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november CONTENTS 2017 • VOLUME 14 • NO. 11

features 46 Game of Thanks Throwing a Themed Holiday Dinner

60 Volunteers in Medicine Making a Difference

52 Wacky-Tacky Light Tour Serious Holiday Fun in Birmingham

departments 14 Living Well Surviving Lung Cancer

40 On the Road Again Historic Laurel

16 Notables Nathan Tipton of Apelah

42 Holiday Gift Guide 66 Homegrown Sugar Fix Pralines

20 Exploring Art Crystal Bridges: Gift of Art

70 Southern Gentleman Amazing Beards

24 Exploring Books An Unforeseen Life

74 Southern Harmony The Nashville Alternators

26 Into the Wild Talkin’ Wild Turkeys

76 In Good Spirits The Flying Fig

32 Table Talk Cowboy Jim’s in Prentiss

78 Exploring Events

36 Exploring Destinations “ICE!” Cool Places


80 Reflections Communities Come Together



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editor’s note } november Making a Difference This month, many of us are thankful for good health and good fortune, especially since the fall was fraught with so many natural disasters. More than ever, people are stepping forward to give back to their communities, and we’ve featured several of their stories in this issue of DeSoto Magazine. Writer Gayle Harper takes a look at Volunteers in Medicine, one of those organizations that is truly serving people in need. Retired doctors have opened free clinics in disadvantaged communities, including three in Mississippi. Another health-related story by Karen Ott Mayer features a new lung-screening program at Baptist Cancer Center that is making a difference in detecting lung cancer in the earliest stages. Of course, Thanksgiving is on all our minds and we couldn’t ignore some unusual ways to celebrate. It’s hard for me to believe, but there are some people who don’t like turkey and cornbread dressing. For those folks and others who just want something different, writer Jill Gleeson has suggestions to make a turkey-less Thanksgiving quite memorable. If you are a fan of “Game of Thrones” or “The Sopranos,” you are in for a treat. Readers will notice we have a few holiday stories in this issue. We thought you might want to know about the “Wacky Tacky Light Tour” early because tickets sell out for this unusual Birmingham tradition. Writer Verna Gates has firsthand knowledge

NOVEMBER 2017 • Vol. 14 No.11





because she founded the event in 2006 as a fundraiser for a children’s science camp. If you are looking for a slicker holiday destination, you’ll want to read Debi Lander’s story about “ICE!” in Nashville, Tennessee, Orlando, Florida, and Grapevine, Texas. It’s never too soon to make those holiday plans. As you explore this issue, please know that all of us at DeSoto Magazine are grateful for you – our readers and advertisers. We feel blessed that we can bring you stories about the South, and we are thankful for your support. Happy Thanksgiving,

Mary Ann


Robin Gallaher Branch Cheré Coen Jason Frye Verna Gates Jill Gleeson Gayle Harper Debi Lander Mary Miller Charlene Oldham Karen Ott Mayer Mira Temkin Kathryn Winter Pam Windsor


2375 Memphis St. Ste 205 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617


Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887

on the cover Thanksgiving is here, and we’re ready to give thanks and spend time with family and freinds. But how can we make the yearly holiday more fun and memorable? We have some “not-so-traditional” holiday feast ideas inspired by some of today’s television hits like ‘Game of Thrones’. Read more on page 46.

Get social with us!

©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 } lung cancer

Turning the Tide By Karen Ott Mayer | Photgraphy courtesy of Karen Ott Mayer and Cancer Fighters Thrive

Baptist Cancer Center lung programs are saving lives with early detection and making real progress in the battle against lung cancer. When Dr. Raymond Osarogiagbon chose to live and practice in the Mid-South over a decade ago, he did so for a specific reason: To make a difference in the fight against lung cancer. Recognizing higher lung cancer rates in the region due to lifestyle choices like smoking, he knew building a lung program and affecting change would be a long-term challenge. Lung cancer survival depends upon early detection, but that in itself hasn’t been easy for patients or doctors up to this point due to lack of routine screening. Dr. Todd Robbins, lung cancer surgeon and co-director with Dr. Jeffrey Wright of the Incidental Lung Nodule Program at Baptist Cancer Center, works closely with Osarogiagbon. “Our challenge has been how to find an early stage 1 lung cancer,” said Robbins. 16 DeSoto

An oncologist/hematologist and director of the Thoracic Oncology Research Group and co-director of the Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Program at Baptist, Osarogiagbon has worked with colleagues, who include lung doctors, surgeons, nurses and radiologists, to build key lung cancer programs: the Incidental Lung Nodule Program and the lung cancer screening program, both of which are part of the Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Program. How are these programs affecting change? By detecting lung cancer in patients who may be seeing a doctor for anything but lung cancer. The programs began thanks to a $900,000 grant from the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation and rely heavily on Baptist technology. Today, any patient in the Baptist

system who undergoes a diagnostic scan that includes a part of the chest, regardless of the actual reason for the test, has the potential to be screened for lung cancer; for example, when a doctor performs a diagnostic scan like an MRI or CT to investigate a car wreck injury. In all cases, Epic, Baptist’s electronic health record system, captures results with specific language. The Baptist team worked with Drs. Robert Optican and Keith Tonkin, radiologists at Mid-South Imaging and Therapeutics (MSIT), to develop a list of keywords that trigger real-time tracking of potential lung cancer lesions. “If a radiologist uses certain words like “tumor,” “nodule,” “mass” or “lesion,” Epic sweeps those records to our group. Even if humans fail, the Epic technology catches cases,” said Osarogiagbon. In the multidisciplinary clinic, a group of specialists, surgeons, radiologists, and pulmonologists gather to review patient cases. In one month, the program may receive about 250 scans. “We then review those scans to take a closer look. Of those 250, about 100 may need no follow up, 100 we may follow closely with no action, and anywhere from 30 to 50 may require immediate follow up,” said Robbins. The thoracic team provides the critical review and support work for the programs, as they review thousands of records which contain specific coded language. The program requires doctors contact patients out of the blue to inform them of a possible finding. “At the start, we thought we might experience resistance or even anger about reviewing scans for patients with whom we had no pre-existing relationship, but we found the opposite. Almost 100 percent of the patients agreed to come in for further review,” said Robbins. In 2016, the program detected 44 patients with lung cancer. Already in the first half of 2017, 32 lung cancer cases have been found through the program. For these lung doctors, this is real progress. Usually only one in 10 lung cancer patients will be diagnosed in stage 1, the earliest stage. So far about 70 percent of the lung cancer patients found through the Lung Nodule Program have been detected in stage 1, meaning their lung cancer is most likely to be cured with treatment. “Efforts like this are moving the needle for lung cancer survival for the first time in more than 30 years,” said Robbins. “If we can catch patients at stage 1, and give them the right treatment, 80 or 90 percent will be cured of their lung cancer. Only four out of 100 patients diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer will survive up to five years,” said Osarogiagbon. Because more than 95 percent of patients with spots in the lungs have a benign condition (meaning, no cancer), a complex set of decisions must be made to correctly separate patients who need intervention from the vast majority who can either be watched closely or discharged without further testing.

But raising awareness is key. Currently only three to four percent of eligible patients participate in screening which means plenty of room exists for more patients to be screened— and for more lives to be saved. To learn more about Baptist Cancer Center’s lung programs, 1-855-LUNGMDC (586-4632).

Dr. Raymond Osarogiagbon (pictured left) is a hematologist/medical oncologist at the Baptist Cancer Center. He is also a research professor at the University of Memphis School of Public Health and a member of the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville. Among other positions, he is Principal Investigator of the Baptist Cancer Center/Mid-South Minority-Underserved National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) Editorial Boards of the journals Translational Lung Cancer Research and Journal of Thoracic Diseases, as well as the Chairman-Elect of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) Membership Committee.

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notables } nathan tipton

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Apelah helps DeSoto’s Foster Children By Robin Gallaher Branch | Photography courtesy of Lara Atchison

Apelah -- the Choctaw word for help -- is the appropriate description for a foster care organization that is making a difference for children whose needs are great. Nathan Tipton loves being a facilitator for change in young lives, and he has many opportunities to do so as development and communications coordinator for Apelah, a specialized foster care agency in Hernando and Ridgeland, Mississippi. The word specialized is key, for it shows how Apelah differs from other foster care organizations by serving specific, high-risk children. “Apelah receives the hardest cases from the state, those children with specialized needs who are emotionally or medically fragile,” Tipton said. Tipton added that apelah means help in Choctaw, the language of the Indians who settled northwest Mississippi. Tipton’s life and Apelah entwine in ways oriented toward community service. Tipton came to Apelah 18 months ago with grant writing and non-profit work experience. Recently, a particularly

apropos grant came unexpectedly from Wisconsin. “It was for $500 for backpacks,” Tipton said. “Many of our children come to us with nothing. A backpack—and new at that!—helps a child adapt in a new school.” Similarly, the Hernando Walmart recently gave $250 toward after-school activities. Tipton immediately pinpointed two children involved in basketball and karate who would benefit from that timely donation. Currently, Apelah has placed 33 children in Hernando and 61 children in Ridgeland in foster care homes. Referrals come from the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services. Resources come “through multiple funding streams including the State of Mississippi,” Tipton said. Jesse Dement, Executive Director of Hernando Main Street Chamber of Commerce, praised the agency’s work saying, “We’re so thankful to have Apelah.” When word gets out that Apelah suddenly needs a crib or other supplies, the DeSoto 19

community steps forward, she added. Tipton explained that communities need foster care services because “a lot of people are under pressure these days.” Tipton came to his job in a roundabout way. He had spent six-plus years writing grants with the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis. His own position was grant-funded; when its funding was running out, he applied for a job at Meritan, Apelah’s parent company. Remembering that interview about two years ago, Tipton said with a smile, “Meritan said, ‘You can write grants? We love you!’” Meritan, a social service agency serving vulnerable populations of all ages, started its foster care program in Tennessee in 1991 and expanded it to Mississippi in 1992. First called Stepping Stones, it was renamed Apelah in 2007. Tipton, 52, was born in Baton Rouge and raised in New Orleans where his family still lives. He brings an interesting background to Apelah: a doctorate in English from the University of Memphis. His dissertation was on five Southern authors, focusing on Tennessee Williams in particular. Tipton’s new position fits well with his personality. “I have been given so much and have been really lucky in my life. I want to give back,” he said. Because of his extensive volunteering, Tipton was nominated for Volunteer of the Year in Memphis for 2017 and was a finalist. Currently, he does a lot of work at the Hernando Animal Shelter and has seven dogs and five cats of his own, all rescue animals. He also volunteers as an ambassador for Hernando Main Street Chamber of Commerce. He is on the board of directors and is the volunteer coordinator of the Best Memphis Burger Fest. “All the proceeds from the burger fest go to various Mid-South animal shelters and rescue groups,” he said. Telling Apelah stories is a fun part and big reward of his job. A favorite is the one about Dominique who came to Apelah at age three, suffering from severe brain damage because of shaken baby syndrome. “He was in hospice and dying,” Tipton said. But Dominique’s persistent Apelah foster parent taught him to walk and talk. Dominique not only lived but now thrives and was adopted. “He has a vocabulary bigger than other children of his age!” Tipton exclaimed. “This shows what foster parents can do!” Research indicates that problems like those Dominique faced “are fixable if addressed properly,” Tipton added. Tipton says his biggest challenge “is getting the word out about the work and the good Apelah does. If you give children a safe haven, then that benefits the entire community.” Apelah’s website features an advice column called “Ask Annie.” It answers questions from foster children by Annie, a Hernando seventh grader whose real name is Abby Owensby. Annie, as she preferred to be called for this story, is a former foster child who was adopted. “You have to believe that bad things happen for a good reason. Maybe a child being put in foster care leads to an amazing ending. I know it did for me,” Annie wrote, adding, “I’m here to help!” Tipton smiled and nodded. “That’s the point. After all, Apelah means help.” For information, visit

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exploring art } crystal bridges


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The Gift of Art By Mira Temkin Photography courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

In 2011, Walmart heiress Alice Walton gave an invaluable gift to the people of Arkansas -- a world-class museum with an art collection that rivals those found in larger metropolitan cities. And admission is always free. Located in Bentonville, Arkansas, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was an incredible gift to the people of Arkansas from Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder, Sam Walton. The architecture of the building in itself is a work of art, showcasing an exquisite design by artist Moshe Safdie. Inside, Crystal Bridges houses a permanent collection of American Art featuring five centuries of masterworks from the Colonial era to contemporary times. Thanks to a $20 million grant from Walmart, admission to the museum and its permanent collection are free, just as Alice Walton intended.   But the beauty of the museum is not just what’s inside, but outside as well. “Art and nature are at the very core of the

museum’s mission,” said Beth Bobbitt, public relations manager for Crystal Bridges. Visitors will find more than three miles of peaceful walking and biking trails across the museum’s 120acre grounds. It’s easy to become immersed in the beautiful Ozark landscape with sculptures, gardens and quiet ponds to enjoy.

The Classics Come to Life

Many of the most popular and well-known works of American art have found their way to a permanent home here. Some have been acquired and others have been gifts from private collectors. Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits, Rosie DeSoto 23

Peale, George Washington

O’Keeffe, Jimson Weed White Flower No. 1

the Riveter by Norman Rockwell, and Andy Warhol’s Dolly Parton are just a few of the well-known pieces in the collection. Enthusiasts of more contemporary art will be thrilled to get up close and personal with the works of Roy Lichtenstein, James Turrell and Georgia O’Keeffe. Since the museum’s opening, the growing collection reflects the complexity of the American spirit and provides an inclusive presentation of American art. “The number of objects in the collection has grown from 1,555 to more than 2, 400,” said Bobbitt. “Notable acquisitions include Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 by Georgia O’Keeffe, The Chelsea Girl by James McNeill Whistler, Maya’s Quilt of Life by Faith Ringgold and We the People by Nari Ward.” In recent years, Crystal Bridges has focused on architecture with the addition of Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome, and in January 2014, Crystal Bridges acquired the Bachman Wilson House by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The New Jersey house was dismantled and relocated to Bentonville, where it now proudly stands on the museum grounds. “These acquisitions help further the unique story of American architecture and connect visitors to art and nature,” commented Bobbitt.

have access to that great art. Our team has done a wonderful job capturing repeat visitors and making it truly a community center.” Reflecting on the original vision to make art accessible to all, Crystal Bridges has welcomed over three million people from all 50 states and six continents. More than 180,000 students have participated in the school visit program, free of charge. “We continue to see a 50-50 rate of new and returning visitors—these include art tourists who frequent museums, as well as local audiences visiting an art museum for the first time,” said Bobbitt.

Fulfilling Alice Walton’s Vision

At the museum’s five year-anniversary, Crystal Bridges founder and board chair, Alice Walton noted, “I grew up here and didn’t have access to art and I knew we wanted to change that. What I underestimated was how much people wanted to 24 DeSoto

New Temporary Exhibits

Throughout the year, the museum brings a variety of rotating exhibits that expose and engage visitors to new ideas. Just concluded was Chihuly: In the Forest, which showcased the magnificent glass works of Dale Chihuly with 14 bodies of work in the gallery and 10 large-scale outdoor installations. “Our 2018 exhibitions will complement the story of American art shared through our permanent collection,” said Executive Director Rod Bigelow. “Through Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (Feb. 3 - April 23), visitors will explore how American culture was shaped through black artists of the 1960s - 1980s. Georgia O’Keeffe and Contemporary Art (May 26 - Sept. 3) builds on her iconic works alongside contemporary artists that evoke, investigate, and expand upon O’Keeffe’s legacy.”

A Family Experience

The museum caters to families with classes, lectures and other educational events. “Check out an Art Tote from Guest Services and take it with you through the galleries to enjoy interactive activities,” said Bobbitt. Free, drop-in family tours are offered every Saturday at 1 p.m., and the Experience Art Studio welcomes families for art-making activities, puppet play and games. “The museum continues to enrich the museum experience such as family/audio guides and symposiums designed to deepen our understanding of important historical topics as well as contemporary social, environmental, and cultural issues,” added Bobbitt. Crystal Bridges is a gift that continues to serve the community well.

Want to know more? Call 479-418-5700 or visit

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exploring books} an unforeseen life

Living Life to the Fullest By CherĂŠ Coen | Photography courtesy of Mary Ann Connell

As one of the first women in Oxford to practice law, Mary Ann Connell’s story is one of loss, faith, tragedy, and perseverance but also one of courage with a dash of humor.

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To say Mary Ann Connell has lived a full life — and continues to do so — would be a gross understatement. Connell received four degrees from the University of Mississippi, including a master’s in history, in library science and a law degree, plus a master of law from Harvard Law School with former President Barack Obama as a classmate. She served as an Ole Miss attorney for 20 years and as school board attorney for the Oxford School District. She teaches at the college level, has served on numerous boards and been awarded many accolades, including the NAACP Freedom Award for lifelong service in education and civil rights. For the last few years she has worked at Mayo Mallette in Oxford, traveling to the seven Mississippi public universities to present employment law seminars and working on education cases. After years of driving through the roads of the Magnolia State, senior partner Cal Mayo pushed Connell into one more career achievement, that of author. “He said you need to cut back on all your driving,” Connell remembered. “I said, ‘Calvin, I can’t cut back. It’s what I do.’” Connell did take time off from the driving and began to write her memoir. Her book, “An Unforeseen Life,” was published this year by Nautilus Publishing of Oxford. The book begins with the tragic death of her brother, William “Billy” Strong, after she and Billy played with matches in their backyard in Louisville, Miss., and the fire exploded. The incident plagued Connell with guilt and changed her outlook on life. “My world changed on the spot dramatically,” she said. “My carefree days had come to an end. It absolutely defined my life. It made me live a life that Billy would have had if he had had the chance.” The book outlines her early years at Ole Miss, receiving a bachelor’s degree in history and English, working briefly as a teacher in the public schools of Los Angeles, her marriage to Bill Connell of Clarksdale and their life together raising four children, first in Clarksdale, later in Oxford where her husband worked as a photographer. Outside of being a mother, wife, Girl Scout leader and Sunday School teacher in the 1960s and ’70s, Connell returned to Ole Miss for first a master’s degree in history, then a master’s in library science, the latter of which she hoped would lead to working in a law library. But it was the law that captivated her, so she enrolled in the University of Mississippi School of Law, keeping it a secret from her husband. “I knew Bill would never have agreed for me to go to law school,” Connell writes in her memoir. “That did not fit the mold of the wife he or those of his generation expected. Roles for women were clearly defined in those days, and they did not encompass entering male-dominated professions or serving on male-dominated boards.”

Bill Connell eventually discovered her secret, and came to accept Mary Ann’s ambitions. He brought one daughter to her oral argument in moot court and all four girls to campus to view her grades posted on the bulletin board, celebrating when the grades were good. “It was a good outcome for both of us,” Connell said of her husband’s approval of her becoming a lawyer. “He was very supportive of me.” Connell went on to work for Ole Miss, receiving the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of College and University Attorneys, the Distinguished Service Award from the Lafayette County Bar Association and the Thomas S. Biggs Jr. Award for leadership, integrity and service in the legal profession, among many others. Even though she took time off to write “An Foreseen Life,” Connell is still hard at work. “I’m still teaching, I’m still practicing law and loving every minute of it,” she said. As for slowing down and reducing those miles on Mississippi roads, Connell has been traveling extensively for book signings, readings and special events. When she appeared at Square Books in Oxford for a book event, the crowd was so intense, the fire marshal arrived. “Calvin got me off the road, and I’ve gotten right back on it,” she said.

Mary Ann Connell’s Advice for Women Things have changed since Connell was one of four women in law school. Today, at least 50 percent of law school students are women, she said. “It has changed dramatically for women,” Connell said of today’s opportunities for women. “There are still doors closed but nothing like it was back then. “I’ve been told to go home over and over again, but I stuck with it,” she continued. “You can do whatever you want to do, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity if you work at it. Don’t ever let the fact that you’re a girl stand in your way of doing what you want to do.”

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into the wild } the winchester museum

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Talkin’ Wild Turkey By Debi Lander | Photography courtesy of the Winchester Museum

The Winchester Museum will leave you more satisfied than Thanksgiving dinner with its dedication to wild turkey restoration efforts. Turkeys dominate holiday images, advertisements, and dinner tables in November. We tend to forget that this symbol of Americana has an elusive cousin — the Wild Turkey. Ben Franklin preferred the turkey as the nation’s symbol over the eagle, considering the latter “of bad moral character.” He considered the turkey “a much more respectable bird” and an American original. Today, the noble bird still has a promoter — the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and its museum. You’ll find this place (with less effort than it takes a hunter to track down the namesake) in Edgefield, South Carolina. Sniffing out the Winchester Museum brings you to one of the South’s hidden gems, a small interactive museum with worldclass exhibits. After a museum tour, filling as a Thanksgiving feast, you can head over to the Palmetto Center, on NWTF property, with two sporting clay courses, five trap and skeet overlays, and a 3-D archery range. The Winchester is the world’s only museum dedicated to wild turkey restoration, management and hunting. It tells the wild turkey’s amazing comeback story. An important source of food for the pioneers and the expanding country, the turkey population by the 1930s had dwindled to about 200,000. Work to restore them began with the capture and relocate method. By 1973 the population of the native North American birds rose to nearly a million. Since then, it has grown to near full capacity around 6.5 to 7 million -- still a tiny fraction of the country’s consumption of its cousins on a single Thanksgiving

Day. Wildlife management remains key to maintaining a thriving population. A tour of the museum begins with 3-D dioramas of the five wild turkey subspecies. Despite Looney Tunes portrayals, the male struts with more glamor and colorful feathers, than the dressed-down female. Speaking of cartoons, you’ll be enamored by an exhibition featuring a Disney quality animated Cherokee Indian who shares legends about wild turkeys. The mesmerizing movement of his hands is eerily real. Around the corner, another life-like character sits in a rocking chair, telling stories about the history of turkey hunting, conservation and the NWTF. The animatronic figures grab the attention of children and adults alike. The aura of the place pays due homage to the turkey’s role in American history and culture. Entering the virtual-reality theater transports you deep into a forest at the break of dawn. As light begins to appear, the sounds of nature mixing with early morning calls of wild turkeys emerge. Hear wings flap as they fly from their roosts. Those who have had the delight of seeing wild turkeys probably recall them strutting on the ground, but they sleep in trees. If the call of the wild moves you, take up a laser-like gun to bag a wild turkey on video. Newbie hunters find this interactive opportunity a terrific introduction and simulation of the sport. Meander over to the ‘call center’ to learn how to make the sounds that hunters use to call turkeys — enticing them in a vulnerable direction. Use a cell phone’s video camera DeSoto 29

to capture some hilarious discord! O n e o f t h e m u s e u m ’s m o s t treasured collections features historic turkey calls donated by master makers Neil Cost and M.L. Lynch. These Smithsonian quality art pieces showcase the exquisite work of extraordinary craftsmen. The display cases provide compelling visual explanations of the evolution of turkey calls, spanning more than one hundred years. Visitors may also climb into a retired USDA Forest Service helicopter to watch a movie, much like an IMAX film. The film makes guests feel like they’re in flight. Participants look down on rangers igniting and tracking a prescribed forest burn.

Turkey Talkin’

Just about everyone can conjure up holiday memories of domestic Thanksgiving turkeys. The Winchester Museum will dash a lot of those delectable but onedimensional images. There is barely a limit to the fascinating facts you can learn about Franklin’s admirable avian. For example, female turkeys become admirable mothers who teach their offspring how to survive. Male turkeys, however, are absentee fathers. Their resulting surplus typically allows hunters to shoot males in a hunter harvest. One of the newest and most curious tidbits about turkeys is the discovery of their descent from dinosaurs. Comparing turkey and dinosaur skeletons disclosed astounding similarities to scientists. Pilgrims, Native American Indians, dinosaurs, and scrumptious dinners — what a combination! The NWTF owns 300 acres surrounding its center. Recent development of them supports a variety of outdoor uses: camping, scouting, nature trails, skeet shooting, archery and an amphitheater for presentations. Plan your trip to include time for these, but don’t cut short your visit to the wild turkey museum — a true feast for the eyes and the imagination. Also, call ahead (803-637-3106) for museum hours or to coordinate group tours. Admission is $5, adults; $2, youth up to age 17.

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table talk } cowboy jim’s

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Step Back in Time By Verna Gates | Photography courtesy of Cowboy Jim’s

A menagerie of farm animals greets diners outside of Cowboy Jim’s, including Wilbur the pet pig who loves bubble baths and donuts. But the steaks and seafood entice the humans to drive to the country to visit this one-of-akind place. Ordinarily, Wilbur the pig lives in luxury under a chandelier in his pen, but on Thursdays, he marches to the river for a bubble bath using Dawn detergent. At 450 pounds, he has been dieting all week in preparation for his adoring fans, who come bearing donuts, his favorite treat. He patiently preens for the children who pet and feed him, probably with some hope of snatching a few prized leftovers from a special Cowboy Jim’s Restaurant dinner. Or, perhaps, he craves the free hand-made vanilla ice cream offered to everyone on Thursdays. If Wilbur’s antics fail to amuse, the ducks await. For those who come early, the ducks actually block the door, and must be walked, Peabody Hotel style, out of the restaurant. A walk through the flower-laden garden could reveal chickens, geese, a donkey, rabbits and babies from all four. The children come to play, and maybe eat a bit, if their parents can get them settled down to dinner. It can be hard once they enter the magical world of Cowboy Jim’s, where farm life sparkles with twinkly lights and friendly creatures. The farm atmosphere is authentic: Cowboy Jim worked as a real rodeo

promoter and participant. For proof, check out ‘Mr. Moo,’ a pet longhorn steer, whose head and 7-foot horns decorate the wall. Before his death, the gentle giant visited schools and savored the limelight. While the adults also enjoy the beautiful setting and the nostalgic atmosphere, they really drove out into the country for the food. Jim Lott, aka Cowboy Jim, hand cuts each steak and has cooked millions of the savory entree. Others prefer the seafood. Jim makes a weekly pilgrimage to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to meet the boats, where he selects shrimp and oysters. And Mississippi catfish. In 1999, Kathy Whitehead and Jim Lott purchased a catfish house between the Bouie River and Horseshoe Lake. The couple who owned it were getting on in years and wanted a break, so Lott and Whitehead bought the restaurant even though it was eight miles from the nearest town of Collins, Mississippi, and 10 miles from Prentiss. Opened just three days a week, Thursday – Sunday, they had visions of keeping their rodeo business afloat. “If you own a restaurant, you can’t share with any DeSoto 35

other business,” said Whitehead, who owns 50 percent of the business. She may have had ulterior motives. “Jim has no fear of a 2,000 pound bull.” While Jim’s son still manages a herd and they tinker with horses, only a single longhorn steer remains at Cowboy Jim’s. While the six-foot horns are daunting and he is far from a lapdog -- he’s still a tame pet. And there is no chance he will end up on the grill. Like Jim, his rodeo days are behind him. “You can feed them by hand in the field, but not in a rodeo pen. Once you load pets from the field into the truck, they take on a different mode and seem to know they are headed for the arena,” said Whitehead. While no one is roping a calf, there remains that showman’s sense of entertainment, of celebrating farm life. Cowboy Jim’s serves up a family-style experience that starts with the fresh air, flowers and farm animals and ends with a great meal. Savvy grandparents, Jim and Kathy put a playground outside and another one in the restaurant behind the cash register, a safe place so parents can chat at the table while the kids play. Bring a good appetite as Cowboy Jim’s serves giant 16-20 grade shrimp butterflied and grilled or barbecued. Oysters come on the half shell or grilled in season, and fried yearround. Steaks are hand-cut to order, with one pound as the max. Larger sizes can be arranged. However, be aware, Cowboy Jim is a purest – no well-done steaks in the pound and above category. The filet mignon lives up to its “cut with your fork tender.” Located in a dry county, the only spirits to be found are the dollops of bourbon flavoring the New Orleans style bread pudding. The country life is spirited enough for Whitehead and Lott, who have been partners in business and life for more than 25 years. Although, she claims they are oil and water. “I have crazy ideas and Jim is down to earth. But, when it comes down to it, I usually win,” said Whitehead. Fortunately, she wanted a restaurant.

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exploring destinations } gaylord ice

Ice Slide

Frosty the Snowman themed ICE scene

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Chinese ICE Sculptor

The Ice Men Cometh! By Debi Lander | Photography courtesy of Debi Lander and Gaylord Hotels

Starting this month, Chinese ice sculptors will transform Gaylord hotel properties into “icy” destinations for family fun. If you are looking for a cool family friendly outing to get into the holiday spirit, check out the ICE!® events opening this month in several Southern cities. The Gaylord Palms Resort near Orlando, Florida, turns into “Christmas Around the World” while “A Charlie Brown Christmas” comes to the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville. The ICE! version of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” transforms the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas, into a storybook setting, albeit a frosty one. ICE! has has been a signature event at Gaylord properties since it began 15 years ago. To produce the elaborate ice displays, 35-to-40 Chinese artisans arrive at each location in October along with truckloads of specially produced ice. The ice men travel more than 6,000 miles (and bring their own cook) to hand-carve two million pounds of frozen water into a frosty fantasyland, often working 12-hour days.

The ice-loving artisans hail from the city of Harbin, China, located in Northeast China, where winter lasts nearly seven months. Temperatures in their hometown average only two degrees in the winter and sometimes plummet to minus 36. Ice lantern festivals began there centuries ago, and in modern times competitions were held among local families to carve the most elaborate frozen lanterns. In the event’s early years, only crystal-clear ice, created by filtering deionized water for three days, was used. The more recent addition of food coloring offers the artisans a richer palette of ice blocks from which to build. The process is not as easy as it sounds; the mixture must constantly be stirred to obtain consistent color. A behind-the-scenes peek to see how the themed projects evolve at the Gaylord Hotels is fascinating. Workers transfer measurements from detailed architectural blueprints DeSoto 39

Nativity scene begins to take shape

and mark off the floor like a home building site. Ice blocks weighing 400 pounds each start arriving from the factory at a rate of two truck loads a day for 15 days. A team begins assembling the blocks, adding tubular lighting between selected pieces and cutting others with chain saws. The Chinese carvers refer to the blueprints and denote points that guide them as they sculpt. Think of Michelangelo carving a frozen David. The sculptors rough out the figures, then work meticulously to etch fine details. Each artist brings his own set of tools, akin to a chef and his knives, including a variety of rakes, chisels, picks, and trowels. The temperature in display areas hovers around ninedegrees, requiring the carvers to wear warm boots, coats, hats, and gloves. (Guests should, too, although Gaylord does provides oversized parka for visitors). ICE! visitors often feel frigid after half an hour, but the hardy Chinese come ready for the cold. The workers toil through four-hour shifts, taking warm-up breaks outside. At Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee near Orlando, the 2017 ICE! “Christmas Around the World,” will showcase different cultures and their wintertime festivities. The event runs Nov. 21 - Jan. 7, 2018. “We feel this year’s ICE! Theme and our other holiday events embrace cultural diversity and our unifying similarities, celebrating love and peace during this special time of year,” said Johann Krieger, general manager. In Nashville, Gaylord Opryland’s A Country Christmas and its ICE! event featuring a Charlie Brown Christmas is set to open Nov. 10 and run until New Year’s Day. The iconic cartoon 40 DeSoto

character will rediscover the true meaning of Christmas as the beloved classic story unfolds through interactive ice sculptures and displays. The ICE! display at the Gaylord Texan also runs from Nov. 10 - Jan. 1. Scenes and characters in all the ICE! displays are constructed entirely from ice without any support from wood or iron. The interactive two-story ice slides, especially loved by snow-starved children, often become the highlight. Adults seem to appreciate stopping in the Frostbite Factory to watch one of the Chinese artisans demonstrating ice carving skills. The bone-chilling experience through the frozen fantasyland ends up at the North Pole and a chance to see a frosty version of Santa’s toy workshop. The only scene repeated every year remains the magnificent life-size nativity, created from sparkling crystalclear blocks. One artist, chosen by fellow sculptors, receives the honor of carving the largest angel. After warming up cold toes and noses, visitors will find a variety of festive activities within the sprawling Gaylord properties, including baking cookies with Mrs. Claus. Families also can work together to decorate pre-built gingerbread houses with candy adornments. They simply apply frosting as glue and create a masterpiece to complete a memorable day at ICE! Want to know more? Visit ICE! at Gaylord Hotels. Times and ticket prices vary.

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on the road again } laurel, mississippi

, l e r u La ssippi Missi

9:00 Build your own breakfast sandwich at Lee’s Coffee and Tea, located on Oak Street. Choose from fresh croissants, panini bread, bagels, real farm-fresh eggs and more. Or try the house-made quiches. 10:00 Walk two blocks to the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, Mississippi’s oldest museum and considered one of the most outstanding in the Southeast. Open since 1923, the LRMA houses diverse collections of European and American Art, Native American baskets, British Georgia silver, and Japanese woodblock prints. More than 32,000 people annually visit this Laurel treasure. 12:00 You’re already in the area of several homes featured on Season 1 of HGTV’s “Home Town,” as well as some of Laurel’s most historic and beautiful homes. So, take a walking (or driving) tour to see the amazing exteriors. From the museum’s front entrance, head north for one block on Fifth Avenue and turn left on West 8th Street. Then turn left again on Sixth Avenue and follow it back to West 7th Street and the museum. 12:30 After all that walking, you will be ready for lunch. The Pearl Diner on North Magnolia Street is Laurel’s newest diner and offers authentic Southern Soul food cooked by Ms. Pearl herself. Try the fried chicken, pork chops, fresh greens, mac ‘n’ cheese, and cornbread. 1:30 You don’t have to walk far to start your shopping expedition. Just down the street is Southern Antiques, a Laurel destination since 1995. Don’t let the name fool you, though, because you’ll find not only antiques but also a wide array of gift items and décor items as well as “City Beautiful” tee-shirts. 2:00 Make your way along Magnolia Street with stops at Adam Trest Home, The Loblolly Boutique and more before going a block over to Front Street and the Laurel Mercantile, the retail store coowned by Ben and Erin Napier, hosts of HGTV’s “Home Town.” 3:00 It’s time to put your packages in the car, so take the opportunity to drive over to the Veterans Memorial Museum on Hillcrest Drive, featuring thousands of military artifacts and memorabilia. 4:00 Head back into town with a stop at Peddlers Junktion, a unique vintage market featuring crafts, furniture, artwork by local artists, clothing and gift items. Pick up some treats on Central Avenue – Laurel’s main drag – to take home. For something savory, try the made-fresh-daily beef jerky from the Knight Butcher where the demand for jerky has become legendary. If you are looking for sweets, cross the street for Sweet Somethings Bakery where you’ll find an ice cream bar and delicious cakes, pies, and cookies. 5:30 Dinner at The Loft at 535 Central Avenue is a great way to complete your day. Known for its steaks, The Loft also offers seafood, chicken and pasta entrees. Linger over dinner long enough to see the downtown lights in Laurel, which create a magical glow especially over Central Avenue. 42 DeSoto

To plan your visit:

Festivals and Events:

Historic 6th Ave District

Nov. 17-18: The Market Beautiful returns to downtown Laurel for the vintage Christmas market. Over 80 vendors bring their best vintage, antique and trendy handmade merchandise. Nov. 30: December Downtown & Christmas Tree Lighting. 5:30p.m. Pinehurst Park on Fifth Avenue across from City Hall in downtown Laurel. Dec. 2: Fantasy of the Black Pearl–The MMXVII Gala Fundraiser for the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art.

Laurel Welcome Center Laurel Mercantile

Feb. 10: Laurel Main Street kicks off the new year with the annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off downtown. April 14: “Touch a Truck” from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. provides a unique opportunity for children to explore vehicles of all types – public service, emergency, utility, construction, transportation, delivery and “fun & flashy” trucks – in one place. May 5: “Day in the Park,” is sponsored by the Laurel Arts League. The event begins with a 5K race and fun run followed by student and juried art competitions and a festival in Mason Park. Oct. 6: The Loblolly Festival is Laurel’s largest outdoor event and celebrates the city’s heritage as a sawmill town. Lauren Rogers Museum

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holiday gift guide












12 9



1. Houndstooth scarf and hat, Center Stage Fashions, 324 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 2. Girl’s ball caps, Commerce Street Market, 74 W. Commerce Street Hernando, MS 3. Kendra Scott necklaces, Mimi’s on Main, 432 W. Main Street, Senatobia, MS 4. Elise earrings, Upstairs Closet, 136 Norfleet Drive, Senatobia, MS 5. Barefoot Dreams cardigan, Pink Zinnia, 134 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 6. Leather Jacket, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 7. Fall dress, Frank, 210 E Commerce St #7, Hernando, MS 8. That Cute Little Soap Shop soap, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 9. C.C. Beanie Hats and Pullovers, The Speckled Egg, 5100 I-55 North, Marion, AR 10. MudPie Gloves, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 11. Kendra Scott earrings and necklace, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 12. Oak River Leather Bags, The Wooden Door, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS

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holiday gift guide















1. Costa sunglasses, SoCo, 300 W Commerce Street. Hernando, MS 2. Hunting accessories, The Gun Shop, 210 E Commerce St #5, Hernando, MS 3. Live Oak Polos, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 4. Men’s socks and underwear, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 5. Rustic duck, Commerce Street Market, 74 W. Commerce Street Hernando, MS 6. Big Green Eggs and accessories, The Complete Home Center, 32 E Commerce St, Hernando, MS 7. Turnrows Boxers, The Bunker, 2631 McIngvale Rd #106 8. Allyn Ties, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 9. La-Z-Boy Recliner, Wilson Furniture, 225 Washington St, Collierville, TN 10. Ark. Bottle openers, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 11. Men’s Belts, The Bunker, 2631 McIngvale Rd #106

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holiday gift guide




for the












1. Christmas yard ornament, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 2. Furniture paint, Commerce Street Market, 74 W. Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 3. Lighting and accessories, Magnolia Lighting, Locations in Hernando, Oxford, Tupelo & Ridgeland 4. Wicker Chair and Ottoman, Wicker N More, 5270 Hacks Cross Road, Olive Branch, MS 5. Pillows, Commerce Street Market, 74 W. Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 6. Bridgewater Candle Company Candles, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road #115, Olive Branch, MS 7. Local art, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 8. Pillows, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 9. MudPie Deer Board and Spreader, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road #115, Olive Branch, MS 10. Fingerprint Initial Pottery, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road #115, Olive Branch, MS 11. MudPie Blankets, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 12. Large selection of McCarty Pottery, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS

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holiday gift guide





1. MudPie Reindeer shirt, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road #115, Olive Branch, MS 2. Jammie Pals Gift Set, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road #115, Olive Branch, MS 3. Jellycat Stuffed Animals, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 4. Faux Fur Trim Coat, Bass Pro, 1 Bass Pro Drive, Memphis, TN 5. Kid’s clothing, SoCo, 300 W Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 6. Discovery Space Center, Mimi’s on Main, 432 W. Main Street, Senatobia, MS 7. Christmas Wish Anja Doll and Book, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 8. Kid’s socks, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 9. Onesies, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 10. Kid’s tool set, Mimi’s on Main, 432 W. Main Street, Senatobia, MS

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By Jill Gleeson Photography Courtesy of Chelsea Monroe-Cassel,,, and Taste and Tell

Tired of turkey and dressing? An epic feast inspired by recent television classics like the Game of Thrones or The Sopranos will make your Thanksgiving more than memorable.

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Honeyed Chicken/Turkey

It’s that time of year again. Football is on the tube, leaves are drifting down from the trees and pumpkin spice is everywhere. Yep, autumn is in full swing and that means Thanksgiving, long one of America’s favorite celebrations, is on its way. But just because Thanksgiving has been a holiday forever, or at least since Abraham Lincoln officially proclaimed it one in 1863, doesn’t mean that we can’t monkey around a bit with tradition. This year, why not liven up your festivities with a themed Thanksgiving? Think about the possibilities. You could stick close to the holiday’s roots and ask everyone to show up in their best pilgrim attire. Or, consider a salute to flower power, with guests dressed in bell bottoms, headbands and tie-dyed tees. Dish up granola, spin the Grateful Dead and request everyone only use words like “groovy” and “far out.” A luau-themed Thanksgiving would be fun, too. Hand out leis, serve roasted pig and tropical punch, and play ukulele music. Movies can provide inspiration for your shindig -- the “Star Wars” saga anyone? And so can television shows: “Game of Thrones” in particular makes for a perfect Thanksgiving 50 DeSoto

theme, according to Chelsea Monroe-Cassel, who penned the 2012 Game of Thrones cookbook, “A Feast of Fire and Ice,” with her friend, Sariann Lehrer. As Monroe-Cassel notes on her blog, “Out of all the holidays in the year, I think Thanksgiving might be the best suited to a Westerosi interpretation...Thanksgiving, in many families, is characterized by cold weather, a groaning table laden with an absurd amount of food, and inter-family drama. Sound at all familiar?” Monroe-Cassel provided us with a couple of favorite GofT-themed Thanksgiving recipes, but we encourage you to go beyond the menu. Ask your guests to come in costume; premade Game of Thrones-wear is available online. Or, make your own -- grab a long platinum wig, a stuffed dragon and come as Daenerys. Have your hubby don a fur-trimmed cape, dark curly wig and grow out a little facial scruff for a killer Jon Snow impersonation. With so many epic GoT characters to choose from, there should be no repeats among your guests. We just hope no couples come as Jaime and Cersei.

Game of Thrones-Themed Thanksgiving Honeyed Chicken/Turkey Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer Cook’s notes: The sauce reduces down to a thick, syrupy consistency, which melts ever so slightly when drizzled over the hot chicken. The raisins soak up the sauce, and become absolutely delicious little morsels. Ingredients: 1 whole chicken for roasting olive oil/butter (~1 Tbs) Salt Sauce: 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar 1/3 cup honey Dash of mint, dried or fresh (abt. 1 tsp.) Small handful of raisins 1 Tbs. butter Rub the chicken down with olive oil/butter and salt. This makes the skin crispy and delicious. Cook in an oven at 450 degrees F for approximately an hour, or until the juices run clear, and the thick meat of the breast is no longer pink. While your chicken is roasting away in the oven, combine all ingredients in saucepan and allow to simmer until the raisins plump and the sauce reduces slightly. Remove from heat, and when the chicken is done, spread the sauce and raisins over the bird. 17th-Century Pumpkin Pie Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer Prep: 15 minutes Baking: 35 minutes Makes 1 9″ pie Cook’s notes: Although the recipe doesn’t call for any spices, if you’d like to include some, feel free! Also, I used some roasted, pureed pumpkin I had leftover after straining out the juices. However, canned pumpkin also works great. Crust Ingredients: 2 cups flour pinch of salt 1 egg yolk 1 stick butter ice cold water, just enough Filling Ingredients: 1 cup warm milk 2-3 Tbs. melted butter 1/2 cup turbinado sugar, plus extra for sprinkling over the top 2 cups pumpkin (1 lb.) DeSoto 51

pinch salt 2 Tbs. ground almonds Prep the crust by rubbing the butter into the flour. Add the salt, egg yolk, and just enough water to bring the dough together. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/4″ thickness. Line a pie pan with it, and crimp the edges into a decorative design. Combine the warm milk and melted butter. Pour over the sugar and stir until there are no grains of sugar remaining. Stir in the remaining ingredients, mixing the filling thoroughly. Pour this into the prepared (but not prebaked) pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 35 minutes, or until the filling seems set. Allow to cool before slicing.

Sopranos-Style Thanksgiving

Before “Game of Thrones” was even a twinkle in HBO programmers’ eyes there was “The Sopranos.” Set in the New Jersey mob world and detailing the lives of Tony Soprano, his associates and family, it ran from 1999 to 2007. As does Italian-American culture as a whole, entire scenes in the show revolved around the cooking, serving and consuming of food, making a “Sopranos” Thanksgiving easy to accomplish. The key is to serve New Jersey-style Italian cuisine. Red sauce, thick with meats like sausage or hamburger, and mozzarella cheese draped heavily over everything, are key. Chicken or veal parmesan would make a fine main course, with baked penne alongside. Start off with an antipasto -- a massive platter laden with cured meats including pepperoni and capicola, provolone cheese and marinated veggies -- and consider tiramisu for dessert. For extra authenticity, talk like a 52 DeSoto

true New Jersey Italian and pronounce capicola “gabagool.” Baked Penne Jill Gleeson 1 large can whole tomatoes 1 large can crushed tomatoes 1 small can tomato paste 1 1/2 lb. ground beef, extra-lean 3 - 4 large fingers of garlic, diced 1/2 cup onion, diced 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil 2 large (1 1/2 lb. bag) shredded mozzarella cheese Grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups) Crushed red pepper, basil, parsley, oregano, salt (to taste) 1 1/2 lb. penne Boil penne, leaving it undercooked by about 1 1/2 minutes As you wait for penne to cook, combine cans of crushed tomatoes, whole tomatoes that have been pulled apart into smaller pieces and tomato paste into large pot and simmer. Heat olive oil in a large pan, add garlic and onion and saute, so that the onion is translucent and the garlic is soft, but not browned. Add ground beef and as it cooks chop it with spatula so that there are no large chunks. When ground beef is browned, add mixture to tomatoes. Add spices to taste (about 1 to 2 Tbs. parsley and basil, 1 Tbs. oregano, 1 tspn. hot peppers and 1/2 tspn. salt). Simmer on low for at least a half-hour, adding a little water to thin out sauce if necessary. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large baking dish, add enough sauce to cover bottom of dish. Add layer of pasta, layer of sauce, sprinkle parmesan lightly over top and add layer of mozzarella cheese. And another layer of pasta, sauce and parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 minutes in oven. Add layer of mozzarella cheese and bake for 5 minutes. Baked Penne

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y k c a W y k c a T

r u o T t h g i L s a m t s i r h C

Rides Again By Verna Gates | Photography courtesy of Mark Peavy

Thousands of lights! Gravity defying displays! Blow-ups with more hot air than a room full of politicians! It’s the Wacky Tacky Christmas Light Tour. This holiday event takes partygoers on buses for a guided tour of the best of the worst Christmas displays in Birmingham, Alabama.

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The Wacky Tacky Light Tour is serious fun – in 2017, it funded financial aid for 214 under-resourced children to attend Fresh Air Family’s 26 award-winning science camps. “Gross Out Camp” is hands-on field biology that takes children and youth outdoors into their native habitat. The total monies raised for financial aid totaled $43,500 in 2016. The organization works to encourage diversity and last year, more than 40 percent of the summer campers who attended used full scholarships. As a child, I loved those December nights in the big family car, driving around neighborhoods in search of Christmas lights. As an adult, I started taking friends along with me, first one, then a carload, then caravans and finally rented vans. The Wacky Tacky Christmas Light Tour began five years ago when a friend suggested the tour would make a great fundraiser for Fresh Air Family, the nonprofit I founded in 2006. In 2012, two buses took 80 people around to see the lights. In 2016, 1,058 came. This year, more than 1,200 are expected to participate in what has quickly become a local holiday tradition. “I knew my date was a keeper when he slapped on a pair of lighted reindeer ears for a Wacky Tacky ride. We have attended every year since and it is the best anniversary party ever. Perhaps, we will come as Mr. and Mrs. Claus soon!” said Carla Whitehead, a perennial rider from Birmingham.. E v e r y ye a r, Wa c k y Ta c k y volunteers scour the town for over-the-top Christmas displays. Judges look for humor and outrageous volume of bulbs and highwattage electricity. The standards are really low, and hard to meet. In fact, the Griswold house from Christmas Vacation would be considered “a maybe” in Birmingham’s highly competitive holiday cheer – random, colorful lights are preferred. After the scouting reports are complete, a two-hour route, which includes a stop for libations and a free snack, is crafted. Typically, 14 big displays are selected, with the route cruising down as many colorful streets as possible. The tour is guided, with volunteers pointing out things such as a completely red house referred to as a religiously-themed bordello or the strand of yellow lights leading from a rooftop Santa to a pool on the ground, indicating, well, yellow snow. ‘Do the homeowner s resent b e i n g c h o s e n’ i s a frequently asked DeSoto 57

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question. The answer: if you get on your roof and string 30,000 lights off of it, you have to admit that you are either wacky or tacky, or both, but you are certainly not cursed with shyness. In fact, house decorators lobby to be on the tour, competing with outlandish blow-ups, like crocodile bands sporting Santa hats or an auto-matron Santa perpetually emerging from a North Pole outhouse or a reindeer driving a tractor with a spinning wheel constantly revealing that he has, indeed, run over Grandma. Perennial favorites include the Hanukkah House, where the editor of the local Jewish magazine took a “Joy to the World,” and whacked off the “j,” giving the whole tour a multicultural view from atop the 6-foot spinning dreidel. Children love the stop as they all receive chocolate geld from the homeowner who is campaigning for Jews to join him in celebrating Hanukkah -- the Festival of Lights. Santa’s Trailer Park is packed with so many blow-ups that it’s a walking tour. It includes a Whack-a-Penguin game and Santa in every imaginable activity from skiing to giving out snow cones from a hippie minibus. The Auburn House pays homage to both of Alabama’s major religions, with a nativity scene backlit by “War Eagle!” Why do so many people participate in such silliness? Well, it’s funny and lighthearted. Laughs are sometimes hard to come by during the holidays, which can be loaded with stress and loneliness. A bit of old-school fun can reignite the holiday spirit. One woman celebrant, whose name was Ann, had just received her all-clear from cancer diagnosis and gathered her friends to celebrate on a Wacky Tacky bus last year. “I just wanted to do something totally goofy that could allow me to forget my struggles and relish living,” she said. “And all I had to do to have a party was hop on a bus – no cleaning, no cooking and no driving. It also gave me the opportunity to wear my ugly Christmas sweater.” The “anti-Norman Rockwell” Christmas party brings out the child once again, with adults and kids wearing everything from Christmas pajamas to Cousin Eddie bathrobes complete with earflap caps. A broad array of ugly sweaters, elf ears, lighted and singing Santa hats, and costumes keep the photo booth cranking out holiday cheer. While many people book individual tickets, a lot of “Wacky Tackiers” join groups DeSoto 59

on the buses. One of the goals for some is to gather enough people to “take over a bus,” with seating ranging from 14 to 35. Groups such as book clubs, dance clubs, Sunday school classes, professional organizations and family groups have gathered to create private party buses. Even businesses rent a bus for the night for company Christmas parties. Among the most elated party goers are the moms’ clubs: women free from babies and toddlers for an evening, with husbands picking them up. Rare Transportation, the bus company, allows everything but big coolers and red wine on their buses, so the party is ready-made. Singing and even dancing on the buses are common, especially after the margarita stop. Tour guides are armed with a litany of holiday songs, including several versions of “Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg,” a popular tune well known to parents and kids. Buses from 5:306:30 pm are family-friendly. Christmas lights stand as one of our truly American obsessions. And the South reigns in spectacular over-the-top, humorinfused sun-bright displays. Just embrace your inner tacky and enjoy the ride.

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This year’s Wacky Tacky Light Tour is December 12, 13 and 14. Riders meet in the upstairs party room at Avondale Brewing Company in Bir mingham, Alabama. Buses leave every 20 minutes starting at 5:30 with the last bus leaving at 8 pm. For ticket information, please visit www. Group reservations can be requested at

Beyond Wacky Tacky, Fresh Air Family Provides Outdoor Education All Year In addition to the camp scholarships funded by the Wacky-Tacky tours, Fresh Air Family provides outdoor education programs to families, children and youth, groups and schools. Last year, more than 3,000 children and youth attended 24 camps and dozens of school field trips, all focusing on science and the outdoors. On average, the organization and its partners offer more than 400 family events across Alabama. For more information, visit

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Inspiration on a 62 DeSoto

Dr. Lee Irving, Med Dir Dr. Barry Hellman, Dr. McConnell

Muddy Road By Gayle Harper | Photography courtesy of Volunteers in Medicine

The Volunteers in Medicine organization has been changing lives since 1993 when a retired physician saw a need for a free clinic for the disadvantaged. Today, 87 VIM Free Clinics operate in 28 states, including three in Mississippi. Tank Town USA DeSoto 63

Dr. McConnell in front of VIM clinic

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Dr. Jack McConnell, a pediatrician and renowned medical researcher, thought he would retire in 1989 and spend most of his time playing golf. With his wife, Mary Ellen, they settled into a beautiful golfing community on Hilton Head Island, North Carolina, to enjoy their “golden years.” It wasn’t long, however, before Dr. McConnell found the life “bored him silly” and he asked himself, “Is this all I have left?” Shortly thereafter, his next endeavor began to take shape. While driving on a muddy, rutted road one rainy morning, Dr. McConnell picked up a hitchhiker. As they talked, the man revealed that he and his wife were expecting a baby, and Dr. McConnell asked, “Where do you and your family get healthcare?” “We don’t,” replied the man, “we can’t afford it and have no insurance.” In the coming weeks, the doctor picked up five more hitchhikers and received the same answer to that question. He knew then that he had to do something to help. Dr. McConnell soon discovered that surrounding his affluent community was another large community in which more than one-third of families had no access to health care. He began by rallying his golfing buddies, also retired physicians, and together they recruited medical and non-medical volunteers and raised funds to open a Volunteers in Medicine Free Clinic in Hilton Head in 1993. Today, the clinic is staffed by a rotation of more than 600 volunteers and provides more than 30,000 patient visits per year. Furthermore, the Hilton Head Island VIM Clinic sparked a movement that has spread across the country. There are now 87 such clinics in 28 states, serving over 95,000 patients. Across the Mid-South, VIM clinics are thriving and meeting the needs of thousands who had previously gone with little or no healthcare. Three are in Mississippi: Oxford, Meridian and Gautier.

Through the Eyes of Patients

Linda Brown of Oxford hasn’t met Dr. McConnell, but her life has been profoundly impacted by his caring heart, his vision and his action. “It has been a godsend for me. I’m 62 and still working, but my job as a CNA (certified nursing assistant) doesn’t provide insurance and I don’t make enough to pay for it myself,” she said. Linda has multiple DeSoto 65

VIM Diabetes Team

health issues, but until the Clinic was established, her conditions were going untreated. “Now,” said Linda, “I can get what I need. And, it’s a place where everybody is treated with dignity. It makes you feel like you count for something. So, you can hold your head up and still accept the help.” This atmosphere of respect is endemic to VIM clinics and is referred to as “a culture of caring.” It is the essence of every interaction and has an impact on everyone. In Linda’s words, “Because the clinic has been such a blessing to me, I want to give back too. As soon as I can retire, I will volunteer to help out there myself !” In Gautier, patient Steven C. knows he owes his life to the VIM clinic there. Steven came to the clinic to receive some test results and was sitting comfortably in the waiting room. Suddenly, he felt severe chest pain, his arm went numb and he had trouble breathing. The staff noticed his distress and quickly called 911. He was having a heart attack and was taken to the hospital by ambulance and immediately into surgery. “I would have died if it wasn’t for them,” said Steven. “I wouldn’t be here today if it was not for all the good work they do.”

A Volunteer’s Experience

Libby Bounds, a 66-year-old retired schoolteacher in Meridian volunteers every week at the Meridian VIM clinic. She has seen the community’s perception of the clinic change. “At first, some people thought it was another hand-out. It’s not at all,” she said. “This is for people who would fall through the cracks without it. Lots of them work but the insurance premiums would cost more than they make. Some had good jobs and good lives but then got sick and couldn’t work and couldn’t get any healthcare. They don’t qualify for Medicaid and aren’t old enough for Medicare – so they had nothing.” Sometimes a former student will come to the clinic. “At first, they might be embarrassed,” she said, “but it’s like family there. Now, they are comfortable and just appreciate the help.” “My very favorite job at the clinic is when I get to call patients to tell them they have been approved for services. The absolute joy in their voices is incredible! Some have cried – they are that thankful,” she said. “As a schoolteacher, I didn’t get to hear that kind of joy very often and I love it!”

A Medical Director’s Perspective

Dr. Lee Valentine, Medical Director at Meridian’s VIM Clinic sees how the clinic enriches the lives of everyone involved. “For myself,” he said, “I have been blessed to do what I love all these years – to care for the health of people. Along the way, people gave their time to teach me and help me along. Now, I want to give back. 66 DeSoto

“What I saw happening,” he continued, “was a trend of people using emergency rooms because they had no primary care. That’s a very bad place for your primary care. No preventive care can be given, and it creates an overuse and misuse of the ER, which makes costs go up for all. By providing a way for patients to receive primary and preventive care, conditions can be discovered before they become catastrophic.” Dr. Valentine stressed that the entire community is needed to make the program work. Churches host fundraisers, clubs donate paper goods, corporations provide grants or supplies and medical partners provide lab services, x-rays and pharmaceuticals. “They do it,” he said, “because they get it – they understand the concept, see the results and want to be part of it. It is definitely a win-win for all involved.” This commitment to community service is being passed along to a new generation of physicians. Through Dr. Valentine’s efforts, family practice residency students who wish to “moonlight,” or work outside the program, must donate time to the VIM clinic. “At first,” he said, “they might fuss and groan, but they come away with a completely different attitude. They actually see the impact they have on people’s lives and it means a great deal to them. Invariably, they end up feeling they are getting more out of the experience than the patients are.” Like most others involved with Volunteers in Medicine Free Clinics across the country, Dr. Valentine has never met founder Dr. Jack McConnell. However, he has great appreciation for what he has created. These words from Dr. McConnell have become the credo of the national Volunteers in Medicine organization because they express so beautifully the spirit that fuels everything:

“May we have eyes to see those rendered invisible and excluded, Open arms and hearts to reach out and include them, Healing hands to touch their lives with love, And in the process heal ourselves.”

Want to know more?

A directory of clinics is available on the website of the national Volunteers in Medicine organization, DeSoto 67

homegrown } sugar fix pralines

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Kahlua Praline

From PTA President to Praline Princess By Kathryn Winter. Photography courtesy of Gabby Collier

It took nine years for Gabby Collier to perfect her grandmother’s recipe for Creole-style pralines, but when she did her business fixed many a sweettooth cravings. Gabrielle “Gabby” Collier went from PTA president to praline princess after opening her own business called Sugar Fix Pralines in Gulfport, Mississippi. Collier first got the idea to start her company in 2005 when a craving for a Creole-style praline hit her during story time with one of her sons at the local library. Collier became a transplant to Gulfport from New Orleans when she married her husband, Eddie. She quickly realized there were no pralines like her grandma Estelle’s on the coast. “After my second son, Gabe, started kindergarten, I began to think what’s next for me. Up until this time, I had been a stay at home mom and wife for 12 years. I revisited the idea of creating genuine Creole-style pralines once both of my

children were in school full time,” Collier said. “It’s amazing how we grow up around recipes, but never fully pay attention in learning how to make them ourselves. I couldn’t make pralines, but somehow knew it was my ‘calling.’” She tried making pralines off and on for nine years before getting her grandma’s recipe just right. The recipe had been handed down from generation-to-generation. After she believed it was perfected, she gave samples to neighbors, teachers, teacher’s spouses, basketball, baseball and football parents, PTA board members and mothers in the car riders line. “We had a great system going for a while. They gave DeSoto 69

Rum Pralines

feedback and I would provide more free samples. I knew I had hit the jackpot when they stopped asking for samples and started placing orders.” Pralines are a popular Southern dessert made from sugar, milk, butter and pecans. Pralines originated in France and were named after a French diplomat mainly known as Marechal du Plessis-Praslin. He had such a sweet tooth that when French settlers ruled Louisiana his chefs often made him pralines to satisfy his sugar craving. The original French praline recipe was made with sugar, butter, milk, chocolate, almonds and or hazelnuts. Since hazelnut and almond trees are not native to the South, chefs substituted pecans instead. According to Collier, the correct way to pronounce the word praline depends on where you’re from. “Most Southerners say prah-leen. New Orleanians say ply-reen or pecan candy. However, we all agree you’re wrong if you say ‘prayleen.’ You only pray and learn in church!” Collier named her company Sugar Fix Pralines LLC for the craving of something sweet and only one special thing that can satisfy it-sugar. Today, Collier is enjoying every aspect of owning her own business. “There are definitely challenges at times, but I wouldn’t trade a day of my life making pralines over a nine to five job. My husband and two sons support me by helping package, label and sell our product. I am excited about my recent move to a commercial kitchen, which allows me to make larger quantities because I’m 70 DeSoto

almost always sold out. I’m learning that the balance of faith, family and self are the keys to my success.” One batch of pralines takes an hour and 45 minutes to make from start to finish. Collier makes a large batch and knocks it out in a few days. Sugar Fix offers a variety of unique flavors including the original pecan praline, bourbon, Kahlua, rum, chocolate, coconut, peanut butter, chocolate drizzled (sold only during October-April) and Jack Daniels. The most popular flavor is the original. Sugar Fix gets a rush of orders around Thanksgiving, and another rush around Christmas. Corporate gifts are very big for the company. The second week of December is usually the cut off time for Christmas delivery. A Six Fix Praline gift box includes one white gift box, a half-dozen pralines individually wrapped, a special ribbon, a personalized message tag or note card, and a choice of two praline flavors. The business also makes custom event favors including praline lollipops, pralinette (mini round praline with a ribbon) and praline gift box favors. “We make a lot of praline favors for weddings, showers, graduations, birthday parties, anniversaries, corporate events, employee gifts, super bowl parties. Really they’re perfect for any occasion,” Collier said.   Pralines stay fresh up to six weeks at room temperature. If frozen or refrigerated they can last up to six months. Sugar Fix also offers sugar free pralines, which are made with Splenda, milk, pecans and real butter. Pralines are gluten free. Sugar Fix makes their pralines square shaped so customers can tell their pralines apart from others. “Our pralines are creamy, soft and melt in your mouth with each bite. They will satisfy your strongest sweet-tooth cravings. They are made with real butter, sugar, milk, pecans and most of all, love.”

Want to know more?

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southern gentleman } munson & brothers

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Ryan Munson

Men’s Grooming with

Munson & Brothers By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy of Katie Mcdill Photography and Kate Spitz Photography

Former stockbroker Ryan Munson is pleasing a new kind of client with his natural beard balms and oils that are ‘mindfully made’ in Mississippi. “Your beard smells ah-mazing!” My wife said this to me hours after I’d used Three Kings Beard Balm by Munson & Brothers for the first time. It took 21 years of beard wearing and 15 years with my wife for anyone to pass on such a beard compliment, and now I’m hooked. Munson & Brothers, based in Columbus, Mississippi, makes a quartet of beard balms—Three Kings; Thieves Blend (clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, rosemary); orange, cinnamon and clove; and sweet mint—along with beard oils,

body-friendly soap and lotion, lip balm, and mosquito repellant. Ryan Munson, the founder, owner, and the nose behind each blend, uses only natural oils to create his line of high-end men’s grooming products, to the benefit of the hair and skin of his clients. “I started the business after my daughter had a problem with dry skin that over-the-counter remedies wouldn’t cure,” said Munson. When Munson and his wife would treat their daughter with store-bought lotions and balms, she’d cry. He began to DeSoto 73

look into the ingredients. “The first ingredients I saw listed were long, unpronounceable, unnatural products, and I didn’t like that, so I decided to do something about it.” He started doing research into what natural oils and essential oils were good for treating skin ailments, hair and hair follicles, searching for something to treat his daughter. The result was Munson’s Body Butter, a blend of jojoba, argan and sweet almond oils; beeswax and shea and cocoa butter. “It worked. Our daughter liked how it felt and it helped her skin, but I didn’t know I was onto anything then,” he said. Munson gave some of the body butter out to friends and family, notably his “brothers,” a group of guys he’d been brewing beer and making soap (“Fight Clubstyle,” he says) with for a while. A question arose: can you use this on your beard? The answer was “Yes,” but Munson decided to take it a step further, add in essential oils that would smell great and make the balm more effective for hair and hair follicles. The new batch was a hit,too. The enthusiasm and feedback pushed Munson to take his products to farmers markets and festivals, where he soon found he had a hit product on his hands. “I got serious with packaging and then one of my brothers convinced me to take it wide, so I did,” said Munson. “We sell over the Internet, and are on track to be in 100 stores by the end of 2017. We go to retail trade shows every quarter and are doing everything we can to get the products out there.” But entering the men’s grooming and men’s gift segment can be difficult. “Products for men are too often relegated to jokes,” he explained. “It’s all camo toilet paper and barbecue sauce in a ‘whiskey’ bottle. There’s very little that’s useful or luxurious, and we offer both; we make a product that treats men seriously.” 74 DeSoto

By “seriously” Munson’s talking about the art and practice of making his oils, balms, and body products; the products themselves, which help men feel, look and smell better; and the therapeutic value in each of the goods he sells. In everything he does, the motto of Munson & Brothers guides him: Mindfully Made in Mississippi. “I think there has been a disconnect between consumers and products,” Munson says. “We’re trying to bridge that gap, trying to satisfy that thirst.” In Munson’s home state, as elsewhere, consumers are hungry for the handmade. Craft beer is on the rise; every gift shop and grocery features shelves and rows of goods made by local and regional artisans; and word spreads about highquality products -- like Munson’s. Making beard balm, beard oil, soap, and body butter is a shift for Munson, who was a stockbroker “at one of the big first-name/last-name brokerages” for five years prior, but he tired of the grind. “I started to gravitate toward processes I could control,” he said. “Something about the hands on, apothecary aspect of what I’m doing now appealed to me, though I had no idea I’d grow so far so fast.” With interests building in retailers across the South, and the new wave of barbers and men’s groomers in need of products that their clients can trust, Munson & Brothers finds itself in the perfect position to practice that Mindfully Made philosophy and deliver grooming products men can be proud to use.

Get Yours:


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southern harmony } the nashville alternators

An Ultimate “Team� Band Pam Windsor | Photography courtesy of The Nashville Alternators

A benefit concert seven years ago brought together these session musicians who have since created their own sound.

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When some of Nashville’s most seasoned musicians gathered at a cigar bar in Franklin a little more than seven years ago, they had no idea they were in the beginning stages of forming a band. They were simply coming together to help out after the devastating flood of 2010. “I called the musicians and artists that I knew would come and play,” recalled Bobby Blazier, the drummer who helped organize the benefit. “The money went to MusiCares to help musicians who’d lost just about everything. We just wanted to do something to help.” Many of the singers and musicians who showed up had been friends for years. Some had played together behind major artists and in recording sessions in Nashville. “We had no agenda; we were just a bunch of musicians that showed up and we had guitars and we knew a million songs,” explained singer and guitarist Chris Rodriguez. “So there was no rehearsal, no anything, and two hours later we realized this is a really good rhythm section right here. And we were like, we should do this again.” The crowd felt the same way. “Everybody kept calling me and saying you guys have to do it again,” said Blazier. Months later he talked to Rodriguez about it, and the two decided to form the band and book a place to play. They’ve been playing together ever since, showcasing music from the 60s and 70s, covering songs from a wide range of artists like Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, Paul McCartney and Wings, Earth Wind & Fire, Todd Rundgren, AC/DC and so many more. Blazier, who grew up in Chattanooga, started playing drums at 12, and later played with a band in Texas before moving to Nashville, said they add something special to every song. “We pay homage to the artist, whoever that is, whatever song we’re doing, but we kind of add our Alternators’ twist to it.” The group has evolved since the beginning, a couple of musicians have come and gone and others have been added. Singer Kim Keyes was asked to fill in about five years ago when one of the regular members couldn’t make it. “We all just absolutely adore Kim personally and her voice is so remarkable. She instantly became part of the band,” said Blazier. The core group includes Matt Pierson, Kim Keyes, Gene Miller, Bobby Blazier, DeMarco Johnson and Chris Rodriguez. Regular horn players include Vinnie Ciesielski, Tyler Summers, and Roy Agee. Every member has an extensive musical background. Between them they’ve worked with Amy Grant, Kenny Loggins, Keith Urban, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Billy Joel,

Peter Cetera, Prince, and others. They still perform and travel with some of those artists today which makes bringing them together for this band a bit challenging. “We have a rule in the band that if we have something booked and you have a gig – you take it. We’ll find a sub or we’ll do something else, but we don’t want anybody to give up a major session that costs them money down the road.” Hence the name: The Nashville Alternators. “We started out as the Alternators because basically we’re a group of session musicians and we never know who’s going to be in town,” said Rodriguez. “So there’s a core group that sort of expanded to about 25 to 30 people who can come in at a moment’s notice.” Although they play with other bands and artists and are constantly juggling other work, there’s something special about being part of The Nashville Alternators. “All of us have the same spirit and love of music and love for each other,” Keyes said. Keyes, who grew up in Jackson, then Laurel, Mississippi before heading to Nashville at 18, has spent the past 22 years traveling with Amy Grant, as well as performing with other artists. With the Alternators she gets to do music especially close to her heart. “It’s what I grew up listening to, the 70s stuff.” She has fond memories of listening to the songs her brother, who was a DJ, used to play on the radio. He passed away, but she still has a lot of those old 45s. “I was probably five or six when he was bringing this stuff home to me. I’ve got such a great collection of singles that he would bring home from WRBC in Jackson where he worked.” Rodriguez, who was born in New York, then spent time in Miami before moving to Nashville, also loves the music that was so much a part of his background. There’s the added attraction, too, of playing it with was so many talented musicians. “It’s a beautiful thing because it really is the ultimate in teamwork. We all know our strengths and there’s a lot of improvisation. We get up there and don’t see each other for 90 days and still pretty much hit field goals. It’s sort of like this unspoken sign language.” They’ve performed at a number of venues over the years and played at all of the Tennessee Titans home games in 2013. It’s clear they enjoy the music and each other and plan to continue coming together every chance they get.

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in good spirits} the flying fig

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The Flying Fig By Charlene Oldham | Photography courtesy of Abigail Gullo

New Orleans bartender Abigail Gullo favors employing seasonal ingredients to create cocktails with multiple facets of flavor, and the Flying Fig is no exception. The drink starts with a base of vodka, then adds a dash of St-Germain elderflower liqueur. St-Germain is made from French elderflowers picked during a spring season that lasts just a few weeks, which is why each bottle bears a distinctive number to reflect the harvest year. However, it’s fairly easy to find online or at local retailers. The liqueur has recently gained popularity in the U.S. in a simple pairing with champagne, but Gullo’s recipe also proves it can hold its own in a more complex cocktail. “The light floral notes of the elderflower complement the subtle sweetness of the figs,” said Gullo, head bartender at Compère Lapin, an award-winning Caribbean-inspired restaurant in New Orleans’ Warehouse Arts District. “The mint-rimmed glass adds yet another layer to the cocktail and the flavors work perfectly together.” Each serving calls for two fresh figs, so it’s fortunate that, unlike the abbreviated elderflower harvest, fresh fig season lasts from mid-May through mid-December -- at least when it comes to California figs. So even those without their own backyard fig tree still have time to shake up their cocktail routine with Gullo’s recipe:

The Flying Fig INGREDIENTS 2 fresh figs 1/2 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur 2 ounces vodka 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1 medium lemon) 1/2 ounce agave nectar Ice 1 fresh mint leaf INSTRUCTIONS 1. Place a cocktail glass in the freezer to chill. 2. Cut the figs lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices and reserve 1 center slice for garnish. Coarsely chop the remaining slices and place in a cocktail shaker. 3. Add the elderflower liqueur and muddle. Add the vodka, lemon juice and agave. Fill the shaker halfway with ice and shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker turns frosty. Strain into the chilled glass. 4. Place the mint leaf in the palm of one hand and smack it with the other hand to release the oils. Rub the mint leaf on the rim of the glass and then add it to the glass. Garnish with the reserved fig slice.

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exploring events } november Holiday Open Houses:

November 3 Downtown Columbus, MS November 9 - 11 Greenwood, MS November 11 Senatobia, MS Marion, AR November 12 Hernando, MS New Albany, MS November 19 Batesville, MS Tupelo, MS Pontotoc, MS November 24 Oxford, MS November 25 Old Towne Olive Branch, MS November 26 Vicksburg, MS

Christmas Parades:

November 27 New Albany, MS Belmont, MS Chicago November 2 BancorpSouth Arena Tupelo, MS 7:30pm For ticket information visit, or call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. The Beach Boys November 2 Orpheum Theatre Memphis, TN 7:00pm For more information call 901-525-3000 or visit 100th Anniversary Gala November 2 Leflore County Civic Center Greenwood, MS 7:00pm This is a red carpet event that will celebrate the Chamber’s 100 years of Service to Greenwood and Leflore County. Cocktail attire is required. For more information call the Chamber at 662-453-4152 or visit An Evening with Peter Frampton benefiting GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi November 3 Grammy Museum Mississippi Cleveland, MS 6:30pm For more information visit or call 662-441-0100. Bash at the Botanic November 3 Memphis Botanic Garden Memphis, TN 7:00pm - 10:30pm $75 ticket includes music, dancing, and delectables. Cash bar and silent auction. For more information call 901-272-3434 or visit Blues & Brews November 4 Gabbert Park Senatobia, MS 6:00pm Join us in honoring Sid Hemphill as we dedicate his Blue’s Trail Marker. For more information call 662-562-8715.

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Kidzu Playhouse Production: School of Rock The Musical Youth Production November 4 - 12 Hernando Performing Arts Center Hernando, MS “School Of Rock“ is a brand new musical based on the famous Paramount film written by Mike White, which starred Jack Black. For more information call 888-429-7871 or visit Horn Lake’s 5th Veteran’s Day Salute November 5 Landers Center Southaven, MS 9:00am The City of Horn Lake invites veterans and current military personnel to the free Veteran’s Day breakfast. The program salutes all men and women of the US armed services. To RSVP or for more information, contact A.J. Linville at or call 662-342-3482. Author event with Karen L. Cox - “Goat Castle: A true Story of Murder, Race and the Gothic South” November 5 Turnrow Books Greenwood, MS 12:30pm Strange, fascinating, and sobering, GOAT CASTLE tells the story of a local feud, killing, investigation, and trial, showing how a true crime tale of fallen Southern grandeur and murder obscured an all too familiar story of racial injustice. For more information call 662-453-5995 or visit Walk for Wishes November 9 Snowden Grove Southaven, MS 5:00pm - 8:00pm Make-A-Wish Mid-South invites North Mississippi and the Mid-South to participate in the first-ever Walk For Wishes Mid-South, a community-wide celebration of the organization’s mission and local wish granting efforts. For more information call 901-680-9474 or visit Angels on the Bluff Cemetery Tour November 9 - 11 Natchez, MS Tour this beautiful, historic site, stopping at graves to hear stories and musical tributes to the lives and deaths of some of Natchez oldest “residents.” For more information call 800-647-6724 or visit 2nd Annual Shop for the Shelter November 11 Gale Center Hernando, MS 9:00am - 3:00pm Come do some shopping and support the shelter animals. Various arts and crafts vendors will be set up. There will also be a silent auction. For more information call 901-351-2615 or email DeSoto Arts Council Red Door Market November 12 1 Memphis Street and Arts Council Hernando, MS 11:00am - 5:00pm Featuring artisanal products sold by the artists. All offerings are handmade and carefully selected for inclusion in this market. Vendors will be at 1 Memphis Street and DeSoto Arts Council at 2465 Highway 51. For additional information visit or call 662-404-3361.

50 Nights of Lights November 12 - December 31 Downtown Cleveland, MS 4:00pm - 11:30pm Drive or walk through the beautiful holiday lights and themes by blocks in downtown Cleveland. This new annual colorful event will be the perfect addition to your holiday shopping or light viewing trip! Kick off Friday, November 11 at the Lighting of the Christmas Tree, 6:00pm - 7:00pm. For more information call 662-843-2712 or visit Garlands & Gifts Marketplace November 16 - 18 The Event Center Grenada, MS Garlands & Gifts is a Holiday Marketplace where local and surrounding businesses have come together to support small businesses for the holidays. For more information email Willie Nelson November 17 Horseshoe Casino Tunica Resorts, MS For tickets visit or call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. Panola Playhouse Presents “Elf Jr. The Musical” November 24 - December 3 Panola Playhouse Sardis, MS Directed by Lauren Suddoth. For more information visit or call 662-487-3975.

Turkey Day Trot on the Trails November 25 Tishomingo State Park Tishomingo, MS 7:00am - 5:00pm For more information call 901-438-6914 or email Small Business Saturday November 25 National Event Small Business Saturday is the day to celebrate the Shop Small movement to drive shoppers to local merchants across the U.S. For more information visit Methodist Healthcare Foundation presents Actress Octavia Spencer November 28 Peabody Hotel Memphis, TN 11:30am - 1:30pm Proceeds benefit West Cancer Center in Memphis, TN. Academy awardwinning actress, Octavia Spencer, will speak about her life and career. For more information call 901-516-0500 or visit Marion’s Christmas on the Square November 30 Courthouse Square Marion, AR 6:00pm - 8:00pm Come enjoy, craft and food vendors, the lighting of the town Christmas tree and seasonal music. For more information call 870-739-6041 or visit

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reflections} communities come together

Communities Come Together By Mary Carol Miller

Delta towns share the American spirit during recovery operations after a military plane crashes near their communities. It was just a typical mid-summer Monday in Leflore County, predictably hot and humid but not yet August-awful. Two months of almost perfectly timed rain and abundant sunshine had yielded waist-high-on-a-tall-farmer cotton and soybeans and the drive from Greenwood to Indianola was a tunnel of lush, deep green foliage, promising a prosperous autumn to come. No one knows exactly what went wrong that day, high above the clouds in a placid sky. Sixteen of America’s finest, 15 Marines and one Navy corpsman, were passing the time as their C-130 transport plane followed its normal flight path from North Carolina to California. As young men do, they were likely swapping stories, playing cards, thinking about their next furlough or missing their loved ones. This was just a “day at the office” for these volunteer patriots, until it wasn’t. In an instant, with no apparent warning, the C-130 was breaking apart, on fire and hurtling toward the fields below, raining debris and death across five acres along Highway 82. Those who heard the explosions and crash thought it was thunder. Those who saw the flaming fuselage spiraling out of the clouds thought a crop duster was going down. No one, not even those whose job it is to protect Leflore County in times of emergency, had anticipated anything like this. As word raced around Greenwood, Itta Bena, Moorhead and Indianola that a Marine plane had crashed right in their backyard, likely killing everyone aboard, emergency responders were rushing to the scene. Such is the nature of their job. But the actions of everyday people, shaken out of their quiet summer existence, were astounding. 82 DeSoto

As if guided by unseen hands, a network instantly formed. A Greenwood grocery store, shutting down its deli line after the Monday lunch buffet, cranked the ovens back up and began preparing meals for law enforcement. Vans and trucks were lined up to carry supplies to the site. Catfish processors loaded trucks with tons of fillets and an Itta Bena restaurant went to work, literally feeding an army. An empty building near Mississippi Valley State was unlocked and a command center set up. The Greenwood Ministerial Association was in full crisis mode by Tuesday morning, lining up hundreds of volunteers to serve meals, transport donations and provide support and encouragement to the Marines who were pouring into the local airport. The Mississippi Baptist Convention Disaster Team rolled in with their food trucks, committed to staying for the duration. Bottled water and power drinks, nabs and fruit, homemade cakes and cookies poured out of homes around the Delta, a place known for the camaraderie of good meals and kind souls. Hardened officers, tough career soldiers accustomed to dealing with the harsh realities of Marine life, watched in amazement as a handful of small towns stepped up to honor those lost and those searching. Most of these commanders had never set foot in Mississippi before July 2017, but they left with a newfound appreciation for the enduring power of the American spirit, alive and well in this unique and special place. Mary Carol Miller is a Greenwood native and author of 13 books on Mississippi architecture and history.

DeSoto Magazine November 2017  

Making a Difference - Charitable Giving and Family. Plus, our annual Gift Guide.

DeSoto Magazine November 2017  

Making a Difference - Charitable Giving and Family. Plus, our annual Gift Guide.