Today in Mississippi March 2020 North East

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You can count on me Within the next few weeks, we all will be invited to take part in the 2020 Census. The first notification will arrive in our mailboxes, sometime between March 12–20. To make the process as convenient as possible, the U.S. Census Bureau will provide options to respond to the brief questionnaire online, by mail or by phone. Though, do note that if there is no reply in these manners, U.S. Census Bureau personnel will follow up in-person at your front door. The Census, which takes place every 10 years, dates back to 1790 and was created by the federal government to meet certain needs of each state. The government is set to distribute more than $675 billion based on this Census data, so it is important for Mississippi, which has a population of nearly 3 million residents, to obtain the most accurate count possible. These Census results, in fact, are particularly critical to our rural communities. For example, a state’s population determines local funding allocations for public resources such as education, healthcare and hospitals, police and fire departments as well as roads and highways. Clearly, these are important factors in which rural Mississippians are especially reliant upon in many ways. To put this in another perspective, the upcoming 2020 Census will essentially determine many of the programs and services that will be federally supported in our state over the next 10

years. As I see it, it is our civic duty and responsibility to accommodate the U.S. Census Bureau in this massive effort as it has the incredible potential to better the lives of Mississippians over the next decade — and beyond. As you can see, with full participation from residents across the state, we are positioned to significantly benefit from the information gathered during the 2020 Census. So, how can you help further? Consider forming a Census committee for your workplace, church or neighborhood to help promote awareness and boost responses! Remember, be on the lookout for the official U.S. Census invitation that will be delivered to your mailbox this month. And please be assured that, by law, all information collected is confidential. On behalf of the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi, I invite you to join me in taking an active role in making sure all Mississippians are accounted for in the 2020 Census. You can count on me to be an active supporter of the 2020 Census. After all, our next 10 years depends on it.

by Michael Callahan Executive Vice President/CEO Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi

“Sunrise at Eagle Lake” Photo by Bob Mullins, Raymond Twin County EPA member

Mississippi is... As I think about Mississippi being my treasured state, I can’t help but remember the words of my dad when I was growing up. He always told me it didn’t cost one dime to always speak, be friendly and helpful to our fellow man. I have tried so hard to abide by that throughout my life of 83 years. I try to always remember that everyone has feelings; so do be kind to everyone. I have a gift of gab, so I am always talking to strangers as I go out and about. I am excited as I am always making new friends. One cannot have too many friends; and yes, I have certainly found many in my treasured state of Mississippi. There are not enough words to describe my treasured and great state of Mississippi. I am so proud I live here. Jo Ann Reed, Tupelo Tombigbee EPA member

MARCH 2020 | TODAY 3

in this issue

6 scene around the ‘sip A look at special people and places around Mississippi

11 outdoors today

Timber ducks and the teddy bear



southern gardening American beautyberry

Landrum’s Homestead & Village

14 local news 20 feature

From startup to success, Mississippi’s Drake Waterfowl Systems continues to innovate and expand its brand


26 on the menu

This spring, break out a sheet pan for endless combinations of healthy, colorful meals

29 26


grin ‘n’ bare it

The Official Publication of the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi

Vol. 73 No. 2

OFFICERS Keith Hayward - President Kevin Bonds - First Vice President Eddie Howard - Second Vice President Randy Carroll - Secretary/Treasurer Michael Callahan - Executive Vice President/CEO EDITORIAL STAFF Ron Stewart - Senior VP, Communications Sandra M. Buckley - Editor Chad Calcote - Creative Director/ Manager Elissa Fulton - Communications Specialist Rickey McMillan - Graphic Designer Kevin Wood - Graphic Designer Chris Alexander - Administrative Assistant EDITORIAL OFFICE & ADVERTISING 601-605-8600

Acceptance of advertising by Today in Mississippi does not imply endorsement of the advertised product or services by the publisher or Mississippi’s electric power associations. Product satisfaction and delivery responsibility lie solely with the advertiser. • National advertising representative: American MainStreet Publications, 800-626-1181

Circulation of this issue: 464,792

Non-member subscription price: $9.50 per year. Today in Mississippi (ISSN 1052-2433) is published 11 times a year by Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi Inc., P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158-3300, or 665 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, MS 39157. Phone 601-605-8600. Periodical postage paid at Ridgeland, MS, and additional office. The publisher (and/or its agent) reserves the right to refuse or edit all advertising. POSTMASTER: Send all UAA to CFS. (See DMM 507.1.5.2) NON-POSTAL AND MILITARY FACILITIES: send address corrections to: Today in Mississippi, P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158-3300

New Year’s resolutions: a special look back 25 years ago

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On the cover Mississippi’s Drake Waterfowl Systems is outfitting hunters and outdoor enthusiasts around the world with innovative product lines. Photo by Drake Waterfowl Systems.

And we think you’re going to love ours. So let’s work together: As electric cooperatives, we were built by the communities we serve—and by members just like you. 4 TODAY | MARCH 2020


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by Sandra M. Buckley Mexico, Scotland and France, to name a few.” There is an out-of-the-ordinary destination in Laurel that Strolling through the Homestead, visitors pass by a genoffers a rare glimpse back in time, back before any of the eral store, barber shop, schoolhouse, jail, gas station, water modern-day conveniences we are accustomed to today. It is tower and much more. There is even an Indian village with Landrum’s Homestead & Village, a vision brought to life over two houses, a work shed, corn granary and burial scaffold. the last 36 years by Anne and Tom Landrum as a way to teach Various antique farm equipment, including a restored 1880 their grandchildren what life was like for their ancestors. Ajax steam engine, corn crib, log sled, gristmill and farm “My dad had a passion for history and preserving things plows, are on view as well. Guests also enjoy seeing the from our past,” explained Deborah Landrum-Upton of her working windmill built in 1932; looking in beloved father, Tom, who recently the Picture House, filled with collections passed away. “He felt it was imof old-time photos; feeding the fish portant to remember our heritage There isn’t anything like it in the at the pier; and strolling through the and teach children how our forefathers lived.” state. It’s interesting, educational nature trail. Among the younger visitors’ favorite Lifelong Mississippians, Anne and and fun for all ages. It is 30 acres activities are gem mining, where they Tom were married for 67 years and of beauty, fun and adventure. pan for rough gemstones direct from blessed with five children, 16 grandNorth Carolina mines; a laser shooting gallery; a winding maze; children and 13 great-grandchildren. Deborah and her brother, and a mystery house that seems to challenge gravity. “Adults Bruce, along with Anne, live in Laurel and now run the family’s love the Homestead, too,” Deborah added. “Most of them Homestead operation. It was in 1984 when the original Homestead plan began to remember a lot of things from growing up, brings back lots take shape, thanks to the family’s collection of past memoraof memories.” bilia from their relatives as well as abundant acreage in Jones The Village Chapel is a sight to behold and was built in memory of both Anne and Tom’s parents. “The Chapel is made County. And as the years passed, the collections grew and of cypress and pine built by our family,” Deborah shared. “The they began adding small buildings, such as replicas of what a walls are whitewashed with exposed overhead beams and typical village or small town might have had in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Today, there are more than 85 buildings and handcrafted stained glass windows with beautiful pine handcrafted pews.” The Homestead hosts a variety of scheduled displays on the property, with most built by the family and groups and events throughout the year. “We do demonstrasome brought in and restored onsite. tions such as bake biscuits on a wood stove and give out What began as a family learning opportunity has since samples,” Deborah said. “We grind corn into cornmeal, lead transformed into a destination for thousands of visitors annuwagon rides through the nature trail and share steam engine ally. The family has branded the Homestead as a “living history demonstrations, to name a few.” museum” and invites visitors of all ages to “step back in time “Landrum’s Homestead has been a great asset to Jones and take a walking tour of the past.” “We have visitors from all over the world,” Deborah said. “Canada, England, Germany, County,” said Lydia Walters, communication & human resources 6 TODAY | MARCH 2020

manager for Dixie Electric Power Association. “Their willingness and passion to teach children about old processes and customs are remarkable. Dixie Electric is proud to serve Landrum’s Homestead and be a small part of the educational opportunities they offer.” During the spring, summer and fall seasons, the Homestead’s grounds are vibrant with colors, blooms and scents, and visitors are invited to bring picnic baskets and enjoy the scenery. Also, during these months the Village Chapel, lakeside pavilion and pier are often reserved for weddings and other events, such as reunions, school field trips, senior adult outings and corporate events. Then, Christmas at the Homestead is the busiest — and most festive — time of the year, always starting the weekend after Thanksgiving. “We love Christmas,” Deborah said. “This is our favorite time of the year. Candlelight tours, Santa, Christmas lights, demonstrations, entertainment! One comment we hear a lot is, ‘I feel like I’m in a Hallmark Movie.’”

“My daughter and I enjoy the Landrum’s Christmas celebration,” Lydia added. “Landrum’s Homestead is beautifully decorated for the holiday and provides a wonderful opportunity for children to experience days gone by. It is a great start to the Christmas season.” Year round, Landrum’s Homestead & Village is eager to welcome visitors and share a special look back at days gone by. “The Homestead is unique,” Deborah shared. “There isn’t anything like it in the state. It’s interesting, educational and fun for all ages. It is 30 acres of beauty, fun and adventure.” “We are proud of the legacy dad started,” Deborah added. “The Homestead is a labor of love. We will continue to maintain it and will continually add pieces of history to our collection. It’s always a work in progress … it will never be finished!” Visit or call 601-649-2546 for upcoming spring events and more information. LANDRUM’S HOMESTEAD & VILLAGE 1356 Highway 15 South • Laurel, MS 39443


• Photos must be in sharp focus. • Photos must be the original work of an amateur photographer (of any age). • Photos may be either color or black and white, print or digital. • Digital photos must be high-resolution JPG files of at least 1 MB in size. If emailing a phone photo, select “actual size” before sending. We cannot use compressed photo files. • Please do not use photo-editing software to adjust colors or tones. We prefer to do it ourselves, if necessary, according to our production standards.

• Photos with the date stamped on the image cannot be used. • Each entry must be accompanied by the photographer’s name, address, phone number and electric power association (if applicable). Include the name(s) of any recognizable people or places in the picture. Feel free to add any other details you like. • Prints will be returned if accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. We cannot, however, guarantee their safe return through the mail.

• Attach digital photos to your email message and send to • If submitting more than one photo, please attach all photos to only one email message, if possible. Please be sure to include all information requested in the guidelines. • Or, mail prints or a CD to: Picture This, Today in Mississippi, P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158-3300. Submission deadline: March 10. Select photos will appear in the April 2020 issue.

MARCH 2020 | TODAY 7

Wayne Withers The Mississippian taking the professional arm-wrestling world by storm

by Sandra M. Buckley Framed at 6 feet 6 inches tall and 300 pounds, Wayne Withers of Neshoba County is a sturdy man who is taking the armwrestling world by storm. Withers grew up in Carthage, where his dad worked as a logger. He liked helping out his dad; and thus, he bulked up along the way. His father also was known for his arm-wrestling skills, often challenging locals to friendly, spur-of-the-moment matches. By default, the younger Withers picked up an interest in that as well. As the years passed, Withers not only learned more about arm wrestling, he trained and competed in the sport. He discovered, too, that arm wrestlers, also known as pullers, did not have much of a presence in Mississippi — and he set out to change that fact. With a spirit of determination, over the last decade Withers has taken competitive arm wrestling to a new level and developed it as a competitive sport in Mississippi. “Mississippi is on the map,” he said of its growing popularity. Today, his passion and efforts, alongside fellow arm wrestler enthusiasts who started the Mississippi Arm Fighter group, are building momentum — and muscles — across the state. “We went from myself being the only competitive puller to about 60 pullers statewide. We hold about four major tournaments a year and are growing every day.” Withers holds numerous wins and titles, within the state, region and country. “I’m currently ranked first right hand and left hand Super Heavyweight Champion in Mississippi and overall right and left hand in Mississippi,” he said. “I have previous Northeast regional titles and Southeast regional titles. I am the two-time defending Alabama State Champion; the

8 TODAY | MARCH 2020

Louisiana State Champion and New Mexico State Champion; and most recently, Pennsylvania World Arm Wrestling League Qualifier Champion.” His North American standing, which also includes Canada and Mexico, ranks him in the top 10. To train for this level of physical competition, Withers said he is at the gym four days a week, aggressively strengthening his forearms, biceps, wrists and back. In addition to the bodily training, competitive pullers must also learn the sport’s rules and regulations as well as maneuvering techniques and strategies. “I’m very passionate knowing that I’m a champion at the sport I’ve loved since I was a child,” Withers shared. “And 100 years after I’m gone from this world, if arm wrestling is mentioned in Mississippi, you will hear my name — and that’s something I can be proud of.” Withers, who is a husband, father of three and certified electrician, encourages others to get involved in Mississippi’s growing arm-wrestling arena. In the meantime, he is paving the way for himself and future pullers. “With a wall full of trophies,” he added, “it feels great to know I’ve worked very hard to achieve my goals — and I’m only scratching the surface of what I can do on my way to World Champion.” Wayne Withers is a Central Electric member. Call him at 601-741-1380 or visit Wayne Withers Arm Wrestling on YouTube or Mississippi Arm Fighter on Facebook for more information.




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I stuffed Kent® Fasteel® 2.0 Number 4s into a Mossberg SATheodore Roosevelt is not only known for his title as presi20, my preference for the 20-gauge enhanced by the fact that dent, but also for his love of the outdoors. In 1902, Roosevelt there is less recoil to jolt aging shoulders and this shotgun came to Onward, Miss., to hunt bears in the big woods with an fits me perfectly. A grand day began to unfold. equally extraordinary man, Holt Collier. Collier was a former That orange glow of an emerging sunrise was promptly slave and Confederate soldier and maintained quite the reputafollowed by airy whistles just above treetops. A tiny shiver tion as a hunter. He would guide Roosevelt. trickled upward from submerged toes The story is often told, but a fragment to eager fingers. Ducks rushed this way of it deserves repeating here. After days and that, some few with cupped wings in of hunting, Roosevelt was still unsuccessful. Collier, with the assistance of his preparation for splash down. Shotguns hounds, managed to catch a bear and thudded. A limit was collected, this later to become poppers consisting of duck tie it to a tree, whereupon he delivered Roosevelt to that tree. Roosevelt refused breast, cream cheese, jalapeno pepper and smoked bacon grilled to perfection. to shoot, and a cartoonist replicated Best not tell my cardiologist. the scene with a drawing. That drawing eventually spawned the production of a So, should you go and retrace Roosevelt’s footsteps? Absolutely. Some stuffed toy bear, and now we have what Photo by Bryce Towsley affable duck hunter is likely to offer an is perhaps the most popular cuddle toy Josh Miller (left) and Tony Kinton (right) wait for mallards. invitation. But even if not, the Delta is too known: the teddy bear. good to miss. Start by visiting the Welcome Center and then Recently, I found myself in the midst of the long-vanished following the Blues Trail northward. Entertainment and history footsteps of Roosevelt and Collier — a block of woods just off will be waiting. Highway 61 and quite near a Welcome Center that will soon feature a Roosevelt exhibit as well as other exhibits and historical displays. It will also serve as a gateway, of sorts, to the Mississippi Blues Trail. This center will be a must-see and should be open soon. I was hosted and joined in these woods by avid and skilled duck hunters Nick Tarlton (, Conrad Gilmore by Tony Kinton and Josh Miller ( The noxious, but somewhat pleasant, smell of wet Delta soil greeted us as we Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. He lives navigated circling trees to gain access to an open hole. There, in Carthage and is a Central Electric member. Visit we threw out decoys and took stations beside big oak trees. for more information.


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American Beautyberry Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman American beautyberry is a native shrub with a big impact that makes a great selection for Mississippi yards and landscapes.

I want to tell you about American beautyberry, a 2020 Mississippi Medallion winner that is superbly adapted to our garden and landscape environment. As a native species found across the Southeast, it is known botanically as Callicarpa americana. This widely distributed plant is a fine selection for the home landscape and garden. Beautyberry is a deciduous shrub that starts each spring completely leafless. New growth starts to push out in May, so don’t worry if you haven’t seen anything earlier in the season. Its flowering is mostly nondescript, with delicate, pink flowers produced in the leaf axils in an opposite arrangement. But in the late summer, beautyberry is ready to take the landscape stage. And, it’s hard to miss the gorgeous berries of American beautyberry in the fall, when they are commonly seen along the edges of wooded areas. Bright, shiny magenta-purple berries are produced in tight clusters around the oppositely arranged leaves. The arching stems seem to be dripping from the overproduction of berries. In many years, the branches bend over and touch the landscape beds because of the weight of the berries. A couple of selections have different berry colors. Alba prolificity produces loads of snow-white berries. Welch’s Pink has brightpink berries that bleach out over the course of the season.

American beautyberry will easily grow to over 5 feet tall with an equal spread. This size, along with its loose and open growing habit, can make the plant look just a bit unruly for most landcapes. I think it’s a good idea to prune these plants back to about 6 inches every spring before new growth appears. This pruning keeps the plant manageable and tidy and allows for lots of new growth. Beautyberry flowers and fruits on the new season’s growth, so pruning each year will result in a great fruiting display in the fall. This shrub grows in most soil conditions in the landscape and tolerates droughty conditions but maintain consistent soil moisture for best growth. While beautyberry grows in full sun, I like to plant these shrubs in a landscape location that provides afternoon shade to lessen the western exposure heat load. When out shopping this spring for beautyberry, realize that there are a couple of species that come from Asia. These are C. japonica and C. dichotoma. Both are great choices for landscapes. The only differences lie in the arrangement of the berries along the stems in the fall. The berries of these species are displayed on short stalks on the opposite leaf axils. If you see these other species available, I suggest giving them a try.

by Dr. Gary Bachman Gary Bachman, Ph.D., Extension/Research Professor of Horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. He is also host of “Southern Gardening” radio and TV programs. He lives in Ocean Springs and is a Singing River Electric member.

MARCH 2020 | TODAY 13

Fiber construction update As a part of North East Mississippi Electric Power Association’s (NEMEPA) smart grid fiber to the home project, fiber communication huts were recently installed at Lafayette Springs, Brittany Woods, Sardis Lake, Oxford and Enterprise Substations. A fiber hut for the Thacker Heights area is scheduled to arrive in May. The huts will house essential electronic equipment used to communicate with downstream electronic devices that will eventually make up NEMEPA’s smart grid. In spite of weather delays, NEMEPA contractor crews have begun installing its smart grid fiber backbone along Hwy 6 East in the vicinity of Brittany Woods Subdivision and Campground Road (CR 217). From there, construction will continue eastward along Highway 6 toward Lafayette Springs and to the eastern edge of NEMEPA’s service territory. The build out of fiber to roads that adjoin highway 6 east will occur at approximately the same time. An additional benefit to having smart grid is the ability for NEMEPA to form a subsidiary and serve broadband to its members. North East Fiber, LLC through its product offering, SPARC, should be ready to serve its first customers during the month of May! Customers in the initial roll out of service include those along Hwy 6 and its adjoining roads, from Brittany Woods Subdivision to approximately county road 415. The rest of Hwy 6 eastward to the edge of NEMEPA service territory and into Thaxton will follow very shortly afterwards. “Weather has hampered construction, but we are pressing forward at every opportunity,” said Randall Abel, manager of engineering and operations. “Contractor crews have worked weekends in order to make up lost time. Underground construction in Tuscan Hills Subdivision is going very well. Customers in that subdivision will be able to take SPARC service as part of the initial roll out.” Additional crews are currently scheduled to begin construction within the next few months in several other parts of NEMEPA’s system including: Sardis Lake, College Hill, North Pointe, Thacker Heights, Tula, Yocona and Lafayette Springs areas. “We will have 12-13 crews on site working to install fiber for our smart grid by the end of April,” said Abel. Pre-registration at has been brisk with over 4,000 sign-ups already. The website allows interested subscribers to give contact information so that NEMEPA personnel can contact them when service becomes available in their area.


Lafayette High School receives award Lafayette High School was awarded a $1500.00 grant by the Tennessee Valley Authority on Feb. 11. This grant will go towards programs in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Department. City officials, as well as representatives from NEMEPA and TVA, were present for this presentation. 14 TODAY | MARCH 2020

MARCH 2020 | TODAY 15


by Abby Berry Today’s market offers a plethora of new gadgets and devices that claim to make our homes smarter, safer and more efficient. But as with any new smart technology, consumers should take extra precautions to ensure these devices are secure. Internet-connected cameras have brought significant convenience to the way we monitor the security of our homes, children — even our furry family members! With the simple swipe of a smartphone, homeowners can instantly keep a watchful eye from afar. But in recent months, some consumers found themselves in scary situations when hackers were able to tap into internet-connected security cameras in their homes. This enabled the hackers to view and speak to the people, including children, inside the homes. As connected devices become increasingly popular, it’s important that we know how to secure our digital lives. The U.S. Department of Commerce offers the following tips for protecting smart devices: Get creative with passwords. Change your device’s factory security settings from the default password. This is one of the most important steps to take in the protection of internetconnected devices. Consider creating the longest password or passphrase permissible, and use familiar phrases you’ll remember, like the lyrics to your favorite song. Keep tabs on your apps. Most connected devices are supported by a smartphone application. Your smartphone could be filled with apps running in the background or using default permissions you never realized you approved, gathering personal information without your knowledge while also putting your identity and privacy at risk. Check 16 TODAY | MARCH 2020

your app permissions and say “no” to privilege requests that don’t make sense. Secure your network. Properly secure the wireless network you use for internet-connected devices. Consider placing these devices on a separate and dedicated network. Connect and protect. Whether it’s your computer, smartphone, game console, camera or other connected devices, the best defense is to stay on top of things by updating to the latest security software, web browser and operating system. If you have the option to enable automatic updates to defend against the latest risks, turn it on. Convenient, connected devices are here to stay — and unfortunately, so are the hackers. But by taking extra steps to safeguard your network and devices, you can keep your digital life secure as possible. Abby Berry is a Mississippi native who writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

As connected devices, like home monitoring and security cameras, become increasingly popular, it’s important that we know how to secure our digital lives.

Harvest time

When are veggies table-ready?

by L.A. Jackson With proper care, spring vegetable plantings will grow up big, strong and productive to add plenty of homegrown edibles to the dinner table. But, while waiting for these crops to mature, now is not too soon to start mentally registering harvest tips to be ready when the bountiful times arrive. Such pointers can also be helpful to folks who don’t have gardens but go to pick-your-own farms. In addition, frequenters to farmers’ markets will probably find a few of these tips useful to help select produce at their freshest and tastiest. Bell Peppers. The typical bell pepper can be picked when it is either green or red. A red bell pepper is just riper than a green one and tastes slightly sweeter. If you prefer to use a size-ometer, harvest these peppers when they are about 3 inches in diameter. Carrots. Carrots are normally ready Photos by L.A. Jackson when their orange crowns poke out above the soil line. For better storHarvest eggplants when their age, cut off all but about 2 inches of skins are shiny, not dull. the fern tops after you pull carrots from the ground. Cucumbers. Although they come in all sizes, standard cukes will, of course, be a deep green when mature. However, if a cucumber starts to show a yellow tint, it is past ripe. Eggplant. Common varieties, such as “Black Beauty” and “Classic,” should have a shiny, dark purple color and be about 4 inches in diameter. Any eggplant that has been on the plant too long will lose its shine – this also applies to the newer, fancy-colored varieties such as “Neon” and “Ping Tung.”

Okra. The better tasting (and least slimy) okra pods are snipped off at about 3 inches long. Tip: For little or no slime, when boiling okra, leave the pods whole. Green Beans. These beans are at their best when they are about 3 to 6 inches long. At these sizes, the seeds haven’t started to swell yet, and the pods are tender enough to snap easily. Leaf Lettuce. Wait until the plants are about 5 inches tall and starting to fully fill out with foliage. Then, begin your picking. Use scissors, and only take outer leaves so the plants will continue growing strongly in order to extend the harvest season. This method works well for romaine lettuce and spinach, too.

The tastiest okra pods are picked when they are about 3 inches long.

Summer Squash. Tasty crook, straight-neck and zucchini squash will be had when they are picked at about 6 inches long. Round pattypan varieties are in their prime around 4 to 5 inches in diameter.

Tomatoes. Come on – everybody knows what a ripe tomato looks like! Sometimes, however, ’maters are picked with a bit of green still showing. To turn the green to red (and make fruits fully ripe), simply place them in a cozy area indoors. A sunny windowsill won’t do because ol’ Sol’s direct rays could redden the skin but not ripen the inside of the tomato. Moderate warmth, not strong light, is the key to properly maturing a tomato. L.A. Jackson is the former editor of Carolina Gardener magazine. Article provided by Carolina Living.

Buckatunna Creek Paddling unfamiliar streams with The Man in the Dugout Canoe by Sandra M. Buckley “Adventure for Drew Turner is all about exploring the unknown,” said his wife, Donna. In 2011, she added, he built a dugout canoe from a poplar tree with a determination to explore the “familiar” as well as the “unfamiliar” streams of Mississippi. Since then, her husband has paddled his dugout canoe more than 1,500 miles and has become known throughout the region as “The Man in the Dugout Canoe.” “The early explorers of American history had no idea of what lay ahead when they set off on a journey,” she noted. “They simply set off to find new things in unfamiliar territory. That is not any different than what Drew does today; he just does it on a smaller scale, in his dugout canoe.” Adventure for Drew — and Donna who accompanies him on every float — is all about attitude. “You cannot have an

Photos by Donna Sones Turner

18 TODAY | MARCH 2020

attitude of doubt; it must be one of determination and grit,” she said. “Mississippi is full of undiscovered streams of beauty. If you want to find them, you must be willing to go to unfamiliar places.” Attempting to access these unfamiliar streams, however, can sometimes be physically challenging — especially if there is not a cemented boat ramp or the terrain is rocky and steep. “Drew considers these a CrossFit workout and a simple canoe-trip-turned-adventure,” Donna said with a laugh. Buckatunna Creek in Wayne County is one such example, where the designated boat put-in is difficult to maneuver; though, like with many creeks, there are simpler and lesser known loading and exiting options that can be found nearby. The name Buckatunna, in fact, is derived from a Choctaw word meaning a creek with much weaving. “I recommend doing the Buckatunna float in the spring when there is ample water,” she shared. “About three miles into the float, the terrain begins to change drastically. The banks become rocky with high overhanging cliffs. Some of the rock walls are so high it feels like you are in a giant bowl. The ferns droop over the edge of the cliffs and looks like a beautiful green valance. There are several small waterfalls, and the springs flow from the rocks overhead into the water beneath. The sights, the sounds and the fragrance create a magical experience that cannot be captured in words or with the stroke of a pen.” For the adventure-seeking Man in the Dugout Canoe, who turns 61 in June, his passion is encouraging people to discover our “Hidden Mississippi.” His many adventures are documented on his Facebook page, featuring hundreds of beautiful photos, helpful information and a touch of humor. Drew Turner uses his Man in the Dugout Canoe platform as a ministry to promote families spending time together outdoors as well as acknowledge God as the Creator of the universe. A taxidermist by trade, he is a storyteller and speaker who shares his message with church groups and at wildlife events. The Turners live in Hattiesburg and are Pearl River Valley Electric members. Visit TheManInTheDugoutCanoe for more information.




PLANTING SEEDS OF HEALTHY HABITS AND VALUABLE SKILLSETS Above: Pleasant Hill Elementary student in DeSoto County tended the school’s garden. Photo by Pleasant Hill Elementary.

by Sandra M. Buckley Gipson shared. “These students took the produce they grew Promoting farm-fresh food for students has been a longin their garden and had a farmers market at their school.” standing effort of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture This Madison school’s principal, Debra Houghton, is pleased and Commerce (MDAC). An important way it is accomplishing with the benefits that have stemmed from the grant. “Mannsthis goal is through the Growing Lunch School Garden Grant. dale Upper’s gardening curriculum incorporates principles that The grant’s statewide platform provides hands-on learning not only involve planting seeds but nurturing those seeds into opportunities for students centered around local agriculture, becoming plants that produce food for our students and staff,” gardening and nutrition. “It provides a great opportunity for she said. “Our program is designed our youth to learn where their to help students connect agriculfood comes from as well as how ture to the grocery store and to to grow their own food,” said their own dinner table.” MDAC Commissioner Andy GipIn Olive Branch, Pleasant Hill son. “Students that are actively Elementary used the grant to fund involved with the planting and a muscadine vineyard and blackactual growing of the produce in berry and strawberry patches. One the gardens are more likely to be way the students took part was enthusiastic about eating the fruits by weighing the fruit and then and vegetables.” making jams, jellies and preserves, Since 2014, MDAC has awarded MDAC Commissioner Andy Gipson visited Mannsdale Upper Elementary School in Madison County to present the Growing Lunch School Garden which all incorporated what they 77 grants to schools across MisGrant. Photo by Mannsdale Upper Elementary School. were learning in math. “The MDAC sissippi, from preschools and daycares to grades K-12. The grants, which are up to $500, provide Garden Grant provided the necessary boost to get our program off the ground,” said teacher Todd Willis. “Our specialty crops schools the resources to start a garden by purchasing items created community interest and increased parental involvesuch as soil, seeds, fertilizer, stakes, lumber, tools, gloves, water ment in our school. Now, four years after the planting, we have hoses and irrigation supplies. Schools with existing gardens a beautiful productive vineyard on our school property.” can use the grant to expand and purchase needed supplies. For children across Mississippi, the Growing Lunch School For students, the gardening experience is designed to supGarden Grant is successfully planting seeds of healthy habits plement their educational curriculum. “We have seen teachers and valuable skillsets. utilize the school garden through a variety of subjects and “Not only are these students sharpening their academic skills classrooms, from physical education, art, science, math, culinary and learning many life-long lessons, they are getting to see arts and more,” Commissioner Gipson said. “Teachers have been very creative in utilizing the gardens to incorporate every- first-hand the importance of agriculture,” added Commissioner Gipson. “My hope is that through this experience, these day lessons into a more hands-on approach that often reaches students will gain an interest in agriculture and take advantage students on different levels. We have received comments that of the many career opportunities in agriculture in their future.” it has helped with behavior issues in the classroom, students have taken on more responsibility and it has enticed students This program is funded by the USDA Specialty Crop Block to learn and be more creative!” Grant Program. Grants are available on a first come, first Schools creatively employ this program too, from parent serve basis, and only one grant can be awarded per school. involvement to open houses and farmers markets. “I am so impressed when I see schools like Mannsdale Upper Elementary Visit or contact Susan Lawrence at for more information. doing such amazing things with their garden,” Commissioner MARCH 2020 | TODAY 19



C hi l dho o d f r i e nd s br o u g ht a dr ea m and a v i s i o n to l i f e wi th D rak e Wa te r f o wl S y s te m s

Photos by Drake Waterfowl Systems

by Sandra M. Buckley Bobby Windham and Tate Wood line was born. After all, their love of met in elementary school. These childhunting started when they were young hood friends grew up in Greenwood, boys in the woods, fields and swamps of on Delta Electric Power Association the Mississippi Delta. “Tate’s Dad, Avery lines. Little did the pair know at that Wood, took him hunting at the early age time, however, that their lives would of three,” Bobby said, adding that his be forever intertwined — as they would uncle is who mentored him in the sport. become future business partners. Working around the clock, the two “We have been buddies since the friends crafted a viable business plan, 6th grade,” Bobby said. “We met at combined their resources, designed and Bankston Elementary School. We made quality products, composed a winactually played on the city champining sales pitch and focused on turning a onship junior high team together our passion into a sustainable career. “In the 7th grade year, where Tate was the beginning,” Bobby recalled, “we knew quarterback and I was a guard!” The we had to have a ‘hook’ and created two friends went on to graduate from garments for the waterfowl hunter. No Pillow Academy together in 1983. After one was in this space, so we filled that high school, Bobby attended Delta void. We started with approximately 12 State University while Tate attended products, many of which are still in the The University of Mississippi — both line today.” earning degrees in finance. After the initial groundwork was laid, Tate Wood and Bobby Windham, co-owners In 2001, as young adults armed Drake Waterfowl Systems officially with a college education and some launched in 2002. In true entrepreneur early work experience, Bobby and Tate were determined to fashion, Bobby and Tate’s first year involved a lot of grunt discover how — and if — they could make a living doing what work. From Mississippi, the startup’s two co-founders trekked they were both passionate about: duck hunting and the great across the country, pitching and selling their small product line outdoors. And this is how the novel idea for a hunting apparel to independent retailers. 20 TODAY | MARCH 2020

“We loaded up our trucks and knocked on doors all across serve one with deep Mississippi and co-op roots,” said Michael the USA,” Bobby said. “I have literally been from International Bellipanni, director of marketing and business development for Falls, Minnesota at the Canadian Border to Gueydan in the Northcentral Electric Cooperative. southern tip of Louisiana; the Puget Sound in Washington Over the years, as the Drake business boomed, so did its State to the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland; and everywhere staff. “We flex in and out of employees with seasonal workers in between, driving my extended cab Chevrolet pickup truck and temps but run around 45 to 50 off season and as many while setting up accounts! We established over 150 accounts as 100 during the season,” Bobby said. “We are very happy to the first year.” support our local community with good jobs because the Today, 18 years later, Drake products are sold at more than people here are great! They are dependable, hardworking 1,100 retail locations across the U.S., Canada and in a few individuals and care about what is going with our company.” stores overseas. With this success, it remained important to Staffed with a team who is always thinking of “the next big Bobby and Tate to keep their business thing” for their market, the company strain Mississippi, which is headquartered tegically decided to expand its product in Olive Branch. “We believe DeSoto offerings a few years ago. This incorporatCounty is a great place for a business ed a targeted message to consumers that We believe DeSoto County one does not need to be a duck hunter to be located,” Bobby shared. is a great place for a Drake’s corporate office and its to enjoy the Drake brand — and success business to be located. 173,000-square-foot warehouse rely ensued. Now, through its sister brands, on Northcentral Electric Cooperative the product lines market a range of gear for the power required to operate at full capacity and and sporting wear as well as casual wear for men, women and on a global scale. “While we have served many youth such as on-trend t-shirts, pullovers, vests and caps. multi-national companies in our area “We have multiple pursuit-specific brands, such as Drake due to our expansive growth, it’s Waterfowl Clothing for the waterfowl hunter; Drake’s Non Typia special privilege for cal line for the big game hunter; Ol’ Tom Technical Turkey Gear Northcentral to for turkey hunting; Drake Performance Fishing for the fisherman; Drake Collegiate that concentrates on SEC collegiate gear with select ACC and Big 12 schools; and we are relaunching McAlister this fall, which is primarily waxed canvas goods.” Breaking into the collegiate clothing line, for example, has proven a smart move for the company. “It is really enjoyable to be watching a college football game on Saturday or a basketball game in the spring and see someone wearing one of our pieces,” Bobby said. “We greatly appreciate the support we have received from all the schools that participate in our offering. The exposure we receive is phenomenal!”

MARCH 2020 | TODAY 21

“We typically work two years out on a product, with at least Looking back, Bobby and Tate agree that starting a new one full year of testing in the field.” venture, like they did with Drake, required taking risks, To take its marketing to the next level and reach even more innovative thinking and embracing technology. A term, consumers, the company also produces “Migration Nation,” a in fact, that the guys came up with in the company’s early days is “Drake-ology” — and it is still referenced often around TV show that provides viewers with educational and entertaining content to further promote the brand. “We have been the office. “Drake-ology is how we develop our products,” able to capture the utilization of our product on this medium Bobby explained. “It’s where generations of duck hunting and have shown some great duck hunting as well,” Bobby experience meet today’s technological advances.” said, noting that episodes can be found anytime on YouTube. Thanks to Drake-ology, the company already holds The Drake team also enjoys and relies on partnerships numerous patents and trademarks. “We established our with other Mississippi companies in the reputation as ‘innovators of waterfowl outdoors industry — all of whom share hunting’ with our Eqwader product,” a common love of Mississippi. “We are he added. “It was the first garment, very proud to work with likeminded to our knowledge, that combined individuals across the state of Miswaterproof fabric above the sternum sissippi, such as Toxey Haas and Bill and breathable fleece below, which Sugg with Mossy Oak in West Point,” we were awarded a patent for Bobby said. “We have been a licensee the idea.” for Mossy Oak Camo since we started in Having recognized the demand 2002. We are now a clothing sponsor for for Eqwader products, Bobby and Primos Game Calls from Flora. Will and Tate then launched the additional A male mallard duck is called a Jimmy Primos are legends in the hunting lines. Likewise, these boast high-tech Drake and is recognized for its industry, and we are proud and excited features and high-performance mato be working with people who share our terials, such as waterproof, windproof distinct and exquisite coloring, passion of the outdoors.” and breathable fabrics incorporated with a green head, yellow bill, The two childhood friends who grew in the brand’s insulated boots, wadup in Greenwood hunting and playing ers, bonded fleece pants and down white neck, brown chest football did discover that yes, they could jackets, to name a few. and gray body. According to make a living doing what they were both Drake is a company that keeps, passionate about. From Delta roots to on innovating. It recently filed for North Mississippi operations, Bobby and two more patents, one of which is mallards are considered the Tate brought their dream and vision to life for a revolutionary new duck blind. most abundant duck on the through their Drake brand. “We are bringing several blinds that “Drake Waterfowl and its sister brands have never been seen in the market planet, with Drakes making bring superior quality apparel and gear before now!” Bobby shared. “Tate has up 55 percent of the to the marketplace,” Michael added. worked very hard to perfect these species’ population. “They have practically become a blinds, and we believe hunters will be household name with a brand that excited to use them to help them take is recognizable from coast to coast. a limit of birds. I don’t want to ruin It’s amazing to witness the continued the surprise, so you will have to check growth of this homegrown, Mississippi our website for videos and availabilisuccess story!” ty. You will not be disappointed!” As trailblazers in their field, new product research and development, Visit along with field testing, is critical for more information. to ensuring the quality and brand’s reputation. “You have to test your products in order to find issues before they hit the market,” he added.


22 TODAY | MARCH 2020


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mississippi marketplace on the menu outdoors today scene around the ‘sip picture this my opinion co-op involvement southern gardening


arch in Mississippi brings with it the promise of gardening and warmer, sunny days. As spring approaches, you start to transition from hearty winter fare to lighter recipes bustling with a colorful array of fruits and vegetables. Bright colors indicate a high nutritional content in foods, and the more radiant your plate, the more nourishment you will get from your meal. No question that eating three to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day will improve your health. But health experts are saying healthy eating is not only about how many servings of plants you eat. It’s about the variety on your plate, too. For optimal health, you need a rainbow of nutrients and colors. The array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables has enormous healing powers. And many of them showcase distinctive colors. This spring, break out a sheet pan for endless dinner combinations of healthy colors and flavors. Plus, one-pan cooking makes meal prep easy and clean up a breeze.

24 TODAY | MARCH 2020 26

grin ‘n’ bare it

with Rebecca Turner

Sheet Pan Recipe Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Choose an array of vegetables from the colors of the rainbow, and wash and chop them to even sizes. Toss vegetables in 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper or your favorite blend of herbs and spices. Roast vegetables on a sheet pan, stirring every 10 minutes until all vegetables are tender.

Sheet Pan Recipe Remix Take your sheet pan cooking to the next level and add in your protein, too. Seafood, chicken or turkey sausage pair great on a sheet pan full of vegetables. Be mindful of proper internal temperatures for protein. You may need to roast longer to ensure safe cooking temperatures are reached.


Red At only 35 calories a cup, tomatoes have a wealth of vitamin and mineral content, including calcium and potassium. Slice cherry tomatoes in half and drizzle with olive oil as a sweet treat, raw or roasted.

Broccoli is rich in vitamin K and calcium, two nutrients essential for maintaining strong bones, and fiber for a healthy heart. Enjoy broccoli raw, roasted, steamed or even air fried.


Orange Carrots are crunchy and highly nutritious. Whether you snack on baby carrots or slice carrots in rings to roast, you’ll get vitamins and minerals linked to lower cholesterol levels and improved eye health.


Onions, whether white, purple or yellow, contain antioxidants and compounds that fight inflammation, decrease triglycerides and reduce cholesterol levels. Their potent anti-inflammatory properties may also help reduce high blood pressure.


Yellow, red, orange and green bell peppers are full of potential health benefits. Peppers are packed with vitamins and low in calories, adding crunch and color to any springtime recipe.

Rebecca Turner is an author, registered dietitian, radio host, television presenter and a certified specialist in sports dietetics with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A lifelong Mississippian, she lives in Brandon and has spent the last decade offering no-nonsense nutrition guidance that allows you to enjoy good health and good food. Her book, “Mind Over Fork,” challenges the way you think, not the way you eat. Find her on social media and online at


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grin ‘n’ bare it The following column holds great significance because it was the first column I wrote for Today in Mississippi. I’m curious to see if any of my faithful readers remember it from 25 years ago?

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS (Reprinted from the January 1995 issue of Today in Mississippi)

I’m sitting here writing my second list of New Year’s resolutions. This set is realistic. The first list reflected on one nightmarish moment when I saw myself in a football stadium bathroom mirror. It was the Peach Bowl game in Atlanta with Mississippi State playing North Carolina State. Never mind the game, but what I saw in the mirror was a middle-aged woman with a frenzied expression, untamed hair and 10 extra pounds. For a second, I thought it was my mother. I jumped! Standing next to me at the mirror was a young mother who looked like who I thought I should look like. I went back to my seat, rather depressed, pulled out my travel notebook and wrote 12 New Year’s resolutions while Eric Moulds caught a kick-off ball and hightailed it way, way up the field. I don’t keep up with yardage. My partner says, “Why can’t you just watch one game without writing? This is a Bowl game, for heavens sake… Look! There goes Davis running through the middle… it may be a first down! Go Dawgs!” “If I don’t jot down my thoughts, I’ll lose this moment forever,” I say. “This very moment may turn my life around.” “Yes, yes… you’re right, it’s a first down!” he yells. “No,” I say, “around! My life could turn around.” He takes his earphones off. “In the middle of a football game? Did you have a spiritual experience?” “You might call it that,” I say, “but it’s more like an Awakening. ‘One moment in time’ when I realize I’m not ‘all’ that young anymore. And on top of that, my face looks tired, my hair has no style and I’m fat!” My partner gives me a I-don’t-believe-my-ears expression. “You gotta be kidding! We’re at the biggest game of the entire year, the team is playing great and you’re turning your life around? Please, turn it around after the game.”

So that was the day I made my first list of resolutions. I wrote things like: I will never eat another pizza as long as I live; I will eat one cookie a month; I will not eat McDonald’s French fries except on my birthday; I will go to a hair stylist every month; I will get 8 hours sleep every night, drink lots of water and use my Ponds faithfully. Needless to say, my list reflected the mirror-moment experience, but it was very unrealistic. Today, I’m toning down the resolutions. My partner walks by my recliner as I’m writing and munching the last fruitcake cookie that Jane, my sister-in-law, gave us for Christmas. “I see you’ve ‘turned’ back to your old habits. Sitting, eating and writing,” he says. “I’ll never figure why you decided to make yourself over in the middle of the Peach Bowl game.” “That’s not an unusual place,” I say. “Over the past years I’ve made lots of important decisions at football games.” “You’re not trying to start an argument, are you?” he says. “Never! There’s not another game for eight months. I couldn’t wait that long to make up.” Resolution number 13: Never start something you can’t finish in four quarters.

by Kay Grafe Kay Grafe is the author of “Oh My Gosh, Virginia.” She lives in Lucedale and is a Singing River Electric member. Contact her at

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mississippi marketplace Want more than 464,700 readers to know about your special Spring Arts Festival: Herb, Garden & Art, March 28From our Gardens to Yours, April 4, Natchez. event?on Events open to the public will be published free of charge the menu outdoors 29, Ocean Springs. This 27th annual today event will showcase Presented by the Adams County Master Gardeners, this as space allows. Submit details at least two months prior to the more than 100 artists, crafters and plant vendors, plant sale will feature a variety of plants and master event date. Submissions must include a phone number with featuring paintings, pottery, jewelry, plants, demongardeners will be on hand. 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Co-Lin area code for publication. Mail to Mississippi Events,the Today in ‘sip scene around strations, entertaining lecturespicture and more. Local shops,this Community College; 11 Co-Lin Circle. Free admission. Mississippi, P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158-3300; or email restaurants and galleries will be open as well. Opens at Details: 601-445-8201. to Events are subject to change. Please confirm 9 a.m. both days. Downtown Ocean Springs. Details: my opinion details before traveling. co-op involvement Mississippi Community Symphonic Band Concert, March 7, Jackson. 7 p.m. Belhaven University Performing Arts Center; 835 Riverside Drive. Free admission. Details:; 601-594-0055.; 228-875-4424.

16th Annual Waynesboro Whistle Stop Festival, April 4, Waynesboro. This event features a 5K run/walk, children’s train rides and pony rides, arts and crafts, food vendors, classic car and motorcycle show, live music and more. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Details: Facebook; 866-735-2268.

southern gardening6th Annual Shiloh Arts and Crafts Show, 4, grin ‘n’Aprilbare it

Smith County Jamboree Festival, March 16-21, Polkville. Featuring bands Monday–Wednesday, open stage jamming; free admission. Thursday–Friday, live bands to perform; admission. Camper hookups available. The Music Barn. Details: 601-946-0280; 601-955-9182. Big Gospel Sing, March 21, Magee. Music featuring Inspirations, Tim Frith & Gospel and The Revelations. 6:30 p.m. Magee High School Auditorium. Details: 601-720-8870; 601-906-0677. Gulf Coast Spring Pilgrimage, March 25-28, Mississippi Gulf Coast. Hosted by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Council of Garden Clubs, explore a variety of beautiful venues including homes, museums, gardens and churches, from Diamondhead to Moss Point. The opening event will include a flower show. Free admission. Details:

Pelahatchie. Come browse vendors’ unique handcrafted items, tour the Shiloh Museum and enjoy good food and fellowship. Entertainment for children and live music by The Elderly Brothers will be provided. 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. United Methodist Church Campground; 2394 Shiloh Road. Free admission. Details: 662-587-5002. An Evening of Blues: a Party with a Purpose, April 4, Clarksdale. Presented by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Delta, this benefit concert will feature Big A & The All Stars. The event emcee will be Bill Luckett with special guest speaker Mona Dixon, BGC National Youth of the Year 2010. 8 p.m. to 12 p.m. Ground Zero Blues Club. Admission. Details:; 662-763-5234.

Maker Faire Meridian, April 4-5, Meridian. Part science fair, part county fair and part something entirely new, this unique event is a gathering of “Makers,” including tech enthusiasts, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, craft students and more. These Makers of all ages will share what they have made and learned. There’s no charge to be a Maker. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum; 1808 4th Street. Free admission. Details:; Facebook; 601-693-9905.

“Doublewide, Texas,” March 27-29 and April 3-5, Laurel. Presented by the Laurel Little Theatre, this hilarious Southern comedy will take place in the historic 1927 Arabian Theatre. Admission. Details:; 601-428-0140. Mississippi’s Great “Show & Tell” Event

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actually looked up the definition for “Renaissance man.” Google said it is, “A person with many talents or areas of knowledge.” So, my friend Burnely Cook in Natchez fits the bill. He wouldn’t say so. And would probably argue against the idea. But what does he know? The first time I met Burnely, he was restoring the old pipe organ from the long-gone Baker Grand Theatre in Natchez. The organ had been crammed into storage for 40 years. A notice popped up on Facebook one day that if anybody wanted it, come get it. Otherwise, it was going to the dump. Although Burnley is an accomplished pianist, he had never played the organ. However, he couldn’t possibly let something of such significance hit the trash heap. So, he gathered the thing into his garage and spent the next five years reading and tinkering and finding other people who knew about pipe organs and put all of its hundreds and hundreds of pieces back together. He even modernized it with a MIDI control system. So now it plays even better than it did when it was new. Not to mention Burnley is a musical living jukebox. Ask him if he can play any song and he can! Plop a piece of sheet music in front of him and he can rip through that, too. So Burnley’s musical talent coupled with the restoration of the Baker Grand Organ had already given me enough admirtion for him to last the rest of my life. Then, I clicked on his Facebook page the other day and found Burnley painting! Painting really good pictures! Is there no end to this man’s talent? Burnley said he has always painted. Even when he was just a

grin ‘n’ bare it

kid, he played around with colors and paints. Well, so did I. But my pictures never got past the “what’s that supposed to be?” stage. So, I gave up on it. I assumed to paint a recognizable painting someone must possess great talent from birth. But Burnley said I just stopped too short of the goal line. I quit too early. According to Burnley, anybody can draw. People aren’t born with a Rembrandt gene. It’s just like so many other things — playing the piano or cooking — anything. It’s the desire. How badly do you want it? In reality, a lot of Burnley’s artistic “talent” comes from reading and watching videos. And then applying what he has learned. Want it and then practice it. My third-grade teacher told us, she couldn’t take the tops of our heads off and pour the knowledge in. We had to study to put it there. We will never just wake up one morning with all of those abilities we’d like to have dripping from our fingertips. But we can wake up and practice or take a class. Want it and work for it and become a Renaissance person — like my friend Burnley Cook in Natchez.

by Walt Grayson Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” He lives in Brandon and is a Central Electric member. Contact him at

MARCH 2020 | TODAY 31




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