DeSoto Magazine March 2015

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CONTENTS 2015 • VOLUME 12 • NO. 3

features 64 Masters of Meat Learning the ropes of bbq competitions

56 Wood Wonders Biloxi’s Katrina sculptures born from resilience

50 Pass the Peonies Batesville garden highlights peony collection

departments 14 Living Well ProActive Heart & Vascular knows vein health

42 A Day Away Belzoni, Mississippi

18 Notables Meet Mississippi’s Senator Chris Massey

46 Greater Goods

22 Exploring Art Plan to prune with artistry 26 Exploring Books A walk in the garden with Charlotte Moss 30 Into the Wild Arkansas’ Buffalo National River faces new challenge 34 Exploring Cuisine Chef Marissa Baggett’s southern sushi 38 Exploring Destinations Fairhope’s annual Arts & Crafts Festival

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70 Homegrown BullShed Sauces combine new and old 72 Southern Harmony Hernando’s Marching Band takes state! 74 Table Talk Sighting original ice creams at area 51 76 In Good Spirits A toast to St. Patrick 78 Exploring Events 80 Reflections Moonflower Hopes

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editor’s note }

march

Hello, spring…

Over dinner recently, my heart grew heavy listening to stories about what’s happening to the environment across the globe. Australia, Hawaii, the Florida Everglades. Each person shared stories of living in areas that were once pristine but now polluted by overcrowding and trash. As I worked on the Buffalo River story this month, I simultaneously heard about the proposed development in the Grand Canyon. I wonder...why are we not just content to be and experience natural beauty without having to be courted by commercialism? In the case of the river, it’s double disappointment when even the protectors of natural resources turn their back. I think powers greater than ourselves invented spring just to renew our inspiration in all things green and growing. But if the parting frost isn’t enough, then read about the Katrina sculptures of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Amazing! It just goes to prove that if life hands you the proverbial lemons, then find a chainsaw artist to make everything better. See for yourself on page 56. Ready for gardening? Both Cindy Allgood of Batesville who grows peonies and internationally-known designer Charlotte Moss will lead you down the garden path to show you a few ideas. In her latest book “Garden Inspirations”, Moss could motivate even the biggest couch potato to put a shovel in the ground. Switching tracks slightly, we couldn’t help but talk about Hernando’s own winners, the Hernando High School

March 2015 • Vol. 12 No.3

PUBLISHER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Adam Mitchell

ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER & ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Paula Mitchell

EDITOR Karen Ott Mayer

ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Virginia Jenkins

CONTRIBUTORS Marching Band. Small but mighty, the band placed first in the 2014 state championships--the first time ever. Read more about their success on page 72. Meanwhile, it may be a little soon to talk about barbecue and ice cream, but not for those working all year long to perfect their culinary art. The Mississippi food scene is alive and well at area 51 and with the Killer Hogs. Curious? Keep turning the pages. And when you’re done, head outdoors and round up some spring inspiration. Cheers!

Karen

on the cover Beautiful Southern porches remind us that porch-sitting season is nearly upon us. Even on cool spring mornings or evenings, a porch can entice, especially when surrounded with nature and plants like at the Cockrell’s country home. Landscaping design by Homestead Farms Nursery of Coldwater, Mississippi.

Karen Ott Mayer Paula Mitchell Cheré Coen Bobby L. Hickman Jill Gleeson Corey Latta Andrea Brown Ross Dr. Michael Nelson Devin Greaney James Richardson Mary Ann DeSantis Charlene Oldham

PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media Co.

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© 2015 DeSoto Media Co. DeSoto Magazine must give permission for any material contained herein to be reproduced in any manner. Any advertisements published in DeSoto Magazine do not constitute an endorsement of the advertiser’s services or products. DeSoto Magazine is published monthly by DeSoto Media Co. Parties interested in advertising should email paula@desotomag.com or call 662.429.4617. Visit us online at desotomagazine.com. DeSoto 9


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living well }

leg pains

Leaving Leg Pain Behind By Dr. Michael A. Nelson. Photography courtesy of tareendermatology.com

As spring has finally arrived, many of us will begin exercising more to get back into shape and work off our winter weight. Undoubtedly, some people will begin experiencing leg pains during exercise or later at night after a long workout routine earlier in the day. We’ve all been told in some form or another that it is normal for our legs to ache and get charley horses as we get older. Aches and pains, after all, we believe are part of life, right? Often, pain is attributed to arthritis, low potassium or dehydration. Varicose veins, especially in young adults, are attributed to battle wounds reflective of the work we do, the price to bear for having kids, or on our inherited genes from our parents and grandparents. It turns out that all these truisms aren’t really true after all. Many of the aches and pains and varicose veins that we had previously thought were untreatable are actually signs of a very treatable underlying problem with the veins in our legs called venous insufficiency. With venous insufficiency, the internal invisible veins stretch out and can no longer overcome the forces of gravity. When this happens, blood begins to pool in the legs. 16 DeSoto

Venous insufficiency can cause many clinical symptoms. Some people do have unsightly varicose veins which are the knobby, twisty veins on the surface of our legs that tend to be both a cause of personal dissatisfaction with our appearance but also frequently become painful and more swollen toward the end of the day, especially if you are on your feet a lot during the day. However, most people with venous insufficiency don’t develop varicose veins but instead have legs that tire, swell, pain or develop a bronze color at the ankles. Some people get a charley horse especially at night and have restless legs that keep them awake. The good news is that venous insufficiency is easy to diagnose with a simple office-based ultrasound and also easily treated in the office setting. Venous insufficiency is treated with laser therapy called EndoVenous Laser Therapy (EVLT). During EVLT a small needle is placed in the diseased vein and a laser that produces heat closes the vein and forces blood to be re-directed into the healthier veins in our legs-which is very effective at alleviating symptoms. Some offices offer intravenous (IV) relaxing and pain medicines in addition


to local topical anesthesia; be sure to ask in advance if this is an offered service. The procedure takes less than an hour, and people are up and walking immediately after treatment. Mild bruising and aches are common for a day or two after the procedure; however, the results are immediate and the relief it brings is remarkable for many people. Often, this procedure is covered by insurance.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Whereas the aches and pains of venous insufficiency are usually worst in the evening after a day’s activities, some people get pain and cramping in their legs, particularly in their calves, while they perform activities or while walking. These symptoms are more often the result of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) which happens when the blood flow in the arteries of the legs becomes blocked. Cramping, aching or charley horses occur most often in the calves and occasionally in the thigh, buttocks or feet when performing activities or while walking a predictable distance. One common indication of PAD is that the pain stops with rest or when stopping an activity. If severe, PAD can also result in one foot being a colder temperature to touch than the other, may result in hair loss of the affected leg or foot may result in a bluish discoloration or even leg infections and ulcers. Many people who suffer from PAD mistakenly attribute their symptoms to arthritis or muscle cramps. Smoking, diabetes, family history, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are the most common causes of PAD. Frequently, people become more sedentary as the symptoms gradually worsen over time to avoid experiencing discomfort. The good news with PAD is that, like venous insufficiency, it is easy to diagnose. In the office, a doctor can diagnose by a simple ultrasound of the arteries or by inflating blood pressure cuffs on the legs and arms to measure circulation in the legs. Likewise, treatment options for PAD have advanced remarkably over the last few years. By placing a small needle in a leg artery several possible procedures can be performed to resolve blockages and restore better blood flow in the leg, all without invasive surgical procedures.

These include:

- Balloon angioplasty, which involves inflating a small balloon temporarily and then removing the balloon. - Atherectomy, a non-surgical procedure that removes small bits of the blockage itself with a nifty little device that internally shaves away pieces of the blockage. - Placing a permanent stent which provides a scaffold for the artery to heal the blockage. Often, a combination of all of these techniques is utilized. After some bed rest, people are up and walking later that same day. The majority of patients have remarkable immediate improvement in their symptoms and begin to walk and perform activities without pain. When considering where to get evaluated and treated for PAD, be sure to ask if these procedures and treatments are handled in an office setting or hospital. Many patients find procedures performed in a familiar office setting to be a more relaxing experience and it is often much less expensive in an office rather than a hospital. With these treatment advances for vein and artery problems of the legs, it’s no wonder many people are re-discovering and enjoying activities they had long ago abandoned due to pain. That reality alone will put a new bounce in most any step. Dr. Michael Nelson opened ProActive Heart & Vascular located in Germantown, Tenn. in June 2012. He is a Cardiology and Vascular Specialist, with expertise in Preventative Cardiology, General Cardiology, Interventional Cardiology, Peripheral Vascular Disease and Varicose Veins and Cosmetic Veins.

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notables }

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senator chris massey


Building Foundations Juggling a thriving business, legislative duties, and family time would be a challenge for anyone, but State Senator Chris Massey (Rep., District 1) says having a close family is his secret for getting it all done. By Mary Ann DeSantis. Photography courtesy of Chris Massey

Driving nearly 200 miles from Jackson to Nesbit on Friday afternoons gives Chris Massey time to wind down from his hectic week of legislative duties as DeSoto County’s District 1 State Senator. He may spend a moment or two reflecting about bills he sponsored or making a few phone calls, but the main thing on his mind is getting home to his family. “When I get home on Fridays, I’m always excited to see my wife, Cathy, and the kids,” said the 43-year-old Massey. “Family means a lot to me. We love spending time outdoors

together, especially on weekends.” It’s not surprising that he is close to his children — Katie, 20, Dalton, 17, and Morgan, 16 — because he grew up close to his own parents, Jack and Helen Massey. He followed his father’s footsteps into the family business, Massey Home Builders, Inc., where he is currently vice-president. Early on he became active with the local Home Builders Association, serving as local president in 2005 and again in 2010, and then as the statewide association’s president DeSoto 21


in 2011. He also served on national HBA Board of Directors. Those experiences whetted his desire to jump into politics. “When you are involved with the HBA on the state and national levels, you get involved in politics,” he says. “Going to Washington, D.C., to visit senators and legislators gave me the bug to run for local office.” When Massey decided to run for the state senate in 2011, the first person he told was his wife, the former Cathy Herron, a DeSoto County native and his high school sweetheart at Southaven High. Next, he went to his parents. “If it weren’t for my momma and daddy still being involved in the business, I could not be in the Legislature,” he says. “I had to make sure we were all on board because it would be a big change for all of us.” From the beginning, his expectation was to win. “I don’t do anything expecting to fail,” he added. “I believe politics needs good, experienced business people who understand what it means to make a living and who can stay connected to the people,” Massey said. The work ethic he learned from his parents and as a builder continues in his role as a state legislator. Since taking office in 2012, he has been the primary sponsor of 148 bills and co-sponsored others. He serves as the vice-chair of the housing committee and is a member of several others including education, finance, and tourism. Fighting for the Desoto County School District has always been at the top of his agenda. He campaigned to get more money for DeSoto County Schools, the largest school district in the state. “As a state, we’re supposed to be looking at educating all of our children. We need to continue to make sure the funding is there to improve public schools and be the best we can be,” he said. “Money is always an issue as is improving standards.” 22 DeSoto

Legislative issues vary each term. Among the bills he’s currently working is one to help grandparents with visitation rights. He’s also working to improve language on a another law that affects licensing through the Board of Contractors but is due to sunset. “If the law sunsets, licensing goes away,” he explains. “We want to make it easier to catch unlicensed contractors.” Massey describes the Legislature as a fraternity. Members form bonds when they work together and share many of the same concerns. “I feel like I have 51 friends across the state of Mississippi,” he said. “All I have to do is pick up the phone if I need something, and most of them would do anything they could.” Over the last two terms, he has become close to Senator David Parker, who represents nearby District 19, and Senator Tony Smith of Picayune. The men, along with two others, rent a house in Jackson while the Legislature is in session. “It’s nice to be able to go places together like receptions or out to dinner,” said Massey. “It’s like family. We may not politically agree on things but that doesn’t mean we can’t live together.” Massey sees an active year ahead, including a reelection campaign. He wants to continue to be an active voice for DeSoto County and Mississippi. The key, he believes, is balance. “Everything I do is for the family,” he said. “Keeping the kids on track and continuing my duties as a husband, father, and businessman are first. And what about future political aspirations? “I’m satisfied being a voice for DeSoto County. I will keep other doors open in the future, but for now I’m happy where I am. I want to take care of things in the present.”


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exploring art }

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pruning


Creative Cuts Story and Photography by Karen Ott Mayer

Pruning season is upon us. If the idea of mindless whittling away of crepe myrtles, shrubs and roses feels boring, then it’s time to rethink the practice of pruning itself. Pruning, the practice of removing dead parts for reasons like improving plant health, restructuring or simply to shape or encourage growth, can occur anytime depending on the goal. Generally, however, in the Mid-South, hard pruning occurs as early as February and into the last days of winter just before spring. Often, pruning is thrown into the maintenance bucket, so whacking away with little regard to artistry is quite common.

As anyone who pays attention can attest, crepe myrtles tend to catch the brunt of this approach as homeowners believe taking off any old growth at the largest sections is the answer. On the contrary, an older crepe myrtle that has been pruned properly gracefully arcs through the landscape with no knobby scars or stunted trunks. So when does pruning become an art and not an act? Brussel Martin, founder and owner of Brussel’s Bonsai located DeSoto 25


Brussel Martin

in Olive Branch, Mississippi has spent a lifetime chasing that very question everyday as he shapes and grows trees. Unbeknownst to many, Brussel’s Bonsai is the largest bonsai nursery in the U.S. with a wholesale business that connects bonsai enthusiasts from across the globe. That it has been located in north Mississippi for years is still a fact lost on many locals. Perhaps another unknown realization is that bonsai can be practiced indoors and out. Which brings us back to the original question: When could pruning be considered an art? It’s all about a mindset. “Bonsai is the technique; apply it to a tree and it rewards you,” said Martin. From the start, bonsai practitioners search for the inherent shape of a specimen and begin pruning, trimming, and wiring to achieve a specific result. Outdoor bonsai encompasses both deciduous and evergreen trees while indoor bonsai includes tropical plants like Ficus, Dwarf Jade and Hawaiian Umbrella trees. Dawn Redwood, Ginkgo and Japanese Maple are also widely used in bonsai. Bonsai actually originated in China while the Japanese tradition dates back thousands of years. A “bon” actually refers to a small tray or pot while bonsai is a Japanese word. Bonsai means growing miniature versions of trees in containers. Brussel’s Bonsai covers acres, and while not a retail establishment per se, visitors can make arrangements to visit. 26 DeSoto

In the outdoor bonsai greenhouses, the trees live without heat. “These greenhouses provide the ideal dormancy. In our area, many customers keep their bonsai outside and it’s not a big deal to winter store them unless the temperatures dip below 30 degrees. Then, you can heal them into the ground or bring them in an unheated space. Longevity lends to specimen bonsai which are collected and protected. Martin himself owns a 60-year-old Trident Maple that he has personally owned for the last 45 years. At Brussel’s, the oldest bonsai is a 200-year-old Pine Juniper. Martin offers free, friendly advice to anyone interested in purchasing bonsai. But he’s also witnessed repeated challenges for beginners. “You have to establish a routine, especially with watering. Most people either neglect them or give them too much care by overprotecting them. It’s important to understand that with bonsai the initial drastic changes and decisions are made on the front end. After that, it becomes more about restyling.” Newbies can enter the bonsai world rather reasonably. “Entry level bonsai either indoor or outdoor start around $25,” said Martin. Thinking again about larger specimens, bonsai gardens offer a unique look at highly-stylized landscapes. Martin points to the Bonsai Exhibition Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville, North Carolina and the


National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. as fine examples of viewable collections. Martin sees a strong future for bonsai. “There’s a bonsai club in Memphis and regionally bonsai is very active.” While many horticultural pursuits aim to produce food or are brief in cycles, bonsai focuses simply on the pleasure of producing a fine specimen. It’s not uncommon for plants to survive over 500 years and be passed from one generation to the next. Back to ideas of pruning as a seasonal chore or job, the parallel concept can exist in our gardens and yards. By simply taking the time to study a shrub or tree and find the natural shape, pruning can become a more artistic, creative endeavor leading to sculpted specimens to be protected over time. Even while we bemoan the humid heat of the region, it also spurs on growth. As the season advances and that boxwood or holly needs mid-season care, grab a set of sharp pruners and exercise your creativity.

Sure-fire Tips to Making the Right Cuts

• Make sure your pruning tool is sharp and clean • Start by removing any obvious dead or diseased limbs, stems or branches • If pruning to encourage blooms as in a rose, be sure to know how far from the bud to make the cut • The growing season offers the ideal time to play with the shape of a shrub

Want to Learn from the Masters? Make plans to attend Brussel’s Bonsai annual event, Rendez-vous. Join dozens of experts from around the globe who will be holding workshops and teaching for all levels. May 21-24, 2015

Brussel’s Bonsai brusselsbonsai.com

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exploring books} garden inspiration

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DESIGING OUTDOOR

INSPIRATION By Cheré Coen. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Moss

There’s a beeline from front door to back yard for Charlotte Moss. The award-winning designer of private residences and executive suites around the world, owner of retail stores and her own line of fabrics, furniture and a fragrance titled “Virginia,” among so much more, can’t get to her garden fast enough. “That’s my weekend Zen,” Moss told us via a phone interview this month. “I let the dogs out to run, put on other shoes and cut.” In addition to her designer work, Moss has published eight books on decorating during her 25-year career. This April the Richmond, Va. native will follow her Zen and detour into the garden with “Garden Inspirations,” based on her

experiences developing her garden, enjoying its bounty and visiting others for inspiration. “This book is, at its heart, six books in one,” Moss explains in the book’s introduction. “It is a very personal account of one woman’s garden — my garden — how I worked with someone to help me create it, and how I have enjoyed it, agonized over it, admitted defeat, and luxuriated in the many DeSoto 29


Author, Charlotte Moss

triumphant moments and seasons.” The book is not about gardening, she explained, but more about her personal experiences and the joy her garden has given her. Like designing and decorating a home’s interior, a garden needs a plan, Moss insisted. Twenty-five years ago she hired a professional to plan her yard and they have been together ever since, she said. The book showcases what that initial plan has produced for Moss, an extensive yard filled with ornamentals, flowers and shaped boxwoods formed into individual “rooms” for she and others to enjoy. “I wanted to be able to share that with other people,” Moss said of her gardening experiences. “Anyone who has ever started on a project, you need to know what you don’t know and find someone who does.” Moss advises gardeners — and she insists there is no such thing as a person who can’t garden — that they perform extensive homework and learn what plants work best in certain soils and climates. Gardeners should then consider the time involved in both the planting and the maintenance. “Installing it is one thing but maintaining it is another,” she said. Have a conversation with yourself, she suggested, and be clear on what you are capable of doing. If professionals can help with the maintenance, that’s another consideration. Since Moss is an interior designer, she looks at developing a garden much the same way as a home. She has created rooms in her backyard, breaking up an expanse of property for individual enjoyment spaces. For instance, she created a terrace off the dining room, an enclosed pool area and a place to escape behind the pool house “where it’s nice and quiet,” she said. “It seemed like the logical thing to create movement and a sense of discovery,” Moss said of the garden’s plan. 30 DeSoto


When developing a garden, individual rooms may be the answer to a limited budget or restricted time for working in the yard, Moss added. For instance, when renovating or designing interiors, people may work on one room at a time as money and time allows. Working from the inside out both helps plan a gardening space and bring the outdoors inside, she said. Stand inside rooms of the house and “consider the view,” then determine what you would like planted outside that room. “Let the garden in from the view of the rooms in the house,” Moss explained. One thing to remember is scent, Moss added, recalling how she worked on a Santa Barbara, Calif. home in winter and enjoyed the fragrance of jasmine outside her window. It brought her back to her Virginia roots, when delicious scents of the garden would seep through the screened porch door. “It’s about all the senses, not just what you can see but what you smell.” Failure will happen, Moss said, and it’s important to note that this is part of the process. “I think failure is part of success, it’s a key component of success. You brush that dirt off and keep going.” The bottom line for creating a garden will be “the delight of doing it,” Moss said. She’s found hours of pleasure working in her garden, both planting and cutting for flower arrangements, and the chance to learn more about herself. “I think you gain self knowledge,” she said. “You learn a lot about yourself.” She sums it up well in her new book: “What I have learned along the way is that the process, the act of creating something must begin with serious introspection. Houses and gardens move me and I will always continue to seek ways that allow me to express myself through them. Some people have more than one way of expressing themselves. I can assure you we all have more than we give ourselves credit for. We just need to dig a little deeper sometimes.” DeSoto 31


into the wild } buffalo national river

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As of this moment, one of America’s most important natural rivers, the Buffalo National River in Arkansas Ozarks, sits at the heart of an environmental controversy that begs one question: What happens when those disposed to protect our wilds fail in all regards?

To whom does this river really belong?

Whose River? By Karen Ott Mayer. Photography courtesy of arkansasmediaroom.com

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One of the last undammed rivers in the country, the Buffalo River in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains, became America’s first National River in 1972. To understand the current battle, it’s necessary to look backwards to 2012 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) undertook loan guarantees to C&H Hog Farms, a 6,500-pig factory farm located on a major tributary of the Buffalo National River called Big Creek. At heart is the issue of hog waste disposal---millions of gallons of it and untreated--into the tributary. “The obvious thing about this river is the pristine quality. It’s not only that you can see clear through to the bottom, but it has a huge amount of biodiversity,” said Emily Jones, senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. Plans to empty lagoons annually onto 17 fields includes 11 fields that are adjacent to the river. Moving almost silently and with no regard to due process, both on the public side and environmental, these two Federal agencies guaranteed loans to the operation which supplies pork to Cargill, an international producer of food products. The loans were backed by taxpayer funds but residents, taxpayers and even the National Park Service, were not given an opportunity to respond prior to the loans and permitting. “Three specific wilderness areas exist in this system: The Ponca, the Upper Buffalo Wilderness and the Leatherwood,” said Jones. 34 DeSoto

Over the last three years, a coalition comprised of NPCA, the Ozark Society, the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and the Arkansas Canoe Club have worked closely with Earth Justice, Earth Rise Law Center and Carney Bates & Pulliam to alert the public and organize legal action against FSA and SBA. In late December 2014, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas D. Price Marshall issued a decision, finding that the federal agencies “arbitrarily and capriciously” guaranteed loans to the C&H factory farm near the Buffalo National River by failing to take a hard look at environmental impacts and failing to follow proper procedures to protect threatened and endangered species potentially affected by the facility. “What makes this issue particularly serious is the geology around the Buffalo. Karst geology is very porous, making it easy for pollutants to leech into the soil,” said Jones. The national park in fact is home to over 360 natural caves, springs and sinkholes---all a natural result of the geology. According to Jones, the Federal agencies have moved in an unprecedented manner with respect to public lands. “There have always been family hog operations in this area, but they maybe had 500 hogs and they were located on top of bluffs. The size of this operation is definitely unprecedented and they failed to do any type of environmental impact study prior to guaranteeing the loans.” With only 11 percent of its watershed within the national park, surrounding water quality critically impacts the Buffalo. Not to mention, during the season over a million tourists flock to the scenic location to swim, paddle, fish, visit


prehistoric sites and hike the miles of trails. With the C&H facility generating close to 3.5 million gallons of manure and waste water annually (the size of the city of Hot Springs), the excess runoff threatens both human health and the system’s ecology. The river watershed is home to over 300 species of fish, insects, freshwater mussels, and aquatic plants, including the endangered snuffbox mussel, the endangered Gray bat, and the endangered Indiana bat. While litigation has dragged on, C&H continues to operate. But Jones encourages anyone who has an interest to voice their opinion. “The new governor campaigned on the importance of protecting the Buffalo. This river belongs to all Americans,” said Jones.

What Can You Do? Voice your opinion about the Buffalo National River. Contact the USDA, ADEQ, and Governor Hutchison Governor Asa Hutchison Arkansas State Capitol, Room 250 Little Rock, AR 72201 501-682-2345

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exploring cuisine } southern sushi

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SUSHI Gone

SOUTHERN By Charlene Oldham. Photography courtesy of Marisa Baggett

After opening her own restaurant and catering company at age 22, chef Marisa Baggett felt pretty invincible in the kitchen, which is why she didn’t think twice when a frequent client asked her to serve sushi at his next event. DeSoto 37


“I’d never had it. I’d never seen it. Didn’t even know what it was, but I’d just promised someone I was going to make them sushi,” said Baggett, who then owned The Chocolate Giraffe, which served sophisticated southern fare in Starkville, Mississippi. After doing a little research, she wasn’t feeling as culinarily confident, especially when she realized many ingredients would be impossible to come by locally. But almost any dish that includes rice seasoned with vinegar, sugar and salt can be considered sushi, according to Trevor Corson, author of “The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice.” Indeed, sushi doesn’t even have to include fish, which led Baggett to think about the basic concepts behind ingredients rather than fixate on unavailable exotics. Why not substitute pickled okra for pickled burdock root, she thought. “And that’s kind of where my signature, sort of Southern-style sushi was born.” Today, those creations have grown into a cookbook, “Sushi Secrets: Easy Recipes for the Home Cook,” with a second title focused on vegetarian sushi slated for publication next year. But it’s been a long road from Starkville to Sushi Secrets for Baggett. The young restauranteur enjoyed her initial experience so much that she introduced sushi at The Chocolate Giraffe and eventually shuttered the restaurant to move to Memphis and work as a pastry chef at Tsunami, where the menu includes dishes that span the Pacific Rim, before eventually enrolling in the California Sushi Academy’s professional sushi chef program. 38 DeSoto

“I kind of decided, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to bite the bullet and just go to sushi school,” she said. “And it was extremely difficult because I didn’t have any money.” Nor was she sure training would get her a job behind a sushi bar. Before leaving for Los Angeles, she took the time to call academy officials to let them know she didn’t fit the traditional image of sushi chef. She’d be the first African American woman to graduate from the program and wanted to get an idea of her professional prospects. “And they were very welcoming,” she said. “They said, ‘Please come, but we can’t guarantee anyone’s going to want to hire you.’ I felt like that was a good, honest answer. I absolutely loved sushi school. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. But being in L.A. and being broke was not.” After a challenging three-month program that included couch surfing and more than a few nights crashing in an unused bathroom connected to the school before her supportive parents put her up in a hotel, Baggett did land a job at Do Sushi, in the space that is now home to Bar DKDC in Memphis. She eventually left Do to focus on writing, catering and teaching sushi-making classes. Today, she still caters and teaches while spending weekdays working for a special-needs day facility where she was originally asked to implement a culinary program. Baggett finds it a welcome respite while trying to perfect, plate and photograph vegetarian recipes featured in her second book. “It’s an intense process, so it’s nice not to have to do that and go work in a sushi bar,” she said.


She realizes readers and students in her classes probably aren’t up for all-day sushi sessions, either. Much of her teaching and writing focuses on introducing basic techniques to unlock individuals’ creativity rather than complicated skills such as cutting a whole fish down to sashimi. And her upcoming book is a response to readers of her website, In the Kitchen with a Southern Sushi Chef, where recipes for vegetarian and vegan sushi proved some of the most popular posts. “For most people, vegetarian is just add mushrooms or take out the meat, and with sushi, most people take the same approach. It’s just take the fish out and serve the roll. But it’s not tailored toward vegetarians, so there’s really not a whole lot of flavor or fun combinations. And so I felt I really wanted to reach out to people who were using the information [on the web] and give them more of what they want.” Making sushi accessible to people with special diets is a natural progression for Baggett, who was a vegetarian for years and now keeps kosher. She also remembers how scary sushi seemed after reading those first few cookbooks years ago, and wanted her first Sushi Secrets book, and all her other work, to be different. “I didn’t find anything relevant to me in Starkville, Miss. The problem with most books is that they only take into consideration what you can find in large cities and pretty extensive Asian markets. I wanted this to be a book that someone from Mississippi or Manhattan could use.”

I’d never had it. I’d never seen it. Didn’t even know what it was, but I’d just promised someone I was going to make them sushi. DeSoto 39


exploring destinations } fairhope, al

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Art

is in

Air

the

By CherĂŠ Coen. Photography courtesy of conservationalabama.com, granolameetsgrits.com and beautifulfairhope.com

Deep South early spring is a tease, hovering just beyond our reach with small splashes of color, giving us hope that warmth has arrived for good and will not be supplanted by ice and cold. But March can be fickle. DeSoto 41


One way to eliminate gray and leave the coat at home this month is to head south to the coast and soak up sea, sunshine and the artists’ palette in the quaint town of Fairhope, Alabama. The unique hamlet overlooks Mobile Bay from a bluff, only a short drive shy of Gulf Shores. Filled with treelined neighborhoods and a downtown accented by flowers all year long, the small town of about 13,000 owns a unique history and hosts one of the best arts and crafts festivals of the South. Fairhope began around the turn of the 20th century with a group of about 500 people yearning for their personal utopia. They established a Single Tax Colony on the shores of Mobile Bay, a place where no taxes were collected except for a single land tax, based on economic theories of Henry George. Citizens were involved in municipal services and created the city’s beachfront park, library, quarter-mile pier into Mobile Bay and other parks and services. Those entrepreneurial founders were hoping this economic experiment would have a “fair hope of success,” and the name stuck. Over the years the town has attracted visitors, artists and craftsmen, making it both the vacation resort and artist colony it is today. “It’s the Saint-Tropez of Alabama,” said Fairhope artist Fred Nall Hollis, an internationally-known artist who simply goes by the name, Nall. The award-winning artist owns 42 DeSoto

a studio in downtown Fairhope, plus runs the NALL (Nature Art & Life League) Art Association in France that offers artistic training for college students. In 2000 he organized the Alabama Art Exhibit that combined his portraits of chosen artists along with their works. Nall’s art and the book “Alabama Art” that came out of the Alabama Art Exhibit can be found at the Renaissance Marriott hotels of Alabama, including the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort located just outside of Fairhope in Point Clear, one of the top resorts and spas in the country, according to Conde Nast Traveler. One of the best times to visit Fairhope is March 20-22 for the annual Arts & Crafts Festival throughout downtown, a spring fête chosen as one of the top 20 events in the southeast for March by the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and a top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society. This month, the free festival celebrates 63 years with more than 230 exhibitors from around the country competing, many from the southeastern states. The three-day, massive outdoor gallery will also include live entertainment, food, a children’s art area and more. Previous festivals have attracted around 300,000 visitors so a shuttle service is offered from various shopping centers around Fairhope with free parking and $2 one way tickets for the shuttle. There’s also free valet parking for bicycles


behind the Fairhope Museum of History and handicapped parking in the Municipal Parking Lot on Bancroft. Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The Grand Resort makes for an excellent base camp for the Arts & Crafts Festival and a great way to round out a visit to the area. Visitors may enjoy the resort’s luxurious spa with its expansive quiet room destined to erase all cares and worries, its award-winning golf course, family activities and several dining options within the historic hotel. After a day of supporting the arts, afternoon tea may be in order, or a sail on Mobile Bay as the sun sets.

The Grand offers several spring specials, from girlfriend packages to garden tours. www.grandhotelmarriott.com or call (251) 928-9201 fairhopeartsandcraftsfestival. convergelocal.com. DeSoto 43


a day away } belzoni, ms

Belzoni, Mississippi

only 10:00 Belzoni is considered “The Catfish Capital of the Wor ld”, so it’sures fitt ing to make the Catfish Museum your first stop. The museum feat handcrafted exhi bits by state arti sans from the reno wned Mississippithe Craftsmen’s Gui ld. A video presentation show s the complete stor y ofica of the catf ish from fingerling to frying pan. Don’t miss “King Cat ,” a repl world’s largest catf ish, measuri ng over 40 feet. 12:00 After tour ing the museum head over to the Varsity restaurant on Hayden Street. The perfect fried catf ish meal! 1:00 Hit the cute Hayden Street shop s and spend time brow sing antiques, gifts, clot hing and jewe lry. called 2:30 Explore the Ethel Wright Mohamed Stitchery Museum. Oftenused Mississippi’s Grandma Moses of stitcher y, Ethel Wright Mohamed ily’s beautiful and intr icate stitches on fabr ic to tell the stor ies of her fam ht to life. She called her work “memory pict ures” and has given us great insigachieved the hist ory of the Mississippi Delta’s way of life. Her stitcher y hase. internat ional accl aim, including placement in the Smithsonian Inst itut s and 4:00 Str oll through Wister Gardens, a 14-acre garden of f lowers, tree ugh shrubs. The hundreds of azaleas are stunning star ting in late March thro nder on late Apr il. Rel ax in a gazebo, enjoy the black swans on the lake or meangti as serpenti ne pat hs through the trees. Some 8,000 azaleas bloom in spri treeme,s. do numerous bul bs (inc ludi ng 4,000 tuli ps) and a variety of love ly fruit cious 6:00 Dinner at Alison’s, a local favorite on the weekends. Known for its deli burgers and seaf ood entrées.

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40th Annual World Catfish Festival - March 28 The World Catfish Festival has become a major tourist draw to the Mississippi Delta. Because of its reputation as a family oriented event, the World Catfish Festival has received several awards including Top 100 Events in North America and Top 20 Events of the Southeast. About 3,000 people attended the first festival in 1976, and it has grown to more than 10,000 attending each year. The festival now encompasses the whole downtown area, including four streets with more than 150 arts and crafts vendors, and live entertainment which features blues, country, gospel and more. In addition to the live entertainment, the crowds are entertained with a Little Miss Catfish Pageant, Miss Catfish Pageant and a catfish eating contest.

worldcatfishfestival.org belzonims.com mamasdreamworld.com wistergardens.org DeSoto 45


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greater goods } garden accessories

Garden Accessories

Blue Fleur-de-lis Cast Iron Bistro Set $169.99 Kirkland’s Laurelwood Shopping Center 4544 Poplar Ave Memphis, TN 901-767-3897 Colonel Reb garden statue $119 Four Seasons Garden Center 1745 Hwy 51 S. Hernando, MS 662-449-1768

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Fleur-de-lis Paver $6 Four Seasons Garden Center 1745 Hwy 51 S. Hernando, MS 662-449-1768

Eclectic Galvanized Metal Planters $29.50 – $149 potterybarn.com


greater goods } fountains

Fountains Classic Four-Tier Estate Fountain $5,500.00 frontgate.com

Garden Fountain $312 Four Seasons Garden Center 1745 Hwy 51 S. Hernando, MS 662-449-1768

Platia fountain $177.95 Memphis Waterworks 741 S. Cox Memphis, TN 901-276-3806

Ceramic Sculpture 3-Tier Fountai $69.95 pier1.com

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greater goods } spring break

Spring Break Gingersnap Sandals - 24$ Charms - $7 each Bon Von Gift Shop 214 W Center Street Hernando, MS 662-429-5266

Mudpie shorts $37 The Merry Magnolia 194 Military Road Marion, AR 870-739-5579 Gingersnap Sunglasses - 21$ Charms - $7 each Bon Von Gift Shop 214 W Center Street Hernando, MS 662-429-5266

Vera Bradley ResortCollection The Pink Zinnia 134 W. Commerce Street Hernando, MS 38632 662.449.5533

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Freakers coozies $12-$14 Cynthia’s Boutique 2529 Caffey St Hernando, MS 662-469-9026


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Where HeirloomS Bloom By Andrea Brown Ross. Photography courtesy of Karen Ott Mayer

For a brief moment in spring on a hillside outside of Batesville, Mississippi, a colorful palette paints the country garden of Cindy Allgood. While the garden sports mixed perennials, it is the proud peony that dominates the neat rows, reminding of more graceful, Old World gardens once tended carefully by someone’s grandmother or aunt. An avid gardener who has earned many flower show awards, Allgood has been growing peonies for over 20 years. Walking with Allgood through the garden it’s hard not to catch her enthusiasm for this early spring bloomer, many heavily scented and each uniquely different. A popular choice for mixed arrangements and weddings, peonies (whose correct pronunciation depends on the gardener) lend a romantic air to even the most formal gardens. Allgood’s own interest in this perennial flower began long before she was born.

“My great-grandmother gave my grandmother a festiva maxima when my father was born in 1934. A festiva maxima peony is white with a red fleck. My grandmother then planted it near her home in which she lived for about 60 years. My father married my mother in 1952. After establishing their home, my grandmother gave them a piece of the plant. In turn, my mother gave me a piece for my home, which I’ve lived in approximately 22 years.” It is that very passalong tradition that makes peonies a steadfast site in older gardens. DeSoto 53


Allgood described how the landscaping evolved in her yard. “Our intention was to use part of our three-acre yard as an orchard. However, I quickly learned I could not grow fruit. So, we eventually began systemically digging up the trees and replacing them with peonies. I have six rows of peonies with over 35 varieties. As I noticed a sunny area opening up in the yard, we integrated other flowers, such as crinum lilies, daisies, and daylilies. Now we have something blooming in our garden each month.” As a longtime member of the Batesville Gardening Club, Garden Clubs of Miss. board member for over 14 years, and a flower show judge, Allgood’s garden will be a part of the tour during the 86th annual convention of The Garden Clubs of Mississippi, Inc. happening April 15-16th, in Batesville. Allgood shared what she has learned about peonies through her years of gardening. “Peonies’ true colors are red, white, and pink. There are new plants that have been crossbred with the Japanese tree peony. They have created new colors such as yellow, lavender, and coral. However, these new varieties of peonies are not 54 DeSoto

fragrant. There are countless varieties of peonies. The Sarah Bernhardt and Karl Rosenfield are just a couple of examples.” Cold weather sets the peony. “In northwest Mississippi, we are close to the bottom of the growing zone. In the southern part of our state, very few are grown due to the warmer temperatures. I use Missouri as one of my sources to get peonies. They are popular choices in states north of here where the temperatures are much cooler, “ elaborated Allgood. “Peonies typically only bloom for about two to three weeks. They will usually bloom the last two weeks of April and are gone by Mother’s Day. The entire garden will smell during spring evenings when they are in bloom.” Allgood also offered the following advice. “The plants don’t like to be moved or separated but every eight years or so. Observing ants climbing over the blooms is not a cause to worry. The ants are actually acting as a natural pest control eating the aphids.” With two locations in Hernando and a main location in Coldwater, Mississippi Homestead Farms Greenhouse & Nursery, will soon offer a selection of peony varieties. Varieties will include Bowl of Beauty, Duchess de Nemours, Felix Crouse,


Kansas, Karl Rosenfield, Laura Dessert, Sarah Bernhardt, and Shirley Temple. Mandee Mothershed, manager of the Coldwater location, commented. “Typically, all three locations will carry all varieties. However, if necessary, customers have the option of requesting a particular variety from another Homestead location as they are available. Our peonies are usually available the end of March or first half of April. Peonies can do well here if planted and taken care of properly. Our staff members are available to assist customers with any questions,” said Mothershed. All locations of Homestead Farms Greenhouse & Nursery are open seven days a week. Check out their website, www.homesteadfarmsnursery.com or like them on Facebook to keep up with daily happenings. DeSoto 55


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Like Allgood, many gardeners who grow peonies find themselves soon in acquisition mode. Like roses, peonies tend to be collected en masse, and in some cases, dug up and passed along to keep collections alive. In fact, on a national level, the University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum has partnered to lead a collaborative effort to conserve the range of peony species in the U.S. and Canada. Visit their site at mbgn.umich.edu/peony to view the list of gardens. As Allgood proves, however, that trial and error can lead to an unexpected abundance. While perhaps short of fruit trees, she has proven spring blooms eternal in a peony garden.

Allgood’s Peony Pointers If you buy a potted plant in the spring, leave it in the pot until fall. Keep it from extreme heat all summer. Do not plant the tuber too deep so it can get cold in the winter. Mulch heavily in the summer as not to expose it to extreme heat. Growing peonies in pots is a successful way, as long as you protect them from extreme sun past June.

Want to learn more about flowers? Young gardeners can find seasoned growers and showers through any local garden club throughout the state. With many varied civic projects, education and practical guidance, a garden club can be a fun teaching experience--while honoring grandma’s gardening heritage. msclubs.esiteasp.com

Upcoming Event The Garden Clubs of Mississippi, Inc. 86th Annual Convention “Azaleas to Zinnias” April 15-16, 2015 Batesville, Mississippi

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When people found out I wasn’t taking any money for it, that I was doing it for free they would try to give me money. But I wouldn’t take it. I’d get up really high in these trees, working in a man lift 20 or 30 feet in the air and at the end of the day I’d come down and find gifts people had left for me at the base of the trunk, with little notes on them. I’ve found prayer shawls, jars of jam, pottery, tea cup sets. I was humbled that it meant so much to people.

Marlin Miller

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By Jill Gleeson Photography courtesy of Marlin Miller

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Chainsaw Artist, Marlin Miller

They rise against the ever-changing skies of the Magnolia State’s coastline, as resilient, purposeful and touched by grace as the people who call this salty swathe of America home. They are the Katrina Sculpture Trees, glorious, centuries-old giants killed by the hurricane’s massive storm surge but given a second life as carved works of art. By most estimates, there are well over 50 of them – mainly live oak, with a few cedar and cypress here and there. They extend into Louisiana and Alabama and dot other towns in Mississippi, though the preponderance divide Highway 90 in Biloxi. According to a Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau survey, the sculptures are now one of the top tourist attractions on the Mississippi seaboard. Once dead wood marked for removal, the trees have come to symbolize worldwide the rebirth of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the enduring, indomitable spirit of its residents. “It’s a great story on so many levels,” said City of Biloxi public affairs manager Vincent Creel, of the project he helped initiate. “We’ve created natural art from catastrophic destruction and shown that we can rebuild in an innovative, unique way. Those trees have become landmarks. Rarely a day goes by that somebody isn’t photographing them. It’s absolutely been an inspiration to the community.” The idea for the trees is actually rooted in Gulfport, Biloxi’s neighbor 13 miles to the west. In 2006, searching for a way to help beautify the town after Katrina’s brutal onslaught 60 DeSoto

the year before, Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr and Director of Public Works Kris Riemann hatched a plan. They hired Sandersville-based chainsaw carver Dayton Scoggins to sculpt the oaks in the Highway 90 median that had been killed by the storm’s nearly nine-hour saltwater incursion. Scoggins, an internationally award-winning artist, agreed to take a look at the trees. And then ill fate in the form of the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) intervened. “The day before I was scheduled to go down there,” Scoggins recalled, “MDOT came through and cut down all the trees they’d picked out! They were devastated. We did end up doing a couple for Gulfport. I did one on 90, and then about


three in the little park they have there. But the big garden they wanted to do kind of got shot in the foot, I guess.” The whimsical coastal marine life Scoggins carved out of the oak trunks in Gulfport – such as the surprisingly patrician-appearing pelican located in the center of 90 – would set the tone for the artwork to follow. After losing so many of the trees he had hoped to see transformed, Riemann contacted Creel and suggested Biloxi take up the venture. Creel and Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway did, hiring Scoggins, DeSoto 61


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whom they asked to continue creating light-hearted, playful pieces. Scoggins visited the city in March and May of 2007, eventually turning a total of five trees into a menagerie of sea creatures and water fowl, from a pod of sleek bottle nose dolphins to a congregation of pensive, skyward-peering egrets. Project completed. The story might have ended there but for Marlin Miller, a renowned wood sculptor from Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. Marlin heard the tale of the Katrina Trees and recalling how Biloxi residents had volunteered in his community following 2004’s Hurricane Ivan, decided to return the favor. After getting the green light from Creel, the artist arrived in December 2007, donating his talent and two days of time he spent carving four trees into dolphins, egrets and a seahorse. While the sculptures are stunning, equally remarkable is the reception Miller received from the townsfolk of Biloxi. “When people found out I wasn’t taking any money for it, that I was doing it for free,” Miller explained, “they would try to give me money. But I wouldn’t take it. I’d get up really high in these trees, working in a man lift 20 or 30 feet in the air and at the end of the day I’d come down and find gifts people had left for me at the base of the trunk, with little notes on them. I’ve found prayer shawls, jars of jam, pottery, tea cup sets. I was humbled that it meant so much to people.” Galvanized by the reception, Miller returned again and again to Biloxi over the next few years, eventually spreading out along the Gulf Coast and carving Katrina Trees from Fairhope, Alabama, to Hammond, Louisiana. Along the way Stihl began providing free chainsaws, with hotels contributing complimentary rooms and meals. The national media picked up on the story and “NBC Nightly News,” CNN and the “Today Show” among others, ran features on Miller and the trees. Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America” became a buddy after he dedicated a mammoth, 25-foot-tall statue of an eagle in Pass Christian to her father, a Tuskegee Airman. It’s been, as Miller is quick to admit, a great ride. “They say if you give, you get back,” noted Miller. “That was never the intention but it really did happen with us. Working with the trees has completely changed my life. But it’s also been exciting DeSoto 63


From left to right, artist Marlin Miller, Long Beach Mayor Billy Skellie, Southern Miss Gulf Coast Associate Provost Pat Joachim and Southern Miss Provost Bob Lyman pose next to the sculpture of golden eagles in front of the university’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach.

for me just as an artist because it puts so much energy back on that coast. After the TV cameras pulled out there was still so much damage, and then the oil spill hit and the recession… it was great that they could use those sculptures as a catalyst to get the national media attention when they needed it so much.” Visionary ideas coupled with superb execution often inspire the most sincere form of flattery and the Katrina Trees are no exception. Bay St. Louis has its own versions, created by chainsaw artist Dayle Lewis of Indiana. In addition to carving marine wildlife he also crafted angels out of the oaks killed by the storm. They include the “Demontluzin Avenue Angel,” made from the tree that so famously saved three people and a small dog who clung to it during Katrina. In Tupelo, Scoggins recently sculpted trees killed in last spring’s tornado at the Joyner Elementary School and the GumTree Museum of Art. And further afield, Galveston, Texas, has turned the stumps of more than 35 trees killed during Hurricane Ike’s 2008 saltwater storm surge into statuary. As the 10th anniversary of Katrina approaches on August 29, Miller will be leading an effort to refurbish the Biloxi Katrina Trees. He’ll return to the town the second week of June and with the help of an army of volunteers refinish and repair the ones in need of TLC. But is there a possibility of new sculptures on the horizon? Perhaps. Although Miller calls the project done, he isn’t quite ready to call it quits. “I suppose as some of these smaller trees get reclaimed by Mother Nature we’ll add more from time to time,” Miller mused. “When large historical trees die, or lose their limbs or get hit by lightning or – God forbid – are damaged by another storm… I hate to say it’s over. I have nothing on the schedule right now, but if the right tree 64 DeSoto


comes along and it’s got a lot of character and talks to me, I just might be able to do something with it.”

“it was great that they could use those sculptures as a catalyst to get the national media attention when they needed it so much.”Marlin Miller DeSoto 65


Mark Lambert at Barbecue Live

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Cutting ribs

Story and photography by James Richardson

Barbecue competitions are serious business.

Most everyone knows about the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, but not many people know there are about 200 competitions held across the country within the main sanctioning organizations, like the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS), the Memphis in May (MIM), and the International Barbecue Cookers Association (IBCA), and probably thousands not sanctioned by the major organizations.

Because of that, competitive barbecuing can mean serious heat. DeSoto 67


Barbecue Live

Mark Lambert of Sweet Swine O’Mine Distributing, a World Champion Barbecue Team, four-time World Pork Shoulder Champion at Memphis in May, along with Malcom Reed, his wife Rachelle, and Malcom’s brother Waylon, teach Barbecue Live, which is a cooking school for competitive barbecue teams. Malcom and Waylon, known as the Killer Hogs Competition BBQ Team, have cooked the competition a time or two as Malcom described. “We have been cooking at Memphis in May as the Killer Hogs since 2006. And in 2006, we were fortunate enough in our first year to win the Patio Division Grand Champion and we’ve been cooking ever since. Patio Division is one for amateurs that have not turned professional yet. They also have the Shoulder Whole Hog and Rib Division. When we first started, we were amateurs for sure, but little did we know we were going to win the first year. Luck was on our side and the judges really liked our ribs that year.” Winning ups the ante for grillers as moving to a professional level requires more time and money. For Reed, cooking and teaching fast became synonymous. “We have partnered with John Woods of First Choice Catering in Horn Lake, and are hosting barbecue classes where we bring in people from all over the country to teach the art of competition barbecue. We are focused mainly on the KCBS 68 DeSoto

style of contest. The Kansas City Barbecue Society is the sanctioning body of barbecue contests all across the country and a lot of foreign countries, too.” Their classes are called Barbecue Live and attract serious barbecue teams from across the country. Their courses include their winning tips on preparing and presenting pork, brisket, ribs, and chicken. Teaching also focuses on adding sauces, seasonings, and how to build blind boxes--which is the presentation of barbecue. At a recent Barbecue Live, there were competitors from California, Florida, New Mexico, Texas, Illinois, Arkansas, and as far away as Alaska. Some local teams were present also. One team, Wesley and Brian Carpenter of the Royal Cookers, a fatherson duo from Hot Springs, Arkansas, were very interested in the classes. They began competing about two years ago and have competed in 12 contests, all within the Kansas City Barbecue Society sanction. They have taken overall third place in ribs and fifth place in chicken. “We decided to attend this school and maybe proceed to grand champion. We learned that the process of preparing the meat is vital, some of the meticulous steps to take, and how to build that flavor profile for the judges. One thing that drew us to the Barbecue Live Cooking School was its open forum concept and how well the instructors cared about your success as barbecue competition cookers. There are many different


schools out there, but overall, I think this one rates the highest. It’s the atmosphere and the things we can attain from the class,” said Brian. The above-mentioned class was the seventh Barbecue Live class and was held in late January 2015. Lambert and the Reeds have been holding classes for two and a half years. They average between 30 and 40 students per class and have taught nearly 300 people so far, many of whom have won competitions in their own right. Malcom Reed shared his feelings about the class participants. “We tell everyone that comes to our Barbecue Live that they are part of our family. That way we can keep up with them. We love to hear their results and we get a lot of questions. They can call us because when they come once, we don’t quit on them. We want them to do the best they can.” Mark Lambert expressed similar thoughts. “We follow everyone on Facebook, via e-mail, and telephone. It’s good to see folks we have helped out do well.” DeSoto 69


Mark Lambert, Malcom Reed and Waylon Reed of Barbecue Live

Barbecue Spare Ribs

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Another Barbecue Live attendee, Gary Hongsermeier from Centralia, Illinois, is a KCBS judge and has been competing with his own team for about three years. He hoped this class would help him on his competition team. “There are three categories considered -- appearance, taste, and tenderness. Each entry is graded on a scale from 0 to 9, with 9 being the best. If an entry gets 1 or 0, it is disqualified. Also, if the barbecue is not completely done, or the wrong garnish was used, or the barbecue sauce was served cool, then these are also reasons for disqualification,” he said. Of the main competitions held across the country, Memphis in May is not the largest, but is one of the most prestigious. “Some competitions have open divisions that will allow anyone to enter. Memphis in May is an open contest but is limited on the number of applicants, about 260 to 270. They give preference on how people have performed in the past or from where they are traveling. They want a wide representation of the country,” said Malcom. One of the upcoming classes will teach whole hog preparation class for Memphis in May. “It (the class) will give participants an opportunity to hone their skills as far as presentation, set up, and tear down. Even though it is whole hog, a lot of it crosses over between categories, like presentation, blind box, and rapport with judges. There is a lot more to it than just the meat,” said Lambert. Malcom Reed further explained the competition procedure. “Usually barbecue competitions are two day events, Friday and Saturday. On Friday there is meat inspection to make sure everybody is playing on a level field. That makes sure the meat hasn’t been marinated or had any kind of injections. Our team always cooks four categories: Chicken and ribs, pork butt and brisket. These are the categories we’re judged on Saturday. It’s all fun and festivities on Friday until the fires light, and then, it’s serious business. Cooking takes place at night. Judging starts at noon on Saturday and continues every half hour. It’s a pretty fast-paced day.”

For more information on Barbecue Live and their upcoming classes, visit their website at barbecuelive.com. DeSoto 71


homegrown } harrell foods

PureMississippi By Bobby L. Hickman. Photography courtesy of Harrell Foods.

Kevin Harrell’s grandfather was a popular man in Pelahatchie, Mississippi because of his special sauce. 72 DeSoto


H

e had created a specialty sauce that was “his own take on a remoulade,” Harrell said. As early as the 1970s, his grandfather would make his sauce by hand and share it with his neighbors. “He would give it away around town: to his friends, at church, to everyone he knew.” His grandfather didn’t charge for the sauce. “But for them to get another bottle, they had to return that empty bottle when he finished it. That way he didn’t have to buy more bottles.” It was a deal that worked for everyone. “He liked to make his sauce and he loved to give it away. People would enjoy the sauce, so they would bring the bottle back to him. Then he would make more, and people would come back again to pick up their bottles.” Harrell’s grandfather passed away a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean you missed your chance to sample his unique flavorings. That unique remoulade sauce lives on as flagship specialty sauce for the “BullShed” brand of gourmet foods. BullShed sauces are made and sold by Harrell Foods, an up-and-coming company in Pelahatchie, where both Harrell and his grandfather lived most of their lives. In fact, Harrell can look outside while he’s cooking and see where his grandfather used to live. Harrell, 25, started his company in 2011. He had just graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in anthropology, but quickly found there were no jobs available. “I’ve always loved to cook, so I decided to put my passion to work,” he said. Harrell went into business for himself, starting with the recipe handed down from his grandfather. He took out a loan against his car, renovated a “little bitty area” where he prepares his condiments, and “just started cooking.” Three years later, BullShed products are making a name for themselves in Pelahatchie and beyond. Harrell Foods products are in 106 stores in the Jackson area (including Kroger, Whole Foods and Fresh Market), as well as several online outlets, boutiques, and gift shops. “Business is really picking up,” Harrell said. BullShed has also garnered national attention. In 2013, Harrell Foods was featured in a Food Network Magazine feature on foods representing all 50 states. “My specialty sauce was named as ‘what to buy in Mississippi’ -- which was a really cool thing,” Harrell said. Also, when he was 23, the state government sent him to New York to showcase his products at the Fancy Foods show {the largest specialty food and beverage event in North America}. Harrell Foods joined forces four months ago with a major distributor who first put BullShed products in Jackson area Kroger stores. Harrell spends weekdays cooking and bottling his sauces, and weekends doing promotions. “When I’m not cooking, I’m always busy trying to get the brand name going. Hopefully if I keep doing that for a couple of years, it will grow even bigger.” Harrell is the only employee at Harrell Foods, and he makes all his sauces with fresh local ingredients from Mississippi. He uses sorghum molasses rather than conventional sugar to sweeten his products, and all the sauces are gluten-free. “Everything goes through my hands: I designed the labels, I cook and bottle everything. And on the weekends, I’m the one in the local Kroger giving out samples.” He adds, “Everything at BullShed is pure Mississippi – including me.” He developed all the recipes himself (except for his grandfather’s specialty sauce). That sauce tastes great on burgers, catfish, fried mushrooms, and “pretty much all the juicy cholesterolfilled foods,” the company website notes. BullShed also features two salsas: a “sweet and spicy” blending chili peppers and spices, plus a tamer “sweet and mild” version. There is also a spicy honey mustard that’s great for salads and frying chicken, and a spaghetti marina sauce composed of unique Italian spaces. Harrell is working on a new product: a soy-based marinade. “Still, my grandfather’s sauce is the best seller by far.” BullShed sauces are available online from the company website and at such retailers as the Mississippi Gift Company and Indianola Pecan House. It can also be found at supermarkets in the Jackson area, plus some smaller boutiques and gift stores. Harrell also spends many weekends from March through mid-September at the flea market in Canton. He used to also take his products to farmers markets in Jackson, “but I’m so busy now keeping up the demand from Kroger, I don’t have as much time for that as I used to.” Harrell plans to keep growing and expanding Harrell Foods. “When I hit 30, I hope we’ll be in an even better situation than we are now.”

www.harrellfoods.com DeSoto 73


southern harmony } the hernando high school band

SUCCESSFUL STEPS By Corey Latta. Photography courtesy of Courtesy of Hernando High School/Victoria Jones

“I’ve got the best job in the world.” That’s how Len Killough describes his role as Hernando High School Director of Bands. Perhaps it’s Killough’s love of his job that has helped Hernando High’s band achieve its current level of success. With the close help of Assistant Directors Victoria Jones, who teaches woodwinds, and Brenon Eaton, who teaches marching and rehearsals, 74 DeSoto

Killough led the Hernando High band to a 6-A championship title in 2014. “I couldn’t do this without Victoria and Brenon. They are great at what they do,” Killough said. Beyond being surrounded by a supportive staff, Killough is in a close community that generously supports the band. “When we won


The Hernando High School Marching Band

the state championship, the Hernando High administration threw us a city-wide pep rally. Our school loves us and gets behind our success,” he said. This culture of community and celebration is matched by the closeness of the band students. “There are about 130 students in the band, and they have a great sense of camaraderie.” Killough continued to explain the current culture. “I have some of the best students anyone could ask for.” Part of the band’s closeness comes from their collective work ethic, no doubt. “Band practice is pretty grueling. They’re at it from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and then 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day. Band season starts two weeks before school starts and basically doesn’t end. Between concert season, marching season, and winter groups, and constant rehearsals, we really don’t stop.” A hard work ethic is necessary in such a school district. “Every band in DeSoto County is fantastic,” Killough insisted, “full of class 5-A and 6-A champions.” Hernando High’s success has been sharpened by continual local county competitions. “We do local competitions every week leading up to the state event, which makes every school in the district stronger. We really benefit from rehearsing and competing with other DeSoto County schools.” The strength of each DeSoto County school is remarkable. “Southaven, DeSoto Central, Hernando, and Lewisburg High have all won at least four championships. Olive Branch High and Center Hill High have dominated their divisions,” Killough said. “We are surrounded by the best bands in Mississippi. Being in this area has only helped our band improve.” Hernando High’s success of winning the state

championship is even more noteworthy because of relatively short term at the school. In only three years, Killough won state. And even more noteworthy is Hernando High’s relatively small size. The school is the smallest 6-A in the state. “The fact that we could overcome our size is exciting for us.” Hernando High took home the state championship with a moving performance titled “Alpine Crossing,” featuring the music of composer Danny Eflman’s “Edward Scissorhands.” For Killough, though, the success at Hernando High really goes back to the support given him and the band by the community-at-large. The close and hardworking student community, the quality of neighboring high schools, and Hernando’s state championship are testimonies to the city of Hernando. Killough follows up his earlier “I’ve got the best job in the world” statement with “My wife and I moved up here to put our kids in DeSoto County schools. This is where we wanted to be. We love it here. Killough’s wife, Allyson, reinforces Len’s love for the DeSoto community and for the school system. While Len leads Hernando High to band championships, Allyson spends her time serving as the principal at neighboring Olive Branch High. The Killoughs service to DeSoto County schools is largely what makes Hernando High’s band success significant. “We are a close community around here, and I give all the credit in the world to those who help me at Hernando and to those who have been so successful at competing schools.” With Hernando High’s state championship, the Desoto County community that Killough celebrates, celebrated a member of its own family, in turn. It’s that community that makes Killough’s job so rewarding and why he loves it so much. DeSoto 75


table talk} area 51 ice cream

area

51

By Andrea Brown Ross. Photography by Jessika Alexandra

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espite the name, there’s no conspiracy behind what makes area 51 ice cream a favorite with Hernando, Miss. residents. In fact, patrons are happy to declassify the reasons why they enjoy it so much. “They had me at blackberry goat cheese!” said area 51 patron, Valerie Walden, of Hernando. “My family and I like fresh and different and area 51 definitely delivers. The combinations of fresh and exotic ingredients keep us coming back. Where else have you had something like Blood Orange Sorbet or Mexican Hot Chocolate ice cream?” Lin Workman, another Hernando resident and patron, offered similar sentiments. “I’m a big fan of the Mexican Hot Chocolate and the Blackberry Goat Cheese. Two flavors I really didn’t think I’d like, but after that first sample of each I was hooked! While sharing a taste of each other’s scoops one day, my wife discovered the Blackberry Goat Cheese and Lemon Ice Box go great together. We’ve experimented since then, and found many area 51 flavors go great together.” Workman continued. “My wife and I really enjoyed all the holiday flavors. Her favorite was the Holiday Eggnog and mine was the Pumpkin Spice. The Sweet Potato one was also really good, and I am not a sweet potato or pumpkin fan. The sorbets in the summer time really hit the spot. Cool, refreshing, and light- just the thing to cool off with the heat we often have here.“ Karin and Steve Cubbage, owners of area 51 ice cream, commented on their unique ice cream flavors. “We only use fresh high-end ingredients in our ice cream and baked goods. Everything is made from scratch in our kitchen. The fruits that we use are always fresh, never frozen, and we source them locally as often as possible. We use Cedar Hill Farms in Hernando and Cherry Creek Orchards in Pontotoc, Miss. We shop at the Hernando Farmers Market every weekend looking for new ideas and ingredients. When something goes out of season, we have to shelve that flavor until the next season. We don’t use artificial flavors or colors. It’s kind of funny how many people ask why our Mint Chocolate chip isn’t green? This always gives us an opportunity to explain how we go about our process of making things from scratch,” said Steve Cubbage. Karin continued. “Each ice cream we make has its own unique recipe and is prepared in small batches. We make two gallons of ice

cream at a time, and one gallon of sorbet as our non-dairy offering. Partly because that is all our batch freezer can make at once, but it also gives me a lot of control over the quality of each batch.” The Cubbages shared the history behind their ice cream shop. “After I was part of a company downsizing, we decided to take on the challenge of opening our own business. As Karin has an extensive background in high-end restaurants, and I as a marketer, some sort of restaurant would be a logical choice. After kicking around several ideas, it hit Karin out of the blue, “What do you think about ice cream?” We are both passionate about gourmet ice cream and always search it out anytime we are out of town. The whole process from that one simple question, to opening our doors, only took 10 weeks!” explained Steve. Steve also elaborated on the shop’s name, which lightly plays on Area 51 in Nevada made famous through conspiracies and UFOs, and which is equally as unique as their product. “It was really on a whim that the name came up. We thought that it was something unusual and people would remember it. It was the first name we came up with after we decided to open an ice cream shop. It is a funny coincidence that we found a location so close to Highway 51 in Hernando. Most people think that is the reason for the name.” Perhaps the only thing sweeter than the ice cream is the memories made at the shop as Karin explained. “The vanilla I make is done a lot differently than the vanilla my dad made, but I wanted it to have that same old fashioned vanilla flavor I remember as a kid. Every time I taste it, that’s what it reminds me of. Some of my best childhood memories involve ice cream. From helping my dad crank the vanilla he made in the park for family picnics, to sitting on the hood of the station wagon outside of the ice cream shop in the heat of summer trying to eat our ice cream before it could melt. Ice cream and family just go together. It is fun to see families in our shop making those same memories together.”

area 51 ice cream

117 W. Commerce St. Hernando, MS Tue - Thurs Noon to 9pm Fri & Sat Noon to 10pm Sun Noon to 8pm Flavors are updated daily on their Facebook page.

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in good spirits} celebrating st. patrick

“The great Gaels of Ireland are men God made mad. For all their wars are merry and all their songs are sad.� G. K. Chesterton

The Irish Car Bomb

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Here’s to St. Patrick By Devin Greaney. Photography courtesy of dashandapinch.com

St. Patrick’s Day gives us a reason to mimic all things Irish and green. And enjoying a libation ranks high among revelers. Local pubs know what flows out their door, regardless of controversy or origin, although it’s an apt time to pause a moment and think about such things. For those of us celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the Mid-South, we can take refuge in that, like the Emerald Isle, we also have Irish pubs and a green countryside--or at least will be greening in a couple of weeks. A couple of local Irish pubs shared their ideas on what they- and most importantly St Patrick’s Day revelers- drink on St. Patrick’s Day when the man who brought Christianity into and (legend has it) the snakes out of Ireland.

The Irish Car Bomb

One drink continues to raise eyebrows with its brazen name: The Irish car bomb. It’s no doubt offensive to some by the very nature of the irony---naming something pleasurable from events that have caused much devastation and heartache through the streets of Northern Ireland. Over at The Brass Door, The Irish car bomb Seamus Loftus makes does not involve anything that will put him on any government watch list. “Put Jameson whiskey and Baileys cream liqueur in a shot glass, drop it in a pint depth charge style and shoot it with Guinness. Three make you feel faint and four make you wish you were dead,” Loftus said.

In Cooper Young’s Celtic Crossing, bartender Tara White has been serving the car bomb since they opened in June 2005. She agrees its a St Patrick’s day standard. “Everybody wants the car bomb.”

Green Beer

Green beer is standard fare on St. Patrick’s Day. “Green beer is popular and is just any beer on tap with food coloring,” said White. Mix a pint with green and it seems even more Celtic. “Guiness, Harp and Smithwick’s- they are the Holy Trinity of Irish beers,” Loftus said. Mix green into a Budweiser from Saint Louis, Belgian Fat Tire Ale, Memphis Ghost River or a Hitachino Nest Japanese Classic. Though technically not Irish brew, psychologists say we taste with our eyes so pick whatever your taste bud craves; but for purists, a Corona with food coloring is a Cinco de Mayo, not a St Patrick’s Day refreshment.

Irish Tricolor (Your own Irish flag)

Equal parts of Crème de menthe, Baileys Irish cream, and Grand Marnier

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exploring events } march MidSouth Home Expressions March 6-8 Landers Center 4560 Venture Dr. Southaven, MS The MidSouth Home Expressions Show is the longest running, biggest and most successful show of its kind in the Tri-State area! Tickets are $8 adults, Seniors (60+) $7 and youth (6-14) $4. Visit, www. midsouthhomeexpressions.com/specialfeat.html for more information. The Mississippi Blues Fest March 7. 7:00PM Leflore County Civic Center Greenwood, MS This show’s line-up includes: Bobby Rush “Sue”, O.B. Buchana “Back Up Lover”, Ms. Jody “Just Let Me Ride”, Donnie Ray “Letter to My Baby”, Vick Allen “Forbidden Love Affair” and introducing Lamont Hadley “Girl U Done Broke That Thang”. For ticket information call 662-453-4065. Natchez Spring Pilgrimage Tours March 7 - April 7 Natchez, MS Twenty-four antebellum mansions, most of them private residences, open their doors to visitors during this four-week Pilgrimage every spring. Your guides are costumed family friends and descendants of the original owners, whose stories are as real as the bricks and mortar in their hearths. Each house is unique with 18th- and 19th-century furnishings, porcelain, silver, clothing, tools, documents and diaries. For tickets call 800-647-6742 or email tickets@natchezpilgrimage. com. Elvis Costello March 10 Minglewood Hall 1555 Madison Ave. Memphis, TN The British singer/songwriter, Elvis Costello, comes to Memphis. This multiple award-winner has been charming the world with his songs since his first recording contract in 1977. Tickets range from $55 to $60 and are available online. For more information call 901-312-6058. 80 DeSoto

Southern Women’s Show March 13-15 Agricenter International 7777 Walnut Grove Road Memphis, TN The Southern Women’s Show attracts tens of thousands of local women each year for the three-day show. Features fashion shows, celebrity appearances, cooking demonstrations, beauty tips, health screenings, decorating ideas and personal growth opportunities - all tailored especially for busy women. For more information call 800-849-0248. Carlos Santana March 14 8:00PM The Orpheum Theatre 203 South Main Street Memphis, TN This multi-award winning artist has sold more than 100 million records and has reached fans at concerts worldwide during his 40-year career. Don’t miss your chance to see him in concert on March 14. Tickets range from $85 - $250 and can be purchased by calling (901) 525-3000. Get your tickets at the Orpheum Theatre Box Office, 203 S. Main, Memphis, TN or Booksellers at Laurelwood (387 Perkins Rd., Memphis, TN), and all Ticketmaster ticket centers. Englebert Humperdinck March 21 8:00PM Gold Strike Casino Tunica 1010 Casino Center Drive Tunica Resorts, MS 38664 Catch Engelbert Humperdinck (“Release Me,” “The Last Waltz,” and “After the Lovin’”)as he performs in the Millennium Theatre at Gold Strike Casino. For more information visit ticketmaster.com or call 888-245-7529. The Beach Boys March 21 Horseshoe Casino Tunica 1021 Casino Center Drive. Tunica Resorts, MS 38664 There will be “Good Vibrations” at Bluesville when the Beach Boys hit the stage at Horseshoe Casino. For more information visit ticketmaster.com or call 800-303-7463


Spring Market March 27-29 Agricenter International 7777 Walnut Grove Road Memphis, TN Spring Market is the premier shopping event of Spring. You’ll find one-of-a-kind fashion items. With more than 175 merchants showcasing their latest and hottest fashions, you’re sure to find plenty you like. Small boutique owners might sell everything from handmade items to the latest and greatest tops, dresses, shoes and jewelry. Admission: Adults $8 one-day pass, $15 three-day pass. Children 12 & Under FREE. Saturday Night Cupcakes & Cocktails 4 - 8 p.m. For more information call 662-890-3359.

10th Annual Fishes for Wishes April 4 7:00PM Snowden House 6025 Snowden Lane Southaven, MS This Crawfish boil benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Mid-South Chapter. Enjoy all you care to eat crawfish, beverages, alternate food by Memphis Barbeque Co., live entertainment and a silent auction. Dress is casual. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased by contacting Mike Foshee at 901-598-3680. Tickets also available at the gate. For additional information contact Casey Tansey at 901-692-9506 or email ctansey@midsouth.wish.org

Taste of Hernando March 27 5:00PM Hernando, MS Samplings from local Hernando restaurants. Meet the local chefs and restaurant owners who provide Hernando with the finest and freshest foods while enjoying live music and a silent auction.

75th Columbus Spring Pilgrimage April 6-18 Columbus, Mississippi Go to www.visitcolumbusms.org for complete listing of events. 800-920-3533

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reflections} moonflower hopes

Moonflower Hopes

H

By Karen Ott Mayer

ad I known what I was really getting into, I may have declined my sister’s seemingly innocent offer. A kindergarten teacher, she called me one day with a question. “Hey, you know all about that gardening stuff. Why don’t you come during special person’s week and do a garden project with my kids?” An Aunt six times over, I am well accustomed to all of these Special Person Days which is an all encompassing strategy used by schools to involve any outlier relative beyond the grandparents. I’ve never quite decided if being tagged a special person means I’m extraordinary or just slightly off. And I’ve decided it’s really better not to ask. I love kids of all shapes and sizes, so I thought...why not? It’s only a short four hour drive to Nashville, and after all, I do profess to having a green thumb. Sorta. I arrived on the appointed day, armed with Moonflower seeds, dirt and paper cups, and felt rather confident about my mission. Opening the door, I met with a sea of moving, chattering color. Perhaps I had taken a wrong turn and ended up in a beehive by mistake? Immediately, a wee girl raced up to me. Instead of a big smile, she sported a stern look and wrinkled brow. “Did you bring food?” she barked loudly. I smiled at her, trying to hide my rising fear of this small, menacing creature. “No, I didn’t; I brought dirt,” I replied. To which, she ran off into the room yelling I had no food and pointing back at me. My sister rushed up, breathless. Always bubbling with enthusiasm, she didn’t seem the least disturbed by the endless 82 DeSoto

wave of movement across the room. “They are so excited you are here!” she said. Looking around the room, I had my doubts. Some kids were poking at each other, oblivious to us. Others were looking at books or toys. And a final few were hiding behind my sister looking at me as if I were carrying a basket of snakes. With one clap of her hand and a few words, however, my sister brought order to the room and the small people all sat down at their very small tables. I passed out all the supplies and began my talk...during which one boy ate his dirt and I believe another one stuck all the seeds up his nose. This was not exactly what I had envisioned as far as instilling horticultural excitement in their souls. After much ado, the seeds were planted and all the cups placed on the windowsill with names scratched on the side. Hope springs eternal, and I hoped in the case of kindergarteners, that still rang true. Weeks later, my sister called with a report. “The seeds are sprouting and the kids are excited!” I couldn’t help but express my doubt at having changed their world on special person day. “You know, the first little girl I saw asked for food.” My sister paused. “Well, that might be because the last aunt brought chocolate. Godiva Chocolate.” “Godiva!” I wailed into the phone. “A conspiracy! How can dirt compete with Godiva?” Remembering the little girl that greeted me, I now fully understood the modern expectations of these kids--and her veiled hostility. Perhaps, just perhaps, that one seed will sprout a white fragrant moon. And her mind will be changed.


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