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April CONTENTS 2021 • VOLUME 18 • NO. 4

features

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​ et’s Go Shrimping! L Trawler Experiences for Travelers

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Splendid Isolation In Jekyll Island, Ga.

​ hoosing Photo Workshops C ​For Picture-Perfect Vacations

departments 14 Living Well COVID Vaccines & Travel ​ 18 Notables ​Janet Marie Smith

40 On the Road Again ​Biloxi, Miss. 43 Greater Goods

22 Exploring Art ​Art-O-Mat 26 Exploring Books #Wanderlust: Unforgettable Travel Destinations 30 Southern Roots Pretty in Purple

64 Southern Gentleman ​Grand Slam Turkey Calls 68 Southern Harmony Terry “Harmonica” Bean 72 In Good Spirits ​Tip Top Proper Cocktails

32 Table Talk Grecian Gourmet Taverna 36 Exploring Destinations Airstream Travel

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62 Homegrown ​Paint with Me

74 Reflections Happy Where I Am

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editor’s note | APRIL

The Joy of Anticipation ​ Just thinking about your next trip can yield surprising benefits, according to research at the University of British Columbia. Anticipation, says psychologist Elizabeth Dunn, is a valuable source of pleasure and can result in a “happiness reset.” I can certainly believe it after reading the stories in this month’s annual travel issue. All of them gave me hope that vacations would resume for many Americans this summer, albeit with planning and precautions. ​Most people say they will consider trips that offer mostly outdoor activities. I can’t think of anything more outdoorsy than a day on a shrimp trawler off the North Carolina coast. That’s right — you can be a shrimper for a day, learning how to cast nets and then hauling in the scrumptious catch like writer Debi Lander did in her story, “Let’s Go Shrimping.” ​Debi is an excellent photographer because she continually studies the art through workshops. She loves combining photography workshops with her vacations, and she shares her tips for finding the right photo workshops to fit your needs in her feature about picture-perfect vacations. ​ If you are looking for peace and quiet, the Jekyll Island Club Resort on Georgia’s coast is the perfect destination for relaxation and fun. Once a haven for millionaires like J.P. Morgan and Joseph Pulitzer, Jekyll Island is now

APRIL 2021 • Vol. 18 No.4

PUBLISHER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Adam Mitchell PUBLISHER & ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Paula Mitchell ADVERTISING CONSULTANT Melanie Dupree CO-EDITORS Mary Ann DeSantis Cheré Coen

a modern-day paradise for everyday folks as I found on a rainy weekend. Read more about this beautiful place in my story “Splendid Isolation.” ​ Before you head out, though, please read Tom Adkinson’s wellresearched article in our Living Well department about traveling after you have had the COVID-19 vaccine. We still have to be careful out there, as Tom reports. ​ There’s nothing wrong with being happy where you are this year, and the DeSoto team offers several stories that will feed your wanderlust without leaving home. Whatever you choose or wherever you go, please do it with caution and kindness. ​ Happy trails,

CONTRIBUTORS Tom Adkinson Cheré Coen Amy Conry Davis Mary Ann DeSantis Jason Frye Amelia Grant Pamela A. Keene Debi Lander Tracy Morin Karen Ott Mayer Karon Warren Kevin Wierzbicki PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 208 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887 Paula@DeSotoMag.com SUBSCRIBE: DeSotoMagazine.com/subscribe

DeSotoMagazine.com

on the cover

Spending a day on a shrimp trawler makes for a memorable vacation. Check out our “Let’s Go Shrimping” feature to discover where you can learn to cast nets and haul in the catch with professional shrimpers.

©2021 DeSoto Media Co. DeSoto Magazine must give permission for any material contained herein t o b e re p ro d u c e d i n a n y m a n n e r. Any advertisements published in DeSoto Magazine do not constitute an endorsement of the advertiser’s services or products. DeSoto Magazine is published monthly by DeSoto Media Co. Parties interested in advertising should email paula@desotomag.com or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at desotomagazine.com.

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living well | TRAVELING DURING COVID

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Proceed with Caution Story and photography by Tom Adkinson

COVID-19 vaccines are happening, but the pandemic is far from over. When can we finally indulge our wanderlust? With apologies to William Shakespeare, “To go or not to go? That is the question.” As crazy as it sounds, the expression mirrors Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” because both questions center on the specter of death. The “D” word, that dark cloud hovering since March 2020, is what has kept us cooped up, constrained, and conscious about every human encounter. Americans started to feel the shackles loosen over the winter as vaccines slowly became available, but vaccines are not a release from indenture, according to medical professionals. Puzzling about how to behave after getting vaccinated is a good problem to have, but there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Now is not the time to play amateur epidemiologist — not if you’re lucky enough to have escaped COVID-19 so far. “Masking and social distancing remain important,” says Dr. Calvin Smith, assistant professor of internal medicine at Nashville’s Meharry Medical College, which is involved in the coronavirus vaccine development. “The linchpin to feeling free to travel is getting the vaccination level to 80 or 90 percent of the population. The optimist in me says that might be in late summer or this fall. “ Smith, who helped with onsite COVID-19 testing, explains that how we travel, with whom we travel, and where we travel are significant factors to weigh as 2021 progresses. “Keep your travel in the confines of family and friends — people whose behavior you know — if you do travel. Going to a secluded beach is one thing. Going to a spring break beach is completely different,” he explains, adding that you must consider all aspects of being in public places. “It’s not just about you,” he says. “It’s one thing if you are a healthy, robust person. What you don’t know is the health status of those around you. It’s too easy to be an asymptomatic spreader of the virus.” Assuming we do return to a pre-pandemic normal, Smith says there is one change he wants to become permanent. “I hope people will continue exercising good hand hygiene. This is good on many levels,” he says.

Dr. Gill Wright III, interim chief medical director for the Metro Nashville Department of Health, is similarly cautious about travel and just as serious about personal safety behavior (wearing of masks, social distancing, and hand washing). “Think about remote destinations where you can be outdoors with people you know,” Wright says. “The riskiest thing you can do is to sit for a prolonged time (in an enclosed setting) while eating and drinking.” Along with avoiding crowds, Wright also recommends researching COVID-19 data such as vaccination levels and hospitalization levels for places you want to visit. “Also, look at your health insurance (to be sure you have coverage at your destination), and (consider) travel insurance,” Wright says, noting that even after vaccination, you aren’t totally in the clear. “Yes, you have 95 percent protection after your second dose (of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines), but that still leaves you 5 percent exposure. Masking and maintaining social distancing will remain important even into late 2021,” he predicts. Travel agent Charlie Funk, CEO of Just Cruisin’ Plus in Brentwood, Tenn., and a columnist for trade publication Travel Weekly, watched the cruise industry implode in 2020. He carefully studies indicators for a return to sailings. “We’re ice skating on the edge of a razor blade right now,” Funk says. “Even though COVID-19 may fade into the rearview mirror, the viability of travel providers is in jeopardy. There is a massive pent-up demand to travel. My agency has huge bookings, but they are in 2022 and 2023.” A survey from Global Rescue, a travel risk and crisis response provider, verified that demand. Seventy percent of respondents said they plan to take an overnight/multi-day domestic trip greater than 100 miles from home by this June. Funk described the quandary people are in about whether to travel. They want the freedom they haven’t had for more than a year, but they remain conflicted. “What will finally motivate cruise clients? There’s an intersection of perceived value — label that greed or landing DeSoto 17


a bargain — and fear. When those lines cross, people will hit the road,” he says. Physicians Smith and Wright have their own travel dreams, and both hinge on mass vaccinations. Smith looks toward October for Morehouse College’s homecoming in Atlanta and to eating well in New Orleans again. Smith wants to go farther — the Galapagos Islands this year and the Maldives in 2022. All three see one route to mobility, and that starts with rolling up your sleeve while continuing to wear a mask and keeping six feet away from people who don’t live with you.

Travel Tips

Because your own vaccination is not a get-out-of-jail card, remember these advisories: General vaccination levels must reach 80-90 percent for nationwide success. Continue masking, social distancing, and hand washing. Travel with people whose health behaviors you know and are vaccinated. Choose destinations carefully. Avoid crowds. Understand your own health insurance, what it covers and where. Get travel insurance to avoid losing your travel investment.

Tom Adkinson is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Among his carefully chosen and thinly populated post-vaccine destinations are Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a quiet Florida Panhandle beach, and a Montana trout river.

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notables | JANET MARIE SMITH

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Finding Home at the Ballpark By Karon Warren | Photography by Boston Globe Stanley - Boston Globe/Stanley Grossfeld, Camden Yards - Jon Soohoo, Dodger Stadium - Jon Soohoo

Mississippi native Janet Marie Smith never envisioned a career in sports, but she’s made her mark at ballfields across the nation. When Janet Marie Smith graduated from Mississippi State University with a bachelor’s degree in architecture, she followed it up with a master’s degree in urban planning from City College of New York. She never imagined either degree would take her down a path that included a stop as a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. Instead, following college graduation, Smith worked in New York on projects that included the city’s Battery Park. She then headed west to Los Angeles, where she worked on Pershing Square. When looking to move back to the East Coast, she started searching for a project that would bring her back. That project turned out to be Oriole Park at Camden Yards for

the Baltimore Orioles in downtown Baltimore. ​ In 1989, Smith contacted Larry Lucchino, the Orioles’ president and CEO at the time, to lobby to work on the new baseball stadium. He liked her experience working in an urban setting and the insight she could bring to creating a unique ballpark that was different from the norm. As she likes to say, she landed her first job in sports because she was not working in sports. ​Following her work with the Orioles, Smith would go on to work with the Boston Red Sox on Fenway Park and the Atlanta Braves when they transitioned the 1996 Olympic Stadium into Turner Field, the Braves’ former home. DeSoto 21


Although Smith has been called a ballpark architect, she’s not fond of that description because it doesn’t really reflect what she does because she works with an extensive team of people involved in the project. “I do think of my job often as an orchestra conductor or director at a theater because I have a clear sense of where I hope to take a project, and I hope I bring a clarity of purpose,” she says. “I think that is heightened by my training in architecture and urban design, but I’m responsible for a lot of organization, driving the project to a successful conclusion so that everyone’s role is clear and the pieces fit together. I enjoy the way it all comes together.” Today, as the executive vice president of planning and development for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Smith has been working hard to create a stadium that’s fun to be at, not just for watching the game. She wants Dodger fans to want to spend an entire afternoon or evening at Dodger stadium, enjoying all the onsite activities and attractions. Smith says she uses her design sensibilities, love of cities, and the way fans react to a place to guide a project. When working on a project, Smith says she wants the building to reach into the community, to feel like it physically belongs there by reflecting the community’s essence. ​“The thing that is most important to me is to get the building right, have it work with the site and work in an urban setting,” she says. “I want to bring to life the things that make a place so special.” She says there’s a combination of things she loves about working in baseball. These include the love of the game itself, the joy of seeing how fans interact with each other, how baseball transcends generations, how it brings people together from different backgrounds, being able to create a place where you can enjoy it with kindred spirits, and being able to adorn the place with the history, the relics, and the moments that remind you of why a place or team is special. “I hope this is a hallmark of my work,” Smith says. ​ In 2019, in recognition of that work, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame named Smith a member of the Class of 2020, an honor that both surprised and elated the Jackson, Miss., native. “I am both amused and bemused and honored, because who would have ever thought since I never played any sports past those required in high school, and I didn’t start out with any particular desire to have a career that would be in sports,” she says. ​ At 63, you might expect Smith to start winding down her career, but she has no intentions to do so just yet. For now, she’ll continue her work on Dodger Stadium as well as a smaller project: Polar Park in Worcester, Mass., the future home of the WooSox, a Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. “I’ve had such a rewarding career, and all I can hope for is more of the same,” she says.

A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Karon Warren loves baseball, especially the Atlanta Braves.

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exploring art | ART-O-MATS

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Art to Go By Pamela A. Keene Photography courtesy of Clark Whittington, Provenance and Hattiesburg Convention Commission

Unique Art-o-mats created from old cigarette vending machines puts original art into the hands of the people. When you’re traveling again, check out the cigarette vending machines in places like Hattiesburg, Chattanooga, Huntsville, Atlanta, and Winston-Salem. No, you won’t be purchasing tobacco products, but buying original art dispensed out of restored cigarette machines. ​ Winston-Salem, N.C., artist Clark Whittington has given these old vending machines a new purpose, decorating them and filling them with original artwork that people can purchase affordably and simply. He saw it as a way to help promote artists and get their works into the hands of people all over the world. ​“Back in 1997 I purchased and refurbished my first vending machine and put it in a local café as a one-man show with my black-and-white photographs inside,” he says. “I sold the photos for $1 each. Little did I realize what I’d started

with my first Art-o-mat. Galleries, hotels, and other businesses started asking for them and it’s just grown from there.” ​ Today Whittington’s creations are located in museums, arts centers, cafes, museums, galleries, visitors’ centers, and art retail stores around the world. There’s one in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and another in Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. They seem to turn up in some unusual places. ​In the South, the Lake Charles, La., Arts and Humanities Council has one. Two more are located in Hattiesburg, Miss., at the Saenger Theater and at the Lake Terrace Convention Center. ​“Our first Art-o-mat was installed in the Saenger Theater and it was such a big hit that we ordered a second one,” says Amanda Hargrove, director of marketing for the DeSoto 25


Clark Whittington

Hattiesburg Convention Commission. “We got to choose the color — a light teal with bronzish orange, plus gold and silver on mirrors. Our Art-o-mat is really beautiful and it’s so much fun to watch people when they first see it. They always ask why we have a cigarette vending machine here, but as soon as we tell them it’s an art vending machine, they get it. ​ “You never know what you’re going to get when you put your money in and pull a lever,” she adds. “It can be really addictive. I’ve bought five myself and every piece of art has been fantastic.” ​ Whittington, who studied art and graphic design at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., has always had work as a creative, first for several agencies in North Carolina, then as a freelance designer, consultant, and production artist. By the mid-1990s, he wanted to stretch his creative wings. When cigarette vending machines were banned in the late 1990s, he saw an opportunity. ​“So many things are being repurposed and reinvented, and it was just natural to turn these abandoned metal hulks into something useful that would benefit artists in a new and different way,” he says. “Mechanically they were operable, but I dressed them up, gave them sparkle and some new life.” ​Whittington solicits art from makers around the world. He has designed standard-sized packaging that will fit in the cigarette-vending slots, and he has published artists guidelines and suggestions for the preferred materials, art content, and types of art. ​ The locations that accept Art-o-mat machines sign contracts to receive a certain amount of art and to keep the machines stocked. Each holds 10 to 22 artists’ works, along with background about the artist whose work is inside. ​ “By developing the packaging and providing specifications for the artists, I’ve been able to easily ship new works,” he says. “And we’re always on the lookout for new artists to be part of the project.” ​You can’t miss an Art-o-mat once you’ve seen one. Each has a distinctive design, dressed up in retro colors and throw26 DeSoto

back embellishments, like astro-stars, stylized typefaces, and flashy decorations. The exteriors often reflect the communities where they are located. ​ For instance, the Art-o-mat in The Old No. 77 Hotel in New Orleans is painted a subtle and sophisticated green. It suits the atmosphere of the property, located in the Warehouse Arts District of the city. The property strongly supports the arts with quarterly gallery exhibitions by local artists and an active artist-in-residence program. ​“Art and supporting artists is an important part of our brand, and we look for unusual ways to engage our guests in art experiences,” says Shannon Overholser, communications manager for Provenance Hotels, which owns The Old No. 77 Hotel. “Our Art-o-mat is very popular and a great way to provide an interactive and accessible experience. It fits in nicely with the hotel with its industrial and lofty vibe. Located in our main lobby, our Art-o-mat has a vintage feel and mid-century modern touches to complement the style of the hotel.” ​ Whittington’s concept has spread worldwide with more than 100 machines across North America and around the globe. There are Art-o-mats in Australia, Austria, and Hawaii. The biggest concentration is along the Eastern Seaboard. Other clusters are located along the West Coast. ​ He’s received national recognition for Art-o-mat over the years, including articles in Reader’s Digest, ABC News, Newsweek and Playboy. The concept is posted on Pinterest with photos of the rehabilitation dispensers in dozens of locations. ​ Sometimes Whittington says he’s surprised by the success of his concept. “When I stocked that first refurbished vending machine with my photos, I had no idea where it would lead,” he says. “And now, well, sometimes it just amazes me.” artomat.com Atlanta-based journalist Pamela A. Keene has travelled to more than 50 countries and five of the seven continents. She’s always on the lookout for original art representing the places she’s traveled.


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exploring books | A PASSION FOR TRAVEL

The author in London

The author in Malawi

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A Passion for Travel By Kevin Wierzbicki Photography Credits: Book cover – Peter Parkorr. Author in London – Margarita Samsonova. Author in Malawi – Courtesy of Sabina Trojanova.

The American South is high on the travel list in this new book that explores unforgettable destinations. ​ When Sabina Trojanova’s parents took their baby daughter on her first family vacation, they had no idea that they were also giving the toddler her initial taste of what would become a lifelong passion as well as a vocation. Trojanova is now a successful travel writer and photographer, blogger, and author of the new book “#Wanderlust: The World’s 500 Most Unforgettable Travel Destinations.” “I’m very fortunate to have parents who’ve always prioritized travel,” Trojanova says. “I wasn’t even two years old when I first set foot on a plane on a trip to Mallorca. Our family holidays set the stage for my future career by showing me that the world isn’t a scary place and there are kind people everywhere.” ​Of course, it took a while before young Sabina could fully grasp the passion that was developing inside her. “I really caught the travel bug when I started exploring on my own,” Trojanova explains. “I moved to London (from her native Czech Republic) when I was 17, then to Moscow two years later, closely followed by Beijing, and it snowballed from there.” By now that snowball has rolled all over the place, including the 500 global destinations that Trojanova highlights in “#Wanderlust.” She’s able to write about so many places in the book because each destination is described in a brief vignette that’s accompanied by a photo, taken either by Trojanova herself or one of her Instagram pals. ​ Broken into chapters including those focusing on beach escapes, cultural immersions, urban jungles, and postcards from the edge, “#Wanderlust” has plenty to offer foodies, art and music lovers, train lovers, and adventurers of all sorts. It is a drool-worthy collection meant to pique interest in places like Belarus, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Nepal, Bolivia, and hundreds of places in between. One of the destinations that Trojanova features in “#Wanderlust” will especially resonate with DeSoto Magazine

readers. ​ “Memphis is one of my favorite cities in the American South,” Trojanova enthuses. “I went on a road trip back in 2017 visiting Nashville, New Orleans, and Birmingham, and I have fond memories of the region. I was in Memphis during the Beale Street Music Festival and enjoyed exploring the city’s musical history by visiting places like Sun Studios and Graceland.” ​Trojanova says her favorite part of Memphis, however, was the Cooper-Young neighborhood with its diverse population, street art, and incredible restaurants. The Beauty Shop restaurant and Café Ole with its live music and inexpensive Bloody Marias both were mentioned in the book. ​New Orleans and Nashville both get some love in “#Wanderlust,” as do Gatlinburg and Charleston. As to all of the exciting and exotic destinations that Trojanova covers in “#Wanderlust,” the African nation of Malawi is especially dear to her. “I’ve traveled quite extensively around East Africa over the course of six months,” she says. ​The natural beauty of the region — from the lush forests of Uganda and Tanzania’s sandy coastline to the rugged Ethiopian Highlands — stole Trojanova’s heart. “I ended up extending my stay there by a full month,” she says. “Not only is Malawi stunning with waterfalls, lakeside beaches, and lots of greenery, but the locals are also extremely welcoming. The country also attracts a very laid-back and adventurous travel crowd so you get to meet many interesting people while there. I’m actually organizing a group trip to Malawi in 2022.” One thing about “#Wanderlust” is that its text goes beyond “see this, do that.” One chapter where Trojanova offers some really valuable advice is the section on volunteer travel. ​“Voluntourism is a contentious subject and rightly so,” Trojanova states. “There are many ways of getting it wrong DeSoto 29


and unwittingly causing more harm than good. The volunteering chapter comes with a short guide on how to avoid this, but it’s a topic that requires a fair bit of consideration.” ​ She tells volunteer s to contribute value and not to perform tasks that can be done by skilled locals. Her tips also include avoiding shortterm work stints with children and other vulnerable individuals. ​“The best place to volunteer depends on your particular skillset,” she says. “Personally, I like to offer my photography skills and social media expertise, training that can benefit organizations long after I’m gone.” Trojanova likes to give back, wherever she might be hanging her hat. She’s run a women’s space at a refugee camp in Greece and has recently worked in her adopted hometown of London helping to find new career opportunities for homeless Londoners. She tries to center much of her traveling around learning from people of other cultures. ​A b l e t o s p e a k s e v e n languages, she still runs into language barriers occasionally, but she finds that a language barrier may really be something else. “Often they’re cultural barriers disguised as language barriers, things lost in translation despite everyone using the right words.” And about the word “unforgettable” in the book title, Trojanova says, “Not a single one of the countries I’ve visited was what I expected it to be! No matter how much you read about a country or how many pictures you see, every country will find a way of surprising you.” Kevin also learned all about wanderlust at a young age when his father took him along on a two-year stint in Malawi. There’s been no looking back ever since and Africa remains one of his favored destinations.

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southern roots | PURPLE FLOWERS BRING VIBRANT COLOR

Bugleweed

Mona Lavender

Pretty in Purple Story and photography by Amelia Grant

Purple flowers bring vibrant color to spring gardens along with nectar for bees and butterflies. A pop of purple is a wonderful way to celebrate spring and add color to the Southern garden. Bees and native pollinators such as butterflies are primarily attracted to purple, yellow, and white flowers, so adding purple flowers will not only provide the gardener with joy, but butterflies will delight in a sip of nectar and bees will grab pollen to make honey. Plants have purple foliage due to a higher concentration of a pigment called anthocyanin. Some botanists theorize the purple pigment acts as a sunscreen for delicate tissues, while others think it acts as a protective device to notify hungry herbivores of poisons in the plant. “Anthocyanins provide purple coloration and are protective pigments, masking the green color of the chlorophyll when both are present, making leaves appear purple or nearly black,” explains Scott Aker, supervisory research horticulturist of the U.S. National Arboretum. “They help plants by 32 DeSoto

ameliorating temperature and drought stress and counteract the harmful effects on chlorophyll, membranes, and other parts of plant cells. They may also confuse herbivores that equate green coloration with palatable food sources.” In the garden purple draws your eye with its depth of color and contrast to green. (Remember the color wheel? Green and purple are on opposite sides.) Other great complements to purple are whites, greys, chartreuse, and rose red for spice. Purple plants may recede into the background when used in shady places without whites and greys to bring out their colors. In sunnier locations, rose red and whites pop the purple hues. Chartreuse plants may be used in either exposure. Think variegated hostas with purple ajuga in shade gardens and a container filled with purple fountain grass, licorice plant, and a rose red geranium on a sunny patio.


Butterfly Bush

Pretty purple colors

PURPLE PLANTS FOR MID-SOUTH GARDENS Butterfly Bush - Buddleia davidii This shrub is hands down the biggest butterfly magnet in the garden. A deciduous shrub that is available in sizes ranging from dwarf plants that reach about three feet to towering back of the border plants topping 15 feet. They are available in a range of colors, from whites, blues, and purples to nearly red. Butterfly bush is extremely easy to grow, needing full sun (a minimum of eight hours of bright sunlight) and welldrained soils to look its best. If growing in clay soils, plant the shrub high in the ground so water drains away and go easy on the mulch. Spring is the best time of year to plant butterfly bush so it may establish before the wet winter weather sets in. The new sterile purple varieties don’t reseed in the garden. “Lo and Behold” varieties are dwarf plants that are available in several shades of purple. “Miss Violet” is a bigger plant reaching five feet in height. Purple Fountain Grass - Pennisetum setaceum ‘Dwarf Rubrum’ An ornamental grass sporting purple foliage and offwhite bottle brush flowers during the summer, this touch of purple may be used in the garden as a thriller centerpiece in a container or added to a perennial garden as a focal point or contrast with leafy green plants. Happiest in full sun and welldrained soil conditions, this plant is considered hardy in Zone 9 but may return in Zones 7 and 8 with mild winters and a warm jacket of mulch applied in the fall. Mona Lavender - Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ While the name brings up visions of tropical fish, this plant boasts purplish leaves and flowers. It may attain 2 feet by 2 feet in a growing season. Sometimes called Swedish ivy,

it is a relative of the familiar coleus and grows under similar conditions, partial shade, and abundant water. In the MidSouth Mona may be used as a house plant or summer annual, in containers, or as a bedding plant. Bugleflower - Ajuga reptans Bugleflower is a stalwart of shady, moist gardens in Zones 6, 7, and 8. A mat-forming groundcover that is relatively carefree once established, it provides an evergreen groundcover for year-round interest and flowers up to 10 feet in mid-spring. Potential pitfalls include crown rot during humid summers and an overabundance of bugleflower in conducive locations. Many varieties of bugleflower are available. Named variety “Purple Brocade” features purple foliage and flowers. More Purple Garden Plants Forest Pansy Redbud (Cercis canadensis “Forest Pansy”) is a purple-leaved alternative to the beloved springflowering redbud tree. Forest Pansy has rose-pink flowers and new red foliage turns to red-violet as it matures. Burgundy Loropetalum (Loropetalum Chinese “Rubrum”), sometimes called Chinese fringeflower, these purple-leaved beauties with pink or red-fringed flowers are available in dwarf to small tree-sized plants depending on the variety. Purple Queen (Transcandentia pallida), possibly the most purple available in one plant, is a creeper with purple foliage and flowers. It may be used as a summer annual, in containers or as a bedding plant. Plants may survive mild winters in the ground in Zones 7 and 8. Amelia Grant is a native of Atlanta, Ga., and a Registered Landscape Architect. She is a freelance food and garden writer sharing gardening adventures at www.theshrubqueen.com.

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table talk | GRECIAN GOURMET TAVERNA

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Greek Goddess By Tracy Morin | Photography courtesy of Grecian Gourmet Taverna

Grecian Gourmet Taverna brings a taste of Greek cuisine and culture to Memphis’ South Main Arts District. JoBeth Graves, owner of Grecian Gourmet Taverna, didn’t find her culinary calling until later in life. She was accustomed to taking care of people, as a longtime nurse practitioner at St. Jude in Memphis, Tenn. But the lessons she has learned in a wide array of food service roles, she has come by honestly: through old-fashioned trial and error. ​ Graves’ first husband, the grandson of Greek immigrants, initially ignited her love for Greek food. She often hosted large holiday gatherings for family, which spilled into elaborate at-home parties among friends, for which she whipped up delicacies like spanakopita, moussaka, and pastitso. ​“Over time, friends asked me to cater for them since

there were no official catering companies for Greek food,” Graves recalls. “I would sell a pan of baklava to them, or give infused olive oils as Christmas gifts.” ​ Eventually, Graves realized she could sell her homemade goodies at a farmers market hosted by her employer, St. Jude. She started with staples like feta dip, hummus, pita chips, and vinaigrette dressing, then delved into take-and-bake prepared meals, like her popular pastitso. ​ At her first farmers market in late 2016, Graves sold out, inspiring her to join other markets in Memphis. Soon, the need for increased production brought her to a commercial kitchen space offered by Arkansas State University as a business DeSoto 35


JoBeth Graves

incubator for budding entrepreneurs. ​ “My daughter came to work with us, and I started to hire people — it just kind of snowballed!” Graves says with a laugh. “Before I knew it, I wasn’t a nurse practitioner anymore. I was on my way to owning a restaurant.” ​ The commercial kitchen provided the ideal location to nail down the business intricacies of selling packaged foods, at a time when the Grecian Gourmet line graced retail outlets and farmers markets. But Graves soon found herself considering expansion into a full-service restaurant. ​“We found that most of our followers were downtown, and we were most recognized as a brand there,” Graves explains. “My second husband is a great businessman, so we knew that branding was extremely important.” ​Ultimately, Graves decided to bring a taste of Greek cuisine and culture to Memphis’ South Main Arts District. An outdoor patio with bistro chairs, evoking the sidewalk cafes of Europe, offers a welcoming environment just a stone’s throw from the National Civil Rights Museum. ​“The flavors are actually close to what you’d expect in Southern food,” Graves says of her ability to connect with the community. “I’ve also learned the food needs to be ‘clean,’ with quality ingredients.” ​ Thus, the Grecian Gourmet menu taps Graves’ own recipes, made from scratch. Her famous pita chips start with bread bought from Michigan, then hand cut, tossed in oil, and baked. Dips incorporate fresh, simple ingredients like feta cheese, Greek yogurt, and chickpeas, with no preservatives added. ​ With Graves’ considerable experience running a packaged-foods business, she now also utilizes her restaurant as a space for creating retail items. Her chips and dips, made when the restaurant is closed on Mondays, now populate grocery store shelves in the area and help fill foodie-approved, Memphis-made boxes from City Tasting Tours. ​ “Those boxes are shipped across the United States, and we provide them with our high-grade infused olive oil and our Greek vinaigrette,” Graves notes. “As a Memphis brand and a female-owned business, we enjoy being included.” 36 DeSoto

​ Inside the restaurant, gyros (in three varieties of lamb/ beef, chicken, and vegetarian) remain the best sellers, while in retail and grocery stores, the lasagna-like pastitso flies off the shelves. ​ Today, the Grecian Gourmet brand has spread to Memphis’ specialty shops, including Cordelia’s Market, Curb Market, and Buster’s Liquors & Wines, as well as grocery stores like Superlo Foods in the Memphis area and Southaven, Miss. But regardless of how big Grecian Gourmet grows, Graves finds her true joy in forging a personal connection with customers. ​“This community is not just where I work; it’s where I live, too,” she says of her South Main restaurant location. “With a business and a home here, I see my customers out walking. I know them by name. I know their regular orders. And we have a real community spirit here. People here support one another to survive, especially in the pandemic.” ​Luckily, with Graves’ extensive experience in premade meals, retail items, and even (as a former nurse practitioner) infectious diseases, she is better prepared than most to weather the storm. She now offers restaurant customers food in various formats to suit any need: hot and ready for takeout, grab-andgo for heating at home, and frozen foods for stocking up. ​Next, Graves and her husband, Jeff Watkins, look forward to the second generation —Graves’ daughter, Corinne — taking over the business and putting her own unique stamp on operations. ​“We were lucky. When we opened, people were already familiar with us, and they embraced us,” Graves says. “But when we retire, our daughter can take over and go in so many directions. This has been our vision, but she’ll work her own vision into the business.” thegreciangourmet.com Based in Oxford, Miss., Tracy Morin is an award-winning freelance writer and editor with a passion for covering food, beverage, beauty, and boxing.


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exploring destinations | AIRSTREAM TRAILERS

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Moving on Streams of Air By Amy Conry Davis | Photography courtesy of Shutterstock and Airstream

First designed in 1936, the iconic Airstream trailers have moved beyond travel and into mainstream culture. When it comes to timeless Americana, the iconic Airstream travel trailer rides high alongside blue jeans and baseball. Even those unfamiliar with the name could likely recall a time they glimpsed an unmistakable “silver bullet” rolling down the highway. Originally meant for recreational purposes, these trailers have moved beyond campsites and into the landscape of pop culture. They make cameo appearances in film and television, do double duty as food trucks and funky coffee shops. They become mobile libraries, art studios, and quirky “glamping” accommodations. Even NASA liked them. After the Apollo 11 lunar mission in 1969, the astronauts were

quarantined in a modified Airstream for 21 days. There’s just something about their bright and shiny contours that evoke a sense of history, adventure, and touch of Bohemian cool. In fact, a younger, more selective clientele is shopping for Airstreams, according to Ron Lester, sales manager at Foley RV Center and Airstream of Mississippi in Gulfport. “They like nice things and have nice toys,” says Lester. “They’re fairly outdoorsy. They’re tech savvy. And they appreciate the fact that Airstreams are extremely green compared to other types of campers.” In the past, it was mostly retirees who wanted DeSoto 39


something easy to handle and a little luxurious. As more people are now working from home, domestic road travel has taken on a new meaning for working professionals. “Because of the ability to work anywhere, it allows the person that is not retiring to say ‘I can still take my family and go on the road,’” Lester explains. “As long as I bring my internet with me, I can do my job in the comforts of my Airstream anywhere in the United States.” According to Lester, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a major factor in growth. With international travel at a halt, many of his customers were looking for other ways to spend their disposable income and trailering around the country offered an easy fix. AN ILLUSTRIOUS HISTORY The distinctive aluminum design of Airstream trailers hasn’t changed much since Wallace “Wally” Byam created the first one in 1936. Byam was somewhat of an eccentric jack-of-all-trades. He spent years experimenting and constructing various models, mostly from plywood. When his part-time hobby began to feel more like a lucrative business venture, Byam opened a factory. When World War II broke out, Byam put his flourishing business on hold and worked for the aerospace company Lockheed Martin, but he continued to develop his ideas. Like a plane in flight, Byam strove to perfect an aerodynamic trailer that would move like a “stream of air” down the road. The Airstreams of today, now owned by Thor Industries, are all about luxury and modern amenities, made with green building materials and eco-friendly construction in mind. They come equipped with Bluetooth capabilities, solar technology, and state-of-the-art entertainment systems. THE PROS AND CONS Once inside an Airstream, it’s easy to understand 40 DeSoto

what the fuss is about. Its silvery, high-tech interiors evoke a spaceship, submarine, and child’s tree fort, all rolled into one. When it comes to traveling, though, there are several practical items to consider. On the upside, having a pull-behind trailer means home is there at every step of the way. Whether plugged into a campsite or “dry camping” without hookups, a trailer has everything you need. On the other hand, navigating rocky or narrow roads can be tricky, and backing up with a trailer is always an anxietyinducing task. Prior planning is important when it comes to pulling into a new town, especially a crowded city. Drivers also need to learn where water sources and dump stations are located along the route. More than a dozen Airstream-only parks are scattered around the country. These campgrounds share similar amenities as other RV parks, but Airstream parks have a special ingredient ― community. Top of Georgia Airstream Park, for instance, has been around since the 1960s. They regularly hold rallies and events and even sell a cookbook with campers’ recipes. The Cumberland Plateau Campground in Crossville, Tenn., features over 100 sites, a meditation garden, clubhouse, and walking trails. It’s hard to say what direction Airstream will take as it moves into the future. But, like any icon, its fans believe the legacy will live on. Whether it’s for a weekend trip or a lifetime, as Wally Byam once said, “go see what’s over the next hill, and the one after that, and the one after that.” airstream.com Amy Conry Davis works as a photographer, writer, and content creator. She lives and travels full-time in an Airstream but is often based in West Point, Miss. Her website is www.amyconrydavis.com.


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, i x o l BiMississippi

on the road again | BILOXI, MISS.

8:15​Delve into cheesy eggs and waffles at the country’s most expensive Waffle House. Costing $1.7 million, this stateof-the-art, beachfront restaurant offers everything the chain is known for, but with an outstanding view of the Gulf of Mexico. 9:30​The Mississippi Coast has a long history related to ship building, fishing, marine resources, and the processing of seafood. Learn about this unique history and its people at the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum. 10:30​Enjoy the revolving and resident exhibits at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, designed by celebrated architect Frank Gehry. These unusual “pods” have become a noted landmark on the Mississippi Coast, offering both a taste of art and a chance for visitors to make their own creations at the in-house studios. The museum is named for George Edgar Ohr, known as the “Mad Potter of Biloxi.” Noon​Enjoy classic and nouveau Creole dishes at Patio 44, prepared with fresh Gulf seafood and prime meats. Seafood gumbo could start the meal, followed by casual dishes such as fried Mississippi catfish tacos. For something more elaborate, order the Buckhead Certified Angus Beef, aged a minimum of 21 days. Dine inside or enjoy the spring weather outdoors. 1:30 ​Visitors not only learn about Biloxi’s shrimping industry on this 70-minute Biloxi Shrimping Trip, they get to participate! The boat sails on protected waters between Deer Island and the Biloxi shoreline, dropping shrimping nets as they sail. Naturally shrimp are pulled on board, but so are sea creatures such as blue crabs, flounder, stingrays, and more, all identified by the captain. 3:30​Lather on the sunscreen, grab a towel, and head to the beach. The Coast offers 26 miles of white sand beaches, many of which are in Biloxi. There’s plenty of parking at the Biloxi Lighthouse Pier and beach access, plus visitors can stop in at the Biloxi Welcome Center or stroll the nature trails through nearby Lighthouse Park. 5:30​Check into the new Hotel Legends, located in the heart of Biloxi. The 132-room boutique hotel opened last fall, designed to share Hollywood’s golden age to those visiting “The Secret Coast” of Mississippi. Stop in at the Sapphire Supper Club and enjoy a signature cocktail. 6:30​There’s so much to enjoy at White Pillars, from the creative appetizers and sharables to the locally produced French Hermit oysters and top choice meats. Chef Austin Sumrall prepares innovative dishes utilizing his Southern heritage, Creole styles, and fresh seafood. And if the meal wasn’t awesome enough, check out the unique cocktails at the bar. 8:30 ​Gamblers love the Mississippi Coast for its variety of casino options. Beau Rivage and Hard Rock Café provide outstanding entertainment year-round. Palace Casino Resort features a no-smoking policy. Margaritaville reopened in March and includes Escape, the largest entertainment complex on the Gulf Coast that’s part arcade and part amusement park.

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To plan your visit: www.gulfcoast.org www.hotellegends.com

Upcoming Events May 11: Opening Day at the Shuckers The Biloxi Shuckers, the Milwaukee Brewers Double-A affiliate team, open their season at home against the Mississippi Braves at the MGM Park, across from Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. The 120-game Minor League season runs through Sept. 19. For dates, ticket information, and special event listings, visit the Shuckers website at milb.com/biloxi.

May 10: National Shrimp Day Celebrate National Shrimp Day at several establishments throughout Biloxi that love to share their Gulf treasures with hungry diners. Check out the voodoo shrimp at the Half Shell Oyster House, for instance, or the shrimp and grits at White Pillars. At the Blind Tiger, choose from a shrimp po’boy, shrimp tacos or boiled Royal Reds to complement a coastal craft brew such as Chandeleur Island or Lazy Magnolia.

June 7-13: Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Anglers will spend a week on the Mississippi Coast fishing the Gulf waters vying for more than $2 million in cash and prizes. The 22nd Annual Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic also includes nightly dock parties, a captain’s banquet, golf, and live entertainment for the spectators at the weigh scales on Friday and Saturday evenings. mgcbc.com/.org/experiences/events/easter-egghunt-2021 DeSoto Co-editor Cheré Coen may have grown up in New Orleans but Biloxi was always her second home. Her mom hails from the Coastal Mississippi town, which is why there are Biloxi lighthouses gracing Cheré’s home.

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greater goods | APRIL SHOWERS

april showers

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L et’s go

Shrimping Story and photography by Debi Lander

Visitors to the quaint seaside town of Sneads Ferry in North Carolina can be shrimpers for a day.

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Checking the nets

Shrimp Boat sails out on the New River

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Spend a week in North Carolina’s Onslow Country, and discover the unexpected: a north-flowing river, primitive camping on Bear Island, a restaurant whose breakfast fritters look like banana splits, and — one of my favorites — cruising on a shrimp boat. The small town of Sneads Ferry (population 28,500) talks big, claiming the title “Shrimping Capital of the East Coast.” Sneads Ferry sits next to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., home of the U.S. Marines’ most extensive training facility. They both belong to coastal Onslow County, along with Richlands, Swansboro, and North Topsail Beach. The Sneads Ferry Marina acts as the town hub, where visitors meet Captain T.J. Jarman of Reel Livin’ Fishing Charters for a shrimp boat excursion. Jarman, a North Carolina native, grew up working with his dad on a commercial fishing boat. “I guess it was in my blood,” he says. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else.” Jarman conveniently strolls from his breakfast table across the street to the boat dock lined with tall shrimp boats. At his brother’s urging, the captain earned his charter license 13 years ago. He has been offering participant-friendly boat tours ever since. Visitors cruise along the New River, the only major river in the United States to flow north. The contradiction to its name came from its discovery in 1749, revealed to settlers in the “new” sections of North Carolina and Virginia. The New River is one of North America’s oldest waterways, created at least 10-to-360 million years ago. In fact, some geologists consider Egypt’s Nile River the only one older in the world. Unexpected, right? Guests who hop aboard the Faith & Hope, a 35-foot wood trawler with 30feet high skimmer frames (wings), learn all about the workings of a shrimp boat and the process of dragging nets and hauling the scrumptious and valuable catch. After a review of safety procedures, participants can grab a drink and relax, but hold on for the action that awaits. Jarman and the crew maneuver the boat, searching for promising waters and operate the hydraulics it takes to deploy and return the massive nets. She’s a top-heavy vessel due to the skimmer frame’s height, so Jarman sets the pace at a comfortable 6-to8-knot speed. The crew welcomes guests to DeSoto 49


The Shrimp Bucket

Waterside dining in Swansboro

Captain and First Mate

sit in the front cabin, but there is a strong preference to stand aft (at the rear, for us landlubbers) to get a close-up view of the lowering of the frames into the water. Just before they descend, the boat slows to 1.7 knots per hour. “The shrimping process was fascinating,” say passenger Liz Mays. “The seemingly complex series of maneuvers was simple muscle memory to the well-seasoned captain and first mate.” The nets drag through the water, creating a funnel that forces the shrimp toward the tail bags at their rear. Jarman uses two fish excluders that allow small fish entering near the tail bags to swim out. The crew carefully throws back any larger fish caught with the shrimp. Unlike big trawlers that keep their nets down for an hour or two, Jarman pulls his after about 15-20 minutes. Anticipation builds as the catch is raised and the lively bundle empties onto a large table. The moment calls all hands on deck (guests included) unless stingrays join the mix. The crew kindly removes those first. The ensuing slimy scramble separates shrimp and crabs while the other fish are thrown back into the sea. (Rubber gloves and tongs thankfully are supplied.) A wild jostling of marine life occurs: fish flip about, crabs scuttle fast, and water squirts and sprays everywhere. A first look at the shrimp can be surprising — the crustaceans are brown, not white or the cooked delight of a pretty coral color. The crabs go into a separate bucket from the shrimp. All the while, seagulls provide a loud soundtrack from above, but guests’ giggles and yips prove even more piercing. Once is not enough for pulling in shrimp; the process repeats 50 DeSoto

three or four times during the work outing, as shrimp buckets fill and the surprises continue. If witnessing the operation and sorting of the catch wasn’t enough education for the tourists on deck, first mate Danny identified the different fish species before tossing them overboard with pinfish, hogfish, and croakers the most popular. The New River offers two seasons for shrimping, one in midsummer for brown shrimp, and the other in the fall, usually late August through October for white shrimp. Depending on the season and the tides, charters run either during the day or in the evenings. No weekend shrimping is permitted as the New River closes for shrimping from 9 p.m. on Fridays until 5 p.m. on Sundays. Like all charters, the wind and weather must be right for sailing. Charters cost $400 for a four-hour trip, but the price can vary depending on the group’s needs. Guests go home with up to 50 pounds of the freshest shrimp imaginable, and perhaps crabs and flounder, depending on their size. The remainder goes to the captain and the crew. Booking for shrimp charters is best handled over the phone by calling Jarman at (910) 330-7785. Faith & Hope can accommodate groups of up to six people. The boat is equipped with a camp toilet and safety rails, and children under 13 must wear life vests at all times. What to do with all that shrimp? Remember Bubba Gump’s list: “There’s shrimp kabobs, shrimp Creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That’s about it.”


Sneads Ferry Shrimp Festival The annual Sneads Ferry Shrimp

Festival celebrates its 50th year with musical entertainment, arts and crafts, and food from Aug. 6-8. The festival began in 1971 to honor the fishing village and has continued every year on the second weekend in August, which is the peak shrimping season. This fun event spreads over 10 acres purchased to serve as its permanent grounds. Notable events include the parade, the Shrimp Festival Kings and Queens pageant, a shrimp heading contest, a car show, and several military exhibitions. Annual attendance is over 10,000 people. If shrimping is not your thing

Onslow County offers other wateroriented experiences in nearby Swansboro, another delightful North Carolina seaside town. Go kayaking where the White Oak River meets the Intercoastal Waterway, enjoy a sunset cruise on the Lady Jane Swan Boat, and check out Hammock Beach State Park. Most folks ride the park ferry over to Bear Island for a day of beaching, shelling, or fishing. You’ll also find boutique shops and fine restaurants, including Yana’s, the place to get yummy fruit fritters decorated with whipped cream and cherries. Swansboro is a popular destination for transient boaters. The town offers three public docking facilities in the downtown area. The town also hosts an annual Mullet Festival the second weekend in October along its historic downtown, one of the oldest festivals in North Carolina. Started in 1954 to celebrate the new bridge opening in town, local mullet fishermen held a fish fry. The tradition has grown to rides, amusements, a weekend of music with live bands, crafters, and a down-home parade to kick things off.

Debi Lander is a freelance travel writer and photographer who lives along the Gulf Coast waters in Sarasota, Fla. Her favorite shrimp dish is shrimp and grits. Follow her on Instagram, where she’s @bylandersea.

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A PICTUREPERFECT VACATION By Debi Lander Photography: Debi Lander and Bryan Peterson

Combining a vacation with an onsite photography workshop can make your trip even more memorable.

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A Fine Catch by Debi Lander

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Students photographing Sunrise by Bryan Peterson

Smartphones have made everyone a photographer, but how do you progress from taking ordinary snapshots to frameable memories? A new camera won’t necessarily help, with all the buttons, tabs, and settings they offer. Incorporate a photo workshop into your travels if you want to master the art and technology offered today. Photo workshops last anywhere from a few hours, like a walking tour, to multiple days, depending on your plans and skill level. Some offer camera, lens, or technique-specific instruction such as iPhone, mirrorless, Lensbaby, or more advanced skills like photo stacking or time-lapse photography. Many avid amateurs include or even plan a vacation around a photo workshop. So, how do you choose? First, consider your goals. Do you want to learn new skills, or do you want to capture iconic shots from a specific location? Many resident professional photographers supplement their income by offering on-location tours. They know the lay of the land, the must-see spots, the hidden gems, and the correct time of day for capturing the best images. These group workshops often feature photo walking tours within a city — think Charleston, New Orleans, or Savannah. Others include transportation, a real bonus if it’s difficult for you to arrange your own. Some destinations, like rural Alaska or African safaris, even include domestic flights. Many multi-day photo workshops transport you to exotic locations, perhaps places you’d love to see, but not on your own. Joining a workshop once you get there (the instructor can offer recommendations) becomes a blessing, especially for solo travelers who enjoy the safety and company of fellow enthusiasts. Before deciding on your vacation, catalog the types 54 DeSoto

of photos you want to shoot: landscape, nature, wildlife, street scenes, architecture, local landmarks, or people. Time your adventure carefully to capture special events — like cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., or Japan, or Fourth of July fireworks. ​Consider weather conditions too. Places like Alaska or Yellowstone bring entirely different views from summer to winter. Birding enthusiast Carol Skipper signed up for a winter workshop to study with wildlife expert and photographer Jared Lloyd in Yellowstone National Park. ​ ​“For this Florida girl, minus 20-degree temps were not my cup of tea,” says Skipper, who was nudged out of her comfort zone. “But bison, coyotes, pronghorns, elk, white longtailed weasel in the snow… it was magical. Jared taught me so much, and Yellowstone remains my all-time favorite workshop.” If you are considering multi-day, on-location training, be sure to thoroughly research options. Study the instructors’ websites to see their work and investigate their credentials. Do they specialize in a particular style or technique? Top pros will be well established with long records of success. Bryan Peterson, a professional photographer and author of 10 books on photography spends his days offering workshops around the world. His focus depends on the location, such as street photography in Miami, tulip fields in the Netherlands, and people and colors in India. Bryan is known for encouraging creativity and moving his students beyond the iconic shot to creating something unique to show their friends. “When looking for a great workshop experience, ask three important questions,” advises Peterson. “First, will the workshop cover camera basics, such as exposure fundamentals and compositional principles? Many workshops present a ‘tour’ of a given location, with hardly a hint of photographic


instruction.” ​ Peterson says other questions should include the number of years the instructor’s been offering workshops. Has he or she won significant awards, garnered a large following on social media, or been published? ​ “The more years an instructor has been in business speaks volumes about his or her success,” says Peterson. And, finally, will the workshop teacher provide the specific instruction you’re looking for and answer your burning questions? “Speak up and ask if he or she will invest the time in meeting your needs and concerns,” Peterson advises. Renowned flower photographer Kathleen Clemons, a master with the Lensbaby soft-focus lens, adds another critical recommendation. “Ask about the student to instructor ratio,” she says. “Be sure the workshop is not so large that you won’t get the individualized attention you need.” During multi-day workshops, instructors like Clemons often ask students to bring laptop computers. They share their images and critique each other’s work during class time. Many instructors, such as Clemons, teach post-processing techniques; her specialty involves compositing or blending two photos.

GEAR AND COST

Participants also need to determine the type of camera gear they will need. There is no point in attending a nightsky workshop if you don’t have a tripod. A wildlife-focused class typically requires a long or telephoto lens — and patience. Don’t consider a birding workshop if you can’t sit still. Your level of experience remains yet another vital factor when choosing a course. Do the workshop and instructor cater to beginners or more advanced students? Beginners tend to feel uncomfortable when surrounded by more advanced participants. Those refining their craft don’t want to be slowed by novices. Photo workshops can be very pricey. Expect to pay a few hundred or even a thousand dollars a day. Some workshops include lodging and meals; others do not. Verify all the details, as well as the cancellation and refund policies.

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A REAL-LIFE PHOTO WORKSHOP EXPERIENCE

I attended Bryan Peterson’s workshop presented on Kodiak Island, Alaska. My goal was to capture shots of Kodiak bears feasting on salmon. The first day brought only one bear sighting, but, what a thrilling moment. ​The next morning, my small group donned thigh-high waders and flew, via floatplane, to Geographic Harbor in Katmai National Park. I was in for a total immersion into the bear’s world. Our private bear guide, Scott Stone, instructed us on the animal’s behavior. We received orders to stay together, no loud talking, no arm waving, and no running. We waded ashore and followed Stone. He knew every bear and its habits. My heart was racing and I could barely (pun intended) contain my joy at this oncein-a-lifetime encounter. We sat mesmerized, the only sound the click of shutters, as a mama bear and her three cubs slowly paraded down the banks and into the river. The scene equaled a National Geographic documentary. I couldn’t take my eyes off those mischievous cubs. Sure, the brown bears noticed our small group, but they didn’t seem to care. Stone talked calmly to them, and they continued to fish and feast. Throughout the day, Stone led us to prime viewing spots where I captured incredible images of bears forcefully pouncing on fish and tearing them apart. I witnessed tender scenes of motherly care, childlike sibling rivalry, and napping bears basking in the wonder of wildlife living free. The experience is only possible during late July-early September when the animals follow their instincts as the fish run. It’s a day I’ll never forget and one that would not have happened without Peterson and Stone. I heartily recommend looking into photo workshops if you want to improve the caliber of your photography and head off the beaten track. Warning— photo workshops can be addictive. Once you experience the benefits and fun, holding back becomes tough. jaredloydphoto.com bryanfpetersonphotoworkshops.com kathleenclemonsphotography.com

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The Blue Poppy is an example of photo compositing by workshop leader Kathleen Clemons.

Local Photo Workshops

​If out-of-town workshops don’t fit your budget, ask friends and avid photographers for tips and hints on finding the best photography programs in your area. ​Community colleges or local photography clubs can be amazing learning experiences. With travel limited over the past year, many workshop leaders are offering online classes that help improve photography and photo processing skills. ​In the Memphis area, professional photographer Blair Ball offers a variety of workshops, including his popular Memphis Street Photography Workshop which will be offered again on April 24. Memphis Photo Space offers one-on-one instruction for beginning photographers. Both Northeast Mississippi Community College and Southwest Tennessee Community College offers online photography courses. memphisprofessionalphotographer.com memphis-street-photography-workshop memphisphotospace.com Debi Lander is a travel writer and photographer who lives in Sarasota, Fla. She says she is happiest behind the lens. Debi credits many of her skills to studying online and attending photo workshops. Her Kodiak, Alaska, workshop ranks as her all-time favorite.

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spl e nd id I S O L AT I O N

By Mary Ann DeSantis Photography by Mary Ann & Tony DeSantis

From its iconic Driftwood Beach to the historic millionaire's club, Jekyll Island, Georgia, provides an ideal destination for social distancing and family fun.

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Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island

The saltwater marshes surrounding the 9-mile causeway to Jekyll Island are the first clue to the serenity and isolated beauty of this Golden Isle off the coast of southern Georgia. It’s this tranquil setting that led to the founding of the exclusive Jekyll Island Club, a place filled with history and grandeur that attracted this country’s wealthiest business titans during America’s Gilded Age. ​ When it opened in April 18 8 8 , the Jekyll Island Club served as a private winter getaway for families with surnames of Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Morgan, and Pulitzer, to name a few. Several of their vacation homes — called “cottages” — still dot the 240-acre historic property which is now the Jekyll Island Club Resort and open to the public. ​“Jekyll Island was appreciated for its rustic charm,” says Andrea Marroquin, curator of the island’s Mosaic Museum. “The original club members were looking for less high society and more of an outdoor retreat.” The area’s natural environment attracted millionaires who wanted to establish a hunting club and escape harsh northern winters. The island’s owner — John du Bignon — hoped to sell the island, and he turned out to be a marketing genius. He stocked the island with pheasant and advertised its natural beauty to people he suspected would be willing buyers: his brother-in-law’s fellow club members at the prominent Union Club in New York City. DeSoto 59


Croquet players at the Jekyll Island Club Resort front lawn

Crane Cottage Courtyard

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The Grand Dining Room at the Jekyll Island Resort


​“The isolation was exactly what they were looking for then, and it’s what people are looking for now,” says Marroquin. “Throughout the history of the island, the natural beauty and resources are what have attracted people here.” ​ Those same reasons have kept Ronnie and Pam Williams of Olive Branch, Miss., returning regularly to the island since 1995. ​“A friend from Jacksonville took us to Jekyll the first time, and we arrived at night,” remembers Williams. “When the sun came up the next morning, it was beautiful and quiet. There was no noise at all. I had been working a stressful job and I needed that peace and quiet.” ​In this time of social distancing and virus concerns, an island with plenty of natural resources and outdoor amenities can be a perfect destination. With its Historic Hotels of America designation, the Jekyll Island Club Resort is a modern-day paradise along with its sister property, the Jekyll Ocean Club, on the beachside of the island.

ISLAND ADVENTURES​

​ A visit to Jekyll Island should begin at the Mosaic Museum, which was reimagined and reopened in April 2019 with new interactive exhibits that appeal to all ages. Housed in a former stable, the museum explores the island’s history from the time of its indigenous peoples through the 20th century. ​“The name Mosaic reflects that there are a lot of pieces to the story of the island. It’s the people, the places, and the legacy of all that,” explains Marroquin. ​ A tram tour leaves the museum and glides through the Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark District for over an hour. The well-versed guides share anecdotes about the island’s former residents, and the tour is well worth the $20 fee. The tram usually stops at the 12,500-square-foot cottage of William and Myra Rockefeller, who enjoyed Jekyll Island with their children and grandchildren. Other historic homes are available for separate tours. ​ Youngsters will especially enjoy visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, housed in the club’s former power plant building. The center cares for and rehabilitates injured sea turtles but also features an outstanding display of exhibits and special events. An after-hours treat is the private Turtles at Twilight tour, but reservations are required. DeSoto 61


Georgia Sea Turtle Center offers behind-the-scenes tours.

​Bicycle trails meander throughout the 10-mile-long island so it’s easy to explore the entire island. A can’t miss stop is the famous Driftwood Beach on the island’s northeast side, where photographers line up at sunrise to capture the eerie scenes of a once-thriving maritime forest. Nature lovers also enjoy miles of wooded walking trails. And, of course, the pristine beaches on the island’s southeast side are especially popular in the summer. ​ “We’ve been to Jekyll 13 or 14 times, and we always find things to do that we’ve never done before,” says Williams, who particularly enjoys the island’s golf courses.

FROM EXCLUSIVE CLUB TO STATE PARK

​ Entire books have been written about the private club for well-heeled millionaires because the history is indeed fascinating. In 1910, the nation’s financial leaders met secretly at the Jekyll Island Club to draft legislation for the Federal Reserve System. Five years later, the first transcontinental telephone call was initiated from there. Today’s visitors are awed by the incredible historic preservation of the elegant homes that were abandoned when the original Jekyll Island Club ceased operation in 1942 — primarily because of financial woes from the Great Depression and then World War II. ​ The State of Georgia purchased the island and opened it as a state park in March 1948. By the end of April of that year, more than 6,000 visitors a week made the day trip from Brunswick for $1.50. Jekyll Island became even more popular with time. As a state park, however, development was limited to protect the natural environment — still a top priority for the Jekyll Island Authority that oversees the island. ​ Although the state operated the club as a public resort, it was not financially successful and closed again in the 1970s. Developers restored and 62 DeSoto


reopened it as a luxury hotel in 1987. ​ Today’s guests at the Jekyll Island Club Resort can expect the quintessential service that the club’s original founders received and can participate in the same kinds of recreational activities — except for hunting which was prohibited long ago in favor of golf and croquet. For those who prefer to relax, the grand porches are perfect for sitting quietly with a good book or to enjoy the scenery. jekyllclub.com jekyllisland.com KNOW BEFORE YOU GO Parking Pass – Because the entire island is a state park, visitors need to purchase a parking permit before entering the island. A drive-through, automated toll plaza at the island’s entrance sells the passes for $8 a day. They can also be purchased online prior to arrival. The plaza is equipped with cameras to read your car tag so you don’t have to stop if you purchase passes online. www.jekyllisland.com/visiting/parking/ COVID Restrictions/Events – Currently, many businesses have restrictions in place and special events have been cancelled or postponed because of the pandemic. Like other destinations, Jekyll Island hopes things will return to normal later this year. In the meantime, check websites to learn what is open and available. Dinner Reservations – All of the restaurants have social distancing measures and/or limited hours; therefore, reservations are imperative. Currently, the Grand Dining Room at the Jekyll Island Club Resort is open only to guests and reservations are required. The Pantry at the resort offers custom picnic baskets for guests who would like to enjoy their meals outdoors or at the beach. Beach Time – While Jekyll Island’s Historic Village may be the most iconic part of the island, a beach village attracts visitors who prefer surf and sand. Hotels, shops and restaurants are located on Beachview Drive near the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

DeSoto Magazine co-editor Mary Ann DeSantis explored Jekyll Island on a rainy February weekend and found it to be one of the most relaxing destinations she’s ever visited.

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homegrown |

PAINT WITH ME

A Painter’s Perseverance Story and photography by Karen Ott Mayer​

Everyone is an artist at Paint with Me in Hernando, thanks to the tenacity of its owner who didn’t let a pandemic slow her down. Lifelong artist Rochelle Carpenter reflects a tenacity born from true need. When she decided to open a retail paint and pottery studio in her hometown of Hernando, Miss., fulfilling a lifelong dream, the word pandemic figured nowhere in her business plan. She opened Paint with Me in January 2020 and hasn’t looked back. “I have always loved art and painting. I have always liked to make my own things, like homemade decorations or repurposed pieces,” she says. “I felt like this idea was really placed on my heart.” Carpenter studied art all through school, taking advanced art in high school, so expanding into an art career felt like a natural move. Plus, with an autistic son, she sought ways to care for him while pursuing her own passion for art as a stay-at-home mom. But after years of selling painted wooden art like door hangers, and taking custom orders from her home, she wondered if it wasn’t time to consider her own space. “I also sold through Commerce Street Market but just reached a point when I thought it would be more practical to 64 DeSoto

open my own shop,” she says. She began looking for a space and found a new building located just south of the historic Hernando Square on Highway 51. “It was a brand new building and I wasn’t sure about taking it on,” she relates, adding that in the end, she chose the space and began making it her own. “I literally worked on it day and night through January 2020. It took forever to paint because I did colorful vertical stripes on one wall and a mural of Hernando on the other one. I poured my heart into it.” Like any busy entrepreneur, Carpenter enlisted the help of family. Her husband, Charlie, supports her work by helping with all the wooden cutouts. “He works one week on, then another off,” she says. “When he’s home, he’s busy cutting wood for me.” Today, Paint with Me draws a steady and loyal crowd that shows up to either paint on canvas or pottery. The cheerful space is usually a beehive of activity as kids and parents gather around tables to create their own art. Carpenter hosts events and celebrations from birthday parties to girls-night-out parties.


Carpenter incorporated pottery in the store recently, selling pieces and allowing customers to make their own. She contacted Olympic, which produces pottery kilns, and they trained her on the use of her kiln and the aspects of selling pottery. “I took an online class from the company located in Massachusetts and they were great,” she says. “They gave me a business plan and helped me get started. I’m still learning.” Customers can choose from dozens of pottery pieces to make their own creations, from whimsical characters to kitchenware and serving pieces. Carpenter says even a two-year old can paint pottery. Once the pieces are painted, Carpenter fires them in her kiln every Saturday. The weekly turnaround makes it convenient for customers to quickly pick up their creations. “I have some people who come every week to paint a piece (of pottery),” says Carpenter. “Even if they’re mixing crazy colors, each piece is unique and they all turn out beautiful.” Carpenter has also discovered the beauty of imprinting a baby’s handprint in clay as a keepsake. At her 2020 grand opening, business was brisk as she sold hundreds of T-shirts and dozens of door hangers. Everything seemed to be falling into place. And then, the pandemic arrived. Like so many other owners, Carpenter shut her doors but moved quickly to custom orders and working with vendors like the DeSoto County School District where she had strong support among friends and teachers. She offered online classes until June 2020, when she reopened the shop. “I don’t consider myself a teacher but I started online

classes,” she says. “I put together online kits and showed customers how to mix colors and paints, teaching them step by step how to paint a canvas. For instance, we painted Peter Rabbit for Easter.” In February, Paint with Me celebrated its one-year anniversary, holding an open house amidst the continued COVID-19 restrictions. Carpenter is now booking parties again, respecting required space and masks. Despite general uncertainty about opening a business during a pandemic, Carpenter knows she made the right decision. “Something was telling me to open the store and the time was right despite everything.” Looking ahead, the calendar gets even busier for Paint with Me. Carpenter’s planning a summer camp for all age groups and additional themed parties. Having created sellable art for more than five years, including thousands of painted Christmas ornaments, Carpenter believes quietly in her own talent and new business. More importantly, her infectious and dedicated attitude inspires others to get involved and make a little art. Her biggest problem these days? “Keeping track of requests because they come through Facebook, Instagram, my personal Facebook, and texts!” ​To learn more about Paint with Me, contact the store at (662) 469-1293 or visit them on Facebook.

Karen Ott Mayer writes, gardens, and enjoys good food from her farm in Como, Miss.

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southern gentleman | GRAND SLAM TURKEY CALLS

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Grand Slam Turkey Calls By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy Fred Cox/Grand Slam Turkey Calls

Knowing how to talk turkey is an artform that North Carolina’s Fred Cox has perfected. Spring comes twice for turkey hunters. Once with the equinox, then again about two weeks later when spring gobbler season opens. For Reidsville, N.C.’s Fred Cox, this second spring means getting into the woods with his grandkids for the first day of youth-only hunting. ​This year he hopes to call in a big tom or two, drawing the birds close with calls of his own making. Maybe this year it’ll be his granddaughter who dispatches a strutter or his grandson who bags a big, bearded beauty for dinner. Regardless, Cox will be there, call in hand, ready to converse and say, “Food… hens…a rival male…this way, come see.” ​Cox knows how to talk turkey. He’s been calling them since 1969 (longer than many of us Southern Gentlemen here have been alive) and seriously making his own calls since 1995 as Grand Slam Turkey Calls. A lifelong outdoorsman, he caught the turkey bug in high school, when one of his teachers took him hunting.

​ “Oh, on that first trip into the woods, I was hooked,” says Cox. “Back then, North Carolina only had one turkey season — in fall — so you had to fill the year with something else, but all I wanted to do was get back in the woods and find some birds.” ​ Filling those out-of-hunting-season days with something hunting-adjacent wasn’t difficult. Cox began to accompany his teacher to small gatherings of hunters, then to small trade shows, then to wildlife- and hunting-oriented dinners. ​Walking in to one such function at Alamance High School, Cox heard it: a yelp, then a cluck, then more yelps. Turkey! But he was in a gymnasium, not the woods, so it couldn’t be a turkey. Still, the sound was so lifelike. He had to know what made this noise. He followed the sound to a booth where a man held a turkey wing-bone call to his lips, pursed them, and called. DeSoto 67


​ “It was about the purtiest sound I’d heard,” Cox says, not knowing that a few decades down the road, he’d be producing one of the most sought-after wingbone calls in the South. In 2020, Grand Slam Turkey Calls was named Outdoors Runner-Up in Garden & Gun Magazine’s prestigious Made in the South Awards. ​“Standing in that gym, I never imagined I’d be making my own wingbone calls, much less that I’d be selling them,” he says. ​ Turkey calls come in many forms and Cox makes and sells most of them as Grand Slam Turkey Calls. There are diaphragms, which you wear like a retainer and manipulate with your breath. You’ve got friction calls, which use a striker rubbed against a metal plate or block of wood to create turkey-like sounds. Pot calls, which are a type of friction call, have a striker that you rub against a glass, ceramic or aluminum plate. Scratch boxes and box calls often use wood-on-wood to replicate calls, though you’ll find other materials from time to time. And then there are wingbones. Wingbones are just that — a pair or trio of bones from a turkey’s wing, dried and cleaned and fitted together, then “played” for every tom and hen in earshot. Rather than use friction like many other calls, hunters place a wingbone against their lips like they’re going to play a recorder. Instead of pursing their lips and blowing, you cup your hands around the bottom of the call and suck air through the hollow bones. As you draw air through, the clucks and yelps that emerge are music to a turkey’s ears. ​“They’re simple calls, really, and an old design,” says Cox. “Wingbone calls — or what’s left of them — have been found by archaeologists excavating Native American villages. The oldest one found was about 6,500 years old.” ​ To make a wingbone call you need the radius, ulna, and humerus bones from a turkey’s wing. Clean the bones and clip off the ends, then boil them and clean out the marrow. From here, take some sandpaper and grind one end of the radius to fit into the ulna, and one end of the ulna to fit into the humerus. Your simple wingbone is essentially complete. 68 DeSoto


Cox builds his to last, taking care on the fit, gluing the pieces together, adding a little stopper to keep your lips in the right position, wrapping the joints in thread, and decorating the call with drawings inspired by the woods. ​Most years you’d find Cox setting up the Grand Slam Turkey Call booth at trade shows and outdoor expos, but this past year has been a bit different. Thanks to the Made in the South Awards, his online orders have been steady. But he’s not too busy to hunt. He’s got his eyes on the “grand slam” of turkey hunting. To do this Cox needs to bag each of the four species found in the United States: Eastern, Merriam’s, Osceola, and Rio Grande. He’s one away and needs only the Merriam to make his mark. As soon as it’s a good idea to travel, he’ll be headed to the Dakotas to pit his call against the last bird on his list. grandslamturkeycalls.com

Jason Frye lives on the coast of North Carolina where he writes about travel, food, and culture. Follow his adventuress on Instagram where he’s @beardedwriter, and watch bookshelves for his new travel guide, Moon Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trips, hitting shelves in May 2021.

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southern harmony | TERRY ‘HARMONICA’ BEAN

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Cool Bean By Tracy Morin | Photography courtesy of Rhonda J. Lewis

With his unique style and one-man-band approach, Terry ‘Harmonica’ Bean travels far from his Pontotoc home to keep Mississippi’s blues traditions alive. Terry “Harmonica” Bean was born into the blues. His father, Eddie, and grandfather, Rossie, played in local juke joints around northeast Mississippi, performing alongside men shooting dice and sipping bootleg liquor. ​ Packed into a large family with 24 siblings, Bean emerged as a special talent, but playing blues music wasn’t his original career plan. He was a star baseball player, eyeing the Major Leagues in 1980, fresh out of high school. A serious motorcycle accident derailed those plans, and he started playing blues on the side. ​“I played at friends’ houses, then the next thing on street corners, just having fun,” Bean recalls. “I’m like Grandpa Rossie — waiting on a big fish to come, I’ll catch a lot of little

bitty ones. The big ones come once in a while. But I played on street corners for eight years, for nothing.” ​ That changed when some Italian visitors looking for bluesman John L. Watson stumbled upon Bean in West Helena, Ark. Bean not only led them to their target but got picked up himself to play in Europe. That was in 2001, and word of mouth grew from there. Bean eventually found himself traveling the world to spread his style of the blues. ​ Pontotoc may not be as famous as the Mississippi Delta or Memphis for its blues traditions, but in fact numerous musicians have been shaped in this Hill Country setting between the Delta and Tupelo, the latter the home of the legendary rock-and-roller who helped “open the door for black DeSoto 71


people’s music,” according to Bean. Pontotoc has its own rich musical history, full of names remembered like Muddy Waters band member Leroy Foster, but also many who never recorded and who are lost to history. But those unnamed musicians are alive and well in Bean’s memory, and in his songs — along with the traditions of the Delta and Hill Country legends like Mississippi Fred McDowell. ​ “You have to do your own thing, so I just mix it all up together,” Bean says. “I got my grandfather, the Delta, the Hill Country, and Terry ‘Harmonica’ Bean in there. I never had money to promote myself. I just got out and let people see me. You have to do it for nothing to get something.” ​ Luckily, Bean’s unique style is one that audiences around the world love to see. He was able to commit to his music and touring full-time in the late 2000s, and for the past 15 years or so — in addition to annual gigs at major Mississippi events, like this month’s Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale — fans can find him throughout the year in far-flung locales, from Australia and Africa to Russia and Japan. ​“The blues carried me to places I never thought I’d be,” Bean says. “My father told me, ‘Son, you didn’t make the Major Leagues. You was good at that, but that’s not what God planned. Just play the blues, it’ll do something for you.’” ​ And, even when Bean travels no farther than Clarksdale, the world comes to him, with blues lovers from around the globe making the pilgrimage to down-home clubs like Red’s Lounge, which keep the traditions of real-deal blues alive and well today. 72 DeSoto


​ Though Bean maintains relations with a full band to work with upon request, he usually appears solo, one man band-style. That evolution happened naturally back in 1989 when his band had booked a gig and he was the only one who showed. A fellow bluesman told him, “You play harmonica. Why don’t you play by yourself, and you won’t have that problem.” ​ “The next week, I bought me a harmonica rack and started playing by myself,” Bean remembers. “That’s when everything took off for me. Now, people want me to play alone.” ​ Of course, that arrangement not only simplifies the operation; it puts any performance money solely into Bean’s pocket. In fact, even today, he doesn’t take bookings through an agent, preferring to arrange gigs personally, accepting them on his own terms. In other words, he remains a one-man band even in business. ​“I don’t want to be controlling no one, and I don’t want to be controlled,” Bean explains. “I’m my own man, and I play for whoever. I think that’s the way it should be. When you take the fun out of anything, you might as well throw it away; it ain’t no good no more.” ​ Bean, who turned 60 last January, also enjoys breaking myths about the genre so often called “the devil’s music.” Tracing its roots in Africa to the farmed fields of Mississippi, Bean asserts that the music is no different than gospel tunes played in church. ​ “When I’m playing blues, I’m going to give you some history on it,” Bean says. “The blues is a very serious kind of music, but when I was a boy coming up, I saw people listening to the music and having a good time. It’s fun to me. I love people, myself, and I love making people smile.” facebook.com/terryharmonicabean

Based in Oxford, Miss., Tracy Morin is an award-winning freelance writer and editor with a passion for covering food, beverage, beauty, and boxing.

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in good spirits | CANNED COCKTAILS

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Cocktails in a Can By Cheré Coen | Photography Courtesy of Luke Beard

Atlanta company offers convenience, taste, and affordability with their line of Tip Top Proper Cocktails. Neal Cohen and Yoni Reisman were childhood friends growing up in Atlanta, and both “rabid music lovers,” attending numerous music festivals and events. “We were determined to get in that line of work,” Cohen relates. And they did. Reisman helped establish an entertainment company that produced the Governor’s Ball Music Festival in New York, and Cohen served as marketing director for Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee, among other jobs. What they thought would be their dream careers ended up leading to something entirely different. As Reisman sat next to the concessions at festivals, he noticed something lacking. Customers could purchase beer, wine, and possibly a rum and Coke at the events but not a cocktail. With good reason. Cocktails require several ingredients and a knowledge of their assembly, which meant hauling numerous glass bottles to the outside venues and an educated staff. Cocktail creation is also time-consuming, making it unfeasible for crowds. In essence, serving cocktails at music festivals wasn’t conducive to that environment. But, that didn’t stop the duo. “There was a hole to what was available to the attendee,” Cohen says. “We saw a need to solve that problem.” Cohen and Reisman created Tip Top Proper Cocktails, three-ingredient cocktails in a can that consumers can open, pour on ice (or straight from the can if chilled), and enjoy. They started with three classic America cocktails — a Manhattan (rye whiskey, vermouth, and bitters), an old-fashioned (whiskey, sugar, and bitters), and a Negroni (dry gin, vermouth, and red bitters). Cocktails-to-go are part of an explosive nationwide trend, but the Tip Top duo knew that developing the right recipe would be tricky, particularly for those with sophisticated palates. They enlisted mixologist Miles Macquarrie, whose work at the Kimball House in Atlanta has earned him several James Beard bar of the year award nominations.

Each “stirred cocktail” contains three ingredients inside a durable steel can. Having a ready-made cocktail eliminates the need to keep bar ingredients on hand, reduces the time involved to make a cocktail, and provides a way to bring cocktails to places where glass is prohibited. Tip Top cocktails are especially handy when traveling, easy to slip inside backpacks, in luggage, and to enjoy at the pool or beach, Cohen says. Because they contain alcohol, they won’t freeze, so can be placed inside freezers for a nice chill. They’re also affordable, retailing for $4 to $6 a can. Because they’re so convenient, hotels and restaurants without a well-stocked bar service use them for guests. They’re perfect for fast casual restaurants, dive bars, and on golf courses at country clubs, Cohen says. For now, Tip Top Proper Cocktails are only available in certain states, but can be shipped throughout most of the country. Each state requires its own distribution standards, Cohen explains, so it’s a slow process expanding their reach as they move forward. The cocktails are available in some large retail stores, such as Total Wine in Georgia and South Carolina. The word is out for these convenience cocktails — the drinks won the Drink category in Garden & Gun’s Made in the South Awards this year and have been featured in numerous national publications. Plans are in the works to expand the product line this spring. Next up are three “shaken cocktails,” a margarita, a traditional daiquiri made of rum, lime and sugar, and a Bees Knees consisting of gin, honey and lemon. It might not be Bonnaroo, but the lifelong friends aren’t complaining. “We’re having a really good time,” Cohen says. tiptopcocktails.com DeSoto Magazine Co-editor Cheré Coen adores a well-made old-fashioned but loves the chance to pour one easily. She’ll be taking Neal Cohen’s advice and expressing an orange slice into the canned cocktail and garnishing the rim.

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reflections | HAPPY WHERE I AM

Happy Where I Am

Story and photography by Karen Ott Mayer

Letting your imagination wander may be the best way to travel these days. Years ago, I heard a story about an old man who had never slept away from his rural Tennessee home. If he had to go away, he never went farther than a day so he could return home and sleep in his own bed. At the time, I thought the idea inconceivable; now, his idea doesn’t sound that bad. In today’s world, where travel has become something of a one-upper among folks as people seek higher cliffs or shark-infested waters for selfies, I wonder more about the reasons we seek places beyond our own door. Why do we wander? Is it some type of leftover nomadic gene that never quieted down? Even before COVID-19 but especially now, I spend a lot of time on rural properties and farms. I might find myself in the hoop house playing with flowers or on neighboring farms, just visiting or buying local products. While talking to a friend last year when travel was still an option, I remember feeling a bit incredulous when he mentioned his friends. My friend, who was still working in a not-retired-yet working sort of way, shared the details. “So-and-so is out in Montana and the rest went to Canada.” “Why aren’t you with them?” I asked. He shrugged. “I just can’t see leaving all the time when I’m happy where I am.” Oddly, I heard those same words two weeks earlier from another grower as we stood in a field making small talk. On a thick, impossibly hot afternoon buzzing with summer bugs, anywhere else might have been preferred. This grower, 76 DeSoto

however, had grown up on the hills where we had spent the morning, walking through gardens and exploring plants. Somehow, the conversation turned to flying. “I was on an airplane one time,” he said. “We flew over some crops in a small plane.” “You’ve never been on a commercial plane?” I asked. “No,” he said with a short laugh. “It’ll be hard to see California or fly out West,” I added. He smiled. “Why would I want to leave somewhere that makes me happy? I have everything I need right here.” Both of these men live and work on farms, living what appears to be a hard, less than graceful life. Work from dawn until dusk, short of help, and sunburned brows. Yet, they both smile easily and laugh frequently. More importantly, they just know where they honestly belong. The last year challenged all of us to rethink our sense of belonging and acceptance. What we view as limited lifestyles, deprivation, or loss of rights to others may be a non sequitur. If our explorations begin at our own door and peace comes through the gratitude for simple tasks and present gifts, then the world really is right here. These days, letting the mind wander into new vast territories may be the best mode of travel. And perhaps, the most fulfilling. Karen Ott Mayer lives in Como, Miss., where she and her husband own Moon Hollow Farm and Country House. She is a freelance writer and avid gardener.


“Not all those who wander are lost.”

JRR Tolkien

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Profile for DeSoto Magazine | Exploring the South

DeSoto Magazine April 2021