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February CONTENTS 2020 • VOLUME 17 • NO.2

features

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Run, Memphis, Run: The Newest Marathon City

A President’s Day Salute: Presidential Museums

Gulfport’s Centennial Plaza Combines Luxury and History

departments 16 Living Well Lucky Luna Crystals

42 On the Road Again Huntsville, Alabama

20 Notables Daniel Lee, M.D.

44 Greater Goods 68 Homegrown Jennifer Thames Originals

24 Exploring Art Randy Hayes

72 Southern Gentleman Turkey Calls

28 Exploring Books Mississippi Juke Joint Confidential

76 Southern Harmony Memphis’ Southern Avenue

32 Southern Roots Essential Oils

78 In Good Spirits Lady Luck

34 Table Talk Tupelo’s Blue Canoe 38 Exploring Destinations Salt of the South

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80 Exploring Events 82 Reflections An “Un-Special” Day

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editor’s note | FEBRUARY

Healthy Living Saluté, Salud, Santé, Sláinte… in every language, there is a word for toasting your health. Being healthy is something we all want, so it is appropriate that well-wishes often include health. This month, the DeSoto Magazine team is also focusing on health and wellness, and we hope our stories will guide you to a healthy and happy year. Running is one way many people stay fit, and the most experienced often strive to compete in a marathon. Writer Tom Adkinson looks at one of America’s most surprising places for hosting marathons: Memphis! He also gives tips on how to compete in your first race. A vital part of wellness is rest and relaxation, and Michele Baker has found the perfect place for rejuvenation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Centennial Plaza Hotel, once the site of a military hospital, has been totally renovated into a luxurious property that offers a family friendly getaway. We couldn’t skip a couple of important February holidays in this issue. Presidents Day on Feb. 17 honors U.S. presidents as do some amazing historical sites. I’ve included several of my favorites in my feature story about presidential museums in the South. You’ll also find ideas for Valentine’s Day gifts in several of our departments, including essential oils, crystals, and original jewelry.

FEBRUARY 2020 • Vol. 17 No.2

PUBLISHER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Adam Mitchell PUBLISHER & ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Paula Mitchell ADVERTISING CONSULTANT Melanie Dupree MANAGING EDITOR Mary Ann DeSantis Visiting the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library

Being a part of a community is beneficial to health and well-being, and there’s nothing like the support of neighbors during a time of disaster. Folks in our area came together to help each other recover from the destructive tornados that ripped through the area in mid-January. We are thankful for the many residents, first responders, linemen, and businesses that stepped forward to help those who were left without power, homes and belongings. We are proud to be a part of this amazing and caring community. Here’s to your health!

ASSISTANT EDITOR Cheré Coen CONTRIBUTORS Tom Adkinson Michele Baker Cheré Coen Amy Conry Davis Mary Ann DeSantis Jackie Sheckler Finch Jason Frye Noreen Kompanik Debi Lander Karen Ott Mayer Connie Pearson Kevin Wierzbicki Pam Windsor PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 208 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887 Paula@DeSotoMag.com SUBSCRIBE: DeSotoMagazine.com/subscribe

DeSotoMagazine.com

on the cover Kristyn Key, owner of Hernando’s Lucky Luna, displays heart-shaped Selenite crystals, known for promoting positive thinking and wellness. Read more about the healing properties of crystals in this month’s Living Well.

Photo courtesy of Lucky Luna.

©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 paula@desotomag.com or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at desotomagazine.com.

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living well | LUCKY LUNA

Kristyn Key

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Orgonite

Turning Negatives into Positives By Cheré Coen | Photography courtesy of Kristyn Key and Adam Mitchell

The science may not be exact but crystals and orgonite are helping Kristyn Key’s customers find healing and calming benefits. Kristyn Key was only three classes shy of a degree in graphic arts when she realized where her true passion lie. “I told my teacher I was going to make something that people wanted and she said, ‘O-kay,’” Key remembers with a laugh. She began the online business, which offered her artwork as downloads to customers. But then she visited a metaphysical store in her hometown of Memphis and asked the owners if they carried orgonite products, objects consisting of resin, metal shavings, and quartz that are believed to convert negative energy into positive. The owner said they didn’t, so

Key offered to bring in some to sell. “I took the only $500 I had at the time and bought the material I needed,” she recalls. “I made a huge shift and started making orgonite and it took off. It really took a life of its own in the best way possible.” Orgonite has been used as a spiritual tool to deflect negative energy into positive. Many people use orgonite products on cell phones, for instance, to disrupt negative energy produced from the phone’s radiation. Key’s orgonite cell phone backings are her number one product. “It transforms the energy,” Key explains. “People DeSoto 19


who have bought from me and who experience orgonite keep coming back.” Her online stores became successful and she’s sold orgonite to celebrities such as Will Smith, so it seemed only natural to open a storefront. The result was Lucky Luna metaphysical store in Hernando, Miss., where Key sells a wide variety of crystals, gemstones, jewelry, and other items. Key is also close to receiving her certification in crystal healing so she plans to offer those services as well. Crystal healing is not an exact science, but those like Key who study and use crystals in healing credit the stones’ unique frequencies. Energy produced by crystals may be used to enhance a person’s vibrations, Key explains, and if those vibrations turn positive, work towards that person’s healing. And for those who doubt a rock can give off frequencies, quartz crystals have been used as oscillators for decades in cell phones, radios, and watches. For example, rose quartz has been known to promote a love of self and a love for others, Key says. “It’s calming because it’s associated with love and it’s also tuned to the heart chakra.” Fluorite helps eliminate anxiety and improve concentration and spirituality, Key insists, while black tourmaline, associated with the root chakra at a person’s backbone, helps with grounding. “I recommend black tourmaline for pulling them down to earth.” Key also recommends utilizing crystals to bring specific energy into your life. “Quartz is an amplifier. When you put intentions into quartz, you amplify your intentions.” There’s no wrong way to use crystals, she adds, but the benefits come with contact. “I have crystals everywhere, in my pillows, in my backpack, in my bathtub,” Key says. “You really want to have them on you to reap the benefits.” Most people wear crystals as jewelry but some slip them into pockets, not to mention some very unusual places. “I’ve had some women come in and pull some pebbles out of their bra,” Key says with a laugh. 20 DeSoto

Key acquires her stones at trade shows and from wholesalers although, like her customers, she prefers holding the products in her hands before purchasing. Lucky Luna also sells herbs such as sage, which is burned to cleanse homes, businesses, and other personal spaces. Key smudges the store once a week with sage to eliminate other people’s energies and to clear the air of possible bacteria. “Herbs go well with crystals because they all have high frequencies and herbs have medicinal properties,” Key says. The store on Center Street, one block off Hernando’s East Commerce Street, is small but inviting and Key and her associates are eager to help with purchases and explain what different crystals represent. “Some people are intimidated by shops like mine,” Key says. “I knew they needed a lighter space that didn’t intimidate them. I try to be more of an introduction to crystals.” Future plans for Lucky Luna include essential oils and bath products. Key’s orgonite products continue to be sold on her website and through an Etsy store, but she hopes to have a website for Lucky Luna to allow online purchases of her crystals as well. Once Key receives her crystal healing certification, she hopes to be offering crystal healing sessions. She’s able to perform sessions long-distance but hopes to find a space large enough for in-store sessions. Key’s crystal healing certification is a long time coming, she says. People were always telling Key she should become a healer, but it wasn’t until 2012 when she started her business and walked into that Memphis store that she realized her path. “I guess I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” she says. “I definitely feel like it’s my life’s calling.” luckyxluna.com Cheré Coen is a food and travel writer living in south Louisiana, although her Mississippi roots run deep. She is also the assistant editor of DeSoto Magazine.


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notables | DANIEL LEE, M.D.

Dr. Daniel Lee

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A Pioneer for Minimally Invasive Surgeries By Noreen Kompanik Photography courtesy of Marc Burford Photography (headshots) and Intuitive.com/Media (Equipment)

Dr. Daniel Lee pioneered a regional movement to bring minimally invasive surgical techniques to his local patients. What if you’ve been told by your gynecologist that you need surgery? A hysterectomy, for example, is one of the most common gynecological procedures performed. For most patients, this news comes with a degree of worry and trepidation – about the incision, recovery time, scarring, and of course, pain. These are absolutely normal reactions. But thanks to science, technology, and a group of creatively-minded physicians that have embraced new techniques, there are improved options available for the surgical patient. And they come with a whole lot of benefits. Minimally invasive, robotic and single-site surgeries

have been performed by physicians throughout the United States for years. But it was Dr. Daniel Lee of Memphis Obstetrics and Gynecological Association who pioneered a regional movement in 2014, bringing these less-invasive surgical procedures to North Mississippi and the Mid-South, including DeSoto County. “Minimally-invasive surgeries are part of my job I’m most excited about,” says Lee. He was trained in minimally invasive and robotic techniques during his residency at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. At the very start of his private practice, he was a committed DeSoto 23


advocate of these more advanced surgical procedures. Constantly researching the most modern techniques to benefit his patients, Lee and his practice offer minimally invasive, robotic, and single-site surgeries for hysterectomies. These fertility-sparing options are also beneficial for treating endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and ovarian cysts. Open traditional surgery to remove the uterus (a hysterectomy, for example) requires larger incisions across the abdomen to accommodate the surgeon’s hands and surgical tools. This requires cutting through muscle and tissue beyond the surgical site itself to access the area of concern. On the other hand, minimally invasive surgery uses ultra-small incisions, usually less than one-half of an inch for fine surgical tools and a camera, allowing the surgeon to see inside the body without moving large amounts of other tissue. Laparoscopy and robotic surgery are two techniques used to perform these minimally invasive procedures. Laparoscopy was one of the first minimally invasive procedures, utilizing tubes, fiber optic cameras with magnified images, and tiny instruments. Robotics is a subset of minimally invasive surgery using a robot and a more advanced 3D high-definition camera, such as the Da Vinci surgical system from Intuitive. Robotic surgery works much the same way, but instead of the surgeon manually controlling surgical instruments, he or she operates a robotic machine that actually controls special surgical tools that can move in ways manually controlled tools cannot. Single-site surgeries carry with them all benefits of minimally invasive procedures but rather than four to five small incisions spread across the abdomen supporting the robotic technique, procedures can now often be done through one small 3 cm belly button incision. “When we can do the single-site,” Lee explains, “it practically hides itself with an even better cosmetic outcome for the patient.” Minimally invasive techniques can be used to perform not only hysterectomies, but also for treatment of endometriosis, removal of fibroids, benign and malignant tumors, ovarian cysts, and pelvic prolapse. Though not every patient is a candidate for this type of surgery, Lee explains that the majority do meet the criteria for these techniques. As a practicing surgeon at Memphis’ Baptist DeSoto, Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women, and Methodist Germantown, Lee agrees that there’s definitely an investment for OB/GYN physicians in the techniques of minimally invasive surgery. Though more technically challenging than conventional surgical methods, “the benefits to the patient,” says Lee, “are more than worth it.” Minimally invasive techniques, as mentioned, require a much smaller incision which means less blood loss during surgery along with a reduced risk of infection and other surgical complications. Patients experience much less postoperative pain and have a faster recovery time with significantly less scarring (if any). The majority of patients return home on the same day of surgery where they can recover in their own surroundings, and return to their jobs and get back to life more quickly. And, as Lee proudly exclaims, “In less than six weeks, one of my patients was back traveling internationally after her procedure. That would not have been the case in a more conventional surgical approach.” Every physician in Lee’s practice performs minimally invasive surgeries. His team continues to push the cutting edge in technology by maximizing the use of minimally invasive procedures of all types wherever possible. “We’re even performing micro-laparoscopy which utilizes an even smaller incision and we’re doing all these things practically in people’s backyards,” he says. “There are very few reasons for patients to get cut wide open anymore related to GYN surgeries, so we’re happy to offer them an alternative approach. We’re doing it in Southaven, Miss., and we’re doing it in DeSoto County.” mogamd.com Noreen Kompanik is a former registered nurse and freelance travel journalist based in San Diego, Calif.

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exploring art | RANDY HAYES

The Young Tourist

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Randy Hayes in New York

The Familiar and the Exotic By Amy Conry Davis | Photography courtesy of Randy Hayes and Suzanne James

An accidental dab of paint on a photograph led Holly Springs artist Randy Hayes to create his signature style. Artist Randy Hayes likes to begin each day at 5 a.m. with coffee and a stroll in his garden. It’s a ritual which invites time for quiet contemplation before getting to work in his Holly Springs studio. Given where his creative life began, it’s no surprise that he looks to nature as his daily dose of inspiration. Hayes grew up in the rural area near Clinton, Miss., surrounded by extended family all living on the same property. This rural upbringing, as well as the “marvelous aesthetic sense” of his grandparents, were his earliest influences and had a lasting effect. It was his grandmother, in fact, who first gave him charcoal and paper and encouraged him to follow art. “My grandmother insisted that I belong to the junior garden club,” says Hayes. “From my grandmother and my grandfather, who raised every kind of bird imaginable, I gained

an appreciation of the natural world. Flowers and birds still bring pleasure to my life.” In his teen years, the family moved to Tupelo where Hayes delved further into the creative world. On the weekends, he and a friend and fellow artist would teach themselves drawing and painting. He went on to earn a degree from the Memphis College of Art, but it could be said that his identity as an artist really began in earnest after graduation. He spent the following years traveling extensively around the globe and honing his skills in drawing, sculpture, painting, photography, and writing. Foreign travel was such a big influence on Hayes that once, in preparation for a project, he booked a one-way ticket and visited Asia, Africa, India, and Europe to gather source material. DeSoto 27


Super Market (Delta)

He worked as a set designer and carpenter in Boston for a time then moved to Seattle to open a used and rare bookstore with a friend. The scope of his art and interests were varied and expansive, which showed in the kinds of projects he tackled. Using all the knowledge and expertise he had gained, his professional portfolio ranged from large-scale public art to a sculpture garden to photographic workbooks. Hayes returned to his Southern roots and small town living in 2013, and he now works out of his antebellum home in an airy and sunlit studio. In another room, a small gallery of his work is on display and can be seen by appointment. Hayes also continues to exhibit at museums across the country as well local galleries around the state – most notably, the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson and the University of Mississippi Museum in Oxford. Some of his recent work includes commissioned art for a winery and his installation of 30 paintings, Unwritten Memoir. He is also focused on, and perhaps best known for, his mixed media work which involves painting over photographs. Using images taken during his travels, he prints a grid of black-and-white photos onto a canvas and paints in color over them. While this has become something of his signature style, Hayes admits it was brought about by “chance and desire.” “I always painted from photographs...a photograph in one hand and a paintbrush in the other,” says Hayes. “Throughout my career I [had] tried to figure out ways to incorporate photographs into my paintings. One day I accidently got paint onto the photograph in my hand. I liked the results and began to figure out ways to advance this accident.” 28 DeSoto

Before creating a larger piece, Hayes starts small. He works with 17x22-inch studies, which he considers sketches. For Hayes, not every image becomes, or needs to be, large scale but it does have to say something. He chooses the photographs that stand out, the ones that will make the “most complete statement.” While Hayes’ subjects and settings vary, the scenes all seem to share a relatable human element. Whether it’s young tourists in Morocco or a shopkeeper in the Delta, there’s a sense of the ordinary and universal in the moments and expressions captured. “Whether I am painting about the South or a foreign country I try to see what is unique to the people and the landscape,” says Hayes. “To paraphrase the novelist Bharati Mukherjee, I try to paint the familiar as the exotic and the exotic as familiar.” Despite the successes and awards under his belt, Hayes isn’t ready to sit back on his accomplishments and retire. As for the next year, he is focusing on writing again and has “new ideas” for a project combining books, paint, and photographs. For renewed inspiration, he looks to films, music, books, and museums as they make him eager to get back into his studio. Chances are, he’ll start with a walk in his garden first. randyhayes.net

Currently based in West Point, Miss., Amy Conry Davis works as a writer, photographer, and content creator. She lives full-time in an Airstream and travels throughout the U.S. Her website is www.gypsypye.com.


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exploring books | MISSISSIPPI JUKE JOINT CONFIDENTIAL

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Roger Stolle (l) with RL Boyce and his wife and Jeff Konkel (r)

Steppin’ Out into Music History By Kevin Wierzbicki | Photography Courtesy of Roger Stolle and Lou Bopp

Roger Stolle’s new book celebrates Mississippi’s juke joint past with colorful characters and interesting stories. Every day there’s news about how time is marching forward and leaving a trail of obsolescence in its wake. Many of the things being consigned to history, like telephone land lines, won’t be missed. It’s heartbreaking though to realize that a longtime and significant contributor to Southern culture is currently vanishing right before our eyes. The juke joint is dying.

To be sure, “Mississippi Juke Joint Confidential,” Roger Stolle’s immersion into the juke joint scene in the Magnolia State, is not an obituary or a sob story. More like a celebration, the book is a fast-and-fun read peppered with stories about and commentary from a host of colorful characters with names like “Dr. Feelgood” Potts, Mary Ann “Action” Jackson, Robert “Wolfman” Belfour and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. If juke DeSoto 31


Roger Stolle (r) with Jeff Konkel (l) and Willie Seaberry

joints could write their memoir it would come out something like this. Stolle’s passion for the blues and juke joint culture allows him to write with expertise in “Mississippi Juke Joint Confidential” about things like the 2016 demise of the Merigold, Miss., juke joint Po Monkey’s, a place he discovered some 20-odd-years prior. Located in a former sharecropper’s shack in the middle of a cotton field and with a history as a juke since 1963, Po Monkey’s shuttered after its owner Willie Seaberry passed away. Originally from Ohio, Stolle now lives in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the historic epicenter of Southern blues and home to the infamous “crossroads” that Robert Johnson sang about. And while he travels the state regularly in search of blues and juke joint lore, Stolle helps to keep the blues alive with his Clarksdale-based store, Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art. “I moved here in 2002 not to open a retail store; I moved here to be boots on the ground that could work with local musicians and venue owners to put the music on a schedule and then promote it,” Stolle says, noting that at the time there was no live music at all in Clarksdale. In big part due to his efforts, Clarksdale now has live music every night as well as a handful of blues festivals. 32 DeSoto

The next best thing to a juke joint, Cat Head has seen performances by a long list of local juke joint luminaries like James “T-Model” Ford, Robert Kimbrough Sr., “Big” George Brock, Louis “Gearshifter” Youngblood, Wesley “Junebug” Jefferson and Cedric Burnside, most of whom are also among the personalities covered in “Mississippi Juke Joint Confidential.” Stolle notes that Shaw, Mississippi, native David “Honeyboy” Edwards, who died in 2011, gave his final public performance at Cat Head. Superstars and celebrities have come to check out Cat Head too. “I used to keep a list of celebrities, but it got misplaced,” Stolle says. “The ones I remember offhand include Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), Alex Chilton (The Box Tops, Big Star), Tom Waits, Dan Akroyd, Ozzy Osbourne, Morgan Freeman, Jessica Lange, Jools Holland, Caroline Kennedy, Ty Pennington, and Andrew Zimmern. Ozzy just looked around a bit and then used the bathroom. “My favorite was probably [Caroline] Kennedy since she was so excited to be here and she took the time to talk to my other customers. Very down to earth and friendly,” he remembers. “Her uncle Bobby visited Clarksdale during his ‘Southern poverty tour’ in 1967.”


Even though juke joint culture is fading fast, “Mississippi Juke Joint Confidential” shares that there are still places where blues fans and the just plain curious can have the authentic experience of dancing and drinking the night away in a ramshackle venue. “Traditional African American juke joints are definitely part of a fading history,” says Stolle. “We still have a handful of authentic jukes in the region that offer at least occasional music, but not many. The most reliable is Red’s Lounge here in Clarksdale where Red Paden books blues every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night. Recently, Henry “Gip” Gipson, owner of Gip’s Place in Bessemer, Alabama, passed away at possibly 99-years old. Oftentimes the juke joint proprietor is half the reason folks, especially international tourists, visit.” Stolle also notes that while juke joint culture is nearing the end of the line, it’s not time to put the nails in the coffin just yet. “Musician Sean ‘Bad’ Apple recently bought a little old juke called Club 2000 in Clarksdale, and he plans to open it in spring 2020,” Stolle says. “He’s the first to tell you that he’s a white guy from Pennsylvania, so the best he can do is give it the look, feel, and music of a real-deal juke joint. It should be pretty great though.” A fine primer for those interested in juke joint culture that’s loaded with photos by noted blues photographer Lou Bopp, “Mississippi Juke Joint Confidential” is available in paperback from The History Press. historypress.com

No stranger to juke joints himself, music journalist and travel writer Kevin Wierzbicki once spent a very memorable evening at Gip’s Place.

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southern roots | ESSENTIAL OILS

Earth in a Bottle By Karen Ott Mayer | Photography courtesy of medicalnewstoday.com

Although essential oils date back to biblical times, the modern-day plant-based varieties are gaining popularity as natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals. For as long as humans have pursued health and sought to cure ailments, plants have been an instrumental resource. And plant usage is as varied as plants themselves. One field, the production and usage of essential oils, has gained popular ground although determining exactly what they’re all about, however, remains less clear. Varied claims, pricing confusion, poor information, and even fear add to the cloudy picture. What is an essential oil? It’s an oil extracted from a plant and holds specific properties. Everything from stems, leaves, and bark can be used. A distillation process produces the 34 DeSoto

oil, which acts as a carrier for the plant material. “Originally, people used two pieces of animal fat wrapped about the plant and put it all over a fire,” says DeeAnna Nagel, a former psychotherapist turned aromatherapist, coach, and teacher located in the Florida Panhandle. Nagel teaches a 50-hour course on Intuitive Aromatherapy, and her book by the same title, is due out in mid-2020. Oils can be rubbed, inhaled, diffused, and even ingested. Popular or perhaps more well-recognized oils include peppermint, tea tree, lavender, and eucalyptus but hundreds


of oils exist. And beyond just a singular oil, companies and practitioners create oil blends designed to open a physical or mental pathway. Do oils work? That’s the subjective gray area. Several key truths serve as a starting point to understand this practice. “Essential oils date back to biblical times,” says Nagel. “If you think about frankincense or myrrh, those are oils extracted from resin. One false assumption is oils are part of a New Age movement.” Nagel’s practice has shifted to including oils when helping her clients. As she points out, oils can be viewed as a supportive tool for anyone seeking ways to improve health. “I seek to live above the wellness line,” she adds. Accessing the idea of essential oils begins with having an open mind. Because oils are used in traditionally non-medical practices like yoga and Reiki, they tend to fuel skepticism because aromatherapy isn’t strictly scientific. “We’re not looking for a pathology or diagnosis or a wound to diagnose,” Nagel explains. “We’re looking for emotional and spiritual support to move forward. Oils are a sensory tool to help you heal.” Deciding to purchase an oil can be equally confusing. With bottles found everywhere from a drug store counter to Walmart, and pricing ranging from $5 per bottle to $50, a novice may not know how to make that decision. It’s important to understand a few fundamentals before picking up the bottle. Where were the plants sourced or grown? Who or what company is distilling the oil? “Is the oil a first yield? With each distillation, the oil loses therapeutic value,” explains Nagel. Over time, users tend to gravitate toward one brand or another just like with tennis shoes, cars, or purses. Young Living is the largest seller and distiller in the world while doTERRA is an equally recognizable brand. “When thinking about the quality, consider if the oil is either wildcrafted, sustainably sourced, or organic,” adds Nagel. Christe Blackette who works with First Regional Library system in north Mississippi began giving essential oil presentations to the general public in 2019. After living in Oklahoma and Texas for decades, Blackette returned to her hometown of Coldwater, Miss. A self-professed amateur enthusiast, Blackette became seriously interested in essential oils four years ago as she searched for more homeopathic and natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals. 

“I make it clear that I don’t sell or distribute oils,” she says. “I am simply educating people.” Blackette doesn’t hold any credentials but has acquired all of her knowledge through self-study, reading, and experimentation. A fan of oregano oil, she learned a lesson early on. “It’s critical to understand oils are potent and powerful,” Blackette says. “Ingesting oils can be harmful. I thought I could put one small drop of oregano oil in water and drink it. As soon as I did it, my mouth was burning. I learned the hard way you have to know how to use the oils.” Blackette also stresses the importance of knowing the type of oil. “I look for therapeutic grade oil.” Nagel agrees completely. “If you’re buying a $5 bottle off the counter and it says lavender oil, you’re not buying oil, you’re buying a fragrance.” In fact, it takes thousands of lavender blooms to make one bottle of oil. People gravitate toward what works for them. Blackette discovered Blue Malle, which she describes as a stronger version of eucalyptus. She and Nagel encourage people to do one thing initially: Have an open mind. “Open your mind to the possibility,” says Nagel. “Oils are from plants and have been around for centuries.” For more information: American Botanical Council - herbalgram.org American Herbal Products Association - ahpa.org National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy - naha.org Essential Oil Considerations

• Always think about safety first with any oil. • Seek high-quality oils. • If working with a practitioner, ask about experience and credentials.

Karen Ott Mayer is a freelance writer and editor based in north Mississippi.

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table talk | BLUE CANOE

A typical crowd at Blue Canoe

Live Music and Good-Mood Food By Debi Lander | Photography courtesy Adam Morgan & Blue Canoe

Restauranteur Adam Morgan knows how to keep Tupelo’s diners happy.

From the street, you might overlook this restaurant, but if you know Tupelo, Miss., you know the Blue Canoe. The favorite haunt of locals and tourists attracts crowds with its selfbilled “good mood food” and original live music seven nights a week. Born and raised in Tupelo, Adam Morgan saw a need for a casual restaurant that would serve craft beer, offer a unique menu, and be a gathering spot for live music. He opened Blue Canoe in March 2011, along with three other crew members, as he calls them. “We have a loyal customer base, supplemented with the overnight tourists from 15 nearby hotels,” Morgan says. “Thankfully, we stay crowded most of the time.” 36 DeSoto

Tupelo is, after all, the birthplace and boyhood home of Elvis Presley and attracts visitors from around the world. Morgan’s crew has grown to 14 employees whom he considers family. “We all work together. Everyone takes care of each other and looks out for one another.” The unity creates an atmosphere that translates to excellent customer service and happy diners. “I have minimal turnover; some of my employees have been with me since the start and most of the others for over five years,” says Morgan. Morgan is an example that culinary school or a chef ’s background isn’t required to be successful. “Crew” is the right description for the group that cooks together. They even help choose the daily specials. No one has been to culinary school,


BBQ and Greens

but they pride themselves on creating unique, hands-on bar food. Their passion shows in the presentation and taste of the dishes. The most popular entrée is pork and greens: pulled pork with North Carolina barbecue sauce over local cheese grits, kickin’ greens, and cornbread. “The bar started with 19 craft beers and now sells 46, all on tap and about half of them Mississippi made,” says Morgan. The bar is known for its more daring house drink called a “Honkey Red.” It’s a shot of Makers Mark backed by another of collard greens broth. Connie’s Blueberry Donut Bread Pudding with blueberry sauce is the featured dessert. The entry racked up another win in the best dessert category in a statewide contest, which the dessert has won four times over the last six years. “The idea just popped into my head, and it [the dessert] is now one of our main calling cards,” says Morgan. He drops into Connie’s, also in Tupelo, to pick up 30 to 40 dozen donuts a week, just to make that one dish. The crew blends the cake-like donuts with a batter, then bakes and drizzles fresh blueberry sauce and a dollop of whipped cream on top. Choosing a name for the restaurant was a bit of a challenge, Morgan remembers. He expected a name to come to him during the renovation work. The owner oversaw the transformation of an old hair salon with eight rooms into what now looks like an old, open barn. However, he started to get frustrated as a name never came. Then, his fondness for music

Blueberry Donut Bread Pudding

brought to mind a ’90s band he liked from Oxford, a group known as Blue Mountain. Their song called “Blue Canoe” stuck in his head. He phoned the front man of the now-defunct band and asked if he could name his restaurant after the song. He was assured they didn’t own the title, so Blue Canoe it became. Appropriately, the band got back together and played at the restaurant about two weeks after they first opened. Over the years, other well-respected groups that played the Blue Canoe included Gary Clark Jr., Alabama Shakes, Leon Bridges, Ryan Bingham, Tyler Childers, St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Still, Morgan felt he needed more than just the name, he wanted to showcase a wooden canoe in the building. He combed the internet but found only plastic boats. Finally, he discovered a 17-foot wooden blue canoe in a pawn shop in Arizona. The sellers had to build a box around it to ship it to Tupelo. Today, it highlights the dining area. Morgan says the restaurant name sometimes mislead folks. He occasionally gets calls asking if they rent kayaks or other boats. The Blue Canoe crew also pulls an oar for the broader Tupelo community – they are involved with many charitable projects. The restaurant helped raise money for the new Humane Society’s shelter. (The outdoor area of the restaurant is pet-friendly.) The staff hosted a Petty Fest – think Tom Petty – and all entry fees were donated to the Crossroad Ranch, nearby Itawamba County’s nonprofit community for disabled adults. The Blue Canoe has been so successful that Morgan recently DeSoto 37


opened another restaurant named Pizza vs. Tacos. It’s an upscale place serving Detroitstyle pizza and elevated tacos with tortillas made daily from freshly ground corn. To compare the two restaurants, think of Blue Canoe as a bar with a restaurant whereas Pizza vs. Tacos is a restaurant that happens to have a bar. The new eatery is designed to be more kid and family-oriented, thereby the two restaurants keep everyone in Tupelo happy and well-fed. bluecanoebar.com

Adam Morgan

“Some of my employees have been with me since the start and most of the others for over five years.� Adam Morgan Freelance writer Debi Lander is based in Sarasota, Fla., but has spent much time in Mississippi. She recently traveled the entire Natchez Trace and discovered Blue Canoe on her drive through Tupelo.

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exploring destinations | SALT CAVES OF THE SOUTH

Better Bodies Yoga

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Salt on the Rocks

Salty Excursions Close to Home By Jackie Sheckler Finch Photography courtesy of Better Bodies Yoga, Salt on the Rocks and Soul Synergy

Salt caves offer relaxation and therapeutic benefits, and you don’t have to travel far to find these magical places. Lean back, close your eyes. Breathe the salty air. Hear the whisper of the wind. Imagine the surf rolling in to caress the shore. Seems like a leisurely day on some faraway beach. But it’s not. It’s recreated therapeutic salt caves or salt rooms, often right in your hometown. “It’s maybe the closest you can get to the ocean without actually going there,” says Karen Moss at Better Bodies Yoga in Memphis. “Our salt room is a magical place.” So how did one of the South’s biggest salt caves end up in Memphis and why are others also opening in the MidSouth? Who discovered the therapeutic benefits of inhaling salt air anyway? To start with the history first, halotherapy – derived

from the Greek word “halos” which means “salt” – is an alternative medicine which makes use of salt. Halotherapy has its origins from the salt mines of Europe and Russia where salt miners were found to rarely suffer from respiratory ailments or lung diseases. People with respiratory problems quickly began heading to salt mines for treatment. Then, about 25 years ago, Russian medical experts discovered a way to duplicate the dry salt microclimate of a salt mine. The result was indoor reproductions of salt mines. Although halotherapy is relatively new to America, the concept has quickly caught on and people who use them attest to the health benefits. Opening her salt cave in October 2017, Moss knows DeSoto 41


Soul Synergy Center

Better Bodies Yoga

first-hand of the benefits. “I suffer from allergies, sinusitis, headaches, and skin rashes all year long, and have had two sinus surgeries in the past,” Moss says. “I felt that taking so many antibiotics was not good for my immune system, and started seeking more natural ways to deal with my chronic symptoms.” While staying at a spa resort in Miami, Moss decided to experience the resort’s salt room. “It was amazing, relaxing and life altering,” she says. “I could actually feel the salt open and clear my nasal passages while in the session. My headache was gone by the time we walked out, and I could breathe.” Most salt caves have walls lined with pink Himalayan salt and floors covered with pink Himalayan salt pebbles. Some have a halogenerator which grinds pharmaceutical grade sodium chloride into a mist and filtrates it through a vent in the room with a pleasant whooshing sound. Recliners, heated beds, twinkle lights in the ceiling, soothing music, and different colored lights for chromotherapy (light therapy) also are often used in salt caves. A usual therapy might last 45 minutes to an hour. Although she “used to live on antibiotics year-round,” Moss says that salt caves have reduced her antibiotic use drastically. “I cannot remember the last time I have been on antibiotics, and I attribute that to the salt caves.” Moss also says that her salt cave and yoga studio are a loving legacy to her parents who both died of cancer. “I believe my parents would have enjoyed and benefited from being in the salt caves since they also suffered from allergies and stress,” she says. “I started a free yoga program in memory of my parents for individuals who have cancer, are survivors, and for their support person. We still offer those free classes on Saturday afternoons.” For Heather Morse at Salt on the Rocks in Huntsville, Ala., her journey to salt therapy started years ago with a search for alternative solutions to pain management. After experiencing the benefits of salt therapy in North Carolina, Morse began looking for a similar place closer to home. 42 DeSoto

“I thought there had to be something like it in Alabama. But nope,” Morse says. So she opened Salt on the Rock in April 2018. But her salt experience is a bit different, more like a beach getaway room. “We are not a cave,” she says. “We truly created an experience like you are in the Caribbean hanging out by the ocean. We want you to feel the escape…The décor and vibe is all Caribbean.” Salt on the Rocks also has a Remedy Room that offers “nature’s medicine cabinet” for the beginner, Morse says. “We also do several styles of massage therapy and will be adding a traditional family medicine clinic next year to offer patients the opportunity to have holistic care or conventional all under one roof.” At Soul Synergy in Flowood, Miss., Jill Clark says it took 1,800 salt bricks and 2,500 pounds of loose salt to open the state’s first salt cave in April 2018. “It is 45 minutes of pure bliss in a zero-gravity chair,” she says. “We bring each person a warm neck wrap and a blanket to snuggle as we play relaxing meditative music.” Along with respiratory benefits, salt caves also have many other health benefits, Clark says. “They also oxidate the blood cells and have been helping our clients sleep better.” Salt caves offer many benefits or they would not have lasted so long or be attracting even more devoted users, Clark concludes. “More people are turning to holistic methods for their ailments and their general well-being. Himalayan salt is antibacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory,” s h e says. “We love the salt cave experience.”

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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, e l l i v Huntlsabama

on the road again | HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA

A

The Rocket City

8:00 Begin the day at Blue Plate Café for a hearty breakfast of traditional Southern favorites made from recipes passed down for generations. Hash browns or grits accompany platters of eggs, biscuits, country ham and bologna, but varieties of omelets, pancakes, and French toast are popular favorites, too. Many early risers on Saturday come in especially for Blue Plate’s cocoa biscuit, a hot buttered biscuit with a generous dousing of chocolate sauce. 9:00 Arrive at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center for a morning of education and discovery. Huntsville became a major contributor to the space program when Dr. Wernher Von Braun and his team of rocket scientists arrived from Germany in the 1950s. The Davidson Center for Space Exploration contains artifacts and documentation from America’s moon landing in 1969 and a state-of-the-art INTUITIVE Planetarium. Simulators, movies, guided tours, and an extensive museum store will fill your time in an inspiring way. 1:00 Enjoy lunch at Stovehouse, one of Huntsville’s newest dining and entertainment venues. Japanese crepes, Italian specialties such as eggplant rollatini, authentic Mexican favorites, and a Mediterranean grill are just a few of the dining options in this repurposed, historic stove factory built in 1929. 2:00 Bridge Street Town Centre has dozens of upscale shops to explore, or you can spend a few hours seeing the latest movie at Monaco Pictures. For a decidedly eclectic shopping experience, visit Lowe Mill ARTS Wednesday through Saturday afternoons, where you can shop and watch artists at work in their studios. 4:00 The exhibits at the Huntsville Museum of Art are constantly changing. Upcoming exhibits include “Harlem, Hollywood, Broadway: African American Legends,” followed immediately by American Master Illustrators, which will include Norman Rockwell. On permanent display is the stunning silver menagerie collection by Buccellati. 5:00 Check into the new AC Hotel on the opposite side of Big Spring Park from the Museum of Art and freshen up before dinner. This Marriott property with European-style guest rooms is perfectly located for attending events at the nearby Von Braun Center or for exploring downtown Huntsville. 7:00 Cotton Row Restaurant on the Courthouse Square is an elegant and intimate place for dinner prepared by Chef-Owner James Boyce and his staff. The building, built in 1821 as part of the cotton exchange, is a visual treat. The meal conceived by Chef Boyce will be filled with seasonal produce, creative seasonings, and preparations with the best meats and seafood available. 8:30 Enjoy an example of Huntsville’s craft beer scene at Campus 805, the former Stone Middle School building which is now home to Straight to Ale Brewery and Yellowhammer Brewery. Live music is featured regularly, or you can test your skill at Civil Axe Throwing to burn off those dinner calories. 44 DeSoto


To plan your visit: Huntsville.org Rocketcenter.com Stovehouse.com Lowemill.art Hsvmuseum.org Cottonrowrestaurant.com Campus805.com

Upcoming Events

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center will have its 50th anniversary on March 17. As Alabama’s No. 1 paid tourist destination, it welcomed a million visitors in 2019 and saw the graduation of its one-millionth student at Space Camp. April 15 The Rocket City Trash Pandas, AA Southern league affiliate baseball team of the Los Angeles Angels, will play their inaugural season at Toyota Field in Town Madison, almost within sight of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. The mascot’s new name, Sprocket, was announced in December, and team memorabilia are hot items leading up to the first game on April 15. April 25-26 Panoply Arts Festival is one of the South’s premier arts festivals and annually held the last weekend in April. Downtown Huntsville’s Big Spring International Park is transformed into the home for the city’s biggest festival of the year. Visitors come from across the country to take part in this culmination of music, art, culture, dance, and more. www.artshuntsville.org. -- Compiled by Connie Pearson

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greater goods | VALENTINE’S DAY FOR HER

Valentine’s Day for Her

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1. Heart pendant and bracelet, Center Stage Fashions, 324 W Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 2. Julie Vos jewelry, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 3. Sheila Fajl earrings, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 4. Earrings, Upstairs Closet, 136 Norfleet Drive, Senatobia, MS 5. Earth Grace necklaces, The Bunker Boutique, 2400 Hwy 51 S #1, Hernando, MS 6. Kitzi enamel lock chokers, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 7. Fuzzy keychains, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 8. Kendra Scott Love Knot necklaces and earrings, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 9. Coffee mug, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 10. Crossroads Pottery, Bon Von, 230 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 11. Platter and Mug, Other Side Gifts, 122 Norfleet Dr, Senatobia, MS 12. Tea towels, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 13. Handbag and gloves, Upstairs Closet, 136 Norfleet Drive, Senatobia, MS

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greater goods | VALENTINE’S DAY FOR HIM

Valentine’s Day for Him

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1. Corkcicle wine bottle & stemless glass, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 2 Cool socks, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 3. Boxer briefs, Other Side Gifts, 122 Norfleet Dr, Senatobia, MS 4. Block art, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 5. Men’s Soaps, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 6. Key Chains, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 7. Dopp kits, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 8. Rolex watch, Guns & Fine Jewelry, 570 Goodman Rd E, Southaven, MS 9. Multi-tools, Bon Von, 230 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 10. Wood bottle cap opener, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 11. Brighton money clip, The Speckled Egg, 5100 Interstate 55, Marion, AR

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Run, Memphis, Run

By Tom Adkinson Photography courtesy of ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

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Memphis is building a reputation for world-class marathons so put on those running shoes and find a training program.

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“Races, particularly the ones downtown, clearly show people what a fun and beautiful city Memphis is. Lots of runners discover places we locals sometimes take for granted.� J.J. Greer, Memphis Sports Council

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Memphis already is famous for blues, barbecue, Elvis Presley, civil rights history, and ducks that parade in an ornate hotel lobby – and it’s gaining stature as a place to run marathons, half-marathons, and other endurance contests. An array of events throughout the year are open to anyone who pays a registration fee and trains appropriately. Some, such as the inaugural St. Jude Ironman 70.3 in October, are quite daunting and intended for serious endurance athletes, but most are more casual events that attract all types, from people who are truly competitive to others whose goal simply is to complete a race. For the uninitiated, a marathon covers 26.2 miles, a half-marathon is 13.1 miles, and an ironman event combines swimming, bicycling, and running. For instance, the St. Jude Ironman 70.3 is a 1.2mile lake swim, a 56-mile bike course, and a 13.1-mile half-marathon run. It almost hurts to consider. No one precipitously declares he or she wants to be in an ironman event and competes immediately, just as no one makes a quick decision to run a marathon. The gateway drug for new runners is learning how to enjoy a 5K (3.1 miles) or a 10K (6.2 miles). You even can find “Couch to 5K” training programs. With preparation, usually a 16week regimen, tackling a half-marathon isn’t all that crazy. Running a full marathon, however, is a very big leap. It is possible to become a runner with no assistance, but that’s no fun, especially when there are organizations such as the Memphis Runners Track Club (MRTC) to lean on and a gigantic party such as the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend to anticipate the first weekend every December. The MRTC has roughly 3,000 members, making it the fifth largest running club in the nation, according to Wain Rubenstein, race director for the St. Jude Marathon. The MRTC and its long list of races every year are one reason the Road Runners Club of America named Memphis the top runner-friendly city in America in 2018. “We see people of all skill levels. Running is the most egalitarian sport in the world,” Rubenstein says. “I know I’ll never play in a golf tournament with Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or compete in a tennis DeSoto 51


tournament with Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer. However, I can lace up my shoes and participate in a race that features world-class runners.” Wherever you live, Rubenstein recommends finding a running club to learn the basics (shoe selection, apparel, how to train) and then to run several shorter races to see whether you like the sport. Sporting goods stores that cater to runners are another resource. The MRTC organizes the E.J. Goldsmith Road Race Series that starts in July and offers 10 races – two each of 5 kilometers, 5 miles, 10 kilometers, 10 miles and 13.1 miles. “Many people use that series to prepare for the St. Jude Weekend, which has a 5K, 10K, a half-marathon and a marathon. In fact, the half-marathon that weekend is one of the fastest growing in the U.S.,” Rubenstein says. The St. Jude half-marathon draws about 12,500 runners, and the marathon pulls in another 3,000. The weekend of activities raises about $12 million for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, according to Rubenstein. It is the hospital’s biggest one-day fundraiser. Several factors coalesce to make Memphis appealing to runners and spectators, both locals and visitors. Variety is one consideration. There are street races if you want to run on pavement, trail events if you want a different feeling under your feet, and there is a great choice of dates and scenery. For instance, the Herb Parsons Trail Marathon is east of the city in Collierville in January, the Shelby Forest Loop 52 DeSoto

Marathon is in February in Millington, and the Big Buffalo 50 (an endurance event with a 50-miler, a 50K and a 50K relay) is at Shelby Farms Park in March. Springtime means you can get a barbecue high at the Memphis Big BBQ Half-Marathon in April or go international at the Great American River Run (part of the course is along the Mississippi River) during the Memphis in May International Festival. There’s even a two-state event in November, the Big River Crossing Half-Marathon that uses the longest pedestrian bridge over the Mississippi River to take runners from Tom Lee Park on the Memphis side across to Arkansas and back. Local runner Kevin Raney noted that visiting runners benefit from the lay of the land in Memphis. The city isn’t exactly flat as a pancake, but it’s kind to runners for the most part. “Our hills are merely bumps in the road compared to other parts of the country,” he says. Raney, 53, and a runner since high school, still wants to get better. “I hired a coach four years ago to train for exactly what I want to do (50K races),” he says. “If you prepare, (any) race is a great experience, not the worst experience of your life.” J.J. Greer, sales manager at the Memphis Sports Council, the sports marketing arm of Memphis Tourism, wants runners to have great experiences during races, noting that races are great vehicles for the city to promote itself. Greer helped recruit the St. Jude Ironman 70.3, which he expects to


draw 2,500 participants, plus families and spectators. “Races, particularly the ones downtown, clearly show people what a fun and beautiful city Memphis is,” Greer says. “Lots of runners discover places we locals sometimes take for granted, such as Beale Street, the Rock ’n’ Soul Museum, the National Civil Rights Museum, and some of our neighborhoods. Visiting runners enjoy our attractions and are inspired to return. Memphis becomes a race winner itself then.” Even if you’d never dream of running a distance race yourself, there are ways to participate. The simplest way is to be a spectator and to cheer the runners on. Homemade posters are a special treat: “Go Mom!” “You can do it, Fred!” “My training was to make this sign.” “Worst parade ever.” Another way to participate without running is to volunteer. Every race requires volunteers to help with registration, to staff water stations along the racecourse, distribute pints of chocolate milk (an acknowledged restorative) at the finish line, and many other tasks. Rubenstein of the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend said that event puts 3,500 volunteers to work – both to have fun and to support a good cause. One group, he noted, travels every year from Kansas City. That’s how much they like marathons and Memphis. Here’s a partial list of distance race and endurance events throughout the year. You can find many other events of smaller scale. January: Herb Parsons Trail Marathon February: Shelby Loop Marathon March: Big Buffalo 50 April: Riverboat Series April: Memphis Big BBQ Half-Marathon May: Memphis in May Triathlon Weekend May: Great American River Run October: St. Jude Ironman 70.3 November: Big River Crossing Half-Marathon December: St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend

Writer Tom Adkinson, more of a plodder than a runner, was a St. Jude Hero in a 2019 halfmarathon. He included that event in his book, “100 Things to Do in Nashville Before You Die.”

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Fountain at the Grand Centennial Hotel

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CENTENNIAL PLAZA RESORT: SPRING BREAK ON THE SECRET COAST By Michele D. Baker Photography courtesy of Coastal Mississippi and Centennial Plaza

With an illustrious history that dates to 1917, the Centennial Plaza Resort has been reimagined as the Gulf Coast’s newest spring break destination.

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Oasis Resort

Oasis Resort swim-up bar and water park

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Mississippi’s coastline packs many beautiful and exciting locations into a mere 44 miles. Twelve superb cities and towns have so many hidden gems that the area has been often called “the Secret Coast,” and with spring break around the corner, the secret is sure to be not-so-secret much longer. The perfect base of operations to see it all is the new Centennial Plaza Resort, ideally situated in Gulfport almost exactly halfway down the beautiful white-sand beaches. Mississippi De partment of Archives and History records show the 48-acre resort site on US Hwy. 90/Beach Boulevard was originally developed to celebrate Mississippi’s centennial in 1917, but the outbreak of World War I sidelined those plans. In the 1920s, a large hospital for military servicemen was constructed, including the main hospital, an infirmary, an administration building, nurses’ residence and a chapel, and christened Gulfport Veterans Administration Medical Center. The facility operated from 1923 until 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. In 2010, the property was recognized as a Mississippi landmark and deeded to the City of Gulfport, which renamed the complex Centennial Plaza. Shaded by live oaks and magnolias, the 10 surviving Spanish Colonial Revival buildings have copper gutters, handmade roof tiles, and arched wooden windows. In 2014, the property was also added to the National Register of Historic Places. The property is now the area’s newest family and business traveler’s destination. The Grand Centennial is an upscale boutique hotel housed in the beautifully restored main hospital building and the wing behind it. Centennial Plaza Resort boasts 220 rooms. In the main lobby’s Grand Centennial Wine Bar, guests can sip premium wines or partake from the full bar featuring modern takes on Prohibition-era classic cocktails and a menu of delicious small plates. South-facing rooms in the main building overlook a 25,000-gallon Bellagiostyle dancing water fountain with colorchanging jets choreographed to popular songs, not to mention the Gulf beyond. For family travelers, Centennial Plaza Resort offers The Oasis, decorated in a tropical palm tree theme and featuring king suites with bunkbeds and other kidDeSoto 57


Collard green salad White Pillars

friendly amenities. The two-building Oasis Resort flanks a seasonal outdoor water park with zero-entry pool, 950-foot lazy river, two giant water slides, a colorful splash pad, swim-up bar, and poolside dining. The Oasis Grill’s kid-approved menu includes pancakes and French toast, omelets, “squeaky cheese” (cheese curds), salads, po’boy sandwiches, pizzas, and chicken tenders. The Blue Marlin, formerly the nurses’ residence, has been reimagined as a casual fine-dining restaurant where fresh-from-the-sea entrées are only a few steps away from the front door. A taste of the Gulf Coast includes the smoked fish trio appetizer, sea scallops with grilled sweet corn and crispy pancetta, pan-seared trout, Mahi-Mahi or fresh Gulf oysters offered seven ways. Meat lovers can choose among Viet-Cajun surf and turf, filet mignon, a 14-ounce ribeye, wood-grilled chicken, or a pork chop with peach barbecue sauce. Sea salt caramel bread pudding is the perfect ending to a luxurious meal overlooking the Gulf. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, the brunch menu is complete with eggs Benedict, crab cakes, shrimp and grits, pancakes, and an Acadian omelet. The restored Chapel seats 200 and is available for weddings and receptions, family reunions, anniversaries, and other parties. Anterooms may serve as bride or groom dressing rooms, and a side patio serves as a smoking lounge. Centennial Park – about 15 acres of open green space under majestic live oaks – is also available for weddings and receptions, or for festivals, concerts and meetings. The small pond showcases a bridge to the tiny island in its center. Spring Break Activities The Biloxi Visitor’s Center, located across from the Biloxi Lighthouse, is only nine miles away and offers the Coastal 58 DeSoto

Mississippi Attractions Pass to eight exciting locations across the Secret Coast. The pass includes admission to three museums (Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, Walter Anderson Museum of Art, and the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum), two historic monuments (Biloxi Lighthouse and Beauvoir and the Jefferson Davis Home and presidential library), and three hands-on active play experiences for children of all ages (Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, and NASA’s INFINITY Science Center). The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport is Mississippi’s first children’s museum and offers a History Hotel that teleports guests back to the 1890s, The Port for little fishermen (and fisher-ladies), a climbable sculpture representing the ocean, outdoor walking paths, science exhibits, and much more. At the Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, guests can explore the plants of the Pascagoula River basin in the botanical gardens, hike the nature trails, visit the bayou pier, and rent kayaks. No trip to the coast is complete without a visit to NASA’s INFINITY Science Center in Pearlington. Children and adults enjoy seeing an F-1 rocket engine, building their own inventions, and experiencing out-of-this-world simulators all in one visit. Other get-out-and-get-moving spring break activities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast include scaling the rockclimbing wall at nearby Margaritaville Resort Biloxi paddle boarding, skateboarding, or yoga classes at Wild Flier in Ocean Springs, and golfing any of the Secret Coast’s 18 championship golf courses. Runners may need to limber up for the Bay St. Louis half-marathon March 21, a fundraiser for local law enforcement and Hancock County Friends of the


Animal Shelter. A 10k is also available. Prefer to enjoy the ocean? In addition to old favorites like seashell hunting, swimming, and sunbathing, consider the Biloxi Shrimping Trip, a 70-minute living marine adventure cruise led by Captain Mike and Deckhand Dave. Drag for shrimp, learn about marine life, and, if you’re lucky, watch dolphins race your boat. From midMarch to early August, enjoy any of three shrimping tours daily (reservations: 228-3928645). Also available for water and beach lovers are deep sea sport fishing, parasailing, a trip aboard a Biloxi schooner or a relaxing day under a beach umbrella on the Gulf ’s barrier islands via the Ship Island Ferry. With 55 percent of frequent travelers saying they travel primarily to discover new experiences, cultures, lifestyles, food and places, Mississippi’s “Secret Coast” and The Centennial Plaza Resort are perfectly poised to surprise and delight. centennialplazams.com gulfcoast.org Feed Your Gulf Coast Soul After all those spring-break activities, you will be hungry. The Gulf Coast has plenty of eateries offering a variety of cuisines – from iconic seafood dishes to casual artisan treats. Here are a few of our favorites: Darwell’s Café (Long Beach) – Shrimp Creole, crawfish étouffée, tasso cheese grits, red beans and rice, and all things Creole. Desporte & Sons Seafood (Biloxi) – For 115 years, the Desporte Family has proudly served local, freshcaught seafood. Murky Waters Blues & BBQ (Gulfport and Ocean Springs) – Piles of pork, beef and chicken and over a dozen beers on tap. Live blues music. TatoNut Donuts (Ocean Springs) – Get there early; the fresh, soft, yeasty donuts made from potato flour don’t last long, and you’ll want a box! White Pillars Restaurant (Biloxi) – Delicious and unique farm-to-table dishes prepared by hand in very small batches.

Michele D. Baker is a freelance travel writer and food lover in Jackson, Miss., who shares her restored 1929 Craftsman-style bungalow with three cats and 4,000 books.

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Shop, eat, enjoy, indulge Senatobia!

mississippi’s five star city 60 DeSoto


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Presidential Places By Mary Ann DeSantis Photography courtesy of: Bush Library/Mary Ann DeSantis Hermitage/Provided by The Hermitage and Mary Ann DeSantis Carter Historic Site photos provided by National Park Service and Truman Little White House

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Truman Little White House

As President’s Day approaches, think about exploring the homes and museums that honor our nation’s former leaders. Before they became this nation’s top commanders in chief, U.S. presidents had lives that were similar to our own. Extraordinary drive and ambition, remarkable character, historic events, and a great deal of luck shaped them into leaders. Visiting presidential museums is the best way to understand how environments influenced these men and how they in turn impacted history. Sites honoring U.S. presidents are scattered throughout the South and are great places to spend a day. Most presidential museums and libraries have stepped into the 21st century with family friendly, interactive exhibits that entertain and educate. Here are a few of our favorites that appeal to all ages. DeSoto 63


Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage

Bush’s Limo

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Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Nashville, Tenn. thehermitage.com Andrew Jackson was a legendary figure even before he became the seventh U.S. president. He enlisted in the Revolutionary Army at age 13; he asked for 3,000 volunteers from Tennessee in the War of 1812, but 5,000 showed up, thus giving the Volunteer State its nickname; and his victory in the Battle of New Orleans launched him into the national spotlight in 1815. He had a notorious temper, but his heart was big – he fostered 20 children over his lifetime and he never stopped loving his Rachel, who died before he went to Washington. “I was born for a storm, and calm does not suit me,” Jackson wrote to President James Madison, the fourth president and a founding father. However, The Hermitage and its park-like setting belie his words, because the home and its more than 1,100 acres are an oasis near Nashville’s urban development. Jackson’s classical-style mansion is definitely the centerpiece of the property – literally and figuratively. Built in 1821, the home contains 90 percent of original artifacts, including wallpaper in the foyer that is 182 years old. More than 200,000 visitors a year tour The Hermitage, which is considered one of the best preserved of early U.S. presidential homes. Visitors should make time for “Born for a Storm” exhibit at the welcome center to learn about the contentiousness of politics in Jackson’s day. Arguments were often settled with a duel, as Jackson had to do with attorney Charles Dickinson. A new visitor’s experience includes a dueling demonstration that occasionally allows visitors to participate. “We need to engage with history in open and honest ways,” says Mike Zimmerman, Hermitage director of interpretation. Just as dueling is honestly discussed so is the issue of slavery. “We talk about slavery up front and refer to Jackson’s slaves by name,” explains Zimmerman. A commemorative memorial service is held annually at The Hermitage Church. This year’s event is set for Saturday, Feb. 29, and will feature music and special remarks, followed by a procession to the slavery memorial, “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” located behind the church. DeSoto 65


Day the Wall Came Down Sculpture

Jimmy Carter National Historic Site Plains, Ga. nps.gov/jica Operated by the National Park Service, the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site and Preservation District includes the Plains High School, the alma mater of both President and Mrs. Carter; the restored Plains Depot, which served as Carter’s campaign headquarters in 1976; the Carter Boyhood Farm and Home; and the present-day Carter Home, which is not open to the public. The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta, Ga., is part of the National Archives system of presidential libraries (see sidebar), but it’s the Plains site that gives the most insight to Carter’s early life. The Plains High School, which operated as a school from 1921 until 1979, is now the park museum and visitor center. Exhibits explain the Carters’ lives in Plains, including political and business careers, education, family, and post presidency. “Walking the halls of old varnished wood and painted-over brick, you feel transported back in time. It smells like an old school. This is where you can see the Nobel Peace Prize Carter won in 2002,” says journalist Blake Guthrie of Greensboro, Ga., who visited recently. “It’s all worthwhile, but I would recommend more time carved out for the boyhood farm.” Carter’s boyhood farm is a living history museum that shows a broader picture of the boy who grew up in the middle of nowhere to become a U.S. president. Authentic details of farm life in the 1920s and ’30s are interesting, but it’s 66 DeSoto

the personal touches that stand out. For example, visitors learn about an African-American couple who worked and lived on the farm. In a voice recording, the former president recalled how the couple’s house felt the most like home to him outside of his own home. “One thing that stood out to me was all the sand around the house,” remembers Guthrie. “I was told it was a common practice to keep pests out. I was also told that President Carter has been known to make unexpected visits to the farm… since he lives only seven miles away.” Visitors also can stop at the Plains Depot, the oldest building in town, where a self-guided museum focuses on Carter’s campaigns for state senator, Georgia governor, and president. While Carter’s modest 1960s ranch home is not open to the public, there is a viewing area that overlooks the property with plaques provided by the park service. George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Center College Station, Texas bush41.org In 2018, the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Center was in the news more than usual as both the 41st president and former first lady Barbara Bush were laid to rest on the center’s grounds, located on the Texas A&M University campus. Once asked why the university was selected as the site for his presidential library, President Bush responded, “Because of the spirit of the place… the Aggie spirit.” Indeed, the presidential center is an uplifting venue filled with the can-do


spirit that the Bushes exemplified from the moment they decided to make the Lone Star State their home. The 1948 red Studebaker that Bush drove to Texas is on display with photos illustrating the family’s enthusiasm for their new adventure – a long way from their New England roots. Filled with over 40 million papers, the library is more than a repository for documents. The interactive displays – many designed for youngsters – make it one of the most state-of-the art presidential museums. After my hand was scanned and an “access granted” appeared, my movements could be tracked throughout the museum (playfully, of course). The biggest thrill, however, was sitting in a replica of the oval office in the seat of power. When I opened the lower right desk drawer, I found the baseball mitt that the young Mr. Bush used when he was the Yale baseball team captain in 1948. A large portion of the library is dedicated to Mrs. Bush and her work to promote literacy. Many of the children’s displays, including a doghouse for Millie, contain games and questionnaires to keep the little ones entertained while grown-ups can follow the interactive displays about policy decisions or experience the “situation room,” another replica of the real thing. One of the most poignant artifacts is the 7-ton sculpture, titled “The Day the Wall Came Down,” featuring a piece of the Berlin Wall that was dismantled during Bush’s tenure as president. At Bush’s request, the names of the 15 people killed at the Berlin Wall were written on the Dove of Peace to represent over 900 people killed trying to escape to the West during the Communist regime. The horses on the monument represent the freedom of the human spirit. “The untiring hope of the human spirit” is evident throughout the museum, just as the Bushes would have wanted. Harry S. Truman Little White House Key West, Fla. TrumanLittleWhiteHouse.com The Truman Complex meanders through downtown Key West, not far from the Southernmost Point. Tucked in the corner of the bougainvillea-lined neighborhood is the clapboard home where President Harry S. Truman spent 175 days of his presidency from 1946 to 1952. Originally constructed in 1890 as naval officers housing, the Little White DeSoto 67


House is Florida’s only presidential museum. Altogether six presidents used the home: William Howard Taft, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Truman. But it was the nation’s 33rd president who found the home most restful and who spent the most time there. Tours are available every 20 minutes throughout the day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. No photography is allowed inside the home, which contains 90-to-95 percent of the furnishings originally purchased for Truman. The home is usually open 365 days a year, but is still used for official business and events. Visitors should check the website to make sure the tours will be available on the days they want to visit.

Presidential Libraries: Walking Through History The Office of Presidential Libraries, which is part of the National Archives and Records Administration, currently administers 13 presidential libraries. The presidential library system formally began in 1939, when President Franklin Roosevelt donated his papers to the federal government. The Roosevelt Library became the model for subsequent presidential libraries, which were constructed with private and other non-federal funds. Private foundations, historical societies, and some states operate libraries for earlier presidents. The current presidential libraries and museums administered by the National Archives honor Herbert Hoover, West Branch, Iowa; Franklin D. Roosevelt, Hyde Park, N.Y.; Harry S. Truman, Independence, Mo.; Dwight D. Eisenhower, Abilene, Kan.; John F. Kennedy, Boston, Mass.; Lyndon B. Johnson, Austin, Texas; Richard Nixon, Yorba Linda, Calif.; Gerald Ford, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, Mich.; Jimmy Carter, Atlanta, Ga.; Ronald Reagan, Simi Valley, Calif.; George H.W. Bush, College Station, Texas; William Clinton, Little Rock, Ark.; and George W. Bush, Dallas, Texas.

A native of Laurel, Miss., Mary Ann DeSantis serves as the managing editor for DeSoto Magazine.

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homegrown | JENNIFER THAMES ORIGINALS

Jennifer Thames and daughter, Kirby Thames Anthony

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A Jewel of a Business By Pam Windsor Photography courtesy of Jennifer Thames and Kirby Thames Anthony

Her daughter’s desire for unique jewelry 15 years ago led Jennifer Thames to create her own line of baubles that are now carried in 450 retail stores. Jennifer Thames has a natural gift for creativity, so much so she taught art for 22 years. But her love of design and color, and her ideas for bringing it together in unique and artistic ways is such a part of who she is, it often spills over into her off-time. “I’ve done a lot of different things,” she explains. “I did painting for people and all kinds of other things including making jewelry. And jewelry was the thing that stuck.” Her first attempt at creating jewelry came along at around 2005 when her daughter, who was in junior high school, wanted some jewelry Thames thought cost too much. “She wanted some specific jewelry that was kind of expensive at the time, and I wasn’t willing to pay for it,”

Thames says with a laugh. “So, I made her some. That’s where it started, and then friends and family wanted to buy it, and it just took off from there.” She began creating and selling her jewelry in Union, Miss., where she lives, but soon looked for ways to expand. Someone suggested she showcase her work at the annual Mississippi Market Wholesale Show. “I did that and my goal that year was to get five customers who would be interested in carrying my line in their stores,” she says. She was successful and within a couple of years also had her jewelry on display in a permanent showroom in Atlanta. The orders began pouring in and Thames, who was DeSoto 71


still teaching art during the day, would come home in the evenings and make the jewelry needed to fill them. “I was making jewelry at night and the next day I’d go to the post office on my lunch break and ship it,” she remembers. “When it got to where I needed some additional help, I’d have a couple of teenage girls come in and help me put the jewelry on the cards and prepare it for shipping. We’d just sit at my dining room table and get it ready to go.” Even as she worked day and night, she still kept networking and looking for other places to market her jewelry. It paid off. She did such a good job of building her business and making a name for herself, within about five years she was able to quit her full-time job and focus solely on her jewelry. Her creations are now available in 450 retail stores in the United States and Canada. Thames admits getting to that point proved challenging at times, and credits family and friends with the support and encouragement that helped her achieve success. “It really and truly was a lot of hard work,” she says. “You’ve just got to keep at it. I had someone who paints ask me the other day, do you just wait for people to come to you? I said no, you’ve got to go to them or reach out to them. If there’s a store you want to be in, contact them and see what you need to do to get to that level.” She also sells a lot of jewelry through her website which features a wide range of designs. There are necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and more. Her jewelry has a vintage flair that comes from her love of antiques. It’s been a big part of her inspiration from the early days when she was first getting started and influences her designs today, although her approach has changed. “When I first started doing this, I would go to estate sales and find old pocket watches or cool pieces and recreate them,” she recalls. “But as the business grew and we became a wholesale operation, I couldn’t do that anymore and be successful. Those are one-of-a-kind items and you can’t reproduce dozens of them. Sometimes I miss that because that’s the creative part when you can do something that’s really one of a kind.” While the business has grown, she still operates from home in a studio at the back of her house. She’s added some part-time help and that daughter who had an eye for jewelry and first motivated her to start creating it all those years ago, now works right along with her. “My oldest daughter, Kirby, helps me and we try to hand-make almost everything here in our studio,” she says. “I’m so proud of being able to work with her.” It’s nice, she says, to keep it all in the family. “Kirby’s expecting my first grandbaby this month, so things are going to change around here a little bit.” She laughs, then adds, “We may just hold the baby while we make jewelry.”

Pam Windsor is a freelance journalist based in Nashville, Tenn.

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southern gentleman | EVAN MURPHY

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Calls of the Wild By Jason Frye | Photography by Cindy Neal Photography

Turkeys have their own language and Meridian’s Evan Murphy has translated it successfully with his artistic calls. There are few moments as perfect and beautiful as the woods around daybreak. In that silent, blue dark, you wait for the sky to brighten, for trees to take shape, then branches, leaves, petals; you wait for sounds to fill in the void because the woods are so quiet you could perceive a shooting star. Then you hear it – the first notes of birdsong, the first rustle of leaves underfoot of paw or hoof, the call of a crow, the rising hoot of a barred owl – and day is upon you. If you know what to listen for, the woods can tell quite the story as it wakes up. But you need to have an ear for language if you want it to sound like something other than those CDs we all bought in the ‘90s to help us fall asleep. “Early in the morning, it’s the crows and the owls, that’s what you listen for. Once you hear them, you’ll hear turkeys start to talk,” says Evan Murphy, a turkey hunter and

turkey call carver from Meridian, Miss. That “talk” comes from turkeys roosted in the trees, and Murphy recognizes that soft, muffled yelp signaling the flock that it’s time to wake up, fly down, and find some breakfast. To him, it’s the start of a conversation. “In the woods everyone is speaking their own language,” he says. “Spend enough time out there listening and observing and you start to learn what they’re saying.”

It’s safe here. I found food. Danger. Where are you? Come back to the flock. DeSoto 75


“Hunting turkeys, you listen a lot. You listen to their calls, how they talk to each other and how they respond when there’s danger. Then you start your own call building and soon you’re talking in another language to another species. It’s weird and gratifying,” Murphy explains. Clucks, purrs, cutts, putts, yelps, cackles, gobbles, the kee-kee run. This is the language of the turkey, and Murphy’s got quite the ear for it. Since 2016 he’s been making his own pot calls: wooden discs with acoustic holes and a slate inset that’s rubbed, pecked, traced, and poked with a pencil-like tool called a striker. Using a palm-sized pot call, a turkey hunter can lure a flock of turkeys close – telling them food here, and safety – or bring a dominant hen near – I’m a dominant hen too, come fight me – or call in a gobbler – I’m here, this is my patch of woods. “You can go out and buy a cheap plastic call for $20, but it’s going to break after a season or two, or the striker will come apart. You can do what a lot of hunters try to do: make your own. But there’s a learning curve to it and most people don’t have the patience it takes to craft one that works,” he says. In his shop, Murphy has a shelf with strikers that aren’t quite right, pots that don’t ring true, pieces that didn’t make the cut because of a ding or scratch or splinter. He’s also got a black book of measurements, notes on what worked and what didn’t, his own recipe for a killer call. “I’ve always liked tinkering and working with my hands. Something like this, like making calls, it’s a way to keep me involved and build up that anticipation for turkey season. It’s exciting, and there’s nothing like sitting in the woods calling to turkeys with something I made with my own hands and hearing them call back,” he says. “Turkeys have a big vocabulary but there are minute differences between say a cluck and a putt [both are sharp, staccato calls, but the timbre and length of each call is the difference between grabbing the attention of the bird – the cluck – and signaling danger – the putt], and learning to reproduce those sounds takes a lot of practice,” he says. “Almost as much practice as making your own call that’ll make the right sounds.” Murphy’s first turkey hunt came when he was 14. He and his dad went on a “textbook hunt,” bagging a bird and giving him a taste for a sport that, once past the impulsive, impatient teenage years, would become a passion. Now he hunts as often as he can in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, and makes calls for turkey hunters from right down the road and as far away as Vermont, California, Maryland. “My goal is to make a call that sounds natural but that also looks good,” he says. “The sound is right and the woodwork – turning, carving, illustrating with pen and burner – is charming.” His Instagram page, @MurphyWildlifeArtistry, shows off his calls, his techniques, and reveals a few secrets about his hunts, but it’s also the place to go to put in your order. With spring turkey season right around the corner, message him now and for $40 to $60 (depending on the type of wood and what artwork you want on it), you’ll have your call-in time for that first spring gobbler.

Writer Jason Frye spends as much time in the woods as possible. This spring he’s exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway for an upcoming travel guide. Follow him on Instagram where he’s @beardedwriter to see what he’s up to next.

““In the woods everyone is speaking their own language.” Evan Murphy 76 DeSoto


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southern harmony | SOUTHERN AVENUE

On the Road to Soul By Kevin Wierzbicki | Photography courtesy of David McClister

The first Memphis-based band signed by legendary Stax Records in 50 years, Southern Avenue is on the road to worldwide fame. If you’re in Memphis seeking out the Soulsville neighborhood and the McLemore Avenue address where the vaunted Stax Records once stood, you may very well motor down Southern Avenue to get there. You can also get to Soulsville without even getting in the car by listening to the music of Memphis-based Southern Avenue, a soul, blues, and R&B band that honors the sounds that Memphis is famous for. Southern Avenue is fronted by guitarist Ori Naftaly and singer Tierinii Jackson, and according to Naftaly, it was apparent upon their first meeting that the pair was bound for good things. “I had asked a drummer I was working with about who was the best singer in Memphis who also writes songs,” Naftaly remembers. “He showed me a video of Tierinii, and I immediately knew she was the one. When we met for the first time it felt like it was right.” 78 DeSoto

So right in fact that the band’s 2019 album Keep On, their second release overall, was nominated for a GRAMMY Award in the Best Contemporary Blues Album category. Besides Naftaly and Jackson, Southern Avenue consists of Tierinii’s sister Tikyra Jackson on drums and Jeremy Powell, a graduate of the Stax Records Music Academy, on keyboards. Memphis musician Gage Markey handled most of the bass parts on Keep On as a guest player. The album, having been recorded locally at Sam Phillips Recording Studio, also gets a huge injection of Memphis soul via a guest appearance from legendary Stax Records vocalist William Bell of “I Forgot to Be Your Lover” and “You Don’t Miss Your Water” fame. About working with Bell on Keep On, Naftaly says, “I think the most memorable moment was when we wrote ‘We’ve Got the Music.’ I shared my vision for the song with William and Tierinii, and together we wrote the lyrics.” Naftaly came up with a Memphis-style guitar lick.


“The process had a nice flow to it and we learned a lot from writing with William Bell,” he says. “We’ve Got the Music” is augmented by bright horn work from Gregg Allman Band alums Art Edmaiston and Marc Franklin and clocks in just short of two minutes, but that’s all the time that Jackson and Bell need to craft a hook-filled duet that makes for an easy sing-along. Jackson mesmerizes on her own throughout the album, particularly on cuts like the funky “She Gets Me High,” the slow sizzle of “Savior,” and the classic Memphis soul of “Lucky.” Naftaly, who cites Jimi Hendrix, Steve Cropper, Carlos Santana, and BB King among his influences, has been a lifelong fan of Memphis music although he got his first taste of the sound from afar. A native of Israel, the guitarist has been playing since he was five years old and grew up listening to jazz, blues, soul, and funk. “My dad had a few boxed sets of Memphis music so it was always part of my upbringing to listen to the Memphis sound,” he says. “I never thought I would be recording for Stax and never thought I would be writing songs that would be in the Stax catalog. Dreams do come true!” Southern Avenue’s self-titled debut album was recorded for Stax Records while Keep On is on the Concord Records imprint, the parent of Stax Records. Southern Avenue has taken a relatively quick route on the road to success; Naftaly only came to Memphis seven years ago and the band’s debut album dropped fairly recently in 2017. That record hit the No. 6 spot on Billboard’s Top Blues Album Chart and the No. 1 spot on the iTunes Blues Chart. The band has played festivals like Bonaroo and toured tirelessly with stars like Buddy Guy, North Mississippi Allstars, JJ Grey & Mofro, and Umphrey’s McGee. When Stax Records signed Southern Avenue, it was the first time the label had signed a Memphis band in 50 years. Southern Avenue is touring throughout February, playing headlining shows as well as opening for Los Lobos, Ozomatli, and Galactic. The band will head for Europe in March where they’ll play as the headliner for a string of shows in Norway and Denmark. One place not on the schedule as of yet, is Naftaly’s homeland. “I’ve never been back with the band to Israel,” Naftaly says. “It’s something that I would really like to do.” There’s little doubt that the road that Southern Avenue is on will indeed eventually take them to Israel and many other as-yet unvisited locales, and they’ll take Memphis with them. Music writer Kevin Wierzbicki has always had a fondness for the music of Memphis – from Beale Street blues to Graceland’s Elvis, from Isaac Hayes’ “Hot Buttered Soul” to Dusty Springfield’s “Dusty in Memphis.”

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in good spirits | LADY LUCK

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A Stroke of Hometown Luck By Cheré Coen | Photography courtesy of Jeff Moore with Green Olive Media

Lady Luck could be the perfect at-home cocktail for Valentine’s Day.

Like many young people growing up in a small Mississippi town, Matthew McCain envisioned graduating high school and leaving Cleveland for better career opportunities. As luck would have it, those opportunities found him… in Cleveland, in the heart of the Delta. McCain is the bar manager of Bar Fontaine, the hip new rooftop lounge at Cleveland’s Cotton House Hotel, and the Delta Meat Market on the hotel’s first floor. Both are operated by James Beard Award-nominated Chef Cole Ellis. “I lived in Cleveland my whole life,” McCain says. “I dreamed of getting out of Cleveland and doing bigger things. Now, instead of dreaming of my getting out of Cleveland and doing bigger things, I dream of bringing bigger things to Cleveland.” McCain is a self-taught mixologist, learning the ropes behind the bar. When he reached out to Ellis for a job, he didn’t realize Ellis was planning to move his Delta Meat Market from its original location on Cotton Row to across the street in the new Tribute Portfolio boutique hotel. “I knew it was a passion and an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up,” he says. McCain studied techniques of his mentors, read every book he could find on cocktails, and discovered a love for preProhibition cocktails. Within months he was heading up Bar Fontaine’s menu of craft cocktails, bourbon collection, and small plates utilizing locally sourced ingredients. “It hasn’t stopped since,” he says. He loves the classic cocktails, specifically ones using gin. The Negroni, for example, incorporates gin, red vermouth and Campari, an aperitif that’s known for its vivid red color and bitter and herbal flavors. McCain used Campari to create the Lady Luck cocktail, consisting of four simple ingredients. “I wanted to bring that colorful liquor to a drink and bring it to the masses,” he explains. Campari is definitely bitter, which McCain enjoys in a drink but it’s not as popular with the public. For his Lady Luck cocktail, he mixes the liqueur with Seersucker Gin from Texas,

which contains notes of citrus, mint, and honey. The grapefruit juice mixes well with the mint and honey, McCain says, and with the ginger syrup provides a smooth drink that balances flavors nicely. Lady Luck isn’t on the menu at Bar Fontaine anymore — they update their menu frequently — but you can make this colorful drink at home, perfect for Valentine’s Day. For information on Bar Fontaine and its rotating menu of cocktails, visit deltameatmarket.com/fontaine. Lady Luck 1.5 ounces Seersucker Gin 1/2 ounce Campari 1 ounce ginger syrup 1 ounce grapefruit juice Ginger Simple Syrup 10 grams fresh ginger 2 cups sugar 2 cups water To make the ginger simple syrup peel the ginger and slice. In medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved. Your finished product should be a one-to-one ratio. Combine the simple syrup and sliced ginger into a blender while the syrup is still hot. Blend until the ginger is ground finely. Let cool for 30 minutes, then strain the solution through a fine mesh strainer and cheesecloth. Mix all four ingredients and pour into an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with dehydrated grapefruit and rosemary seeds. Cheré Coen is a native of New Orleans and thus, a lover of cocktails. Her roots hail back to Mississippi, however, which may be why she loves Four Roses bourbon as much as Faulkner.

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exploring events | FEBRUARY

Mississippi Museum of Art presents Nick Cave: FEAT. Through February 16 Mississippi Museum of Art Jackson, MS Exhibition of 17 works examining the artist’s socially engaged practice. The survey of Nick Cave’s (b. 1959) work includes sculpture, video, and installations providing visitors with a range of immersive interactions with color and sound that bring to light issues of our times. For more information visit msmuseumart.org or call 601-960-1515. DeSoto Arts Council presents “The Freedom Rides: Journey” Through February 22 DeSoto Arts Council Hernando, MS Featuring photographs of the Freedom Riders journeying from Anniston to Jackson and their attempts to integrate interstate transportation. For more information visit desotarts.com or call 662-404-3361. Grammy Museum Mississippi presents Stronger Together: The Power of Women in Country Music Through August 30 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 grammymuseumms.org or call 662-441-0100.

A Taste of Soup and Art Exhibit February 1 Carrollton Community House Carrollton, MS 11:00am - 12:30pm A Taste of Soup and Art Exhibit showcases 6 soups for tasting and art work of local artists. A cookbook containing the soups is included in the ticket price. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased in advance. For more information visit www.VisitCarrolltonMs.com and click on A Taste of Soup or call 662-237-6910. Mardi Gras Parade & Masked Ball February 8 Aberdeen, MS Mardi Gras Parade at 2:00pm in Downtown Aberdeen. This family friendly event includes bands, floats and more. The Masked Ball is at 6:00pm at the Stevens Auction Company Gallery. Call 662-436-1003 for more information. Disney’s Lion King Jr. February 8 - March 8 Panola Playhouse Sardis, MS Directed by Daniel Thompson. Lion King Jr. tells the story of the epic adventures of a curious cub named Simba as he struggles to accept the responsibilities of adulthood and his destiny as king. For tickets visit panolaplayhouse.com or call 662-487-3975. Celine Dion February 9 FedEx Forum Memphis, TN 7:30pm For tickets visit Ticketmaster.com.

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The Beach Boys February 11 Orpheum Theatre Memphis, TN 7:00pm For tickets visit orpheum-memphis.com or call 901-525-3000. Hernando Krewe Mardi Gras Ball February 15 The Gin in Nesbit $100 a ticket. Ticket includes beer, wine, light food and live music. Black tie optional, masks required. For tickets call 901-517-5132. Tickets can be purchased at Bancorp South on Commerce St., Hernando Library and the Hernando Chamber of Commerce. Patti LaBelle February 15 Horseshoe Casino Tunica Resorts, MS 8:00pm For tickets visit Ticketmaster.com. Comedy Laugh Fest February 16 Landers Center Southaven, MS 7:30pm Featuring Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley, Earthquake and more. For more information visit landerscenter.com, call 662-470-2131 or visit Ticketmaster.com. An Evening with Elizabeth Heiskell February 21 Corey Forum Holmes Community College Grenada, MS 6:00pm Fun and food go hand in hand as the Grenada Garden Club serves hors d’oeuvres while Elizabeth Heiskell delights with farm to table tips. Sponsored by Wade, Inc. For ticket information call 662-809-0753 or visit Grenadagardenclub@gmail.com. 31st Annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration Visits, Vittles & Vines February 27-29 Natchez, MS Fo more information visit colin.edu/community/natchez-literaryand-cinema-celebration. Indigo Girls February 28 Germantown Performing Arts Center Germantown, TN 8:00pm For tickets visit gpacweb.com or call 901-751-7500. Michael Carbonaro Live! February 28 Gold Strike Casino Tunica Resorts, MS 8:00 pm The show is jam-packed with audience interaction, hilarious video clips and a whirlwind of mind-blowing magic performed live on stage. Purchase tickets online or by calling the Gold Strike Box Office at 888-747-7711.


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reflections | CELEBRATE VALENTINE’S DAY — AND ALL OTHERS

Celebrate Valentine’s Day — and all others By Tom Adkinson

An unexpected cancer diagnosis turns an “un-special” day into a day worth celebrating. For 52 years, my wife and I haven’t made a big deal about Valentine’s Day. This year, however, we will. The same goes for St. Swithin’s Day, Arbor Day, and National Cheese Pizza Day, whenever they are. Cancer will do that to you, especially a successful counterattack against a cancer that supposedly couldn’t occur. Those 52 years of Valentine’s Day blaséness (not a word, but you get the idea) encompass a year of high school, four years of college, and 47 years of marriage. Not a single Valentine’s Day stands out in our memories. I’ve certainly bought flowers – done with sincerity, although at Kroger instead of a fancy flower shop – and there may have been chocolates – but more to have sweets in the house than as a declaration of affection. Lois tells me she once bought me a pewter handbell for one Valentine’s Day, but she doesn’t remember why, and we can’t find the bell. We confess all of this and still can declare without hesitation that we love each other. We just haven’t made a big deal of Feb. 14, just as we haven’t made a big deal of Dec. 31, also known as New Year’s Eve. Nine years ago, a mammogram showed a tiny spot. One treatment option was a double mastectomy, reconstruction, and never thinking about breast cancer again. Lois took that option, and as she joked, “came back somewhere between my old self and Dolly Parton.” Never thinking about breast cancer again lasted eight years. “Damn!” she, the doctors, and I all said. The doctors acknowledged that a cancer could develop in the miniscule amount of breast tissue that might remain after a mastectomy, 84 DeSoto

but I recall one doctor’s observing, “Lois, you’ve won the lottery, but not a good one. This almost never happens.” Diagnosis came a week before a Caribbean cruise. The doctors counseled us not to wait to begin chemotherapy, so we cancelled the trip. (Tip: Buy travel insurance.) Just as we had done eight years previously, we joked about it. I reconstituted the Praying and Drinking for Lois Club, with members across the country. The only club rule was to say a prayer or raise a toast occasionally, and the club motto was simple: Bend a Knee, Bend an Elbow. Nine months after the diagnosis, it was over, but those nine months brought 78 medical trips, including one frantic trip to an emergency room and two nights in an ICU on top of doctors’ appointments, chemo treatments, a surgery, and radiation sessions. On each of those 78 occasions, either I was there, or our daughter or a friend went along. That, Lois says, was the saving grace and the advice she gives anyone facing what she did: Don’t go alone; accept the love of others. That said, we see every day as special and celebrate in some fashion, at least internally. Valentine’s Day this year we’ll be on that cruise, but we intend to celebrate each day from now on. By the way, Arbor Day is April 24, St. Swithin’s Day is July 15, and National Cheese Pizza Day is Sept. 5. Tom Adkinson lives in Nashville, Tenn., and has written for publications nationwide. His book, “100 Things to Do in Nashville Before You Die” took on special meaning last year.


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Profile for DeSoto Magazine | Exploring the South

DeSoto Magazine February 2020  

Healthy Mind, Heart and Body - Kick off the new year with our health and fitness issue. Also featured romantic getaways and valentine’s gift...

DeSoto Magazine February 2020  

Healthy Mind, Heart and Body - Kick off the new year with our health and fitness issue. Also featured romantic getaways and valentine’s gift...