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CONTENTS 2017 • VOLUME 14 • NO. 4

features 48 Do-it-yourself Vacations Tailored time away

58 Worth the Stop Seven Southern spots to see

52 Dog Gone Traveling Taking your dog along

departments 14 Living Well Beating mosquitoes

43 On the Road Again Meridian, Mississippi

18 Notables Money man, Lee Pierce

46 Greater Goods 64 Homegrown Biscuit Leather Company

22 Exploring Art Fascinating Fabergé

68 Southern Gentleman Wine 101 for guys

26 Exploring Books A Ghost of a Chance

72 Southern Harmony Sounds on the sea

30 Into the Wild On the edge

76 In Good Spirits Miami Vice

34 Table Talk The Sumner Grille

78 Exploring Events

38 Exploring Destinations Amber and Quartz


80 Reflections Forgotten Coast



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editor’s note } april The Wider World Recently, a friend told me she was heading to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Her greatest concern? Not being able to shower for over a week. I don’t blame her! Her statement reminded me that traveling pushes our limits, allays our fears and explodes assumptions. Or in the wry eloquence of Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.’” This month, we’re determined to widen our worlds. Maybe it’s just around the corner from your house or thousands of miles away on another continent, but that new experience awaits. Carey and Eric both help us get a little creative on the road, discovering the ways to make your journey, well, more yours. Maybe you’re into wine tasting, mountain climbing or just interesting food dives. Tailoring a vacation can add a new spark to the regular beach routine. We k n o w t h a t s o m e t i m e s getting away can be complicated by pets. Kathryn offers an alternative with her ideas of how to travel with your favorite furry companion on page 52. Having just the right bag or supplies when on the road can make all the difference. Over in Hot Springs, The Mountain’s Edge introduces a world of knives suited to your particular need.

APRIL 2017 • Vol. 14 No.4

PUBLISHER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Adam Mitchell PUBLISHER & ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Paula Mitchell EDITOR-AT-LARGE Karen Ott Mayer ASSISTANT EDITOR Andrea Brown Ross Likewise, another southern artist Tracy Wooten has crafted the most divine leather bags sold through her Biscuit Leather Company. Finely crafted, they’re just the kind of belonging that you’ll always grab from the closet as your favorite choice. Finally, you never know what past travels will drop at your door. My travel writing buddy Chere got the final laugh this month with her newlyreleased book all about her travels. Read more on page 26 to discover the reason that left me smiling. We hope this issue brings you many smiles, both at home and on the open road. Bon voyage!


CONTRIBUTORS Kathryn Winter J. Eric Eckard Carey Crawford Chere Coen James Richardson Charlene Oldham Robin Gallaher Branch Debra Pamplin Jeanni Brosius Jim Beaugez Andrea Brown Ross PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 205 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 Fax 662.449.5813 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887 Get social with us!

on the cover Pack your bags and hit the road, Jack! Good ole’ American road trips are back, and we have the lowdown on the must-see stops in the South. Read more on page 58.

©2017 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 i n t e re s t e d i n a d v e r t i s i n g s h o u l d email or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at

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living well }


The Mosquito Buzz By Cheré Coen. Photography courtesy of

Those nasty mosquitoes that make our lives miserable with irritating buzzing and biting in summer months can also be deadly. Out of the 50-plus mosquito species found in Mississippi, at least three deadly viruses — West Nile and three forms of encephalitis — are known to transmit diseases to humans and animals, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health. The Zika virus has consumed the news of late, a virus transmitted by mosquitoes to pregnant women that causes birth deformities to fetuses, among other problems. Once found only in foreign countries, the virus is now prevalent in the United States in South Florida and Brownsville, Texas, although most U.S. Zika cases are from contact overseas, according to the Center for Disease Control. In Mississippi, the Zika virus — should it rear its ugly head — would primarily be transmitted by the yellow fever mosquito, aedes aegypti, and the Asian tiger mosquito, aedes albopictus, according to Jerome Goddard, extension professor 16 DeSoto

of medical and veterinary entomology in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology, and Plant Pathology at Mississippi State University. “Zika vectors live in close proximity to people’s houses, especially around the back porch and patio area where they breed in pots, pans, and planters,” Goddard wrote in the Mississippi State Medical Association Journal. “In such situations, a doorto-door effort is needed to educate homeowners about mosquito breeding and elimination (including larviciding, which means killing the larvae), combined with hand-held fogging with pesticides where needed.”

Goddard encourages the discovery and elimination of mosquito breeding sites around houses and yards where water stagnates such as planters, pet dishes and bird baths. He recommends in his article, “Top 10 Facts Mississippians Should Know about Mosquito Control and Zika Virus,” that homeowners empty standing water or remove objects where water gathers. Chemicals such as backyard foggers, mosquito dunks and traps are helpful in combating the pests as well. In addition of prevention locally, it’s important to know the risk of diseases when traveling. The CDC warns of viruses such as Zika and diseases such as malaria, among many others, prevalent in foreign countries, some as close as the Caribbean and Mexico. Whether preventing viruses such as West Nile and encephalitis that exist nationwide or traveling to countries that report Zika cases, it’s imperative to prepare for mosquitoes. The best plan of action to is take caution against being bitten. For personal protection, insect repellents using the chemical diethyltoluamide (DEET) are the most effective, said Charles L. Cantrell of the National Center for Natural Products Utilization Research at Ole Miss. “I think DEET is a great product,” Cantrell said, adding that it’s been used effectively for decades. DEET is a chemical and has been known to cause adverse reactions to skin as well as other health issues. If parents must use DEET on children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a product with 10 to 30 percent DEET and nothing containing DEET for children under the age of two. Do not apply DEET underneath clothing or on cuts and wounds and wash all clothes after DEET use. Because of DEET’s chemical makeup, many people, particularly parents, prefer natural insect repellants. Garlic, oil of lemon eucalyptus, citronella — even citrus dishwashing liquid — has been used to fight off mosquitoes with limited results. Cantrell has studied alternative repellants for fighting mosquitoes because the public has demanded natural products, he said. He looks to folk remedies as repellants, such as using leaves from the beautyberry bush found throughout the Deep South, to hopefully bring to market natural ways of fighting mosquitoes. “The beautyberry showed excellent repellant quality of a chemical compound,” Cantrell said, adding that it worked on ticks and fire ants as well. “We tried to use it commercially but it just wasn’t cost effective.” Cantrell has had better luck in recent studies with the breadfruit tree of Hawaii. It may make the wearer uncomfortable during the warm, humid months of summer, but the Mississippi State Department of Health recommends adorning long sleeves and pants to avoid being bit. Avoiding outdoor activities during peak mosquito biting times — dusk to dawn — is also recommended. Pregnant women should consult with their health care provider before visiting countries where Zika has been reported. The Center for Disease Control urges pregnant women to avoid travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission. For a list of countries where Zika has been confirmed, visit the CDC website at For more information on fighting mosquitoes and mosquito prevention, visit the Mississippi Department of Health website at

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notables } lee pierce

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Top Talents By James Richardson. Photography courtesy of Lee Pierce and

“Save when you can, spend less than you make, save the rest, and be patient. And work with a financial advisor.” That is good advice which comes from a seasoned, and nationally-recognized, financial advisor. Lee Pierce of Pierce Financial was named to the Financial Times 2016 Top 401 Retirement Plan Advisors List. As a matter of fact, this is two years running that he was named to this list. He was selected from nearly 650 qualified advisors around the country. According to the selection criteria by the Financial Times, “To qualify for the list, advisors had to have 20 percent or more of their total client assets in DC (defined contribution) plans. Qualified advisers were then graded based on seven broad factors: DC assets under management, growth in DC plans and assets, degree of specialization in the DC business, experience, and participation rate in DC plans advised, industry certifications, and compliance record. The Financial Times Top 401 Retirement Plan Advisors is an independent listing produced by the Financial Times. The award is based on data gathered from financial advisors, firms, regulatory disclosures, and the Financial Times’ research.” As Pierce explained, “The award is issued by an international financial publication called the Financial Times.”

It is a daily publication geared to those in the investment and financial services industry. The award, which began in 2015, is to identify top 401K advisors across the country. “I have been honored to be the recipient of it in both years and also honored to be the only advisor in this metropolitan area to receive the award.” Pierce is the founder and president of Pierce Financial. He has nearly 20 years of financial services experience. “I started this business 17 years ago in 2000. I am a non-practicing CPA (Certified Public Accountant) but I keep my license active because it certainly benefits me in my business and retirement planning, but I do not practice accounting, and have not in many, many years. I also have an accreditation called the AIF (Accredited Investment Fiduciary), which is a designation geared for those financial professionals that are advising in the 401K and retirement planning arena. “My education comes from the University of Tennessee at Martin, where I received a bachelor of business administration in accounting and a minor in agriculture business. I grew up in Dyersburg, Tennessee, and attended DeSoto 21

college in Martin. I came to the Memphis area in 1988, and started my career in public accounting with an international CPA firm called BDO. I was only in public accounting for three years and then wound up in DeSoto County as the chief financial officer of a manufacturing company called Stylecraft Lamps. Then I started Pierce Financial in 2000.” The services at Pierce Financial are to manage investments for individuals and businesses and to help employers sponsor qualified retirement plans. Their goal is to help individuals reach their individual investment objectives through their specialized process based on knowledge and experience. Pierce Financial is a member of Retirement Plan Advisory Group (RPAG), and has offices in Hernando and Memphis. Pierce has received other various industry awards over the years. “I’m frequently invited by organizations to speak to their membership mainly on the topics of retirement planning and fiduciary responsibilities. I’ve been a frequent speaker to the Tennessee Society of CPAs and the Tennessee Labor Development Workshop.” Pierce “is passionate about serving others and believes in the importance of viewing each individual’s situation as if it were my own. This philosophy promotes a higher level of understanding with my clients and assists me in helping to meet their unique needs. I am blessed and humbled to receive such an award and be considered as one of the elite retirement plan advisors in the country. I thank God, and express my sincere appreciation to my clients that have placed their trust and confidence in me and my firm. They made this happen.” So, when an accomplished and respected financial advisor gives information and advice, take it. His advice: “The general rule is to save when one can, spend less than you make, save the rest, and be patient, and work with an advisor, not a salesman. Advisors normally work on a fee basis as opposed to a commission basis. A salesman is earning a commission based on a transaction, whereas an advisory relationship, I’d say, is similar to a relationship with your personal physician or an attorney. You pay them for their time based on their knowledge and expertise.”

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exploring art } fabergĂŠ eggs

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Extraordinary Eggs By Charlene Oldham. Photography courtesy of VMFA

Imperial Russia and Richmond, Va., are separated by thousands of miles and a century of turbulent history, yet some of the Empire’s most iconic treasures managed to migrate across time and space to call the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts their home. The VMFA’s Fabergé and Russian Decorative Arts Collection showcases some 280 objects, including five Fabergé eggs. The intricate eggs bear the name of Peter Carl Fabergé a goldsmith and jeweler who, with the help of his staff of master craftsmen at the House of Fabergé, created the eggs at the behest of the last czars of Russia. “All the imperial eggs were commissioned by the czars and took a year or two to make,” said Barry Shifman, VMFA’s curator of decorative arts. “They were given as gifts.” The fantastical Fabergé creations offered a lavish take on the Russian Orthodox Church tradition of giving decorated eggs at Easter which, in turn, represents one step in the long evolution of eggs as a symbol of spring renewal, according to

Kristina Killgrove, a biological anthropologist and professor at the University of West Florida. And, because the egg’s shell essentially entombs its inhabitant until it’s ready to hatch, it holds particularly potent meaning for Christians who celebrate Christ’s resurrection each Easter. “Zoroastrianism, pagan Roman religion and Christianity all have a tradition of eggs being associated with rebirth,” she said. “The egg -- which is initially inert but then produces a living, breathing chick -- easily lends itself as a symbol of death as well, or at least as a way to signify the desire for rebirth following a death.” Each of the imperial eggs hatched at least one surprise, such as a delicately detailed miniature carriage. Czar DeSoto 25

Alexander III presented the first Fabergé egg to his wife Maria Fedorovna in 1885 and followed it with a newly fashioned egg each Easter. Upon Alexander’s death in November 1894, his son and Romanov family heir Nicholas II expanded on the tradition, presenting both his wife and widowed mother a new Fabergé creation each Easter. The custom came to an abrupt end when protests forced Nicholas II from the throne in 1917. The events marked the early days of the Russian Revolution that eventually brought Bolshevik Party leader Vladimir Lenin to power. Russia’s last czar, along with his wife Alexandra and their five children, were placed under house arrest in rural Russia before being shot to death by Bolsheviks in 1918. The family’s remains were scattered after the execution, leaving people to speculate that some members survived. DNA tests conducted on additional remains found a decade ago put rumors to rest for most. Still, the stark contrast between the family’s opulent lifestyle and shocking end contributes to the imperial eggs’ allure. “It’s about the people,” said Shifman. “That’s the main draw, the mystery and tragedy of this imperial family that was so brutally murdered.” Before closing its doors during the Russian Revolution, the House of Fabergé created 50 imperial eggs, according to the modern Fabergé website, seven of which are currently lost. The newest revision to the list came earlier this decade, when an American scrap metal dealer realized the trinket he bought for $14,000 at an antique stall and had since been unable to resell for a profit was actually the Third Imperial Easter Egg, valued at an estimated $33 million. Lillian Thomas Pratt, the collector who brought so 26 DeSoto

many of Fabergé’s creations to Virginia, including the five eggs on display in Richmond, paid considerably less for her acquisitions through the 1930s and 40s, although their price tags represented a fortune to most in Depression-era America. According to records in the VMFA collection, Pratt paid $16,500 for the Peter the Great egg, which may have been her priciest purchase. “It took her two or three years to pay it off because she only paid $200 or $300 a month,” said Shifman. “I would say, for most people, and even for her, that was a lot of money in those days.” Unlike many other Fabergé enthusiasts, Pratt came from modest beginnings and spent some of her younger days working as a secretary before marrying John Lee Pratt, who rose through the ranks at General Motors to become a vice president. The couple moved to the historic Chatham Manor in Fredericksburg, Va., when he retired. Upon her death in 1947, Lillian Thomas Pratt bequeathed her collection of Russian decorative arts to Richmond’s Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. It forms the backbone of the institution’s current collection, which includes about 170 objects attributed to the House of Fabergé. “It’s the largest public collection of Fabergé outside Russia. It’s the collection with the most imperial Easter eggs outside Russia,” Shifman said. “The Fabergé firm was one of the finest in Europe at the time and Mrs. Pratt is extraordinary because she is really one of the first American women to be buying these treasures in a big way.” Following its return from an international tour, the museum reinstalled the collection in five new galleries, which

have been popular with locals and tourists alike since opening in October 2016, Shifman said. “It’s really an extraordinary and unique treasure in this country, which is why we regularly have visitors from around the world.”

Where to stay Quirk Hotel - An art-centric hotel with a gallery and gift shop. The Jefferson Hotel – This historic hotel just completed major renovations. The Linden Row Inn – This boutique hotel consists of seven restored row homes built in the mid 1800s. Where to eat Amuse – The menu at the VMFA’s restaurant focuses on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. visit/dining/amuse-restaurant Maple and Pine – The New American, globally influenced menu at the Quirk Hotel’s restaurant changes frequently to showcase fresh fare and ingredients. dining/maple-and-pine Lemaire – The New American menu at the Jefferson Hotel’s restaurant boasts a Southern flair and offers an extensive selection of small-plate options in addition to traditional entrees. Its wine list features more than 200 options.

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exploring books} a ghost of a chance

Born from Inspired Travels Story and photography by Cheré Coen and

“They say there are blessings from Katrina. Mine was I lost my job.” I wrote that opening to my latest novel, the first in a paranormal mystery series, because it was an expression I had heard repeatedly while working as a post-Katrina volunteer coordinator. Not necessarily the loss of a job, but that something good had emerged from the nation’s worst natural disaster. 28 DeSoto

For me, however, it was a career change. When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, my heart shattered into a million pieces. I knew I had to do something to help my hometown of New Orleans so I quit my newspaper job and was hired for a Unitarian Universalist recovery program. At the same time, I started freelance writing on the side. One thing I was never able to do as a newspaper editor was travel writing, my dream job, and my new flexibility allowed me to do that. Both experiences inspired me to write “A Ghost of a Chance,” a story about a newspaper reporter named Viola Valentine who ends up on her roof after Katrina floods New Orleans and experiences an epiphany of sorts. She leaves her loveless marriage, boring job and overbearing family and follows her dream of becoming a travel writer. But the storm also blew open a psychic door. Now she sees ghosts who have died by water as a SCANC, a person who experiences “specific communication with apparitions, non-entities and the comatose.” As Viola enters her new career as travel writer, solving mysteries that appear with apparitions everywhere she goes, the one person she hopes to speak to — her daughter who died of

leukemia years before — continues to elude her. Or does she? In “A Ghost of a Chance,” Viola joins a group of journalists in Eureka Springs, Ark., for her first press trip as a travel writer. These trips are arranged by tourism officials, aimed to introduce journalists to their areas so they might write about them. Some of the articles I have written about in DeSoto magazine have been the result of press trips. One of my first press trips was to Hot Springs, Ark., where I met Karen Ott Mayer, your illustrious editor. Karen, our friend Bobby Hickman and I were three people that would have been routinely separated in grade school. We had way too much fun, but then we were treated to the world’s smallest St. Patrick’s Day Parade (one block long) with Mike Rowe, star of the TV show “Dirty Jobs” rolling down the street on a toilet. The festivities were followed by a concert by Mini Kiss, a Kiss tribute band consisting of little people with a form of dwarfism. Karen, Bobby and I also spent time on a Shreveport press trip where we zip-lined over 100 alligators, enjoyed a Halloween party at a Chinese restaurant and viewed crafts based on the Rapture along with a collection of taxidermy at the Touchstone Wildlife and Art Museum. DeSoto 29

So naturally I had to include Karen in my books as character Winnie Calder, a native of Mississippi who lives on a farm and raises goats while penning travel stories. Everything is fictional and I will swear to that in court if Karen sues, but art reflects life and I’ll leave it at that. Other travel writers who were not as much fun made their way into my books in a not so glorious light, but I won’t name names. As for the paranormal aspects of the books, I’ve always been fascinated by ghost stories and Eureka Springs has more than its share. Lucky for me there’s an amazing writer’s retreat there named Dairy Hollow. Thanks to their generosity — the fees are subsidized — I was able to spend two weeks of quiet bliss working on my novel. Most of “Ghost of a Chance” takes place at the 1888 Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, which I visited on numerous occasions. The history behind this Victorian beauty ranges from the elite visiting the springs on vacation to a quack doctor professing a cure for cancer while hiding the bodies when his patients failed to recover. Needless to say, there’s a good reason why the Crescent Hotel is known as “America’s Most Haunted Hotel.” But back to Viola, my heroine of the series. Like me, she changed jobs after Katrina and begins again, but she still grieves for the losses in her life. In each book, she must solve a ghostly mystery in her travels but, since she can only contact those who have died by water, cannot reach her daughter on the other side. In “A Ghost of a Chance,” she discovers this new ability to speak to the dead and learns how to use it, but nothing is easy. She still must deal with her crazy New Orleans family and an ex who won’t let go. “A Ghost of a Chance” is currently available as an ebook through under my pen name of Cherie Claire but will be available in print and at all online bookstores, along with the second book in the series “Ghost Town,” later this spring. For more information on this series and others I have written, and to sign up for my newsletter, visit

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into the wild } mountain’s edge

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An Edge for Everyone By Jeanni Brosius. Photograohy courtesy of

A near-death experience lead Tom Dexter to open what would become the largest retail knife store in Arkansas. The 1,200-square-foot showroom of The Mountain’s Edge, located at 406 Central Ave. in Hot Springs, Arkansas, is home to a huge variety of knives. In 2012, his woodworking career with Dexter Woodworks came to a screeching halt when he developed a potentially life-threatening allergy to the wood that he had used to create custom ink pens and game calls. “It was a little bitty pocket knife that saved my life,” Dexter said. A customer brought the pocket knife to the register and noticed Dexter’s rash. “He grabbed my hand,” Dexter said with a laugh. After the initial shock of having someone grab his hand, Dexter said he listened to what the man said. “I’m a doctor, and you’re

not far from going into anaphylactic shock,” Dexter said the dermatologist from Houston, Texas told him. Dexter said that the exotic woods he was working with were oily and toxic. The oils built up in his body, and over time became very toxic to his system. With the realization that he would have to stop producing the pens and game calls, Dexter and his wife Tonya put their heads together and came up with the concept of expanding their knife inventory to the store they had opened in 2010. “We carry approximately 25 different brands,” Dexter DeSoto 33

said, “and as many American-made brands as possible.” Dexter said Case brand knives are the most collected knives in the world, and Mountain’s Edge is the largest Case dealer in Arkansas with more than 500 different Case knives in stock in addition to thousands of other types and brands to try to catch anything a customer could want. Knives for hunting, camping, and survival to machetes for clearing brush, can all be found on the shelves of the store. “Explaining what a good multi-purpose knife would be is kind of like asking, ‘Ford or Chevy?’ It’s just a matter of opinion. That’s why we carry a variety.” Because of varying state laws, Dexter is limited on some of the knives he can ship in certain states. “Some states have strict knife laws,” he said. “The Buck 119 fixed blade knife is a hunting knife, but it’s been used for nefarious purposes, and in Iowa, the Buck knives are illegal. In Massachusetts, a folding pocket knife that locks while it is open is considered an illegal weapon….A knife is only as dangerous as the person holding it.” The way to care for a knife is about as individual as the variety of knives that Mountain’s Edge sells. “It depends on the type of steel it’s made of,” Dexter said. “There are 50 to 100 different types of steel.” According to Buck Knives website, cleaning and caring for knives will help them maintain performance and enhance the life. Here are some tips from Buck: • Keep your knife dry; that means the entire knife, not just the blade. • Keep your knife clean, particularly moving parts and locking devices. • Keep your knife oiled; especially pivot points and the blade. Oil at least twice a year. • Keep your knife sharp; a sharp blade is safer than a dull one. • Don’t try to repair a damaged knife yourself. • Store your knife in a dry place. Even though the store offers such a variety of knives, including throwing knives and a 22-and-a-half-inch blade for wild boar hunting, buyers will also find a variety of shaving and grooming tools and whetstones. Dexter said one of the whetstone brands he carries is manufactured in nearby Pearcy, Arkansas. Dan’s Whetstones is the only complete producer and supplier of all natural Arkansas whetstone grades, and has been overseeing the process from quarry to finished whetstone since 1976. Not only did an ordinary pocket knife likely contribute to saving Dexter’s life, it’s also The Mountain’s Edge’s best-selling knife.

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table talk } sumner grille

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Serving up Southern


By Andrea Brown Ross. Photography courtesy of Andrea Brown Ross

Southerners love food, family, and fellowship which is what makes Sunday brunch so appetizing. And in the Mississippi Delta town of Sumner, the Sumner Grille is serving up Southern favorites. Current owner and chef, Vanessa Pimpton, worked under the tutelage of Executive Chef, Walt Norwood. Since his departure last year, Pimpton has taken on full responsibilities at the restaurant which opened in 2013. “I was born and raised in Sumner. I got my start cooking for the public by helping my sister. We served plated lunches in Tutwiler, right down the road,” shared Pimpton. While her restaurant still serves daily lunch specials of a meat and three sides, the evening and Sunday brunch menus offer a more sophisticated repertoire.

“Some of our specials include smoked prime rib, stuffed pork tenderloin, and rice grits,” shared server, Tonya Bell. And if you haven’t had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of rice grits, as opposed to corn or hominy grits, you’re in for one heck of a surprise. Supplied by the locally grown Mississippi Blue Rice Company, Pimpton’s grits will make customers want to lick the bowl clean. “The fried chicken is definitely a brunch favorite. Our grits and grillades, our benedicts, and our waffle BLT’s where DeSoto 37

waffles replace bread, are also favorites. I think that’s what makes us different. Customers can get soul food and breakfast,” explained Pimpton. “Our grillades include bits of steak with peppers and tomatoes, similar to rotel,” explained Bell. Benedict options include Bayou Benedict (catfish), Beouf Benedict (steak), and crab. French Toast Bananas Foster and the popular “SG” burger are offered on the brunch menu. Just as diverse as their menu is the array of customers. Patrick Weems, executive director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, explained. “The Sumner Grille offers a space for local community members. On any given day you will see a cross section of the community. Even more local nonprofits and community groups use the Sumner Grille to further their works from early childhood education to economic development,” he said. Pimpton commented, “It’s not uncommon for us to have a ladies group meet up here for brunch. They’ll come from different parts of the Delta to get together. When the duck hunters arrive in the winter, we really get busy. We serve customers from around the world.” Sumner Grille offers a private dining room as well as bar which serves beer only. Lockers are available for patrons wanting to bring wine and/or hard liquor. Set ups are available at the bar. Reservations are taken for groups and limited catering options are available. A smoke-free restaurant, Sunday brunch is served from 11a.m. to 2p.m. Check their facebook page for full menus, hours, as well as their specials. “We’ll be serving something special for Easter brunch and the Mother’s Day brunch,” said Pimpton. “The community is now thriving with a museum, art gallery, and other small businesses opening up,” said Weems. “The Sumner Grille is an important part of the new story of Sumner that is emerging.”

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exploring destinations } spa at horseshoe

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Escape with Amber & Quartz By Charlene Oldham. Photography courtesy of TreyClark and the Spa at Horseshoe

After a typical massage, Lisa Konupka is usually ready for a nap. So the social media manager had her doubts when others told her getting a rub down in the exclusive amber and quartz crystal bed at the recently-opened Spa at Horseshoe in Tunica can have the opposite effect, all while providing the deep sense of relaxation that comes with a stress-reducing spa stay. “I’m spoiled now that I’ve used the quartz bed. I don’t think I could ever go to another massage,” said Konupka who, in addition to her social media duties also plans meetings and oversees the website for Tunica’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It really did give me energy. I know that sounds weird, but I felt so energized and ready to go afterward.” Given her role in the travel and tourism industry, Konupka has been to her share of spas. But she sees herself revisiting the Spa at Horseshoe -- which is in the casino complex’s hotel -- often, either solo or with a few friends, as a retreat right there in town.

“It is a different level of spa experience. It’s a step above anything I’ve ever been to,” said Konupka, who likened the amber and quartz bed to being surrounded by a warm, rounded pebbles of a beach during a massage. “They go above and beyond to make you feel relaxed and taken care of while you’re there. I think that’s what makes it so special.” The spa’s amber and quartz crystal bed and its use of Elemis products, technology and extensive training protocols also set it apart, according to Kay Lasic, regional director of spa operations for Steiner Leisure Limited, whose products include the Elemis brand. Elemis, based in London, offers DeSoto 41

facial and body spa therapies on more than 100 cruise line spas and many other land-based locations around the world. Although it already has a couple of other spas in Mississippi, the Horseshoe hosts one of only two amber and quartz crystal beds. The other is in the House of Elemis spa in London’s Mayfair area. “We wanted something that was exclusive, that you couldn’t get anywhere else in the region, which is why we went with the quartz and amber bed,” she said. “There are quartz beds in the major cities -- New York, Miami, Los Angeles. We wanted something unique, so we combined the properties of amber with the quartz.” Lasic, who helped develop the Tunica menu of facials, massages and other spa services, spent a lot of time researching the other spas in the area and examining the likely demographic mix of the new location’s guests to ensure the Horseshoe proved a perfect fit. “We knew exactly what the gaps in the market were, what was missing at our spa competitors there and hopefully we’ve brought all those added features to the Horseshoe,” she said. “We really put a lot of effort into it to make sure they have something for all audiences and something unique to the region that people can’t get anywhere else. They have it in this beautiful gem of a spa right there in Tunica.” Since its grand opening in January 2017, the spa has also been adding packages geared toward brides and grooms, wedding party VIPs including the maid of honor or mother of the bride, bachelorette parties, or even a guy’s or girl’s getaway, with additional options being added as the weather warms up and guests establish their favorite features, Lasic said. “They can either have spa services done inside the spa or they can have them done in a hotel suite. Or they are doing poolside events where you can do massages or you can have your bridal party get services poolside. They’ve got private cabanas guests can go in and get massages there also,” she said. “It’s not being done anywhere in that market.” The overall goal is to give guests their ideal environment for relaxation and rejuvenation, said Sindy Davis Helton, advertising specialist for Caesars Entertainment, which operates the Horseshoe Tunica Hotel and Casino. For example, customers who don’t want to mix the sights and sounds of the casino with their serene spa stay don’t have to go anywhere near the gaming floor. And the men’s and ladies’ lounges and treatment areas are generally separate, which adds to most guest’s comfort level. “But we don’t have an issue setting up a room where we can do couples massage and we can also have room service serve lunch,” said Helton, who recommends those who plan to visit over a weekend call a couple weeks in advance to book spa services so they’ll get exactly the time slot and treatments they want. “We will cater to what you need.” She said the spa has been drawing a mix of gamers, hotel guests and locals since it opened, adding that DeSoto and Tunica County residents and casino employees receive a 10 percent discount on any service. There are also other rotating specials, some of which will offer mid-week discounts to help encourage anytime getaways for tourists and locals alike. “I think what guests will find is that it is very relaxed. Guests are treated like they would be in someone’s home. They’re welcomed,” she said “But, even though it is in the South and you get a southern, down-home feeling, I think it will rival any spa on any cruise ship or in any of our bigger cities. While it is down home, it’s also very upscale.” For more information, visit

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on the road again } meridian, ms

, n a i d i Mer pi p i s s i s s i M

9:00 Locally-owned Scarlet Cup Coffee House in North Meridian is the perfect way to jump start your day. Pair a freshly baked muffin with a delicious cup of coffee, espresso, tea or frozen latte. 10:00 After breakfast head to the Atrium Mini Mall which features over 88 indoor vendor booths full of unique finds including antiques, art, jewelry, home decor and clothing. 11:00 Head downtown for a visit to the Jimmie Rodgers Museum in Highland Park. Jimmie Rodgers, the “Father of Country Music”, was born in Meridian in 1897. The museum houses memorabilia of his life and career including his guitar. The 64th annual Jimmie Rodgers Festival is May 5 and 6. This year’s lineup includes Wynonna Judd, Cowboy Mouth, Brandy Clark and Reckless Kelly. While in the park be sure to ride the Dentzel Carousel. In operation since 1909, this National Historic Landmark is one of few two-row stationary Dentzel menagerie carousels. 1:00 Lunch at Harvest Grill. Owner/chef, Marshall, grew up in Meridian. After years of culinary training in Hawaii and Colorado he returned with his family to open the restaurant. Salads, sandwiches, wraps and unique appetizers like brisket spring rolls are offered. Save room for one of their mouth watering dessert creations. 2:00 Visitors to the city can’t miss the beautiful carousel horses scattered around town. Enjoy a downtown walking tour which takes you by 16 of these works of art. Other great self guided tours include the Civil War and Civil Rights trails. Each marker has a QR code that provides a short video about each stop. 3:00 Tour the Meridian Museum of Art located in the historic Old Carnegie Library. The museum houses collections from regional and Mississippi artists. They also hold classes, community events and special exhibitions. 4:00 Just a short drive away sits Rose Hill Cemetery. See the gravestones of many Meridian settlers as well as a civil war mound that contains more than 100 remains of Confederate soldiers. You can also view the grave of Emil and Kelly Mitchell, king and queen of the gypsies. 5:30 Dinner at Weidmann’s, Mississippi’s oldest restaurant. Since 1870, locals and visitors have enjoyed great food and outstanding service. Starters include their famous fried green tomatoes, crab cakes and gumbo. For the main course order a perfectly cooked steak or a seafood dish like shrimp and grits. There are several delectable desserts to choose from but they are known for their black bottom pie. Open for lunch and dinner as well as a Sunday Jazz Brunch. DeSoto 45

The Great Outdoors: If you enjoy being outdoors, Meridian and the surrounding areas offer several beautiful spots. Bonita Lakes has wonderful nature trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Enjoy fishing one of the three lakes or having a picnic. Admission is free. Open year round, daybreak to 10:00pm. A little further drive is Dunn’s Falls. The 65-foot waterfall was once used as a power source for a gristmill and the manufacture of Stetson hats. The park is a natural wildlife refuge with picnic area, a gristmill pond, hiking and swimming areas. Open Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Arts: Meridian has many fabulous venues to see plays, live music and shows. - MSU Riley Center for Eduction and Performing Arts is celebrating 10 years. Enjoy premiere performances in the fully restored 1890 Victorian Grand Opera House theater. - Meridian Symphony Orchestra offers a variety of musical performances from classical to family favorites. - Temple Theater for Performing Arts offers live concerts, theatrical performances and movies. - Meridian Little Theatre, Mississippi’s oldest community theater, has five shows during each season which runs October through May. 46 DeSoto

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greater goods } april showers



April Showers 2




8 7

1. Rain Boots, SoCo, 2521 Caffey St, Hernando, MS 2. Ponchos, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 3. Umbrellas, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 4.Rain Jacket, Center Stage, 324 W Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 5. Rain Boots, The Blue Olive, 210 E Commerce St # 4, Hernando, MS 6. Rain Jacket, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 7. Umbrellas, Center Stage, 324 W Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 8. Umbrellas, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS

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greater goods } easter

Easter 1





6 7

8 9


1. Door hangers, The Bunker, 2631 McIngvale Rd #106, Hernando, MS 2. Yard art, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 3. McCarty rabbits, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 4. Muse Easter bath ball set, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Rd, Marion, AR 5. Glass platter, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Rd. Olive Branch, MS 6. The Easter Story Book, Mimi’s On Main, 432 W Main St, Senatobia, MS 7. Bunnies, Ultimate Gifts, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 8. Easter dress, Frank, 210 E Commerce St #7, Hernando, MS 9. Etta B Pottery, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Rd #115, Olive Branch, MS 10. Easter dress, The Bunker, 2631 McIngvale Rd #106, Hernando, MS DeSoto 49

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Chef Regina Charboneau’s Twin Oaks

Twin Oaks Dining Room at Night

DIY ESCAPES By J. Eric Eckard. Photography courtesy of J. Eric Eckard, Twin Oaks,

Pinterest and the DIY Network have paved the way for a wave of do-ityourself trends that have seeped into a wide swath of our society. From hacks on how to fix a coat zipper to decorating your child’s birthday cake, rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands a little dirty has become more commonplace than ever. And that includes travelers looking for something different while on vacation – or even locals who want a unique experience during a night on the town. You can tee it up at a resort golf course, catch some rays on the beach or even admire some artifacts at a museum and bring back stories, suntans and amazing photos from your trip. But learning vacations allow travelers to return with something a little more substantial. When traveling to Mississippi, you can choose between

cooking your own meal, brewing your own beer, picking your own produce on a farm or creating your own masterpiece – all under the tutelage of an expert in each field. Twin Oaks – Natchez Chef Regina Charboneau’s take on the bed and breakfast experience allows guests to spend a weekend learning to put together a five-course meal from starter to dessert. A group of at least six can opt for Charboneau’s cooking class package, and she’ll devise a menu based on the group’s likes and dislikes. “I’ll have everything prepped; I’ll have things chopped beforehand,” Charboneau said. “When you have a group, DeSoto 51

Brownlee Farms

there are different levels of interests. There will be some who are there every step of the way, and there will be some who just want to enjoy the company.” Charboneau said she talks more about technique and tricks of the trade than she does about the specific menu. And with her background, she’s picked up plenty to hand down to her guests/students. She has cooked all over the world – from Paris to San Francisco to Alaska – on riverboats, in railway cars and in a wilderness bush camp. But she returned to her native land of Natchez in 2001 and bought Twin Oaks, a six-guest room home built in 1832. Primarily it’s couples who sign up for her classes, and Charboneau said, there are many men out there who love to cook. Author of several cookbooks, she uses her recipes in most of the class menus. Cooking starts about 4 p.m., and things are wrapped up by about 7 p.m., she said. “Then we sit down for a nice dinner,” Charboneau said. “It’s a lot of fun.” Hops and Growlers – Biloxi Scott Hixson has been brewing beer for almost a decade, and he opened a home brewing supply store that also features a growler filling station with 20 beers on tap. For the first-time brewer who wants to make a batch of beer for his friends or an experienced beer-maker who wants to try a new recipe, Hixson holds classes at Hops and Growlers. “I’ ll tailor the class to the individual,” Hixson said. “I work with them one-on-one and walk them through the process. We talk about the beer they like. If they like a bock or maybe an IPA, we’ll come up with a hops bill that’s designed after that.” 52 DeSoto

In one recent class, he said, he had a novice brewer working alongside a veteran. Hixson helped them put together their supplies, including a food grade bucket and an air lock. He asks that students buy ingredients from his store. Hixson has won numerous awards for his beers over the years, including a gold medal at the 2014 National Homebrew Competition in the German wheat and rye category. Even though Hixson said he gets plenty of first-time brewers in his class, he estimates that maybe 75 percent want to come back and brew again. “It really can be a lifelong hobby.” he said. Brownlee Farms – Red Banks If you’re looking for a fun day of harvesting your own fruits or vegetables, Brownlee Farms just southeast of Memphis offers a wide variety of produce from which to choose. Their main crops, however, are strawberries in the spring and pumpkins in the fall. Throughout the year, depending on conditions, amateur pickers might find tomatoes, sweet corn, squash, peas, cucumbers and watermelon at the farm. “We make our living on strawberries and pumpkins,” said Brooks Brownlee, who runs the family farm. “It’s mostly families that like to pick their own. We let people go through the fields, and they’ll take their kids out and fill up a pail. Plus, we have a big farm playground for the kids, too.” Wagon rides, tours of the farm and a five-acre maze in the fall offer visitors more than just a chance to pick their own fruit and veggies. Typically, strawberry season starts about the middle of April and generally lasts six to 10 weeks. In the fall, pumpkin picking season starts around the last Saturday in September and ends at the end of November. Brownlee said most people who come for pumpkins

want them for decorations during Halloween or Thanksgiving. But strawberry pickers know the difference between a farm fresh strawberry and one from the grocery store. “You cannot replicate a farm fresh strawberry,” he said. “If you’ve never eaten a farm fresh strawberry, you haven’t eaten a strawberry.” Painting With A Twist – Hattiesburg, Jackson/Flowood Would-be artists walk into this studio and start with a blank canvass. Two hours later, a painter might be born. “This really isn’t for the accomplished artist,” said franchise owner James Crowder. “It’s simplified art, mostly for a novice. We’re more about the experience. We’re about having a good time.” The studio provides the paint and canvasses, and the guests are encouraged to bring their own food and drink. Crowder said there’s usually singing, dancing, games and contests that go along with the painting. Crowder suggests checking the website for a specific class of interest, such as painting hydrangeas on a blue background, rustic heart or cups of love. “We do at least one couples class once a week,” Crowder said. “And on Valentine’s Day, there’s always a big turnout. We have a kids’ class on Saturday morning.” The first Saturday of the month is known as SOS Saturday, when artists can return their paintings for a free “fix-up” in case they weren’t happy with the final product. “If someone is struggling during the class, I might intercede,” Crowder said. “But you want it to be as much theirs as possible. The more you come, though, the more you can learn.” Most classes last two hours and offer a 16x20-inch canvas. For more experienced painters, Crowder’s studios offer a three-hour class with painting on a 24x36-inch canvas. Getting away can make much more than just the physical act of traveling. With customized vacations built on personal interests, getting away takes on a whole new perspective.

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dog gone

travelin’ By Kathryn Winter. Photography courtesy of, and

Going on a trip or planning a fabulous vacation can be fun, but what about traveling with our furry friends? Going the extra mile to ensure their safety is an important part in the packing process.

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Kurgo Harness

Luckily, pet travel products and procedures have really changed over the years. Before traveling-whether by land, sea or air- make an appointment with your dog’s veterinarian to make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date and to obtain a health certificate dated within 10 days of your departure. Many airlines require this before travel. When traveling outside of the continental United States, additional planning and health care requirements may be necessary. Contact the foreign office of the country for precise information. Anna Kugler, junior buyer for Hollywood Feed, said the number one thing about traveling with your pet is to make sure they are safe with you. “Safety comes first. It’s important to have anything your dog might need with you. I always make sure to have a water bowl, poop bags, leash, food, treats and a blanket for the kennel. It helps to make a list before taking a trip,” Kugler said. “Hollywood Feed in Oxford is a one stop shop for anything having to do with pet travel. We carry a line called Kurgo-it’s a company created by two brothers and they make a fabulous line of leashes and harnesses. A first aid kit is also important no matter which way you’re traveling. Be sure to make one for both you and your furry friend in case of an injury.” Hollywood Feed also carries several brands of calming treats and supplements for dogs who get anxious in the car or while traveling. “We carry a new product called Pet Relief, which is a diffuser type essential oil that can help animals relax and treat anxiety in the car. We have a motion sickness one, 56 DeSoto

and also one with hemp oil that helps with a lot of different things. Travel calm can help with an upset stomach and is a great option traveling with a pet,” Kugler said. Pet travel has really come a long way, and now there are products available like collapsible bowls for water and food on the go. If traveling long distances by car, a good thing to have is the proper harness. “We have a crash tested harness for cars-it’s super comfortable, adheres in the car but also can be used for walking. Then there’s an impact harness that is crash tested up to 130 pounds. It’s the safest harness on the market. Using a car harness can help keep a dog contained while driving. Sometimes if pets get scared they want to jump from the backseat into our laps, but this can be very hazardous especially while driving on an interstate,” Kugler said. One unique product is a life jacket for dogs. The removable flotation layer can be used as a warm vest in the winter. It also includes handles on it for you to grab your dog quickly out of the water if needed. Waterproof backseat covers can help keep your car clean. If a dog is dirty or sandy from the beach the seat cover is machine washable and comes in different fabrics, sizes, colors, etc. A six-way leash is a great option for people always on the go. “You can make it into a three-foot leash, use it as a two dog leash belt style, you can go hands free and put it around your waist, hitch it to anything, wrap it around a tree, park bench, etc. A lot of people like that it comes with a bottle opener,” Kugler said. Crates are important for the safety of your pet during travel. Hollywood Feed carries airline-approved carriers. To

keep your dog preoccupied while in the crate, be sure to bring along a toy. Kongs are great to fill with peanut butter, a rubber Frisbee is fun, and Dog for Dog makes a brand of granola bars especially for dogs. “For $2.99, it’s easy to put a few in the car with you to keep your dog satisfied. It’s great for protein and a boost of energy.” Really soft and luxurious blankets can make riding in a kennel comfortable. Kugler said that they carry waterproof pads for kennels in case of accidents- along with beds that can fit in the back of a car. While traveling by plane, it’s best to book a direct flight if possible. Smaller breeds can travel with you under your seat in a kennel, depending on airline policies. It is important for travelers to check with their airline to find out specific rules and regulations. For example, Delta Airlines will not allow pets under eight weeks old, as well as certain breeds like pugs and pitbulls, on the aircraft. Exercising your dog before a long trip can help them to relax and be well rested. Make sure that your pets are safe and secure in a well-ventilated crate or carrier. While flying, take extra care your pet’s crate has proper identification. The crate should be large enough for your pet to stand, sit and turn around in comfortably. While being away from home your dog will experience a lot of new sights, smells, sounds, and potential food items. Make sure you’re watching them, especially in an area where your dog could accidentally ingest. Many boutique hotels offer concierge or butler services to tend to your pet while you’re enjoying the day out and about. Be sure to call or have your travel agent call and ask about pet policies and procedures. Staff members at pet-friendly places can recommend local dog parks, restaurants that allow dogs on patios, and local veterinarians if needed. While there are very few cruise lines that will let you bring your pet, the Queen Mary II is an exception. “An on-board kennel master is in charge of pet’s regular feedings, walks, indoor playtime and cleanup. Upon arrival, pets receive complimentary goodie bags that include name tags, food dishes and toys. Pets are supplied with beds, blankets, gourmet food, snacks and either individual playtime or group playtime. Owners may visit pets throughout the day in two-hour blocks of time. Cunard recommends that passengers book their passage as far in advance as possible, as Cunard Cruise Line DeSoto 57

Kong Travel Water Bowl

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allows only 12 pets per voyage.” Pet owners should create a pet passport for their dog, a collection of all identifying and required documents for entering a given country. Knowing pet import rules will help make traveling with your pet safer and more enjoyable. Most European countries except England, Ireland, Sweden and Malta will welcome your pet if you have the EU form 998. Some countries have strict pet quarantine laws. Beverly Brent, a travel agent for Avoya Travel said when travelers are looking at travel destinations, the resorts and places that are pet friendly will have a pet paw showing in the details on a room or resort. “Put their food in small snack size ziplock bags to make it easier to feed them. And always if you have doubts on whether a resort or hotel accepts pets, just ask.”

Top pet-travel friendly places in the U.S. 1. Austin, Texas 2. Bar Harbor, Maine 3. Cape Cod, Massachusetts 4. Carmel, California 5. Chattanooga, Tennessee 6. Chicago, Illinois 7. Colorado Springs, Colorado 8. Key West, Florida 9. Portland, Oregon 10. Sonoma Valley and Napa, California

Quick Checklist for traveling with dogs: 1. First Aid Kit 2. Health certificate/verification papers 3. Kennel or carrier 4. Harness and leash 5. Food bowl and food 6. Water bowl and water 7. Poop bags 8. Any medications needed 9. Blankets/bedding 10. Toys and treats

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“Stop the Car!� 7 Southern Spots Worth Your Stop By Carey Crawford. Photography coutesy of Carey Crawford and

If you find your travels taking you through north Mississippi, north Alabama, and eastern Tennessee, some pretty special treasure spots may appear on your route. Some of them, you could drive right past and never know it, and others you might catch a glimpse from a billboard as you pass by. For each one, however, the same question comes to mind: Is it worth the stop or not? The good news is that personal experience or a collection of voices can help with that decision. So based on both, here are a few spots that would truly be worth your stop.

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White Trolley Cafe: Corinth, MS

Situated on a hill alongside highway 72 sits the White Trolley Cafe, a fixture in the historic southern town of Corinth since 1947. The White Trolley specializes in a delicacy called the slugburger. It’s a mixture of beef, pork, and soy grits used as an extender. Local legend says the name came from the slang term for a nickel, because that’s how much they cost. The stools at the long counter are usually occupied by regulars, but just wait a few minutes, and a spot will open up. A couple of small tables are tucked into a corner, so count yourself lucky to get one. They serve regular beef burgers and breakfast, too, but you have to sample one of these unique southern sandwiches for yourself. It’s best to order at least two with fries for a proper slugburger meal.

Alabama Music Hall of Fame: Tuscumbia, AL

This small northwestern Alabama town is home to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. From the highway the building looks somewhat like a small convention center. A large sign by the highway beckons your arrival. One would never suspect this is a museum featuring outstanding exhibits and boasting an impressive slate of inductees. You’ll see tributes to the likes of Lionel Richie, Bobby Goldsboro, Hank Williams, Sr., Tommy Shaw of Styx, Emmylou Harris, and of course, the group Alabama. You can even record your own single in their onsite recording studio before you leave. The Alabama Music Hall of Fame is definitely worth stopping by. 62 DeSoto

U.S. Space & Rocket Center: Huntsville, AL

Into all things NASA and space exploration? The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is your ticket to ride, then. The center boasts one of the largest collections of space memorabilia and rockets in the country. Breathtaking films are shown in their impressive IMAX theater dome and the National Geographic Theater runs some amazing 3D films. The center is also the place where the annual Space Camp is held. You’ll need all day to explore this fascinating tribute to space and those who venture into it. Just look for the giant Saturn V rocket standing proudly against the Alabama sky. You can’t miss it!

Unclaimed Baggage Center: Scottsboro, AL

Where does all that lost luggage go? Well, it winds up in the small town of Scottsboro, Alabama, at the Unclaimed Baggage Center. Talk about a shopper’s paradise, this place is the mecca for deals on…well, you name it! You never know what you’ll find in this sprawling complex, and the inventory changes all the time. It’s just an adventure looking at all the things people lose, leave behind, or abandon. From clothing to iPads, to suits of armor, you didn’t know you needed it till

you find it at Unclaimed Baggage. Located near old downtown Scottsboro, just follow the signs to get you there. This shopping destination has been featured on the Today Show and Travel Channel among other media.

MoonPie Store: Chattanooga, TN

Tucked away in downtown Chattanooga a few blocks from the Tennessee River is the MoonPie General Store. Across the river is the Chattanooga Bakery, where this tasty southern treat is made. MoonPies were created for local miners who wanted a more substantial snack to keep them going between meals. A marshmallow center is squeezed between two round graham cracker cookies and dipped in a flavored coating. It makes for DeSoto 63

the perfect hand-held delicacy. The bakery does not offer tours, but the General Store has plenty to offer. The store stocks a variety of flavors of MoonPies plus lots of novelty items and collectibles. Be sure to have an RC Cola with your MoonPie. It’s a combination that’s quintessential Southern.

Mayfield Dairy: Athens, Tennessee

Just off Interstate 75 lies the McMinn County seat town of Athens. This town of around 13,500 is headquarters to Mayfield Dairy, a major regional supplier of dairy products for ten southeastern states. Take exit 52 on I-75 and drive into town, then turn left into the main entrance. A gift shop in the Visitor Center offers souvenirs, ice cream scoops and dishes, and company collectibles. You can’t leave without a stop in the ice cream parlor for a scoop or two. Sample the variety of creamy flavors and make your choice. Or maybe you’d prefer one of their many signature ice cream novelties. Tours of the creamery are offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday every hour. Saturday tours are available as well. 64 DeSoto

Knoxville Zoo: Knoxville, Tennessee

The Knoxville Zoo is easily accessible right along Interstate 40 near the heart of Knoxville. Covering 53 acres, the zoo has around 800 animals. It’s on the small side, as zoos go, but the animal habitats are impressive. Plans are underway to make the Knoxville Zoo an even better experience for their visitors. Renovations and updates are part of a five-year plan to improve animal habitats and guest amenities. The zoo exhibits the usual exotic animals you would expect to find, but it also has some great specimens native to North America, like the river otter, the black bear, and the red wolf. It’s open every day from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. These stops are not big name destinations compared to others, but it’s often those lesser known points of interest that often hold the most delightful surprises. So, when the road takes you in that direction, do yourself a favor and put these seven stops on your list.

White Trolley CafĂŠ 1215 Hwy 72 Corinth, MS 38834 662-287-4593 Alabama Music Hall of Fame 617 Hwy 72 W. Tuscumbia, AL 35674 256-381-4417 U.S. Space and Rocket Center 1 Tranquility Base Huntsville, AL 35805 800-637-7223 Unclaimed Baggage Center 509 W. Willow St. Scottsboro, AL 35768 256-259-1525 MoonPie General Store 429 Broad St. Chattanooga, TN 37402 423-877-0592 Mayfield Dairy 4 Mayfield Lane Athens, TN 37303 423-649-2653 Knoxville Zoo 3500 Knoxville Zoo Dr. Knoxville, TN 37914 865-637-5331

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homegrown } biscuit leather company

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Brown like a Biscuit By Robin Gallaher Branch. Photography courtesy of Biscuit Leather Company

One of the first things Tracy Wooten, a busy French teacher in a Montessori school in Homewood, Alabama, does when she enters her classroom is to put her purse on a table’s corner. It’s a biscuit-colored leather bag, big enough to hold folders, the multitude of papers any teacher carries, plus her eyeglass case and phone. “The children see it all day. They love the look and feel of it,” Wooten said. “They love everything about it.” Wooten’s custom-designed leather bag is the work of her friend, Becky Stayner, owner of Biscuit Leather Company in Homewood, a Birmingham suburb. Stayner named her company after the way she likes her buttermilk biscuits:homemade, fresh, and topped with cold butter and honey. Warm biscuits are honey brown, and so is her work. Stayner makes leather purses, the kind with straight lines, cross stitching, pockets (inside and outside)—and most important, the kind that actually improves with age. “The leather doesn’t

fold in on itself,” Stayner said. Describing her bags, Stayner smiled, “They’re expensive, but you will hand them down to your children.” Stayner, 59, added artisan leathercraft to her photography career about three years ago. She is a professional food photographer and shoots pictures for magazines including Cooking Light. Stayner grew up in eastern Kentucky, in Hazard and then Lexington. Her father was a reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal. Stayner and her husband Owen met in photography school. He photographs buildings. Stayner loved both the shooting aspect of photography and the film itself. Using a 4 x 5 view camera and going under DeSoto 67

a black hood, she photographed food. Essential elements of a good photo are the food’s presentation and the lighting. “I was dragged kicking and screaming into digital,” she said. “We lost a lot of the tactile process of film with digital, and I miss it.” About three years ago she happened to see a friend’s old leather bag on a banister. “We traded skills. I photographed her children and she taught me how to make a leather bag,” Stayner said. Stayner is both gifted with her hands and has an artist’s ability to see things. Her two careers coincide because both require spatial relationship, an ability to see an image on film and an ability to see a finished product. “I’ve always been a detail-oriented person. Food photography and leather require that,” Stayner said. “Becky has a good eye,” Wooten said. Anne Couch, a Birmingham artist, is another who bought a bag, the popular seller Stayner calls a messenger bag. The two met at a friend’s home during a party for three vendors. 68 DeSoto

“Becky and I hit it off immediately,” Couch remembered. “She told me I needed a new bag. When I saw what she was selling, I instantly knew I could keep that bag forever.” Couch describes herself as a minimalist. She says the bag lets her “know where everything is. It’s just perfect.” She slings it cross-body, from the right shoulder to the left hip. “It goes with everything. It just does,” Couch said. “It’s year-round and looks great in the summer with whites and great in the winter with blacks.” And Couch enjoys the compliments. “Honestly, I’ve never in my life been asked by so many strangers, ‘Where did you get your bag?’ It happens all the time,” Couch said. Wooten also appreciates comments on her purse from a group known, well, to be finicky. “I’m 50 and millennials love it! I feel young and hip!” Tiffany Vickers Davis, co-owner of Nourish Foods, is a typical Biscuit customer in the sense that she and Stayner are friends and Homewood neighbors and Stayner solved her problem. “I had just started my own business and had a

two-year-old son. I was shlepping so much stuff. I needed something that looked good and could tow the line. I brought all of my ‘things’ to Becky so she could get an idea of what I wanted. I brought a sippy, a lovey, a computer, a clipboard and some files, plus the typical purse items,” Davis said. That was in 2014. Stayer made her a large bag, blonde with navy stitching And now? “It is more beautiful than ever. The leather is dark and worn. The stitching is solid and the bag still stands up straight!” The standard bag is six inches deep, 13 ½ inches tall and 15 inches wide at its widest point. The bags are expensive (think a basic rate of $450) for a number of reasons like quality materials, time invested, and a Biscuit principle: a living wage. Stayner explained it this way. A messenger bag’s leather is about $100—and American. “Almost all our leather is from American tanneries,” she said. The work is hand punched, cut, sewn, and finished. “It takes 12 hours of work to make a bag,” she said. Although she started out doing it all, the work proved too arduous. “One person cannot do it all day after day. The repetitious motion becomes painful,” Stayner said. She needed stitchers. She thought of single parents who needed a second job but also needed to be home at night with their families. She started a non-profit that will offer micro loans for equipment. She has four stitchers now and three are single parents. Starting wage is $10 per hour. Visitors are welcome to her studio for personal consultations or can find Biscuit bags at

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southern gentleman } wine 101

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Man’s guide to Wine By J. Eric Eckard. Photography courtesy of, and

With nearly 200 different types of wines by taste and style, picking the right bottle often can be overwhelming and intimidating – particularly for a novice. With thousands of wineries in the United States alone, a good wine store or a fine-dining restaurant might have hundreds of bottles from which to choose. How does a fledgling wine drinker pick the right one? “Early on, you might have this idea that if the wine is expensive, it’s supposed to be good,” said Scott Fernandez of Hernando, Miss. a self-taught wine connoisseur. “When it’s not, that can be disappointing.One of the most satisfying things for a wine drinker is to find a good, inexpensive wine.” So, here are a few tips when searching for a bottle to take to a dinner party or trying to impress your date at a nice restaurant.

Rely on the experts A good wine shop or nice restaurant will have welltrained staff and often a certified sommelier to help you overcome the immediate confusion of bottle shock. Lesley McHardy, a certified sommelier for 17 years, runs Briarwood Wine & Spirits in Jackson, Miss. with her husband. She also serves on the committee for the Santé South Wine Festival, the largest wine festival in Mississippi, which raises money for DeSoto 71

Alzheimer’s Mississippi. “I’ve mentored a lot of employees over the years, and the first thing I tell them is ‘Don’t be a wine snob,’” McHardy said. “It seems that there are more and more wineries popping up every year, and the different types of wines available seems to be endless. “There’s no way anyone could ever try them all because every year there is a new vintage.” McHardy said she starts with the basics when determining what wine to recommend. White or red; what price point; any food pairings; and what wines they’ve tried in the past are a few key questions McHardy asks. Read, read, read Shelf talkers, notes wine stores use to describe wines on the shelf, can be a great resource for both novice and experienced wine drinkers. Many shelf talkers offer buyers the wine’s rating, a scale used in the wine industry to grade wines. McHardy said anything with an 85 rating or higher typically is good wine. Google or a wine app like Vivino also are good resources when picking a wine. You’ll get reviews from a wide range of wine drinkers, who have posted online about a particular bottle. Start slow A novice beer drinker is not going to start with an imperial stout from Germany or even a Scottish double IPA. And so a neophyte wine taster probably would be turned off immediately with a Portuguese Madeira or Spanish sherry – both strong wines with high alcoholic content. “Most people who haven’t tried a lot of wines are not going to like a dry wine that smells like a barnyard,” McHardy said. The main goal is to drink what you like. “I don’t want people to be embarrassed by what they drink. There’s a reason why Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors.” Taste, taste, taste Drinking what you like might be the main goal, but McHardy also encourages people to branch outside their comfort zones to find other wines they might like. She said she likes to baby step people into other wines. 72 DeSoto

“Never be afraid to try something new,” McHardy said. “Show a sense of adventure. “ I f yo u ’ r e a t a w i n e - s av v y restaurant, they’ll usually let you try something by the glass, just to get a taste. But you are going to kiss a lot of frogs.” Play the wine game Fernandez, who participated in his first wine tasting 30 years ago with his wife, said he likes to play a wine game at restaurants. He said many restaurants keep a cheap bottle of wine on the menu for the price-conscious diner, and it’s often not the best wine. “So, we like to pick the second-toleast expensive bottle,” he said. “Generally, the next one up is pretty good. We hit on a real good Pinot Noir in New Orleans by playing the wine game.” Join a wine club Try to find like-minded people in your exploration of wines. Fernandez and his wife belong to a club that has about 40 members. Small groups often meet at members’ homes to try different wines. McHardy has accumulated a vast collection of bottles over the years as a wine store owner, so she and her husband have been holding impromptu wine tastings at her home in recent months. “I sample a lot of wines so I can understand all types, and then I can find the right wine for our customers,” McHardy said. “Whether I like the wine or not isn’t important; I can understand it and explain it.” Wine transcends Fernandez said other alcoholic drinks often are seasonal. A gin and tonic tastes good on a hot day in some downtown bar; three fingers of Jack Daniel’s on a cold winter day will warm your cockles; and a cold beer quenches your thirst after mowing the lawn in the summer. “But wine is not some monolithic thing,” he said. “You can find a wine that fits into each of those categories.” Drink, drink, drink “The best way to learn about wine is to drink wine – and not the same wine over and over,” McHardy said.

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southern harmony } music cruises

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Sounds on the Seas By Debra Pamplin. Photography courtesy of StarVista

Cruising has always been a popular vacation choice, and while taking life easy and breathing in the gentle breezes off the water might not seem to leave much for improvement, the fine folks at StarVista Live have found a way. By creating several music-themed cruises throughout the year, fans of many music genres can enjoy meeting their music icons, while cruising their favorite destinations. Some of these speciality cruises have been around for over 15 years, while some are having their debut cruise later this year. Here is a look at the seven very different cruises, with all but one departing from Florida’s port of call.

Asher, The Grass Roots, Mark Lindsay, Ambrosia, The Family Stone along with the very best Beatles tribute bands from England, Sweden, Norway, Scotland, Holland, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Canada, and The USA. This year’s cruise will celebrate another Beatles milestone: the 50th anniversaries of Sgt. Pepper and The Summer Of Love with concerts. films, and speakers.

Abbey Road on the River Gearing up for its 16th year, the Abbey Road on the River will cast off from the banks of the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, Ind. Since 2002, about 25,000 music fans from around the world have been attending the annual Abbey Road on the River. This cruise allows attendees to enjoy 250 Beatles and 1960s-themed concerts throughout the five day cruise. Some of the biggest band names from the 60s will be on the ship as well. Join Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, Peter

Southern Rock Cruise Kicking off its first voyage out of Tampa, this cruise will include live performances from the greatest rock bands, beautiful ports of call and non-stop entertainment and music. Teamed up with extra on board events, such as a special Q&A session and panel discussions, bourbon tastings with the musical stars, poker tournaments and game shows that combine artists and guests. Of course, the best part of the trip just might be seeing Lynyrd Skynyrd in a special Jamaica concert. Other scheduled artists include 38 Special, The DeSoto 75

Marshall Tucker Band, The Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Wet Willie, Louisiana’s LeRoux, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, Live At The Fillmore: A Tribute to the Allman Brothers. 70s Rock & Romance Cruise This cruise just made its debut this past month, and features a strong lineup from the 70s rock ‘who’s who’ list. Peter Frampton, America,  Little River Band, The Orchestra starring for mer members of ELO, Christopher Cross, Ambrosia, Orleans, Stephen Bishop, Firefall, Player, Chuck Negron formerly of Three Dog Night. Wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, along with karaoke, dancing under the stars, pool parties and trivia contests were just a few of the events hosted throughout the cruise. As with the other cruises, there will be a Q&A session and panel discussions, and plenty of opportunities to rub elbows with your favorite hit maker from the 70s. Flower Power Cruise This cruise is all about the love, long hair, bell bottoms and peace signs any ‘hippie’ can enjoy! Specific to this cruise is a huge blast from past, complete with a Psychedelic 60s dance party, ‘super groovy’ costume party, a bell bottom blast and celebrity-led activities. A few of the artists from this era that have participated in the past two cruises include Peter Asher, Blood Sweat and Tears featuring Bo Bice, The Buckinghams, Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals, Micky Dolenz – The Monkees Lead Singer, The Grass Roots, The Guess Who, Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, Jefferson Starship, Mark Lindsay former lead singer of  Paul Revere & The Raiders, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, The Family Stone and more! 76 DeSoto

Soul Train Cruise This seven day cruise to exotic locations is heavily grounded with artist interactions. Fans on this cruise can relive moments while making their own memories and dancing down the Soul Train Line, alongside original Soul Train Dancers each night. Other unique experiences include cooking with artists and celebs, nightly performances, and cocktail receptions. A few of the super stars that have sailed on the Soul Train cruise include Smokey Robinson, Earth Wind & Fire, The O’Jays, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, The Isley Brothers, Charlie Wilson, Kool & The Gang, Frankie Beverly & Maze and Roberta Flack! Country Music Cruise This Caribbean cruise seems to sell out pretty quickly, as it brings passengers face to face with some of country’s biggest stars. From cocktail parties, wine tastings, cooking exhibitions and autograph sessions, fans can interact with their favorite artists throughout various scheduled activities and impromptu run-ins. With over 50 live performances throughout the cruise, along with jam sessions, there will be daily opportunities for fans to interact with several stars. Bumping into them at meals, the spa or casino is just as likely. The 2018 Country Music Cruise will bring back the Grand Ole Opry, headlining performances mixed in with an evening of stories and songs celebrating Nashville’s most acclaimed theatre. Past artists that have joined in the cruise include Kenny Rogers, Vince Gill, Randy Owen- lead singer of Alabama, Martina McBride, The Oak Ridge Boys, Mel Tillis, Patty Loveless, The Gatlin Brothers, Lorrie Morgan and John Anderson.

Malt Shop Memories Cruise Rock ‘n’ Roll legends, exotic ports of call and non-stop entertainment await this shout-out to the late 50s and early 60s. Dig out those poodle skirts, leather jackets and saddle shoes and dance the night away at the sock hops. Pack formal attire for the Senior Prom, and relive the memories of being young and in love. In addition to the autograph sessions, live performances and game shows, there will be a special rock ‘n’ roll vow renewal ceremony. Artists that have joined fans on this cruise over past years include the Beach Boys, Dion, Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, The Temptations, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Ronnie Spector and the Four Tops.

For dates or more information on any of these cruises, visit

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in good spirits} the miami vice

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The Miami Vice By Cheré Coen. Photography courtesy of

Who can forget Jan Hammer’s synthesized instrumental music as viewers were rushed across the Atlantic on to the streets of Miami in the opener to the hit TV show “Miami Vice?” The show was so popular the theme song hit the top of the 1985 Billboard charts, men adopted fashion worn by “Miami Vice” stars Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas — which “The Wedding Singer” with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore used as a parody — and Miami locations used in the show resulted in a tourist boom. The American TV crime series also birthed a cocktail, one that brings up images of semi-tropical Florida beaches and warm weather breezes. Now that we’re heading into the steamy months of Deep South summer, the Miami Vice is a cool cocktail to imbibe. The rum cocktail simply mixes pina colada mix with strawberry daiquiri mix and alternates both for a red and white display, either horizontally or vertically. The cocktail may be garnished with fresh fruit such as strawberries or pineapple slices. “If you are looking for a refreshing summer cocktail, the Miami Vice will not disappoint,” said Libby Sudduth, general manager of The Blind Tiger bar and grill in Bay St. Louis. “This frozen cocktail is a wildly popular summertime drink. While the taste is light and fruity, it still packs quite a punch. The Miami Vice is the perfect island or ‘boat drink’ for locals and tourists alike.” Variations of the Miami Vice cocktail include adding blue Curacao, coconut rum, banana liquor or an extra shot of Bacardi 151 rum, said Sudduth, any of which will give the drink a unique flavor combination.

The Blind Tiger, with an additional location now in Biloxi and one coming soon to Slidell, Louisiana, serves up plenty of Miami Vice cocktails, Sudduth said. It and the Bushwacker are two of the summer’s most popular drinks. Be sure and sample some of the Tiger’s fish tacos, boiled Royal Reds shrimp and other seafood entrees fresh from Gulf waters, in addition to their hamburgers and sandwiches. The Blind Tiger’s Miami Vice 5 ounces Bacardi 151 rum Frozen Pina Colada Mix Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri Mix Ice Directions:

Combine pina colada mix with 2.5 ounces of Bacardi 151 rum with ice in blender. Blend together and set aside. Combine strawberry daiquiri mix with 2.5 ounces of Bacardi 151 rum with ice in blender. Blend together and set aside. Pour the frozen pina colada mix into a cocktail glass. Add the strawberry daiquiri mix on top, keeping it separated from the pina colada mix. Garnish with fresh pineapple. Serve and enjoy.

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exploring events } april Natchez Spring Pilgrimage Through April 18 Natchez, MS If you love antebellum history, Greek revival architecture and the very essence of 19th-century Southern gentility, don’t miss this five-week celebration that includes theater performances, special presentations and live music, all focused around our stunning antebellum homes. For more information visit or call 800-647-6724. 77th Annual Columbus Spring Pilgrimage March 30 - April 8 Columbus, MS A 10-day celebration of Southern history, architecture, culture, food and fun. For more information on Spring Pilgrimage call 800-920-3533 or 662-329-1191 or visit The Taylor Swift Experience Through August 13 The GRAMMY Museum Cleveland, MS The Taylor Swift Experience gives visitors and fans an in-depth look at the 10-time GRAMMY®-winning artist as a singer, songwriter, musician and producer through personal photographs and home videos, interactive experiences, handwritten lyrics of Taylor’s topcharting hits, and iconic performance outfits. For more information, call 662-441-0100 or visit Aprilfest April 1 Main Street Sardis, MS Car show presented by Mississippi Delta Street Rods, food and craft vendors. For information call 662-487-3451 or visit sardismscom. Ridgeland Fine Arts Festival April 1 - 2 Renaissance at Colony Park Ridgeland, MS Featuring artists from across America, live music and children’s art activities. Weekend also includes Sante South Wine Festival and OBO Tandem Rally. For information call 800-469-6078 or visit Crosstie Arts & Jazz Festival April 8 Downtown Cleveland, MS 9:00 AM - 4:00PM For more information visit

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13th Annual Mudbug Bash April 8 Panola Street Hernando, MS 6:00PM - 11:00PM All proceeds benefit Palmer Home for Children. Live music and crawfish! For more information visit 3rd Annual Renaissance Day April 15 Old Courthouse Iuka, MS 9:00AM - 4:00PM Learn about when life was a little slower through demonstrations. Events also include egg hunt, games and music. For information call 662-423-3500. Book Signing and Reading with Larry Allen McCluney, Jr. April 20 TurnRow Book Company Greenwood, MS 5:30PM Larry Allen McCluney, Jr signs and reads from The Yazoo Pass Expedition: A Union Thrust Into the Delta. For more information, visit or call 662-453-5595. Wine Downtown April 20 Main Street Tupelo, MS 5:00PM - 10:00PM Wine Downtown is back for 2017! Participating downtown businesses will have wine and food pairings during this progressive wine tasting event. More details to follow. For more information visit Juke Joint Festival April 20 -23 Clarksdale, MS For more information, visit or call 662-624-5992. DeSoto Family Theatre Presents “The Lion King Jr” April 21 - 30 Landers Center Southaven, MS For more information, call 662-470-2131 or visit

DeSoto County 7th Annual Earth Day Celebration April 22 Courthouse Square Hernando, MS 9:00AM - 1:00PM This is a free event with exhibits from over 30 organizations and lots of kid’s activities. The awardwinning Hernando Farmers Market will officially open that morning at 8am. For more information, visit or call 662-469-8000. 2nd Annual Sultana Heritage Festival April 22 Historic Courthouse Square Marion, AR 9:00AM - 6:00PM Featuring speaker series with national & local historians, Civil War era crafts & demonstrations, period music & food, museum tours and more. For more information, visit or call 870-739-6041. Brantley Gilbert The Devil Don’t Sleep Tour April 22 Landers Center Southaven, MS 7:00PM Purchase tickets at LANDERS Center box office 662-470-2131, or call Ticketmaster 1-800-745-3000. A Taste of the Seasons April 22 River Oaks Neighborhood Memphis, TN 5:30PM - 10:00PM Benefitting LeBonheur Children’s Outreach Patient Rehabilitation Center East. Enjoy an evening of seasonal décor, hors d’oeuvres, and libations, while touring each of the featured homes. For more information call 901-682-9905 or visit

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reflections} stranded on the forgotten coast

Stranded on the Forgotten Coast By By Jim Beaugez

There we drifted, a mile offshore, somewhere between Dog Island and Carrabelle Beach. No gas, no oar, no radio, no hope. Moments earlier, I had begun to piece together the conversation I heard over the motor’s idle that Easter afternoon. There was a series of gestures from the GPS to the landmarks on shore. At some point they decided it wasn’t the spot. Then, as we sped off, something about gas. Gas. The Evinrude 125 had sputtered on its last vapors as we arced around the shallows and into the deeper water of the bay, where we slowed toward our fate. Silence enveloped us as the wake rippled out to sea and the boat lurched forward one final time. Reaching into the ice chest and around the fish goo, I grabbed a beer and sat on the cooler lid, watching the beam from Crooked River Lighthouse pulse as distant house lights punctuated the bend of the rural Florida shoreline. A light, cool breeze began to drift up from the south as our captain searched for bottom with a PVC pole the length of his flats boat, which he kept for maneuvering oyster beds and low tides. We were in about 20 feet of water, nearly within reach of pushing off the seabed, yet wholly marooned. As the wispy breeze grew to a solid 10-knot gust, I felt the slight sensation of movement. While the crew rested, I grabbed the pole and plunged it down. Nothing. I tried again, this time angling it forward like a pole vaulter to stretch my fortune as far as I could. The extra effort paid off. “Hey, I’ve got bottom over here!” I shouted. The sky echoed a declaration of its own—a low rumble of thunder that grew louder as it rolled through the clouds. We had gambled, and we knew it before we ever hitched the boat to the truck. Something about the onset of a cold front—the ways it changes wind direction and speed, conjuring warm air from the Gulf—something in that gumbo signals fish to feed. 82 DeSoto

But in springtime, those cold fronts are a mixed blessing. When the southerly winds rush up to meet the mass of charging arctic air, violent storms often spin out all across Dixie Alley. Ahead of the danger is a window of opportunity, and it was closing quickly in real time. We took turns pushing off as the waves grew in size, poling the boat forward in the troughs between the waves. Push, pause; push, pause. The rhythm waned only when we interrupted to muscle the vessel back onto a northerly course. In the distance to the west, more rumbles of thunder and diffused flashes of lightning gave urgency to our movements. The lights shining onshore began to grow brighter, and the shapes of houses more distinct. We aimed for the large one directly in front of the lighthouse, where we could make out a pier. As the waves pushed us closer to shore, we could see a figure, then two, moving among the rooms of the house. Almost to salvation. I threw the bowline onto the pier just outside the crashing shore break and tied off as the storm clouds closed ranks around us. By the next morning, we would watch the tornado warnings roll in from west to east, inching ever closer ahead of a thick squall line represented on the screen in threatening hues of red, orange and yellow.

Jim Beaugez is a writer and communications professional who grew up on the Gulf of Mexico in Ocean Springs, Miss. Follow him @JimBeaugez or visit

DeSoto Magazine April 2017  

PACK YOUR BAGS! It’s DeSoto’s 2017 “Travel & Destination issue!

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