Today in Mississippi March 2021 North East

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outdoors today picture this my opinion grin ‘n’ bare it

Uri and Viola visit the Deep South Communities in Mississippi are accustomed to dealing with the aftermaths of storms, tornadoes and hurricanes. When you call the Deep South home, it comes with the territory. But last month our state grappled with something that happens much less frequently — winter storms. On Feb. 14 — Valentine’s Day — the state was hit by Winter Storm Uri and then, just a few days later, Winter Storm Viola blasted its way through before we had time to pick up the pieces from Uri. The power outages were severe. Because the storms struck one after the other, some of the electric cooperative systems and members were impacted by both. During Viola, outages peaked at 110,000 homes and businesses with no power. Electric cooperatives live and serve by The Cooperative Way — seven core principles. One of those principles is Cooperation Among Cooperatives. Mutual aid assistance between Mississippi’s electric cooperatives as well as from co-ops from nearby states was the key to restoring power as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible. State co-ops sent work crews to other Mississippi co-ops to assist in power restoration. Some of the crews sent to help were exhausted after working long hours on the first storm. Additional challenges arose when co-op work crews from other states were sent to Mississippi and they had to maneuver through icy roads and find lodging when hotels were packed with local residents seeking power and heat. The out of state work crews were limited because the outages created by the two storms crippled areas from Texas to the east coast.

But thanks to mutual aid and cooperation among cooperatives, power was restored to our members in a safe and timely manner. And although we think of our linemen as our rock stars — and they are — they couldn’t do their jobs without the support of the cooperative employees who work behind the scenes. Co-op workers take outage calls, set up meals and post social media to keep members informed of the latest news. Co-op warehouse workers make sure our linemen have all the tools and materials they need to perform their tasks safely and efficiently. Co-op dispatchers ensure planning for outage repair for optimal results. Workers in co-op shops make sure the trucks and vehicles are running properly for outage response. Substation technicians go out before the bad weather arrives to preemptively make sure equipment is ready for the incoming storm event. Each cooperative works as a team to make sure our communities experience safe power delivery. In that spirit, we want to thank our members for your patience and our cooperative employees for your hard work and dedication.

Mississippi is... “Where I’m from” I am from front porch swings, from pond raised catfish and creek banks. I am from the modest dwelling on the hill. I am from clothes hanging out on the line, from Ford truck beds, and from screen doors. I am from the vegetable gardens, the play forts in the woods. I’m from family holiday gatherings and humbleness, from the Wardens and the Mitchells. I’m from the bended knees and lifted prayers. From love never fails and all in God’s timing. I’m from the small things make the biggest memories, the God on the mountain is still God in the valley. I’m from hard work and sacrifice. From chicken n’ dumplings and Mississippi mud cake. From the long line of love.

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

I am from the small community, off the beaten path in south Mississippi.

by Naomi Colson a resident of Benndale and a member of Singing River Electric

What’s Mississippi to you? What do you treasure most about life in our state? Send your brief thoughts to Today in Mississippi, or mail to P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158

in this issue

5 southern gardening Visiting your independent garden center

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

11 outdoors today


Spring is almost here

12 local news 18 feature

Remembering Lynyrd Skynyrd ‘s historic Mississippi plane crash



on the menu Corned beef St. Patrick would be proud of

The Official Publication of the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi

Vol. 74 No. 3

OFFICERS Kevin Bonds - President Eddie Howard - First Vice President Randy Carroll - Second Vice President Ron Barnes - Secretary/Treasurer Michael Callahan - Executive Vice President/CEO EDITORIAL STAFF Ron Stewart - Senior VP, Communications Steven Ward - 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: 486,319

Non-member subscription price: $9.50 per year. Today in Mississippi (ISSN 1052-2433) is published 12 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

27 mississippi seen



On the cover Six people died when Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane crashed in Gillsburg on Oct. 20, 1977. For years, fans drove to the tiny Mississippi community to try and find the site. A group of local fans and crash rescuers have created a monument that memorializes the band and what happened on that horrible night. Photo by Chad Calcote.

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 2021

One advantage of shopping at independent garden centers is their experience with local and regional plant selections and growing information.

Garden and landscape planning for the 2021 season continues to move forward as we get closer to the day we can get back out into the garden full time. If 2020 showed us one good thing, it’s that huge numbers of people discovered the joys and benefits of gardening. As the calendar moves into better gardening weather, I hope most of the new gardeners from 2020 will continue their gardening practices. This means there could be some horticultural shortages, so planning becomes even more important. That’s where becoming an intentional gardener will result in more garden enjoyment. All intentional gardeners must decide where to buy landscape and garden plants. When putting my gardening skills to work in my home landscape, I often want to buy plants. When it’s time to shop, I like to patronize the local, independent garden centers. Sure, I could and sometimes do go to the big box or home improvement stores, but there is a huge difference between plant material bought from these sources and independent garden centers. Now, I’m not knocking the selection of plants at these stores, and the quality of plants is really good most of the time. But most of these stores don’t individually order plants for their garden departments. It’s most common for these companies to have buyers in regional corporate offices contracting with big growers to supply their stores. For example, there’s a huge greenhouse grower outside of Auburn, Alabama, and this one facility supplies plants for more than 100 locations of a familiar home improvement store. There are advantages of shopping at your local independent garden centers. You can count on working with a knowledgeable staff. Many independents pride themselves for having experience with local and regional plant selections and growing information. Don’t hesitate to ask questions because they’ll have answers and suggestions for you to be successful. These professionals are happy to give you personal assistance with your plant purchases. Many independent garden centers are associated with design and build or landscape maintenance divisions. They can offer a high level of services available besides the basic plant material.

Local garden centers offer personal assistance and sometimes personalities such as Bob, the guard cat.

The plant selections at independent garden centers are usually more extensive than those found at other outlets. And if they don’t have what you’re looking for, many will try to source it for you. Independent garden centers typically work with an assortment of wholesale growers. Having a grower network like this can really be a benefit to the home gardener. The last point I want to make maybe should have been my first. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated quarantines threatened the independent garden centers as businesses. In Mississippi, we were extremely fortunate that gardens centers were deemed essential and could remain open. That situation could have changed at a moment’s notice. Independent garden centers rely on the customer base of the home gardener, as sales of consumer horticulture products account for 100% of their revenue. These sales are less than 5% of revenue for the big box stores. I want to encourage all of us to be intentional and support our local independent garden centers this year.

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 2021 | TODAY 5

VERSION #______________ RON Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested STEVEN Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested CHAD Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested ELISSA Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested CHRIS Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested ARTIST ___________ Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested


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THE MISSISSIPPI STATE GUARD Mississippians serving Mississippians by 2nd Lt. Andrew Bryson What is a volunteer? A volunteer is a person who donates their money, time, and resources to a project or organization. The Mississippi State Guard (MSSG) is a little-known branch of the Mississippi Military Department. The group is an all-volunteer force, only paid if called to state active duty. It falls under the Mississippi National Guard and its purpose is to augment the state’s national guard in time of need and or to take over the mission of the national guard should they be called to federal service. Should the MSSG be activated, it falls under the 66th National Guard Troop Command, but as it is not a federal organization, any overseas deployment is unlikely. There is also no contractual requirement to join and its members can resign at any time, and the MSSG operates like a brotherhood. However, it should be noted that if deployed (deployments consist of state or national emergency home side), its soldiers then fall under Mississippi Code of Military Justice rules. There are three brigades divided based on their location for convenience — one each in north, central and south Mississippi. The MSSG is always looking for prior military, current or prior law enforcement (as many of the units are military police), medical and clerical professionals. There is a place for everyone, and you do not have to be prior military or be a first responder to find a place with the MSSG. Recruits with no prior military training will go through Initial Entry Training which lasts about 4 months and is completed during monthly drills.

Age requirements are 18 to 65 and you must be able to pass a background investigation. The units drill one weekend a month and one week per year at different military facilities in the state. The 3rd for example trains at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg. The troops sleep in barracks and eat at an assigned dining facility and kitchen. Its officers and staff train the troops to meet any mission that may arise, and it is often said “we train for possibilities not probabilities.” To produce well rounded troops, the State Guard trains constantly. At a recent drill for the State Guard’s 3rd Brigade, troops trained on the M9 on the range simulator and conducted HUMVEE rollover training. Previous trainings have included topics such as search and rescue, FEMA certification, land navigation, military policework (since the primary job for the Mississippi State Guard is military police) and CPR certification. State Guard members are professional and serious about what they are doing. In these troubled times the state guard may be more important than any time in its history and they are looking for volunteer soldiers who want to serve their state and country. If you are looking for a way to get more involved in your community, the Mississippi Guard could be a great way to do it. For more information, visit 2nd Lt. Andrew Bryson is a member of the Mississippi State Guard. 10 ⁄ 3


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Cooperative Energy wins national Arbor Day award by Steven Ward When Wes Graham first inspected Cooperative Energy’s rights-of-way 16 years ago, he did not see a challenge but an opportunity. An opportunity to change how vegetation management was accomplished. And now, both National and state officials have taken notice. The Hattiesburg-based generation and transmission cooperative was recently named a Tree Line USA utility for 2021. The designation, awarded to Cooperative Energy by the Mississippi Forestry Commission, reflects the cooperative’s commitment to implementing best practices in caring for trees along its rights-of-way. Cooperative Energy is currently the only utility in Mississippi with this status. “I think this is a testament to Cooperative Energy and what we do here. It’s an honor and privilege to do this work and show people that we are good stewards of other people’s land,” said Graham, a transmission field biologist and Cooperative Energy’s right-of-way (ROW) program supervisor. Tree Line USA is a national program of the Arbor Day Foundation. Utilities must meet five program criteria to earn the designation: provide quality tree care, administer annual worker training, conduct tree planting and public education, facilitate a tree-based energy conservation program, and host an Arbor Day celebration. The award illustrates how the Cooperative Energy ROW team works to ensure that trees and utilities can co-exist for the benefit of communities, citizens and the cooperative’s consumer-members.

8 TODAY | MARCH 2021

Cooperative Energy’s right-of-way team maintains approximately 28,000 acres of rights-of-way across the state using integrated vegetation management techniques that control growth through environmentally-sound and cost-effective control methods. Graham and fellow team members Tommy Garrard, Brad Morris and William Murphy work diligently to balance the cooperative’s needs as a utility with their commitment to the environment. “This work lends itself to increasing reliability to our members. Outages will be minimized as a result,” Graham said. In many cases, the cooperatives are already doing a lot of the ROW work required for the award. “I’m just proud to represent the state in this way and it’s a reflection of our entire company. It really is a team effort. And it shows our members that we are doing our Wes Graham due diligence,” Graham said. Jeff Bowman, Cooperative Energy’s president and CEO, said the designation aligns with the cooperative’s mission. “Trees which are properly planted and maintained result in lower line clearance costs, improved rights-of-way management, lower peak energy demand and increased reliability of service,” Bowman said in a news release. Cooperative Energy generates and transmits electricity to 11 member-owned electric distribution cooperatives. The 11 electric cooperatives own and maintain more than 57,000 miles of distribution lines and provide service to approximately 432,000 home and businesses throughout 55 counties.

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mississippi marketplace u outdoors today out d the ‘sip picture this AN ANNOUNCEMENT my opinion ement


grin ‘n’ bare it

He was grand and gaudy and gigantic and entirely capable, by his simple presence, of soothing wounded spirits and mitigating dour moods. The week before there was snow. That was grand as well. But now this bird — deep black with a brilliant red head, its crown proudly pileated. Some white between the red and black. He was a pileated woodpecker, one of the more commanding birds flitting about the woodlands. My daddy called them Indian Hens. No matter the name, I was early on enamored of them. And that call! It was and is unnerving, enchanting. And here he was, on an elm and then an oak, where snow was last week. I wished for his call. The situation would have been ornamented had he called, but he didn’t. I watched in awe. And that admirable observation somehow prompted my mind toward thoughts of spring. It was still some distance away that day, that day of the bird and that week after snow, but spring was coming. In fact, by the time these words are published, there are likely serious hints of spring budding from lawns and pastures and woods edges. And from tree branches. Even though Mississippi can sneak in the surprise snow or freeze or sleet-slicked walkways in March, time is short for the arrival of true spring. Anglers and hunters are considering their potential and upcoming pursuits and how these relate to spring. The hunter will likely turn attention to turkeys. This bird is the premier candidate at such a time. There are some outdoors types among us who lose sleep and mental faculties in love with and planning for and frustration over this magnificent marvel. A strutting and gobbling tom is a thing of majesty — posturing and pirouetting, iridescent

hues shimmering in morning light. And turkeys are challenging. Often it is that a hunter walks from the woods dejected, burdened with the heavy load of failure. Then again, failure is seldom true failure. To simply see a bird strut or hear him answer a cluck or yelp from the hunter’s calling is a mighty reward. Add to that a pleasant spring morning, and the word failure is an affront to the blessings just experienced. And fishing can be good in March. This in all probability applies to those seeking crappie. Depending upon weather conditions and water temperature, crappie may be in the shallows, preparing and tending beds. If they are not there because water temperatures are still a bit low, they most likely are holding near drops and shelves between deep and shallow. But some prospecting can point the way, and once fish are found they will generally be in abundance. Spring is here or certainly on the way. Whatever your springtime outdoor pursuit, the time for it is close at hand. And while out there, keep an eye and ear attuned for the pileated woodpecker. Location of such will enhance any outing.

by Tony Kinton Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. He lives in Carthage and is a Central Electric member. Visit for more information.

There are few sights more captivating than strutting turkeys on a spring morning.

MARCH 2021 | TODAY 11

North East Mississippi ELECTRIC POWER ASSOCIATION For more information about Today in Mississippi, contact Marlin Williams or Tracie Russell at 662-234-6331




North East Fiber, LLC wins RDOF auction A MESSAGE FROM YOUR GENERAL MANAGER/CEO of our members now have online access to education, telework, For all of the catastrophes we experienced in 2020, this year is shaping up to be a remarkable time for North East Power and telehealth and more entertainment options from home. The CARES Act money along with the RDOF Auction funds its wholly owned subsidiary, North East Fiber, LLC, branded as have been vital in moving this enterprise along speedier than North East SPARC. SPARC stands for Serving People Across we ever thought possible. We have actively worked to find Rural Communities. grants to offset costs and provide the best possible service for The project began last March and was slated to be a threeour membership. On the next page, you will find answers about year project. Fortunately, because of the support we have North East Fiber, LLC, and how these funds will aid in our progreceived from the Mississippi Legislature, we’ve been able to ress. I would like to thank all of our members for your support move it along much quicker than anticipated. of our electric cooperative and our broadband subsidiary. Our The North East Power membership voted to take on this mission is to make rural life better for those we serve. costly project to be able to provide the modern necessities that high-speed internet offers to its rural residents. In the way that the cooperative model has proven successful for elecNorth East MS EPA Service Territory tricity, we are certain this same spirit will guide us into the future with broadband. Recently, North East Fiber, LLC was chosen as a winning bidder for $12.7 Tippah Benton Tate million in grant support from the Federal Marshall Communications Commission (FCC). This grant will be spread over 10 years and will go toward expanding the high-speed broadband service to areas deemed unserved or underserved by the commission Union and placed in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Auction. North East Fiber, LLC participated in the FCC’s RDOF Auction as a member of the Rural ElecPanola tric Cooperative Consortium, which was organized by North East Fiber’s national partner, Conexon. The RDOF money, along with the Pontotoc CARES Act funds that we received from the Mississippi Legislature, has made rural broadband a reality. We would like to Yalobusha thank our legislators for recognizing this Calhoun need in our communities and offering us North East SPARC - Rural Digital Opportunity Fund the opportunity to serve our members in Census Blocks Won this capacity. The tireless efforts of our legislators and staff have made this state- Map showing entire North East service territory as well as RDOF census blocks that were of-the-art fiber network a success. Many won (shaded brown).

North East Power • Service Territory


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How does the auction work? The FCC designates areas with a value attached to each. It is a declining block auction, meaning that once the auction begins, the value continues to decline until bidders drop out and an organization eventually wins the auction.

Fiber Construction - January 2021 Fiber Construction January 2021


What is the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF)? RDOF is a resource initiative intended for the FCC to aid with funding for the buildout of rural broadband networks. For many years the FCC has designated tax money from telephone users to be auctioned off by bidders. In the past, it was used to build out telephone networks in rural areas for 911 services through Connect America Funds. Those auctions came in phases. This particular RDOF auction was specifically designed for organizations willing to provide broadband in unserved and underserved rural areas.

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Waterford How did North East Fiber, LLC, win Cornersville these auctions? North East Fiber, LLC, did not go in and RDOF blocks separated by their respective network zones. bid on these areas alone. It took a lot of work by our engineering and design partners, infrastructure, so these funds will aid in paying our debts back Conexon. Conexon put a consortium of co-ops together across quicker if the number of customer subscribers stay high as the United States and initiated the bidding process to win the expected. We are a cooperative, so we are not looking for cash census blocks. Conexon distributed those out to the participatprofits. Any excess of funds will go into the system to maintain ing cooperatives that serve specific areas. a state-of-the-art system with high quality technology. At that point, we could possibly look at lower rates in the future. How much grant money was won through the auction? North East Fiber, LLC, was one of several cooperatives in What is Conexon? Mississippi to win these auctions. A total of $12.7 million was Conexon is our fiber-to-the-home partner. They have worked awarded to North East Fiber, LLC. A total of $495 million was awarded to organizations within Mississippi, second only behind with North East Fiber, LLC from the ground up with feasibility studies, managing construction, training employees, helping to California. Of those funds, $327 million was awarded to Mississecure funds and customer service. As the first company in the sippi cooperatives and $220 million of that was through our United States to build fiber for rural electric cooperatives, they Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium. The opportunities that are now helping other cooperatives achieve success. They have the money will provide for Mississippi is vast. a customer service facility based in Kansas City and are skilled in helping rural residents on the customer service line. If you reHow much area has NE SPARC covered to date? ceive our products and have any issue, you know who to call. In Our broadband company has hit a milestone. We have now connected more than 2,000 customers to our network. Of those partnership with Conexon, we strive every single day to provide an excellent customer service experience. 2,000 customers, 1,600 are in unserved and underserved areas. We have close to 800 miles of fiber installed, which is more than 50% of the entire project in just under one year. That’s a remarkable achievement by our employees. Reference the map above to see where we are actively serving our members. Oxford

How will these funds aid the membership? The $12.7 million that was awarded will be paid out over the next 10 years. We should start receiving that revenue by the end of the year. We have had to borrow money to build the

by Keith Hayward General Manager/CEO

MARCH 2021 | TODAY 13

How landscaping can help you save energy by Pat Keegan and Amy Wheeless Late winter and early spring are great times to think about changes you want to make to your home’s landscape. While the goal of most lawn and garden projects is to bring beauty to your outdoor space, a well-designed project can also improve your energy bill, increase the overall value of your home and provide additional benefits, such as reduced noise pollution, optimized water use and cleaner air around your home. The two best strategies for improving the energy efficiency of your home with landscaping are to incorporate shading in the summer and wind blocking in the winter.

Summer shading

you can shade them during the summer. Think about walking across your driveway barefoot on a hot July afternoon — if your driveway or patio is unshaded, it is probably quite difficult. That absorbed heat is also reflecting onto your home, causing your air conditioner to work even harder. You can use trees, hedges and other landscaping structures such as arbors to shade these paved areas.

Wind-blocking techniques If your home is in an open area without many structures around it, cold winter winds may be increasing your heating bills. A windbreak on your property can help deflect these winds over your home. The most common type of windbreak uses a combination of conifer (evergreen) trees and shrubs to block wind from the ground to the top of your home. For the best windbreak effect, plant these features on the north and northwest sides of your home at a distance of between two and five times the height of the mature trees. Incorporating a wall or fence can further assist with the wind break. Another insulating technique is to plant shrubs and bushes closer to your home, but at least one foot away. The space between these plants and your home is “dead air space,” which helps insulate your home during winter and

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, shading your home is the most cost-effective way to reduce heat gain from the sun and reduce your air conditioning costs in the summer. Having more plants and trees in your yard can reduce the air temperature by up to 6 degrees Fahrenheit. Planting deciduous trees on the south, southwest and west sides of your home can reduce heat during hot summer months, while allowing sunlight through during the fall and winter, when the trees have lost their leaves. An arbor or trellis over a door or window can provide When planting trees, consider the expectboth an interesting focal point and summer shade. Photo Credit: Ruth Hartnup ed shape and height of the mature trees and where they will shade your home. A tree with a high mature summer months. height planted on the south side of a home, for example, will The particular landscaping strategies you should focus on will provide all-day roof shading in the summer, while a lower tree on depend on your climate zone. If you live in a hot climate, you the west side of your home can protect your home from the lower should focus on maximizing shading to your roof and windows for afternoon sun. much of the year, while a home in a hot, humid climate will want to Plant trees an appropriate distance away from your home maximize summer shade. so they do not disrupt your foundation or your roof as they Regardless of where you are located, if you live near power lines, grow. While it will be five to 10 years before a newly planted the chart below can be helpful to determine how far away newly tree will begin providing shade to your roof, it can start shading planted trees should be from these lines before making any final windows immediately. Incorporate other plants to provide neardesign decisions to your yard. term shade. Shrubs, bushes and vines can quickly shade winThis column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Amy Wheeless of dows and walls. Collaborative Efficiency. For more ideas on energy efficient landAlso consider any paved areas around your home and how scaping, please visit: 14 TODAY | MARCH 2021

Winter storms left many in central Mississippi without power North East Power experienced very few outages as a result of Winter Storm Uri that hit northeast Mississippi, compared to our sister cooperatives in central Mississippi that were hit by both winter storms Uri and Viola. We experienced just a few electric load issues due to high electric use during the freezing temperatures. Our right-of-way crews work through the year to keep the power lines clear from debris and tree limbs. Their continuous efforts aided greatly with limited power outages during the historical storm. We thank them for their daily efforts.

North East Power sent 14 linemen to Central Electric Power Association in Carthage, who aided with storm restoration. Mutual aid during storms is one of the many things that distinguish electric cooperatives. We are always willing to aid our sister cooperatives, and when we have substantial outages, they are always willing to help us. It’s what makes your electric cooperative unique. We want to thank the many line workers that battled frigid temperatures to restore power from coast to coast.

NE SPARC surpasses 2,000 active customers! All Enterprise zones have recently been opened, as well as Brittany Woods 224. The Sardis Lake area is scheduled to be completed very early in March with other zones to soon follow. Currently NE SPARC is averaging more than 100 installs per week as we ramp up production to meet demand. “Our service is excellent. We take a great deal of pride in knowing we are supplying a product that people need so desperately,” said Randall Abel, manager of engineering and operations for North East Power. All Mississippi CARES Act grant areas have fiber completed. We are in the final checkout phases of the two remaining zones that are not currently active. We are now focused on the Woodson Ridge, Cornersville, West Oxford, Taylor and the Waterford areas for primary fiber installation. “These zones have a tremendous gap in broadband availability and we intend to fill it. We’re going to do our utmost to compress a 40-month project into 24 months. Our goal is to have fiber constructed to every part of our system by the end of 2021. It’s going to be challenging but our team is working hard to make it happen,” Abel said. North East Fiber, LLC currently surpassed 800 miles of lit fiber. The total project build out is in excess of 1,600 miles.

MARCH 2021 | TODAY 15


COASTAL ECONOMY by Matthew Bernard Jargowsky The nutrient-rich waters of the Gulf of Mexico support an abundance of commercial and recreational fisheries. The health of these fisheries is critical to coastal economies, as these resources support almost 200,000 jobs across the Gulf Coast. A fishery is “the catch, harvest or raising of aquatic organisms and the people or groups who perform these actions.” The word “fishery” can describe a single species, like the spotted seatrout fishery, or it can be used to describe several similar species that are all caught with the same type of fishing gear, such as the shrimp fishery (commonly referring to the catch of white, brown and pink shrimp, among others). The term “fishery” also generally encompasses both the commercial and recreational sectors unless otherwise stated. The fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico support robust commercial and recreational fishing economies. To give some examples from NOAA’s most recent issue of “Fisheries Economics of the United States,” commercial landing revenue for the Gulf of Mexico in 2016 (the most recent data available) totaled more than $900 million, which accounted for 17% of all commercial landing revenue in the United States that year. Similarly, recreational fishing expenditures in the Gulf of Mexico totaled more than $11 billion (36% of the nation’s expenditures), with recreational fishermen completing more than 19 million fishing trips (33% of the nation’s fishing trips). The Gulf of Mexico’s most important commercial fisheries by weight and value are the Gulf menhaden and shrimp fisheries, respectively. More than 1.3 billion pounds of menhaden were landed in 2016, and the shrimp fishery brought in more than $400 million dockside. Recreationally, spotted seatrout are the most targeted fish species in the Gulf, with more than 23 million fish caught in

16 TODAY | MARCH 2021

2016. Red snapper were the most popular offshore species, with anglers catching more than 4 million that same year. Although Mississippi’s coastline is small, its contributions to Gulf of Mexico marine fisheries are far from insignificant. Respectively, these fisheries generated total amounts over $218 million and $638 million during 2016. Perhaps because Mississippi is essentially at the center of the northern Gulf of Mexico, trends in Gulf-wide fisheries are largely reflected in Mississippi’s fisheries as well. Among Mississippi’s commercial fisheries, Gulf menhaden comprised 95% of all landings by weight, with a total catch of almost 300 million pounds. However, Mississippi’s shrimp fishery was the most valuable commercial fishery, with revenue of just over $15 million. Other important Mississippi commercial fisheries include the oyster and blue crab fisheries, which together brought in just shy of $2 million at the docks. In 2016, Mississippi saltwater anglers made 1.5 million fishing trips, 52% of which were on private boats. Another 46% were shore-based, and only 2% were charter-for-hire. Like in the Gulf of Mexico as a whole, more fish were caught in the spotted seatrout fishery than in any other single-species fishery. Nearly 3 million spotted seatrout were caught, of which 46% were harvested and 54% were released. Red snapper was the most popular offshore fishery, with 210,000 fish caught Fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, including those in Mississippi, are vital to coastal economies. Thousands of people directly depend on these fisheries for their livelihoods, and millions fish them for enjoyment. Matthew Bernard Jargowsky is an extension program associate with Mississippi State University’s Coastal Marine Extension Program.

in preservation grants awarded

Wechsler School, Meridian, Lauderdale County — $277,154 for interior and exterior rehabilitation. (Old) Monticello Elementary, Monticello, Lawrence County — $40,000 for structural repairs and asbestos report and abatement. Stephen D. Lee House, Columbus, Lowndes County — $25,600 for front porch roof replacement. Tennessee Williams House, Columbus, Lowndes County — $35,000 for rebuilding of the front porch. (Old) Madison County Jail, Canton, Madison County — $250,250 for rear wall repair and roofing. Marion County Courthouse, Columbia, Marion County — $225,940 for window restoration. Isaac Chapel (Rosenwald School), Byhalia, Marshall County—$268,744 for interior and exterior restoration. Noxubee County Library, Macon, Noxubee County — $200,044 for clay tile roof replacement and exterior restoration.

Franklin County Courthouse

Noxubee County Library

Pontotoc County Courthouse, Pontotoc, Pontotoc County — $239,753 for window and masonry restoration. Quitman County Courthouse, Marks, Quitman County — $184,792 for exterior and interior rehabilitation. (Old) Vicksburg Library, Vicksburg, Warren County — $103,370 for electrical upgrades, window and door restoration, and boiler removal. Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation, Vicksburg, Warren County — $89,056 for repair to the auditorium’s south wall.

Natchez City Hall

(Old) Madison County Jail

MARCH 2021 | TODAY 17

CHAD Date_____ Revisions Requested

Franklin County Courthouse, Meadville, Franklin County — $144,388 for window and masonry restoration, and reroofing of the jail.


G.L. Hawkins Elementary, Hattiesburg, Forrest County — $35,200 for roof repairs.

STEVEN Date_____

Chickasaw County Courthouse, Houston, Chickasaw County — $226,677 for repairs to the roof and other interior repairs.

Revisions Requested

Corinth Coliseum Theater, Corinth, Alcorn County — $236,234 for replacement of the roof and ADA upgrades.


Natchez City Hall, Natchez, Adams County — $157,056 for replacement of the roof.

RON Date_____

House on Ellicott’s Hill, Natchez, Adams County — $210,400 for restoration of the front gallery of the building.


The grant awards are as follows:

VERSION #______________

The Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History recently awarded nearly $3 million on behalf of the Community Heritage Preservation Grant program to 18 preservation and restoration projects from across the state. The Community Heritage Preservation Grant program, authorized and funded by the Mississippi Legislature, helps preserve and restore historic courthouses and schools in Certified Local Government communities and other historic properties. “The Legislature has saved hundreds of significant Mississippi properties through this program,” MDAH Director Katie Blount said in a news release. “The Department of Archives and History is grateful for the Legislature’s support and pleased to be able to help preserve these local treasures.” Grant awards are paid on a reimbursable basis upon the successful completion of the entire project or at the time of the completion of preestablished phases of the project. Prior to application, all buildings must have been designated Mississippi Landmarks. Only county or municipal governments, school districts, and nonprofit organizations granted Section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service may submit applications. To become a Certified Local Government, a community must adopt a preservation ordinance establishing a preservation commission in accordance with federal and state guidelines. Once the commission has been established, application for CLG status may be made to the National Park Service through the Department of Archives and History. MDAH works closely with local government officials and citizens to help them create and manage a workable local historic preservation program.

Revisions Requested

Nearly $3 Million

Photos by Chad Calcote

by Steven Ward They were first responders before the official first responders arrived on the scene. Dennis Wilson, Bobby McDaniel and Dwain Easley all lived close to the pine treescattered terrain in Gillsburg where a plane crashed the night of Oct. 20, 1977. Wilson, McDaniel, Easley and others in the area had no idea who was on the plane and, frankly, they didn’t care. They just wanted to help any survivors. The plane was transporting the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd from Greenville, South Carolina to a concert in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Convair CV-240 passenger plane ran out of fuel and crashed right after dusk in the woods of Gillsburg. The crash killed Lynyrd Skynyrd lead singer and songwriter Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, Gaines’ sister, Cassie Gaines, a backup singer, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick and the pilot and co-pilot. Wilson, McDaniel and Easley — all in their early 20s at the time — carried bodies and survivors from the plane through

the swampy and muddy muck of the ground to a nearby road. The plane was carrying 26 people. Six were killed and 20 survived. Today, about 800 yards from the actual site of the crash, fans of the band and tourists have a place to go to pay their respects to the people who lost their lives that night and to visit a spot where a piece of somber rock history was made. Thanks to the efforts of Wilson, McDaniel, Easley and other members of The Lynyrd Skynyrd Monument Project Board, a plane crash memorial was erected and opened to the public in October 2019. “At the time of the crash, I was not familiar with Lynyrd Skynyrd, however, thousands of people were,” said Wilson, 70, a board member of Magnolia Electric Power, the electric cooperative that provides service to the Gillsburg area. “The monument has been visited by fans from 45 states and eight foreign countries. Fans and followers will continue to visit the monument for years to come. I think it will have a very positive impact on our local economy here,” Wilson said. MARCH 2021 | TODAY 19

McDaniel, 65, is the president of the monument board. His family farm is near the crash site. McDaniel said he and some of the other crash rescuers liked to get together on the anniversary each year at the plane crash site. They often discussed wanting to get a sign or highway marker posted near the site because it was so hard for people to find. “We set a deadline of one year and kept expanding our project. The initial sign location was approved on state property beside Highway 568. But we changed the focus from a sign to a granite marker,” McDaniel said. The group encountered various roadblocks until Dwain Easley and his wife Lola Easley donated some of their private land near the crash site for the monument on Easley Road. The board started a GoFundMe account to help raise thousands of dollars for the project. The board also garnered financial help from the current Lynyrd Skynyrd band, McDaniel said. The monument includes three 14-foot-wide, 8-foot-tall black granite monuments with drawings of the band and text that tells the history of Lynyrd Skynyrd and what happened on the night of the crash.

The six steps leading up to the monument each represent lives lost on October 20.

“Freebird” – Lynyrd Skynyrd, lyrics by Ronnie Van Zant

A collection of the memorabilia from the 1977 Lynyrd Skynyrd winter tour. In the future, there is a plan for a museum to display items from the band, their tours and the last flight on October 20, 1977. From left: Magnolia Electric board member Dennis Wilson, Dwain Easley and Bobby McDaniel.

20 TODAY | MARCH 2021

Visit for more information about the monument or to make a donation.

The gamechanger for the monument was when Mississippi lawmakers, led by State Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, passed a bill to put exit signs on Interstate 55 alerting motorists to the Gillsburg/ Magnolia exit as the location of the monument. Currie, who was a nursing student at the time of the crash and worked at Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center in McComb as a currier, was at the hospital that night in 1977. “So I knew all of the people that worked getting the monument together. Many I had seen that night bringing people to the ER,” Currie said. “I am now a registered nurse and member of the Mississippi House of Representatives and if I could do one more thing for a band I loved it was my honor to make sure a sign was erected to mark the monument and hope that people would see it and come and spend some time there,” she said. McDaniel said the monument gets up to 40 to 50 visitors a day during the week and more than 100 visitors on weekends, according to their guestbook. Many of those visitors credit the

interstate signs for their decision to stop, he said. McDaniel and Wilson said it’s possible that the monument will be expanded in the future to include a small museum nearby. “Southwest Mississippi doesn’t get a lot of positive press or new industry. The Lynyrd Skynyrd Monument is a positive thing that brings some good people and nice compliments to the Magnolia/Gillsburg area,” McDaniel said. Wilson, McDaniel and Easley were there at the beginning of a nightmarish time in rock history when a tragic disaster occurred in their backyard. “Once we arrived on the scene, we were focused on helping the survivors get medical treatment. It seemed like a vast undertaking at the time due to the remote location and very limited equipment that we had,” Wilson said. “However, we were just country folks helping a few people that needed help. That’s just what we do,” Wilson added. Today, they are still there trying to do the right thing for the band, their fans and their community.

MARCH 2021 | TODAY 21

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Jake Mangum comes from a family of athletes. Jake’s dad, John Jr., was a speedy quarterback at Magee High School before signing with Alabama. He was later a standout player for the Crimson Tide as a defensive back. John Jr. then played for the Chicago Bears for nine seasons. Jake’s grandfather played at Ole Miss and Southern Mississippi before heading to pro football. “Big John” played two years with the Boston Patriots of the American Football League. Jake’s uncle Kris played at Alabama and then transferred to Ole Miss, where he became an All-SEC selection at tight end. Kris also followed into the family business playing for the Carolina Panthers for 10 seasons. Jake decided that baseball, not football, was his future heading into his sophomore year at Jackson Prep. He decided to give up the “Friday Night Lights” to concentrate full-time on baseball. It has worked out pretty well for the first two-time winner of the C-Spire Ferris Trophy given to the Most Outstanding College Baseball Player in Mississippi by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. Today, Jake is a professional baseball player playing for the Brooklyn Cyclones in the NY-Penn League in Class A baseball. The Cyclones are affiliated with the New York Mets baseball organization. “My plan is to play pro ball as long as I can, and hopefully that is a very long time,” said Mangum. Before heading to Brooklyn and the bright lights, Jake made a four-year stop in Starkville. Many thought Jake might head to his dad’s alma mater Alabama out of Jackson Prep to play his collegiate baseball. “I really prayed about it, but in the end, I thought Mississippi State was where I was being led to go.” Jake went on to say, “Starkville is the best place to be. Everyone knows everybody there. It is a big college in a small town, and it was an awesome experience,” said Mangum. Jake was given the nickname “The Mayor” by one of his Mississippi State baseball teammates because he seemed to know everyone around town.

“I tell everyone that playing baseball at Mississippi State was the best four years of my life.” His MSU baseball career under John Cohen, however, did not start out as he had expected. “The entire team ranks every player on the fall roster before leaving for Christmas break. I was ranked second from the bottom.” He was surprised at the ranking because he thought he had had a decent fall season. “I knew I could hit, so my goal was to just get on the field.” He proved himself worthy as he ended up hitting .427 in SEC games, was named the SEC Freshman of the Year and was awarded the Ferris Trophy. Mangum continued his extraordinary baseball play for the next three seasons and finished his career ranked No. 4 in NCAA history with 383 hits. He also broke the MSU and SEC hit records. Mangum broke the SEC hits record at home in front of his elated family and Bulldog fans. Though the hit was special, Mangum confessed his relief at having the pressure of breaking the record over with. He had been constantly reminded everywhere he went by his loyal fans of the impending moment. Mangum led the Bulldogs to the College World Series in his final two seasons, and he stated that is the Mississippi State way. “My one regret is that we didn’t win the National Championship.” Mangum, however, is confident that the Bulldogs will finally realize their ultimate dream of winning the National Championship.

by Dale McKee Dale McKee is a Waynesboro native who has been writing sports in Mississippi since 1973. Contact him at

MARCH 2021 | TODAY 23

VERSION #______________ RON Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested STEVEN Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested CHAD Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested ELISSA Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested CHRIS Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested ARTIST ___________ Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested

‘Mississippi State was the best four years of my life’

with Martha Hall Foose

Corned Beef Brisket: A St. Patrick’s Day Tradition

Corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day is an American tradition. Though many people think of it as being straight from the Isles, it is almost certainly a dish developed by the Irish who settled in New York. Cooking the meat in a tightly sealed dish in the oven keeps the meat tender and flavorful. Giving 24 TODAY | MARCH 2021

it a bit of time under the broiler browns the tangy mustard crust. Any leftovers can find their way diced into a potato hash topped with sunny side up eggs or thinly sliced and piled high on a deli-style Reuben sandwich on rye with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing.

Revisions Requested Approved

CHAD Date_____ Revisions Requested Approved Revisions Requested

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or spray lightly with oil. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter with a couple of forks or a pastry blender until the mixture looks like uncooked oatmeal. Make a well in the center and add 1 ½ cups of the buttermilk and the egg. Stir with a sturdy spoon until you have a shaggy dough. Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently to bring the dough together. Form into a 6-inch round loaf. Place on the baking sheet. Brush the top of the loaf with the remaining 1 tablespoon of buttermilk. With a serrated knife cut a shallow X in the top of the loaf. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 35 minutes until loaf is deep golden brown and sounds hallow when thumped. Cool on a wire rack.

STEVEN Date_____

INGREDIENTS 4 cups all-purpose flour 1⁄3 cup sugar 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut in small pieces 1 ½ cups plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk, divided 1 large egg, beaten


Place wrack in middle position of oven. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 by 13 baking pan with oil. Rinse corn beef in cold water and pat dry. Place the corned beef fatty side up in the baking pan. Combine mustard, brown sugar and vinegar in a small bowl. Brush mustard mixture over the top and sides of the corned beef. Sprinkle packet of seasoning (if included) or pickling spice over the surface of the beef. Cover baking pan tightly with foil tenting slightly so foil does not touch surface of beef. Bake 3 hours or until beef is tender with an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Remove the foil and set oven on broil. Broil the beef until browned on top. Allow the corned beef to rest for 15 minutes before slicing against the grain. Serve with sautéed cabbage, carrots, and onions, if desired.

Irish Soda Bread

RON Date_____

INGREDIENTS 1 (approximately 3 pound) whole corned beef brisket ¼ cup whole grain mustard 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 2 tablespoons pickling spice blend (such as the McCormick brand if spice packet is not included in corned beef packet)

This plump, golden loaf is easy to make and doesn’t require any time to rise. The piping hot loaf can be on the table in under an hour. Try adding ¼ cup toasted nuts, dried fruits or cheese to this recipe to make it your own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Martha Hall Foose, the author of “Screen Doors & Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales of a Southern Cook,” won the James Beard Award for American Cooking. Her latest collaboration is “A Good Meal is Hard to Find: Storied Recipes from the Deep South” with Amy C. Evans. Martha makes her home in the Mississippi Delta with her husband and son. She is a member of Yazoo Valley Electric Power Association.

MARCH 2021 | TODAY 25

VERSION #______________

Mustard Glazed Baked Corned Beef Brisket

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mississippi marketplace on the menu outdoors today Many planned events were canceled because of the COVID-19 crisis, so we scene around the ‘sip picture this have had far fewer events to feature in this space as a result. As more areas my opinion co-op involvement of Mississippi open back up and groups and organizations feel comfortable southern gardening about holding public events, we intend

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It was after midnight. The flashlight lay on the floor of the darkened room. There were five or six of us standing around watching it. One of the crew called out, “On the count of three, turn on this flashlight. One. Two. Three.” And the flashlight lit up by itself! “If you want us to leave, turn it off.” And all of a sudden, the room was totally dark again. Only we didn’t leave. Someone else called out, “If you’re a female, light the light again.” And it lit. Someone else asked, “What’s your name?” Now, I’m new to ghost hunting, but even I figured that would be a tough question to answer by just turning a flashlight on or off, unless they spelled it out in Morse code. This was a ghost investigation. Why was I there? Well, there are a lot of ghost hunting television shows running right now and one of the people I work with at the TV station knows a guy who is the head of a paranormal group. They do “investigations” of old houses, hotels, theaters and places like that all the time. So, a few of us tagged along with his group to see what we could see — or what we COULDN’T see, as would be the case with ghosts. I guess I come by ghost hunting through heredity. My granddaddy tracked down every ghost story he could in Itawamba County. He WANTED to see a ghost. It would prove that there is life after death. He never found anything that he couldn’t explain. In the back of our minds, we have the idea that we’d like to do our own version of a ghost hunting TV show but different from the ones already running. We’re still working on how that would actually look.

I think there is a desire to prove life after death. Even the disciple Thomas wouldn’t believe Jesus had risen from the dead unless he could see for himself. When he saw, he believed. And it didn’t take a flashlight blinking, either. Years ago, I did a story about one of the old tour homes in Natchez that was supposed to be haunted. I interviewed the manager. She lived on the premises. So, after the home closed for tours for the day, she would be there all alone until the next morning. I had to ask her if there was anything to the ghost stories. She told me about a few of her experiences. And as I was leaving, I asked her if it would be okay to run some of her ghost tales on television. She said, “By all means. It helps so much with security!” So maybe that can be our take — we’re not ghost hunting — we’re helping with security to scare people so they would never try to break in. ‘Course, any house that scary I’d never go into in the first place. But it may work. Blink once if you think you’d watch a show like that.

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 2021 | TODAY 27


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