DeSoto Magazine October 2020

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October CONTENTS 2020 • VOLUME 17 • NO.10


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Time to Explore Memphis’ Top Outdoor Spots

McRaven House: Mississippi’s Most Haunted Place

The Haunting Cypress Swamps of Belzoni’s Sky Lake

departments 16 Living Well Forest Bathing

42 On the Road Again Lookout Mountain

20 Notables Laura Carpenter

45 Greater Goods 66 Homegrown The Pecan House

24 Exploring Art Peyton Hutchinson

70 Southern Gentleman Survival Skills 101

28 Exploring Books Guide to Great Smoky Mountains

74 Southern Harmony Lisa Mills’ Triangle

30 Southern Roots Fall Planting

78 In Good Spirits Ghostly Cocktails

34 Table Talk Levon’s in Clarksdale 38 Exploring Destinations Paint Bank, Virginia


81 Exploring Events 82 Reflections The Storm



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editor’s note | OCTOBER

Recharging in the Great Outdoors Last fall, after an unusually heavy workload and family obligations, I was feeling rather stressed. I rushed to meet deadlines early so I could visit my son who was working at Yellowstone National Park and help drive him home to the South. The flight took me to Atlanta, then west to Salt Lake City and finally, on a tiny plane into West Yellowstone, the last one to fly into the park before closing for the winter. I arrived after an early October snowstorm, the trees covered in a blanket of fresh snow. The air was crisp, animals roaming through the park in abundance, and those thermal features casting steaming vapors into the sky. My spirits soared and the stress drifted away. Such is the restorative power of nature. Our issue this month celebrates the great outdoors, and it couldn’t be more timely. There’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that time outdoors, specifically with our toes in the earth and surrounded by greenery, brings about healthy changes to the body. Contributing writer Patti Nickell explains shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, and its positive effects on health. Verna Gates takes us to Sky Lake Wildlife Management Area near Belzoni, Miss., home to some of the oldest living trees on earth. If you need suggestions on quick and easy ways to get outside, Tom Adkinson provides us with a list in and around Memphis.

OCTOBER 2020 • Vol. 17 No.10


On a different note, I recently visited McRaven House in Vicksburg, nicknamed Mississippi’s “Most Haunted House,” and had a few out-of-this-world experiences. McRaven is just one of many homes in Vicksburg claiming to have ghosts hanging about. We hope you enjoy our outdoor issue and find some time to restore your psyche in nature this month. You’ll be happy you did. Happy Reading!

Cheré Coen on the cover Mississippi artist Peyton Hutchinson loves traveling the state capturing its unique terrain in a variety of vivid colors, such as this month’s cover artwork, Afternoon on the Lake.

CONTRIBUTORS Tom Adkinson Michele D. Baker Cheré Coen Mary Ann DeSantis Jackie Sheckler Finch Jason Frye Verna Gates Pamela Keene Debi Lander Karen Ott Mayer Tracy Morin Patti Nickell Barbara Weddle Kevin Wierzbicki PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 208 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887 SUBSCRIBE: ©2020 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 or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at

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Shop, eat

and play this holiday season! 16 DeSoto

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living well | FOREST BATHING

Forest Bathing By Patti Nickell Photography courtesy of Nadine Phillips of Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs

No soap is necessary and clothing stays on when forest bathing, an immersive program into the natural world to refresh and rejuvenate. Forest bathing may sound like something to be done au natural, but no soap is required and the only things removed are the obstacles to becoming one with the natural world. The practice of walking through forests to calm a person’s psyche from the stress of modern life and to reconnect them to nature began in Japan in the 1980s. The Japanese are so committed to forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, and the positive effect that it has on physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, they have designated 62 forests in their country as “healing forests.” While the Japanese have been forest bathing for four decades, the concept is slowly taking hold in the United States. “Forest bathing is usually done over a two-hour period,” says Jennifer Owens, co-founder and wellness director of Bridge Counseling and Wellness in Louisville, Ky. Owens has guided groups in forest bathing ranging in size from one person to five or six people. 18 DeSoto

“I guide them on a leisurely walk on gentle paths under a forest canopy, encouraging them to open up each of their senses fully,” she explains. “Often, we’ll walk in silence as it introduces a meditative aspect to the experience.” Owens is one of Kentucky’s few trained ecotherapists. As she explains it, trees and plants are endowed with phytoncides, a sort of immune system for botanicals, which helps protect them from harmful fungus and germs. It seems the trees are into sharing. Not only do phytoncides protect the forest flora, they have a residual effect on tree-huggers. “It reduces our blood pressure and improves sleep,” Owens says. “In addition, two hours in the forest equates to a two-week boost in our immune system.”

Bathing in Mississippi Forest bathing has become popular in places such as California and Australia, but the Mississippi Valley Conservancy offers forest bathing sessions as one of its “Linked to the Land” outdoor experiences. The Conservancy operates out of the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, a location that forest bathing guide Nadine Phillips calls “a gem of a place.” At Strawberry Plains, among the 2,500 acres of hardwood forests, wetlands and native grasslands, it is easy to discover, as American naturalist John Muir did, “the clearest way to the universe.” “The whole hook for me is to experience the wonder and awe of nature,” says Phillips, who has been leading forest bathing sessions for three years. “This is my purpose on the planet — the calling of my heart,” she adds. “If I see nothing more than a dragonfly, it lifts my spirits for the rest of the day.” While forests offer the best laboratory for communing with the natural world — Phillips would like to see an immersive trail in each of Mississippi’s six national forests — you don’t have to high-tail it to the nearest wilderness, she insists. Phillips believes people will receive a similar experience in walking around a garden or park or even sitting in their yard surrounded by trees. “It’s all about being still and opening yourself up to everything that’s around you,” she says. So, go ahead — take a forest bath.

Where to find a forest There are numerous national forests throughout the Deep South. Here a few to consider when the stress of life calls for a walk — or “bath” — in the woods. There are six National Forests in Mississippi: Bienville, Delta, DeSoto, Holly Springs, Homochitto, and Tombigbee. Some trails to consider are the easy half-mile Baker’s Pond Hiking Trail that showcases the headwaters of the Wolf River in Holly Springs, and several hiking trails through the DeSoto Ranger District. Tishomingo State Park in northeast Mississippi offers 13 miles of varied hiking trails through hardwood forests and this time of year many of the trees are turning fall colors. Close to Memphis, in the Overton Park Historic District, is the Old Forest Arboretum of Overton, a free stretch of forest that’s open to the public daily. South Cumberland State Park northwest of Chattanooga provides more than 90 miles of hiking trails, from easy to advanced, that lead to dramatic overlooks and to one of the area’s most beautiful waterfalls. More than half of Arkansas, about 18 million acres, is covered in forest, many in national forests and state parks. Forest bathers will find quite a variety of trails at Arkansas’s Petit Jean State Park, just outside of Little Rock and the state’s first state park. Striking bluffs, a natural bridge, the 95-foot Cedar Falls, and much more await visitors when taking in the natural beauty and fall foliage. Patti Nickell is a Lexington, Ky.-based freelance writer specializing in travel and food.

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Dyslexia Myths and Facts: Myth: Seeing things backwards or a vision problem. Fact: Very complicated condition that has to do with how the brain processes information. Myth: Dyslexia can only be detected at later ages like at least seven when learning reading skills. Fact: Young children ages three to five may display certain characteristics or delays with oral language like learning the alphabet or rhyming words. Myth: Dyslexia is rare. Fact: This learning difference affects nearly 20 percent of students, across all cultures, ages, and races. Myth: Only children, not teens or adults can be helped. Fact: Anyone, more than five years old, can improve the ability to read. 22 DeSoto

What Parents Should Know • As soon as you suspect your child is having difficulty with language or reading-related skills, start communicating with your child’s teacher. If your child is preschool age, talk to your pediatrician. • If you suspect dyslexia, get an evaluation. The cost is often covered by health insurance. • In Mississippi, a diagnosis can be made only by a psychologist, psychometrist, or speech-language pathologist, not a dyslexia therapist. • When possible, get services from a certified dyslexia therapist. • When looking for a private therapist, credentials are important. Check the therapist’s level of education. Make sure he or she has completed a dyslexia program accredited by the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC) and the International Dyslexia Association (IDA). • Ask for accommodations at school. Dyslexia is considered a disability under American with Disabilities Act (ADA); therefore, students with dyslexia are entitled to accommodations to ensure they are receiving an appropriate education. • Keep in mind, there is no cure for dyslexia. It can take one to three years of consistent dyslexia therapy to make a noticeable difference in your child’s literacy skills. • Having a child with dyslexia may feel overwhelming at first. Find a support group and connect with other parents who are facing the same challenges. Decoding Dyslexia is a nationwide, parent-led group with a Mississippi chapter, Decoding Dyslexia-MS.

Reaching Readers By Karen Ott Mayer | Photography courtesy of Adam Mitchell

On a mission to help students with dyslexia, Hernando’s Laura Carpenter offers a systematic way to teach reading. When Laura Carpenter decided to pursue her master’s degree in 2015, she knew exactly what she wanted to study. “I wanted to study dyslexia therapy,” says Carpenter who already had 15 years of experience working with students in public schools when she began her graduate studies at the University of Southern Mississippi. Now a Certified Academic Language Therapist, Carpenter has made it her career focus to help students and parents gain the necessary understanding and skills to overcome dyslexia, which is classified as a disability but practically referred to as a learning difference. Dyslexia affects nearly 20 percent of students, across all cultures, ages, and races. In 2019, Carpenter opened DeSoto Dyslexia Therapy to provide individualized therapy and support for struggling readers while continuing her work with public schools. Her decision to open an independent learning environment resulted from years of observing teachers and children in school settings.

“I couldn’t understand why I was seeing intelligent kids who still struggled to read despite all of our instruction. We were working hard and getting nowhere,” says Carpenter, who also holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Mississippi. As she read more about dyslexia, she realized this learning difference sounded like her own students and she felt compelled to find an additional way to reach them. “To make progress, students need to develop a new approach to reading, and that’s what I try to do,” she says. When people hear the word dyslexia, many mistakenly think the condition means reading words backwards or implies a vision problem. That idea is simply one of many myths surrounding dyslexia which is quite common. “A brain has to work both ways. We have to decipher incoming information, or decode, and to be able to encode information or to read and write. It’s very complex,” she says. DeSoto 23

In addition to processing, children and adults who struggle to read also have challenges with their immediate working memory, which plays a key role as well. “We need to be able to recognize symbols like letters or numbers; but then we also need to attach a sound to that symbol and remember the individual sounds, then those sounds in words, then words in sentences,” says Carpenter. Her work begins by breaking down this process. “I have a systematic way to teach reading.” Dyslexia therapy involves multisensory structured literacy instruction, which is commonly referred to as Orton-Gillingham-based instruction. This practice engages the student’s senses using visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile aspects of language. A typical therapy session may include alphabet knowledge, phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling, handwriting, comprehension, and composition. When she decided to pursue further education, the Ole Miss graduate turned to USM, which offered one of the first accredited programs in dyslexia therapy in the United States. She holds a Mississippi teaching license with endorsements in mild/moderate disabilities and dyslexia therapy. She is also a national board-certified teacher in the area of exceptional needs. Carpenter offers free consultations for parents who seek initial guidance and information, ultimately offering reassurance. With the 2020 global pandemic and more remote or inconsistent instruction, parents and kids may feel overwhelmed. Her work remains a window of hope. “Remember, you’re not alone and help is available.”

Karen Ott Mayer is a freelance writer from Como, Mississippi.

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exploring art | PEYTON HUTCHINSON

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Peyton Hutchinson: The Artist Who Loves Color By Michele D. Baker Photography courtesy of Peyton Hutchinson and Karla Collins, Pound Photography

Mississippi isn’t known for gorgeous landscapes, but artist Peyton Hutchinson aims to change that with her textural paintings. Peyton Hutchinson loves color. The Madison, Miss., visual artist grew up in Meridian and began her painter’s journey while still a little girl. “My middle school teacher, Carolyn Causey, told my mother that I was good at art and that I might benefit from some art lessons,” she explains. “I walked down the street to Mrs. Causey’s studio – it was in her garage – and she taught me the fundamentals of black and white drawing and pastels. It was specific and detailed, slow and methodical; I was in high school before I got to use oils… color! I had a good base.” Hutchinson majored in painting at Ole Miss, but as her parents were paying the bills, they decided that also getting a teaching license was a good idea. “I didn’t know there was such a thing as an art scholarship,” she laments. In her junior year, she found her love for painting natural landscapes while studying abroad at the Marchutz School of Art in Aix en Provence, France. “I learned en plein air painting and loved it,” she enthuses. “The sunflowers and poppies inspired me – the actual fields where van Gogh and Cezanne had painted. The quick way you have to paint, because the light is constantly changing, the clouds are moving... it’s mesmerizing.” Hutchinson met future husband Burney at an Ole Miss baseball game; after graduation, he enjoyed a short career in the minor leagues. “We were on the road,” she says, “but I could paint while traveling.”

An early strategy was simply to “paint what would sell,” and attend art fairs. “We went to the Double Decker Art Festival in Oxford,” Hutchinson remembers. “That was the beginning. Burney got a job in insurance and I painted. We didn’t have any children yet, so we went to art shows most weekends.” She did everything herself: set up the tent and tables, displayed the art, made sales, and delivered to the car. “I was able to sell enough paintings to purchase our lot in Reunion [a subdivision in Madison],” she proudly states. Hutchinson’s process has evolved as she has studied with renowned artists Greg Cartmell, Camille Prezwodek, and others. The lessons learned from each artist helped her to hone her own technique. Reunion’s lush trees, golf course, and running paths helped inform Hutchinson’s signature style: colorful, stylized trees, trails, sunlight, and water, quickly applied with a palette knife instead of a brush. “I learned that technique of thick, fast, textural painting from Jerry Fresia,” says Hutchinson. “And I just love painting what I see.” “I feel like Mississippi is lucky because we have so many wonderfully talented artists: Bob Tompkins does still lifes, and Jere Allen is known for figurative abstracts. I want to be known as a Mississippi contemporary landscape painter. I live in Mississippi, and I think it has gorgeous landscapes! From Pickwick Lake, to the Mississippi Delta, to the trails in Reunion DeSoto 27

and the Gulf Coast, there is just so much to offer.” Now, with three children aged six to 13, Hutchinson has learned to paint even faster. “We took a vacation at the beach,” she explains. “I took my paint box to the water’s edge and started with a red background wash to create contrast with the blue water. Then I filled in with a brush, blocked in large colors, mixed paint with my palette knife, and captured the sunrise. I painted an eight-by-ten canvas in about a half-hour so I wouldn’t miss the light.” As Hutchinson matures in her art, her goals have changed, too, and she now only does about three shows a year. “I recently did my first virtual/live Instagram art show with 20 paintings in all sizes and price ranges,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I just got up there and was excited, and talked about my paintings, and half of them sold!” In addition to her website and galleries across the state, Hutchinson also displays her work in a mini art gallery in her foyer. The artwork ranges from early black and white sketches to pastel drawings and oil paintings, up to her now iconic works of Delta rice and cotton fields and Reunion trails. These days, Hutchinson sets aside time each day to paint and clear her head. “My kids know that I need time to just paint,” she says. “I love being outside and painting, but I also work from photos back in the studio so I can do large-format works.” She concludes, “My future as an artist has changed so much over the years. As much as I paint, I hope my craft is getting better and better. I don’t know why I have this gift, but God gave it to me. All the circumstances came together for me to make a success in art. And with the internet and social media, the whole world is available now. I’m excited! Who knows where I will be in five years.” Michele D. Baker is a freelance travel writer and blues music lover in Jackson, Miss. She has three cats, too many books, and loves public speaking. See more of her work at

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Jason Frye

Exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park By Mary Ann DeSantis | Photography courtesy of Jason and Lauren Frye

The expansive Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect fall destination, but be sure to tuck this handy travel guide into your backpack. With more than a half-million acres, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers outdoor enthusiasts a lot of choices for social distancing as well as fun. But where to begin is usually the first question visitors have when planning a trip to this national treasure that stretches from eastern Tennessee to western North Carolina. That’s where the “Moon Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park” comes in handy. The 192-page paperback is an invaluable planning tool, especially for firsttime visitors. Experienced trailblazers looking for the park’s hidden gems also will find a mother lode of information, including insider tips, detailed maps, and places to enjoy peace and serenity. 30 DeSoto

“There is something really beautiful about the quiet moments in this place,” says author Jason Frye, who has written four Moon Guides since 2015 and has seven titles to his credit. Released in April 2020, the “Moon Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park” is his second edition about America’s most-visited national park. He is currently working on another Moon Guide about the Blue Ridge Parkway. Frye’s travels as a writer and guidebook author have taken him around the world, but the Smokies feel like home to him. “It was the very first national park I visited,” he remembers. “When I was 10 years old, my family drove 11 miles around Cades Cove. It was the worst traffic I remember

and it took four-and-a-half hours to drive around, but I looked out the window at one point and saw 75 deer. That made all the waiting worth it.” Indeed, the national park gets lots of visitors and traffic. In 2019, more than 12.5 million people came to the park but the crowds haven’t adversely affected the pristine natural environment. “One of the things I like is it’s a blissfully static park. I’m glad they are not dumping $50 million into lodges and tearing down mountains,” Frye says. “When I was researching the second edition of the book, I looked at new ways to enjoy the park.” Frye also puts himself in other’s shoes… or hiking boots… as he peruses the park. In one section of the book, he writes about the best hikes and breaks it down by abilities and what people want to see. Some people look for waterfalls while others want to see wildflowers. He grew up in the Appalachian foothills of West Virginia and developed an affinity for hiking and exploring; however, his wife Lauren grew up in a suburban area and was not an experienced hiker.

“I created an easy hike for her at Abram’s Falls in Cades Cove which she loved,” he says. “In writing recommendations in the guide, it’s not just what I’d like to go do or see… it’s a service to the readers and what they want to and can do. “People have very different abilities than I do, and I look at how the guide’s information serves other readers. It becomes nuance, for sure.” Writing a travel guide is somewhat different from writing travel articles, which Frye does frequently for numerous publications including DeSoto Magazine. And the Moon Guides are different from other travel guides, which are usually compilations from several writers. “My name is on this book because they [Moon Guides] are single author books,” he explains. “We get to imprint our travel style and interests to our audiences. When I recommend places, those are my personal recommendations.” An early-on chapter in the book lists Frye’s “top eight experiences” in the national park, including the best place to watch a sunrise or sunset (Clingman’s Dome) or where to see the “smoky” fog mist rise that gives the mountain range its name. “I love sitting out and watching for the changing of light. I like doing that in the Smokies, in particular, because you can see the different shapes of the mountains. You get the texture and that tell-tale smoke. It gives you a sense of what this place was like when there were moonshiners or when Cherokees were hunting,” says Frye, who took many of the book’s photographs. The guide’s detailed maps of the national park’s trails and roads are invaluable and reason enough to buy a hard copy instead of relying on GPS or smart phones. “Grabbing a phone or device sucks you out of the place,” explains Frye. “The guide is analog; it’s made of trees and connected to nature. I can describe the park as much as possible, but you may be the kind of person who needs to see it. Maps provide the context.” It’s the experience, though, of exploring one of America’s greatest national parks that most people remember. “If you are there at right time of day, you can see why it’s called the Smoky Mountains… the ‘smoke’ really appears.” Frye says. “You can hear an elk bugle and walk out of the fog. That’s a signature experience.” DeSoto Magazine co-editor Mary Ann DeSantis finds peace and solace in mountain hikes – albeit easy ones. Armed with her Moon Guide, she plans a return trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the near future.

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southern roots | FALL PLANTING


Bibb lettuce

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The Best Time to Plant By Pamela A. Keene | Photography courtesy of Pamela A. Keene

Despite misconceptions, fall is the perfect time to plant and harvest vegetables, flowers, trees, and shrubs. You’ve harvested your summer tomatoes, beans, squash and numerous other vegetables and your zinnias, marigolds, impatiens and coleus are starting to fade, but don’t put away those gardening tools just yet. Fall is here, an ideal time to grow vegetables and flowers. “Gardening in the fall opens a new world, whether you’re planting vegetables or flowers,” says Jeff Wilson, Mississippi Extension State Master Gardener coordinator and professor at Mississippi State University. “If you’ve never gardened in the fall, now’s a good time to give it a try.” Fall means growing green(s) Fall gardening brings a wide variety of vegetables. Greens are first to come to mind: lettuces, turnips, collards, broccoli, spinach, kale, and cabbage. Add in the reds of beets and radishes, orange or multi-colored carrots, and white cauliflower and you’ve got a rainbow of home-grown vegetables to enjoy this fall. “In our hardiness zone across North Mississippi and around Memphis, which is Zone 7, fall is an ideal time to plant green leafy and root vegetables,” says Wilson, who has a doctorate in agriculture education. “In fact, most of the South between lower Kentucky to the coast is either Zone 7 or 8, which means these areas don’t typically see a first frost until mid-November or early December. That gives us a good planting season that allows vegetables to fully develop.” Lettuces, such as arugula, loose leaf, bibb, and Romaine may be harvested about 30 days after transplanting seedlings into the garden. “For most gardeners, I suggest using transplants purchased from a box retailer or a local nursery,” Wilson adds. “If you didn’t start your seeds in late summer, you won’t have time for lettuces to mature before the weather turns too cold.”

Root vegetables can be started from seed, but if the ground temperature is cooler than the low 70s, the seeds will be slow to germinate. “Once the plants are up, they can mature at lower temperatures, but the warmer soil temperature is vital for good germination,” he says. “Swiss chard is another excellent fall/winter vegetable that is often overlooked. It’s mild and the green leaves are often lined with golden or red veins, adding a little color to the garden and your plate.” Bring on the blooms It’s not fall without lovely mounded Chrysanthemums, in baskets on the table, on the front porch, or planted in the garden. Local nurseries, box retailers, and grocery stores fill their shelves with dozens of different flower forms from white or lavender with daisy-like blooms, pink, rust-red or golden pompon flowers, and exotic shapes like spider mums or “football” mums that students wore to the homecoming dance in high school. “That’s the first flower I think of each fall,” Wilson says. “There are so many to choose from and they’re very easy to grow.” If you receive a chrysanthemum this fall, once the blooms start to fade, clip them off and find a spot in your landscape to transplant it. It will come back year after year; some varieties will spread and multiply. Annual pansies, violas, and Johnny Jump-Ups are popular to add color in the fall and winter. “Plant them in masse for the most dramatic effect,” Wilson says. “You can also line walkways with pansies and mix in ornamental cabbages, Swiss Chard, or Dusty Miller foliage plants. Plant them early enough, while the soil is still warm, and keep them watered, and they will grow large enough to give you a good show all the way into the first part of spring.” DeSoto 33

Other fall planting opportunities: trees and shrubs Most gardeners know that fall is the best time to plant trees and shrubs. “In the fall, the cooler temperatures and plants headed into dormancy will give new plantings time to establish a stronger root system without the stress of summer’s heat,” Wilson explains. “Trees and shrubs will still need to be watered, but not nearly as much as if they are planted in the spring.” Wi l s o n s a y s t h a t w h e n planting trees and shrubs, the most important consideration is “right plant, right place.” “Proper site selection can ensure greater success and longevity for more permanent landscape additions,” he says. “From the right light exposure to whether a tree or shrub prefers welldrained soil or can stand a bit more moisture, where you decide to plant it will determine how well it will thrive.” Souther n gardens often include trademark flowering shrubs, best installed in the fall. Camellias, azaleas, and hydrangeas do well when planted in the late fall. “Camelias bloom in the late fall until early spring, depending on the variety, so they have an added payoff of providing winter color,” he says. Wilson recommends that gardeners periodically have their soil tested to ensure that it has the right nutrients, pH and minerals for the types of plants. “A soil test is not expensive, and it can tell you what to add to your soil to ensure garden success, no matter what you want to grow.” Fo r i n f o r m a t i o n a b o u t gardening and soil testing, contact your state’s extension office, which is a free source for dozens of publications.

Pamela A. Keene, an avid Master Gardener, enjoys playing in the dirt 365 days a year, growing roses, azaleas, camelias, fruits, and vegetables. This summer she picked more than 100 pounds of blueberries from her home garden.

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table talk | LEVON’S

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Delta Down Under By Tracy Morin | Photography courtesy of Levon’s

An Australian transplant with a deep reservoir of restaurant and music venue experience finds a new venture — and an adopted home — at Levon’s in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. When Naomi King, owner of Levon’s in Clarksdale, Miss., crossed the globe from her Sydney, Australia, hometown for a trip to New Orleans back in 2000, she returned home with a vision. Soon, King found herself as the unexpected cocreator of an Australian venue called The Vanguard, a dinnerand-show restaurant that Time magazine once hailed as one of the top 10 venues to see live music in the world. “We had a lot of famous visitors and performers over the years, like Prince, Russell Crowe, Elvis Costello, and Toni Collette,” King recalls. “But it was a massive undertaking. I had never worked in hospitality, and it was a steep learning curve. My parents were massive foodies, though, and they required me to be an adventurous eater from a very young age.”

King quickly involved herself in all aspects of the business — and discovered a prodigious talent for her new calling. She spent her time choosing every last fixture, fitting, paint color, and wallpaper print; logging business reports; researching recipes and food trends; and ironing out finely honed wine and beverage menus. “That business opened in 2003 and sold in 2010,” King says. “I vowed to never own a restaurant again!” But after moving to Clarksdale from Australia in 2015, those plans were soon foiled. She landed in the blues mecca after another trip to the States in 2013 — a classic Nashville to New Orleans road trip — and arrived with the intent of investing in the Delta hotspot. DeSoto 37

“It was Clarksdale that won my heart,” King admits. “For many Aussies, Clarksdale is a bucket-list destination, and I’ve had the pleasure of showing my Sydney friends around my adopted hometown. I even have some really talented musician friends who have blown off the roof at Levon’s.” Levon’s opened in January 2016 in a tiny 22-seat shopfront on the corner of Third and Issaquena in Clarksdale. But it quickly became clear that Levon’s needed a larger space, so the business moved to its current location on Sunflower Avenue just months later, in May. “It was a pretty rapid expansion, but our kitchen is now located in The Boat, which is a replica of a steamboat, but on land,” King laughs. “That property has had a number of memorable incarnations prior to our residence: an ice cream store, The Cream Boat; a record store and recording studio, Rooster Blues; and the Dreamboat BBQ restaurant. It’s certainly a wacky sight and adds to the charm of Clarksdale.” With the help of King and her team of builders, Levon’s has since solidified a truly distinctive identity. “Visually, it looks a lot like a New Orleans restaurant or club, with a heavy 38 DeSoto

dose of the Delta thrown in,” King explains. “I spent hours searching for just the right things to give Levon’s its unique vibe, and I just keep adding stuff to my collection.” But Levon’s offers more than just a pretty face. Its menu is an ever-evolving collection that reflects not only King’s ideas but takes inspiration from staff and customers. King’s husband, Jonathan, is a fellow dedicated foodie, so the pair think nothing of driving hours to sample a legendary dish. But King also calls him “one of the best bartenders in the Delta,” with to-die-for Lemon Drops that fly off the bar menu. Meanwhile, head chef Carl Jackson has now logged four years at Levon’s, crafting signature dishes that customers crave, from shrimp ceviche to authentic Louisiana-style gumbo. And fry cook Andrew Windfield is known locally as “The Catfish King,” thanks to his sweet, crispy, perfectly seasoned filets. “I’ve become obsessed with modern Southern cuisine, and I make specialty items like deviled eggs, crawfish dip, bacon jam, monkey bread, and my own interpretations of favorites like banana pudding,” King adds. “We’ll continue to look toward New Orleans and Asian cuisines for future menu inspiration. We love that expanding our palates and technical skills allows us to create new dishes that take our wonderful customers on a culinary adventure with us.” Of course, no down-home Delta experience would be complete without a healthy dose of live music, and Levon’s typically hosts live tunes two-to-three nights per week, tapping its well-developed stage and sound system for rollicking good times. For example, the Levon’s Sunday Ramble, now running for more than four years, has become a bona fide Clarksdale institution. “Sunday has always been my favorite day, because it’s the day that we see everyone after church, and it’s also the day that tourists arrive in Clarksdale,” King notes. “I get to make Bloody Marys, Mimosas, and Corpse Revivers, and all is good with the world. Our Sunday Ramble is an example of how inclusive, friendly, and fun the Delta really is. Locals and tourists sit at my bar, listen to amazing local performers, and share stories about their lives. I’ve always wanted a ‘Cheers bar,’ and I have now officially realized my dream!” 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 | PAINT BANK, VIRGINIA

Glamping Tent

Interior Glamping Tent

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Brown Trout

Outdoor Adventures in Paint Bank, Virginia By Debi Lander | Photography courtesy of Debi Lander and Potts Creek Outfitters

Big experiences await travelers in the small town of Paint Bank, Virginia, thanks to an enterprising couple who saw its potential. Travel writers delight in sharing hidden gems with their readers but hope that divulging the secret doesn’t promote crowding. The benefits these little-known destinations offer often include reasonable rates, fewer visitors, and unique activities and lodging choices. Paint Bank, a tiny southwest Virginia town that resembles an old-time movie set, is one of those ideal places, offering distinctive lodging and exciting outdoor adventures. The tiny rural hamlet includes a general store, gas station, depot lodge (the converted train station), fishing cabins, and a herd of buffalo. Paint Bank’s current population has risen to around

130, still outnumbered by its 200 bison and numerous Galloway cows, known affectionately as “Oreo Cows” because of their broad bands of white running around their bellies. Although it is now an up-and-coming landmark in the Potts Valley, Paint Bank nearly died after the railroad left. Fortunately, Wall Street financier John Mulheren and wife Nancy gradually purchased properties and brought them back to life. They spared no expense renovating buildings, adding new ones, and even bringing in a red caboose and glamping tents to offer rustic, yet luxurious overnight accommodations. You’ll find Paint Bank a perfect location for fly fishing, whitetail bow hunting, eastern gobbler hunting (with shotgun or bow), DeSoto 41

Restaurant cooks follow recipes handed down over many years, preparing everything from scratch. Visitors may choose a juicy bison burger or steak from the grass-fed herd raised down the road (touring by appointment). It’s all old-time, Southern, stick-to-your-ribs good cookin’. John and Nancy Mulheren stumbled upon a dilapidated Paint Bank back in 1986. The scenic beauty and calming atmosphere captivated John, who imagined big plans for the small town. Unfortunately, John passed away far too young in 2003. Nancy continues the work, honoring his memory and for their large family of adopted children, and now grandchildren. Considering Paint Bank a second home, Nancy has left her artistic touch everywhere.

Pondersa Fishing Cabin

float trips on the Greenbrier River, or simply escaping the city for a mountain retreat. Hunters prowl and fishers angle in an ideal site surrounded by 800 Virginia acres, adjoined by another 800 in West Virginia. A bordering National Forest expands the untamed land to 3,000 non-fenced acres. Potts Creek Outfitters arrange private guided gobbler hunts and bow-hunts for guests staying at the Depot Lodge or the other lodging options. Danny Walsh, manager of Potts Creek Outfitters, welcomes all sportsmen levels, noting that, “We teach beginners the skills they need to become successful outdoorsmen.” His team gets visitors to the starting point for a float trip powered by the pace of the current. Eco-minded guests appreciate the catch and release program. Depending on the time of the year, drifting with the stream will provide catches of rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, musky, and other native fish. Hunters greet the challenge of pursuing whitetailed deer — for many, the quintessential Appalachian hunting experience. Potts Creek Outfitters focuses on guiding participants through every step of the hunting or fishing encounter, including packaging the prize up to take home. “Guests always leave rewarded,” Walsh says. Area visitors and lodging guests dine at the Swinging Bridge Restaurant, rear addition to the Paint Bank General Store. The dining area incorporates indoor trees and a secondstory rope bridge intersected by a narrow brook. Nancy Mulheren explained that the life-like trees were constructed from foam, like many Disney imitations. “John wanted a creek for indoor fishing,” she wryly observes, “but it turned into more of a stream with taxidermized animal displays.” 42 DeSoto

A personal experience I stayed in the 5-star glamping creekside tent with its ultra-comfy king-size bed and top-of-the-line bathroom featuring a separate toilet and shower enclosure. Glamping here means a flat-screen TV, artwork on the walls, reading material, and a chandelier, making the oversized shelter feel like a posh apartment. Best of all, a breakfast basket of goodies and thermos of coffee came to my door the next morning. I loved the luxurious tent but would have been equally impressed by a night in the authentic caboose or one of four cozily decorated rooms in the 1909 Depot Lodge. The renovated Section Foreman’s Cottage provides an excellent alternative for visiting families, offering two bedrooms and a full kitchen. A picturesque fishing log cabin tucked at the edge of a four-mile private trout stream sleeps six. The interior is nothing short of grand. An authentically refurbished 1967 Airstream “Land Yacht” Overlander Trail offers still another bedding option. Wherever you stay, expect antiques, period photos, and modern accent pieces like those seen on interior design magazine pages. Meandering Paint Bank’s grounds will eventually bring you to the renovated Tingler’s Mill. Swings and benches beg you to sit a spell by the river. Expanses of grass lure picnickers and kids needing to run, and rocking chair devotees just looking to pass the time. Weekends often bring craft demonstrations and live music. A fascinating state-run fish hatchery operates nearby. Paint Bank beckons as a wonderfully quirky getaway that should please a wide variety of discerning travelers from romantic couples to motorcycle and biking groups, hunting and fishing diehards, family reunions, or singles. Best of all, you’ll find it very affordable.

Debi Lander is a freelance travel writer and photographer. She stumbled onto Paint Bank while attending a Roanoke College reunion. She hopes to return for a getaway in the fishing cabin and begin to learn fly fishing.

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on the road again | LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, TENN.

, n i a t n u o Lookout M essee n n e T

8 am – Greet the morning with pecan pancakes, breakfast wraps or Southern Eggs Benedict from City Café in downtown Chattanooga. Folks here serve up hardy breakfasts that will fuel you for a full day on the mountain. If you’re feeling adventurous, add a slice of their enormous, delicious cakes. We won’t judge. 9:30 am – Climb aboard the Incline Railway for the mile-long trip up Lookout Mountain in a funicular railway system that’s more than 125 years old. Trips begin in the historic St. Elmo neighborhood at the foot of the mountain. Once on top of Lookout, nearby attractions are not within walking distance. 10:30 am – See Rock City! That was the marketing brand of this massive attraction, its slogan painted on barns throughout the South. Rock City is a land of gardens with 400 native plant species, rock formations, waterfalls, and a spectacular view on Lover’s Leap where seven states can be seen. For kids, there’s the Fairyland Caverns with its glowing rocks and gnomes and Mother Goose Village. Noon – There are numerous dining options in Rock City but Café 7 at Lover’s Leap offers the best view. Enjoy fall weather and Southern dishes such as fried chicken and waffles or brisket tacos. 1 pm – If the October sun remains warm, take a trip underground to cool off at Ruby Falls, the country’s tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public. Visitors descend to the cave in an elevator, then make their way past stalactites and stalagmites until they reach the spectacular waterfall. Once back outside, be sure to catch mountain views from the Cavern Castle front porch and on the Village Plaza. 2:30 pm – Lookout Mountain contains numerous hikes and some local favorites include the Cravens House Trail that extends from the historic Craven’s House up to Sunset Rock and Point Park. Another great hike is the Skyuka Trail, which begins at the Chattanooga Nature Center and Arboretum and leads up to Sunset Rock. 3:30 pm – After all that exertion, it’s time for ice cream. Nothing says Chattanooga more than Clumpies, and one location exists at the bottom of the Incline Railway. Clumpies offers a huge array of seasonal flavors, not to mention locally procured ingredients. 4:30 pm – Check into the circa-1927 Chanticleer Inn B&B, located 1800 feet above sea level on the mountaintop. The historic inn offers 20 guest rooms over two acres along with a swimming pool and Bocce court. 6 pm — Finish off the day at Canyon Grill, an award-winning restaurant on the Georgia side in Rising Fawn. Try the legendary “Slash N Burn Catfish” or steaks cooked over a hickory wood fire and you’ll see why the restaurant has been listed as one of the top 10 Best Restaurants in Georgia. 8 pm – End the day with good company around the fire pit at Chanticleer and take in the lights of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River below. 44 DeSoto

To plan your visit:

Upcoming Events:

Enchanted Garden of Lights Rock City is known for its elaborate seasonal events but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the popular attraction to limit visitors and enact safety requirements. Its holiday Enchanted Garden of Lights will happen nightly beginning Nov. 20 and run through the first weekend in January.

Ruby Falls Lantern Tour On Friday nights through November, guides take visitors through Ruby Falls with the cavern trail illuminated by hand-held lanterns. The nighttime tours are for ages 5 and up; masks are required.

Civil War History History buffs will enjoy the Battles of Chattanooga site with its information on regional Civil War skirmishes. Check out the museum’s digital displays that detail how important Chattanooga was to Union forces, including the famous Battle Above the Clouds in November 1863.

Take a Leap For the adventurous, Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding trains visitors — even those with no experience — to fly tandem 3,000 feet over the mountain. The flight school will send you on your own, as well. DeSoto Co-editor Cheré Coen will visit any Southern mountain, anywhere, anytime.

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greater goods | PUMPKIN PATCH

Pumpkin Patch














1. T-shirt, The Speckled Egg, 5100 Interstate 55, Marion, AR 2. Wooden Jack-O’-Lanterns, Other Side Gifts, 122 Norfleet Dr, Senatobia, MS 3. Home accessories, House to Home, 8961 US-51, Southaven, MS 4. Mini velvet pumpkins, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 5. Small decorative pumkins, Bon Von, 230 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 6. T-towels, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 7. Halloween ghouls, Bon Von, 230 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 8. Wooden block art, Ultimate Gifts, 2902 May Blvd. Suite 102, Southaven, MS 9. Etta B pie plate, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 10. Metal pumkin decor, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 11. Door hangers, Southern Roots Garden Center, 2971 Holly Springs Rd, Hernando, MS 12. Halloween T-towels, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 13. Door hanger, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 14. Door hanger, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS


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Ghost River canoe

Outdoor Magic in Memphis By Tom Adkinson Photography courtesy of Dale Sanders, Allen Sparks, Dawn Sparks, Tennessee State Parks, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Shelby Farms Park Conservancy/Rebecca Dailey


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Activities abound around Memphis to cure coronavirus claustrophobia with a dose of autumn sunshine. DeSoto 49

Barred Owl

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For months now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a sense of being cooped up has likely been growing inside many Southerners. It’s understandable to feel inhibited about getting out and venturing into crowded places. Staying indoors through summer’s heat has only added to the bad vibes. However, autumn is here, and it is time to release the pressure valve. “I don’t believe that all that many people realize how many places there are in the immediate Memphis area to get outdoors and to explore, experience and enjoy nature,” says Larry Rea, for decades the outdoor editor of The Commercial Appeal and now host of the “Outdoors with Larry Rea” radio show on ESPN 790AM in Memphis and other West Tennessee stations. Two state parks, one of the largest municipal parks in America, two stateowned family fishing lakes, and a popular stretch of the Wolf River account for more than 20,000 acres where you can hike, bike, fish, paddle, hunt for wildflowers, or scout for birds ranging from American bald eagles to black-bellied whistling ducks. These and other activities are possible while staying appropriately socially distanced. (A social distance hint: The recommended six-foot separation is the wingspan of a bald eagle, such as the ones you might see at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park or T.O. Fuller State Park, or the length of a large rat snake, which you probably hope not to see anywhere, although they are quite harmless unless you are a small rodent.) Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is an accessible dive-into-nature destination less than 15 miles from the Peabody Hotel. It is a 12,539-acre expanse of hardwood bottomland bordering the Mississippi River that contains multiple state and national champion trees (meaning they are exceptional examples of their species due to great size, age, or rarity). It has 20 miles of hiking trails, including the 8-mile Chickasaw Bluff Trail that overlooks Poplar Tree Lake. Birdwatching, an activity that doesn’t require a crowd, is big at MeemanShelby because birders have tallied 200 species of songbirds, waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors there. T.O. Fuller State Park, built in the Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps as the first state park DeSoto 51

Red-headed Woodpecker at Herb Parsons Lake

Kayak sunset

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Bicyclist at Shelby Farms

east of the Mississippi River for AfricanAmericans, is another place birders flock. Its wetlands attract migrating shorebirds, and its Discovery Trail (one of three) leads to the archaeological education you can get at the pre-Columbian C.H. Nash Museum of the Prehistoric Chucalissa. Paddlers and anglers like Meeman-Shelby for its kayak, jon boat, and paddleboat rentals, and among its naturalist-led activities are deep swamp canoe floats into the cypress wetlands that look eerie and beautiful at the same time. Disc golf is another major draw because of a wooded 36-hole course that is among the largest in the Southeast. Interest in fishing has blossomed since the pandemic ar rived, and opportunities to cast a line abound in and around Memphis. Tennessee has more than 325 species of fish, and some of the more popular ones make it to the dinner table. “As soon as lockdowns began, (fishing) license sales really took off. Other places may be closed, but the water is open, and the outdoors are open,” says Jenifer Wisniewski, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s chief of outreach and communication, reporting that by late July, sales were 16 percent more than 2019. TWRA makes it easy to put a fishing license to use at two specially maintained lakes in the Memphis area, part of a statewide network for family fishing lakes. One is 177-acre Herb Parsons Lake near Collierville, and the other is 310-acre Glenn Springs Lake 12 miles northeast of Millington. Both are open all year for fishing off the bank or from your own watercraft (canoe, kayak, or other boat with no more than a trolling motor), and both have seasonal stores for rental boats, bait, snacks, and beverages. Herb Parsons Lake has the bonus of multiple hiking and biking trails, including a 9.7-mile bike trail. Anglers depart from both lakes with bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, and good memories. Opportunities for fishing and boating are plentiful at Shelby Farms Park, but its 20 lakes and ponds are only the start of a long, long list of activities. The first is passive — observing the park’s approximately 20 free-roaming buffalo and understanding quickly why singer Roger Miller was right that “you can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd.” “Shelby Farms Park is a real DeSoto 53

Shelby Farms Park

community asset,” says Rebecca Dailey, communications specialist for the 4,500-acre park, which long ago was a county prison farm and in 2007 became a park run by the nonprofit Shelby Farms Park Conservancy. Dailey is quick to tell you that Shelby Farms Park is one of the largest urban parks in America and is five times larger than the admittedly more famous Central Park in New York City. You can visit sunrise to sunset every day of the year. The 10.65-mile Shelby Farms Greenline is perhaps the best-known park asset for some socially distanced activities. This rails-to-trails project is a paved route for walking or bicycling that stretches from the heart of Memphis to Cordova. If you want more distance, the park has 40 miles of trails altogether. You can get a different perspective on horseback (there’s a rental stable in the park) or high in the trees for the ropes courses, canopy tours, and ziplines of a concessionaire called Go Ape. More perspectives are available in the Outback (100 acres set aside for off-leash dog activity and horseback riding if you bring your own horse) and on an 18-hole disc golf course. Throughout the Memphis area, kayaks and canoes are the ultimate conveyances for socially distanced activity, and their popularity has mushroomed this year. “It’s insane how many kayaks we’ve sold this year,” says David Best, operations manager at S.Y. Wilson and Co. in Arlington. Best says most are rigged for anglers because so much water is accessible and because Memphis has assets 54 DeSoto

Red-shouldered Hawk

such as the two TWRA lakes and the lakes in Shelby Farms Park and Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park. For downriver floats, Best says many paddlers venture two hours east to the Buffalo River or they become fans of the hometown Wolf River, particularly a stretch called the Ghost River, so named because the current can almost disappear into the wooded bottomland, creating a mysterious and perhaps ghostly atmosphere. The Ghost River float covers 8.5 river miles from LaGrange to the Bateman Bridge in Moscow and takes three-to-five hours for an experienced paddler, says Mark Babb of Ghost River Rentals. The next stretch is called the Lost Swamp and is about seven miles, and the river flows another 50 miles through Shelby County before reaching the Mississippi River. “October is a beautiful time to float on the Wolf River. The autumn color in the trees can be spectacular,” Babb says. Even if paddling a kayak, casting a lure, hiking a trail, or running around a disc golf course are beyond your energy level, Memphis still holds invigorating outdoor options for you. Most accessible of all are a riverside walk in Tom Lee Park or the jaunt over the Mississippi to Arkansas on Big River Crossing. It’s fun to brag that you took a two-state hike, even if it was just a stroll across a railroad bridge that now has a dedicated path for walkers.

Tom Adkinson, who enjoys canoeing, hiking, and fishing and is trying to identify a few more bird species, lives in Nashville. He is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and the Southeast Outdoor Press Association. His “100 Things to Do in Nashville Before You Die” book suggests numerous outdoor activities in Music City. Buffalo at Shelby Farms Park

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Sky Lake is home to trees that surpass 1,000 years in age, some nearly 2,000 years.


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Walk with the Dinosaurs at Sky Lake By Verna Gates Photography courtesy of Jim Steeby and

A wildlife management area near Belzoni is home to some of the oldest trees on earth.

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The biggest tree in Sky Lake spans 15 feet and is large enough for photographer Jim Steeby to stand inside.

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It looks like any other path into the woods, until the trees envelop visitors into their ancient world. Giant sentinels have presided over this land for more than a century, some closer to two centuries, witnessing Native Americans at work, watching settlers arrive with saws, trading the shade of fellow trees for sunburnt cotton rows. Traders and hunters, have passed beneath these branches, taking nourishment, fuel, and rest. Then, all went silent, until a group gathered to save the aged remnants of a wild America. Sky Lake Wildlife Management Area, near Belzoni, Miss., is home to some of the largest and oldest living trees on earth. This 4,273-acre tract contains the largest old-growth cypress forest in the world. “There are so few places like this left, maybe three or four in the whole country,” says Brian Bellinger, director of the Mississippi Land Trust, one of the groups that saved the swampy forest. “It is so important to preserve it.”

An ancient history The bald cypress trees and horsetail grass have grown at Sky Lake for so long they have left records of their existence in the fossil record. Both species were likely munched on by dinosaurs in the primeval forest. Cores have been taken from cypress trees to evaluate the droughts and other historic weather events. More than 7,700 years ago, the mighty Mississippi River meandered through the flood plain of the loam where the Sky Lake bald cypress trees grow. The river used the area as a distributary up until 1,700 years ago – about the time the trees grew past sapling-hood. Native Americans moved nearby about 4,000 years ago and left evidence of their community, called Jaketown. While the Native Americans might have hollowed out a tree or two for river transportation, the settlers were harder on the ecosystem. They cut trees for wood homes, and some just burned the woods to clear the fields. A few scars from commercial logging remain at Sky Lake, with one ghostly stump reminding us of the men and blades that came before. The bold men who tackled a 30-foot circumference tree used boats and jump boards, literally attaching themselves to the stumps, and sawing by hand. DeSoto 59

This close up of the biggest tree in high water shows how the center of the tree is hollow, but it still thrives, after nearly 2,000 years.

The occasional snow wraps Sky Lake into a white wonderland of snow-topped trees.

“They were tougher people than I am,” says Bellinger. The logging would be tempting to builders. The largest tree, with a 46-foot, 9-inch circumference and a 15-foot diameter, rising to 70 feet, could provide sufficient lumber to build six regular-sized houses. Fortunately, the remote location of Sky Lake daunted many prospective loggers, resulting in the preservation of the remaining old growth trees. Bellinger described introducing the site to potential boardwalk builders. “They were all excited,” he says. “But when I walked them up to the site and pointed it out, by the time I turned around, half of them were gone.” A local contractor built the 1,735-foot boardwalk and the comfort station. Even with local knowledge, a bulldozer and caterpillar tractor sank into the muddy swamp and had to be rescued by heavy hardware. While tricky to complete, the resulting boardwalk is spectacular, stretching through the swamp and taking visitors 12 feet above the swamp floor. It ends at the giant 15-foot-wide tree, and provides a seat to contemplate the majesty of nature. If the swamp is dry enough, visitors can move closer to the tree, its hollow center deep enough to stand in the middle and look

up into the sky. Even with a missing heart, the tree has plenty of green leaves and new branches. “It is pretty healthy for something that might be 2,000-years-old,” says Jason May, special projects manager for the Mississippi Land Trust. The bald cypress gets its name from its winter leaf shedding. It holds membership in the long-lived and massive sequoia trees of the West Coast. It can live in the extreme water-today-dry-tomorrow of swamps, and also on dryer land. The other dominate tree on the site is the water tupelo. Cypresstupelo swamps are considered one of the most biologically diverse and productive ecosystems in the world. Together, they produce more plant biomass per acre than just about any other forest, all due to the water flushing in fresh nutrients, according to Wildlife Mississippi. Only the Amazon jungles can compete with the Southern swamp for the wide variety of life. May can reel off dozens of avian species who make Sky Lake home during their life cycles: wood ducks, songbirds, migratory birds, wading birds, the rare least tern, and the flutelike singer, the prothonotary warbler. In spring, Sky Lake teems with tadpoles, followed by frogs. Turtles and snakes can be found here and May is certain that there is “a gator somewhere.” In

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the dark waters, buffalo carp and gar swim and spawn. The cypress swamp served the old Mississippi River as a flood plain and flood control because a tree that has reached a foot in diameter can suck up 26 gallons of water per day. A forest of giant cypress trees can quickly lower the water table, alleviating high water damage. The Army Corps of Engineers have planted bottomland hardwoods around the site to recreate the original forest. These hardwoods will prevent contamination and keep sediment from filling in the swamp and lake, preserving it naturally for the long term. The preservation of the site began with owners Mark and Peggy Simmons, who donated the land for posterity and worked with partners the Mississippi Land Trust, Wildlife Mississippi, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Board. Today, Sky Lake is free and open to the public. Visitors can walk the boardwalk or kayak and canoe through the swamp. Intriguing in any season, the site is particularly interesting during the spring migrations, when the tadpoles swim, the frogs croak to their mates in the night air, and the trills of the prothonotary warbler pierce the air, joined by the harmony of songbirds celebrating the branches that have received their kind for hundreds of years.

Entering the boardwalk at Sky Lake is like walking into a primeval forest.

Verna Gates is a freelance writer and the author of “100 Things to Do in Birmingham Before You Die.”

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sspp i r it i teedd vvii cc k s b uu rrgg Story and photography by CherĂŠ Coen


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Vicksburg’s long Civil War siege and battle may have created the most haunted place in Mississippi.

The Duff Green Mansion Bed & Breakfast in Vicksburg is said to be haunted by Confederates and a young girl named Annie.

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The Duff Green Mansion Bed & Breakfast.

Several Confederate soldiers are buried in the back of the McRaven house and a grave marker was placed to honor their memory.

Vicksburg’s McRaven is known as the most haunted house in Mississippi.

It’s a long walk from the parking lot to the front door of Vicksburg’s McRaven House, a stroll along a dim brick path through thick trees and vegetation — even on the sunniest day. The two-story Victorian facade, when it comes into view, appears solemn and forlorn, its porches empty, dark with shadows. The home, built in sections with the original house dating back to 1797, has been labeled Mississippi’s “Most Haunted House.” Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, the site is sure to give the most hard-hearted the heebie-jeebies. The owners of McRaven offer two tours of the unique house, located at a dead-end street and alongside a working train track. For those who love history, daytime tours explain how McRaven contains three sections constructed at different times, resulting in the home’s other nickname of “Time Capsule of the South.” For those who prefer the paranormal, ghost tours are conducted nightly and on weekends (but check website or call for updates during the pandemic). We visited on a Sunday afternoon so our only choice was the history tour, but what we received veered eerily into the other realm. The sign on the front door requested visitors to start the tour on the back porch. When we knocked on the back door, our guide arrived flustered. “Was that you on the back staircase?” she asked. “I heard footsteps inside.” We replied that we had been outside the house the whole time. Besides, the back door was locked so it was impossible for us to enter the house. 64 DeSoto

Nikki Ciciora introduced herself and invited us into McRaven, but she was clearly startled by the experience. She explained that she was no stranger to the house’s paranormal phenomenon, had performed experiments with instruments purported to catch paranormal activity, but the footsteps had been so clear, it gave her a real fright. She shook it off and began her history tour, starting with the front parlor and explaining the residents who resided in the house over more than two centuries. Andrew Glass built a rustic two-story building in 1797 that remains in the back of the house, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A rogue and criminal, the only way to the second floor at the time was by a rope Grass threw down to those he allowed inside. Sheriff Stephen Howard added the Empire style addition in 1836, now the middle section of the mansion. John H. Bobb finalized the house in an elaborate Greek Revival style in 1849, including the lovely façade at the home’s entrance. Bobb was murdered by Union soldiers who took over the property during the Civil War, and William Murray purchased the home from Bobb’s widow in 1882. Two of Murray’s daughters never married and lived there until their deaths in the mid-20th century. Besides McRaven’s history — and there’s lots to be had at this remarkable house — are the stories of those who have passed but refused to leave. There’s Glass, who was known to rob travelers along the Natchez Trace and who was shot and murdered. Murray prefers the front of the house and was thought to have violently pushed Leyland French, one of

the modern owners, to the floor, breaking his glasses and causing stitches to his face, according to author Alan Brown, author of “Haunted Vicksburg.” “French recognized the man as William Murray from photographs he had seen of the man,” Brown writes. The sad imprint of Mary Elizabeth Howard, the wife of Sheriff Howard, remains in the bedroom where she died not long after giving birth to a daughter, Caren. The sheriff and his daughter left for Yazoo City after his beloved wife died, but many believe she remains in the room where she took her last breath. On the day of our visit, we photographed a bright blue orb lingering over the bed and, without anyone moving in the room to cause vibrations on the floor, the armoire door opened and closed. Twice. Ciciora wasn’t surprised. “She’s one of the most active spirits in the house,” she told us. “She loves children and she moves things.”

Spirited Town

It’s apropos that McRaven would be designated Mississippi’s most haunted. The title could well be bestowed upon the town of Vicksburg, the site of one of the most horrific sieges of the Civil War. It was here that Gen. Ulysses S. Grant bombarded the town, hoping to take the Mississippi River into Union hands. As his forces bombed the city, residents hunkered down, many in caves built into the bluffs along the river, and many living on harsh rations and contaminated water. At the Duff Green Mansion Bed & Breakfast, owner Harley Caldwell explains to visitors how merchant Duff Green saved his three-story mansion from Union fire by offering it up as a war hospital. The grand home once used to entertain guests such as Confederate President Jefferson Davis treated both injured Union and Southern soldiers and commanded an entire city block. Neighboring homes were utilized as well, and thus preserved from being destroyed during the siege. “Duff Green saved this neighborhood,” Caldwell says. Blood stains from the Civil War injured can still be spotted on the floors, and human limb bones were found outside a window of a room used for amputations. Since Duff Green tops a bluff, a cave was carved inside the hill to house the family during the 1863 siege. Mary Lake Green DeSoto 65

A young girl named Annie is said to haunt the stairs at the Duff Green Mansion Bed & Breakfast. Notice the blue orbs at the top of the stairs.

gave birth to a child while hiding in that cave. Caldwell would rather discuss the house’s history than its apparitions, but she admits that visitors have seen a one-legged Confederate and a small child they believe to be Annie, the Duff’s daughter who died in the house. Young Annie scraped her scalp with a stickpin and the wound became infected. “She died 10 days later of blood poisoning,” Caldwell explains. Most people find Annie playing on the back staircase.

Other Spirited Sites

Websites and books will list several inns that contain residents who refuse to check out. The 1868 Annabelle Bed and Breakfast is known to include another onelegged Confederate, and visitors to Cedar Grove have reported footsteps, the smell of tobacco once loved by the original owner John Alexander Klein, and the sound of babies crying, as well as the apparition of former owners and soldiers. A young girl named Maggie occasionally appears in the courtyard of the McNutt House. When Grant approached Vicksburg 66 DeSoto

Mary Elizabeth Howard died in childbirth in this bed at McRaven and is said to haunt the room. Notice the blue orb lingering over the pillow.

by the river, Southern troops rallied on the bluffs above. Davis had insisted that Vicksburg was “the nailhead that holds the South’s two halves together” while Pres. Abraham Lincoln saw the city as the “key” to victory. Battles raged between the two for 47 days with thousands killed in the process. Today, the Vicksburg National Military Park stretches for miles above the river with more than 1400 monuments and memorials to the fallen on both sides. Naturally, stories abound, most reporting haunting sounds of men fighting and screaming, and the smell of rifle and cannon fire. Some visitors have talked of strange fogs over battle sites and the eyes of statues blinking. Are the apparitions haunting Vicksburg real? Or are they energy imprints left behind from a dark and violent history? You be the judge. DeSoto Co-editor Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and the Viola Valentine paranormal mystery series. She adores a good ghost story.

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The Pecan House carries many items besides pecans. Home décor items and jewelry have been added over the years.

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Phyllis Shoemake and her granddaughter Chelsey Caudill are continuing the family legacy.

Pecan pies are a favorite any time of year.

A Sweet Family Legacy By Jackie Sheckler Finch | Photography courtesy of The Pecan House

McHenry’s Pecan House began in McHenry, Miss., with three family recipes and now has a Gulfport location. An avid candy maker and cook, Barbara Overstreet decided to take the challenge when her husband told her that “You can’t make a living selling candy.” That was back in 1984. Today, Overstreet’s Pecan House candy shop in McHenry, Miss., is still going strong. Now owned by Overstreet’s daughter and son-in-law, Phyllis and Billy Shoemake, the inventory has since grown to include far more than Overstreet’s original three handmade pecan candies. “We still use Mom’s original recipes and we still make the candy by hand,” Phyllis Shoemake says. “When I took over the store in 2000, Mom was still alive and involved with the business. She taught me and Billy to cook everything using her recipes. I still use the same method of test until it’s right.” With the family’s long history in the pecan industry, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched that her mother would create delicious pecan recipes, Shoemake says. “Our family has always been in the pecan business. My grandfather, along with my dad, uncle, and later my brother, started a pecan ‘shed’ buying pecans from others, loading 18-wheel trailers, and selling to large companies.” However, the pecan crop can be very unpredictable. “To stabilize the family income, Mom came up with the idea of The Pecan House,” Shoemake adds.

The building that houses The Pecan House has great family history behind it as well. “The store was built by relatives using unclaimed wood from the Brown Miller Pickle factory,” Shoemake says. “When the factory closed, the family secured the old pickle vats, flooring, and more from the factory.” Although her mother, father, brother, and uncle are now gone, the store they built survives. “Most of the store is original,” Shoemake says. “The inside walls had to be removed due to damage from Hurricane Katrina, but the rest is original.” The family legacy also is continuing with the fourth generation of Overstreet’s descendants working in The Pecan House. The founder’s great-granddaughter Chelsey Caudill now makes those hand-dipped pecans using the same recipe and with the same care as Barbara Overstreet did. So successful has the business been that the family opened another Pecan House in 2015 in Gulfport. “We have a lot of customers in that area (coastal Mississippi) and we wanted to be a little more convenient for them,” Shoemake explains. The Pecan House prides itself on using as many Mississippi pecans as possible just as the company founder did but, when there is a shortage of Mississippi pecans, nuts from DeSoto 69

other regions are used. “The Mississippi crop has not been good for several years,” Shoemake says. “We have a broker that buys for us and sometimes he has to buy from other regions.” Over the years, The Pecan House has added other delicacies and fun items. Today, in addition to pecans, shoppers will find fudge, pralines, cakes, and pies, along with sugar-free delicacies. “Our sugar-free products are some of the best tasting,” Shoemake says. “The sugar-free products are more popular in the Gulfport location. So many people are diabetic. That is the reason for starting the line. We continually work on increasing the variety of products we offer. We now offer sugar-free pecan pie.” Beautiful home décor pieces also have been added, many with a beach or farmhouse theme. Gift items, china, and lovely jewelry pieces also are stocked in the store. The Pecan House sells online and ships anywhere, especially during the holidays to military personnel around the world who may be experiencing a bit of homesickness. “The farthest away we have shipped is probably to Singapore,” Shoemake says. Shoemake lives about five minutes from the McHenry store and says she still enjoys making and eating the special recipes her mother created. “Mom came up with all the recipes and we still use her original recipes. She was a wonderful cook and had in mind what she wanted to start with.” At the time the store began, Shoemake lived in Tennessee and said her mother would use her as a test sampler. “She sent several varieties of fruit cake for me to try,” Shoemake says. “She tested the recipes until she felt they were just right.” Even today, Shoemake says she loves to savor Pecan House specialties and recall the care her mother put into every creation. “I still eat our pecans and other stuff. I’ve been here 20 years and I’m still not tired of our products,” she says. “I am truly blessed by what my mother started.”

An award-winning journalist, Jackie Sheckler Finch loves to take to the road to see what lies beyond the next bend.

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southern gentleman | SURVIVAL SKILLS

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Building a survival shelter

Outdoor Survival Skills 101 By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy of and

Going camping? You may want to study a few survival tip videos or at least make sure your cell phone is fully charged. Let’s say you’re camping with friends and on a hike one morning. You step off the path just out of sight to answer a call from nature, and when you step back on the path, everyone is gone. The trail is empty. The woods are a riot of insects and birdcalls, but you can’t hear your friends. You’re camping and hiking in a new place and it’s beautiful, but unfamiliar, and the more you look at the trail, the more you realize you’re not exactly sure if camp is this way or if it’s that way. You call out but the sound of the cicadas is too much for your voice to overpower, and you realize all at once that you’re lost. Growing up in West Virginia and working my way through the ranks of the Boy Scouts of America in Troop 23

(earning the rank of Eagle Scout in 1995), I was constantly reminded, warned, and told, “Don’t get lost.” No one plans to get lost, and, fortunately, I never have… well, I’ve never been lost for more than a few minutes before I recovered my bearings and made my way home. But that’s not the case for everyone. My dad got lost on a hunting trip when he stalked a deer over a ridgeline around the same time the weather turned. Fog socked in the whole valley and he found himself in a strange place with no landmarks and visibility limited to about 100 feet. He was gone for a good part of the day, but we found him tired and hungry beside a logging road after he’d descended the wrong side of the mountain and DeSoto 73

Building a fire

followed the wrong stream the right direction and encountered the road. A little bad luck and a couple of bad decisions got him lost, and a bit of good luck and a wise choice got him found. Dad was no Eagle Scout; he was just a man who loved the woods, enjoyed hunting, and found himself as an ad hoc assistant scoutmaster supervising skills competitions and helping with merit badge classes. Most of his survival knowledge came from sitting on the couch with me watching “First Blood” and “Red Dawn.” If we needed to elude Brian Dennehy or if the Soviets dropped paratroopers onto the ball field outside the high school, we were set. But lost in the woods? Not so much. Getting lost is act one of a longer play of wilderness survival, but, thankfully, most situations never take a dire turn like those in movies, such as “127 Hours” where Aron Ralston self-amputated his arm in order to be rescued or like “Hatchet” based on Gary Paulsen’s experience of spending 54 days in the Canadian wilderness with little more than a hatchet. But people do get lost in the woods. What if it’s you? The answer is simple: STOP. That’s the acronym for Sit down. Think about the situation. Observe your surroundings. Plan your next step. If you’re hiking with friends, someone will come back down the trail looking for you when they realize you’re not with the group. If you’re alone, the STOP principles are the key for keeping things manageable. You’ll have some decisions to make right away. How far is camp? When is it dark? What are your supplies like? Do you have water, shelter, light? Will you need them? Are you dressed for the weather? What if it turns rainy or cold or blazingly sunny? Questions like these will guide your next steps, which are essentially try to find camp or get ready to spend the night where you are. If you opt for camp, move slowly and cautiously. Mark where you began; as you move out, leave obvious trail signs like broken branches, rock stacks, even marks scuffed into rock faces or deeper into the dirt; conserve your energy and your water. If you stay, you might need to start a fire. Easy when you have a lighter or matches, but tough when you’re making a bow drill out of branches and bootlace 74 DeSoto

(it’s tough, but doable with practice). It’s even tougher if you’re trying to get a spark by banging two random rocks together. To do that, you will need flint and steel – something you should keep with your first aid kit and water purification tablets in any pack you wear on the trail. You may need shelter, which can be as simple as a snake-free rock overhang or more complex like a lean-to built from pine boughs, which should be enough to keep you dry, warm, and safe in for the night. In Scouts, we earn wilderness survival, emergency preparedness, and first aid merit badges, but as adults it’s much harder to pick up these skills. But that’s what YouTube is for and there are loads of fire starting, shelter building, survive-in-thewoods-for-a-night videos online. You just have to remember to watch them — and practice — before you need them. If your cell phone has a signal, you can, of course, just call someone and tell them, “I’m lost, come get me.”

Jason Frye is an Eagle Scout, editor, and food and travel writer living on the coast of North Carolina. His latest book, a guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is available now. Follow him on Instagram where he’s @beardedwriter.

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southern harmony | LISA MILLS

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Musical Love Triangle By Kevin Wierzbicki Photography courtesy of Fred Mollin (CD cover), Gianfranco Manai (with microphone), Todd V. Wolfson (Smile headshot), Courtesy of Lisa Mills (with guitar)

Singer Lisa Mills reimagines the sounds of the South in her new album “The Triangle.” It’s not something you’re likely to think about when you’re bopping along to a favorite song, but chances are that what you’re listening to has its roots in the South. ​ Country, rock, blues, jazz, soul, and gospel are just some of the genres that were born in the South, a fact that is especially celebrated within the Americana Music Triangle, the geographic area bounded by Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans. For her new album “The Triangle,” singer Lisa Mills shortened up the Americana Music Triangle a bit to honor the music of Memphis, Muscle Shoals, Ala., and Jackson, Miss. Mills was born in Hattiesburg, Miss., and is currently a resident of Mobile, Ala., where she relocated after Hurricane Katrina. A lifetime fan of Southern music, Mills got the idea to re-cut seminal songs in the places of their birth from her producer Fred Mollin. ​ “My previous album, ‘Mama’s Juke Book,’ was a

tribute to my late mother Jan Powell,” Mills says. “Fred thought the next album should be even more of a concept album. I was touring in Europe right up until a few days before we went on this musical road trip, which meant my voice was well warmedup. At Fred’s suggestion I had been listening to only the tracks we were to record for weeks up until we started.” With a soulful voice that falls somewhere between Dusty Springfield and Mavis Staples, with hints of Janis Joplin rasp thrown in for good measure, Mills put her own spin on every song on “The Triangle,” even though certain songs brought her a bit of trepidation. ​ “I was hesitant to cover ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ because Etta James owned that song, and so many others have recorded it,” Mills says. “What helped me make it my own was hearing the original male version that Etta listened to, and Fred putting that modulation in the arrangement.” DeSoto 77

“I’d Rather Go Blind” was one of the songs Mills recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals as was another of the album’s standouts, a take on the Little Richard chestnut “Greenwood, Mississippi.” The recording was completed before Little Richard’s recent passing, but as far as Mills knows the legendary rock shouter never heard her version. “That would have been wonderful but I haven’t heard of it happening,” Mills says. She did make a sort-of connection with Little Richard as Clayton Ivey, the song’s original keyboard player, also played on Mills’s version. ​“There was incredible energy in the studio with Clayton Ivey and the entire band,” Mills says. “I didn’t realize until we met that Clayton had recorded ‘Greenwood, Mississippi’ with Little Richard. I didn’t have much time to get nervous as we were doing several songs in that session, and I believe the energy I got from listening to Little Richard’s recording of this song over and over carried through to the live session. This was literally a ‘one-take’ track on the album.” For her stop in Memphis​, Mills recorded both at Royal Studios and the vaunted Sun Studios where she cut “Just Walking in the Rain,” the album’s bonus track. ​ “The feeling of being in the same studio where Elvis got his start, hearing the slapback as we recorded ‘Just Walking in the Rain,’ seeing the photos on the wall of many of my musical heroes, and knowing that this was the spot where the Prisonaires laid down the original version of the song all gave me goosebumps,” Mills enthuses. “And at Royal Studios I got to use Al Green’s microphone!” ​Slapback is a kind of doubling echo with a relatively long delay between repetitions of the sound. “The Triangle” was completed with a session at the famed Malaco Studios in Jackson, where Mills revisited songs like the horn-enhanced R&B of “Someone Else is Steppin’ In,” the slow ballad “I’ll Always Love You,” the funky gospel of “Travel On” and Bobby “Blue” Bland’s song of heartbreak, “Members Only.” 78 DeSoto

​ While feeding her musical soul in Jackson, Mills also fueled up on some tasty local cuisine. “We had so many wonderful meals along the way, and I love The Mayflower in Jackson!” Mills also cites soul food restaurant The Four Way in Memphis as one of her favorite haunts during her time there. If Mills wants to continue releasing concept albums, she won’t have to look far for inspiration on the next one; she’s about to get married as soon as the pandemic will allow the event to take place. In the meantime, her love and dedication to the music of the South shines like a diamond on “The Triangle.”

“The feeling of being in the same studio where Elvis got his start, hearing the slapback as we recorded ‘Just Walking in the Rain,’ seeing the photos on the wall of many of my musical heroes, and knowing that this was the spot where the Prisonaires laid down the original version of the song all gave me goosebumps.” Kevin has explored many parts of the Americana Music Triangle, from the Mississippi Delta to New Orleans to Beale Street. His favorite remains Muscle Shoals, where if you’re lucky you can meet legendary figures like David Hood and Spooner Oldham.

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in good spirits | GHOSTLY SPIRITS

Room 311 Read House

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Ghostly Spirits By Verna Gates | Photography courtesy of the Read House

A 1920s vaudeville dancer who refuses to check out of The Read House in Chattanooga earns a cocktail named in her honor. Annalisa was a vaudeville dancer who was in Chattanooga to perform and to have a good time. Unfortunately, bad times resulted when a jealous lover found Annalisa in a bathtub, and allegedly, another man in the bed. She would never leave Room 311 again. Her spirit remains as a ghostly presence in the historic hotel’s only room to be decorated for someone who lives there, but yet, is not alive. The Read House in Chattanooga celebrates its famous ghost with spirits of a liquid kind in its Bar & Billiards Room and in its Bridgeman’s Chophouse Steakhouse. Annalisa lived and danced during the roaring ‘20s, the height of the cocktail era, so it’s only natural the hotel created one in her honor. The morning after her demise, Annalisa was found in the bathtub, her porcelain white skin covered in blood. The cocktail bearing her name is made from white Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka poured into a tall glass. A mixed berry puree is dripped in among the ice cubes, giving it the appearance of murder. “It looks like drops of blood, and it is very popular,” said Leo Zaldivar, Read House food and beverage director. By all accounts of Annalisa’s life and afterlife, she favored champagne so the hotel also serves up the Chattanooga 1872 — honoring the year The Read House was built. The cocktail includes a vodka called Desire, made by a Chattanooga couple who formed Lass & Lions distillery, and comes infused with Madagascar vanilla and hibiscus flowers that arouses sensual inspiration. The drink is finished with pomegranate liqueur and lemon wheels to represent blonde hair and blood, then topped off with Prosecco champagne for an Annalisa remembrance. Annalisa must share her ghostly fame with another inmate of Room 311, Al Capone. He was ensconced there during a trial with iron bars installed to keep him in and his enemies out. Capone favored whiskey so the hotel created the Twisted Chattanooga Old Fashioned with Chattanooga Whiskey 91 from the Chattanooga Whiskey Co., Angostura Bitters, fresh lemon, and Bordeaux cherries. It’s a killer drink. An engraved, vintage-style complimentary Room 311 key chain

is sometimes added in. To add even more gangster flavor, the drink is served in a crystal cocktail glass, black on the outside, gold on the inside. “Al Capone was rich, thus the gold,” said Zaldivar. The best time to enjoy The Read House spirits is during Flapper Hour, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Bubbles and Bourbons Thursday brings 311’s most famous spirits together: Annalisa’s fruit-of-the-vine champagne and Capone’s corn squeezin’s. Tini Tuesday celebrates the signature cocktail of the golden Gatsby days, the martini, where girls danced in shockingly short dresses, and crime bosses held the reins on the mixed drink’s most important ingredient: the liquor. As one would expect, the Bar & Billiards Room offers an unusually large selection of sparkling wine and French champagne. If you get a chance to visit Room 311, be sure to pop a cork and pour an extra glass. Annalisa is sure to make her pleasure known, in the blink of a light, a shake of the pipes, or a knock on the wall. Ignore her at your own peril. Chattanooga 1872

1.5 ounces Lass & Lions Desire Vodka 1 ounce Pama Pomegranate Liqueur 1/4 ounce of lime juice Prosecco Lemon wheel for garnish Directions: Mix the first three ingredients and serve in a Great Gatsby cup topped by the prosecco. Garnish with a floating lemon wheel.

Verna Gates is a freelance writer from Birmingham, Ala.

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exploring events | OCTOBER Natchez Fall Pilgrimage Through October 23 Natchez, MS Natchez is home to more Antebellum homes than any other city of its size in the country. These incredible examples of architecture play a huge role in both the city’s character and charm. Explore some of the most well-known estates and learn about their history. For more information visit Grammy Museum Mississippi presents Stronger Together: The Power of Women in Country Music Through December 13 Grammy Museum Cleveland, MS Stronger Together: The Power of Women in Country Music will take visitors on a journey through the history of women in country music, from the early years and post-World War II, to the emergence of Nashville as a country music mecca. For more information visit or call 662-441-0100. Van Gogh, Monet, Degas & Their Times Through January 10, 2021 Mississippi Museum of Art Jackson, MS For more information visit or call 601-960-1515. Pilgrimage and Pioneer Day Festival October 2 - 3 Carrollton, MS Come and tour our beautifully preserved historic homes and churches. After your tour, come and join us on the courthouse square for food, music, educational and product tents. For more information visit or call 662-392-4810. Cedar Hill Farm presents Haunted Farm October 2 - 31 Cedar Hill Farm Hernando, MS The Mid-South’s Top Haunted Attraction: (5 Unique Attractions) The Haunted Hayride, Trail of Terror, Zombie Apocalypse, Sensturbia & Flashlight Corn Maize. For more information visit or call 662-429-2540.

Music & Movies at GPAC Germantown Performing Arts Center Germantown, TN October 7 - The Wizard of Oz October 14 - Loving Vincent Gates open at 5:00pm for live music by local musicians, food truck fare and drinks on the First Horizon Foundation Plaza. Movies start at 6:00pm on the Duncan Williams Asset Management Stage. For more information visit gpacweb. com or call 901-751-7500. House of Grace Golf Tournament October 8 Hernando Golf & Racquet Club Hernando, MS 11:00am - 4:00pm All proceeds go to House of Grace Domestic Violence Shelter. For more information: 901-574-8222 or 901-870-2332. 28th annual Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival Sponsored by Coahoma Community College October 15 - 17 MDTWF offers special online programming this year featuring opportunities for interactive workshops, scholarly presentations and talks, along with performances of Williams’ work. For events and registration email or visit Deep Blues Festival October 15 Clarksdale, MS The Deep Blues Festival is a 4 day event with nighttime music at the legendary Shack Up Inn and New Roxy along with free daytime busking stages throughout historic Clarksdale, Mississippi. Featuring heavy, alternative blues musicians, this is not your mama’s blues festival.For more information and Covid plans visit 35th Annual Natchez Balloon Festival October 16 - 18 Natchez, MS In consideration of the health and safety concerns of sponsors, pilots, volunteers, partners, festival attendees, and the community, the event will take place without the festival and music portion this year. However, hot air balloons will still be flying that weekend! For tickets and more information visit

High School Art Contest and Exhibit October 6 - 31 DeSoto Arts Council Hernando, MS Free Admission! Awards presented October 31 at 11:00am. For entry rules and other information visit or call 662-404-3361.

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reflections | THE STORM

The Storm By Barbara Weddle | Photography courtesy of

Not all camping trips are calm and uneventful, but sometimes the most terrifying ones can be the most memorable. On our second day out, we awoke to high winds, torrents of rain, muddy water spilling inside our tent, and my brother’s shouts. “Let’s start packing it in!” As my two young sons and I stumbled from our tent, my brother and his wife were already scrambling around in the pelting rain, pitching muddy gear and cooking utensils into the boat as large rolling waves pounded against the rocky shoreline. Although our boat was secured to a tree root, the waves caused it to rock wildly from side to side. Our campsite, canopied with hemlock and pine and an understory of rhododendron, was located on a small island on one of the numerous tertiary arms of Lake Cumberland in southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee. The day before, while the others took turns water skiing, I spent our first day out lying in the boat watching dragonflies come and go and rocking with the large wakes made by passing boats. I had only come along on the outing because, being a mother, the idea of my young sons out on a lake without me naturally raised concerns even though they were excellent swimmers. Ironically, I quickly developed a fondness for camping in spite of a bad case of arachnophobia and a fierce aversion to confined quarters (in this case a tent). I enjoyed the soft sound of a night wind. I enjoyed lying on a cot under the stars surrounded by nature, watching the beam of my flashlight bounce from tree to tree as I kept a careful vigil for snakes and spiders. I enjoyed the knowledge that we were the only people in a dark and wooded, wild place far from civilization. It was all so thrilling. 84 DeSoto

Until the storm. We were midway across the lake when the boat engine coughed once, sputtered, and died. Our speed as we plowed across the waves had provided a state of balance between the force of the waves and the moving boat. Now adrift, the boat rose and dipped dangerously with each swell as we cowered together in terror. “Out of gas!” my brother shouted above the storm as he lifted the auxiliary gas can from the stern of the boat. There was a note of alarm, even fear, in his voice. No one spoke. Our eyes were focused on him as though looking anywhere else would give credence to the fact that one of the large swells lashing the boat could capsize us. We listened above the raging storm for some assuring words from him. There were none. The boat continued to rise, shift dangerously on the crests of swells, and then slide deep into troughs between the waves. At last, the tank was fueled and we all breathed a sigh of relief when the boat was once again slapping across the lake. We’ve gone camping at Lake Cumberland many times since that nearly fateful summer. And I still harbor the crazy notion that my sons will not survive Lake Cumberland unless I’m with them. Barbara Weddle is a freelance writer who loves road-tripping throughout the South. Her latest back-page essay, “Southern Bookstores,” was recently published in Smoky Mountain Living.

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