranged structures in need of a facelift. The one where I stopped—for a map check and restroom—seemed to be a sort of automobile repair enterprise. The proprietor, a Mr. Congeniality of authentic affability, was kind enough to accommodate me. “A right turn outa my place, then less ‘n a q’rter mile to a left on Eden-Midway Road an’ y’r on y’r way t’ 49E.” (For the other he cheerfully offered “that patch o’ weeds out b’hind m’ barn yonder.”)

We parted company with thanks for his time and hospitality from me, an earnest “Y’all come back” from him. The bright day was early fall, Mississippi at its finest. The road curved gently downward through the forests, under a crystal blue sky, past the two churches of Pierce Crossroad, onto the flat, unbroken expanse of Mississippi’s Delta—the “South’s South.”

One of my neighbors had claimed Eden as her childhood home… when quaint, lively, and picturesque might have described it, and when the train might have stopped there. Now, every one of the residences was in weary disrepair; a few looked deserted. Three miles north lay Bee Lake Road, marked only by a hint on my MDOT highway detail. A major project was underway to elevate 49E over the railroad, where fatalities had claimed too many who had assumed that the right of way was theirs.

People should, but may not appreciate MDOT and its myriad projects. MDOT, however, appreciates its own. With a festive spirit, the large crew was celebrating a dinner spread out on makeshift tables: fat burgers from a grill, a tub of hot corn on the cob, trays of coleslaw, mashed potatoes, and a choice of cold drinks. I was welcomed by this fraternity—but not to the feast—as the wayfarer which I was.

Bee Lake

They confirmed that yes, I was on Bee Lake Road and that Pluto was a short drive further west along the “ox-bow” of Bee Lake, an artful, nearly enclosed series of curves, 100 times longer than it was wide, and embracing about 4,000 acres of alluvial farmland. Pluto, though smaller than Eden, was clearly more prosperous, consisting of several residences positioned around Bee Lake and sustained by corn and soybeans this year, cotton in others.

I was greeted, although guardedly and more formally than I was in Midway, by an individual of evident competence and authority. After my apology for “trespassing,” to which he nodded an acceptance, we passed some time chatting up Pluto, the prosperous farming, and Richard Grant, who had featured him in a few dispatches. He knew the family of a respected Jackson cardiologist who owned a considerable measure of rich acreage nearby to the north, and, also the lead character, resembling him in both appearance and manner, of Gerard Helferich’s documentary, High Cotton—Four Seasons in the Mississippi Delta. Two native Mississippians who loved the rewards, the risks, and the hard work of raising cotton, who “couldn’t dream of doing anything else.”

During my clockwise drive around the lake, past Gum Grove and Stonewall to Thornton on 49E, I could glimpse through the woods a few houses, with the Yazoo River just beyond, and one or two appearing as mansions. Set well back from the road, beyond a wayfarer’s reach, one likely belonged to Mr. Grant. Typical of sparsely settled neighborhoods around small rural communities, such as Pluto and likely Midway.

I curved east onto MS12 through Tchula to climb out of the Delta toward the county seat of Lexington. This city of scarcely 2,000 projected an image of struggle with economic challenge. There was a baffling mix of destitute, some areas of modest means, and a sprinkling of affluence. After spending some moments of devotion in the alluring St Mary’s Church, I moved on to the courthouse. A disappointment of poor maintenance inside, but with the lofty magnolia tree off its southeast corner and its commanding clock tower, it did render a stately presence outside.

Most of those out and about were vehicle-borne at high speed around the square, as if in an effort to hurry on. Except for the policeman, who agreeably enough, assured himself that the map check which I was into across the hood of my car, was all above board, and as I relayed to him: trying, in a futile exercise of misty memory, to locate that out-a-country-road old house where I had lived briefly in the summer of 1943.

Saturday around the Lexington courthouse, circa 1939

MS12 was a sylvan and pastoral byway to Kosciusko, where a professionally crafted museum of the General and the city ushered me onto our enchanting Natchez Trace Parkway. Late afternoon bestowed an especially pleasant, even idyllic, drive along the Trace. An ideal close for any journey, return to Madison, and back to Chapter 1.

 

 

Book image from Amazon

BEE LAKE http://www.ms-sportsman.com/pics/p1331748165.gif

Hiwy 12 Google images Mile by mile plan a trip in North America

Visiting in front of courthouse on Saturday afternoon, Lexington, Mississippi Delta, Mississippi. Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910- photographer. Created/Published possibly 1939. Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

2

A FAR CRY

Part three of The Last Slave Ship. Click here to read part two. http://porchscene.com/2017/01/09/unbroken/

A Far Cry

by Gary Wright

 

 

welcome sign

An 1861 federal court case, the US v. Byrnes Meaher, was brought against Timothy Meaher and John Dabey, but because there were no documents connecting them to the Clothilda, and the passenger manifest could not be located, there was not enough evidence presented to convict the Meahers. The case was dismissed. The start of the American Civil War was also an important factor in the dismissal of the case. When the Union government was replaced by the Confederate government in the South, there was no interest in pursuing such matters. With the United States reunited after the war, Union officials decided that dredging up such issues would only serve to inflame a defeated South, whom the Northerners felt were on the verge of inciting hostilities.

Cudjoe Lewis, the best-known and most vocal of all the Africatowners, was born Oluale Kazoola in the Bante region of the West African Kingdom of Dahomey (present-day Benin,) He was born into the Yoruba Tribe of that area and began his training as a warrior at the age of 14. The Yoruba vastly outnumbered the Dahomey and, as such, a state of virtual war existed between the two more or less permanently. Whenever either side lost a conflict, its survivors could almost certainly count on being sold as slaves. Kossola planned to take a wife and begin a tribal life in that fertile region as had so many others who lived and died without their names ever even being remembered. Fate, however, intervened and he was destined to begin an unimaginable journey through a life of circumstance, and his name would be written down, unexpurgated, in history. Shortly before his 20th birthday, his village was conquered by the kingdom of Dahomey. Kossola and other captives were marched to the coastal port city of Ouidah where he was held in a slave pen called a barracoon for three weeks, waiting to be sold.

The Meaher property where Africatown was originally established, was a rural area far from the town of Mobile, where the inhabitants could fish, trap animals, grow crops and live, largely unhampered by the white society. The group built shelters of whatever they found growing in the Alabama woods and swamplands, and adapted their hunting to the rich game they discovered in the area. It has, however, been completely overtaken by the city of Mobile and overwhelmed by modern society. The historic district is encompassed in Mobile city limits by Jakes Lane, Paper Mill Road, Warren Road (Bay Bridge Road), Chin Street and Railroad Street. There are only a few markers to commemorate the place, and only a few pieces of moldy paper in the archives of the Mobile Library and in the Archives of the University of South Alabama, which holds the memories of a proud race of people who resisted domination, who held their own for so many years against encroaching change, and whose indomitable spirit fought for so long to remain faithful to their heritage.

last structure

(The last remaining structure in Africatown)

Now, Africatown is little more than a footnote in the pages of history that marches unrelentingly on. After the Civil War when the slaves were freed, many of the surviving Africans who had been separated from their fellow tribesmen, found their way back to Africatown and reunited with fellow members. Back in the 1920s, it is said that over 4,000 descendants and friends of the first Africans called Africatown their home. Nowadays, though, local inhabitants are more likely to respond to the term ‘the Project’ rather than Africatown. Foul odors given off from the nearby paper mills permeate the environment, and sludge and muck have killed all the clams, shrimp, and fish that the locals used to pluck from the area bays for sustenance. The ground, itself, so polluted that even the hardy turnip will not grow. All that grows now in Africatown is despair, manifested by the fruits all too common in lower-class America: teen pregnancy, gang violence, and alcoholism among the older ones and rampant drug usage among the youth.

As the story continues to the present day, as with so many real-life chronicles, it never actually ends. Stories of people live on forever. People may be held in captivity or placed in darkness, bereft of hope, but their histories can never die. Eventually, they will return and will pick up their never-ending stories and move on, despite awful, evil damage to their bodies, their pride, and their future. But it is the stories that allow them, nay, compel them to march forward into that unknown and often unkind future.

In 1928, the well-known African-American writer, Zora Neale Hurston visited the small black suburb just north of Mobile, Alabama and interviewed an elder named Cudjoe Lewis. Mr. Lewis was interviewed by several local and national authors and scholars, and he remained passionate and vocal in trying to keep alive the story of his people and their memories. He died in 1934 at the age of 96. His burial marker reads simply, “Last Survivor.”

decapitated

(The busts on a tribute to Cudjoe Lewis and a 20th century Africatown mayor were decapitated by vandals in 2011)

Progress has not been kind to Africatown. It has been left as an area bereft of hope, with absolutely no future; a far cry from the colony of promise and expectancy held so dear by those proud remnants of a disastrous war on a foreign shore, a nightmarish trip across an unknown sea, and castaway on a strange new land. But, still, it is one of the few places in America where African-Americans can remember where they came from in Africa, their lineage, and can recount their ancestral home fondly.

This story has no end for, even today, the descendants of the captives on the last slave ship to America, amid crushing problems of their modern life, recall and retell a proud heritage. These third and fourth generation offspring, when retelling memories and stories of their forebears, become vibrant and their eyes light up at such impressive stories of their people who voyaged so far, overcame so much, and withstood for so long. They have a story worth remembering and worth retelling, and it stands as testimony and tribute to the indomitable spirit of a people unbroken.

 

 

 

Last Structure image by  Robert D. Bullard ‏@DrBobBullard

Unbroken

Unbroken

by Gary Wright

 

last-survivor

“Unbroken” is part two in Gary Wright’s three-part series, “The Last Slaver Ship.” To read part one, “On a Distant Shore,” click here: http://porchscene.com/2016/11/28/on-a-distant-shore/

The rich, fertile savannah coastal area of West Africa became known as the ‘slave coast’ because of the concentration of slaves, easy access to navigable ports, and the recently awakened global interest in and the need for slaves. Slavery is easily definable and explainable. It is free labor. Use of free labor will always make the product—whatever product—much cheaper than that of a competitor who must pay for labor. Africa was a rich, lush continent, especially the tropical central part. There, food was easily produced, causing a large population which caused overcrowding which, in turn, lead to war. In all wars there is a victor and a loser, and, in central Africa, the losers were taken into captivity and sold to the highest bidder.

European colonies, in the 1700s, were beginning to burgeon with crops of cotton, sugar cane, molasses, and rum. These goods were very profitable but demanded huge numbers of human workers to sow, tend, reap, and transport to an ever-growing market due to the rapidly expanding industrial revolution. You see, on the receiving end of slavery, it is dehumanizing, mean, cruel, vicious, and dishonesty at its extreme worst. The prevailing thought during that period, though, was that on the other end of the spectrum, it was simply good business.

The Clotilda arrived on the West African coast on May 15, 1859, and landed with a cargo of captives, including members of the Taskbar Tribe, prisoners from recent tribal wars against the village of Tamale, Ghana, and others. Deceit and double-cross work hand-in-hand in any such nefarious venture, and, it is said that Captain Foster and his entire crew nearly fell captive to the very Dahomey Chief, from whom he purchased the slaves. Foster and his crew must have been very impressed with the large military force of Dahomey, including a fierce contingent of female Amazon warriors whose courage and tenacity was said to have had no equal. They were not selected for their appearance, rather, their size, bravery, loyalty, and fierceness. In battle, they were considered veritable killing machines.

Saved by pure luck, Captain Foster set sail for Mobile around May 15, 1860, with some 130 African men, women, and children housed in tight, cage-like quarters in the hold of the Clotilda. During the five-week voyage, due to unsanitary conditions and starvation rations, some twenty African souls died, and their bodies were unceremoniously tossed overboard to ever-circling sharks. Many experienced sailors declared sharks could smell a slaving ship.

On Sunday, July 8, 1860, some 52 years after the United States had abolished the international slave trade, the Clotilda, captained by shipbuilder William Foster, sailed into Mobile Bay with 110 African men, women, and children between the ages of 5 and 23 on board. Life was soon to take a turn for these people and the Meahers, far different than they, or anyone, could have expected. For life, unlike a story, cannot be scripted, planned, or written; it must, and it will play out like the unwinding of a spinning top, moving here, spinning there, unveiling itself to its own unplanned, unrehearsed, natural design.

Federal authorities had been alerted to the illegal scheme months before, and were waiting; many say they were tipped off by the very Yankee merchants who were fearful of losing their wager to the Meaher Brothers. Captain Foster was alerted, and he slipped into a little-used docking area near what is the present-day Cochran Bridge in Mobile. Timothy Meaher arrived at the port in the morning’s wee hours and took charge. He transferred all the Africans to a riverboat, then burned the Clotilda to the waterline, before purposely sinking it in Mobile Bay, for it was evidence of the federal crime.

Meaher paid off Captain Foster and the crew and immediately transported them to Montgomery, where they were then paid to conveniently disappear from history and from inquiring eyes of federal officials who were investigating the matter. Meaher was able to document some 52 trips between Mobile and Montgomery during the period of the illegal slaving voyage. Thus, he was able to prove he was not personally involved.

The African slaves were distributed to those having a financial interest in the Clotilda venture, with Timothy Meaher retaining 30 of the Africans on his property near Mobile. Cudjoe Lewis was among the 30 held by Meaher. Since these Africans had been illegally brought in, they could not be legally enslaved, since clear title for them, as chattel, could not be passed. They were, however, illegally held as property and were treated as such.

historic-market

These people were deposited on property owned by the Meahers, known as Magazine Point, and left to fend for themselves. Initially, thirty in number, they built shacks from materials they could find, raised food, hired themselves out to nearby farmers, and started a life for themselves. This little enclave became known as Africatown, and, over the years, it grew. When the Civil War ended, all slaves were declared free, and this little town continued to flourish as other freed slaves were welcomed. Many surviving members of the Clotilda voyage made their way back to Africatown. The residents continued to speak their native language, to observe tribal customs, to worship their gods, and to govern themselves based on their known values. Among the Africans was a man named Cudjoe Lewis, who was the last survivor of the original group, and who lived until 1935. Lewis’ African name had been Kazoola, but Meaher had changed it because he thought it wasn’t an appropriate Christian name.

After the Civil War, the elders petitioned the renewed federal government for assistance, particularly for transportation back to their native Africa. But, alas, all their requests fell on a deaf ear, and they were doomed to remain forever on a distant shore surrounded by foreign people, strange ways, and an uncaring attitude. Their only solace lay within themselves, and they told their children of Africa, a place of lush, green valleys, a place of plenty where there was little to want, nothing to fear, and everything for which to hope. As the years grew and memories faded, Africa became to them and their children an idyllic, half-remembered place which offset their present stark reality.

Cudjoe Lewis brought suit in court for reparations against the Meaher Brothers for kidnapping, illegal constraint, and for five years of wages until the passage of the 14th amendment on July 8, 1868. These charges were eventually dismissed without satisfaction to the Africans. After the Civil War, the American government encouraged freed slaves to immigrate to the developing west coast country of Liberia in Africa. Mr. Lewis petitioned the government for passage of his people to that country but was met with no positive results. Eventually, Lewis and his followers resigned themselves to being marooned along the shores of Mobile Bay, aliens on foreign soil, forever.

lewis

Slowly, over the years, their native language died out, the residents of Africatown converted to Christianity, and all became settled in present conditions. The people worked hard and saved their money, doing without all but absolute necessities, and they slowly bought land—the land they lived on and surrounding acres—until eventually, they owned their entire community.

Finally, they were relatively free. The grounds of the Union Baptist Church in Africatown holds the Cudjoe Lewis Memorial Statue, as mute testimony to his memory and legacy. Lewis, it is said, spent his entire life ‘wanting to go home.

poster

 

 

 

 

Poster image from Pinterest board Africatown USA Mobile, Alabama, pinned by Blackman

Cudjoe Lewis image with children from Pinterest board to American History, Culture and Various Bits of Odd Related Information, saved by Elynor Vine.

Historic marker image from Pinterest board The Missing Piece of History, pinned by Cheryl Brown.

US 49

 

 

49

US 49

 

by Joe Goodell

Half an hour north of Jackson, not far from the Big Black River, the casual rolling land gives way to a succession of tall, lush hills one after another, for twelve or fifteen miles. On a quiet day, after a spring rain, this stretch of earth seems prehistoric—damp, cool, inaccessible, the moss hanging from the giant, old trees. Beyond these hills, if you follow the highway as it forks north and slightly west, the hills suddenly come to an end, and there is one long final descent. Out in the distance, as far as the eye can see, the land is flat, dark and unbroken, sweeping away in a faint misty haze to the limits of the horizon. This is the South’s South, the Great Delta.

as-far-as-the-eye

Across this vast and flat alluvial stretch, in tune with the pervasive Blues, run slowly and circuitously the rivers and creeks, high banked, with names pleasant to hear and remember—Quiver River, the Bogue Phalia, the Tallahatchie, and the Sunflower—pouring their tawny waters into the Yazoo, which in turn loses itself just above Vicksburg in the River. When you speak of the River, though there are many, you always mean the same one, the great River, the shifting unappeasable master of the country, the feared and revered Mississippi.

the-river

And behind you, growing smaller in rear view image, but not in memory, is the one part of the world you wish was the way it used to be. Not Rome before Nero, nor London before the fire, not San Francisco nor Tokyo before the earthquakes. You would not resurrect Babylon nor Carthage; let the Leaning Tower lean, and the Hanging Gardens hang. You’d want the Mississippi Gulf Coast back the way it was before Hurricane Camille.

after

trinty-before

Along the river and the hills, there are old towns from each of which the planters with their gangs wrested from the impenetrable jungles of water, standing cane and cypress, gum and holly and oak and ash, cotton patches which as the years passed, became fields and plantations. The paths made by deer and bear became roads and then highways, with the towns springing up along them and along the rivers—the thick, slow, unsunned streams, almost without current, once a year ceased to flow at all and then reversed, spreading, drowning the fertile land and subsiding again, leaving it still richer.

And there are sweet bay and cypress and sweet gum and live oak and swamp maple closing into a wall. And like a table in the trees, the mistletoe hung up there in the zenith. Buzzards floating from one side of the swamp to the other as if choice existed for them—raggedly crossing the sky and shadowing the track and shouldering one another on the solitary limb of a moon-white sycamore.

cypress

All these became an awareness, pleasant companions along the diagonal from Gulfport to Clarksdale, US 49, across the Coast, the Heartland, the Delta. And mighty impressive companions too, company I’m privileged to keep because they are Willie Morris, and William Percy and Elizabeth Spencer and William Faulkner and Eudora Welty.

miss-welty

You probably recognized them because they’ve likely kept you company too, so I’m not introducing them to you, just reminding you of their presence and availability and companionship as you travel not only US 49 but also some “lesser routes” like MS 28, 27, 16, 14 and 8 and 7 which take you across the State through genuinely spectacular countryside and hospitable towns with curious names.

Or, better yet, maybe you’d prefer some un-numbered by-ways like Dry Grove Road and its handsome farms between Crystal Springs and Raymond…or, west of Madison, where the sun-brightened pastures and forests alternate, and where the Road and the Lake are both called Cavalier…or, east of Byrum where the short hop along Swinging Bridge Road ends at its pedestrians-only namesake, crossing the Pearl River since 1905 and one of just four suspension bridges left in the state…or, north of Vaughan, Possum Bend Road, which takes you to the bustling shop, the splendid product and the genial host of Harkins’ Chairs.

harkins

For a special treat some Thursday afternoon, plan a tour towards Flora along Cedar Hill Road or Robinson Springs Road where the forests, the hanging moss, and the expansive homesteads vie for your attention…then on to Bentonia where Railroad Avenue takes you to the Blue Front Café for their weekly special, the “BBQ and Blues Show.” Or for another kind of treat, a cup of your favorite brew, take Gilmer Road south, or Hopewell Road north; they meet at MS 532 in the celebrated community of Hot Coffee.

bluefront

Of our five companions the sage of Yoknapatawpha County advises us that “understanding the world requires the understanding of a place like Mississippi.” But he and the others may be unfamiliar to some, so I will be pleased to make the necessary introductions, to whoever might ask me, “What is it that brings you here?”

 

faulkner

 

 

Camille photos are licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.wikimedia.com

Blue Front Café photo from http://www.bentoniablues.com/

Harkin’s Chairs photo from http://www.harkinschairs.com /

Faulkner image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.wikimedia.com

Eudora Welty image courtesy Eudora Welty Foundation

All other photos by Deborah Carpenter

A Look at 2016

A Look at 2016

mail-box

www.porchscene.com

Our home—the South—is a beautiful, haunted, place that’s full of contradiction and mystery. Even those of us who have lived here for all or part of our lives have a hard time explaining it, or our mindsets about it. To help us better understand it, PorchScene is attempting to share our world with those who have no knowledge of it at all and to reveal some things to our residents that they may not know either.

Through the unique voices of our excellent contributors who were willing to put their Southern experience on our pages, we’ve tried to continue our intention of presenting the South from multiple perspectives. Here are some examples of their efforts in 2016.

The Dinner Bell

Of course, it would be impossible to talk about life below the Mason-Dixon line without some mention of food. There were numerous culinary articles throughout the year, but Distinctive Diningat: http://porchscene.com/2016/05/31/distinctive-dining-in-mississippi/ by transplant, Joe Goodell, and Spring Quiche at:  http://porchscene.com/2016/03/29/quiche-by-southfacin-cook/ and How to Make Banana Pudding like a True Southerner, by our own SouthfacinCook, Patsy Brumfield,  http://porchscene.com/2016/07/05/how-to-make-classic-banana-pudding-like-a-true-southerner/ are several great ones to check out. For a humorous look at some of our food habits, there was Sometimes you Feel Like a Nut, Sometimes Not! http://porchscene.com/2016/10/03/sometimes-you-feel-like-a-nut-sometimes-not/ and we also introduced you to food historian and super personality, Michael Twitty in Southern Cuisine–A Cultural Collision, both by Deborah Fagan Carpenter  http://porchscene.com/2016/09/01/southern-cuisine-a-cultural-collision/.

Twitty

Gary Wright gave us some insight into our history in Fort Mims Massacre,http://porchscene.com/2016/10/10/fort-mims-massacre/Ghostsof Cahaba, http://porchscene.com/2016/09/14/ghosts-of-cahaba/Lamentable Southern History,http://porchscene.com/2016/05/23/lamentable-southern-history/and the first edition of his three- part series, about the Last Slaver Ship in ON A DISTANT SHOREhttp://porchscene.com/2016/11/28/on-a-distant-shore/. Tom Lawrence shed some light on a piece of the civil rights movement with,CLAUDETTE COLVIN http://porchscene.com/2016/03/21/claudette-colvin/, and we looked into the face of some of our current racial strife inThe Power of Reasonable Action http://porchscene.com/2016/07/12/the-power-of-reasonable-action/.protest photo

Joe Goodell is looking at the state of Mississippi with fresh eyes, and a couple of examples of his view of the Magnolia state were presented in Mississippi Boundhttp://porchscene.com/?s=mississippi+bound and THE“S” IN MISSISSIPPI http://porchscene.com/?s=the+s+in+mississippi.

5.swamp

For a view of some of our humanity, there was THE HUGhttp://porchscene.com/?s=the+hug by Mollie Waters and Merry Christmas, Navy http://porchscene.com/2016/12/23/merry-christmas-navy/, another good piece by Gary Wright.

For a look at our lighter side, there was IT’S FIXIN’ TO RAIN!  http://porchscene.com/2016/07/27/its-fixin-to-rain/okra, grits, and yes, ma’am, pleasehttp://porchscene.com/2016/09/21/okra-grits-and-yes-maam-please-2/, and a touching tribute in So He Built a Wall  http://porchscene.com/2016/11/21/so-he-built-a-wall/.

walk-to-oklahoma

If you missed some of these great pieces or want to check out all of our posts throughout our nearly four years, you can always log onto the home page at www.porchscene.com. If you aren’t a subscriber and want to be notified each time there’s a new article, just follow the easy subscription instructions on the site. We’re always interested in your feedback, so please feel free to send us suggestions through the comments section.

Thank you for your continued support of this Southern Blog.

Happy 2017 to “All  Ya’ll!”

celebration

 

 

 

Merry Christmas, Navy!

Merry Christmas, Navy!

By Gary Wright

 “Atta boy, Clarence,”    —It’s a Wonderful Life

christmas-angels

 

In order to ascribe the fullest meaning to this story, you have to know that every word of the account is true. Christmas 2014 was a real bummer! It seems that everything went wrong and then piled on after that. But on the afternoon of Christmas day I found something I wasn’t looking for, in the precise place I would never have thought to look.

The holiday was first spent visiting my daughter in the Psych Ward at Mobile Infirmary, Mobile, Alabama. She had been transferred there to learn coping skills after having her right leg amputated just below the knee as the result of a long, slow war against MRSA (staph infection) in her foot. Normal visiting hours at the Psych Ward were from five to six pm, but since it was Christmas, there was a special visiting time from 12 noon until one pm, otherwise my ensuing episode would have taken place in the darkness of a moonless Christmas night.

Under the circumstance, I spent a pleasant visit with my daughter. Then, taking a shortcut home, I drove straight through one of the projects of Mobile instead of going around. I was in a foul mood. Very little Christmas spirit resided in my being, and I looked forward to tossing back a couple of bourbons when I got home. But my bad luck was holding steady, and the engine in my pick-up truck blew, sending a cylinder through the engine block.

Anxiety set in, for I was now immobilized in a questionable section of Mobile, Alabama—not the safest place to be. I called Triple A and was informed that, since it was Christmas, I had an hour’s wait for the tow truck. Here I was, Christmas Day, my truck broken down in an unsafe area of town, with my daughter in the Psych Ward—minus the bottom part of one leg.

hat

So, as I muttered under my breath, I waited for AAA and the forthcoming  interactions with citizens of inner-city Mobile, doing some serious soul-searching while waiting. Atop my head was a dirty Army ball cap, so, being a white, skinny guy, I stood out on at least two counts.

I hadn’t waited long at all when a tall, slim, black man appeared—seemingly from nowhere. He just glided into my life on an easy gait, with a warm countenance that immediately put me at ease. He casually made his way across the street and nodded a hello. “You Army?” he asked in a friendly manner, pointing to my cap.

“Yeah,” I said warily.

“Yore hat says you were in ‘Nam. Zat so?” he asked with a toothy grin.

“Yes, sir,” I replied

He responded, “I’m Navy. I spent time with a carrier group in the China Sea.”

He immediately opened up and we became instant friends for all of the five minutes that he was in my life. Veterans are that way—sort of like a huge fraternity.

“I don’t like to talk much about it in this neighborhood,” he said, “but I worked a lot in the Navy’ counter-narcotics unit. Best job I ever had.”

navy

For the moment, his soft, likable manner made me forget my unpleasant day. I found myself thinking how lucky I was to find someone so friendly in a place where I thought only danger and peril dwelt. Since my twelve-year-old F-150 was broken down in a bad part of town, he just assumed that I was on the outs. So, he then asked me, “Do you have any use for this?” proffering a bundle tied with string.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s a mat made by knitting tied together Walmart plastic bags .”

I indicated that I really had no use for it.

He sized up my situation, looked at my busted truck and said, “I bought this blanket at the Mission Thrift Store just around the corner. They said I could pick out one other thing for free. So, I picked this. You don’t have to make excuses for your situation. Just take it.” So I took it and thanked him.

At that moment another citizen of the ‘hood appeared, wearing a large, heavy coat on such a warm afternoon. In this part of town you don’t look others directly in the eye so as not to ‘dis’ him, but I chanced a glimpse of this man’s dark Ethiopian face, and was answered with a sour expression and a mean set of eyes. As he took a step toward me, the Navy man moved to intercept him before he got close.

“Whatcha up to, Stretch?” asked the Navy vet.

Stretch said something which I did not understand, but I saw him reach inside his over-sized coat. I do not know what he was reaching for and I couldn’t read his face, but in his dour, hardened expression I saw indications of his intent.

The Navy man said, “Hey, you know me, don’t you, Stretch?”

“Yeah, I know you,” he replied.

“Then you know I ain’t gonna let nothin’ happen to my man, Army here,” he said pointing at me. He had given me a street name and, in so doing, had named himself.

The Navy vet repeated what he’d said, in case Stretch hadn’t heard. “You know me Stretch. I ain’t gonna let that happen to my man, Army.”

Stretch eyed Navy, then looked at me and decided that whatever he was intending just wasn’t worth it. It was clear that he respected or, perhaps even feared, the Navy man and did not want to tangle with him, at least not today. Stretch eyed the situation, clearly studying his options, and slowly removed an empty hand from his coat pocket. A look of resignation and a slight smile spread over his weather-worn face, his eyes a little softer than before.

He walked over to me in a purposeful gait and put his fist out in front of me. Apprehension filled my soul as I tried to figure out what was happening. Navy looked at me and gave a slight nod. Then I knew. I bumped knuckles with Stretch in silence, then he turned, sashayed down the street and disappeared into an alley.

“You have a good one,” Navy said to me. “See you around.” Then he ambled up the street the other way. I watched and marveled at what had just happened. I never really knew what was under Stretch’s coat and I’m glad I never found out. I didn’t fully understand what had just transpired but I understood enough. When I looked again, Navy had disappeared behind a dirty tenement.

For a long time I looked silently down the street where he had disappeared, lost in that moment. Absorbed by all my trouble and woe that Christmas, I realized how very much I had to be thankful for. For some time my thoughts were on Christmas, caring, sharing, and helping.

But at last, my Christmas reverie was harshly broken by penetrating red flashing lights and the loud diesel engine of the approaching tow truck.

The driver said, “This is a bad place in town to break down. You definitely don’t want to be here after dark. Some real bad things happen here, even in the day time.”

“Merry Christmas, Navy!” I shouted down the street, as the tow truck driver looked at me, not understanding. “Merry Christmas,” the driver said in a low breath.

“I wasn’t talking to you,” I replied.

“Ain’t nobody else around,” he said.

“Yeah there is,” I said, “you just can’t see him.”

There is truly a thing called Christmas spirit. It’s all around us and it shows up when least expected, often emanating from the most obscure and shadowy sources. They’re here among us often, though seldom perceived. They’re like guardians, angels, or benevolent beings who appear for a moment, perform their assigned task, then  round the corner and disappear into thin air.

 

I still hold onto my dearest Christmas present ever—a beautiful mat made of Walmart plastic bags.

“Merry Christmas, Navy!”

 

 

Ornament image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.pixaby.com

The Color of December in the South

  TheColorofDecember aroundtheSouth

 

 Regattas,  beautiful gardens, antique holiday books, historic homes, a Dickens Christmas, drinks in the lobby of the Peabody, and Christmas bonfires on the levee—from New Orleans to Lutcher. There’s plenty to do all over the South for the next few weeks, with every city, town, and area celebrating the holidays in unique ways.

 

The Charleston Holiday Parade of Boats

charleston-parade-of-boats

Saturday, December 10, 2016, Charleston, South Carolina

Thousands gather along the harbor shore to view the beautifully decorated boats. The Parade of Boats event is produced by the City of Charleston and the Charleston Sail and Power Squadron.

https://holidayparadeofboats.com/

Bonfires on the Levee

bonfires-on-the-levee

Christmas Eve, New Orleans, Louisiana

There are many colorfully imaginative traditions dating back to the earliest Cajun settlers of the regions of southern Louisiana to the west and north of New Orleans. One of them is the lighting of the bonfires along the Mississippi River on Christmas Eve. These bonfires, erected on the river levees by the keepers of this old tradition, are intended to light the way for “Papa Noël,” the Cajun Santa Claus, on his airborne journey to the area. Or, according to some sources, the bonfires may have also been a way of lighting the path to the nearest Catholic church for Midnight Mass. https://holiday.neworleansonline.com/traditions/christmas-eve-bonfires-on-the-levee/

Magic Christmas in Lights

bellengrath

Theodore, Alabama—Through December (Closed Christmas Day)

Bellingrath Gardens and Home is celebrating the 21st edition of Magic Christmas in Lights in 2016! The holiday tradition lets guests stroll through a dazzling display, which features more than 1,000 set pieces, 3 million lights and 15 scenes throughout the 65-acre Garden estate. In addition, the Bellingrath Home is decorated in its holiday finery and enhanced with beautiful poinsettias. Magic Christmas in Lights begins on November 25, 2016, and runs through December 31, 2016 (closed Christmas Day). Magic Christmas in Lights is open daily from 5 – 9 PM with tours of the Bellingrath Home every hour and half hour until 8:30 PM.  12401 Bellingtath Gardens Road, Theodore, Alabama

https://bellingrath.org/experiences/events/magic-christmas-in-lights-2016/

Christmas on the River…Cajun Stylelutcher-bonfires

December 9, 10, 11, 2016—Lutcher, Louisiana

Come out and experience a prelude to the famous Christmas Eve Bonfires: A tradition unique to St. James Parish and all the world!! Enjoy great food, live entertainment, crafts, Santa’s Very Merry Forest and carnival rides throughout the weekend. Each night will be highlighted with a single bonfire lighting!

http://www.festivalofthebonfires.org

 Savannah Christmas Lights Toursavannah

Savannah, Georgia—Through December

The 2016 Holiday Season heralds the return of the 19th Annual Old Town Trolley’s Holiday Sights Tour. Conductor “elves” entertain and amuse guests with tales of favorite Holiday Traditions and caroling. View historic homes and city squares. The tour is offered 28 nights throughout December and includes 2 stops: The historic Isaiah Davenport House and Savannah’s decorated Westin Resort with the area’s largest Gingerbread Village.

https://www.trolleytours.com/savannah/christmas-holiday-tour

Christmas on the Bayou

gulfport-boat-parade

Saturday, December 10—6 PM—Gulfport, Mississippi

Christmas On The Bayou is a unique event because not only do the boats decorate and participate in the lighted parade but the waterfront houses also compete to be named the Parade Captain’s Best House on the Bayou and serve as parade judges. Completely organized and presented by neighborhood volunteers and community donors, COTB embodies the Christmas spirit for all. Christmas On The Bayou is the only waterfront parade in Gulfport and gives everyone an up close and personal view of the boats. Presented by Bayou Bernard Boating Club and named one of the top twenty events in the southeast

http://www.christmasonthebayou.org/

Dickens on Centredickens-christmasFernandina Beach, Florida—December 8–11

Charles Dickens’ novella “A Christmas Carol,” Dickens on Centre transform downtown Fernandina into a classic English village, sure to enliven your Christmas spirit. Travel back in time December 8-11, 2016 during the second annual Dickens on Center festival in Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach, Florida, on beautiful Amelia Island. Free to the public.

http://www.jaxmomsblog.com/event/dickens-on-centre/

Candlelight Christmas Evenings at the Biltmore

biltmore

November 4—January 7—Asheville, North Carolina

From fireplace mantels draped with evergreens to towering trees festooned with lights, Candlelight Christmas Evenings offer a warm welcome. By reservation only, these special evenings have become a cherished tradition for their unique view of holiday lights, live music, and Biltmore House displaying its magnificent Christmas decorations. Your self-guided Candlelight visit also includes daytime admission to Antler Hill Village & Winery, gardens, shops, and restaurants with special holiday menus (additional cost) on the day of your evening visit or the day after. Pricing available on the website:

https://www.biltmore.com/events/candlelight-christmas-evenings

Great Reveal Christmas Stories

crystal-bridges

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art—Bentonville, Arkansas—December 15, 6:30-7:30 PM

View rare books with a holiday theme, from lavishly illustrated nineteenth-century Christmas carols to a copy of Grandma Moses’s limited-edition Christmas Tale from 1952.

http://crystalbridges.org/calendar/great-reveal-christmas-stories/

 Holidays at the Peabody

peabody

Peabody Hotel—Memphis, Tennessee—Through December

The lobby of the historic Peabody Hotel is always magnificent, but it comes alive with Christmas magic during the holidays. The public areas are decked out in amazing lights and greenery, and an enormous, elegantly decorated tree graces the main lobby. The Peabody Gingerbread Village, created from massive amounts of sugar and eggs, delight young and old alike, and High Tea is served Wednesday through Saturday by reservation. Even the ducks are in a festive mood!

http://www.peabodymemphis.com/holiday

All images from respective web sites


ON A DISTANT SHORE

In a three-part series, Gary Wright tells the story of “Clotilda”—the last slaving ship

On a Distant Shore

by Gary Wright

 

You cannot play God without becoming acquainted with the Devil.”

—Jonathan Nolan, ‘Westworld, the Series’

clotilde-remnants

(Remnants of the Clotilda)

Our story begins in 1808 when the American Congress, following the rest of the civilized world, abolished the importation of slaves into the U.S. It did not make slavery in America illegal, only the importation of new slaves into America. The blight of slavery would continue on the conscience of all good Americans for nearly sixty more years until the blood of many cleansed our land of that evil. Slavery was never widespread in the north, and between 1774 and 1804, all of the northern states abolished it, one by one.

In a peculiarly perverted irony, many of the north’s businessmen, while soundly opposing it, grew rich on the slave trade and investments in southern plantations where slavery remained vital to the South’s unique economy. After 1808, the domestic trade flourished, and the slave population in the U.S. nearly tripled over the next 50 years. By 1860 nearly four million Negroes were enslaved in America, with over half living in the cotton-producing states of the South. Wealthy Americans, just like all property owners worldwide throughout history, saw slavery as an indecent institution but preferred to kick the can down the road and abolish it one step at a time. In 1820 the introduction of Africans was declared an act of piracy punishable by death.

Chapter two of our story occurred in the summer of 1858 when John Dabey of Mobile, Alabama and some other slave owners met with slave owners and shipbuilders, Timothy and his brother Byrnes Meaher. The meeting took place aboard the Roger B. Taney, a steamboat owned by Timothy Meaher as it cruised the Alabama River en route from Montgomery to Mobile. Roger B. Taney was the U.S. Supreme Court Justice who delivered the tie-breaking decision in the Dred Scott case which required all states, including northern states, to return escaped slaves whenever and wherever found. Various Yankee mercantile buyers were in town to look at the local cotton crop for possible use in their New England mills and were being wooed by Meaher for business purposes.

After several flagons and shots of the best brew that southern Alabama had to offer, talk shifted to what they thought was a growing problem: the lack of good slaves hereabouts to tend and harvest the burgeoning cotton crops. The Yankee mill owner remarked, “I could buy twice the amount of cotton presently available.”

Tim Meaher replied, “Aye, if only we had the black folks to plant and harvest it.”

“Has it nothing to do with the manner you’d be using in the growing of the white gold?” asked another inebriated Yankee as he ordered another flagon.

“Nay,” said John Meaher, “we’re harvesting a half bale to the acre on good bottom land.”

Talk of this type by men of money and power where the alcohol flows too freely, always leads to no good. That night was no exception and, before the night was concluded, the Meaher Brothers placed a $100,000 wager with the Yankee industrialists that they could outfit one last slave ship and bring in a load of black slaves from Africa, right under the nose of federal officials. A perverted sense of Southern honor was on the line, and the Yankees took the wager. As secessionist fever was spreading throughout the entire south in the 1850s, there was much talk of reopening the African slave trade, which had been outlawed since 1808. It was in this time of intrigue and saber rattling that this evil scheme was devised in the minds of such dubious and devious human beings.

The Meaher Brothers hired William “Bill” Foster to outfit their ship, the Clotilda and to serve as her captain. The Clotilda was named after Queen Clotilda, wife of King Clovis of the Franks. She was instrumental in converting Clovis to Christianity and, ultimately, the entire French nation. Ironically, Queen Clotilda is remembered for her works of mercy. Ships from Mobile plied the seven seas in those days and Foster was able to learn from other captains that that West African tribes were always fighting. He also learned that the King of Dahomey had a going price of $60 apiece for Africans captives from the Kingdom of Whydah (modern day Benin,) on the West African so-called Slave Coast.

The outline of the African ‘Slave Coast’ came slowly into view as the ship’s First Mate approached Captain Foster on the main deck. “Cap’n, me and the crew’s been talking.” Foster busied himself looking over his sea chart.

“Zat so?” replied the Captain.

“We heard talk before we left port and we been talkin’ mongst ourselves.”

“Yeah! ‘Bout what?”

“We know she’s a slaver. The Clotilda, I mean.”

“Slaving’s illegal.” the Captain answered, “Been illegal going on sixty years, now.”

Under the terms of The Slave Trade Act of 1807, importation of new slaves to the States and a violation of this law could result in the death penalty to the perpetrators. Any military naval vessel bearing any country’s flag could board and arrest any crew engaging in the transportation of slaves. Further, any merchant vessel Captain who was brave or foolhardy enough could forcibly seize a slaving vessel and claim her as a prize. Captain Foster and his crew knew what they were up against.

“Seems to me,” said the First Mate nervously, “that me and the rest of the men oughta be gettin’ more’n jist normal seaman’s wages for this trip.”

“Well, you ain’t.”

“If’n you don’t make some sorta accommodation for a slaver’s crew, there might be more danger for the Cap’n . . . .” He trailed off, stopping short of making a threat but enough so that the meaning was conveyed.

“Whoa!” said the Captain, “you better watch yourself, Matey. Mutiny is illegal.”

“So’s captaining a slaver. I don’t reckon the law would do much to a crew that mutinied on a slavin’ ship.” The First Mate spit on the deck to accentuate his point.

The Captain stood up straight and stopped his act of trying to look at the charts. He looked dead on into the steely eyes of his First Mate, who did not flinch. The Captain started to say something, but instead, looked over the First Mate’s shoulder and saw the rest of the crew and he knew that they had voted on the issue at hand. He knew it was one against all of the crew.

“I think we can reach some sort of . . . what did you call it? An accommodation.”

“Yeah, an accommodation.”

“Okay, Mate, consider you and all the crew to have doubled your wages for this trip.”

“Mighty nice, Cap’n. Consider us an, er, accommodated crew.”

Captain Foster knew only too well that an illegal mutiny aboard an illegal slaver would not be prosecuted. Any ship outfitted as a slaving ship was considered a pirate ship and could be boarded, fired on or otherwise treated as a treasonous act. Captain Foster knew that his life was in the balance from an unruly crew, his slave captives, or a navy ship from any civilized nation.

 

(Part two to follow)

clotilde-remnant

So He Built a Wall

So He Built a Wall

by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

 

walk-to-oklahoma

We all know the story of the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth. After enduring a harsh year, the settlers prepared a dinner to celebrate their survival, and Native Americans nearby were included. In subsequent years, however, cordiality between the colonists and their red skinned fellow men went south—or west, as it were. Because of white man’s diseases, against which they had no immunity, war, and a greedy thirst for land by the immigrants, the Native Americans were eventually all but eradicated.

Not the least of the atrocities perpetrated by the white man was the eviction of all tribes east of the Mississippi River, as a result of Andrew Jackson’s appalling Indian Removal Act. In 1838 and 1839, all tribes east of the Mississippi were forcibly marched to “reservations” in what was then the Oklahoma Territory, and so many deaths occurred on the brutal journey, that it became known as The Trail of Tears.

In the course of that inexcusable expulsion, two young Yuchi girls living near the Tennessee River in northwest Alabama managed to stay hidden for an unknown period. Not surprisingly, Te-lah-nay and her sister, Whana-le were eventually discovered and were herded into a stockade where metal tags bearing a number on one side, and the US Army emblem on the other were hung around their necks. Ultimately, they too were forced to a reservation in Muskogee, Oklahoma, with Te-lah-nay wearing government ID tag number 59 and Whana-le number 60. Out of 55,000 Native Americans who were removed from that part of the country, Te-lah-nay would be the only one who could prove her return.

west

Family legend held that after Te-lah-nay’s birth, her grandmother placed her umbilical cord in the Tennessee River, giving her spiritual connection to the flowing water for life. The Yuchi called the river “Nunnuhsae,” meaning “the singing river,” because sounds they heard emanating from it made them believe a woman lived in the water, guiding them with her music. But the rivers in Oklahoma were silent. Te-la-nay longed for the river and the place of her birth, and after one winter in Oklahoma, she made the radical decision to return. “My sister is like a wildflower,” she said. “She can grow anywhere. I cannot. If I stay in this dark place, I will die.”

In an astonishing act of bravery and determination, Te-lah-nay walked 860 grueling miles on a four to five-year journey back home, guided only by the connection to the river and her grandmother’s spirit. Once there, she was of course forced to remain hidden, but she eventually married a white man and had several children. Because she died at an early age, her grandmother said she had walked herself to death. It is said that the remarkable woman had eyes that were indescribable and that her name meant “Woman with the dancing eyes.”

circle-of-life

Tom Hendrix, who lives nine miles east of the Tennessee River, just off of the Natchez Trace Parkway, is Te-lah-nay’s great-great-grandson. Tom spent over a quarter of a century building a wall to honor her memory and her unbelievable accomplishment, after meeting a Yuchi woman who said to him, “We shall all pass through this earth, and only stones will remain. We honor our ancestors with stones.”

And honor her he did. For over thirty-five years, Tom Hendrix lovingly placed eight and a half million pounds of sandstone, limestone, and fieldstone one stone at a time, to form the longest un-mortared wall in the country, each stone representing a step Te-lah-nay took on her journey home. The entirety of the wall is a mile and a quarter long, it is the largest memorial to a Native American woman, it is classified as one of the Top 10 Environmental Arts in the United States, is cataloged in the Library of Congress, and is the only non-church structure listed among Alabama’s Top Spiritual Places. Tom also proudly points out that Rosanne Cash won a Grammy for her song, “A Feather is Not a Bird,” which references the wall.

garden

The limestone and sandstone were found along the banks of the Tennessee River, and the fieldstone was left behind after farmers had cleared their land. To arrive at the exact weight of the wall, Tom would stop at a cotton gin on his way to collect the stones, first weighing the truck empty, and after filling the bed with one layer of stones, he’d stop on the return trip to weigh it again. He laughingly says, “I wore out three trucks, 22 wheelbarrows, 2,700 pairs of gloves, three dogs, and one old man.”

The astounding wall flanks both sides of the entrance to Tom’s property. One side follows a somewhat straight path, representing Te-lah-nay’s walk to Oklahoma and the other side twists and bends, representing her trip back home.

stories

Today, Tom stands or sits in a lawn chair and greets each visitor with “Aglaysaha—it’s a good day.” He is willing to share as much of his great-great-grandmother’s story and as much about his monument to her as one wants to hear, and then he will invite visitors to walk through the paths, offering only  this. “I have one request: look with your third eye,” he says, as he touches his heart. “This is a special place. It’s a holy place.”

faces-in-the-stones

Stones that look like faces comprise one section of the wall at the entrance of the area that represents Te-leh-nay’s journey home. The faces are natural holes worn in soft limestone from centuries of bumping along at the edge of the Tennessee River. They seem to say to visitors that spirits are ever present among the rocks and that this place should be treated with respect.

faces

Surrounded by white and red oak, sweet gum and beech trees, the wall is often built around them, showing deference. Secluded alcoves are found all along the path, offering many opportunities for quiet reflection, and one of those suggests an auditorium, providing many places to sit. Red prayer ribbons are seen hanging in many of the trees, and often visitors will leave gifts of shells or feathers lying on one of the benches. Sadly, some guests also leave their trash.

honoring-nature

The shape, height, and width of the wall changes to reflect the obstacles Te-leh-nay encountered. The height varies from four feet to six and a half or seven feet in some places.

A circular wall—a prayer circle—is built at the entrance to the other side. It is called Ishatae…a quiet place. Indicating the circle of life, it is made up of four levels of stone—expressing birth, life, death, and rebirth. Tom’s only restriction for the circle is that nothing is allowed in it but prayer.

life

I noticed a distinct circulation of cold air in several places as I walked through the side of the wall which represents the walk to Oklahoma. Because Tom was with several people as I exited, however, I didn’t ask him about it. But I read somewhere after my visit that another woman had experienced the same sensation, and when she inquired as to its source, Tom replied, “If all great mysteries were solved, how boring life would be.”

There is no advertisement for the Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall. Tom says that “if people find it, they were meant to come.”

After walking the length of the wall, Charlie Two Moons, a spiritual person, said: “The wall does not belong to you, Brother Tom. It belongs to all people. You are just the keeper. I will tell you that it is Wichahpi, which means ‘like the stars.’ When they come, some will ask, ‘Why does it bend, and why is it higher and wider in some places than in others?’ Tell them it is like your great-great-grandmother’s journey, and their journey through life–it is never straight.”

meditation-garden

All photos by Deborah Carpenter

RODNEY

Rodney

by Joe Goodell

 

rodney

The ill fortunes of Rodney, Mississippi played out like a marauding storm. There were the yellow fever epidemics, two ravaging fires, the War, of course, and later, the floods of 1927 and 2011. But the unkindest hit of all was dealt by the capricious River itself which had provided for Rodney a thriving commerce and culture. Rodney had seen the worst of times, and the best of times.

As an important river port this center rivaled nearby Natchez; in 1802 the loss to Washington was by just three votes, in a bid to become the capital of Mississippi Territory.

In the early 1870s, the River tossed up a sandbar which diverted its course two miles to the west, abandoning the city and  depriving it of a livelihood. And in mirror image, the railroad selected a route well to the east through Fayette.

Despite the periods  of adversity, while the river remained, and before mass desertion, the heydays of Rodney saw spectacular success. By 1860 the residents numbered 4,000. There were quality schools, thespian groups, the state’s first opera house, a large hotel, two banks, two newspapers, and three dozen or so stores and businesses along Commerce and Magnolia Streets.

There had been a settlement on the site as early as 1715 known as Petit Gouffre, setting it apart from Grand Gouffre to the north. Though not actually a gulf, it was a place where Indians, and later the Spanish El Camino Real, had found convenient for a crossing.

In 1814 during the tenure of Judge Thomas Rodney, chief magistrate of the Territory, the name changed in his honor. A year later Dr. Rush Nutt (whose son later built Longwood) established his home, Laurel Hill south of town. His development of resilient seeds and his idea to drive Eli’s gin by steam power, advanced the South’s rise toward cotton kingdom.

In 1842 General Zachary Taylor was so taken with the beauty and fertile land of the area that he purchased Cypress Grove Plantation, renaming it Buena Vista. It was on the colonnaded veranda of this home where his daughter Sarah met, and from which she eloped, with Lt Jefferson Davis.

The War was tough on Rodney, but not so harsh as to preclude some rich folklore. Following the Vicksburg campaign, the Union Navy stationed its gunboat USS Rattler at Rodney. Although Admiral Porter had forbidden the crew to go ashore, in September 1863 most of them accepted an invitation from the Union-sympathizing guest pastor at Bethel Presbyterian Church. During his service, they were stealthily surrounded, and following a brief melee, held hostage by a unit of Confederates—the only time that the crew of a US naval vessel had been captured by the cavalry of an opposing force.

rodney-old-presbyterian-church

The most prominent remaining building is that same Presbyterian Church, without services, but with faded pulpit and pews, a weary piano, and a set of dusty hymnals all in place. About 1830 the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah Chamberlain, an Elder of the Presbytery of Mississippi, built the church and also established Oakland College, now Alcorn State University, to the northeast. His legacy lived on at Chamberlain-Hunt Academy in Port Gibson.

Across town is Mt Zion Baptist Church, bruised by flood, but distinguished by its arched entrance and polygonal domed belfry. Sacred Heart Catholic Church, built in 1868 and a fine example of Gothic architecture, had been relocated and well preserved at Grand Gulf Military Park.

Rodney is not a place one just stumbles upon during a journey to somewhere else. It is a destination, well off the beaten path, and it requires planning plus determination to get there. The best route is from MS552, through the campus of Alcorn State. The road becomes a narrow track, unpaved and poorly marked, winding southwest through arboreal tunnels of primeval forest. It is a depth of eroded loess resembling the patches of “sunken trace” along our Parkway. The forest becomes thinner, the passage smoother, and the grade steeper down the bluff facing Rodney. It levels along Batchelor Street into “city center” and the Historic District where the visitor feels a twinge of sadness as he gazes over the broken and silent dwellings.

 

road-into-rodney-by-warren-jones

Those parts of both downtown and the neighborhoods which have not disappeared, remain in various stages of decay, overgrown with brush and weeds. Gravity and the grind of time have settled in, dragging Rodney down. Barely recognizable are a few homes, Alston’s Grocery, the crumbling drugstore, and a two-story brick derelict of uncertain function. There is prevailing ruin, the perception of an entirely other world trying, and deserving, to be remembered.

A handful of people still live in or around Rodney, although by decree of Governor Theodore Bilbo in 1930, it has ceased to exist as an official town.

 

Rodney image from Southern Lagniappe blog

Old Rodney Presbyterian Church image by Heather Ingram http://www.panoramio.com/user/3355572

Road into Rodney Image by photographer Warren Jones http://www.panoramio.com/user/5439722

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes NOT!

 

Sometimes you feel like a nut,

sometimes NOT!

byDeborah Fagan Carpenter

 

roadside-stand

As a child growing up in the 1950s, one of the highlights of an automobile trip, was spotting the occasional roadside fruit and vegetable stand that touted “BOILED PEANUTS.” Sometimes the peanuts would be in small, paper bags alongside the beans and tomatoes and other produce in the market, and sometimes there would be a large pot, teeming with peanuts swimming in dark, salty, water, cooking on an outdoor brick fireplace. In that case, our parents would tell the owner how much they wanted, and he or she would scoop them into the paper bags.

Back on the highway with our bags of nuts, we’d crack each one open with our teeth, suck the juice, savor the large, moist meat, and then throw the empty shells out of the car window. While of course, the shells are biodegradable (not a word anyone knew back then) and would soon turn to dust, today, throwing them out of the car window would probably secure a $50 littering fine, and even at that time, was doubtless “tacky.” But the process of eating them in the car was half the pleasure, I think.

peanuts

In those early days of childhood, late summer and early fall were marked by the arrival of pomegranates, muscadines, quince, and green peanuts. The peanuts were more often than not parched, but for me, boiled peanuts was at the top of the autumn snack list, and it was also something I thought all Southerners appreciated.

To my astonishment, it has recently come to my attention that not all Southerners love, or can even tolerate, boiled peanuts! The reality of this has not only made me question my own culinary judgement, but it has highlighted the fact that not all Southerners are created equal. We do not all eat watermelon, we do not all drink our tea sweetened, and we do not all love barbeque. What other problematic behavior could be lurking?

I guess that’s why God made chocolate AND vanilla. But before boiled peanut haters write them off completely, consider these facts: Boiled peanuts are a healthy snack. Boiled peanuts have more nutritional value than either raw or parched nuts because the process of boiling them draws the antioxidants from the shell, giving the boiled nuts four times the amount of antioxidants than they have raw or parched. But even better, boiled peanuts have almost half the calories of ones that are parched—90 calories per ounce, as compared to 170 calories per ounce.

You don’t have to seek a roadside stand in order to enjoy the tasty legumes. (Yes, that’s right; peanuts aren’t nuts at all, but rather, beans.) While it takes a little time and patience to boil nuts at home, it’s worth the effort for the FEW of you who like them. On a recent Sunday afternoon, I washed two pounds of raw nuts, covered them with water in a large pot, brought them to a boil, added one fourth cup of salt, and after reducing the heat to medium, cooked them for approximately three hours. After the first hour or so, I began testing them for doneness every 30 minutes, and the result was nuts that had a little “crunch” left in them, as opposed to ones that were cooked until they were really soft, as they’re often prepared.

Not ONE of my Southern friends was open to the idea of sharing the healthy, low calorie, good for your heart, protein packed, antioxidant rich, salty, but slightly sweet, delicious treats with me, and I’m sorry for their loss. Clearly, it’s an acquired taste.

peanut-collage-edited

Roadside Market Photo from www.pinterest.com

Raw Peanuts from Deborah Fagan Carpenter

Boiled Peanuts from Deborah Fagan Carpenter

 

GHOSTS OF CAHABA

Ghosts of Cahaba

by Gary Wright

“. . . you deadly little ghostlings . . . Mama says go back to bed!”

—Jeaniene Frost, ‘Night Huntress’

 

image3Ruins of Fort Morgan Prison

The State of Alabama came into being in 1819, after the Creek War of 1813–1814 ended and the Treaty of Fort Jackson was signed. Its capital was chosen as nearly in the center of the state as possible. A site was selected where the Cahaba River joins the Alabama River, and was smack dab in the middle of a swampy wilderness. The site was surveyed, and building started immediately. In 1820, Cahaba (Cahawba) had started to function as a state government. However, the site had been poorly chosen, as the swampy area was prone to flooding and the wetlands favored mosquitoes instead of humans. Yellow fever and malaria became common, and the place gained fame for being dangerous and a menace to health. In 1826 the legislature finally moved the capital to a place more inclined to health, finally winding up in Montgomery, where the new capital was built in the middle of a pasture atop aptly named ‘Goat Hill.’

Cahaba was abandoned but still clung precariously to an existence of sorts. Cotton soon became king in the South, and Cahaba, superbly located at the confluence of two great rivers, soon found itself the port city of the cotton growers. By 1859 the place was a boom town once again, as steamboats fought their way to the bluffs and laded a plethora of cotton bales to feed European mills of the burgeoning industrial revolution. Then, came the Civil War. The cotton economy of the South was shattered, and Cahaba, like so many of its Southern sisters, felt the economic, not to mention the cultural, impact. Cahaba’s death blow came when the Confederates seized the railroad’s rolling stock and moved it elsewhere for the war effort.

A huge cotton warehouse in the heart of the town was converted in June of 1863 into the Cahaba Military Prison. When General Ulysses S. Grant put an end to prisoner exchanges, Cahaba’s prisoner population exploded to over 3,000. Though conditions were terrible in all military prisons, north and south, Cahaba made a reputation for its humane treatment of prisoners. To be sure, the old warehouse and stockade were cramped, and food, medicine, and supplies were nearly non-existent. However, the prison’s death rate of two percent was among the lowest of any military prisons in either North or South. Of the nearly 10,000 prisoners held there during its existence, it is believed that as few as 150 perished.

image1

The fortunes of these humanely treated and recently released prisoners of the Cahaba Prison, however, soon took a sad and tragic turn. The steamboat Sultana was carrying 2,300 newly freed prisoners to their homes from confinement at Cahaba and the infamous prison at Andersonville, Georgia, when her steam engines exploded and burned on the Mississippi River on April 27, 1865. As many as 2,000 men died in the explosion and fire or in hospital beds following the tragedy. These brave Union soldiers from the best and the worst of Confederate prisons suffered the same sad fortunes of blind fate on their way home to the arms of their loved ones. It is said, though, that even in death these soldiers were not able to find rest and redemption.

It wasn’t long after the Sultana’s explosion that reports began to circulate of ghosts of Cahaba military prison. The first report was by a couple walking near the home of Colonel Josiah Pegues, when they saw a ball of white light floating in the air ahead of them. Others, through the years, have said they saw ghostly figures clothed in tattered Union uniforms huddling together for warmth and comfort as they floated in the cool night air near the old prison remains.

cataba-prison-ruinsPrison Ruins

All but the very foundations of the old cotton warehouse turned prison are gone. Ivy, come-along vines, and kudzu cover practically everything now creating a surreal scene of abandoned buildings, trees, and ground that are blended into one great piece-work quilt. The town, itself, is but indistinguishable from the surrounding swamp and encroaching forests. However, it seems that the pitiful figures of ghosts cling to the small bit of comfort and warmth which they found in the last refuge of humanity these prisoners were afforded this side of the great beyond. It is said that, to this day, these ghostly wraiths look for something in the next world that they found little of here in middle earth – justice and mercy.

 

 

The Cahawba site is now an Archaeological Interpretative Park. Visitors are welcome. Roam the abandoned streets of the old capital city, view the moss-covered ruins, read the interpretive signs, and contemplate Cahawba’s mysterious disappearance. Water still flows through the old ornamental well heads. Columns and chimneys mark old house sites. Inscriptions on gravestones tell the stories of forgotten people. Old-fashioned roses and bulbs still bloom each spring.

http://www.ruralswalabama.org/attraction/old-cahawba-park/

 

Images of chimney and Cahawba sign are licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.civilwaralbum.com

Photo of ruins is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked towww.pinterest.com

 

 

 

A Fair and Stately Palace

A Fair and Stately Palace

by Joseph N Goodell

“From that chamber as I fled aghast, a fissure widened and the mighty walls rushed asunder. I heard a tumultuous shouting and saw the deep and dank tarn close sullenly over the fragments of the House of Usher.”—Edgar Allan Poe

 Mount Holly

Mount Holly Mansion

No such dramatic collapse is claiming Mount Holly, as was the fate of Edgar Allan Poe’s tormented hall. But still my reference seems fitting, as I witness instead the relentless burden of time, the coarse encroaching weeds, and vandals ruin this once manor of brilliance. I cannot help but grieve for what should not be, but is. Under a pewter sky ready to weep at any moment, the atmosphere of gloom and sorrow broods of a fading future.

A splendid Italianate red brick house of thirty rooms, ornate mirrors and chandeliers, walnut woodwork throughout, a rosewood staircase, and balconies with wrought-iron railings, Mount Holly was the concept of Margaret Johnson Erwin, who lived there after 1859, and died there in 1863. Her setting among primeval trees was surrounded by an expanse of rich farm land at the shore of Lake Washington, Mississippi. To lakeside lay graceful pasture; access from Route 1 passed through iron gates, and between rows of spreading oaks.

Ms Margaret managed her estate carefully. She had fashioned a marvel not only of beauty, but of life; a suitable companion for Annandale of Madison and Ammadelle of Oxford. She hosted a steady whirl of family and guests, including Jefferson Davis and Albert Sidney Johnston. All the time with charm, hospitality, and courtesy. But after the War ownership became an intricate stream of tangled episodes. The mansion did serve with distinction as headquarters for rescue efforts during the flood of 1927. And then, following a period of decline, enjoyed reprieve during the 1990s as a comfortable inn rendered by the accommodating family of T.C. and Ann Woods.

Waverly Plantation

Waverly Plantation

But now isolation is the pervading spirit; desolation is evident; erosion from the elements seems irreversible enough to preclude rehabilitation. Mount Holly is unlike Windsor, whose majestic, though forlorn columns, are tended by a public trust. Unlike Waverley, whose grandeur is sustained by the devotion of charming hostess, Melanie Snow and her Dad. Mount Holly clings to its heritage, but is crumbling, alone without family lineage, and feeling the tug of melancholy’s undertow.

The wear of time is escorting this disintegrating place away from Mary Carol Miller’s “Great Houses of Mississippi” to an eternal repose in her “Lost Mansions of Mississippi.” Mount Holly belongs to the poets now. Margaret Erwin’s compilation of letters, “Like Some Green Laurel,” which quotes William Yeats in “A Prayer for My Daughter”: “O may she live like some green laurel, rooted in one dear perpetual place.”

Mount Holly closeup

Decay at Mount Holly Mansion

With the haunting beauty of “Al Dolce Guidami” the condemned Anna Bolena in Gaetano Donizetti’s tragic opera dreams of a return “to the dear castle where I was born” yearning for “one day of my youth, just one day of our love.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge muses of royalty: “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a noble pleasure dome decree; on twice five miles of fertile ground, gardens bright with sinuous rills, where blossomed incense-bearing trees; forests ancient as the hills, and sunny spots of greenery.”

And Poe’s reflections from “Zante” and “The Haunted Palace:”  “… how many memories of radiant hours, how many scenes of departed bliss, in the greenest of our valleys, once a fair and stately palace.”

 

 

Photo of Mount Holly by Andrew Morang is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to worldofdecay.blogspot.com

Photo of Waverly Plantation is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.flickriver.com

Mississippi Musings

Mississippi Musings

by Joe Goodell

Mississippi Delta

“Mississippi Hot”

In Mississippi, “hot” refers to that time of year when the sun behaves as if it were a hammer, and we are its own private anvil. When nerves wilt under that horrific sun, partnering with humidity in an assault of elevated double digits. When even the soundest grow neurotic, and rational thought absents itself.

 

“The South”

A place where we like our tea sweet and our chicken fried, where we start our summers in April, know that macaroni and cheese is a vegetable, like our porches wide, and our words long.

 

Where we think that y’all is the only pronoun, have made hospitality an art form, have cornered the market on charm, and believe in monograms, mason jars and mindin’ manners.

 

Where we swap tall tales and are always blessin’ someone’s little heart.—Anonymous

 

“This land, this South”

with woods for game and streams for fish and deep rich soil for seed and lush springs to sprout it and long summers to mature it and serene falls to harvest it and short mild winters for men and animals.”—William Faulkner.

 

An inquiry

A northern admirer was visiting Eudora Welty in Jackson one morning several years ago and asked, “Why are all those people headed for church?” Eudora replied, “Well, it is Sunday!”

 

The River

After God had made the earth He found that there was some water left over. So he just threw it down, telling it go wherever it wanted. It formed the Mississippi River and has been doing just that ever since.

mississippi river at vicksburg sized

The Delta

“The Mississippi Delta is big houses and abandoned shacks, endless vistas of cotton, soy beans, rice and wheat, white cotton bolls that fall from trucks during the picking season and line the highways, dare-devil crop dusters buzzing overhead, catfish ponds, half empty hamlets where black men, womenand children sit on the stoops of forlorn dwellings.”Willie Morris

IT’S FIXIN’ TO RAIN!

It’s Fixin’  to Rain

by Joe Goodell

The expression “fixin’ to” (never “fixing to”) is characteristically Southern, especially rural Southern, although its use has been reported in Chicago and Cincinnati.

It turns out that the term, most often used simply to indicate a proposed action, is in fact complex in origin and form. It is unique in the English language, but seems to be unwelcome in proper English discourse. It can’t be regarded as colloquial, that might dress it up too much, nor can it be dismissed as slang. And it can’t simply be replaced by “getting ready to,” etc. It is widely useful, certainly not unsavory, so likely here to stay.

Beyond indicating a personal action soon to occur, “He’s fixin’ to mow the lawn,” “I’m fixin’ to go,” or an impersonal, “It’s fixin’ to rain,” the phrase has evolved to new meanings. It can even precede a false promise or delay, such as, “I was just fixin’ to”—a likely procrastination.

rain clouds

There can be determination, “She’s fixin’ to take lessons,” or trouble, “He’s fixin’ to get himself arrested,” or apprehension, “’fraid I’m fixin’ to come down with the flu.” Perhaps a warning to the kids, “Y’all are fixin’ to get a spankin,” or even tax time resignation, “I’m fixin’ to be audited,” or the expectant jubilation of fishing buddies, “We’re fixn’ to catch the big one today,” and possibly some electioneering retribution, “This time we’re fixin’ to vote those self-righteous gentlemen out.”

By tone and context, therefore, the speaker can manipulate his intent over a wide range. And by evolving new forms and functions, this unique expression is thus following a universal trend in our language.

Grammatically, “fixin’ to” is a “phrasal auxiliary,” or a “quasi-modal” verb which modifies the main action verb. As such, it has been around in Southern lore since an 1820s recording of its use in everyday speech. Its exact origin, however, what compelled the original users to such linguistic structure and why it has persisted is obscure.

It has enriched our language and performs well on its own. We therefore need not burden it with too much analysis. So when will I be closing this dissertation? “Well, I was just fixin’ to.”

 

Rain clouds image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.pixaby.com

Interesting Southern Stuff!

Interesting Southern Stuff!

by Gary Wright

 

“History is not necessarily what happened but what is recorded.”

—Debbie Terranova

 

An abundance of negativity has been written about the American South. Indeed, there has been much to lament, from the Civil War to the Ku Klux Klan to ‘Jim Crow.’ But, for all the bad, there is a ton of upbeat history and many captivating narratives that shed some light on the South’s more positive side. It’s difficult to categorize, define or explain Southern culture, for it has to be lived, experienced and often endured to know it. We hear enough about our lamentable past, so let’s take a look at some of the intriguing legends, tales and significant contributions that are worth recalling too.

Petit Jean State Park

Petit Jean State Park

The Legend of Petit Jean

The sad but poignant legend of Petit (pronounced Petty) Jean has been told, sung and repeated throughout the South. Its roots were in the story of a young French girl who was betrothed to her lover just before he set out to explore the ‘new world.’ She couldn’t bear to be without him, so she disguised herself as a cabin boy and tagged along with her lover and his band of Frenchmen as they explored the Louisiana Territory. Because of her stature she was nicknamed ‘Petit Jean’ or ‘Little John.’ Atop a lone mountain towering over central Arkansas, she fell ill and, knowing that she was at death’s doorstep, revealed her identity and died in her lover’s arms. Petit Jean Mountain still bears her name, and it is said to be both blessed and cursed by the spirit of a mournful lover seeking her betrothed.

To this day, young lovers seeking a happy marriage trek up the steep path of the mountain to have their union blessed by the spirit of Petit Jean. It is said that in death, Petit Jean can help others receive what she did not receive in life – the promise of a loving relationship.

 

colonel george s patton

As a Colonel, George S. Patton, Jr. reported to Fort. Benning, Georgia in 1940 as commander of the 3rd Calvary Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division. Fort Benning is where Patton trained, learned and developed tactics which would later give him his infamous reputation. Phenix City, Alabama was just across the Chattahoochee River from Fort Benning, and many soldiers frequented the night clubs, brothels and speak-easies there. It was a Phenix City past-time to cheat, rob and beat up these soldiers, and it is reputed that Col. Patton lined up a squadron of tanks across the Chattahoochee River and leveled all the main guns toward Phenix City, threatening to blow up the town. The soldiers got a reprieve from the town gangsters when the town leaders decided it was best to clean up the town ‘riff-raff,’ at least until the war took Colonel Patton to another continent. Whether Patton would have opened fire is subject to some debate; I, for one, would not have cared to call his bluff!

Houston, we have a problem!

The South became a significant player in space exploration when NASA chose three of its major sites to be located in the South: John F. Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, Florida; George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama; and Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas. The major space research is conducted in Huntsville, actual launching of space craft occurs at the Kennedy Space Center, and control of space flights is carried out at the Houston facility. How can anyone forget the memorable line in the movie Apollo 13, “Houston, we have a problem!”

 

robert johnson

Painting of Robert Johnson

It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when and where the “Blues” was born or who, precisely, invented it. Its origins were in the plaintive and forlorn music of the plantation slaves decades before it actually took form as a genre. For years it was passed down as it was performed around campfires or in front yards after supper. Sometime in the early 1930s it found its way to the honkey-tonks, shot houses and beer joints in and around Clarksdale, Mississippi where black entertainers would perform and ‘pass around a hat.’ Son House, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly, Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson are among a few of the earliest who cast a net around what would eventually become the ‘Delta Blues.’

Ray Henderson states it so well in his lyrics for ‘The Birth of the Blues:’

“They heard the breeze in the trees

Singin’ weird melodies

And they made that, the start of the blues

And from a jail came the wail of a down-hearted frail

And they played that as a part of the blues. . . .”

This music has grown and matured over the years but it still has a visceral effect on the listener. Through the music, they experience the hard luck, misfortune and the woe of the poor, the downtrodden, and the hapless, who’s only hope, ironically, is in the sad songs they sing. This music has many offspring, including the ‘Memphis Blues,’ ‘Beale Street Blues,’ and the ‘St. Louis Blues.’ Each has its own unique sound, but all find their ultimate origin in the unique American Black experience from the Southland.

 

 

 

Image of Petit Jean State Park is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to en.wikipedia.org

Image of George Patton is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.freeinfosociety.com

Painting of Robert Johnson is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.29.media.tumblr.com via Pinterest

The Power of Reasonable Action

The Power of Reasonable Action

by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

 protest photo

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.

—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

After the appalling, but history making events of the last few weeks, it seemed disrespectful to publish one of our typical posts today. In Dallas, decent, dedicated police officers were brutally gunned down during a peaceful demonstration, by a sniper who had no connection to the protest. In other cities innocent black men were callously and inhumanely killed at the hands of policemen who were inadequately trained, fearful, or racially biased. African-Americans and law enforcement officers alike, are full of fear, as well as justified anger, and without a doubt, there are rational and irrational participants on both sides. Events Sunday night in Memphis, Tennessee however, offered some hope for a reasonable dialog to open—at least in this city—in order to address the ever growing volatile relationship between the African-American and law enforcement communities, and to contain the expanding gulf between the two.

On July 10, in the city in which the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was tragically ended, the leader who fostered a non-violent approach to civil rights change would have been gratified by the peaceful protest that was led by proponents of the Black Lives Matter movement. An unusually mild summer night provided the backdrop for a gathering of over 1,000 protesters—both African-American and Caucasian—who completely stopped traffic in both directions on the Memphis/Arkansas I-40 bridge. The goal of the demonstration was to invoke a conversation among the community, law enforcement, civic leaders, and BLM advocates so that that grievances on all fronts could be aired. Additionally, they wanted to make the public aware that the Black Lives Matter slogan doesn’t mean that black lives matter more than anyone else’s, but rather that they matter equally as much.

Similar events took place in many cities around the country, but the Memphis protest was carried out in a manner that Dr. King would have applauded—with civility and dignity. Marchers weren’t trying to incite incidents, and to their credit, neither was the police presence. After several hours, the protest ended on a stunning note when interim Police Director Mike Rallings, joined by other policemen, locked arms with protestors, and together walked off of the bridge.

 

“A basic fact that characterizes nonviolence is that it does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding.”

—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

On social media and news station’s web sites, the racial vitriol surrounding the event was palpable, but on the bridge, the protesters and the police engaged in heated, but rational arguments regarding violence and lack of accountability. A legitimate objection from outside observers about the event was the inability of drivers in emergency situations to get help, but the couple of vehicles with medical emergencies were allowed to proceed through the protest crowd unimpeded.

Other antagonists cried, “That’s not civil disobedience, that’s lawbreaking!” Well yes, the very definition of civil disobedience is a symbolic or ritualistic violation of the law. Nelson Mandela regularly engaged in civil disobedience and peaceful protests against the South African policy of apartheid, and a rather notable example occurred in our own country when the Sons of Liberty dumped a confiscated shipment of the East India Company’s tea into the Boston Harbour. Civil disobedience is a way that ordinary citizens often bring about necessary change.

The striking example of non-violent demonstration led by the Memphis members of the Black Lives Matter movement and the cool-headed actions of the Memphis police force has, at least for the immediate future, initiated a conversation between the groups and pertinent community leaders. Both sides are poised—to make an effort, at least—to see through the other’s eyes.

 

“The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of the violence is tragic bitterness.”

—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

 

Bridge photo is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked towww.arktimes.com

OCTOBER 5th

The movie, “Free State of Jones,” was released Friday. It’s bound to be a lot bigger around here than in many neighborhoods, but it’s certainly worth making a trip to the cinema to see. It’s (1) a well written, acted and directed film; (2) a fascinating bit of Americana; and (3) a myth-buster about the Confederacy being a cozy, well-connected and monolithic family.

I doubt my essay below takes issue with anything in the movie, but my accent differs from that of the film, which concentrates on the unique black-white relations of Jones countians. Mine is about the Knight-McLemore feud, but both the film and I feature the unique conditions that made Knight into what he became.

For a story as tangled, and, yes too, steeped in legend as is the saga of Jones County, Mississippi, I believe that the “historical record” is a cross road of accuracy, legend and myth.

My extensive reading includes Jenkins & Stauffer’s “The State of Jones” which, aside from primary sources, I regard as THE go-to text about the Pine Belt, Newton Knight, Amos McLemore, et al. I have visited Ellisville and the house where the Major is said to have been shot by Knight (growing exasperated by the increasingly relentless pursuit of “deserters”). I have traveled the byways of the county and believe that I have a reasonable feel for “Knight Country.”

The “Jones County Saga” is very identifiable with, and important to the story of Mississippi. …………Joe Goodell

running image

October 5th

by Joe N Goodell

A few might recognize October 5th as the anniversary date of my birth. Significant to the culture and history of Mississippi, however, 2016 marks it as the 153rd year since the violent death of Amos McLemore.

Major Amos had opposed Secession as had most citizens of Jones County, Mississippi. He was a school teacher, pastor and successful merchant in the county seat, Ellisville, as rough a town as Tombstone was to become. His people, established in the South for nearly two hundred years, served honorably in the Revolution and in 1812, and with kin, founded Meridian in the 1830’s.

But after January 1861 when the Mississippi Legislature voted to secede, Amos raised a company of infantry, calling it “Old Rosin Heels,” with himself in command as Captain. They fought valiantly in Florida, and then with heavy losses in the fearsome engagements of Perryville and Murfreesboro as Company B, 27th Mississippi Infantry Regiment.

In the meantime another “force” was developing in Jones County. Quite different from the elitist gentry of McLemore, Deason, Welborn, Kilgore and Bayliss, these were the yeoman farmers of Knight, Collins, Sumrall, Bynum, Reddoch, Walters, Blackwell and Coleman, as tough and rugged as the tall pines which they lived among. Newton Knight was a spirit of independence, an embraced member of these families, who had not identified with the newly forming Confederacy and who claimed, or revived, the sobriquet, “Free State of Jones.” But to avoid conscription, he and several neighbors volunteered as a unit to serve. And they did, with distinction, around Corinth and later at Vicksburg.

By late 1862 the Confederate army needed more resources to resist the expanding Union momentum. Certain units of Rebel cavalry raided Jones County, conscripting nearly all of the remaining men and most of the food and livestock, a “tax in kind” arrangement, leaving many women and children destitute, sometimes starving. Stories about the plight of their families filtered through to Newton, Jasper Collins and others, aware also that many “propertied” soldiers could leave the army to tend their holdings.

free state of jones

Severely disillusioned, even embittered, a few, including Newton and Jasper, who may have coined the term “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight,” “walked off the job,” back to their Piney Woods, to personally support their own families. They used hide-outs like Devil’s Den along Leaf River, and successfully resisted the horse soldiers ill-suited to swamp country.

General Braxton Bragg yielded to the frustration of catching and returning these men to duty by force. In August 1863 he dispatched Amos, now Major McLemore, with a small detachment and authority to offer amnesty. Likely employing his teacher and pastor skills, he convinced, over just five weeks, 119 of them of the “error of their way,” and to return to their units.

Newton Knight was not among them. Known for his hard-won self-reliance, a devout man but a fierce combatant when riled, he was regarded by the McLemores et al as a no-account and now as an ignorant bushwhacker. Newton saw them, far removed socially and politically, to be arrogant barons imposing themselves as moral and civil arbiters.

The class feud became a personal one between Amos and Newton. Warnings and threats were exchanged and Newton was quoted with “… if meddlin’ is what you want, I can stop that.” He knew that the Major lodged at the Deason house in north Ellisville, a mansion with luxurious appointments, among the surrounding rude farm houses.

On the stormy night of October 5th, Amos, with a few fellow officers, had retired for dinner and rest. As the accepted story goes, Newton eased away from two accomplices and into the house, slammed open a sitting room door and fired a thunderous blast from his double-barreled shotgun. Amos McLemore died as he fell, a gaping hole left in his chest.

Bloodstains in the floor persist to this day, and it is said that the door swings open of its own accord at 11 pm. Although no clues to the murder were found, and no charges made, Newton never denied his involvement and was never caught.

newton knight

Newton Knight

 

Header image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to aroundmovies.com

Film image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to collider.com

Image of Newton Knight is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to mcbridenovels.blogspot.com

 

 

Distinctive Dining in Mississippi

Distinctive Dining in Mississippi

by Joe Goodell

The Dinner BellThe Dinner Bell/McComb, MS

I enjoy collecting restaurants. Not for any sense of ownership, but in anticipation for visiting those where I’ve never been, and for reliving the delectable memories of those where I have been. What counts is a unique ambience (we can forget the chains), the special service, the special menus, and of course the attention paid to achieving it all.

My “collection” generally discounts size, although small has an edge. There is no place for “scale.” “Up” or “down” are not factors. Coat-and-tie, rough cut, from hat-off to leave-it-on, all can be good. And I approach all respectfully, as though the entryways sense deference.

I am dismayed to learn of some which are no longer. I did, however, arrive at Clarksdale’s Madidi in time for one of their formal dinners (followed by a night cap at the rousing Ground Zero Blues Club). I tucked into the best pulled pork sandwich ever at Mercantile BBQ in Collins, and the ham and cheese omelets at Harkins Family Bakery in Canton. Sad to say that I never made it to Oxford’s Yocona River Inn, nor to every one of Mississippi’s “round table” spots. But at Walnut Hills in Vicksburg I did enjoy the company of seven others (whom I’d never met) all helping ourselves to the well prepared dishes turning before of us.

While I am still young enough to enjoy the best blues in Mississippi I must visit two of the remaining rural juke joints: Blue Front Café in Bentonia and Po’ Monkey near Merigold. Plenty of beer, although the menus are limited to burgers, and perhaps a meat-and-three meal. There is a novel sound, Bentonia Blues, and both have earned Mississippi Blues Trail Markers.

Doe's Eat Place edited

Doe’s Eat Place/Greenville, MS

Onward to Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville, to the Crystal Grill in Greenwood and to 1933 Restaurant in Ruleville for roast duck in red wine. Likewise to Gulfport’s Nezaty Café for chicken salad and bean soup, then to Hattiesburg’s Cotton Blues and Leatha’s BBQ Inn. I need to find the time and roll the miles to Cleveland’s Airport Grocery, to Woody’s in Tupelo, Weidmann’s in Meridian, Ellie’s Snack Bar in Iuka and to a shrimp po’ boy at Back Forty in Lake.

Airport Grocery edited

Airport Grocery/Cleveland, MS

For the jolly good times at places I have visited I’ll be returning for a Slugburger at Borroum’s Drug Store in Corinth, to Council House Café at French Camp, to Alice Café in Ellisville, and to Saturday dinner at Gibbe’s Old Country Store in Learned. On my home turf are Mama Hamil’s and The Gathering in Madison, plus Cock of the Walk in nearby Ridgeland.

Boure'

Boure’/Oxford, MS

Taking a month off sometime to “dine my way around the Square” in Oxford will be the stuff of dreams; I’ll start with the Creole menu at Boure’. As my travels take me through Natchez, Indianola, Philadelphia, Vicksburg and Louisville, it’ll be lunch again at Biscuits and Blues, The Crown Restaurant, Peggy’s, The Tomato Place and blackened catfish at Lake Tiak-O’Khata. Our capital city of Jackson, as you’d correctly assume, offers plenty of fine dining: Old Capitol Inn, Two Sisters’ Kitchen (southern cooking at its best), Hal & Mal’s (bowl of gumbo), Elite Restaurant, Mayflower Café, Brent’s (signature egg & olive sandwich) and my favorite, CS’s.

If you are driving through Jackson looking for Millsaps College, it’s right there across West Street east of CS’s Restaurant. The two have a symbiotic relationship reaching back to the between-classes lunch crowd. You’ll recognize CS’s for its unique four-part ambience: the place itself, the crowd, the large plates of home cooking and of course the hospitality of Pat Boland, owner-operator, greeter, maître d’ and occasional server or chef.

The architecture, well, it’s early American select, not bothering with those Greek or Old English eponyms. It’s just solidly there, waiting for you like a good friend at the Student Union. It divides into the south side large-table party room and the northern section of four-place tables and booths plus the long counter fashioned from the woodwork of a long gone hotel.

 It is not clear whether there are any walls at all, or whether Pat and the original owner for 23 years, C.S. Hollingsworth, just laid all those labels, bumper stickers, cards and a few license plates up around the surrounding space. I like the one in a section devoted to our Military: “If you don’t want to stand behind our troops, please feel free to stand out in front of them.” And two catchy ones: “There are three kinds of people in the world, those who can count, and those who can’t” and “Be competent, the way to success and happiness.”

CS's

CS’s Restaurant/Jackson, MS

There are plugs for political figures of all stripes, yesteryear as well as current, praise for schools, shows, sports and naturally for the Neshoba County Fair. The collection of beer cans and bottles, smartly aligned high along every wall, represents breweries everywhere, scores of labels, scores of flavors.

The crowd includes diners from all neighborhoods and is a fashion show of business suits, military fatigues, casual and the rough shirts, trousers and boots of those who work hard outdoors. There is a mix of gender and age, all companionable and congenial. The serving staff, a blend of delightful personalities, is capable and hospitable, every one cordial and attentive.

Prominently displayed on the east wall is a hand-written menu of the day. My favorite is Thursday’s pot roast with green beans, black-eyed peas and new potatoes or macaroni-and-cheese. Buttered cornbread on the side plus a tall iced tea. Other days feature chicken, veal cutlet, stuffed bell pepper, meatloaf and lead-server Inez’s popular hamburger. Regardless of the special though, one day you will want to try the piping hot red beans and onion embracing a mound of steaming rice and edged by rounds of roasted, succulent, spicy-luscious sausage.

I recommend adding a salad with CS’s own Kumback dressing, a rich and smooth recipe more closely guarded than that of Coca-Cola. For dessert, your choice of hot oven-fresh peach cobbler or another closely guarded recipe, that exceptional peanut butter pie.

If I ever was, I’m not now chained to the Chains. Treating myself to Mississippi’s own unique dining experiences is a culinary luxury as well as adventure. But just so you will know that I can be neighborly, I have stepped across our state line for a rewarding lunchtime repast at Middendorf’s in Manchac, Louisiana, and at Jesse’s in Magnolia Springs, Alabama. Next, and soon, will be northward to Tennessee and the wealth of dining opportunities there.

Middendorf'sdocx

Middendorf’s Restaurant/Pass Manchac, LA

 

Dinner Bell image from Facebook,  Does’ Eat Place image courtesy Deborah Fagan Carpenter,  Airport Grocery image courtesy Deborah Fagan Carpenter,  Boure’ image from Facebook,  CS’s Restaurant image from Facebook,  Middendorf’s Restaurant image courtesy Dorsey Statham photographer, via his Facebook photo collection

Lamentable Southern History

Lamentable Southern History

by Gary Wright

The greatest tragedy of all is the one unremembered

On June 29, 1967, blonde bomb-shell and Hollywood star, Jayne Mansfield was on her way to New Orleans from Biloxi, Mississippi, where she had been performing at a local nightclub. With her was Ronald B. Harrison, a driver for the Gus Stevens Dinner Club, her lawyer, Samuel S. Brody, and three of Mansfield’s children in Stevens’ 1966 Buick Electra. She never reached her destination.

Jayne Mansfield_edited-1

Jayne Mansfield

On a dark stretch of road, near Slidell, Louisiana, just as a truck was approaching a machine emitting a thick white fog used to spray mosquitoes, the Electra hit the trailer-truck from behind. Mansfield, Harrison and Brody were all killed in the accident. Mansfield’s children: Mickey, Zoltan and Marie (Mariska), who had apparently been sleeping on the rear seat, were injured, but survived. That Buick Electra was later purchased by a private individual and placed in a macabre touring show for a time, until it eventually disappeared, believed to have been purchased by a Mansfield aficionado who wanted her memory to rest in peace.

*

On August 16, 1977, music icon Elvis Presley died at the age of 42. The cause of death was covered up by his family, but it is believed that an overdose of prescription drugs caused his heart to stop. Interestingly, of all the pop and rock songs he made famous, his only three Grammy awards were for gospel music, including ‘How Great Thou Art.’ Elvis had an identical twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, who was stillborn and was buried in an unmarked grave in Tupelo, Mississippi. Imagine if his brother had lived and there had been two of them.

Elvis' birthplace

Elvis Presley Birthplace in Tupelo, MS

*

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. He was shot twice and died shortly after at Parkland Hospital. Within an hour after his death, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the crime. Oswald was, in turn, murdered three days later by Jack Ruby. The entire string of incidences sparked the greatest conspiracy theories in history. The notions still refuse to die.

Assasination in Dallas

Assasination in Dallas

*

Early on September 17, 1928, a storm made landfall near West Palm Beach, Florida, with winds of 145 mph (233 km/h). In the city, more than 1,711 homes were destroyed. Elsewhere in the county, impact was severest around Lake Okeechobee. The storm surge caused water to pour out of the southern edge of the lake, flooding hundreds of square miles as high as 20 feet above ground. Numerous houses and buildings were swept away in the cities around the lake, at least 2,500 people drowned, and damage was estimated at $25 million.

Hurricane photo

While crossing Florida, the system weakened significantly, but the “Okeechobee Hurricane” curved northeastward and briefly re-emerged into the Atlantic on September 18. The storm soon made another landfall near Edisto Island, South Carolina, with winds of 85 mph, and early on the following day, the system became a hurricane over North Carolina. Overall, the system caused $100 million in damage and at least 4,079 deaths. Folklorist and musician Will McLean wrote a beautiful and moving song about the hurricane entitled “Hold Back the Waters of Lake Okeechobee.”

*

On April 12, 1861, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard fired on the Union Fort Sumter, South Carolina, igniting the American Civil War. Southern states had recently seceded from the Union and planned an amiable disassociation from the north. However, Lincoln and the north thought differently. “The Union must be preserved at all costs,” was the intention of Lincoln and many hard-liners of the north. Southern states demanded that the Union withdraw all its forces and materials from the South. They refused, and several Union-held forts were besieged by Southern forces. Many believe that had the South simply maintained the siege, the ‘War of Northern Aggression’ could have been averted entirely. Lincoln rejected any negotiations with the Confederate agents however, because he did not consider the Confederacy a legitimate nation, and making any treaty with it would be recognition of it as a sovereign government.

Fort Sumpter

Gen. Beauregard determined that he would fire on the fort. He did so, and after two days of heavy bombardment, Major Anderson agreed to surrender the fort to the Confederates. There were no casualties on either side directly from the hostilities, but there was talk on both sides of increased aggression. Calmer heads encouraged negotiating, but when Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to invade the South as a response, the die was cast, and the Confederacy braced for the invasion on Southern soil. That invasion came. On July 21, 1861, the first large-scale units of the Union met Southern resistance near Manassas, Virginia at the Battle of the First Bull Run.

*

In Pulaski, Tennessee in late 1866, a group of Confederate war veterans met and formed a group to fight northern reconstruction, and the Ku Klux Klan was born. From 1867 onward, African-American participation in public life in the South became one of the most unfavorably viewed aspects of Reconstruction, as blacks won election to southern state governments, and the U.S. Congress. For its part, the Ku Klux Klan dedicated itself to an underground campaign of violence against Republican leaders and their supporters—both black and white—in an effort to reverse the policies of Radical Reconstruction and restore ‘white supremacy’ in the South.

kkk

The birth of the Ku Klux Klan was like the birth of Frankenstein’s Monster. On paper it may have looked good to many, but in action it proved disastrous to all. Hopefully, that part of Southern history will be remembered always, so that it will never be repeated.

 

Photo of Jayne Mansfield com is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to en.wikipedia.org

Birthplace of Elvis Presley is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.elvispresleybirthplace.com

JFK assassination photo is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to en.wikipedia.org

1928 Hurricane photo is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.businessinsider.com

Fort Sumter rendering is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to en.wikipedia.org

KKK photo is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.pinterest.com

 

 

 

By the Bucketful by Gary Wright

By the Bucketful

by Gary Wright

Some memories are too painful to remember,

even the first time.

The Southern Bucket List

Bucket lists are things that you really want to do before you–well—kick the bucket. In other words, things, however childish or outlandish, that you’ve always wanted to do, see, or act out before you go. Modern therapists say that acting out such long-held notions, or even thinking about them or writing them down, is therapeutic. They help you to sort or filter out the obtuse and the veneer of the world to get down to the basic fundamentals of your psyche. It’s sort of like putting a pie in the face of your worst enemy, blowing up the building where you hated to work for forty years, or simply feeling the sand between your toes.

The term and the idea behind it became popularized in American culture after the movie, The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, premiered in 2008. Here are more of my suggestions for bucket lists for the child-like, Southern red-neck in all of us. These are things that everyone can do, and might even be the better for it. Remember, it’s never too early to begin you bucket list. Also, it is never too late to start a bucket list. Wait! Scratch that last sentence.

Here, then are a few of my suggestions for the true Southern bucket list:

Lake Jordan

Watch a late summer sunset on Lake Jordan, Alabama. The sky is clouded with wispy, ghost look-alikes, painted with hues of orange, red and gold. It’s one of the sweetest memories of your raisin’. Thinking back now, I can still remember the greenery in the background of the ever-present kudzu and the entire town that it took over, causing all the inhabitants to flee for their lives. It’s said that a few were never actually accounted for. That childhood memory still brings tears to my eyes.

Watch John Boy and Billy on the radio. They can be found on the AM dial of any Southern radio putting on the Big Show. They’re two country boys who could be anybody’s cousins or neighbors—or whatever. They’re experts on practically any subject that happens to come up, and if you don’t believe me, just ask them. Their trusty side-kick, Robert D. Raiford, is truly a hold-over from Andy Rooney, with his down-home humor and ups-scale passion for his beliefs and monologues. I really doubt that these homey, artful broadcasts can actually get very far north through the Iron Curtain—er, the Mason-Dixon Line.

Dig for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro, Arkansas. It is the only place outside of South Africa where natural diamonds are actually found in the wild. It consists of a 37-acre plowed field where tourists, for a modest entry fee, can dig to their hearts content for the entire day. Diamonds are regularly found and taken home by tourists, including ‘the Uncle Sam,’ which weighed in at over 40 carats. Not everyone can be that lucky, however, a little exercise, fresh air and sunshine has never been known to add misery to those lucky enough to take home a tiny bauble to show for their day’s work. Over 75,000 diamonds have been found there since its discovery in 1906. So, yes, Virginia, there really are diamonds in Arkansas.

Gullah proverb

Visit the Gullah People of coastal Georgia and South Carolina. These truly unique people are descendants of African slaves from West Africa, and many of their traditions and much of their culture and language still survive. Their food, language and customs are a mixture of Creole, Native American and their native African roots. In fact, the name Gullah is believed to originate from Angola in Africa from whence many of the slaves came. Many traditional Southern terms owe their existence to the Gullahs such as gumbo, okra, goobers (peanuts,) the Gullah religious shout, Bruh Rabbit and similar clever animal stories. Perhaps the most famous of all the Gullah gifts to the South is their manner of speaking. Its precise, though somewhat odd sound, has contributed to modern-day Ebonics.

appalachian mountains

Hear the purest form of spoken English in the United States in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. This dialect has been called a corrupted version of English, distorted by ignorance and time, however, just the opposite is true. It is, in fact archaic. Many of the expressions from the area could well have been the very words of the greatest English authors: Alfred, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and the men who wrote the King James Version of the Bible.

The origin of this Southern mountain dialect, as it is called by linguists, can be narrowed down to the days of the first Queen Elizabeth, with a mixture of early Scottish and even some Gaelic. Through years of isolation from the rest of civilization, because of an innate mistrust of the outside world, Appalachian people retain the speech of nearly pure and certainly picturesque English speech, culture and mannerisms.

These are a few of my thoughts on Southern bucket lists, and for more bucket list suggestions check out my previous article here: http://porchscene.com/2016/02/29/southern-bucket-list/

Lake Jordan sunset is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.pinterest.com

Gullah Proverb is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.pinterest.com

Appalachian Mountains is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked towww.enwikipedia.com

 

BARBEQUE, MUSIC AND SOUTHERN MADE!

Barbeque, Music, and Southern Made!

By Deborah Fagan Carpenter

 

Barbeque, Music, and Southern Made! Three southern festivals, Memphis in May International Festival, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and Southern Makers in Montgomery, Alabama are unique and innovative southern celebrations that are hard to top, no matter where you live!

Miss River Bridge

Recognized as one of North America’s leading festivals, Memphis In May International Festival originated as a salute to a different country each year, beginning in 1977 by honoring Japan. The extensive interaction with each honored country has led to an awareness of other cultures, commerce among nations, and has brought thousands of people to the city from the honored countries and others.

Two of the original events however, have become entities unto themselves. The World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest and the Beale Street Music Festival quickly took on a life of their own, and today they literally bring participants, as well as audiences, from all over the world. Both events take place at Tom Lee Park, with the Mighty Mississippi River serving as a backdrop.

Over a million people from all over the nation and across the globe have been entertained by the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, John Legend, Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp—to name only a few. The 2016 Festival—April 29 – May 1—will bring in celebrated artists such as Neil Young, Paul Simon and Mavis Staples, and will host some regional, but internationally known blues artists like Luther Dickinson and Duwayne Burnside.  See http://porchscene.com/2016/02/15/spreadin-the-blues/

With over a mile of wall-to-wall cooking contestants vying for a piece of the largest purse in the festival’s history—$115,000—The World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest runs May 12–14. There’s pork to be smoked, but they’ll also be cooking up beef, chicken and seafood. Comfortable shoes are a pretty good idea if you want to cover the entire lineup! http://www.memphisinmay.org/

 

crowd at jazz fest

There’s not more authentic music, food or culture to be found anywhere on the planet than during the two weekends of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival—April 22 – April 24 and April 29 – May 1. When Mahalia Jackson and Duke Ellington joined the Eureka Brass Band to parade through the Louisiana Heritage Fair in 1970, the Jazz Festival was born. Today roughly 400,000 music enthusiasts a year, from across the nation and all over the world, travel to the Crescent City for the festival. The soul of New Orleans has a starring role in the celebration, and its spirit is contagious.

spirit 2_edited-1

Multiple stages at the Fairgrounds Race Course, ten minutes from downtown New Orleans, host music, largely associated with the city and region. In addition to contemporary and traditional jazz, there’s blues, R&B, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, rap, country, bluegrass, and some that are a little more exotic. See http://porchscene.com/2013/08/12/a-big-bang-for-the-buck-by-deborah-fagan-carpenter/

Pearl Jam, Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter Duo, Arlo Gutherie, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Ellis Marsalis, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band are only a sampling of the enormous line-up for the 2016 festival. Tribute will be paid to New Orleans icon, Allen Toussaint by artists, Cyril Neville, Davell Crawford, Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John and Jon Batiste. The late B.B. King will also be remembered by Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Elvin Bishop, Dr. John, Gregory Porter, Irma Thomas, Tab Benoit and Luther Kent.

If the mammoth list of musicians isn’t enough, it’s equally matched by the novel culinary selections. Naturally there are southern standards like fried chicken and fried green tomatoes, but only in this part of the country are you likely to find Alligator Pie, Crawfish Beignets, Cajun Duck Po Boys, Pecan Catfish Meunière or Boudin Balls.

The luscious aroma of inventive food permeates the air, joined by the sounds of the south emanating from every direction, and at the heart of it all is the underlying passion of New Orleans. It’s a blast! http://www.nojazzfest.com/

southern makers photo

A plethora of creative skill will come together April 30 – May 1 in Montgomery, Alabama for the annual Southern Makers festival. Prodigies in numerous fields, all Alabamians, will be making music, showing original designs in fashion, art, beer, coffee, soap, food and every imaginative endeavor conceivable. The élite of the élite from all over the state are carefully selected to present southern ingenuity and entertainment at its finest. The hand-picked group of top-quality architects, artists, chefs, and more, will gather at the Union Station Train Shed to display and sell examples of their work, to give demonstrations, and to network with the other inspired professionals who are jam-packed under one roof. Over a hundred resourceful visionaries will take part. See http://porchscene.com/2015/03/24/a-festival-for-southern-makers-by-mary-dawson/

One example of the note-worthy participants in the festival is renowned home-wares and fashion designer, Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin. Her amazing hand-sewn garments are worn by people all over the nation, including many celebrities. http://alabamachanin.com  Natalie’s concept of “slow design”—brought to life in her hometown, Florence, Alabama, but sold world-wide—focuses on using sustainable, organic and local materials and local labor, who create the fashions “in their own time and in their own way.” Natalie will deliver a two hour sewing workshop on Sunday, centering on the basics of sewing and embroidery, and participants will ultimately create their own journals during the session.

Additional workshops and demonstrations will be delivered by Hornsby Farms, Earth Creations, Central Alabama Beekeepers, Left Hand Soap, and Mama Mocha! An intriguing story telling series begins at 12:30 on Saturday, and music fills the air on Sunday, performed by RB Morris, Tim Lee 3 and Caleb Caudle. The lineup of musicians, story tellers and other ingenious participants will likely increase by the time the festival opens, so one would be wise to check their website for changes.  Only in its fourth year, Southern Makers is loads of fun,  but primarily, it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet some of the most creative people in the south and to experience their innovations.  http://southernmakers.com/#southern-makers-1

All three of these top-notch southern festivals happen around the same time, but if you had to pick one over another, you probably wouldn’t be disappointed with any choice. There’s always next year y’all!

 

 

The Mississippi River Bridge at Memphis photo is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to thegryphongazette.org

Both New Orleans Jazz Fest photos are by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

The Montgomery Train Station photo was pulled from the Southern Makers web site, and is credited to Michelle Marie Photography http://www.michelleconsuegra.com/Michelle Marie Marie Photography

So . . . You Think You Speak Southern?

So . . . You Think You Speak Southern?

By Gary Wright

the quiet life sized for porchscene

Whut I jist said, is whut I jist said!

In New Orleans, there are three seasons: hurricane season, political season, and football season. In certain areas around New Orleans, one doesn’t say “hello,” “hi,” or “how are you?” Instead, the universal greeting is “who dat?” That term is similar to the Hawaiian ‘aloha,’ which means just about anything the speaker wants it to mean. Bass-ackwards is a minced oath meant for the genteel folks, which I think you can figure out, meaning something very obviously and completely incorrect.

Commonly, in the Southern United States, reference to the plural of you is ‘you all’ or for the laziest of us, its common contraction, ‘y’all.’ As if ‘y’all,’ meaning everyone, isn’t enough, then ‘all y’all’ will definitely cover everyone within hearing distance. That term is sort of an overkill, not to be confused with a road kill, which we will take up next semester.

“Butter my butt and call me a biscuit!” is a southern expression used upon learning something astonishing, usually something positive. Nobody has the slightest idea where it came from, but it’s so cute, we just use it. Now, ain’t that precious?

crayfish

“To crawfish,” means to backpedal or to get out of some job or responsibility, just like the old crawdad, himself, who is forever walking backwards. Many say that he motivates that way because he doesn’t care where he’s going. He just wants to see where he’s been.

Big ‘ol – means big old—as in the real thing. There are two types of’em. There’s a big ‘ol good’en, then there’s a good ‘ol big’en.”

“Chillun,” sometimes said as “chilred,” is a Southern affectionate term for children.  A “Chile” is an offspring, a particularly sweet ‘chile’ is a “honey chile;” which is singular of “chillun.”

“Me-maw and Pea-paw” is the perennial term for grandmother and grandfather in the south. Over in No Hope County, Alabama, they may be pronounced “Ma-maw and Pa-paw,” ‘course that’d be referring pretty much to us white trash types, who mostly populate that county.

“Goobers or goober peas” are peanuts. They are sometimes used to refer to a simpleton-type person, especially someone from up north or one who doesn’t vote like the rest of us. (Y’all know who you are, right?) That term comes from the Gullah people of the Carolinas coastal area. Its origin is from the African Bantu word ‘nguba’ for peanut.

“Pecker-wood,” is a converted form of the national bird of No Hope County, the Wood Pecker. It refers to another Southerner, especially one who is ignorant or bigoted, or both.

A Woodshed is the place to which a recalcitrant youth is taken for a meeting with the ‘board’ of education. Neither the woodshed nor the ‘board of education’ are hardly used anymore, and has caused a serious decline in the quality of our chilluns.

A wood-pile, on the other hand, is a place you don’t want to go at all. But, since nobody burns wood anymore, we’ll just stay away from that whole subject for now. Stay with me on some of the terms, honey-chile. It’s so easy to get flusterated if you’re not thinking straight.

Yankee! – There really is no such thing as a yankee; to most of us, there are just pure-dee ‘ol damn yankees. That term usually means anybody from north of No Hope County, with a few exceptions from Virginia, like Robert E. Lee and ‘Stonewall’ Jackson.

“Fixin” means much more than repairing. It means getting ready to do something, as in: “I was fixin’ to fix dinner,” as opposed to actually doing it, as in “I was fixin’ dinner.”

A parlor used to be a fancy sitting room in a house on the correct side of the railroad tracks, as opposed to t‘other side of the tracks. Now, it means a whole host of places where a God-fearing Southerners shouldn’t oughta be, least-wise while you’re still alive, such as beer parlor, betting parlor, funeral parlor, massage parlor and sich.

The term Yellow Dog comes from the Carolinas, where most common dogs were yellow in color; therefore, considered worthless. This gave rise to ‘Yellow Dog democrat,’ meaning that you’d rather vote for a common, worthless dog, just as long as the dog belongs to the democrat party.

Cut the lights off – means to extinguish the lights. This makes a lot of sense because you do, indeed, stop the flow of electricity to the light, causing it to go out. However, we Southerners have taken it one step further, so we can ‘cut the light on’ again. I don’t pretend to know perzactly how we can ’cut something on,’ but, I reckon if you can cut it on, then you can do the opposite and cut it off, and vice versa. And, Buddy, I ain’t jist whistling’ Dixie ’bout that.

Bare light bulb

 

 

The crayfish illustration is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to commons.wikimedia.org

Lightbulb photo is licensed under CC By 4.0—linked to www.flicker.com

Cabin photo by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

SOUTHERN BUCKET LIST

Southern Bucket List

by Gary Wright

A few alligators are naturally of the vicious type and inclined to resent it when you prod them with a stick.. You can find out which ones these are by prodding them.

-Will Cuppy

1.Graceland cropped

Visit Graceland:

Graceland is a shrine located in Memphis, Tennessee, visited and adored by multitudes throughout the South. It is the place where The King went when he died and left this plane. The place virtually drips with memorabilia, trophies, awards and tributes of El Vis when he reigned here on earth. The sound system plays a steady stream of ‘hubba, hubba, hunk of burnin’ love,’ ‘you ain’t nuthin’ but a houn’dog,’ and hundreds of other gibberish sayings that actually are high tributes to the most celebrated son of Tupelo, Mississippi. At Graceland, one can lay eyes upon a pink Cadillac, outlandish costumes, and garish interior design, which some have called showy. The word ‘gaudy’ comes to mind for many first-time visitors. I prefer, however, to reflect that the mansion is merely outfitted for the The King.

 

2.Dreamland Barbeque

Eat Dreamland Barbeque:

Originated in Tuscaloosa, Alabama by John “Big John” Bishop, Dreamland Barbeque is a place where one can eat real wood-smoked beef ribs. The meat is authentic and really good. Originally, “Big John” only served ribs and light bread (which is Southerner for store-bought, not home-made) only, with a drink purchased separately to wash it down with. When asked why he didn’t serve beans, Cole slaw and similar sides with his barbeque, “Big John’ is purported to say, “This is a barbeque joint, if you want beans, go to a bean store.” Well, if he didn’t say that, he certainly should have. I sure do like Dreamland barbeque.

 

Delight in Some Good Ole Smashed Potatoes:

Those are boiled and mashed with the skins still on. Add a few dollops of real butter, lots of salt and pepper and you have the perfect mate to Alabama fried chicken. Many dietitians will confirm that any vegetable cooked with the skin still on is much more nutritious. I am a firm believer, however, that somebody’s Maw-maw back in the olden days got a lazy streak and simply refused to take the extra effort to peel the potatoes, thereby giving rise to another old-wives’ tale.

 

3.Grand Ole Opry

Go to the Grand Ole Opry:

Who hasn’t adored Little Jimmy Dickens’ “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose,’ Hank Williams’ ‘Kaw-Liga,’ Lynn Anderson’s ‘D-I-V-O-R-C-E’ and countless other memorable songs that had a lasting impression? The Opry is truly a one-of-a-kind memorial to all the great and near-great country songs and artists which helped shape the very being of the South. Roy Acuff’s dream-come-true in Nashville near the Tennessee River is like a Mecca to all the true-blue fans of real music.

 

Experience a Stock Car Race:

You don’t just watch a stock car race, you experience it with all of your senses. The sights of souped-up street cars racing around an oval track churning up choking dust, for, like as not, it is a dirt track. The smell of hot dogs, pork ribs and other tasty delicacies washed down with copious amounts of RC’s, Mr. Pibbs, Yahoo chocolate drinks and Pabst Blue Ribbon for the grown-ups. The sounds of churning engines, fans screaming at their favorite drivers, Moms screaming at their kids, and the occasional curses and screams of drivers and fans whose temper unavoidably rise past flash point. Ah! The stock car race; a viable Red-neck alternative to the Friday night high school football games.

 

4.Flora-bama

Visit the Flora-Bama Club:

It’s located in Orange Beach, Alabama and Perdido, Florida. Please note that there are not two locations; the Flora-Bama sits squarely on the state line. This is the only place in the free world where one can toss a mullet across the state line without the secret police opening a case on you. Remember, this is not a mullah-tossing; rather, a mullet-tossing. If you need further information, please get in touch with someone who cares. On busy days and nights you can take your choice of three or more bands in different settings playing practically every kind of music.

 

Troll for Sharks:

Troll for sharks in the ocean off the beach at Gulf Shores, Alabama. No, you don’t need to buy any bait. You simply use the most cooperative (or the drunkest) person in your group. You accomplish this by towing someone behind a boat with a tow rope, convincing the pogey-bait that you are taking him/her to do a bit of outdoor sports called water skiing. Which is, in my opinion, about the only use for water skiing.

 

5.Biscuits

Eat aSmushedFriedBiscuit:

For those not familiar, smushed biscuits are 2-3 day old biscuits mashed into a frying pan, liberally drizzled with grease and fried to a golden, crunchy, carcinogenic fineness. Throw in a piece of country-fried ham, a little red-eye gravy and a few fried eggs and you have one of the South’s best artery-hardening, scrumptious breakfasts to die for. And I do mean, to die for!

 

Flora-Bama photo from their website: http://www.florabama.com/

Dreamland Barbeque photo from their website: http://www.dreamlandbbq.com/default.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

Grand Ole Opry photo islicensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.nashvilleonthemove.com

Biscuits and Gravy photo islicensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.pinterest.com

Graceland photo by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

THE “S” IN MISSISSIPPI

THE “S” IN MISSISSIPPI

By Joe Goodell

1.deltaswamp

Katherine Lee Bates got it right. America is beautiful, as is Mississippi. Her poem describing the wonders of our magnificent country later joined Samuel A Ward’s hymn, America the Beautiful, to become a patriotic favorite.

She speaks of amber waves of grain, the fruited plain, which, of course could include cotton, corn and beans, sweet potatoes, watermelons and tomatoes. The spacious skies and majestic mountains — America, blessed with God’s grace from sea to shining sea, and of the beat for freedom across the wilderness.

Given the privilege of counseling MS Bates, I would have urged from her more about the wilderness. That which includes the varieties of forests, rich and deep, deserts of the west, and wetlands of the southeast. Inform a lady that she is as beautiful as dawn on the desert, she knows that she’s been complimented.

2.deltaswamp

The beauty and magnificence of a swamp, however, eludes many observers. Perhaps a put-off is the unsavory sound of that “s” word. Like a load of compost slithering off a dump wagon onto the pile out back. Note how Atchafalaya, The Everglades, Okefenokee, even The Great Dismal of Virginia, to their credit, have discarded it.

3.swamp

Our very own “Cypress Swamp,” with all the features and merits of its larger relatives, could be “Tupelo-Bald Cypress Aquatic Forest.” Right away your interest and appeal to visit have risen dramatically. It lies a convenient twenty miles north of Jackson next to River Bend on the Natchez Trace Parkway. The National Park Service does a splendid job preserving and presenting to you this passport to a marvel of discovery. Leaving your own home, you enter that of others as a guest to a dazzling panorama of trees, water and remarkable animals. There is more than enough beauty to soothe a tired soul, and enough variety to stimulate a lively curiosity. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the unique harmony.

At slightly higher elevations are the oak, sweet gum, dogwood and pine. Growing in the dark water, and draped with moss, are tupelo and bald cypress being ever so slowly replaced by black willow, sycamore and red maple as silt fills in. The medley of trees is a grand structure of swallowed sunlight, silos for storing shadows, where a subtle mix of fragrances is dispensed through the soft murmur of overhead branches rubbing in a light breeze.

4.swamp

Best observed from a distance are a few of Mississippi’s fifty-five snake species and, of course, el lagarto, as the Spaniards called him. Best observed up close is the small stuff, the frogs (both source and subject of music), the turtles and a mini world of insects hidden among the leaves and in patches of bark.

Inconspicuously masked in natural shades of the forest you are likely to meet squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, opossum, armadillo, deer and even a beaver or bobcat, plus the diversity of birds busy in their domestic routines. Highly unlikely for now, but with increasing possibility, is the sighting of a black bear, magnificent but hardly as cuddly as Teddy Roosevelt would have you believe.

You might even speculate about what those cypress “knees” really do for their parent trees — the same ones perhaps seen by Hernando de Soto himself, driven by visions of silver and gold, but oblivious to the surrounding natural treasures essential for our survival.

5.swamp

Historically regarded as useless, wetlands in general were often drained to provide a range for planting. Today this practice is held to be destructive to environments critically important to the process of providing fresh water and oxygen for all life. On an ancient time scale wetlands produced our fossil fuels; on a shorter scale they are found to control floods, stabilize shore lines, counter erosion and recharge ground water.

Mississippi’s wetlands, far from being wastelands, are linked to images of southern landscape, spaces for intercultural encounters. They are lowland waterways unimpeded by mountains, free to change course, forever moving, though slowly, as a half-way world between things terrestrial and those aquatic. The shallow water, its level changing with the seasons, supports a hydrologic community of fascinating resources and life forms in progress from primeval times.

There are marshes, those tracts of low wet soft grassland without trees, and the swamps (aquatic forests), wet spongy land with trees. The estuary of Mississippi’s Pascagoula River is a seamless enchanting passage from the treeless grass and water expanse to the wetland forest, a colorful tapestry affluent with trees and shrubs, all spread beneath a bright sky dotted with popcorn clouds.

6.cypress swampQuite opposite to the sinister and forbidding specters of literary superstition and Hollywood, or to that “marsh of the Styx” from Dante’s “Devine Comedy,” lowland waterways are vital in the “great scheme of things.” They deserve our protection and reverence alongside the majestic mountains, under spacious skies, as rightful partners of “America the Beautiful.”

 

All photos provided by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

 

 

 

 

Holiday Dinner à la New Orleans

 

Holiday Dinner à la New Orleans

By Deborah Fagan Carpenter

christmas in nola

Christmas in New Orleans is much like celebrations of any kind in the Big Easy—scrumptious food is front and center! The unique southern city is brimming with celebrity chefs, so we decided to research what they like to serve their own families and guests for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner.

Some of the recipes we’ve chosen are traditional holiday dishes, but some were just so enticing, that we couldn’t resist including them. All would be wonderful at any time of the year.

 2.Donald link gumbo from pinterest

SHRIMP AND CRAB GUMBO

GUMBO, a traditional dish, is so versatile that it can be used as a soup course for a formal meal, or a main course for any occasion. Every New Orleans chef has his or her own version, and here we present an offering from chef/owner Donald Link of Herbsaint.

 

Ingredients.

STOCK:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 gallon plus 2 cups clam juice
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 8 bay leaves

ROUX:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil

GUMBO:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 pound okra, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons file powder (see Note)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Salt
  • Shelled and deveined shrimp (from the stock)
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over
  • Steamed rice, sliced scallions and Tabasco, for serving

 

Directions

MAKE THE STOCK: In a stockpot, heat the oil. Add the shrimp shells and cook over high heat, until starting to brown, 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until it begins to stick to the pot, 2 minutes. Add the clam juice, onion, celery, carrot, and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat for 25 minutes. Strain the stock into a heatproof bowl.

MEANWHILE, MAKE THE ROUX: In a saucepan, whisk the flour with the oil to make a paste. Cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until the roux turns golden brown, 30 minutes. Increase the heat to moderately high and cook, stirring, until the roux is dark brown, 10 minutes longer. Scrape the roux into a bowl and reserve.

MAKE THE GUMBO: In the stockpot, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the garlic, onion, and celery; cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened. Add the roux and cook until bubbling. Stir in the stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, until no floury taste remains; skim off the fat.

In a skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the green pepper, okra, chile powder, paprika, file, oregano, thyme, cayenne and white pepper. Season with salt and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, 5 minutes. Stir in a ladleful of the liquid in the stockpot, scrape up the browned bits and transfer to the gumbo in the pot. Simmer, stirring, for 1 hour.

Add the shrimp to the pot and cook, until just white throughout, 2 minutes. Stir in the crab; season with salt.

NOTE:

File powder is made from ground, dried sassafras leaves. It is available from www.cajungrocer.com

 

3.shrimp remoulade

SHRIMP REMOULADE

 SHRIMP REMOULADE from Chef John Besh, owner of August, Besh Steak, Luke, Domenica, Johnny Sanchez, and Borgne. A typical New Orleans salad course or a light lunch with crusty French bread. This recipe is an excellent choice for entertaining because it is almost entirely prepared ahead.

Boiled Shrimp Ingredients

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp each cayenne and garlic powder
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbsp each whole black peppercorns and ground coriander
  • 24 jumbo shrimp, unpeeled

Method for the Shrimp

  1. To a large pot over high heat, add the onion, garlic, lemon juice and the remaining herbs and spices. Add 1 gallon cold water and bring to a boil over high heat for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the shrimp, reduce the heat to moderate, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Take the pot off the stove and let the shrimp finish cooking off the heat until they are cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Drain the shrimp and plunge them into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When they are cool, drain and reserve, covered in the refrigerator.
  5. About two hours before serving, peel and devein the shrimp.

Remoulade Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp prepared horseradish
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp each: fresh lemon juice and hot sauce
  • ½ tsp sweet paprika
  • ¼ tsp each: cayenne and garlic powder
  • 6 cups baby arugula, mâche, or other greens

Remoulade Method

  1. In a large bowl, stir together all of the remoulade ingredients except the arugula and set aside.

Shrimp Remoulade Assembly

  1. 1-2 hours before serving, toss the shrimp with the remoulade sauce. Let the shrimp marinate, covered and refrigerated.
  2. Serve the shrimp over the greens.

 

4.pork loin

PORK LOIN WITH DRIED FRUIT AND ORANGE CIDER SAUCE

Chef Emeril Lagasse of Emeril’s New Orleans, Emeril’s Delmonico and NOLA serves his guests this simple but impressive pork loin with a silky sauce and plumped dried fruit. It works well as a holiday meal or as a family weeknight dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • One 3-pound boneless pork loin roast, trimmed and tied
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed lightly and peeled
  • 1 1⁄2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups 1⁄4-inch sliced red onion
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 3⁄4 cup dried apricots
  • 1⁄2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1⁄2 cup dried cherries
  • 1⁄4 cup golden raisins
  • 1⁄4 cup dried currants
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1⁄2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • Mashed sweet potatoes, for serving

Directions

  • Combine the paprika, cayenne, black pepper, and 1 1⁄2 teaspoons of the kosher salt in a small bowl and stir together to mix well. Set aside.
  • With a small knife, make twelve 1 1⁄2-inch-deep, evenly spaced slits around the outside of the pork loin. Cut 6 of the garlic cloves in half lengthwise and insert 1⁄2 clove into each slit. Rub the pork on all sides with the seasoning mixture.
  • In a 12-inch sauté pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. When hot, add the pork loin and cook each side until lightly golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the crock of a 6-quart slow cooker.
  • Add the remaining 2 smashed garlic cloves, the onion, and thyme to the same pan and sauté, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
  • Surround the pork with the dried fruit. Top with the onion, then add the remaining teaspoon salt, the orange juice, and vinegar. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 140°F, 2 1⁄2 to 2 3 ⁄4 hours.
  • Remove the pork from the slow cooker, transfer to a cutting board, and tent with foil to keep warm. Let the pork rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.
  • Gently stir the butter into the hot sauce. Remove the twine from the roast and slice the pork. Arrange on a serving platter and top with the sauce and plumped fruit.

 

5.BACON AND LEEK SOUFFLE

BACON AND LEEK SOUFFLÉ

Another offering by Chef Emeril, a Bacon and Leek Soufflé, could be used as a side dish with a simple roasted meat or it could stand on its own as a main dish for lunch or dinner, served with a salad and crusty French bread.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup leeks, white parts only, washed, chopped (about 1 large leek)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup hot milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 5 eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 6 ounces bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

 

  • Directions
  • Preheat the oven to 400º F.

Butter a 6-cup soufflé or straight sided baking dish with 1 tablespon of the butter. Dust the interior of the dish with the Parmesan and knock out the excess.

In a medium-size sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoons of butter over low heat, and gently cook the leeks until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool when done.

  • To prepare the soufflé base, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium-size sauce pan. Stir in the flour using a wooden spoon and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to foam. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the hot milk. Simmer the mixture over medium heat until it becomes thick, about 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the salt, cayenne, and nutmeg; slowly add the egg yolks one by one. Set aside.

In a stainless steel or copper bowl, slowly begin to whisk the egg whites using an electric mixer on medium low speed. Once the egg whites are frothy, add the cream of tartar and a pinch of salt and increase the speed of the mixer to medium and then to medium high. Beat the whites until stiff and they form shiny peaks being careful not to overbeat them.

Add the leeks, half of the Gruyere and the bacon to the soufflé base along with 1/4 of the egg whites and mix well. Delicately fold the remaining whites along with the remaining cheese into the base, being careful not to overmix. It is fine to have some unblended whites.

  • Pour the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish and set in the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 375º F. Bake until the soufflé has puffed and is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve immediately.

 

6.poached pear and brwon butter tart

POACHED PEAR AND BROWN BUTTER TART

Chef John Besh loves using winter fruits in desserts and salads. This Poached Pear and Brown Butter Tart is one of his favorites, and it’s the perfect finish to a holiday dinner.

Ingredients

crust

  • Vegetable oil spray, such as canola
  • 13/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
  • 1 large egg yolk mixed with 4 tablespoons of ice water

pears

  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups semidry white wine, such as Riesling
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 sage leaf
  • 4 whole cloves
  • One 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 4 Bosc pears—peeled, quartered and cored

filling

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with vegetable oil spray. In a food processor, combine the flour with the sugar and salt and pulse once or twice until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas. Lift the lid and sprinkle with the egg- yolk mixture. Pulse 5 or 6 times, until the dough is crumbly.
  2. Pour the dough into the prepared tart pan and press to form an even crust. Use a flat-bottomed glass dipped in flour to tamp it down. Bake the crust in the lower third of the oven for about 25 minutes, until it is golden brown. Lower the oven temperature to 350°.
  3. In a large saucepan, combine the water with the wine, sugar, sage, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla bean and seeds and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the quartered pears. Cover with a large sheet of parchment paper and a lid slightly smaller than the saucepan and cook over moderate heat until the pears are just softened, 25 to 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the poached pears to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool slightly. Cut each wedge in half lengthwise.
  4. In a small skillet, cook the butter over moderate heat until golden brown and fragrant, about 4 minutes; pour browned butter into a small cup. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar, vanilla seeds, orange zest and salt. Add the flour and beat at low speed until smooth. Add the brown butter and beat the filling at low speed until incorporated.
  5. Pour the filling into the baked crust. Arrange all but 3 of the pear wedges on the custard in a slightly overlapping circle, with the narrow ends pointing toward the center. Trim the remaining 3 pear wedges and arrange them neatly in the center. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour, until the custard is golden and set. Let the pear tart cool completely before serving.

Make Ahead

The recipe can be prepared through Step 2 and stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days. The finished pear tart can be stored in an airtight container overnight at room temperature.

 

We wish all of you a wonderful holiday season, filled with friends, family and memorable, delicious banquets. Bon appétit!

 

 

 

Streetcar photo in New Orleans is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.nola.com

All other photos were pulled from www.pinterest.com

CURIOUS NAMES

Curious Names

by Joe Goodell

1.Welcome to Mississippi

The wags enjoy telling it to you straight: “What’s that y’r ask’n, son?” Wh’r do th’ names f’r Mi’ssippi towns come from? Why right off them wat’r tow’rs, that’s wh’r.” Pause. Guffaw!

Such insightful wit is not reserved for just the uninitiated. It is also, should there be a lapse in conversation, the sustaining stuff of duck blinds, deer stands and barber shops.

It all started following the Revolution, when the land in Kentucky and the Carolinas gave out, or became too crowded. The Territory beckoned, offering new land for free (or nearly so, ‘ceptin’ f’r the promise ‘f a lifetime o’ contin’l risk wh’r th’ only guar’nteed ‘bundance was hard work, ‘n’ it took a lotta faith to jump from a han’ful o’ seeds to a stash o’ turnips or beans sometime later”).

These hardy folk arrived along rutted tracks through arboreal tunnels, scenic, though hardly roads, more suited to migrant bear and deer. They formed and laid down cultural rhythms in new places. They became of like minds with the land, applying their tools, as if handles, to manage its inner workings, as crows watched from high in the trees.

2.pascagoula pdf

They adapted their own resources and ingenuity to the ways of the wilderness, a spirit of independence which President Jefferson admired, but didn’t want to allow too much of, or he might lose them as American citizens. So he found a little money to improve the Natchez Trace, Federal Road, Three Chopped Way and other byways enough to carry the mails in and out. Along these routes, there were “stands” and other spots convenient for communities strung like beads of a necklace across the ancient loess.

So became the post offices whose regulations required names, and it was they (certainly not the water towers) which were named for someone famous, or for something about the new place. Sources of research vary, as you’d expect. But if the name is absent from James F Brieger’s masterful “Hometown Mississippi,” forwarded by Elbert R Hilliard, then the place does not exist, and likely never did.

The names were largely original and unique, applied sometimes whimsically, but never thoughtlessly. Possumneck, at first The Neck, was obligingly expanded by the judge during a criminal trial, when the unruly defendants explained, “ya know y’r ‘on’r, o’er yond’r wh’r we catch all them possums.” And vixen (yep, one of Santa’s own), and Boneyard for the cadaverous appearance of its founder, and Hard Cash (what the owner of the first plantation paid for his land).

Coming along were Bloomo, Como, D’Lo (likely from “De l’eau sans potable), Gum Garbo, Knoxo, Otto, Soso (for “what’s the we’th’r like ‘roun’ here?”), Tippo, Veto (the post office vetoed all the other names submitted) and Waldo.

3.olive branch

The newcomers paid tribute to their hardy faith with Bethany, Chapel Town, Good Hope, Hebron, Holy Cross, Shiloh, Tabernacle, Trinity, Union Church and Zion. They honored the hardy natives with Biloxi, Bucatunna, Chatawa, Choctaw, Escatawpa, Itta Bena, Natchez, Nitta Yuma, Noxapater, Pascagoula, Pelahatchie, Pontotoc, Shuqualak, Tallahatchie, Tishomingo, Tunica and Yazoo City.

Some of the early communities are featured on present day maps, some scarcely at all: Hero, Hydro, Renfro and Zero plus the curious alphabetical adventure through Appeal, Buck Snort, Camel Town, Dot, Energy, Folly, Gandsi, Hobo Station, Improve, Jug Fork, Kiln, Lens, My, Nod, Owl Hoot, Panther Burn, Quiver, Rara Avis, Success, Tip Top, Utopia, Value, Way, Yawn and Zephyr Hill.

Whynot maybe is, or maybe isn’t kin to Why Not, North Carolina, but over in Lauderdale County they tell of one old timer who became so exasperated with the ceaseless, “Why not name our post office …..,” ideas that he shouted, “let’s just name it ‘Whynot’ and go home!”

In a tiny village near Leaf River the postmaster, apparently a lazy soul, wrote “Don’t” on the line requesting, “What name does your community have?” assuming that the officials would give it a good name; they did. Hot Coffee was celebrated for its special brew, “to tempt the taste of judges or hoss swappers,” offered to travelers bound for Ellisville or Williamsburg.

One might say that the “gold standard” for a community whose name is curious and location hard to find is It, Mississippi. On Old US-51 between Hazlehurst and Wesson. It hides between the Martinsville exit from I-55 and the pastoral setting of Spring Hill Baptist Church.

Around the turn of the century on a hot summer day, a man up there mopping his brow and nailing down the last of the tin roof for his intended trading post exclaimed, “this is it!!” later on contracted to just “It.” The Alfred G “Pete” Young store, “It Grocery,” is still there next to Pete’s house, both abandoned. “K & G Grocery” and Big John McKee’s “It Swap Shop” are gone, victims of fire or time.

So take a leisurely drive through the pleasant neighborhood spread sparsely along Dixie Garden Road near Pete Young’s store. Visit with the cordial folks tending yards and gardens around their homes. Over a generous glass of iced tea they will cheerfully assure you that:

You bet, this is “It.”

SOUTHERNERS GLEANING THISTLES

Southerners Gleaning Thistles

By Deborah Fagan Carpenter

1.thistle 3

With rare exception, they are sexually abused as children — often by a family member. Shame and low self-worth have become an innate part of their being, and alcohol and drugs are an inevitable escape from that shame and the feelings of inadequacy. Because of readily accessible drugs like crack cocaine, addiction is soon to follow, and prostitution often becomes a means to support that expensive obsession. Thus is the all-to-common reason that many women find themselves on the streets, with fellow prostitutes and pimps as their only support system.

The Thistle is a common weed which sometimes appears in the cracks of those streets that the prostitutes walk. It’s a sturdy plant, and even under the harshest conditions, it often survives and produces a lovely and enchanting purple flower. A Nashville based program, Thistle Farms, originally named Magdalene has spawned a growing number of residential homes designed as a safe haven to enable women to escape the bondage of addiction, prostitution, trafficking and homelessness. These homes offer addicted and broken women the opportunity to become survivors like the Thistle, and to bloom as the beautiful flowers the universe intended.

 2.Living Room at The Community of St Therese of Lisieux

Living Room at the Community of St Therese of Lisieux

The Community of St Therese of Lisieux is the first branch of the Magdalene system to be established in Memphis. Executive Director, Sandra Ferrell and her board, under the guidelines established by Magdalene founder, Reverend Becca Stevens, have secured enough privately funded grants to house up to three women at a time for a requisite period of two years. Stevens makes it clear that her model is not a halfway house, a recovery center, or a transitional center, but rather a home where the women live by themselves without authority. It is based on the Benedictine belief that community and love heals, and with the absence of authority the women have the freedom to grow.

No emotional growth can occur however, until the residents are completely drug and alcohol free, so the first requirement for admission is the completion of an in depth rehab program. The foundation of the home is twelve step based, and after the women leave rehab and join the community, they are required to go to 90 Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings in 90 days, and then are asked to attend at least five meetings a week for the balance of their residency.

For most of the women, their image of men has been distorted since childhood, and in addition to unhealthy relationships with men, they have serious trust issues with both sexes. So in spite of their attendance at AA or NA, Lisieux also requires them to attend some Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meetings as well. Usually their participation in the gatherings at all of those organizations results in the development of healthy female relationships.

3.art work at Lisieux

“Tattered Dreams,” by Chere Labbe Doiron

Health and dental issues are addressed immediately upon admission at Lisieux, and a long term plan to resolve outstanding court or financial obligations is initiated. For the first three months residents are required to attend intensive out-patient therapy at Serenity Recovery Center, and after completion of that program, they can either begin school or go to Hope Works, which is a personal and career development center. There they are taught resume skills, personal communication skills, and the organization guides them toward employment opportunities. If they’re lacking a high school diploma, Hope Works helps them secure their GED, and currently, two of the Lisieux women are taking a full load at Southwest Community College. No hour of the day is left unscheduled, but are filled with meetings, therapy sessions, volunteer work, counseling, daily meditation and everyday chores, so there is not time available for them to secure full-time employment, but they are required to seek part-time work if they are not enrolled in school.

Due to problems with credit, mental health issues, and drug addiction, many of the women are unemployable, so in 2001 the Magdalene program started its own company, Thistle Farms. Today Thistle Farms is not only the name of the mother ship of the organization, but the herbal company is helping to raise a large portion of the financial resources. A line of natural bath and body products are developed, packaged and marketed by the residents in Nashville, and currently the Lisieux community is training to eventually wholesale the products in Memphis. The purpose is not only to raise funds, but to teach the women marketable skills and help them learn to interact with the public.

4.art

“Reachin’ for Somethin’ Gr8ter—Reachin’ for a Better Day,” by Frank D Robinson

  Prostitution has been described as the “oldest profession in the world,” but to quote Becca Stevens, “Women don’t end up on the streets by themselves. It takes a community of people and failed systems to help them get there; it takes drugs; it takes a culture that continue to think that you can buy and sell othersat no cost to the other’s well-being. It takes ignorance such as legalizing prostitution, which will do no more than benefit the men.” The prostitutes themselves have always been considered the villains in the scenario, and rarely is there condemnation or prosecution for the buyers who are perpetuating the practice. Paying for sex is often viewed as acceptable behavior, but there is an increasing awareness that it is merely another form of human trafficking.

“There but for the grace of God, go I.” Anyone could be born into a situation where sexual abuse determines the tone of life and where the stage is set for addiction, despair and yes, prostitution. Whatever the reason for its occurrence, programs such as The Community of St Therese of Lisieux are vital, not only because they help these beautiful, resilient women find their way, but because they will educate the public about the misconceptions of why they ended up on the street in the first place.

Not all of the women in these programs will make it. But some will, and those who do will provide hope and inspiration for the women who are still living broken lives in fear and desperation. Magdalene and its off-shoot like The Community of St Therese of Lisieux offer at least a few of the many desperate women who have fallen victim to addiction and prostitution to find a path to a life of meaning and purpose—they allow the flower of the Thistle to bloom.

“You don’t have to worry about changing the world,” says Stevens. “The idea of loving the whole world one person at a time is a great way to live your life. I don’t worry about big or small. I’m okay being a drop in the bucket, and I love the idea of a thousand more people with us being drops in the bucket too.

Our message is that love heals and you cannot buy and sell women. We are trying to say to the wider culture that even though prostitution may be one of the oldest forms of abuse in history, women don’t have to stay in it or in addiction for the rest of their lives.”

5.thistle docx

The art at The Community of St Therese of Lisieux represents the journey the women in the program will take — from lost dreams, to looking for something greater, to becoming a person that others envy. All the work was created by Memphis artists.

 

To learn more about Thistle Farms and their line of products: http://thistlefarms.org;

For further reading: Biography of Becca Stevens; Nicholas Kristof (October 12, 2013), “From the Streets to the ‘World’s Best Mom’”, New York Times

The photo of the Thistle bloom is licensed under CC By 4.0, on Google Images–https://www.google.com/search, linked to www.stylecraze.com

 

 

The photo of the Thistle is licensed under CC By 4.0, on Google Images-, linked to Planetqgis.org, linked to www.Planetqgis.org  

 

 

Mississippi Bound by Joseph Goodell

Mississippi Bound

by Joe Goodell

1.Welcome to Mississippi

 

With more demand than inquiry, but with earnest sincerity, I am frequently asked, “What brought you to Mississippi?”

Late in September, the unrelenting summer sun, a hammer which regards Mississippi as its own private anvil, yielded to a bright refreshing low humidity cool, which suggested that a pleasant southern fall was finally underway. No longer a heat-index shut-in, I cruised through my handsome neighborhood in Madison, then north through Canton, host to the world’s finest flea market. I moved northward toward Vaughan, site of the Casey Jones mishap and the ancient shop of Greg Harkins’ hand crafted chairs, and on to MS 17, past the amusing sign with an arrow pointing towards “Downtown Pickens.”

Elegant churches and the court house added a gratifying rendezvous with memory in Lexington, where I had too briefly lived in 1943, and where the 4H Club was founded in 1907. Regrettably, there hadn’t been time that year for me to attend a rustic, yet stately classroom such as those in The Little Red Schoolhouse, which I’d just visited in Richland, where tall pines and spreading oaks, like sylvan sentinels, stand benevolent watch.

In Tchula, where the lakes look more like rivers, the hills give way to the rich and vast alluvial sprawl of the South’s south, the Mississippi Delta, a land which confounds a man’s sense of distance and demands the best of his skill, endurance and imagination.

2.mississippi delta

Mississippi Delta Field

My journey turned towards Greenwood, past the Egypt Plantation, where in 1969, a back-hoe unearthed a mysterious glass and iron coffin with the remains of a young lady clad in expensive red velvet, perfectly preserved since the 1830’s.

3.Mississippi River at Vicksburg

Mississippi River at Vicksburg

I’ve enjoyed visiting Greenwood often, with its Blues heritage, and Cottonlandia, and the old Opera House on Front Street, and Cotton Row, where three rivers (one of these, the Tallahatchie, whose bridge is memorialized by Bobbie Gentry) become the Yazoo. On that day, the Carroll House on Market Street had become the Junior League of Jackson for the filming of Kathryn Stockett’s story. A planter, way out west beyond River Road, was gearing up his cotton picker, grateful for the no-rain forecast, which told him that his valuable crop would stay dry.

All of the exits from Greenwood could direct my odyssey to places with boundless capacity for adventure. Some of them can, and do, hold time in abeyance, and all would offer me an immersion into compelling culture: Indianola, Leland, Greenville, the River itself, Clarksdale, (and Ground Zero Blues Club) Grenada, Oxford (and its university), Vardaman (and its sweet potatoes), Tupelo, (with Elvis’ tiny home) Winona, Starkville, (and its university) Columbus, (and the Waverley mansion).

4.

William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, Oxford, MS

But none that day could have matched for me the enchanting moment when conscious thought absented itself. It was as if, beckoned by a wild imperative out there where the chimeric swell of “white gold” was being nibbled away in long paths as straight as six o’clock by the lumbering pickers, where I submitted to what some might call latent lunacy, but what I’d say was an untethered fascination, although expressed with a laconic, “Hey!, Y’all giv’n’ rides t’day?”

Initially perplexed, and astonished of course, my genial host and master of machines, assumed command of the moment and welcomed me aboard his John Deere Series 99 Cotton Picker for a round trip across that extensive acreage. A short stop to unload at the module builder allowed him a pause for breath in his spirited mini-course, enriched with statistics, enhanced with digressions about hard work and long hours, a saga of modern day cotton picking.

5.cotton field

Mississippi Delta Cotton Field

So, reflecting a bit during my drive home along our magnificent Natchez Trace Parkway….. what was it, really, that brought me to Mississippi? Indeed! A fast car and a one-way ticket, that’s what.

 

 

The Welcome to Mississippi photo is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to Wikimedia.org

All other photos by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

Henry Greene By Chip Burson

SNAPSHOTS

Henry Greene

By Chip Burson

 

For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me,

and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.

I was not in safety, ….yet trouble came.

 Job, KJV, Chapt. 3, v. 25, 26

Henry Greene with text

 

After this lived Job an hundred and forty years,

…So Job died, being old and full of days.

 Job, KJV Chapt. 42, v. 16, 17

Photographer, Tim Patton, presented me with this photo, which I believe he captured on a photo shoot trip through either Mississippi, or somewhere in the Carolinas. It is natural and spontaneous—unplanned.

I was raised, in part, on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. In the 50’s, the old slave quarters and African American neighborhood was called, “Jew Town.” Still is. When I was about six, a powerful land storm came through and rammed into a rumbling Nor’easter coming in off the Atlantic. (The Georgia Bite, as that part of the coast is called, rarely gets hurricanes). It flatted Mr. Humdoo’s old place.

Dr. Mack, the only physician on the Island, was my father’s best friend. When we were down from Atlanta, the island was blessed with two doctors. Dr. Mack was caught land-side in Brunswick, so we went to see about Old Hum when the call came from a neighbor. He was the doctor’s fishing guide, confidant, and source of immense ocean, river, and marsh wisdom. He was dead. The house fell on him. I asked my father why we were driving so slow to get to the house, and he simply said, “Son, death is not an emergency.” He was all but silent for the entire day after that; alone in his boat out on the marsh creek. For me, this photo represents Mr. Hum’s ghost, and is saying exactly what he would have said.            

Chip Burson 7.7.15

Namesake by Joe Goodell

Katrina was a natural disaster that ravaged the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and a man-made disaster that devastated the historic city of New Orleans. It was an epic event, whose aftermath revealed the very best in human nature — and the very worst.

The landscape along the Gulf Coast was forever altered by the rage of the storm, as entire towns were literally wiped off the map, and New Orleans was so traumatized by the physical destruction, the chaos, and the subsequent exodus of so many, it appeared that it too, would completely perish. Katrina was a life- altering experience for everyone it touched, exposing both the fragility and the strength of a nation.

It is the tenth anniversary of that monumental event, and this week we’re remembering it and paying tribute to those who suffered at its hands.

 We first present a short discourse by Joe Goodell, a Mississippi resident who, these many years later, felt the need to talk about the devastation. Later in the week, we’ll re-publish an essay by ex-pat, Carla Heffner Carlisle, written from her home in England, where she powerlessly endured the horror of Katrina.

DFC

 

1.Katrina Biloxi 2

 NAMESAKE

by Joe Goodell

Sometime after John Hope’s daughter graduated from high school in 1969, she married US Representative, Jim Marshall of Georgia. Aside from that, and being an attractive and bright young lady, you’d not notice anything particularly remarkable about her.

John was a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in 1969, when the rules for naming hurricanes consisted of just three: female, alphabetical order, and not on the retired list. So he tossed her name into the hat, and thought nothing more about it. If she knew of her dad’s gesture, she likely followed suite and likewise paid slight attention — until August, that is, when the entire Nation was focused on, and the entire Mississippi Coast was devastated by Camille, Hope’s namesake.

Thirty six years later, also in August, when naming hurricanes was a more rule-bound process, Katrina — nobody’s daughter, wife or girlfriend — ravaged the same Mississippi Coast, also causing calamitous and catastrophic destruction and disruption to society, to the economy, and to the ecology.

The origins, mechanics and behavior of a hurricane are well documented. It is chance — a long shot really — that all of the factors required actually do combine in time and place to spawn a mature hurricane. But when one does develop, as Sebastian Junger tells us in The Perfect Storm, you have the most powerful event on earth. He estimates that all the nuclear arsenals existing could not produce the energy required to keep one going for a day or two, that a typical hurricane can encompass over a million cubic miles of atmosphere, and could provide the electrical energy needed by the United States for three or four years.

I need these ponderous statistics for just a glimpse of understanding the havoc wreaked on human souls and property by Hurricanes Camille and Katrina. But many do not; the many who were there, and who suffered in 1969 and 2005.

 

So, a moment of pause to remember, to recognize,

to respect.

 

Joe Goodell, 2015

Madison, Mississippi

 

2.Katrina Entrada a vivienda

 

Post Katrina photo licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to Google Images, Entrada a vivienda | www.flickr.com

Post Katrina Photo licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to Google Images, File:FEMA – 24956 – Photograph by Andrea Booher taken on 09-19-2005 in Mississippi

Summertime…

Summertime…..

 1.summertime

 

An’ the livin’ is easy

2.and the livin' is easy

Fish are jumpin’

3.fish are jumpin'

An’ the cotton is high

4.and the cotton is high

Oh yo’ daddy’s rich,

5. yo daddy's rich

And yo mamma’s goodlookin’,

6. and yo mamma's goodlookin'

So hush little baby, Don’ you cry

7. so hush little baby, don you cry

One of these mornins’

8. one of these mornins

You’re goin’ to rise up singin’ 

9.yo goin to rise up singing

Then you’ll spread yo’ wings,

10 then you'll spread your wings

An’ you’ll take to the sky

11.and you'll take to the sky

But till that mornin’,

12. But till that mornin

There’s a-nothin’ can harm you,

13.There's a- nothin can harm you

With daddy an’ mammy standin’ by

14.with daddy and mammy standin' by

 

Song by George Gershwin for Porgy and Bess

Altered image of girls on the pier by Sandra Summers at Lake Dixie Springs, Summit, Mississippi

All other altered images by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

FACING FREEDOM by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

1.book exchange

Most of them were born in captivity, some third or fourth generation slaves — possessions of other human beings. Servitude was all they knew. Their skills were limited to what they had acquired while working on the farms or plantations on which they were imprisoned, and few had been allowed to learn to read. They were not only physically enslaved, but they were held captive by illiteracy. When the prospect of freedom became a real possibility for slaves in 1861 America, they were ill-prepared for the realities of life outside of bondage.

 

Freedom’s just another word for

nothin’ left to lose

 

The call of freedom far outweighed the fear of the unknown and the lack of preparedness for what lay ahead for most slaves during the early years of the American Civil War. Thousands fled their enslavement, and as northern troops moved into the South, the fugitives logically sought freedom and shelter behind Union lines. Initially, many northern generals sent the escapees back into slavery because southern law demanded it. But in May of 1861, when General Benjamin Butler learned that slaves were being used in the southern war effort, he declared the refugees “contraband of war” because they were property the enemy could use against them. This declaration caused an increase in the number of slaves fleeing and seeking Union protection

In the eyes of slave owners, the escaped slaves were simply run-aways. But after the Battle of Shiloh in early April of 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant not only proclaimed them contraband of war, he encouraged the development of a community to support the refugees in their transition into freedom. The Secretary of War had forbidden transporting ex-slaves to the northeast, and Grant was fearful that the large influx of cold, ragged and hungry escapees would disrupt his soldier’s morale, so contraband camps were a viable solution. Meeting the physical needs was foremost, but looming large was the challenge of helping them make the transition from slavery to freedom. Throughout the South, contraband camps were established, and those institutions provided the first small steps in the long road ahead for thousands of people.

 

2.ironing

 

Union occupied Corinth, Mississippi was home to one of the most successful contraband camps of the Civil War, a model camp that was operational for a little over a year. Located in the northern part of Mississippi, a short distance from Shiloh, Corinth had been the scene of another well-known battle. Few people however, are likely aware of the Corinth Contraband Camp that operated with impressive functionality from late 1862 until the end of 1863.

 

3.reading

 

Let freedom ring

Nearly 6,000 ex-slaves began their transition to freedom at the Corinth Contraband Camp. Initially, they were put to work bringing in the remaining cotton crop to aid the government, but later they were allowed to work and farm for themselves. In the early days the refugees lived in tents, but they were eventually authorized to build their own quarters. Cutting trees in the nearby forest, they built substantial cabins, a general store and a hospital. There was also a small, rustic church, and with guidance, they laid out streets and created a small, functional village. A cooperative farm program was instituted, and the residents grew cotton and vegetables, which they were taught to market. At its height, the camp was making a profit of several thousand dollars. They were taxed, just as they would be when they were fully free, with the money collected helping the old and infirm. Missionary groups from around the country were summoned to teach reading, and by August of 1863, nearly 1,000 former slaves had learned to read through the efforts of those volunteer literacy groups.

 

4.gardening

 

Freedom eventually meant fighting for their own cause. Some of the men had been trained, armed and put in charge of security at the camp, and when the Emancipation Proclamation was implemented, that training effort led to the formation of a new Union regiment. The 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment of African Descent consisted of approximately 1,000 men, (So named because so many had fled Alabama) but was later re-named the 55th United States Colored Troop.

The loss of a substantial number of able bodied men was the beginning of the ultimate downfall of the Corinth Contraband Camp. Addionally, pertinent military orders and the death of some key camp people, resulted in the residents being moved to the President’s Island Contraband Camp in Memphis, Tennessee in December of 1863. The move was harsh and disappointing, and they were forced to reside in a more traditional refugee facility for the remainder of the war.

 

5.Soldier

 

Little is left of the Corinth Contraband Camp where so many began their lives as free people. Today however, a stunning collection of bronze monuments gives visitors to the site a glimpse into the lives of the men, women and children who briefly resided there, experiencing their first taste of life outside of captivity.

Through the remarkable talent of Memphis artist Andrea Lugar, visitors are made aware of the meaningful contribution the contraband camp provided for thousands of human beings. The impressive monuments offer some insight into how the residents began their journey. The bronzes, which were cast at the Lugar Bronze Foundry in Eads, Tennessee, depict camp inhabitants performing everyday chores, once duties of enslavement, now undertaken as stepping stones toward a new life. www.lugarfoundry.com

The unfortunate demise of the camp at Corinth was one of the fatalities of the Civil War. “The black men, women, and children at Corinth had demonstrated their determination to be free, their eagerness to learn, and their willingness to work. They had patiently accepted white tutelage. But in the end their attitudes and aspirations mattered little. For as Corinth had been born of the war, so, too, it was a casualty of the war.”

Slaves were not legally considered free until the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. For most of the contrabands, full emancipation did not take place until the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery in late 1865, but for thousands their road to liberation was made a little easier because of the foundation they received at the Corinth Contraband Camp.

 

6.entrance to contraband camp

 

Sources:

http://www.offbeattravel.com/civil-war-contraband-camps-fort-monroe-corinth-shiloh.html#sthash.njTY2Bgq.dpuf

http://www.offbeattravel.com/civil-war-contraband-camps-fort-monroe-corinth-shiloh.html#sthash.275OeDrM.dpuf

http://civilwartalk.com/threads/corinth-contraband-camp-ms.82773/

http://www.civilwar.org/civil-war-discovery-trail/sites/corinth-contraband-camp.html

http://www.nps.gov/shil/planyourvisit/contrabandcamp.htm

http://mlsandy.home.tsixroads.com/Corinth_MLSANDY/histcw6.htiml

Boundless. “From Slaves to Contraband to Free People.” Boundless U.S. History. Boundless, 10 Jul. 2015. Retrieved 10 Jul. 2015 from https://www.boundless.com/u-s-history/textbooks/boundless-u-s-history-textbook/the-civil-war-1861-1865-18/emancipation-during-the-war-131/from-slaves-to-contraband-to-free-people-707-4621/

Song lyric, ”Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose” from Me and Bobby McGee by Kris Kristofferson

Photos: Deborah Fagan Carpenter

Did She Really Say that? Collected and edited by Gary Wright

1.Summer in the south 

The common good is often uncommonly bad

In every section of the country, colloquialisms are born and then passed on through the generations. The South has produced an abundance of them. Many are more prevalent in rural areas, some more widespread, but all conceived through rationale based on normalcy for the period of conception or because of a specific regional activity. Authority on southern slang, Gary Wright, explains some of the common place phrases many of us grew up hearing, providing explanations even die-hard southerners may not know. 

I’m gonna kick your butt so hard, you’ll beeatin’ off the mantle for a month.

Throughout history, whenever one was to be punished, the least vulnerable and most accessible part of the body to attack has always been the derriere. In most people, that part of the body contains more mass than elsewhere, some more than others. That part of the body can more easily absorb physical blows, and there are fewer bones to break. It is more comfortable to stand up when experiencing a sore butt!

Such a blow does cause some degree of indignity, not to mention a relative amount of pain. The harder the kick, the greater the pain, and if the kick is hard enough, it would be uncomfortable to sit down. The fireplace mantle would be an ideal place, common in every household, to set one’s plate and utensils to most contentedly consume a meal.

 

2.PatsySouthern girls don’t sweat, they ‘glisten

Southern girls are so fair and delicate that they would never do such a common, dirty thing as allow sweat to break out on their bodies. Such an ordinary, unclean phenomenon simply could not happen to such beautiful, delicate creatures.

 

Fair to middling

Cotton is and has always been of major importance to the economy, culture and vernacular of the South. Raw cotton is graded by color. There are five colors ranging from pure white to yellow-stained. Within the color groupings there are seven grades based on the quality of the cotton fiber, ranging from ordinary to good. Right in the very middle, the very average cotton fiber is ’middling.’ The term fair to middling means that the item referred to is just plain ordinary and okay.

Puttin’ up tomatoes

Puttin’ up tomatoes has nothing to do with the altitude of the objects in question. It refers to canning vegetables by partially cooking and placing them in glass jars with sealing rings.3. When the vegetable cools, the space inside contracts causing an inward pull, and the ring seals, leaving a permanent inward pull. This keeps fresh air and food-spoiling toxins outside of the jar. It should more correctly be called canning, however that would not be entirely accurate, because glass jars are generally used, having replaced tin cans years ago.

“Jarring” vegetables or “glassin” them connotes an entirely different concept. This conundrum was likely faced many years ago, and the old-timers decided on a term that was not entirely correct versus one that was openly stupid.

Running around like a chicken with its head cut off!

Running around like a chicken with its head cut off, as with many common Southern sayings, refers to a real-live event. Every country boy and girl knew that Mama’s famous Sunday dinner began early that morning when Mama sent her eldest son, Billy Joe to the chicken yard with an ax to select the plumpest, “bestest” hen in the yard. She was generally the one that laid the fewest eggs (talk about incentive.) Grabbing her by the neck, he twisted very hard, thusly wringing her neck, breaking the neck bone and windpipe.

4.chickens on truck

He then laid the still flopping body across the chopping block, and with one swift motion, chopped the hen’s head clean off. A strange thing occurred. Some liken it to a miracle: the chicken promptly began to walk on both feet in a wobbly, irregular circle for a few steps before giving up the ghost. Mother hen died for our sins, er, appetite!

Go sit in the truck or go cut me a switch!

A curt statement usually used by a parent to a child (at least my wife has never told it to me) issuing an ultimatum concerning what the parent perceives as bad behavior. The youngster is being told that you have one of two choices: either, shut up and stop what you are doing, or you‘re going to get a whipping with a switch that you have the privilege to cut for yourself! Not that this has ever happened to me, but if you find yourself in this situation, you should cut a switch from a silver-leafed maple. It‘s the softest one.

This town is so small, they roll up the sidewalks at sundown

5.small town

Sidewalks are expensive to construct and expensive to maintain. So, it only makes sense that, if the sidewalks are not going to be used at night due to little foot traffic, then they might as well be rolled up and stored away to limit use and extend the sidewalks’ lifetime. In a town quite small, this makes a whole lot of fiscal sense. However, the labor cost would probably negate any monetary savings.

Share favorite Southernisms in the comment section!

 

All photos provided by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

 

SEASONAL APPROACH by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

1.tubby creek farm

 

It’s crisp; it’s delicious; it’s nutritious — it’s locally grown food. It’s unequaled in freshness, because what’s purchased from a local farmer was likely harvested that very day, or the day before. It’s an education about where our food originates, and a lesson about the bounty of each season. It’s enjoying food at the peak of its flavor, and it’s literally experiencing a taste of the region.

The Backbone of the South

Farming is the backbone of the South and a large part of the landscape of our lives. Many small farms have been operating for generations, but new farms are emerging, run by people who have left the area, and are now returning, or by “transplants” from other parts of the country who are dedicated to farming on a small scale. Josephine and Randy Alexander are two such transplants, who are successfully running Tubby Creek Farm.

As I approach the farm, Randy drives his motorized wheelchair down the dusty drive to greet me, accompanied by two adopted stray dogs, and a wild bunny that he doesn’t even notice. The Alexanders are good stewards of their land, and they have provided a welcoming environment, not only for their own livestock, but for wildlife in general. Throughout my visit, birds are happily chirping, accompanied by hens clucking, pigs oinking and goats bleating — most roaming freely, in harmony with nature.

 

2.chickens

 

An unusually cool, breezy summer morning provides ideal conditions for learning about the Tubby Creek Farm origin and its mission. While waiting for Jo to come in from the field, Randy gives me a brief sketch of what landed them in Ashland, Mississippi, raising animals and growing vegetables.

By the time the couple met, they had both already undergone the culture shock of moving to the Deep South from an entirely different social and environmental climate. Jo, a Maine native, came to Memphis to work for Grow Memphis, http://growmemphis.org. Randy, who originally came to the city as a radio disc jockey, was on the board for the Peace and Justice Center, and was working at the Memphis Center for Independent Living https://sites.google.com/site/mcilaction. Much of the focus for MCIL was in community and neighborhood organization, which threw the two together. They began gardening in their Mid-Town Memphis back yard, and were part of a larger community gardening program. Jo had interned on organic farms in the Minneapolis area, and had an innate sense and love of gardening.

The decision to raise Certified Naturally Grown vegetables and animals was not one they made lightly, but they knew that if they did it, they’d have to go “all in.” “Jo really wanted to do it, and I began to understand the importance of it above some of the social programs I was already doing.” 70 acres of land was purchased in 2011, and for the first year they drove down to the farm and worked it every Sunday, eventually quitting their jobs in January of 2012, to join “an amazing community of Certified Naturally Grown farms in Mississippi.” They actually began their CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture http://www.localharvest.org/csa ) that spring.

 

3.Randy Alexander in field

 

Jo rumbles up in the dusty truck at about 8:00 a.m., exiting it with several trays of just harvested cabbages and fingerling potatoes. Dumping the vegetables into the wash basins for their first rinsing, she explains that they have spent most of their time getting their systems down, basically learning on the job through trial and error, and by doing extensive research. With a degree in geology, she is comfortable with scientific lingo, and loves “figuring stuff out.” Farming provides her with plenty of opportunities to do that.

Even with his disability, Randy and Jo do all of the work, assisted by one intern. They work diligently, with little monetary reward, doing something to which they are both committed, and about which they are passionate. Jo does most of the planting and Randy does the cleaning and packing. Randy has been paralyzed from the chest down since 1992, but a lift enables him to mount the handicap accessible tractor, a piece of machinery currently out of commission and covered with clucking chickens on the day of my visit.

 

4.Jo with American Guinea Hogs

 

The animals add enormously to sustainability, and to the quality of life. In addition to providing manure, the pigs help control invasive species, such as kudzu, and the guineas also eat ticks. Unused vegetables are fed to the pigs and chickens, which helps eliminate waste. Their animals are given very little treated grain, but eat what’s in front of them and are moved around so that they can forage. The food isn’t brought to them, but rather they are brought to the food. Land that is unsuitable for farming, is perfect for grazing. With the exception of the chickens, most of the animals are contained to certain pastures, but are still allowed to roam freely. All of the animals are treated with utmost respect and kindness, even though they will eventually be processed for food. A couple have nick-names, due to unusual markings, but most are not named because of their ultimate fate.

Well over 30 different kinds of vegetables are grown at Tubby Creek, with over 100 varieties. A few varieties are less common, for example Scapes, which are the flower shoot of garlic, or green garlic. Jo suggested sautéing them in lard—yes, lard—a product which she highly endorses! She thinks animal and saturated fat gets a bad rap! “There are lots of reasons to use lard. It’s local, olive oil isn’t. It’s much more stable under high heat. Olive oil and a lot of vegetable oils cooked at high heat start to break down, producing free radicals, so you have to get anti-oxidants to get rid of those,” she explains.

 

5.jo

 

My brief visit provided a vivid reminder of the value of eating locally raised food, but also of the necessity of rearranging our thought processes about what we eat, and when we eat it. “We as a society have come so far away from eating with the seasons,” Jo continues. “We walk into a grocery store, and can get pretty much anything, any time of the year. So most people don’t even really know when things should be in season. As soon as the first warm spring day hits, people are looking for tomatoes. So it’s a really big adjustment for most folks to buy strictly what’s in season. One of the biggest examples of that is: by the time the tomatoes come in, the lettuce is gone, which kind of messes with your salads and your BLTs. In the fall you get some overlap between the lettuces and the tomatoes. But in the South, that’s just the reality.”

When I asked if they thought it was conceivable that there would be a time when there was wide spread small scale farming to meet world needs, their deeply felt conviction was ignited.

JO: Not just conceivable; I think the only way we’re going to be able to feed the planet in the future, is community based, small scale, not huge macro government funded solutions. Not transgenic crops, not topped down agriculture. Not just in this country, but also in developing countries. We need community food security. We need the capacity of small communities to feed their population. We can do that here and try to show that it’s possible. I think that that’s the most sustainable model moving forward. What we’re doing with conventional Ag is constantly racing super weeds that are resistant to herbicides, and racing pests that keep evolving and becoming resistant to pesticides. It’s a never ending cycle.

RANDY: I also think large organic farms are part of the same problem because they’re still harvesting food in one part of the country, and trucking it somewhere else.

JO: We can feed all of the people in Mississippi with the land in Mississippi — no problem. Even states with larger populations could do that. But we’re not. We have the resources, as a community, to feed ourselves. It is easy to feed a whole lot of people with a small amount of land. I think there may be a time in the future when that’s the way we’re going to have to do things. We’d have to get back to a time when we ate what was in season, and eat less meat. A lot of what is grown right now is fed to livestock, and that’s the least efficient way to do things. The more efficient way is to have the livestock out on the land, eating it. Then you don’t have to plant it, and harvest it. We’re doing so much silly work because we’ve got cheap oil. And that’s not going to be the case forever.

” We’re gonna have to do things more efficiently!”

 http://www.tubbycreekfarm.com

 

6.Randy with goat

 

Photos of Randy Alexander and the field were provided by Tubby Creek Farm

Photos of Jo Alexander and the chickens by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

MISSISSIPPI DELTA NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA by Tom Lawrence

1.Peabody

 

The Mississippi Delta is a unique and special place.

 

In my book, Delta Days: Tales of the Mississippi Delta, I quoted writer, David Cohn when he said, “The Mississippi Delta starts in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and ends on catfish row in Vicksburg.” The Delta is an alluvial deposit of thirty feet of fertile loam, stolen from the prairies of America’s Midwestern bread basket by the Mississippi River, and moved down south by annual flooding. The soil of the Corn Belt is now nurturing King Cotton.In the 1950s, the Delta was more than a geographical location; it was home to a unique social, political, and economic system that reflected the best and worst of our southern agrarian society.

 

2.Catfish row

 

From William Leroy Percy to Bobbie Gentry, The Delta has always had advocates and promoters, but there never has been much formal recognition for the Delta. It was in this spirit that I invited my friends from New England to join me on a trip through the Delta. The previous year they had given me the full tour of Boston and Concord, and I wanted to repay them in kind.

A trip to the Rendezvous for ribs, and a night spent at the Peabody, was their introduction to Memphis after arriving on Thursday evening. The next morning we watched the ducks parade up the red carpet, and then headed south on U.S. 61. Our first stop was in Tunica for a quick tour of the casinos, and next to Clarksdale, (Cat Head Delta Blues, Inc.) home of the blues, for lunch. After a visit to McCarty Pottery in Merigold, (McCarty Pottery/McCarty Gallery Restaurant) we pulled into my hometown of Cleveland, just in time for dinner.

 

3.McCarty Pottery garden

 

There was method in my madness for dining in Cleveland. Cheryl Line, an old friend who is the former director of tourism for Cleveland/Bolivar County and is considered to be one of the most knowledgeable tour guides in the Delta, agreed to meet us for dinner. We met at the Airport Grocery in order to sample the hot tamales, and Cheryl regaled us with intimate knowledge of the Blues and Hot Tamale trails that were such an integral part of any Delta tour. (Mississippi Tamale Trail)

My northern visitors were fascinated by the Delta, but were amazed that there was no formal organization that promoted such an interesting and unique area. Cheryl replied that while that had been true for many years, things had recently changed. In 2009, the 18 Mississippi Counties that comprise the Delta had been recognized as a National Heritage Area and The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, and Cleveland’s Delta State University had been chosen to manage the Heritage Area. This was all news to me. I had never heard of the National Heritage Area program.

Official promotion of the Delta became a reality with the creation of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. One of 49 National Heritage Areas, the MDNHA is giving the Delta a unified voice. The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University is the management entity for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. The Delta Center provides the leadership and resources needed to achieve the regional promotion goals set by the MDNHA.

The mission of the MDNHA is to foster partnerships and educational opportunities that enhance, preserve, and promote the heritage of the Mississippi Delta. It further promotes activities that will advance the understanding of the area, while ensuring a balanced and sustainable approach to development and social transformation.

Together, The Delta Center and the MDNHA develop and present programs that engage the people who live in the Delta to preserve, celebrate and share their unique place and culture.

 

4.Mississippi River

 

By building a network of public and private partners who are willing to participate in a coordinated and sustainable program of economic development, The Delta Center and the MDNHA are forces for regional development and transformation. From sponsoring symposiums and cultural gatherings, to coordinating and hosting educational exhibits and meetings, The Delta Center and the MDNHA are diligent in executing their cooperative missions in partnership.

The New Englanders were fascinated by the emphasis placed on the contribution to the Delta’s economic, cultural and political development by the area’s diverse ethnic population. When we visited the MDNHA offices at Delta State, this diversity was evident, from the clearing of the virgin hardwood forests, to the cultivation of cotton. The story of black slaves, Chinese laborers and Jewish merchants was inexorably interwoven into the Delta’s heritage. Descendants of these early pioneers are today’s merchants, teachers, and political leaders.

A Jewish Synagogue situated right next door to the First Baptist Church was one of our stops in the small town of Ruleville. There was noticeable surprise when they realized that in 1950, there was a viable Jewish community of merchants, farmers, and bankers. Today little remains of a once vibrant Jewish community in the Delta.

 

5.Merigold storefront

 

Names like Wong, Lee, Jue and Moon appeared on the abandoned storefronts in every little Delta town we visited. The MDNHA highlights the numerous Chinese grocery stores that at one time dotted the landscape of the Delta. The Chinese came to the Delta as day laborers, and quickly made the transition to merchants. The Chinese families were fanatical about education, and in years past, Cleveland boasted a three tiered school system; one for whites, another for blacks, and a third for the Chinese kids whose parents demanded a higher standard.

On a personal note, I may have participated in the first civil rights demonstration to be held in Ruleville. In my second grade year, the City of Ruleville built a community swimming pool. The city fathers, led by the Mayor, decided that not only were the blacks going to be banned, the Chinese were also to be excluded. I had several close Chinese friends, and more importantly, my grandmother had become friends with one of the ladies in the Chinese community.

My grandmother and I marched down the street to the Mayor’s house, and she called him on to his porch and set about to give him un-shirted hell about his racial policies regarding Ruleville’s Chinese citizens. The ban on Chinese kids was lifted, and we never heard any more about the subject. As with the Jewish kids, the children of the Chinese merchants became professionals and moved from the Delta—all that is left are the storefronts of their once thriving businesses.

Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville, is the home of the best steaks in America, and is a highly recommended Delta restaurant for anyone with a culinary interest, and of course hot tamales appear on most menus. Doe’s provided us with both their delicious steak and some of the best tamales in the world. No Delta tour would be complete without a visit to the Jim Henson museum in Leland, and the battlefields of Vicksburg were a must-do stop on the trip. There was one more plate of hot tamales on Catfish Row before ending our Delta tour.

 

6.Henson Museum

 

Dinner at Walker’s Drive-In in Jackson on the eve of my guest’s return home, provided the opportunity to reflect on the week. It is difficult for those living outside of the area to come to an understanding of the Delta and its complexities, but my New England friends now had a clearer perspective of the region thanks in large part to The Delta Center and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. Both made the cultural diversity of the Delta a reality for them, and had made all the difference in their understanding of this fascinating section of the country.

 

Please visit The Delta National Heritage Area web site at: http://www.msdeltaheritage.com

and their Facebook page at:                            

https://www.facebook.com/MDNHA

 

The Catfish Row photo, the McCarty Pottery Garden photo and the Mississippi River photo were provided by The Delta Center/MDNHA

The Peabody Lobby photo, the abandoned Delta storefront and the Henson Museum photo were provided by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

 

WALKIN’ TO NEW ORLEANS by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

1.Leaving Savanna

 

Carrying a backpack half her own weight, petite North Westerner, Hilary Leonard took a little Southern walk — from Savannah, Georgia to New Orleans, Louisiana. In January 2015, the Seattle, Washington resident traveled via Greyhound bus across the country to Savannah, where she began the walk of a lifetime, a journey that would not only give her some insight into the culture of the South, but would reveal even more awareness about herself. Through a series of questions from me she responds with candor and perceptiveness about the reason for the journey and how it impacted her……DFC

 

What prompted you to make the journey, and why did you choose that particular route?

I was first inspired to travel the South on foot while listening to an episode of This American Life in which Andrew Forsthofel presented his radio essay about walking across the United States. I was drawn in by the adventure and the way he connected with people. His time spent in the South was particularly intriguing because I had never been. I felt there was a hole in my picture of the country. Also, when considering the walk I couldn’t come up with a good reason to not do it outside of my own inhibition. I didn’t want fear to dictate my life choices. In an email to a friend prior to my trip I explained my motivation as such: “I just know that I have to do this because saying no to the opportunity out of fear is far worse than anything that could come from saying yes. To be the person I believe myself to be, the person I want to be in life, I need to say yes.”

The route itself changed throughout the walk. I started in Savannah because it made sense for my two month timeline in order to end in New Orleans, a city I’d always wanted to visit. I stuck to highways and adjusted my course occasionally as people made suggestions. I wanted to stay away from cities as much as possible because it’s harder to connect with people and find a place to camp. In the last few years I’ve done some solo bike tours — along the Washington coast and one through Europe — and even on a bike it’s easy to skip things. Walking appealed to me because it would make me slow and enable me to talk with people.

 

What intrigued you about the South before you arrived?

 

I had a romanticized view of the South. I wanted to walk beneath the cypress trees, listen to blues music, and drink sweet tea on porches every evening. I only knew the South by the stereotypes — both flattering and otherwise — and I wanted to experience firsthand what was truly behind Southern life. While planning my walk I realized how little my friends and I knew about the Southeast. I was naively under the impression that the South is always warm. Escaping a cold, gray Seattle winter for a sunny southern one seemed like a great trade.

 

2 Walking 

 

Were any of your previous notions about the South solidified, and were any dispelled?

 

Prior to leaving I was petrified an alligator would attack me in my sleep. Or a snake. I’d been advised by a friend to run in a zigzag if a gator attacks; it confuses them. Luckily I never had the chance to test what people have since informed me is nuts. It was too cold for gators or snakes to show up, even when I wanted to see them.

Southern hospitality was well and alive. I was blown away by how often people were taking me in, offering me food, giving me cash, introducing me to their friends and family, and stopping to chat. I expected to camp on the side of the road a lot more often than I did.

I was surprised by how many small business owners and entrepreneurs I encountered. The mass media focuses on big corporations, and I assumed given the rural parts of my route I’d meet farmers, but I didn’t anticipate the thriving small shops, restaurants, and businesses tucked into even the most remote corners.

 

Were there people who were unkind to you?

 

3BewareTraveling with my giant backpack, people often looked at me sideways with suspicion. As soon as I would talk with them it usually put them at ease. I’d hear things like “I just thought you were homeless” which would make my stomach turn. I’d think, “what if I was JUST homeless? Would you not be kind to me?” It was incredible how quickly I would internalize people’s negative perception of me. I believed in what I was doing, but even so, being treated like a criminal affected me. It zapped the skip in my step.

I didn’t have any encounters in which I felt personally threatened. A couple of times the police stopped me and treated walking like a subversive activity. On one occasion this was an issue. My last day crossing through Louisiana a cop stopped me and would not let me continue because he claimed I was not on a designated walking path. He forced me to take a ride into New Orleans. I returned a few days later and finished walking those last few miles to the city limit.

 

Of the kindnesses shown you, what were the most surprising?

 

I was humbled by how hard people worked in contacting friends and family along my route to find me a place to stay. Leaving Georgia, I had a small army of southern mothers who would come running if I came into any trouble. They checked in with me every day, making sure I was doing okay, staying warm, and keeping dry. I’d never felt more supported.

 4 Welcome Hilary

 

How did you prepare yourself physically and emotionally for the trip?

 

Preparing myself emotionally was the toughest part because the unknown terrified me. I didn’t sleep the weeks prior to leaving Seattle. I went through periods of self-doubt and anxiety. I had no idea how people would receive me — if they would be condescending, if I’d be harmed. I read books and blogs by people who had walked across America and took comfort in their stories of humanity. Andrew Forstoefel’s blog, Walking to Listen helped me immeasurably.

I could have done a better job preparing physically because I simply didn’t train. I ordered my backpack from Ebay, and it arrived three weeks late; a mere two days before I left. When I started walking I completed about 15 miles per day with my 40-50 pound bag. The blisters were agonizing for the first few weeks and my hips and feet ached through the night. It was trial by fire. By the end of my journey I was up to an average of 20 miles a day, and the blisters were gone.

 

Did you ever want to say, “This is insane, I’m going home?”

 

Never. The first night was trying because I didn’t yet know how to talk to people about what I was doing. I had conviction, but no confidence. I called a friend back home in a moment of doubt and she advised me that I would know when it was time to go home. I felt I owed it to myself to push past fear, and by the second day, I never looked back. I learned to let go of control and to deal with issues as they came. It was difficult to trust the unknown, yet every time I did I found what I needed. Some days were harder than others, but I was enamored with walking. Walking is a simple act. Not easy, but uncomplicated relative to settled life. Being successful day-to-day merely entailed getting from point A to point B. Finding success back home is a messy process of navigating relationships, work, school, goals, chores, etc. I reveled in the freedom walking gave me to be present and live at 3 miles per hour.

 

5 Ocean springs

 

What was your impression of Savannah, of New Orleans, of the Gulf Coast, and of the countryside and the small towns in between?

 

Savannah enchanted me. I loved how small it felt for a city. I loved the Spanish moss webbed oak trees and the orange glow at sunset. Even the paper mill smell that clung to the air had a subtle vanilla quality. I spent a few days visiting with SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) students and I enjoyed the energy of being within so much creativity. Everyone was in the middle of an interesting project.

New Orleans was more of a conundrum. I stayed with a handful of different people throughout the city to get a feel for the different neighborhoods. The decay was both alluring and concerning. I worry about the future of the city and its residents, yet there was an indomitable spirit like no other place I’ve ever visited. I spent hours talking with strangers about the city — its infrastructure, services, renovations, and perpetual jubilance. It was difficult leaving New Orleans because I felt there was so much more to discover.

Parts of the Florida coast were isolating due to the amount of development. At times I was completely encircled by condos and vacation rentals that were devoid of community. People came and went quickly with no accountability for the area. I would traverse 10 miles — a short drive by car, but 3 hours on foot — without coming across any restaurants, businesses, or gas stations. I learned to take advantage of convenience store bathrooms where available.

The small towns were some of my favorite places because of the intimate connection with everyone and everything. I could sit in a place for a few hours and talk with four generations of family members. The history of these places is brought to life through the retelling of stories. I’d venture into town taking it at face value, but in talking with people, I’d begin to reimagine the empty lot across the way as a bustling schoolyard and the Dollar General as a lost family restaurant. I was told time and time again that in my next day’s stretch “there’s nothing there.” I never came to know what nothing looks like because I always saw something.

 

6 Lonesome Highway

 

Do you feel like you got a good sense of Savannah and New Orleans?

 

I feel I only scratched the surface. I only had three days in Savannah and six in New Orleans. They were also my first and last southern cities, respectively, which affected my sentimentality towards them. I had talked about getting to New Orleans for so long, that when I did finally arrive it was like reaching Ithaca. I’d love to explore both cities more in the future.

 

Do you feel like you saw an accurate picture of the South?

 

I think my journey is better described as a study of people than a study of the South. Granted, I learned a lot about Southern culture through walking and talking with people, but there is still so much I didn’t experience. The way in which I found places to stay limited the diversity of people I encountered. On my own, I met people in coffee shops and museums, which are frequented most often by a certain demographic. When people began passing me through their social networks, it further narrowed the type of people I met — namely white, working to upper class families. The diversity of people I talked with on the road was broad, but the people I stayed with had the most impact on my understanding of the Southeast. I anticipated greater diversity, but I think the pattern that developed is telling of social organization trends. People tend to associate with others of similar backgrounds — socioeconomic, education level, race, religious beliefs. Also, many parts of the South are still racially segregated, and unintentionally, I would end up in parts that were largely white.

I also had immense privilege traveling as a young, educated, white female with a physical presence few would consider threatening. People looked at me and feared for my safety rather than the other way around. I was offered more knives than I had pockets to hold, and “be careful” was the default goodbye.

 

7 Coast

 

Was the experience as emotionally challenging as I imagine it would be, and do you feel like you grew emotionally from it?

 

I expected the journey to grow lonely given that I was traveling by myself, but the interactions I had with people made me feel unbelievably supported and connected. Rarely did a day pass without me receiving emotional support from strangers. In one instance, I was walking against a line of traffic in the panhandle of Florida when a man rolled down his window to inquire if I was on a long hike. I told him my route, and he earnestly stated “I’m proud of you.” Hearing that immediately warmed my heart. The next day I met a man sweeping outside the Blountstown McDonalds, James Cooper. He saw me and my pack, and asked where I was going. When I told him, he responded, “You’re someone special.”

The more positive interactions I had with people, the more I felt I had to keep going, and the more I wanted to keep going. I felt compelled to succeed for the people who believed in me. I’m incredibly grateful for the support I was shown. It was an immense gift and I hope to pay it forward.

 

Do you feel any differently about your life, people in general, or the people who are closest to you as a result of this experience?

 

In more ways than I could possibly write. For two full months I spent every day in a new environment. This pushed me to critically consider the limitations of my perspective and what I take for granted as normal or axiomatic. Whether I was with people or alone, I didn’t have a routine or task list to distract me. I didn’t have a closet of clothes to supplement my public identity. I got to consciously chose over and over again how to represent my identity to people through relating my personal history. This helped me discover the parts of myself I wanted to grow and the parts I could let go.

I experienced how little time it takes to make a connection with someone. I’d stay with a family less than 24 hours, but in leaving, I felt I’d known them for years. It’s exciting how many stories are out there and the diversity of life in this country. Everyone I met had interesting insights. I didn’t always agree with their beliefs, but I could at least begin to understand where they were coming from in hearing them out. I feel I gained a lot in sitting back and letting people share with me what was important to them.

 

You said you would possibly do a performance piece based on your journey. Can you elaborate on that a little? Are you a dancer, a singer an actor?

 

I’m a dancer and my goal is to choreograph a performance piece that combines dance with the recordings I collected throughout the journey using my Tascam DR100.I conducted personal interviews, recorded environmental backdrop, and also kept an audio diary. It was my first time using an audio recorder. In New Orleans I happened to meet a documentary filmmaker, Jay Miller, and we’re talking about making the performance into a dance film.

 

I understand that you’re in school. Where? What is your focus?

 

I’m currently studying at the University of Washington in the Integrated Social Science program. It’s a broad degree that incorporates courses in economics, communication, sociology, psychology, geography, political science, anthropology, ethnic studies, and international relations. I deferred for a quarter in order to do the walk.

 

Is there anything you’d like to say to sum up the experience?

 

I’m eternally grateful to the people who helped me along my way. Every small act made a difference. I’ll never be able to say thank you enough for the kindness I was shown, both by people I met and people back home.

 

8 Welcome to Louisiana

 

Hilary Leonard documented her entire journey, beginning with the bus ride from Seattle to Savannah on her own blog:

 

https://thesparrowandthesnail.wordpress.com.

 

For more detail on the courageous journey this incredible young woman traveled for the sake of social awareness and self-awareness, please take the time to check it out!

 

All photos courtesy Hilary Leonard

Please visit the October 10, 2014 article, “South by Southwest,” about southerner Mark Hainds, who made a similar walk across the southwest, following alongside the Rio Grande River.

More Southern Speak by Gary Wright

Gary Wright continues to share his “Southernisms” with us in MORE SOUTHERN SPEAK! Please feel free to add your own favorite “southern speak” in the comments section at the end of this post. Thanks y’all!

MORE SOUTHERN SPEAK-1MORE SOUTHERN SPEAK2MORE SOUTHERN SPEAK-3MORE SOUTHERN SPEAK-4

WE ARE TODAY’S SOUTH by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

our-porch-400cropped

 

As we celebrate our second year anniversary at PorchScene, we want to thank our loyal readers for continuing to support us as we’ve found our footing. We also want to thank the many contributors who have shared their unique voices with us and were willing to put their southern experience on our pages. For those of you who are joining us on the porch for the first time, we welcome you!

Our view from the porch is one of a South that is as diverse as its landscape. We strive to paint a portrait of our southern home through the eyes of our musicians, our artists, our writers, our chefs, our photographers, our entrepreneurs, our professionals, our mechanics, our farmers — all of the people who contribute to our reality with their own unique voices. We want to present our world from every angle.

 

la7 inches

 

We hope you’ll join us for our look at the place we call home. We endeavor to look at our world through many viewpoints, and we want to look at it with clear eyes and honesty. The South is a wonderful community of many different ideas and ideals, and our intention is to describe it from all its many perspectives.

We are informed by our past, but we are not all stuck there. Time stands still; time produces evolution. Some things change; some things don’t. There is progression of thought; there is a mindset that is dug-in to the past. There is widespread acceptance; there is widespread racism. There is overwhelming beauty, and there is heart-wrenching sorrow and ugliness. Similarity and contradiction stand side by side. Sometimes it requires understanding, and sometimes it deserves celebration. We are the sum of all our history and all our progress. We are today’s South.

 

streetcar

 

Streetcar photo: “The St Charles Streetcar,” by hotels.com is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to Places I Love on Pinterest | 16 Pins on Google Images

Porch photo: Mary Prater

Louisiana Cottage photo: Deborah Fagan Carpenter

 

Spring 2015

Spring 2015

1Gardens Ovey Phlox2Gardens Ovey frog copy3Gardens Ovey Eads yellow-2 copy4gardens ovey huchera copy5gardens ovey garden walk copy6gardens ovey new blooms copy7gardens ovey lake copy9gardens ovey path10.IMAG041010Gardens Ovey Pink blossoms11gardens ovey nursery12gardens ovey pool1314gardens ovey yellow15gardens ovey phlox at eads copy

 

The two Phlox photos were taken by Butch Boehm at Eads Pottery in Eads, Tennessee

All other images were taken by Wolfgang Marquardt of Gardens Oy Vey in Arlington, Tennessee

(See our 2013 post: Oy Vey! Paradise in a Gulley)

Jukin’ at the Joints by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

2015CristenJJFart

 

Clarksdale, Mississippi: Home of the infamous crossing of highways 61 and 49, where Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil so he could play a “mean” guitar.  Today, Clarksdale is home to the annual Juke Joint Festival, where current Blues’ artists seduce audiences from all over the world with living, breathing Blues. Many southern spots claim bragging rights to the origin of the Blues, but the area around Clarksdale, Mississippi is the genuine home office, and the Juke Joint Festival offers plenty of evidence to support that claim.

It’s the 12th year for the Juke Joint Festival, and this year the event honors performers and Blues’ supporters who passed away during the previous year. Some of those include: Robert “Wolfman” Belfour, Martin “Big Boy” Grant, and Mrs. Myrtle Messenger. But it’s a pretty good bet that other Blues’ greats who had their beginnings in the area, such as Muddy Waters, will have had a recognizable influence on the musical style of some of the 2015 performers.

2015jjfPOSTERhambone6 inches

The Blues is the business at hand, but there’s plenty of “small town fair” activity available for everyone. Venues all over town, not the least of which is the Delta Blues Museum, provide hundreds of ways to experience the Blues. Music is at the top of the list of course, and it fills the air practically anywhere you wander, but there’s also plenty of soulful food, poignant local art, and interesting activity to add to the amusement.

Official festival day is Saturday, April 11, 2015, but one-of-a-kind establishments all over downtown Clarksdale will be open and eager to introduce you to the Delta on the days prior to and following that official day. Related festival activities will begin on Thursday, April 9, and there will also be related events on Sunday, April 12. Live music will be available all day Saturday on various stages throughout downtown, and numerous “joints” will be open on Saturday night.

 

hawking the blues_8 inches

 

Roger Stolle has forgotten more about the Blues than most of us will ever know. His establishment, Cat Head Blues, Inc. on Delta Avenue in downtown Clarksdale is unofficial Blues Headquarters, and it’s the place to find out anything you need to know about the festival—or the Blues. It’s also a great place to pick up a Blues CD or some fascinating facts about musicians and the area. Stolle, one of the festival founders, has first-hand knowledge about all the performers and venues, and is always happy to share about his passion. Likely to be “up to his blues albums” with festival logistics that weekend, he may be pretty busy when you’re there, but if that’s the case, you’ll still be provided with accurate information from any of his dedicated staff.  (Cat Head Delta Blues, Inc.)

 

Cat Head Biz_edited-1

 

It’s completely mind boggling that small towns stuck out in the middle of cotton and bean fields could be so intriguing, but that’s just what the Mississippi Delta is. If there’s time during your visit to Clarksdale—an hour-and-a-half south of Memphis—take a little side trip another 30 minutes south to Merigold, Mississippi, home of McCarty Pottery. There you’ll get a little taste of the Delta oasis that Lee and Pup McCarty created on a city block that was once a mule barn. (McCarty Pottery) And if you happen to find yourself in Merigold—near Aligator—between 11:00 and 2:00 PM, ABSOLUTELY go to McCarty’s Gallery Restaurant on Sunflower Street. (McCarty’s Gallery Restaurant) There’s one gas station in town, so if you can’t find either the pottery or the restaurant, stop in there—they’ll know where to send you!

 

Lee and Pup painting_edited-1

 

It’s the Mississippi Delta, it’s the Home of the Blues, and it’s the Juke Joint Festival, a festival like no other on earth. Music is the great communicator, and nothing does that better than the Blues. A musical form that grew out of pain and misery now provides beauty and connection for countless listeners.  The Juke Joint Festival is the place to experience this musical phenomenon, and it’s not too late to make plans to attend! 

http://www.jukejointfestival.com

 

Poster images provided by Roger Stolle / Photos by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

GOOD BRIDGES MAKE GOOD NEIGHBORS by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

Master Drawing

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.—The Dalai Lama

 

They were making a joyful noise that no one outside their building really noticed — that is until a local group of Muslims bought a piece of property across the road from their church. When the members of Heartsong church learned that the Memphis Islamic Center (MIC) was building a mosque next door, they did what the basis of their own faith guided them to do — they demonstrated kindness. The modest deed of putting up a sign on their own property welcoming the Islamic Community — a quiet gesture of charity — opened a dialogue that resulted in an unlikely friendship. That simple act of kindness began a process of unity, and forged an alliance that remains intact today. It also brought these Christians and Muslims international attention.

The Quran was being burned by Terry Jones, pastor of the Christian Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida on the 2010 anniversary of 9/11. That, and many other fear based hate and ignorance stimulated crimes and threats against Muslims, were taking place all over the country during the time surrounding the anniversary of the tragedy. But in a part of the country that is often known for its racial and religious bigotry, Heartsong, a Methodist affiliated church, nestled in a wooded area in Cordova, Tennessee, a Memphis suburb, opened its doors and welcomed their new Muslim neighbors.

Welcome sign 7 inches

Readily admitting that his initial reaction to his new neighbors was a bit of “unease,” Dr. Steve Stone, minister of Heartsong, soon arrived at a game changing thought process. “I’m supposed to make my decisions based on love and kindness, not fear.”

Ramadan is a month long Islamic holiday during which the faithful fast during the day and spend hours in prayer at their mosques. The Islamic Center would not be completed in time for Ramadan services in 2010, but inspired by the welcoming attitude demonstrated by the Heartsong minister, the co-founder of the Memphis Islamic Center, Dr. Bashar Shala, asked if they could use part of the Heartsong facility for Ramadan prayers. Not only did the congregation agree to the use of their building, but they actually opened up their main worship area for the services, and many Heartsong members made it a point to be on hand to welcome the Islamic worshipers each day. Shan Khan, a member of MIC, attended Islamic services at Heartsong when construction of the mosque wasn’t complete. “It’s a clear demonstration of what it means to be an American,” Khan said. “It’s where people of different cultures and different beliefs come together for a common goal. It was a wonderfully amazing phenomenon. It was true embodiment of Southern hospitality …”

A full spirit of cooperation, however, was not engaged in by all. Out of the congregation of approximately 500 at Heartsong, roughly 20 members left the church in opposition. Some in the community called Heartsong members “heathens.” One regional blog posted: “Another Memphis Area Church Throws Jesus Under The Bus.” Dr. Stone realized that there would be some antagonism, not only from his members, but also from those outside of his church, but he was floored at the response he encountered. He actually anticipated about a 50/50 approval/disapproval rate from the community, but was astonished at the overwhelming positive reaction, not only locally, but internationally. There was a 90 per cent positive reply from around the world — Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, Wiccans, agnostics, you name it! One Muslim from Pakistan waited out the hours-long time change to place a call after viewing a CNN broadcast about the events transpiring between the two groups. The Pakistani was astonished that such a gesture of kindness had been made by these American Christians. He told Dr. Stone that one of his fellow Muslims had left his presence after also watching the newscast, only to return hours later to disclose that he had been cleaning a near-by Christian church, and that he intended to continue to do so in the future. Countless stories such as that one persist even these years later.

No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. Amelia Earhart

The annual Thanksgiving dinner held at Heartsong the week before the actual holiday, provided another opportunity for kindness and understanding. When the invitation to share in that celebration was issued to the members of the Memphis Islamic Center, they immediately accepted — on the condition that they could provide the food! Although it was a brave new world for the adults, the children, many of whom had been attending school together, enlightened their elders to the fact that both groups had more similarities than differences. The children bridged the path to acceptance that became the foundation for a lasting relationship.

Dinner cropped 7 inches

As the remarkable union has matured, the two groups of worshipers have realized that some tribute to the association should be created. To that end, each congregation has designated four acres on either side of the middle-ground road for the construction of a park that will honor the alliance. Emphasis on bridging many cultures will be the primary theme, and the growth of friendships will be metaphorically achieved through beautiful, peaceful landscaping. Because the children have played such an integral role in the strength of the relationship between the two faiths, much focus will be placed on topnotch playground equipment. With a signature steel tree erected on each side, the two properties will be joined together with a “bridge,” to form Friendship Park.

The overwhelming local, national, and international response to the relationship caused the formation of The Memphis Friendship Foundation, whose board members are from both congregations, as well as other interested citizens. The first mission of the Foundation is to insure the construction of the world-class park, and in that effort, they have attracted a number of impressive supporters. Top donors for the project are: Play Core, Trust Marketing and Communications, and JPA, a landscape architecture and design firm. John Jackson III, owner of JPA, said, “Plans will include an element of technology that connects the park to people of different cultures. The purpose of this is to take recreation and play, learn about someone else, and build a friendship that transcends distance. It’s all-inclusive.”

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. Lao Tzu

The Foundation is determined to make the park an outstanding facility that will be a Memphis landmark, not unlike Graceland or the National Civil Rights Museum. Funding for the project is hopeful, with interest coming from all around the globe. The Foundation was formed so that those who would be apprehensive donating to a religious group would be comfortable donating to an organization. The board, however, would like to begin the undertaking with backing from local sources first, so that the community will have involvement and share in the pride of the development.

Walker Lee, son of The Memphis Friendship Foundation board member Jeff Lee, produced a first-rate video to describe the proposed park and how it became a joint project. In a note to me, Walker Lee said, “The Christians at Heartsong and the Muslims at MIC have decided to come together to set an example of tolerance and to prove to the world that Christians and Muslims can get along and even thrive together. Among many other attractions, the park will feature a bridge connecting the two properties, this bridge serving as a symbol of unity and acceptance.” Although there was surprising positive feedback to the coalition, young Lee was “disheartened at the intolerance” shown by some. His pride in his church and the stance that they took inspired him to produce the video. Please take the time to view the video here:

In a comment about the publicity Heartsong and the Memphis Islamic Center have garnered, Dr. Stone said, “there have been other mosque/church relationships in the Memphis area, but this one just happened to hit the airwaves.” He went on to say that “this journey has changed all of our lives.” When asked by a reporter if any Muslims had become Christians or any Christians had become Muslims, Dr. Shala replied, “No, we’ve just become better at what we were already.”

Friendship

(Dr. Bashar Shala and Dr. Steve Stone)

All photos courtesy Farooq Qureshi

Memphis Friendship Foundation website: http://memphisfriendshipfoundation.org/

The Striped Pig Distillery by Tom Lawrence

Glen Coleman 5 inchesThere is an old and familiar smell wafting through the winter breezes all across the South, the distinctive aroma of grain cooking in copper kettles. I remember well the first time I noticed this unique odor; I was ten years old and sitting in a duck blind on an island in the Mississippi River. The wind had shifted to the north, as a cold front sent thousands of ducks downriver. The wind also carried the pungent smell of cooking grain. When I asked my grandfather what the smell was, he replied,

“Oh, that’s just Perry Nation running off a batch of his whiskey.”

It seemed our island was home to the Mississippi Delta’s premium whiskey maker. According to my grandfather, Perry Nation made the best sour mash whiskey money could buy, and later that morning, we visited the site of Nation’s still, where he filled my grandfather’s two-and-a-half gallon keg with another year’s worth of his 10 year old masterpiece.

dripping from still-7 inches Patrick Brickman_edited-1In the years since, I’ve heard more than one Delta farmer bemoan the fact that a man couldn’t buy a decent bottle of good hand-made whiskey for love nor money. Well, not to worry, there is help on the horizon. All across the South there is a renaissance of the hand crafting of spirits, and we ain’t talking about moonshine. We’re talking whiskies of outstanding quality and craftsmanship. I recently visited one of these pioneer craft distillers, The Striped Pig Distillery, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Before I begin to tell y’all about TheStriped PigDistillery and how they make spirits, let me first tell you what they aren’t. They are not blenders, bottlers, or brokers. They do not buy bulk spirits, then blend and flavor them before bottling. They actually make their products on site, and from scratch, using their own recipes and ingredients. While I’m sure there are other distilleries that hand select the grains that are used to make their products, Striped Pig goes much further back into the process.

The seeds grown to provide the grain are hand-picked and hand germinated by the distillery. These seeds are then planted in the soil at Myer’s Farm in Bowman, South Carolina. Each of the varieties of corn, rye and wheat is carefully selected by the distillery, and then grown under close supervision until harvesting. This extra attention to securing the right raw material assures consistent and high quality end products.

Corn in hand-Matt Bolt7 inches_edited-1After harvesting, the grains are custom milled on site, assuring the proper texture and sugar content needed for the custom cooking that forms the mash. The mash is the heart of the distiller’s art, and will determine not only the alcohol content of the finished product, but the smoothness and flavor. Bad mash means bad booze.

The next step is fermentation, and Striped Pig opts to use small batch fermentation for each of its products. Carefully selected strains of yeast assure that the proper flavor profiles will be achieved on a continuing basis. After fermentation, the distilling process begins, and Striped Pig uses both pot and column stills, thus allowing for clear spirits, rum, and whiskey to be distilled individually. The clear products, such as white rum, vodka, and moonshine, are allowed to rest before bottling. The brown rum and whiskey is sent to be aged in barrels.

churning-7 inches_edited-1When the aging process is complete, the spirits are then bottled and sealed on site and by hand. Each bottle is labeled with batch and bottle number written on the label by hand. Then and only then, the distiller hand signs each bottle, certifying that it has met the Striped Pig standards, from seed to finished product. It is hard to imagine a commercially available product that has been made with more care and attention to detail, but how does it actually taste?

Since I have a serious allergic reaction to alcohol—I tend to want to get in my car and drive to New Orleans—I always invite my friend Paddy O’Donovan to accompany me when I visit a distillery or a brewery. stills 7 inchesPaddy is a life-long student of the distiller’s art, as well as an enthusiastic connoisseur of the finished product. Paddy has never met a whiskey he didn’t like; he just likes some more than others. When we finished our tour of the Striped Pig, he eagerly headed to the tasting room.

We were offered samples of all of the Pig’s products, but we chose to concentrate on the whiskey. No doubt, there are quality differentiations in vodka and moonshine, but good whiskey is the standard of the distiller’s art, and Paddy had tasted hundreds of varieties of this golden gift to mankind. All of our attention would be devoted to the Pig’s whiskey.

When we reached the tasting bar, Paddy opened the small carrying case hung over his shoulder and removed his prized whiskey tasting glass. It was a small modified snifter, with a smaller bowl and an elongated neck. He carefully laid it out on a linen napkin, along with a small pane of clear glass. The Pig supplied me with a very similar glass. I would participate in all phases of the tasting, save the final sip. We were ready to begin.

Paddy allowed a half inch of whiskey to be poured into his glass, and immediately placed the glass pane over the top. When I asked why, he replied that the glass prevented the highly volatile congeners from dissipating in to the air. He went on to explain that congeners were the other substances produced during fermentation, and were responsible for the subtle flavors and aromas unique to each batch of whiskey. Lose the congeners and you lose the whiskey. I quickly placed a cardboard coaster over my glass.

While our samples sat quietly with their congeners intact, Paddy began to study the appearance of the whiskey. Striped Whiskey 6 inchesAfter much brow wrinkling and head shaking, he pronounced that our samples were of medium color, much like the sunlight falling on amber. Satisfied that the whiskey met his standards of appearance, we moved on to the next step, examining the “nose.”

Paddy removed the pane of glass, and holding the snifter by its stem, began to gently rotate the liquid against the bulb of the glass. According to Paddy, this released the undamaged congeners into the atmosphere, and the chimney shape of the snifter brought them straight to your nose. I followed his instructions, and I have to admit, I was amazed at the result. My senses picked up a cacophony of subtle aromas, which swirled and blended into a single sensory experience. My nose was filled with the essence of memories of fields of harvested grain, with just the hint of wood smoke and fruitcake. When I commented on the sensations, Paddy explained.

“Your nose is much more sensitive than your sense of taste. You taste whiskey only to confirm what your nose has already told you,” and with that, he gave his glass another swirl and then sipped the liquid, letting it slide across his tongue and filter throughout his mouth. After a careful analysis of the whiskey, Paddy turned to me and pronounced,

“That, Sir, is a superior example of the distiller’s art, and a mighty fine whiskey.”

Paddy began to wipe the inside of his tasting glass with the linen napkin, much as a priest does after communion. When satisfied that it was clean, he replaced it in the carrying case, slung it over his shoulder and said,

with pig 7 inches_edited-1“Our work here is done. Let’s go to get some shrimp and grits.”

The Striped PigDistillery has achieved its goal. After immense attention to detail and procedure, the distillery has produced a first rate whiskey that can take its place at the forefront of American distilling—quite an achievement. The Striped PigDistillery is a Southern operation that’s delivering a world class result.

Additional information on The Striped PigDistillery can be found by visiting their website: www.stripedpigdistillery.com, or by contacting Juliana Harless at: 843-276-3201. It’s worth a visit for anyone who’s in the vicinity of Charleston.

 

All Photos Courtesy of The Striped Pig Distillery.

So, What’s the Fascination ? by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

Swamp 6 inches

What is it about the South? What is it that captivates people all over the world? Yeah, historically we’ve exhibited some bad behavior—and some currently— but it remains one of the most puzzling, yet intriguing places on the planet. So what is it with a place that is so full of contradictions and inconsistencies that makes it so fascinating to so many?

There’s plenty of strange and wonderful to go around, and without a doubt, the very paradoxes that baffle and confuse, are at least part of the answer to the enigma. For us lifers, many of whom don’t deny the injustices we’ve perpetrated throughout our history, it’s sometimes difficult to explain the visceral love we have for this place. But maybe it’s a little like the way we feel about our “crazy Aunt Erline.” We may not understand why she does some of the stuff she does, but we love her just the same.

Clearly, “place” has a starring role in our emotional attachment. There’s a climate for every taste, and a beautiful vista to accompany it. Contradiction is at its finest in the landscape arena, from the winter snows in the Appalachian Chain to the whitest beaches in the world on the on the Gulf Coast. The cypress swamps of the Louisiana Bayou are a shadowy and mysterious setting that have an almost primordial beauty, and the fertile black loom of the Arkansas and Mississippi Deltas is so intense that the smell of the rich earth permeates the air.

There’s the city of Atlanta, whose leaders—black and white, decided a long time ago that in spite of their history and differences, they were going to make a go of it, and their efforts resulted in the largest metropolitan city in the South. There’s the city of New Orleans, which once burned to the ground, and is a flood disaster waiting to happen, but whose spirit never dies. The music that originated there has influenced musicians and music lovers worldwide, and the food and restaurants in the city are comparable to any cuisine anywhere.Windsor Ruins 4.5 There’s the city of Savannah, who surrendered, rather than be torched, by “you know who,” and so survived to become the beautiful, lunacy packed lady that it is today. There’s “Music City,” or Nashville, Tennessee, where yet another music form unique to our country reigns, and where the Grand Ole Opry, one of the most famous musical stages in the world was created. And there’s Memphis, Tennessee, which is the home office of pork barbeque, the place Elvis Presley called home, the place where B.B. King still strums his guitar, the place where Danny Thomas created St Jude Hospital, and the place which has the dubious distinction of being the city in which Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.

Throughout our history, southern writers have both compounded the conundrum, and provided some of the answers to the why of it all. William Faulkner delved into our psyches in a way no other author has before or since, and Miss Eudora Welty showed our dark side as well as our down-to-earth side, both black and white. Pat Conroy has taken us on numerous journeys through the low country of South Carolina and through the elegant homes and gardens of Charleston, while skillfully providing glimpses of what makes us tick. Harper Lee showed our racism while simultaneously showing our quiet elegance and our dignity.

Even our food is contradictory. The most delicious and original food in the culinary world is served alongside some of the most unhealthy food ever to be consumed. But remember: grits, gumbo, étouffée, barbeque, corn pones, hush puppies, and mint juleps were all brought to life in the South, and presented with Dixieland jazz and soulful blues playing in the background.

Extreme poverty, extreme politics, and rampant ignorance is countered by, wealth, less radical politics, and magnolia springs 4.5broad education. Our behavior is sometimes so outrageous that even we don’t know whether to laugh or cry over it. But most of us are kind, gracious, and giving people who live life intensely. We’re a land abundant with eccentrics, whom we embrace. We’re passionate about our art, our music, our literature, our food, the land, the sea, our family and friends, and yes, the SEC.

There’s a sensibility that exists in the South which is no doubt the result of living lifetimes surrounded by all of the ambiguities. Maybe our passion comes from that same source. And so we have it—our indescribable passion and undefinable sensibility may be the attraction. Non-Southerners can’t quite put their finger on it, but it’s a phenomenon that continues to fuel their curiosity.

Talk About White Trash! By Deborah Fagan Carpenter

You can find it almost anywhere you look in the South. Okay, maybe they have it in other parts of the country too, but frankly we think ours has its own special quality. We Southerners have a deep rooted love of our lush, rich land, and we’ve dedicated ourselves to preserving it and our way of life. And we’re an accommodating lot who welcome diversity, no matter its form, so by George, we’ve learned to embrace the curious, but rampant custom. I’m talkin’ about the spread of White Trash!

turquoise 4.5Now before you get your knickers in a knot and charge me with prejudice against other colors, hold the fort! Southerners take special care to scatter trash in ways that accentuate the beauty of our surroundings, utilizing a wide variety of colors and color combinations. Rural roads are sometimes highlighted with shades of cerulean trash for example, which serves as an accessory to compliment even the most beautiful farmland that lives under the wide expanse of sky of the same rich color.

Debris color-coordination is demonstrated along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, where blue is also often the color of choice. The azure trash glistens brilliantly in the sunlight, and when the aluminum cans travel down the river to the Gulf of Mexico, they continue to spread beauty and splendor for many years—two or three hundred to be precise—in the oceans and waterways of the world. We generously share our red, white and blue refuse with all.

Mississippi River Trash 4.5

There’s even the popular distribution of clear trash! Clear plastic bottles break up the monotony of all that white trash, and also harmonizes attractively with blue, red or green trash. While it may not be as colorful, those clear plastic bottles have real staying power and will generally reinforce the scenery for about 100 years!

Clearly art classes in the South teach creative trash dispersal and color coordination to ensure innovative enhancement of the countryside. And don’t press me on this, but I’m pretty certain students learn about conscientious trash distribution in Civics class. They do still teach Civics, don’t they? Well never mind. Whether or not it’s studied in the classrooms of today, tomorrow’s Anthropology classes will no doubt benefit from the analysis of today’s “white trash.”

Trash, regardless of color, has genuine stamina and will enhance our environment for years to come. For example, the glass bottles that beautify the landscape today, will be around—well, forever! Sadly, the plastic bag that the beer bottle or soft drink can was placed in at the convenience store will likely stay intact for only a few years, so its decorating lifespan is limited. But relax, that plastic bag still serves a useful purpose in the system. After the bag breaks down and blows into the nearby lake or river, it may be ingested by a speckled trout or catfish and make its way to someone’s dinner plate, and the beat goes on. Alas, trash endures!

white trash4.5no exemptions4inches_edited-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trash in all its colors and forms has many useful functions. It reflects the standards of the residents of an area, so it influences tourism.  Visitors immediately recognize how inhabitants value their community and how proud they are to show it off. Wildlife overpopulation is controlled by providing plastic for the choking or suffocating of birds and marine life. Trash adds interesting decor to waterways and oceans. Trash provides useful activity for work release programs and so aids in the prevention of incarceration boredom. The list is endless! It’s enough to make you want to rush right out and buy some beer cans to pitch out your car window!

So there you have it Yankees!  We’ll put our trash up against your trash any day. White Trash; love it or leave it!

Amen.

Childhood Christmas by Patricia Neely-Dorsey

wreathThe holiday season is upon us and celebrations have begun! Though many people still have large family gatherings for the holidays, they are by no means, like the ones of yesteryear. Times are rapidly changing and the type of Christmas celebrations that most older southerners and Mississippians remember are almost a thing of the past. The changes in our lifestyles have very much changed the way we celebrate during the holidays .

“Back in the day”, Christmas was a much anticipated time because, for most families, it meant that ALL of the relatives came together in one place. Everyone looked forward to seeing loved ones that they might not have seen in a long while. Car loads of “kinfolk ” would pour in from out of town and “from up north”.

These days, we live in a much more fast paced, hustle and bustle society. Many people are working during the holidays. Many have started taking destination vacations or cruises during the holiday season, which  keep them from extended family gatherings. Many stores are now open on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, which was unheard of years ago. Some have become more interested in scheduling their time around catching all of the bargains offered on those days. So,for many reasons, it is not always expected for everyone to be together for the holidays.

Another thing that everyone looked forward to during the holidays was the unbelievable “spread” of food that was always a given during this time. All types of homemade baked good and old family recipes were laid out for all to enjoy. There was always a wide assortment  and magnificent array of food! At all of the family Christmas gatherings from my childhood, I can remember having NO LESS than three or four meats to choose from. The selections would vary, but almost always, there was ham AND turkey….and very often chitterlings (chittlins’ ). Family dinners, for some, would include duck, goose, hen and all types of wild game. The possibilities were endless. Christmas 1968, at our house the meal included a whole roasted pig all dressed with a red bow on the neck and an apple in his mouth.

I love to hear the stories of my parents’ childhood Christmases.

My father says that during Christmas, when he was growing up, his mother would cook at least seven or eight cakes. One of those, he said, would always be a Jelly Cake. He says that there would always be a lot of meat from the hog killing that his father would perform right before Christmas. My mother says that her mother would prepare lots of food and always had a Pound Cake and Ambrosia for every Christmas meal. She remembers that the children were always excited about getting  lots of fruits and nuts, which they didn’t get regularly throughout the year.

Times have certainly changed, and so have our Mississippi Christmases.

angelCHILDHOOD CHRISTMAS

Christmastime at our house
Was such a joyous thing;
There was much anticipation
Of what the day would bring

For many months prior,
The list making would begin;
There were so many things I wanted,
On pure memory I couldn’t depend.

 I carried handy ’round with me

A trusty little list.

There was not one single thing,
I wanted my parents to miss.

And every year, without a doubt,
I couldn’t ask for any better,
For I ‘d get everything on my list,
Down to the very letter.

MerryOldSantaThe night before, my brother and I,
Would always try our best;
To catch ole Santa in his tracks,
So we’d get little rest.

We’d try to keep ourselves alert,
With a flashlight by our side;
But, every year ole St. Nick
Would cleverly by us slide.

We must have fallen fast asleep,
Before the morning’s light;
Because our toys appeared miraculously,
Sometime through the night.

In our den, the floor was covered,
With toys of every kind;
The sheer volume of them all,
Would surely blow your mind.

We’d jump around from here to there,
And squeal with pure delight;
We couldn’t have concealed our excitement,
If we tried with all our might.

Later on in the day,
The relatives would pour in;
For the traditional Christmas dinner,
With us and all our kin.

We’d have such an array of food,
Usually, specialties of the South;
One year, we even had a whole roasted pig,
With an apple in his mouth.

nativityWe’d exchange gifts and laughter,
And each other’s company enjoy ;
The men would often help assemble,
Some child’s complicated toy.

Our festivities usually lasted,
Way into the night;
And after all was said and done,
We felt that everything went just right.

from Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life in Poems
by Patricia Neely-Dorsey, Copyright © 2008

Recipe for Life

 

He’s a man of the cloth, but today his frock is more likely to be a chef’s apron or a painter’s smock. Monsignor Paul Canonici may have retired from the Priesthood, but his current life is overflowing with colorful art, extensive writing, luscious culinary creations and an active connection with countless friends he has amassed over a lifetime.

Stepping into his world in South Mississippi, one is greeted by his magnetic warm-serving up the pasta 4.5heartedness, and engulfed in his creative energy and deep passion for life. Enticing aromas waft from his spacious kitchen, where he skillfully prepares meals heavily influenced by his Italian heritage. His home, traditional in another’s hands, is contemporary and alive with color and energy in Paul’s.

Vibrant art and memorabilia fill every available space in the captivating home, where he thrives on cooking for and entertaining his friends. Recipes he has gathered from friends, family and travel easily come to life in his competent hands, and are garnished with the love he has for its preparation and for the lucky diners. Delicious banquets are served on functional pottery he’s accumulated, and is artfully arranged to fashion the perfect presentation for even the simplest fare.

Paul’s pulsating art surrounds his guests and plays a starring role in every occasion. A serious interest in painting has matured during his retirement, and he has arrived at his own technique, often combining watercolor, acrylic and made and found objects to form collage assemblages.

La Bufana 4 inchesCountless small leather journals bulge with notes and vibrant watercolor sketches that serve to document his extensive travels, especially to Italy, the home of his ancestors. The publication of two of his four books is the result of the notes and sketches in those journals. His vivid, primitive watercolors fill the pages of La Befana, an enchanting Christmas story which Paul has altered to include a guided tour of the Italian countryside.

Recipes gathered from the many people he’s friended on his numerous trips to the country have brought about a cookbook, So Italian, also beautifully illustrated with his lively, intriguing watercolor sketches and numerous other paintings. Clark Brennan of So Italian 4 inchesNew Orleans’ Brennan’s Restaurants fame, writes in the Foreword to the book: “Paul’s book is about the interests he pursues in his retirement and his interests are rooted in his philosophy of life. Paul’s personal recipe for life is: Retreat to a favorite place; Do art inspired by that place; Cook and celebrate with friends; Exercise the body daily. For a healthy mind and body, thoroughly integrate all of the above with daily prayer.”

Delta Italians 4 inchesLife began for Paul Canonici near the small Delta town of Shaw, Mississippi, a life which provided him with countless stories and knowledge of the customs of his descendants and of the lives they carved for themselves in the Deltas of Mississippi and Arkansas. Subsequent research in the area has provided him with mountains of material from which he has crafted two impressive books, The Delta Italians, and The Delta Italians, Volume II. The books chronicle the hardships, joys, struggles and everyday lives of the people who left their Italian homes to make a better way for their families, and how they impacted the area to which they journeyed.

“What’s important to me right now, is what I’m doing right now.” Paul Canonici is restrained when it comes to discussing his impressive life in the priesthood and as an educator. He chooses rather to focus on his present full life which is dedicated to art, travel, writing, cooking, spending time with his friends, and to helping other “seniors” Paul 4.5realize meaning and joy in their retirement years. His mission is to make others aware of how much control they have over their own happiness. “It’s important for me to tell people to make their senior years exciting. It’s up to each of us to make every phase of our lives exciting. My family and friends make my senior years the most joy-filled of my life.”

All of the books written by Monsignor Paul V. Canonici can be found at: Laurelwood Booksellers/Memphis, TN; Square Books/Oxford, MS; Lemuria Books/Jackson,MS; The Crown Restaurant, Indianola, MS; Cotton Row Books, Cleveland, MS; TurnRow Book Co. Greenwood, MS; and Paul’s site: www.soitalian.com, or 601-898-8743.

More Southern Speak by Gary Wright

southern speakIf it were easy, then everyone would understand

Slap my head and call me silly is not an invitation to produce the physical action called for, rather, to call attention to the fact that I have overlooked the obvious and am acting like someone who has had the action called for, actually produced upon them.  If that sentence is clear, then you are truly a son or daughter of the South.

If that sentence is not clear, then you have had Southern-speak performed upon you and, if you do not completely understand then, for God’s sake, do not say so, for that would imply your lack of understanding.  Which would be an admission of non-Southern gentility.  Rather, simply shake your head slightly and mutter, “God bless him.”

Butter my butt and call me a biscuit.  Please read the topic above as a preamble to this saying.  Don’t you dare to attempt to apply oleo-margarine to my derrière!

I will give you a nickel for every quarter that you can stand on its end.  If you think about it, that is quite a swap – I’ll give you a nickel and you give me a quarter.  Which leads quite naturally into I’ll bet you double or nothing.  This term is used in boyhood whenever one gets into a colossal debt which one cannot conceivably ever pay such as in ‘cut-throat marbles,’ ’coin-matching’ or ‘double double-grey jacks.’   The taker of this bet apparently has never studied the laws of logic, which states that, in the long run, the law of averages will always even up.

Two of the most enduring ideas in all of Southernhood are a rich daddy and a good-looking momma.  With these two ideals, a young Southerner can expect to be treated as royalty while growing up and can look forward to an enduring life filled with future opportunities and present prospect.  “Your Daddy’s rich and your Momma’s good lookin’ so hush little baby, don’t you cry,” from Porgy and Bess, by Gershwin and Howard.

Higher than a Georgia pine means just about as drunk as you can get.  In most of the red Georgia clay I have seen, almost nothing will grow.  Not ‘taters, not cotton, not even poke weed.  However, if you let it go feral for a few years, Georgia pine will grow like wildweeds, higher than a kite, reaching ever upward as the tightly packed trees will compete for the available sunshine. This was likened, long ago, to the mental acuity of an inebriated person whose mind seemed to wander among the clouds, higher than the Georgia pine, mostly detached from this mundane world.  It is in such infertile, inactive people that substance abuse seems to take root most freely.

* * * *

There are three distances in the south: a piece, as in I’m fixin’ to go down the road a piece (a short distance;) afur piece (a pretty good distance) or a shur nuff fur piece (that distance could be to Seattle or even to the star, Orion and back.)

Well, I’ll just swaney!(more formal,) meaning I am completely beside myself.   Or, less formal, I‘ll swan to my time. (Well, I’ll be darned.)

Don’t go off half-cocked!   (Don’t get mad until and unless you have all the facts.)  Every Southern boy (and most of the gals) learn early in life about guns and gun safety.  They know that guns will not fire accidentally if not cocked; they will most likely fire accidentally if fully cocked but there is a position halfway between (half-cock) where the gun may fire accidentally at the whim of the gun.  Either fully cock the gun or don’t cock it at all; in-between is usually dangerous.  The larger lesson in life is either get mad or stay calm; but don’t enter a potentially dangerous situation with an ambivalent attitude.

We better git on the stick! (We better get started, start moving faster or start working harder.)  What the stick is, precisely or where was its origin, is not clearly known but it is often better to simply believe than to know exactly.  Which, pretty much sums up the entire Southern way of looking at things.  Facts, sometimes, simply serve to muddle up the situation.

Act like you got some raising!  Quit misbehaving!  Use the training imbued by your family while you were growing up.  Your misbehaving directly impugns the values and work of your entire family.  Not only are you responsible but your whole family isresponsible.  Quite a novel concept, don’t you think?  Responsibility?  It’s too bad that these ideas have been lost in this generation.

South by Southwest by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

Google image (1)There is no established trail, and no one has ever before walked this passage—or at least none of whom he’s aware. But on October 27, Southerner Mark Hainds will begin a journey that originates near El Paso, walking the length of the Rio Grande River where it borders Texas. The approximate 1200 mile trek will provide material for his second book, revealing both an environmental and a cultural look at the area from the Chihuahua Desert, to the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

The “Tex-Mex Compadres,” a dedicated team of volunteers will shadow Hainds from their vehicles on nearby roadways, providing him with logistical support as he walks 20-23 miles a day. Also joining the 53-60 day excursion will be Rex Jones, a Producer/Director with the Southern Documentary Project. Film footage gathered by Jones and his crew will result in a full length film documenting Hainds’ remarkable trip for PBS. Jones’ wife wants him home for Christmas, so Mark will push hard to complete his journey by December 23.

Mark 1 inchCormac McCarthy and John Grisham are at least partially responsible for the trip. Grisham’s The Testament sent Hainds off on trips to the Amazon and Southwest Brazil, and reading McCarthy inspired his interest in the Southwestern region of the United States. Hainds has a history of intrigue with remote areas where he can “reset,” and his deep respect for nature and the environment sends him on countless voyages of discovery.

Approaching Mark at the Pensacola Farmer’s Market, one would hardly guess that this unassuming man would have such remarkable and diverse interests. Mark J. Hainds is a research associate with Auburn University and research coordinator for the Longleaf Alliance, located at the Solon Dixon Forestry Center in Andalusia, Alabama. Palafox2[1]_edited-2.87_edited-1With a B.S in Forestry, and a Master’s in the study of the long leaf pine, Mark works diligently with the Alliance to bring the existing 3,000,000 acres of the pines back to the original 90,000,000 acres the trees once covered.

Hawking, herbs, jellies, jams, wild berries, mushrooms and fruits at the Palafox Farmer’s Market in downtown Pensacola was initially a way to fund his Florida fishing expeditions. The 49 weekends Hainds will spend this year at the market however, leave him too tired and with little time for leisurely fishing.

year-of-pigMushroom logs which produce Shitake, Oyster, Nameko, Lion’s Mane and Reishi mushrooms for example, along with about a dozen varieties of wild mushrooms that he forages, are popular items at his booth. He also sells uncommon varieties of wood for the purpose of smoking on the grill, and eggs from free range chickens boasting richer, darker yolks that are slightly flavored by what the birds eat.

Wild hogs, not native to this country, threaten large areas of the U.S. ecosystem. In his first book, Year of the Pig, Hainds, a hunter but also a serious preservationist, provided a first-hand look at the hunting of feral hogs with language that was acceptable to hunters and environmentalists alike. With intelligence and humor, he presented discussions of hunters’ ethics in the pursuit of the animals, with a hard look at environmental concerns and ecological ideas as well.

His planned route for his upcoming walk is very “risky” because of the threat posed by smugglers. During his encounters securing permission from the Border Patrol and landowners, however, he has determined that day travel is safe but he will need to camp near urban areas in the evening.

Mark earlier visit 4.5The lack of humidity in the Southwest will be a welcomed relief to Hainds after having trained for the trip in the Deep South humidity. But his regiment has prepared him well, and his enthusiasm at the prospect of experiencing the unfamiliar territory is palpable. Mark has been awarded an Artist in Residence position for the month of February 2015, at the renowned Escape to Create near Seaside, Florida. His goal is to “hammer out a good first draft of his manuscript from the Texas-Mexico border walk” during his stay at the retreat. The resulting book and the PBS special will be an exciting conclusion to this Southerner’s Southwest journey.

 

For more information visit Mark J. Hainds on Facebook / All Images except first at top are courtesy of Mark J. Hainds

Also check out “WALKIN TO NEW ORLEANS,” a May 19, 2015 article about a North Westerner walking in the South Eastern U.S.

Seeds of Misery by Mary Dawson

Wear light colored clothing, long sleeves and pants, and tuck your pants into socks. Long loose hair should be covered, braided or tied when venturing into areas where they are apt to be. Spray your clothing with the appropriate repellant.

When coming in from outside activities where you might have encountered them, throw clothing into the dryer set on high heat. This will ensure none will survive. Remember to do a thorough check, take a shower, and wash your hair.

My mother has always repeated these lines in some fashion after every summer afternoon outside. “If ticks get in your hair,” she said, “we’ll never see them again” (The joke here is that my hair is impossibly thick). We live in a heavily forested area, and it was fairly common for me to pick up a few ticks while doing work in the yard.

Ticks are a fact of life in Alabama. Brown ticks, American dog ticks, Deer ticks, Lone Star ticks – all four thrive in our region, and are carriers of a host of diseases: Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted disease, Tularemia, Ehrlichiosis, Relapsing fever, Colorado tick fever, and Babesiosis.

Nasty things.

But they’ve never really been a problem for me. I follow protocol.

Image courtesy of tickencounter.org/
Image courtesy of tickencounter.org

The problem came this past August. My friend Jess and I were on a walk through the woods on my family’s homestead when we ran into a spiderweb and halted to free ourselves. There’s nothing worse than a web in your face and a spider in your hair, right?

Wrong.

While frantically raking my fingers through my hair I glanced down and, for a moment, thought I must have stepped in something. My foot was covered, coated with a rust-colored substance that slowly began to spread up my bare leg. I thought I had stepped on a spider’s egg sac. There’s nothing worse than being covered with hundreds of baby spiders, right?

Wrong.

I screamed and ran for the house like a bat out of hell, leaving Jess to discover on her own what terror was creeping up her legs. Once I was clear of the tree-line I stopped and brushed madly at my legs. That’s when my nightmare turned to abject horror: spiders squish. It’s possibly the only redeemable fact about them – you squish them and they die. The swarm on my calves – now my thighs – weren’t squishing. They weren’t even fazed by my manic clawing. They clung effortlessly to anything they touched, my hands now included.

Photo provided by tickencounter.org/
Photo provided by tickencounter.org

I looked closer and realized it wasn’t a spider’s egg sac I’d stepped on. It was a tick’s. Hundreds of baby ticks – seed ticks –, each smaller than the head of a pin, were on my every exposed surface – my feet, legs, arms, hands… neck… Oh, God. My hair, I thought. My skin was crawling – literally. It was my worst nightmare realized.

It seemed Jess had come to the same realization around the same time as I had. We tried the hose futilely before rushing home in a panic to shower. That should have been the end of it.

It wasn’t.

We sat quietly in my living room after our baths, the only sound being our clothes tumbling in the dryer. “Mary,” she said, breaking the silence, “I think they’re still on me.” With renewed terror we checked ourselves again to find that some of the ticks had survived the shower too. We needed something more powerful. I was ready to bathe in bleach.

Jess, gratefully, has always been my voice of reason, and suggested a less painful choice of action, and that’s ultimately the story of how we ended up in the Publix checkout line with a lice shampoo, lice spray, a bottle of wine, and two pints of ice cream, with the cashier ringing us up studying us with obvious concern. We stood in my living room, our hair and skin saturated with shampoo as we sprayed our clothes and my furniture with lice spray. We managed to kill them all this time, but the damage had been done.

The next day I was covered in tiny welts, and the itching was worse than chicken pox and lasted for almost two weeks. I picked furiously at every freckle that I was sure hadn’t been there before. The nights were the worst; every tingle or itch would lead me to switch on the lights to examine myself and my bed in full. The experience was fuel for nightmares.

After that I did my research and discovered exactly what I’d been dealing with: seed ticks, ticks that were in the larval stage of development. They apparently sit in masses of hundreds, if not thousands, in grass, or maybe in some alternate tick dimension where they phase into existence as a victim passes. They latch on and swarm up limbs at nearly supersonic speeds and, by the time you notice them, it’s already too late. Even if you don’t feel it, they’re biting you with their tiny, diabolical fangs, pincers, or whatever it is they bite with.

Photo courtesy http://www.state.nj.us//
Photo courtesy http://www.state.nj.us

What I realized then was that nobody really has any advice for handling seed ticks. Adhering to the rules will only protect you from the adults – the ones you can easily see and pinch off – they’ll do you no good when you’re faced with hundreds of seed ticks. They’re small. They’re durable. They’re impossible to see in the grass, and you won’t notice them until they’re already on you. The best you can hope for is that the lice shampoo does its job, your dryer has a high enough heat setting, and that the bites aren’t in places inappropriate to scratch in public, because you will scratch. And people will notice. And it will be awkward.

There are plenty of things to fear in the Alabama wilderness: snakes on your path, hornets or bees in an eave, alligators in the river, coyotes, bobcats, and even the occasional bear. I can add to that list stepping into a nest of ticks. As far as flora and fauna is concerned, I cannot think of a worse experience and I challenge you, readers, to do the same and let me know in the comments.

Southern Speak: The Past is Never Dead by Gary Wright

“The past is never dead; it is not even past.” – William Faulkner

southern speak

“Made” This is a general Southern, catch-all word used for everything when you cannot think of a proper word to use or when there simply isn’t a word to sufficiently describe the action or event.  For example, “She made me do it,” “They made a photograph of me,” “I made it (I finished it,)” “My wife made a baby (she gave birth,)” and “I’ve got it made, now (I‘m a success.)”

 

“Take you to the woodshed” On rare occasion, some usually well-behaved Southern children were unruly.  However, in genteel society it is rude to speak harshly or to discipline anyone in eyesight or earshot of another genteel Southerner.  Therefore, the child to be disciplined is taken far away from the ‘big house,’ to the backside of the lowly woodshed where the preferred type of switch is administered to the backside of the recalcitrant child.  That term has carried over to rhetoric describing bad behavior in other grown-ups.

 

“Types of Southern barbeque” Perhaps the second fiercest debate (immediately behind the reason why the Yankees invaded us) revolves around the best type of barbeque.  Essentially, there are two types of barbeque: a vinegar-based sauce centered in the Carolinas and the tomato-based sauce essentially in the rest of Dixie.  Throughout most of the South, the pig has been traditionally used because, in the past, most people were poor and pigs were let loose to forage for themselves.  Sauce variations are cropping up in northern Alabama – the white sauce; Memphis – known for its distinctive rubs and Texas – where beef has become predominate.

Kansas City is well known for its steaks and barbeque; however, since it is north of the Mason-Dixon, it is discounted out of hand, because who would want to waste their time eating Yankee barbeque?

 

“You’re lookin’ mighty poorly” This expression has nothing to do with your wealth or finances and everything to do with your health.  One whose health is failing or who has lost a lot of weight can be said to resemble one who has run out of money and cannot afford to feed himself properly.  Hence, you are said to look as though you are not able to afford the proper food.

 

“Fixin’ to” Another term that can mean a myriad of things such as: ‘getting ready to,’  ‘repairing something,’ ‘I’m fixin’ dinner (as in getting dinner ready,) and the entire shebang, as in fried chicken ‘with all the fixins.’

A typical Red-neck conversation might go like this, “Have you fixed dinner yet?”  “Naw, but I’m fixin’ to fix it.”

 

“Meal time in the South” This is one area the Yankees have screwed up so badly I’m afraid that we’ll never ‘fix’ it.  There are, generally speaking, three main meals every day; breakfast (when you break the fast of the nighttime,) dinner around noon and supper sometime after quitting time.  Now, up north they have such things as lunch, afternoon snacks, bedtime snacks, dinner at suppertime and supper at dinnertime.  Yeah, and they even have a combination of the morning and noon meals called brunch.  You cannot tell time by their meal schedules and that’s one less element taken away from a graceful life.

Dinnertime is signaled by the ‘dinner bell’ not the ‘lunch bell.’  Sunday dinner was the big meal of the week at noon on Sunday when everybody got together for chicken and all the ‘fixins’ at ‘Sunday dinner.’  Throughout all of Dixie you will never hear of a ‘Sunday lunch’ and you only hear about ‘brunch’ when they are trying to communicate with a Yankee.  Bless their hearts.

 

“Now, ain’t you precious?” This is something that a matronly Southern lady would say to some one so ugly that she had to sneak up on a mirror to look at herself.  Genteel ladies down South, pride themselves in saying something good about something or some one about which there is absolutely nothing good to say.  To that blessed lady you could rightly say, “Now bless her heart for saying that,” and you’d be correct.

 

“I’ve done put up with all I’m going to.  This is the last time I’ll be telling you that.” If you don’t understand exactly what that means, then keep on doing it and you’ll find out exactly what that means when Daddy comes in for the last time..

 

“Quit being ugly” This has nothing to do with how one appears, rather how one acts.  ‘Being ugly’ means that you are treating some meanly or with disrespect.  ‘Quit being ugly’ means that you should ‘straighten up and fly right’ and you might oughta do it pretty quick, especially if Grandma says it and don‘t make her say it twice!

IT’S ABOUT THE YARD by Mona Sides-Smith

June 1, 2014

My yard is a paradise for possums, birds, coons and squirrels. And me.

Natural landscape 4 inchesI have a mulch pile in my front yard. The mulch pile is snuggled under the most beautiful magnolia tree anywhere within a few miles of my house. Its branches cover most of the front yard, making it easy to pick a big, white, lemony flower and foist it on any neighbor who has been neighborly enough to wave at the old lady with the overgrown bushes. My yard features the garage door. The rest of the house is obscured by the magnolia tree, some giant crepe myrtles and other property line overgrowth that I whack on from time to time during the summer so that it looks like it grows in a somewhat orderly manner, part of the time.

My boxwoods are trimmed like little trees rather than bushes, and as soon as the black-eyed susans start blooming in June, the shrubs have flowers, toads and lizards under them until fall. The yard is small, being the point of a pie-shaped lot.

In the big backyard at a “big backyard party” once, a guest (a farmer) said, “My god, we bush hog out most of this stuff you’re growing back here.” Wild impatiens, thorn trees, volunteer cedars, stray ferns, monkey grass, turkey vine, honeysuckle … you get the idea. Also, azaleas, forsythias, runaway daylilies, potted jungle undergrowth that spends the winter inside the house, redbuds, dogwoods and three varieties of magnolia trees under huge oaks.Iris 3.5 There are also some areas that get mowed every week in the summer. I call it grass. It is a mixture of assorted weeds, violets, wild onion, mint and a little grass too. The yard backs up to a wilderness with several small lakes and several acres for wandering around among the honking geese, hiding coyotes, and the occasional deer.

Then, there is the bamboo next to the house. I could use a panda or two among the possums and snakes. That bamboo comes up in the spring like a rude greeting. The shoots come up by the hundreds in early spring and grow three or four inches a day. I begin whacking it back and loping it off every day that I’m able. I have shaped – well, loosely shaped – some of it to look like hedges to hide some rather unpleasant terrain that showed up when I removed a rotting deck. The hedge stays green year ‘round and is the only genuine single-stalk bamboo hedge I have ever seen. It all started from one little ole bamboo shoot that I carried home to Memphis awhile back from Jackson, Mississippi. Did you know that the darn stuff doubles every year? Yes sirree, every shoot grows another shoot each year. Mona's Yard 4 inchesYear two: two shoots. Year three, four shoots. If you do the arithmetic for more than twenty years, you will know that my neighbors to the west of me are in for a bamboo battle and they do not, at this time, have a clue. Probably, by the time they begin swearing over the back fence, I will have moved on, one way or another.

I am a messy gardener, as distinguished from a tidy gardener. I have the messy designation from good authority, a landscape designer who, many years ago, helped me begin this endeavor of talking to plants, hugging trees and fondling bushes.

 

The most often heard remark in my backyard is, “This is beautiful!”

Shelling Peas by Patricia Neely-Dorsey

shelling peas

IT’S ABOUT THE THREE KINGS OF MEMPHIS – By Mona Sides-Smith

May 12, 2014

Mona 3x4It baffles me why I enjoy having company so much. It wears me out. My feet swell. The utility bill goes up. The food supply goes down. Something gets broken. The cat throws up on the rug. The laundry builds up. Loved ones invite themselves to meals. The refrigerator overflows with good food. The air fills with laughter. Bad jokes happen. Good deeds are done.

Something that wears me out, but that I like to do with company, is take them on a tour of our town that I call “The Three Kings of Memphis.”

B B Kings 3.5 inchesA lot of my company prefers daytime entertainment. Most of us, me in particular, have reached the age where nine o’clock is bedtime. B.B. King’s place on Beale Street may not be the greatest food in town but, oh my! it has some GOOD live blues bands on some afternoons. There is a lot of shakin’ happening there with a Hammond organ, guitars, fiddles, horns and, sometimes, bouncing anatomy accompanying a heartfelt rendition of “I Feel Like Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home.” Add some barbecue and some cold beer or sweet tea and boogie a bit, and you have an afternoon to remember.

Then for a change of pace, there is an opportunity to smile, cry and get mad at the Martin Luther King Civil Rights Museum. I don’t even like to go there anymore, but I do. It is an emotional kick in the butt, reminding me of living in Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s. Medger Evers was shot dead. My friend, Donald Thompson, the Unitarian minister, was shot at the back door of the apartment building where his family and my family Civil Rights Museum 3.5lived. He had welcomed blacks into his church. He survived, barely. I was offered a job as managing editor of the Jackson Advocate, the black newspaper. I really wanted that job. My friends talked me out of it because I had two small daughters. Folks said I had a fifty-fifty chance of living for the next six months if I took the job. They said my daughters needed me more. We are called “civil rights activists” now. Then, we didn’t have that definition, we just did what we did.

The most anticipated and exhausting of the Three Kings of Memphis tour is pushing and shoving your way through Elvis “the King” Presley’s Graceland home. For anyone over sixty (which is most of my friends) seeing Graceland takes all day. Half a day to wait in line and then be thrilled, amazed and saddened while some celebrity narrates into your ear through headphones and gets nicely interrupted by Elvis singing one of his toe-tappin’ hits. There is the handsomely done hall of gold and platinum records, the jungle room with the tasteless rough wood and jungle patterned upholstered furniture, and of course, an indoor waterfall on one wall. Elvis said he decorated that room himself. Then there is the basement room with three television sets, mirrored walls and a mirrored ceiling. “The King” referred to that as “the passion pit,” I am told. After all that and a look at the totally furnished airplanes and the rather nice automobile collection, it is time for a lunch of Elvis’ favorite grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich. Then the other half of the day is needed for sharing a bottle of Tums and sleeping off a slice of Graceland 5 inchesAmericana that is unique and is on the “bucket list” of thousands, right up there with the Grand Canyon. In the last thirty-five years, I have been to Graceland more than anyone I know.

I still don’t know why I enjoy having company so much. But I do. The Three Kings of Memphis continue to fascinate me. I have to say that, as the years go by, it is getting nicer and nicer to have house guests who have already had their fill of the Three Kings and enjoy sitting on my back porch and looking off into the woods over a glass of sweet tea.    –The End.

More Southern Speak by Gary Wright

magnolia

“. . . tomorrow is another day,” by Scarlett O’Hara, a product of the mind of Margaret Mitchell.

Author’s disclaimer: Any resemblance to any real person, living or dead in this work is purely the fault of that person for resembling my fictional work.

Catawampus, as in “That thing is all catawampus,” means askew, awry, cater-cornered. In other words, all screwed up. Lexicographers don’t really know how it evolved, though. They speculate it’s a colloquial perversion of “cater-corner.” Variations include catawampous, cattywampus and catty wonkus. The South isn’t really big on details or explanations and most of us don’t really care whether or not you believe any of it.

Catty-corner, as in ‘It’s located catty-corner across the street,’ is a method of pointing out a location, meaning that the location is directly opposite one of four corners of an intersection. It comes from old English catre(quatre)-cornered, meaning four cornered. Alternately, it is stated caddy-cornered or kitty-cornered. All forms are acceptable in Southern speak, the more variation, the better for it keeps the Yankees confused.

south map

South versus north is a subject of endless debate and certainly not one for the faint of heart. Please notice that all self-respecting Southerners capitalize the word “South” and all of its derivatives, while the word “north” is generally uncapitalized. Please remember that that is not a purposeful disrespecting of the north. Well, actually, it is, but in a round-about, clever way. You see, north is simply looked upon as merely a direction, nothing more than a bearing on a compass. Whereas the South really exists; a mythical, mystical place where we live in peace and harmony. The land which was originally populated by Scarlett O’Hara and her people.

Cut on the electricity; cut off the electricity is a Southern saying which, at first glance doesn’t make much sense but after full explanation, it still doesn’t make sense. Everyone knows that you can cut off the flow of electricity by turning the switch to ’off’ or by simply pulling the plug. However, technically, you simply cannot ‘cut’ the electricity on. It’s impossible – you ’turn’ on the electricity; you do not ‘cut’ it on. But in the South, you can do pretty much everything your heart desires.

However, Southern-speak purists argue that, if you can ‘cut’ something off then you can ‘cut’ it back on. In this grammatical debate, the colorful has won out over the enlightened. That, after all, is the basis of Southern Speak. Now, if one of my dear readers uses these phrases, well, uh, ‘Bless your heart!’

Where, exactly, is the South?  It has proven very difficult to pinpoint exactly where the South is located at. A good indication of the South is when the writer ends a sentence with a preposition just like I did in the previous sentence. Instead of asking the question, “ Where are y’all?” the enlightened Southern-speaker will normally say, “Where are y’all at?” Again, it is almost obligatory to use a preposition thusly. If you want me to use another example, just ask me to.

Where is the north located, exactly?  It is perhaps, easier to specify where the north is, as opposed to where the South is located. Then, obviously, the South would be located wherever the north ain’t. This is a perfect example of Southern logic. The north is located on the other side of the Mason-Dixon line. The north is, simply put, everywhere that the South is not.

sweet tea

The sweet tea versus un-sweet tea dilemma.  The British brought tea to the colonies and it was promptly dumped into Boston Harbor. Originally, the British and the northern colonists only drank hot tea, which is understandable for ‘up north’ is usually quite frigid. As the tea bags slowly dissolved in the icy waters of Boson Bay that night, an enterprising Southerner, near drowning and in an Indian costume, sampled it and found it to be quite tasty.  He remembered how hot and humid it was ‘down South’ and how cooling it might taste.  Iced tea was born thusly. Nowadays, iced tea comes in two varieties: sweet and un-sweet. Many areas in the South are partial to one variety or the other.

When asked by your hostess if you want your tea “regular,” you are better off to simply say, “Yes Ma’am.” If you have to ask if “regular” tea is sweet or un-sweet, she is likely to point out the obvious (in a tactful, Southern manner,) “Y’all ain’t from around here, are you?”

The War– There have been many wars fought by the United States in which many, many boys and ladies of the South participated honorably and each of them has a specific name. However, when one refers to “The War,” one can only mean the “Great Unpleasantness” during which those yankees went and did something very ugly – they invaded our precious South. Also referred to as “the War of northern aggression,” and “the War of Southern Resistance,” it means a time when Southerners and northerners killed each other simply because of where they came from. Thank God and goodness that those days are gone forever and that we are, once again, truly one nation under God. I just wish the yankees would learn a few more manners and cut their visits a little bit shorter!

Alabama’s First State Capital

Southerners love their ghost stories, and we all have at least one to tell. With one of America’s deadliest wars fought on our soil, it is not surprising that spirits hold a special place in our past and present. That tension between the two is part of our identity, and part of being Southern. To preserve our culture it is important that we preserve these stories, and our efforts have been largely successful. What is important now is that we preserve the places and things these stories were born of – the historic cities, the artifacts, and even the ghost towns.

One of these ghost towns in need of preservation lies in Alabama just southwest of Selma, where the Cahaba River flows into the Alabama. Old Cahawba (known as Cahaba when it was founded), Alabama’s first capitol, was founded in 1820 and, unfortunately, never seemed to have much luck. The land along the rivers was prone to flooding and the mosquitoes from the swamps spread fever, giving the town the reputation of being unhealthy and dangerous. As a result, the capitol was moved to Tuscaloosa in 1826, and again in 1846 to Montgomery. Cahaba, abandoned by all but a few, clung to existence.

Cahaba revived in 1859, serving as the major distribution point for cotton shipped down the Alabama River to the port of Mobile, and the addition of a new railroad line triggered a building boom in the city. By the eve of the Civil War, more than 3,000 people called Cahaba home. Their success was short lived; during the Civil War the Confederate government seized Cahaba’s railroad to harvest the iron beams, and the Union blockade on the coast devastated their economy. In 1865 the town flooded again, and it wasn’t long after that that businesses and families abandoned Cahaba. Within 10 years, even the houses were being dismantled and moved.

During Reconstruction, the abandoned courthouse became a meeting place for freemen seeking new political power. A new rural community of former slave families replaced the old urban center, but even this community soon disappeared. By 1900 most of Cahaba’s buildings had burned, collapsed, or been dismantled. Few structures survive to this day, and what is left of the town was unincorporated in 1989. By that time, the only people to frequent Cahaba’s abandoned streets were fishermen and hunters.

Today, nature has reclaimed what’s left of the old town. Recently the Alabama Historical Commission took an interest in saving what remains of the famed former capitol. The property was bought, and archaeological and historical research projects were launched, leading to the establishment of today’s Old Cahawba Archaeological Site.

I visited Old Cahawba recently and was surprised. Even though it stands desolate ghost town it still remains Alabama’s first capitol – but it doesn’t seem to be remembered as such at all. Over the past decade funding for Old Cahawba’s restoration and property acquisition has been cut by 75%. The grounds are well kept but, unless you have some foreknowledge of the area, you don’t really learn much during your visit. The tours are self guided with maps and a scant educational pamphlet, and sometimes there’s a markers to be found at a site here or there, but there’s definite room for improvement.

Cahaba Schoolhouse If you’re ever in the area I suggest you seek out Old Cahawba (preferably not in the afternoon lest you be taken away by the biggest mosquitoes I’ve ever seen). Talk to the staff – they’re very informative. If they have a few moments to spare, one of them may be able to take you on a guided tour. The town is rich with history, our history, even if most of it has burned or been dismantled and moved away, and spreading knowledge of the place is the only way to insure its survival and preserve an important part of our Southern legacy.

Cumberland Island National Seashore

cumberland beach cropped

 

Rich with natural resources such as pristine maritime forests, undeveloped beaches and wide marshes, there are sea turtles, wild horses, and sand dunes. Cumberland Island, Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island, is 17.5 miles long and totals 36,415 acres, of which over 9,800 acres are Congressionally designated Wilderness.

 

Natives, missionaries, enslaved African Americans and wealthy industrialists all walked here. The written history of Cumberland Island begins with the early Spanish missions in the 16th century. In the 1730s, James Edward Oglethorpe laid out two forts, one on each end of the Island. In the 1750s, aspiring planters came to the Island. After the American Revolution, new families, such as that of Nathaniel Greene, arrived. The first mansion was built on the site we now know as Dungeness.cumberland ruins 2 In the early 1880s, Thomas Morrison Carnegie and his wife, Lucy Coleman Carnegie, came to the Island and established the family’s presence, which exists to the present day. In the 1960s the land began to leave the exclusive holdings of individual families, and the evolution of the National Seashore began.

Accessible only by boat, St Marys, GA is the gateway town to the island, located seven miles to the east. The National Park Service operates its ferry service from St. Mary’s, stopping at both the Dungeness dock and the Sea Camp Dock, and reservations are recommended.  Cumberland can also be accessed through Fernandina Beach, FL, via a private vessel operated by The Greyfield Inn.

There are two ways to stay on the island: at Greyfield Inn or at one of the National Park Service campsites. Most visitors to Cumberland Island gain their access through the National Park Service,and many camp at one of the various sites around the island. An overnight stay at the Greyfield Inn however, is a very special way to stay on the Island. The Inn is a converted Carnegie mansion, still owned and managed by members of the Carnegie family. For more information, visit the Greyfield Inn website here.

st marys port

Share Your Favorite Southernism

magnolia“How’s your mama’n’them?”

How many times have we heard that? Not once do we have to stop and wonder what a mama’n’them is…we know because we’ve been brought up on the South’s unique way with the English language. As our newest contributor, Gary Wright, wrote about in last week’s post, “Southern speak” has a long history of allowing people to say their peace without directly speaking their mind. In honor of our colorful southern way of speaking, we ask that you share your favorite “southernism” with the PorchScene community.

We have started the ball rolling with a few of our favorites:

“He’s got one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel”, “Finer than a frog hair”, “J’eat yet?”

“a mess of…”, “Chunk it!”, “Worthless as a tit on a boar hog.”, “Drunk as Cooter Brown”

“I’m fixin to…”, “Knee high to a grasshopper”...

Feel free to add yours in the comment box at the bottom of the page.

Quiet Elegance by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

Photo by Deborah Fagan Carpenter
Photo by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

A village so beautiful, even the pyro maniacal William Tecumseh Sherman didn’t set it ablaze. La Belle Village, or La Grange, as it is better known, rests on the bluffs above the Wolf River, about 40 miles east of Memphis, TN. Before the ravages of war, the lovely little village was a center of culture and education, where wealthy Memphians and others built elegant antebellum homes. La Grange flourished, with two colleges, several churches, several hotels, two drugstores and a number of successful businesses, and even a theatre.

Idyllic life in the community of approximately 3,000 met with an everlasting change when in July of 1861, the entire graduating class of the Presbyterian Synodical College for Men enlisted in the Confederate Army. Following the fall of Memphis less than a year later, the little town would be occupied by both Union and Confederate troops for the balance of the Civil War. Its position on the Memphis-Charleston railroad, which ran east/west, was essential for moving men and supplies, and the very location on the bluff that had been so appealing to the wealthy home owners, became the reason it was strategically ideal for Union occupation. Benjamin Grierson’s famous raid originated in La Grange, and both Ulysses S Grant and General Sherman would set up temporary headquarters there.

Photo by Deborah Fagan Carpenter
Photo by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

Charles Wills, a Union soldier of the 103rd Illinois Infantry would write in his diary in 1863; “This town has been most shamefully abused since we left here with the Grand Army last December…” Over 60 engagements or skirmishes were recorded as having taken place in La Grange, and a mass grave in the small town cemetery holds the bodies of over 150 Confederate soldiers killed there. Almost 50 homes or structures were destroyed or dismantled to provide firewood for the Union soldiers, and the little town would never return to its earlier prosperous life.

The end of the war did not bring an end of misfortune for La Grange. A large portion of Main Street was destroyed by fire in 1873, and the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878 killed approximately 40 residents and caused a number of homes to be destroyed to prevent spread of the disease. A cyclone in 1900 tore through the small town, devastating many homes, churches and businesses, also killing several people. The storm was perhaps the final blow, and prevented La Grange from becoming a thriving business center again or anything past a small residential community. But in spite of its ill-fated life, the quiet gentility of the little Southern treasure endures.

Today ghosts of the past hover over the peaceful, pristine little village and point toward its former glory and the inevitable and sometimes accidental tragedies which changed it forever. Many of the pre-civil war homes survive, some grand, some modest, but all painted white with dark green shutters, and all reminding the world of a time gone by. Sidewalks line the streets and flank flourishing gardens or white picket fences, laden with climbing roses or honeysuckle. Spring in the little Southern town is magnificent, with abundant azaleas, lilies and fertile gardens, and one would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful example of spring in the South.

Photo by Deborah Fagan Carpenter
Photo by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

Many of the buildings, once thriving businesses, remain and are often used as antique’s shops or art venues, but one will not find a McDonalds or even a gas station here. The 200 current residents are quite content to keep their little haven low key and far away from the throes of commercialism. It is noiseless and intimate, and they intend for it to continue to be peaceful and undisturbed.

Garrison Keillor visited La Grange in 1991 and wrote: “It’s the most beautiful town I think I’ve ever seen. Just big yards full of flowers, flowering bushes and trees and flowers everywhere, and vines. White houses — white houses, old big rambling white houses with verandas which had never been renovated you know, to their non-existent elegance, but sort of were slowly, quietly moldering like the rest of us. Just a beautiful little town, sitting out there.”

www.lagrangetn.com

Photo by Deborah Fagan Carpenter
Immanuel Episcopal Church—still serving the community. Photo by Deborah Fagan Carpenter

Spectre, the Best Kept Secret in Alabama

Available at Amazon

One of my favorite movies is Tim Burton’s Big Fish, a 2003 film about Edward Bloom, a former traveling salesman from Alabama with a gift for storytelling, who is confined to his deathbed. Bloom’s estranged son, Will, attempts to mend their relationship as his dying father relates tall tales of his eventful life as a young adult.

I won’t give away any more of the plot; if you enjoy tall tales such as those only a Southerner can tell, it’s definitely worth giving it a watch.

What I began to appreciate as I got older, however, were the familiar scenes. Big Fish was filmed almost exclusively in Alabama, mostly in Wetumpka and Montgomery. I’m proud to say that one of the more important scenes was even filmed at my alma mater, Huntingdon College. The one place I could never recognize, though, was the town of Spectre. In the film, Edward Bloom (played by Ewan McGregor) has taken an abandoned path through a supposedly haunted forest where he discovers a magical, sleepy little town. Spectre is made up of two neat rows of homes and businesses leading up to a humble, white church. No roads lead to Spectre, which rests on its perfectly trimmed and lush grass clearing.

Spectre
Spectre

(After rewatching the film this weekend, I admit that I was absolutely disgusted with how beautiful Spectre’s lawn was and sorely disappointed with my own. But I digress.)

I always assumed Spectre was a set, and I was right. What I was surprised to find was that Spectre still stands. Sort of.

I left early Sunday morning with a couple of friends and we made the hour-long trip to Millbrook, a small town just north of Montgomery off I-65. Down an unassuming dirt road we found what was left of Spectre; only some of the original buildings remain, a recent fire has destroyed the rest of them. The scorch marks are still visible on their foundations. Nature is, as it always has, slowly reclaiming what man has left behind.

I strolled down the short road and ventured into each building, mindful of rotting wood and exposed nails, and found that they most were hollow, lacking even a floor. Doors have fallen off hinges, the fake brick is peeling off the chimneys in chunks, and the roofs have begun to sag and cave in places. Over all, it was a pretty desolate scene.

But there is still some magic there. What is left of Spectre is located on a peninsula in the middle of the Alabama River, only connected to the mainland by a thin land bridge. The Spanish moss hangs heavy here, and wildflowers grow thick among the ruins. There’s a massive, broken, stone table near the edge of the water where one can sit and watch the river. Sometimes a fishing boat will roar by, but the quiet always settles again shortly after it passes. There’s a peace there, one that you will only find deep in the wilderness. Perhaps it is the one Burton intended Spectre to have.

Our trip lasted only an hour, partially hurried on by a rather cantankerous possum that had tired of our presence, but it was one I needed. I feel lucky to have had a chance to visit the town before it succumbs fully to nature, and I encourage anyone who is interested to take the journey. Though fictional, I believe that the decaying town of Spectre is still casting its spell on those who stumble upon it.

 

 

 

Magnolia Springs Retreat by Mary Prater

Oak-St.-from-yard-150x150Recently, I found myself at loose ends and decided to get out of town for a weekend trip. I was intending to go to Mobile, but when I got there I saw that Mardi Gras was in full swing. This isn’t always a bad thing, but I wasn’t up for navigating a town I don’t know well during what is probably it’s craziest and busiest time. So I continued across the bridge to the Fairhope side of Mobile Bay. I like Fairhope. I think it’s a cute town and I plan spend a weekend there soon. But on this day, it just wasn’t what I was looking for. I didn’t have a clear plan in mind. I was wondering south figuring that I would find a place to stay for the night, or run into the Gulf of Mexico. About 20 minutes south of Fairhope on Hwy 49, I saw a sign for Magnolia Springs. I had heard of this town from my father who stumbled across it about four years ago and was completely charmed. He recommended the local bed and breakfast and told me to look for the free-roaming peacocks. As I turned into town, I was greeted by lovely cottage homes flanking a graceful moss covered oak alley.

magnolia springs churchThere isn’t much to Magnolia Springs. You may have heard of it as the small town on the Magnolia River that boast the only mail delivery route on water.  In addition to the river and its homes, they have a few churches, a restaurant, the bread and breakfast, and and a handful of beautiful moss draped residential streets. I decided this would be the a lovely place to spend the evening.

Spring-Outside-2-150x150I easily found the Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast. A pretty historic hotel that owners Eric Bigelow and David Worthington  renovated and opened in 1997. Eric met me at the door of the pretty old yellow home. Inside, the home was tastefully renovated and comfortable. The original character was kept with the beautiful wood work found throughout the home. After a quick tour and an offer of homemade cookies, I was shown to my room. There are five guest rooms with updated private baths, each unique in character and decor.

 

 

Breakfast-Table-150x150McLennan-Bedroom-150x150great-hall-rear-view-150x150

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever the gracious host, Eric gave me some suggestions on how I could best enjoy my visit to Magnolia Springs. He told me to have dinner at the town’s best restaurant, Jessie’s, which was within walking distance of the bed and breakfast. I took his advice and was pleasantly surprised to find a seriously good restaurant in such a small place. Jessie’s features a good selection of dry and wet aged beef and bone-in chops. They also have fresh seafood from the surrounding area. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal here and plan on returning for more very soon.

After a leisurely stroll back to the bed and breakfast, I spent a very comfortable night in the Worthington Room. The next morning I woke to a breakfast of fresh fruit and yogurt, muffins, quiche and bacon. This was finished with a wonderful pear dumpling, for which the owners have generously shared the recipe. (For more of David and Eric’s recipes visit their blog and website www.magnoliasprings.com)

images

David’s Pear Dumplings

  • 1 pear – peeled, cored and cut into 4 quarters or thirds (can also use an apple, peach, blackberries or a ball of cranberries, anything that makes a good cobbler will make a good dumpling)
  • 1 Can Crescent Rolls
  • Cinnamon
  • Sauce: Warm the following three ingredients till dissolved
    1& 1/2 cup Orange Juice
    ¾ cup Sugar
    ½ stick butter
  • Wrap 1/4 of Apple with one piece of crescent roll and seal all edges. I usually have a big piece of fruit so when I cut it in half to serve I still have a nice piece of fruit in there. Otherwise they get nothing but a bunch of dough. Since I have a bigger piece of fruit, I roll out the triangle pieces of crescent roll with a rolling pin and a little bit of flour.
  • Place seam side down in Pyrex pan (9*13in.)
  • Pour sauce over them then sprinkle with cinnamon
  • Cook at 350 degrees for 20-25 min. till done.
  • Baste dumplings with sauce in the pan before moving to plate
  • I drizzle a small amount of sweetened vanilla yogurt on top as icing.
  • Makes 8 dumplings cut in half to make 16 servings.

PierI ended my morning in Magnolia Springs swinging on the front porch swing and relaxing (some more) with a cup of coffee. On my way back north on Hwy 49, I took another one of Eric’s suggestions and stopped at the Week’s Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. There is a small, but interesting, interpretive center for the Week’s Bay estuary, an easy boardwalk hike and, across the road, a fantastic pitcher plant bog that blooms throughout the Spring.

I had a wonderfully relaxing visit to Magnolia Springs. It is a pretty little town full of friendly charm and surrounded by south Alabama’s natural beauty. My only disappointment was that the peacocks were no longer roaming the streets. My understanding is that they blew in with hurricane Ivan in 2004 and were initially welcome. But as the flock grew, they became a nuisance and were relocated to a farm in Summerdale, Alabama.

Editor’s Note: All images are courtesy of Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast website. Thank you, David Worthington and Eric Bigelow

Spring in the Okefenokee Swamp by Mary Prater

okefenokee swamp vertical
Photo by Mary Prater

I have wanted to explore the Okefenokee swamp’s dark and mysterious waters for years, but trying to convince anyone that a trip to a mosquito infested alligator breeding ground has been tricky. After many refusals from potential travel companions, I realized that I needed to find someone who either had no sense or no choice. I finally made the trip this Spring with my very sensible fourteen year old son, Jackson.

Located in southeastern Georgia, the Okefenokee swamp is part of the 630 square acre Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It is a landscape of constant change that the Native Americans called “Land of Trembling Earth”. The dark tea-colored waters of the swamp flow slowly into vast “prairies” dotted with peat “batteries” on the east side, and between cypress and moss covered islands on the west. These unique habitats are home to a plethora of wild animals: alligators, white ibis, wood storks, sandhill cranes, gopher tortoises, bobcats, black bears, and a variety of snakes. Two rivers begin in the Okefenokee, the St. Mary’s and Suwannee, that extend this unique ecosystem to the Atlantic ocean on the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the south.

Photo by Mary Prater
Photo by Mary Prater
okefenokee lilypads
Photo by Mary Prater

There are many recreational opportunities available for a day trip or longer camping trip. Jackson and I opted for an easy day visit. We arrived early and made our first stop at the east entrance Richard S. Bolt Visitor Center. After a quick look at the exhibits explaining the swamp ecosystem and a short debate on whether the alligator sunning itself across the canal was real or fake, we headed over to Okefenokee Adventures. All tours, canoe/kayak and equipment rentals at the east entrance are offered through this privately owned and operated concessionaire. This is also the only place you will be able to purchase food or drink while on the eastern side of the refuge. We signed up for the hour and a half naturalist led tour. Our boat was shaded and comfortable enough for the length of the tour, and our guide was knowledgeable. We cruised through man-made canals that eventually opened onto a large battery covered prairie. Here we were met with spring blooming blue irises, water lilies and sunning alligators.

After the tour, we visited the Chesser Island homestead and boardwalk. This is an original homestead sitting on the 592-acre Chesser Island in the middle of the swamp. Why someone chose to settle here, I cannot imagine, but the home still stands and is surrounded by lovely wooded, moss covered hiking trails.

photo by Mary Prater
photo by Mary Prater

There is also a boardwalk that takes you through the tree covered swamp out to the Owls Roost Tower observation point. Here you have an expansive view of the Okefenokee from four stories up.

We explored the eastern side of the refuge on this trip, but there are entrances from the north and western sides. We found that the eastern side has the main refuge visitor’s center, outfitter rentals, tours and island homestead. This was a great choice for a day trip. The landscape on the east side was a little less “swampy” than I had imagined. While beautiful and interesting, the canals and open prairies lacked the moss draped canopy I was hoping for.

Photo by Mary Prater
Photo by Mary Prater

This can be found more at the western entrance from the Stephen C. Fuller State Park (Fargo, GA).  There is also the family-friendly privately owned Okefenokee Swamp Park (Waycross, GA) on the north end. We opted out of this entrance because we were looking for a more low-key experience.

After this visit, I am still completely fascinated by the Okefenokee swamp. I am also glad to report that during this springtime visit the mosquitoes were a non-issue. When I return I intend to enter from the western entrance. I still want to travel into the dark heart of the moss covered swamp.

Photo by Jackson Belford
Photo by Jackson Belford

Eudora Welty’s Garden: A Labor of Love by Jeanne Luckett

blogbutton2-weltyEudora Welty, one of the nation’s most cherished and celebrated writers, called Jackson, Mississippi, home. Although she studied outside the state and traveled widely, she wrote essentially all of her award-winning work from the family home at 1119 Pinehurst Street, where she lived for 75 years. Today her home is a National Historic Landmark, preserved for the public to enjoy as one of the country’s most intact literary house museums. Surrounding the home are three-quarters of an acre of lovely garden areas, originally designed and created in 1925 by Eudora’s mother, Chestina Welty. Eudora Welty HouseAfter Eudora’s death in 2001, the garden was carefully restored to the 1925-1945 period, when Eudora and her mother worked side-by-side, planting, watering, and weeding. The Welty Garden is still a labor of love — for garden restoration consultant Susan Haltom and a committed group of volunteers called the Cereus Weeders. They named themselves for the exotic night blooming cereus plant, a favorite of Eudora’s. They work in the garden weekly, year round, to keep it as beautiful and authentic as possible.

Photo by Susan Haltom
Photo by Susan Haltom

Featuring restored heirloom plants with “rooms” defined by arbors and trellises, the garden landscape follows Chestina’s plan, which assured that something would be blooming in every season — camellias and pansies in winter; larkspur, hollyhocks, and snapdragons in spring; phlox, zinnias, and blue salvia in summer; and asters, chrysanthemums, and spider lilies in fall. Roses, Chestina’s favorite, abound and flourish. In March, the historic Welty Garden will celebrate its tenth anniversary of being opened to the public. Sponsored by the Eudora Welty Foundation, the festivities include a luncheon and lecture by noted author and columnist Julia Reed on Thursday, March 27, 2014, at the Mississippi Museum of Art in downtown Jackson.

Photo by Susan Haltom
Photo by Susan Haltom
Photo by Susan Haltom
Photo by Susan Haltom
Photo by Susan Haltom
Photo by Susan Haltom

The gathering begins at 11 a.m. with luncheon at 11:30. Select heirloom plants — including camellias propagated from Eudora’s own plants as well as night-blooming cereus plants — will be sold before and after the luncheon. Spring plants will also be on sale at the Eudora Welty House and Garden on Saturday, March 29, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Luncheon tickets may be purchased for $60 each, with $30 being a tax-deductible contribution to benefit the Welty Garden’s continuing restoration. Tickets may be purchased by sending a check payable to the Eudora Welty Foundation to: P. O. Box 55685 Jackson, MS 39296-5685 For more information: email foundation@eudorawelty.org. “We hope that many will join us for this lively 10th anniversary event showcasing tall tales of Southern gardens and gardeners,” said Susan Haltom, Welty historic garden consultant and co-author of One Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty’s Homeplace. “Julia Reed is a Greenville, Mississippi, native and is widely known for her quirky wit and wisdom. She will be a delightful speaker for this special occasion.” The Welty House and Garden, administered by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, are open for tours Tuesday through Friday. Call 601-353-7762 or email weltytours@mdah.state.ms.us for reservations. Learn more about Eudora Welty and news of the Welty House and Garden at eudorawelty.org and at Eudora Welty House Museum on Facebook. e-vite_WeltyGardenParty-proof5 (1)

For the Love of American Spirits – John Emerald Distilling Company

1185296_505086456245388_1412494109_nOn any given day during juniper berry season, you can find Jimmy Sharp foraging for berries along the Selma highway trying to gather a year’s supply before the birds get them. The red cedar grows throughout the southeast and produces the berries that Jimmy plans on using for his craft gin. It’s not just the juniper berries that are being locally sourced. The Sharps are also using Alabama cane syrup, Chilton County peaches and local pecans. 

The South has had a long love affair with American-made spirits, especially bourbon. I like bourbon, so I was disheartened to hear that Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam were no longer going to be American-made spirits. Earlier this year, it was announced that a Japanese company would take over the ownership and production of these brands. The tradition of the American distillery runs deep in the southeastern part of our country. This is why I am glad to see the emergence of the southern small craft distillery. We are welcoming a new distiller to Opelika, Alabama in the next few months, so I met with owner Jimmy Sharp to learn about the John Emerald Distilling Company.

1513655_552929271461106_766959508_nJimmy Sharp and his father, John Sharp, were running a successful custom venetian plaster business out of Montgomery, Alabama until they had the idea they would like to dedicate their time and talents to making a business out of their hobby brewing. Jimmy and his wife had been blessed with their first child, and a business requiring less travel was becoming more important to the Sharps. They had seen the growth of the craft brewery industry in Alabama take off in the past few years, and realized they needed a different approach. Alabama doesn’t have a long history of legal distilling, so the Sharps decided to develop a distinct Alabama-style whiskey. They refer to it as “Alabama style” because it isn’t a pure bourbon nor a scotch. It is a blend of the two processes enhanced with local flavors of pecan and peach to create a unique product. They traveled over the next two years between Colorado, Chicago and finally the Springbank Distillery in Campbeltown, Scotland to learn first-hand the art of distilling. They decided to build their distillery in Opelika’s downtown arts and entertainment district after meeting local developer, Richard Patton. Here they found a growing, entrepreneurial community built around small businesses, local arts and a love of the redevelopment of small town Alabama.

The John Emerald Distilling Company is named after Jimmy’s grandfather, and all the products are named after different family members as a way of honoring family and bringing their spirits to their products. There is John’s Alabama Single Malt, Hugh Wesley’s Gin, Spurgeon’s Rum and Gene’s Spiced Rum. They are also developing a peach liqueur and experimenting with a muscadine brandy with ingredients sourced from a local winery (Whippoorwill Vineyards, Notasulga, Alabama). When you are a small, independent company, you can be creative.

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The distillery is set to open this Spring offering tours, with a tasting room and a program to share their knowledge through apprenticeships similar to the ones they participated in while learning the craft. At the time of our interview, the building was big and empty. It was hard to imagine the final business. I was shown where the tasting room and the state of the art maturation room would be. It takes vision to see past the empty space, and I am glad the Sharp’s had their vision. Production is set to begin in March, with their first whiskey available late this summer or early fall.

http://www.johnemeralddistilling.com

www.facebook.com/Johnemeralddistilling

https://twitter.com/JEDSpirits

 

 

The Love Project for Sunnybrook Children’s Home

Editor’s Note: We have included t-shirt and donations forms for this wonderful project. If you would like to contribute, simply right click on the form and print it from your computer. Today is a good day at PorchScene. We are so happy to be able to help promote this Labor of Love. Please helps us spread the word by sharing this post with your friends and followers. 

LP brickWhat do you remember about your childhood? Most of us grew up outside – riding bikes,
climbing trees, playing tag, and just being kids. Many people ask as they drive by the
Sunnybrook Campus, “Why aren’t the kids outside?

“Sunnybrook Children’s Home was chartered as a non-profit Christian childcare organization by the State of Mississippi on December 10, 1963. Founders Alonzo Welch, Clark Stringer, H. J. Massie, J. C. Redd and Robert M. Moon began this benevolent service to children in rented quarters on North Street in Jackson, Mississippi on June 1, 1964. Later, because of increased demands for services, a second house was opened on Jefferson Street in December 1964. Before June 1, 1967, these temporary locations comprised the total operation until moving to our present location on Sunnybrook Road in Ridgeland, Mississippi, a suburb of Jackson.

www.creativecommons.org
www.creativecommons.org

Sunnybrook Children’s Home is licensed by the State of Mississippi to provide residential care for male and female children from ages six through twenty who meet the criteria for basic care. Children considered appropriate for basic care are those who are capable of functioning in a family environment as part of the community. Children come to Sunnybrook through the Department of Human Services, the courts, churches and private family placements. Traditionally, most of the children come from Mississippi.Sunnybrook’s mission is to help society’s children who have had challenging beginnings in their young lives. The programs and services offered are designed to provide a sense of community, promote social skills, foster healing and reconciliation of the past. The campus itself can be a source of inspiration for kids of all ages.”

 www.sunnych.net

love project layout smallSome of the best childhood memories are made outside: roasting marshmallows around an open fire, looking up at the stars, grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, sitting on a swing on a
early fall evening. Currently, there is no location on the property to accommodate a large
group for outdoor gatherings or to provide age-appropriate outdoor activities. In addition,
many of the children have siblings in different houses on the property. Having a place for
these siblings to meet, play, and eat together is essential to foster a sense of family.

As we continue to improve the campus environment at Sunnybrook, we try to focus on giving the children the most “normal” life experience while they are here. These kids have gone through far more than we can ever imagine in their young lives. Sunnybrook provides a safe place for them with a family environment to help create some lasting memories.

LP group pixWe have assembled a group to design, plan, and build an outdoor covered grilling pavilion with tables and chairs as well as an activity area with trellises, swings, a life-sized checkers and chess board, bocce ball court, and gardens.

We call it The Love Project. In order to achieve our goal, we need your support. We need to
raise $150,000 to cover the cost of materials and labor and will also accept donations of
materials approved by our lead contractor.

Attached you will find a list of ways you can help support The Love Project and an invitation to our Groundbreaking ceremony on February 15, 2014. We will have activities for the kids, a tour of the proposed project site, and refreshments. We will also be selling t-shirts and bricks to support the project.