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complimentary issue a sip of life from the most soulful state

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in the South


Gulfport family’s wooden boat floats into fourth generation

Also: Bill Ferris • Raising Chickens • TriBecca Allie Café • Tutwiler Quilters • Clinton Artists






This project is partially funded by Visit Mississippi.





features Page 12

Page 26

Page 36

Portrait: Bill Ferris

The Clinton Fab Four

Mississippi’s folklorist and American South scholar began his journey on his family farm in Warren County.

Four acclaimed Clinton artists share a weekly routine of sipping coffee and discussing life and art.

Page 46

Page 58

T-Bones Records

TriBecca Allie Café

Hattiesburg’s hip T-Bones is a local hub for vintage vinyl, a rockin’ lunch and a growing selection of books.

Husband-and-wife team help put Sardis on the map with an awardwinning pizzeria.

The Vanalburt-Lee This 46-foot wooden boat is one of the oldest working vessels in the Gulfport Harbor and has been an integral part of one Coast family for generations. COVER SHOT

Harry Hewes stands at the bow of the Vanalburt-Lee, while his brother Tommy Hewes steers the 91-year-old family boat. Photo by Melanie Thortis



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departments IN EVERY ISSUE


4 « Editor’s Note 6 « Spotlight 9 « 20 « ‘Sip Trip 44 « ‘Sip of Nature 53 « ‘Sip S ack


64 « The Last ‘Sip

LIFESTYLE 10 | Robby Whyte Cat show judge travels the world.

ART 32 | Tutwiler Quilters Small Delta community upholds quilting tradition. Contents page photo by Melanie Thortis


MUSIC 22 | Dr. Kristen Gunn Opera singer teaches passion and hard work. Contents page photo by Melanie Thortis

OUTSIDE 40 | Raising Chickens Nathan shares his adventures in raising chickens. Contents page photo by Nathan Beane


FOOD 54 | Farmers Grocery Delta restaurant serves homestyle fare. Contents page photo by Melanie Thortis


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from the Front Porch Happy Spring!

Now that the weather is finally warming up, my family calendar is beginning to fill up with Mississippi road trips. Jaunts north to Oxford for the Double Decker Arts Festival and south to the Coast to join friends for a boat trip to Ship Island are in the works. My landlocked childhood never involved boats. The closest thing for me on those favored spring days was running through the homemade sprinklers that watered my mom’s gardenias and azaleas. I preferred flying kites at the nearby sandpits or riding my bike up and down our long driveway. As I grew older and became acquainted with folks who’d “earned their sea legs,” I learned to appreciate time on the water — as long as someone else was operating the boat, I should say. Party barges are just like floating porches after all, right? This issue tells the story of one beloved boat, the Vanalburt-Lee, legendary to many people along our Coast and a prized member of the Hewes family. For the four generations of Heweses who have spent spring and summer days on the Vanalburt-Lee, boating is in their blood. Their story makes even the boat-less appreciate the impression a treasured vessel can have on a family and a community. Jump aboard and enjoy the ride — from your boat or your porch chair — your choice. This issue has a selection of stories fit for any spring day. Read about raising chickens, judging cats, Bill Ferris’ family farm, an award-winning pizzeria up north and more. You can also experience our newest treat, the ‘Sip Sack.


As we begin our second year in print, I am pleased to announce that The ’Sip was recognized in February with two Silver ADDY® Awards, presented by the American Advertising Federation in Jackson. I am honored to work with such talented and creative people. Thanks, especially, to our readers for taking this journey with us.

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Spring 2015


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a big thanks to this issue’s talented contributors BEN BRYANT | WRITER Ben is an attorney and native of Vicksburg. He worked during summers and other college breaks as a reporter for The Vicksburg Post, and has also covered politics in Gulfport, Jackson, Chicago and Washington, D.C. He has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Mississippi, a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a law degree from the University of Virginia. Ben moved to Jackson after law school to serve as a special assistant attorney general for the State of Mississippi, and he’s practiced law at Balch & Bingham LLP in Jackson since 2012.

MARY MARGARET HALFORD | WRITER Mary Margaret is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, where she served two terms as the executive editor of The Student Printz campus newspaper and won awards for breaking news coverage, feature writing and general excellence. She spent three years as a news intern at The Vicksburg Post before working at The Sun Herald in Biloxi as an education and weather reporter. Mary Margaret now lives in Vicksburg, where she is an editor at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center.

TRACY MORIN | WRITER Tracy is a native of Edison, N.J., who now lives in Oxford. Since graduating with a double major in creative writing and literature from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., she has co-written a restaurant review column, served on staff at a literary magazine and drummed for an Oxford-based rock band. She is a freelance writer for numerous publications and websites and is senior copy editor at PMQ Pizza Magazine, for which she won a National Award of Excellence from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for her monthly column.

SUSAN O’BRYAN | WRITER Susan is a Mississippi transplant from Texas. She fell in love with the state’s hospitality – and green trees – on her first visit, in 1996. She retired from corporate newspapers in 2010 after 30 years as a reporter and editor, including more than a decade as editor of The Clinton News. Susan now is the web content coordinator for the University of Mississippi Medical Center. She fills her addiction to words by freelance writing for newspapers and magazines.

LAREECA RUCKER | WRITER LaReeca studied journalism and literature at the University of Mississippi and has spent more than 20 years as a journalist in Mississippi. She spent a decade as a features writer at The Clarion-Ledger, covering everything from crime and religion to arts and culture. She has won more than 40 awards for writing, photography and page design, including a two-week fellowship to the University of Maryland to study child and policy issues. Her work has appeared in newspapers and websites across the country, including USA Today.


Spring 2015


Publisher/Editor Lauchlin Fields ELI BAYLIS PHOTOGRAPHER Mississippi native Eli has been documenting the spirit of his home state since 2008. After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi with degrees in photojournalism and Spanish, Eli worked as the photographer for The Vicksburg Post. He later took a job as chief photographer for the outdoor equipment company Sierra Madre Research in Managua, Nicaragua. Currently, Eli is the chief photographer at The Hattiesburg American.

TALBOT EASTON SELBY PHOTOGRAPHER Easton was born and raised in Clinton. He received his bachelor’s of fine art from Delta State University and his master’s of fine art from Clemson University. Easton has exhibited his work in group and solo shows throughout the United States, and his work is in several collections, including the permanent collection of Delta State University. His work has been published in Delta Magazine, Metropolis Magazine and Canadian Art Magazine. He is the 2008 recipient of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters award for photography. He lives in Conway, S.C., where he is an associate professor of art at Coastal Carolina University.

LAUREN WOOD PHOTOGRAPHER Lauren graduated from the Michigan State University School of Journalism. After living her whole life in Michigan, she packed up and moved south when she got a job offer in Natchez. A year later, after the culture shock started to wear off, she decided she really liked Mississippi and moved to Tupelo to join the staff of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. Lauren has been recognized at the state, regional, national and international levels for her photography.

Photography Director Melanie Thortis Design Director Erin Norwood Consulting Editor Karen Gamble Copy Editor Olivia Foshee Outside Editor Nathan Beane Writers Gordon Cotton Elizabeth Grey Designers Claiborne Cooksey Erin Norwood Sales Executive Tina Abernathy

Marketing/Sales Director Cortney Maury

Interns Tiffany Carroll Mary Kalusche The ‘Sip is a registered trademark of

Front Porch Fodder Publishing, LLC. The ‘Sip magazine is published four times a year. Owner: Lauchlin Fields 1216 National Street Vicksburg, MS 39180 601.573.9975 Copyright 2015 The ‘Sip by Front Porch Fodder Publishing, LLC Reproduction of any part of this publication is strictly prohibited.




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Robby Whyte

Jackson native travels world as cat show judge


Robby Whyte has met thousands of cats in the last 30 of his 50 years. He’s never met one he didn’t like. Robby is a cat show judge, a role that has taken him to 45 of the 50 states and to England, Italy, Switzerland and four times to France. He grew up in Jackson, where he still lives. His parents didn’t like cats, he said, but, “I’ve always liked cats — since I was a little kid.” He was never allowed to have one inside, but he always had one “or two or three or however many I could hide in the garage.” A neighbor, Miss Susie Cooley, “an elderly old-maid school teacher-type in her 80s” bred Persians, and Robby would go visit her just to play with the cats. He loved Persians, but his parents were adamant — no cat in the house. “I said the first thing I’m going to do when I have my own place is have a purebred cat,” and he kept his promise to himself. When he was 20, he rented an apartment, “And the day I moved in was when I went and picked out my first purebred Persian, named Gizmo.” He came from Miss Cooley’s cats.


Spring 2015

That was also about the time he became active in cat shows, entering his own — Gizmo was a regional winner — “and from there it was just kind of…..” What might be termed a hobby became almost a passion. He showed cats for about 15 years before he began judging. It isn’t as simple as just wanting to be a judge. Robby is a member of TICA, The International Cat Association, which sponsors hundreds of shows and has stringent rules and regulations for one to become a judge. For several years, an aspiring judge must prove himself by serving as a show clerk, putting on shows and fulfilling numerous other requirements. TICA is the largest cat registry in the United States. Another group is the Cat Fanciers Association, and there’s a local organization, the Mississippi Cat Fanciers. The latter has been around for about 40 years and has sponsored shows in Jackson, Meridian, Natchez and Vicksburg. There isn’t a weekend on the calendar where there isn’t a cat show; often seven or eight are scattered around the country, and each often attracts about 200 entries. There are usually 12 judges, six each day, who judge each cat in the show



LIFESTYLE in alphabetical order, starting with Abysinians. The best of each breed is chosen for the finals. The judges use a written standard based on a 100-point scale. There are so many points toward the head, the body, coat, pattern, etc. Of the 63 recognized breeds — 12 more are in the works — the felines are divided into kittens, purebreds, altered, the domestic short-hair and long-hair, and there’s also a place for the common household cat (but don’t tell them they’re common). The shows are held in large convention-type areas with the cats in numbered cages. After visiting the cages, the judges call the numbers of the cats they want to see up close, usually 10 to 12, and they are arranged in a U-shaped area. There’s a table and a scratching post, and each cat is taken out of its cage to be examined. “We show the cats to spectators and talk about the cats,” Robby said. “Tons of pictures are taken.” Shows have themes, from casual to very formal, and, in Europe, the shows, which are usually much larger than those in America, often include ritzy, black-tie banquets. It isn’t just the judges who dress up — many cats wear fancy collars and costumes for special occasions or holidays. Sometimes, Robby said, the competition can be cut-throat. A black and white Persian from the United Kingdom named “License to Kill” is currently the “top cat,” the highest-scoring cat in history. It has been to the United States, and Robby has judged several shows in England where this cat was featured. He refers to License to Kill as “the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.” The most popular cats are the Maine Coon and the Bengal, but it used to be that half of each show was made up of Persians. There are also the oddities, such as the hairless or Sphinx, which really isn’t hairless, but its hair is so short that its coat feels like suede. Robby has had 10 to 15 show cats, including four international winners, and twice he has been named the Southern Judge of the Year. He’s been to about 400 cat shows and has never been bitten. Cats are as individual as their owners and have certain peculiarities. The purebreds, he said, “are real laid-back, more like an ornament, kind of like an accessory.” Tri-color males are usually sterile, and white cats with blue eyes are usually deaf and often an odd-eyed cat (one blue, one another color) will be deaf in the ear with the blue eye “or so they say. I don’t know how they tested them to find out.” Sometimes, Robby said, he goes to an animal shelter or the Humane Society and sees a cat “that just breaks your heart” and you can’t leave it. Such organizations and TICA stress the importance of spaying and neutering. Also stressed is selective breeding, “and most breeders are also selective in who the kitten goes to.” Robby could be a show judge every weekend if he chose, but it’s costly. Robby is a nurse or, otherwise, as a cat show judge, “I would possibly make a living just below the poverty line.” He doesn’t know how many cats he has owned — “a good many” — and once had 10. Now, he has one, a black and white well-fed Manx named Sam, who does what most cats do — sleep, play, eat and pitterpatter around the house, then sleep some more. Perhaps it began with Gizmo 30 years ago, for Robby said, “The Persians will always be my favorite, always be my love.”

STORY Gordon Cotton PHOTOGRAPHY Melanie Thortis



Harry Hewes can remember, as a 5-year-old, the uneasy feeling he had walking to the end of the pier to first set eyes on the wooden boat his father would purchase and cherish for the rest of his life. That was the first of many memories Harry would have of the family treasure that has become a marvel of the Gulfport Harbor. Gulfport - “I was scared to death going out on that pier because it had cracks between the planks, and I thought I was going to fall between them,” said Harry, now 76. On that day in 1944, The Vanalburt-Lee, a 46-foot lugger, became the sister the Hewes brothers — Harry, Clint and Tommy — never had. Dr. Archibald Hewes, with his oldest son in tow, purchased the then-20-year-old boat from a doctor in Biloxi. It was the same day his wife, Vivian, was giving birth to his third son, Tommy.

“I’ve always been told that Daddy bought the boat the year I was born, and Mama claimed that she was in the hospital having me when he bought the boat,” said Tommy, the undisputed captain of the prized motor vessel. “And she claims that, on the way home from the hospital, he drove down there to Biloxi to show her the boat. The way she told it, Daddy (already) had two boys, and when he had me, he was so disgusted that he went out and bought the boat. And the boat was his girl.”




Marian Hewes, Harry’s wife, said she remembers Vivian Hewes, her late mother-in-law, talking about how much Archie wanted a girl. “With every baby boy that was born, according to your mom, he would tell her, ‘Take down the rosettes and put up a sail,’” Marian said to her husband. Built by a naval architect in 1924, the boat is named for the original owner’s best friends — Van, Al, Burt and Lee. And, much like the name, little has changed since the boat first entered the water with its prideful first owner. “I can remember when we bought it, the doctor was so proud of that boat, he wouldn’t totally close the deal until he made sure that my daddy and my uncle, who were partners at that time, could handle the boat and would take care of it,” Harry said. “So, it stayed for a period of time on his peer under Biloxi.” Perhaps no other owner could have cared more for that boat than Archie Hewes, a man who, although a bit difficult to describe, clearly had boating and fishing in his blood. “There’s no nutshell,” Marian said, describing her late father-in-law. A graduate of Ole Miss and Vanderbilt medical school, Archie was raised just one generation from the Civil War. He grew up listening to stories of his great-uncle fighting in that war and decided he, at 17, would enlist in World War I and join the field artillery. Luckily, Tommy said, he was caught for lying about his age. Later, Archie joined the Army, but he was discharged because of a retinal hemorrhage before he could be sent to war, Harry said. Archie spent his career as a general surgeon, the second board-certified in Mississippi. But, every minute of his free time was spent on the Vanalburt-Lee. “I don’t know how he got through medical school, because his true love was fishing,” Tommy said. Even when the doctor was on call, he left his wife by the phone so he could spend time working on the boat. “Back then, they didn’t have beepers and things, and when Daddy was on call, he also spent the whole weekend down there piddling on it here in the harbor, and Mama had to sit home by the telephone,” Tommy said. “If he got a call, she had to drive down to the boat and get him to bring him back. She was on call the weekends that he was.”



And, when they weren’t on call, they were on the water. “Archie and Vivian went out on the boat — not most weekends when he wasn’t on call — but every single weekend that he wasn’t on call,” Marian recalled. Vivian would make pimento cheese sandwiches and pack them in a shoebox. But, as long as she was on the boat, her husband did all the work. “He never lifted a finger at home. But, when he was on the boat, she was a queen,” Tommy said. “He did all the cooking, all the everything.” For the Hewes boys, though, the same royal treatment didn’t apply. For them, being on the boat with their father meant hard work. “Daddy was one of those people, it was ‘Yes, sir. No, sir’ and you had to be on your toes,” Tommy said. “He gave you a quiz at every meal on the boat about safety or navigation or something, so it wasn’t too pleasurable at that point.” A lifetime spent on the Vanalburt-Lee — annual family vacations to Destin/Fort Walton, hunting for Christmas oysters on Cat Island, weekend voyages to Ship Island and the legendary annual June Trip — did, over time, make the brothers appreciate the uniqueness of the family vessel. Designed for the shallow, choppy water of the Mississippi Sound, the Vanalburt-Lee is technically a lugger, but it was built more like the yachts of its time. “That’s the difference between that and all the other ones around here. The Biloxi boat builders learned their trade from their fathers and grandfathers,” Tommy said. “This boat — (the builder) was a Naval architect first, so he drew blueprints and all that, and the design of the hull is just totally different from the regular Biloxi luggers.” The boat is made out of cypress with mostly original chrome-plated brass fixtures. The cypress deck planks are covered in canvas to prevent leakage. It features a walkaround deck and is shaded with a canopy, the only part of the entire boat made of fiberglass. Even though its age alone — the boat turns 91 this year — makes it a standout watercraft, it also has unique elements — most were added in the early 1950s — that give it additional bragging rights. Z 13

TOP: Brothers Harry, left, and Tommy Hewes stand inside the Vanalburt-Lee, the boat their father purchased in 1944. BOTTOM: The Vanalburt-Lee is docked at Hurricane Hole, where it rides out storms. OPPOSITE PAGE: Old photos show work that was done to the boat about 25 years ago.


Spring 2015

“When my dad had it, two of his best friends were with Kennedy Marine in Biloxi. They were good mechanics, also,” Harry said. “You didn’t see any yachts back then with automatic pilot steering and with electrical anchor wenches that pulled up the anchor. These people took materials off these old World War II boats and built those things for my dad on the boat. Back in those days, we had that luxury.” And, all of those bells and whistles that make the Vanalburt-Lee a rare breed still work today, including the current engine, a World War II transport ship surplus that was installed around 1949. “After the war, those Kennedys bought a bunch of these engines and put them in all the shrimp boats and revolutionized the shrimping industry. So, they put one in this boat and it still runs perfectly,” Tommy said. Tommy added a diesel generator but kept the 32-volt battery system commonly used on commercial boats in the 1940s and ’50s. “We added a generator, and it’s like a submarine now. You run the generator to charge the battery, so when we go fishing, we get off in the morning and fish in little boats out there and run the generator while we’re gone so we don’t have to listen to the noise,” he said. “Then when we get back everything’s on battery like a submarine, and it’s quiet.” While a few improvements have been made, including the rebuilding of the hull about 25 years ago, the boat still doesn’t have the more modern luxuries often found on today’s boats. “Generally when someone obtains an older lugger, they will fiberglass it. They’ll upgrade the interior,” Marian said. “Oh, they always put in air conditioning, showers, big screen televisions, which we don’t have — any of the above.” And, that’s the way it will remain, according to Tommy, who, since his father’s death in 1978, has maintained the boat along with its legacy. Except for some refinishing he did to the interior, he intends to keep it the same as it was when his father was at the wheel — right down to the cast iron skillets that are as old as the boat. He will also never add a shower or air conditioning. “Daddy had a saying: ‘You got to be miserable to catch fish.’ You put an air conditioner on here, people would



be sitting in the air conditioning. Nobody would be out fishing,” he said. Every year, Tommy, a retired orthopedic surgeon, coordinates the June Trip, which his father started even before he bought the Vanalburt-Lee. On the seventh of June, seven men embarked on a seven-day journey full of fishing and camaraderie. The trip, now in its 75th year, sticks to the same rules from his father’s day — except the trip duration. “Modern wives won’t let their husbands go away for a week,” he said. “In Daddy’s day, the wives couldn’t wait for them to go away for a week.” They still, after a week of catching, cleaning and eating fish and bathing in the Gulf waters, wrap up the trip with a banquet on the last night complete with a beef dish similar to the one their father prepared every year. The tales from those June Trips and any voyages on the VanalburtLee, for that matter, are iconic. People across the Coast clamor to catch a glimpse of the inside of the legendary boat and join the hundreds who have added their names to the Vanalburt-Lee logs, which date to the 1950s. To add to its legendary status, famous food critic Craig Claiborne wrote about the boat in the New York Times in 1967. The article is framed inside the cabin near a framed copy of a poem written especially for the boat by Russell C. Davis, the former Jackson mayor for whom the Davis Planetarium in the state’s capital is named. Archie died a month after his 1978 June Trip and, the torch was passed to the Hewes brothers. It was up to them to keep the Vanalburt-Lee proudly sailing. “From then on, it was in my hands. That was all my spare time from then on. The rest of my life was taking care of that boat,” Tommy said light-heartedly. “I had picked out a beautiful sailboat — a Bermuda 40 — that I was going to buy just as soon as I could. And, then I got left with this and that was the end of that.” Ownership was split three ways until the middle brother, Clint, a retired pathologist who lives in Philadelphia, Pa., gave his interest to Tommy. And, although Harry, a retired attorney, was raising his five Z 15

children while Tommy maintained the boat, he kept his share. “I sent kids to college while Tommy was keeping up the boat,” he said. “Tommy wouldn’t let me give up my one-third interest. He goes on trips and things and, whenever I come, I have to take the boat around and tie it up.” The Vanalburt-Lee continues to play an important role for the Hewes family. As soon as the weather warms, it is on the water with some of Harry’s children and grandchildren and their friends basking in the sun, drinking “Uncle Tommy’s” famous Cuban daiquiris and playing in the chicken coop on top of the boat. The coop, originally used to store live chickens on long journeys when refrigeration was subpar, is now screened-in and “a giant playpen” for Harry and Marian’s grandchildren, as well as a favorite sleeping spot on longer family outings. “We all just sit around and visit. Something about being on the water — I’ve never been the slightest bit outdoorsy — just makes me feel calm and at-ease,” said Harry’s daughter, Hallie Hewes Collins. “Just coming out and looking for dolphins and the pelicans and hanging out. My generation was spoiled because Uncle Tommy always cared for the boat. For us, the boat is just a good time.” Even though the Vanalburt-Lee doesn’t shine like some of the other boats in the Gulfport harbor, its history and significance make it a prize vessel for those connected to it. “The boat from the outside — there’s nothing very spiffy about it,” Harry said. “But, if you’re a Marine architect, you can look at it and say, ‘It’s beautifully designed.’ It would take that type of person.” The Vanalburt-Lee has made appearances at several boat shows, including the Madisonville Wooden Boat Festival in Louisiana, and, while it certainly stands out, it rarely comes away a winner. “It’s not a boat-show kind of boat. It doesn’t shine, and the judges — they kind of throw up their hands,” said Tommy. “They’ve never seen anything like it, because it’s just not a boat-show kind of thing. When we took it to the boat show in Biloxi, it was the year the boat turned 75. They created a special category just for it. They made it the overall winner of the boat show rather than try to put it in a class or anything, because it is in a little different class by itself.”



Its uniqueness is certainly a large part of everyone’s infatuation with the Vanalburt-Lee. No one, of course, was more enchanted by it than Archie. “You read stories about people who really get attached to their boats,” Tommy said. In the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi “they’ve got a boat (that belonged to) a very famous man from New Orleans. He had an affair with his boat. That was his life, and it was the same thing with Daddy. It was his daughter — his baby girl.” Even when Hurricane Camille threatened the Gulf Coast in 1969, protecting his “baby girl” was first priority for Archie. “When Camille came, it gutted the first floor of our house, and Mama complained,” Tommy said. “She said, ‘Archie spent all day long getting that boat ready for that hurricane and he didn’t do a damn thing at my house, and, look, I’ve lost everything downstairs.’ And that’s the way it was. That (boat) was No. 1.” For Tommy, caring for the Vanalburt-Lee is a bit different. Marian refers to it as a “treasured onus” for him. “Now, it’s an old, sick grandmother. You love her, but you hate her,” Tommy said, laughing. His mixed feelings rely on the fact that no one other than Tommy and a few close friends can make needed repairs. “The boat is so old and unique, I couldn’t call a mechanic to go down there and fix it,” he said. “They wouldn’t know where to begin. We’ve always done the upkeep ourselves. This generation — they couldn’t begin to know how to manage all that — it’s just the way it is.” Harry said he’d like for H, his only son, to eventually learn how to operate the boat and take it into the next generation. “Tommy is the mechanic on there and, because he was involved in the rebuilding, he knows how everything is wired,” Harry said. “Anybody that’s on the boat — particularly a wooden boat — will tell you that it’s a full time job. My son, H, can operate it but he doesn’t know all the intricacies. He hasn’t been able to spend enough time with it. I just hope he’ll be able to take it over and keep it up.” Tommy has no future planned for the boat that has been his inherited hobby for the past 37 years. Z 17

“My philosophy is, ‘I can’t worry about it.’ I’ll be gone,” he said. So, the worrying has been passed down to the next generation, Harry’s children, who treasure the boat and want to continue its legacy. “It’s my job to worry,” said 36-year-old Hallie, laughing. “I don’t know what to do about it, so I just worry.” For now, Tommy still sips from the captain’s cup Hallie made him years ago, and he will keep his father’s prized possession tip-top as long as he’s able. About 15 years ago, he purchased a piece of land he calls Hurricane Hole, which is where The Vanalburt-Lee rides out storms and hurricanes. The land is just off Wolf River in Pass Christian, about 15 miles by car from the Gulfport Yacht Club where the boat is kept outside of inclement weather. The boat was docked at Hurricane Hole when Hurricane Katrina wiped out both of the Hewes family homes. The Vanalburt-Lee suffered only minor damage. “I remember when we were in Oxford right immediately after Katrina, and we had lost Uncle Tommy’s home, which was my Uncle Goat’s house — it was a family home — and we had lost our home, which was my grandparents’ home,” Hallie said. “And, we were definitely still reeling. When we finally got word that the boat made it, it felt like, “Yea! There’s a piece of us that’s still around. And, that felt really good.” At a time when the Hewes family felt like they had lost everything, the Vanalburt-Lee stood as a symbol of home, a sentiment Hallie had already begun to grasp years before



the storm. “I wrote a paper about it in college. I was sitting on the boat and where I was, I could practically see everything that I considered home,” she said. “I was on the boat, which was home. I could see our house and, then, the yacht club across the harbor, which is another kind of home for us.” Thirty-year-old H, the youngest of Harry’s children, said the Vanalburt-Lee will always be a special place for his family. “It’s not an experience you can re-create anywhere else,” he said. “It’s something that’s kind of sacred to us, and our whole family has used it as a means to get closer and spend time with everybody.” Almost four generations after the Vanalburt-Lee entered the Hewes family, each voyage seems to tie them back to Archie, its ever-faithful former owner. “He died right before I was born, but I always felt like — to me — the boat is how I know him,” Hallie said. And she and her siblings hope to continue the legacy. “It’s something that I won’t ever take for granted, so I try to soak every bit up,” H said. “I can tell you that everybody I’ve ever known begs to go out on the VanalburtLee, and I look forward to taking people out in the future and showing them a good time on it.”

STORY Lauchlin Fields PHOTOGRAPHY Melanie Thortis

All in the family From left, James Collins, H Hewes, Marian Hewes, Hallie Hewes Collins, Tommy Hewes and Harry Hewes aboard the Vanalburt-Lee.


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Dr. Kristen Gunn

Meridian opera singer hits a high note with career “First-time” experiences are hard to forget, whether they are passion, exhilaration, pain or inspiration. They linger in the body long after the initial event passes. For Dr. Kristen Johnson Gunn, an accomplished opera singer and assistant professor of voice at Mississippi College, all it takes is a scent of a special perfume, Dior’s Hypnotic Poison, to trigger memories of a life-changing event.


For concerts, visit For upcoming events, visit The Metropolitan Opera transmits high-definition performances at Cinemark Theatre in Pearl. “You can watch opera in your PJ pants and a bag of popcorn in your hand,” says Dr. Kristen Johnson Gunn. For more information, visit


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“I saw my first opera at Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson. Mississippi Opera put on Charles Gounod’s ‘Faust.’ I heard the soprano that night sing an aria entitled, ‘The Jewel Song,’ and I was mesmerized,” Kristen said. “I still remember the scent of perfume the woman in front of me was wearing. Whenever I smell that perfume, I always think of that experience.” Most people don’t associate opera with Mississippi. Instead, the state is known for its blues, Elvis Presley and Faith Hill. Kristen is helping change that perception, spreading her love for classical music through performance and education. “I fell in love with opera when I was about 15 or 16 years old. I was taking voice lessons with Dr. Bob Hermetz of Meridian, and he introduced me to recordings of Mirella Freni and Anna Moffo,” said the 33-year-old Meridian native. “I fell in love with how challenging the music was and how the sound required such full-bodied support. It takes over your entire being to sing that way, and that challenge intrigued me.” Reliving that “first time” brings out the passion in Kristen’s speaking voice. It’s clear that she feels music, especially opera, in a way that vibrates and animates her, body and soul. “Opera is an art form. It embraces every emotion — bravery, hate, happiness, loss, love — while featuring dance, visual art settings, costumes, dialogue and poetry. It’s artwork with many elements, but only one theme — emotion. Opera plays on extreme exaggeration. You could almost call it an overdose of emotion. “When you sing opera, you become the character, whether you’re singing in English, Italian or whatever language,” she said. “The audience becomes so engrossed in whatever the character is going through, it doesn’t matter if they don’t understand the words. Through the singer, they understand the feeling, the emotion of that moment.”



MUSIC Assistant Professor of Music Dr. Kristen Gunn directs her students in a class at Mississippi College, where she teaches voice, opera and musical theater workshops, acting and repertoire. She also directs the college’s musical theater and operatic productions.

Tippy Gardner, Mississippi Opera’s administrative director, is well-acquainted with Kristen. “Kristen sings with a beautiful legato line, has a most pleasing timbre and is committed to her art,” Gardner said. “In her opera roles, she very successfully projects to the audience the character of the role she is singing, bringing the audience into the action on stage quite well.” Her willingness to share emotion through song has taken Kristen to stages as far away as Italy and South Africa and as close as Thalia Mara Hall, Boston and New York’s Lincoln Center. She trains twice a year in New York City with Trish McCaffrey, an internationally known vocal technician, to keep her voice polished. “Kristen has a remarkable voice with beautiful color, and she uses it exquisitely and artistically,” McCaffrey said during a stop as she was traveling from Israel. “Her technique allows her to cross over into musical theater or pop music or, equally as wonderful, doing Baroque music. Settings for Kristen’s performances range from close-up and intimate to large concert halls. “I’ve been blessed with opportunities to perform on many, many stages,” Kristen said. “One that was really special had a ‘Lady and Tramp’-like scene,” she said. As a student at Florida State University, she spent a month in Barga, Italy, about an hour from Florence. “We were performing an outdoor concert in a piazza on a beautiful summer night. I was singing soprano in a duet with

an Australian tenor. The neighbors had hung homemade quilts from the windows in a show of support. When we finished performing ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ by Gaetano Donizetti, you could have heard a pin drop. Then they started shouting and cheering. It was magical!” Kristen grew up singing in Meridian’s Highland Baptist Church. As a teen, she branched out to community theater, taking lessons to improve her voice — her “musical instrument” — and technique. While other teen girls were singing “Candle in the Wind” or “You’re Still the One,” Kristen was immersing herself in “hits” of the 1500s and 1600s. “I bet I’m the only girl who missed her junior and senior banquets to sing chorus in Mozart’s Requiem.” She enrolled at Mississippi College in 1999 with a music scholarship but no concrete plans for a voice-based career. “I enjoyed math in high school, so I thought I might become a math teacher,” Kristen said. “Music was my passion, but being a teacher seemed more realistic. Being a professional singer was my dream, though.” Music theory and technique appealed to Kristen’s math interests, incorporating numbers and formulas into the fundamentals of singing and performing. As she learned, she matured vocally and emotionally. “If you sing to be the center of attention, you’re singing for the wrong reason,” Kristen said. “You have to be mature enough to express honest emotion to the nth degree.




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Just like in life, you hit high notes and low notes.” The best of both worlds — education and music — opened for Kristen in 2008 when she left Florida State University with a graduate degree in voice. She was offered the position of an assistant professor at Mississippi College, an opening that she calls “divine intervention.” She now teaches voice, opera and musical theater workshops, acting and repertoire while musically directing the college’s musical theater and operatic productions. “I’m living my dream. Performing, teaching, family (marrying Drew Gunn in 2014) — I’ve got it all!” McCaffrey said Kristen is able to use her instrument any way she wants. “She could certainly have a big career if she wanted such a thing. However, she is sane enough to know that the life of a singer is very much like a gypsy, and she prefers to have a normal life, balancing it with singing and a husband and students that she loves. We respect her for that.” Kristen said she tries to instill in her students an understanding that they must be vulnerable, to step outside of themselves for their audience. “You can be a beautiful singer, but if you’re boring to watch, they won’t come hear you again,” Kristen said, juggling one-on-one time with students and rehearsals for MC’s “Die Fledermaus.” Her love of music extends past the classroom. She is a frequent performer and board member with Mississippi Opera, the 10th oldest opera company in the United States. “We are trying to introduce Mississippians to opera often with the help of music theater and jazz. If someone enjoys our cabaret series, they may say to themselves, ‘I really enjoyed that. Why don’t I try going to an opera production next?’ “ Performing live means no holds barred, Kristen said. “I get to step outside of myself and connect with the audience. We’re sharing experiences through the music,” she said. “I want to be an example to my students. If they want to be successful musicians, they must be well-rounded. They can’t limit themselves if they want to be successful artists.” Kristen also is a jazz vocalist with the Brick Street Jazz trio that includes MC faculty members James Sclater, Ben Williams and Michael Rushing. “She’s great to work with as a musician because she’s so versatile. At just the right time she’ll switch from a low voice to this high belt that just soars over the band,” Williams said. “Her teaching is similar in that she’s not only a great teacher of


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voice, but also knows how to interact with each student as an individual person. Whatever it is that she gets involved with, she puts everything she has towards it — and it shows!” Today’s artists can’t deny that music is a business, Kristen said. “It takes training and hard work. You will hear a lot of “no’s” along with the “yesses.” Reality shows such as ‘The Voice’ and ‘American Idol’ are hurting young singers, because they are led to believe they make it without lessons, without training. It takes discipline to be a musical entrepreneur. That’s what we do — we make our own opportunities.” One of Kristen’s opportunities was last year’s National Association of Teachers of Singing competition in Boston. After winning regional and state competitions, she advanced to the finals with her arias, walking away with sixth place at the national level. When Kristen isn’t teaching, giving private lessons, rehearsing or performing, she enjoys the peace of quiet. “I listen to silence in the car, often because I’m around music constantly and my ears need a break,” she said. “But when I don’t need silence, I like the Broadway channel on XM as well as the ’80s and ’90s channels. I most definitely sing along, especially if Whitney Houston comes on! It would probably be an opera aria or trying to belt out Whitney. Whitney Houston was — and still is — my favorite voice.” Although Kristen tends to surround herself with classic tunes, she is open to all music styles and genres. “I can find the ‘rock out’ element in a Mozart finale or a movement of Vivaldi’s four seasons just as easily as I can ‘rock out’ to any commercial band or artist,” she said. “I can connect to an opera aria and turn around and be mesmerized by the guitar prowess of Jonny Lang within the same hour. Appreciating all styles of music is imperative to being well-informed to be creative and influenced to make new styles, Kristen said. “Music has a heartbeat that is in all styles. True, some people should stick to certain styles concerning their particular talents, but we should seek out opportunity to always hear different styles, and artists should always serve others with their talents.”

STORY Susan O’Bryan PHOTOGRAPHY Melanie Thortis


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Bill Ferris c

This storyteller is a patchwork of a farm, the blues and memories

Warren County - In 2014, William “Bill” Ferris returned to Mississippi to accept the state historical society’s B.L.C. Wailes Award. Established to honor Mississippians who achieve national distinction in the field of history, the prize previously had been bestowed upon Civil War chronicler Shelby Foote, Lincoln biographer David Donald and Monticello curator Dan Jordan. Notoriety was hardly new for Bill, a pioneer in the academic study of folklore and the American South. The 73-year-old Vicksburg native was selected by the University of Mississippi to midwife its Center for the Study of Southern Culture; tapped by Quincy Jones to help compose a musical score for the film production of “The Color Purple;” and chosen by President Bill Clinton to helm the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1986, the French government knighted Bill. But if those distinctions validated the significance of Bill’s work, none evoked its origin as poetically as an honor whose namesake — planter/geologist/historian Benjamin Leonard Covington Wailes — once owned the south Warren County property where Bill would, more than a century later, grow up, milk cows, listen to stories and meet his muse. Accepting the award, Bill recalled encountering mastodon teeth and other remnants of Wailes’ personal property on the planter’s old land — as well as living descendants of his human property. An engraved silver cup, which belonged to Wailes was one of Bill’s first possessions, presented by a neighbor to Bill’s mother, Shelby, shortly after he was born in 1942. Z


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The most impressive audible presence on the farm belonged to

Rose Hill Church.

Rose Hill Church Bill Ferris stands outside the church that helped shape his passion for documenting Southern culture.

B “Forty years later, Mother gave me the cup,” Bill said, “And I presented it to the Mississippi History Museum.” Bill’s career largely has consisted of such acts of recognizing, preserving, cherishing and publicizing the value in the South’s everyday artifacts — from blues songs and folk stories to quilts. Bill received his Ph.D. in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969, taught at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University) for two years, and taught at Yale for seven more before returning to his home state in 1979 to help found the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss. His time as director of the center was marked by the 1989 publication of the eight-pound Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, which Bill co-edited with Charles Reagan Wilson. And it was while Bill was at Ole Miss that many Mississippians first met him in the guise of “Dr. Blues,” the host of the Saturday-night “Highway 61” blues program on public radio. Bill’s work at Ole Miss led to his appointment as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1997, which led to his current position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.



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But the life’s labor of William Reynolds Ferris Jr., all began at the farm on the banks of the Big Black River. The property entered the Ferris family through Bill’s grandfather Eugene, an agronomist who bought a portion of it in 1919 with hopes to “improve” what he described in an unpublished memoir as “a largely wornout old farm.” Eugene Ferris didn’t live there initially, consigning his Warren County holdings to absentee ownership while he worked for state-sponsored research stations, a fertilizer company and the Federal Land Bank. Meanwhile, the farm was rocked by the economic catastrophe that beset Southern agriculture in general during the 1920s. “On the whole,” Eugene Ferris assessed, “my investment in it was largely a failure.” Of Eugene Ferris’ three sons, two became doctors. The other, William, also had designs on the medical profession before suffering a back injury that required a year of recuperation. His father’s memoir suggests that the accident might have saved the farm: “Confined to his bed when not actually in hospitals undergoing two serious operations,” Eugene Ferris wrote, William Ferris “began to give attention, from his bed, to the operation of the farm while I continued to work for a salary away from home.” Z

“Daddy decided that he loved the farm. He was good at it — which was a blessing for all of us, because we got to grow up here.” -Bill Ferris

On the farm Bill Ferris makes frequent visits home to his family farm in Warren County, near Vicksburg, where he grew up intrigued by the stories surrounding the land.


B William Ferris Sr., would live there for the rest of his life, taking the title to approximately 2,800 acres from his parents in 1943. Bill Jr., was born the year before, and four more children — Shelby, Hester, Grey and Martha — followed. “Daddy decided that he loved the farm,” Bill Ferris Jr. said. “He was good at it—which was a blessing for all of us, because we got to grow up here.” Growing up on the Ferris Farm in the 1940s and 1950s entailed isolation. In the absence of uniformly paved roads, the 16 miles between the property and Vicksburg amounted to a formidable barrier. But Bill said the setting was idyllic for a budding folklorist. “My grandfather was a great storyteller,” Bill said of Eugene, who retired to the Warren County property in 1945. “When we were children he would entertain us with stories — like ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.’ At the end of a long telling of that story, we would say, ‘Grandad, tell it again.’ And he would patiently tell it again. “You just heard stories everywhere. There was a little grocery store on the farm where you could go and get a Coca-Cola and a moon pie and sit on the porch. There were all these people, just sitting around and talking.” The most impressive audible presence on the farm belonged to Rose Hill Church, a congregation composed largely of black farmworkers who had tilled the local soil under the various white owners since antebellum times. The church building stood not far from the Ferrises’ home, and curious young Bill Ferris frequently attended services there. “As I grew older,” Bill recalled, “I realized that there were no hymnals in the church. When those families were no longer there, the music would disappear. So, I began to tape-record and to photograph and later to film those services and the worlds around the farm.” This practice would become a pattern for Bill. “I began to go further afield,” he said, “to record blues singers over at a little community across the Big Black River in Claiborne County called Morning Star. Then I began later recording in the Mississippi Delta, blues singers and gospel singers.” He also recorded the stories of Ray Lum, a Warren County mule trader who did business with Bill’s family. “I did that instinctively.” Bill, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Davidson College in North Carolina and a master’s degree in the subject from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., once despaired that there was no room for his passion in academia. “I didn’t know folklore was a field until I was studying in Ireland and stumbled into a conversation over breakfast 30

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with a folklorist and literary scholar named Francis Utley, who was chairman of the English department at Ohio State University,” he recounted. “He was there to do research at the Irish Folklore Commission. And when he told me that, I said, ‘You know, English departments are incredibly narrow. They won’t allow you to study storytelling and music as literature.’ And he smiled, and he said, ‘You should be studying folklore.’ I said, ‘What’s that?’” Utley pointed Bill to a handful of graduate programs in the field, which focused on oral traditions passed from generation to generation — music and storytelling, for example. Bill enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s program. “When I arrived, I went to see my adviser, Kenneth Goldstein, and I took a box of tape recordings and photographs in to his office,” Bill recalled. “And I said, ‘Dr. Goldstein, this is what I’ve been doing. Can I do that here and get credit for it?’ He smiled at me and said, ‘That, my boy, will be your dissertation. You just keep doing it.’ So, I couldn’t have been happier.” That dissertation, “Black Folklore from the Mississippi Delta,” contains material subsequently featured in Bill’s book, Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues, published in 2009. Bill is an academic who models “the value of not just talking to other academics,” said James Cobb, a history professor at the University of Georgia who taught with Bill at Ole Miss. “Academics’ thought processes are often inbred,” Cobb said. “They think only in terms of what is going to be interesting to other academics. Bill doesn’t do that.” Brian Wilson, now a lobbyist in Jackson, remembers running into Bill in 1999 when Wilson was an aide to U.S. Sen. Trent Lott and Bill was director of the NEH. “THE BLUES DOCTOR!” exclaimed Wilson, who had been a fan of Bill’s radio show while growing up in Macon, Miss. A few days later, Wilson recalls, he received an invitation to have lunch with Bill. The two talked music, politics and Mississippi for an hour in Bill’s private office atop the Old Post Office Building in Washington. “I was amazed he would be that interested in a 20-something nobody,” Wilson marveled. “I couldn’t do anything for him. I wasn’t some legislative assistant with a lot of power. But he just hung out and talked with me for an hour.” “That’s part of Bill’s great charm,” said Cobb. “His interest in people is genuine."


STORY Ben Bryant PHOTOGRAPHY Easton Selby

Storyteller Bill Ferris is a pioneer in the study of folklore and the American South.

He’s just as interested in a folk artist painting a picture of Jesus on the side of a barn as he would be if you were the president of Harvard.� -James Cobb 31


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Tutwiler Quilters

Quilters sew up tradition, stitch-by-stitch Bobbie, Bessie, Susie, Ethel, Zelda. Lovie, Alberta, Ollie, Ora, Pandora Daisy, Lady, Florence, Willie, Bertha. Arnesta, Edna, Pearlie, De Ella, Magnolia


These are the names of some of the Tutwiler Quilters who have come and gone — their names and their pictures, pinned to a board inside the Tutwiler Community Education Center. Mary Sue Robertson was the first. Robertson lived in Sumner, a community about five miles from Tutwiler that was the site of the 1955 Emmett Till murder trial. “She lived in a little shack behind some white people’s houses,” said Mary Willis Mackey, recalling the story of how the Tutwiler Quilters program came about. “I guess she was the maid at one time or something until she got too old to do anything, and all she did was sit at home and hand-piece quilts.” All day, every day, Robertson sewed together colorful pieces of fabric and stacked them in her home and a nearby shed, often showing them to visitors and usually giving them one to take home. “She had stacks and stacks of quilts, and every time somebody went to her house, whenever she saw anybody, she wanted to show her quilt tops off,” Mackey said. When Sister Maureen Delaney moved to Tutwiler to help manage a social services program, she met Robertson while assessing the needs of the townspeople. “On her bed, she had all these quilt pieces just laying there,” said Mackey, who accompanied Sister Delaney to Robertson’s home. Sister Delaney purchased a quilt top from Robertson, and an idea was born. “Sister Delaney found out that a lot of people here in


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Tutwiler and in the surrounding towns knew how and loved to quilt,” said Mackey, who today refers to Robertson as the “mother founder of the quilts” and the inspiration for the Tutwiler Quilters, an ongoing program for more than 20 years. “From there, we started making quilts and selling them,” she said. “I enjoy hearing the ladies say, ‘I made quilts, and I bought me a car,’ or ‘I put my child through school.’ It was a job for them. That was something they could do and not have handouts. They could get out and do something for themselves and have money to support their families.” It’s a nice income if you enjoy it, Mackey said. “But you can’t find many people who want to do this because it’s a lot of needlepoint and sticking the fingers,” she said. “You have to have the patience and the time to do something like that. These days, you don’t find too many young people who want to get involved. They’re into speedy things.” Sister Delaney, now the executive director of the Tutwiler Community Education Center, said the Tutwiler Quilt Program was created in 1989 after she learned about the area’s strong quilting tradition. Founders also wanted to create a money-making opportunity for local women and their families. “The ladies piece and quilt on the African American quilting style,” said Sister Delaney. “They take traditional patterns, and they improvise on them. They say they make them as the material speaks to them. It’s a way to preserve quilting in this area, and it’s a way for the ladies to make money for themselves and their families.” When the program receives orders, quilters receive a packet of material and instructions about what to quilt. Customers may specify the colors they want. The ladies piece and quilt in their homes, and then take the items they have quilted back to the center to pick up more orders. Most of the fabric has been donated.




ABOVE: Sister Joann Blomme, left, measures a quilt for quilter Martha Wiley of Webb, Miss., during a meeting of the Tutwiler Quilters at the Tutwiler Community Education Center. LEFT: Donated fabric and thread are a huge part of keeping the Tutwiler Quilting program going.

The program produces a newsletter that generates orders. They also sell quilts at festivals, craft shows and church events. But program leaders have found that people outside of Mississippi are more impressed with quilting. “The quilting tradition is strong here,” Sister Delaney said. “People look at things and say, ‘Isn’t that so pretty? My grandmother made these, too.’ So if we want to sell them, we sell them outside of the state.” Sister Delaney said the Tutwlier Quilters have helped preserve the quilting tradition in Mississippi. “I think they put a good face on Mississippi,” she said. “We sold them several years ago in the Smithsonian. We’ve been in two quilt museums — one in San Jose, California, and one in Colorado. People know about us. “They know there’s these people in Tutwiler, a little town, and they are contributing to their own economic improvement and also doing things of beauty. So when people see those quilts, they say our ladies are artists. I think they do help promote a good image of Mississippi and the people.” Quilts created by the Tutwiler Quilters, members of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi, range in price from $80 to $400. Located 70 miles south of Memphis, Tutwiler was named for a railroad surveyor. The community was incorporated

in the 1890s, and it was a lively railroad town with as many as 23 passenger trains coming through a day before the railroads and the town declined. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 report, Tutwiler’s population is about 1,364. The median annual household income is $18,958. Most who are employed work in manufacturing, education, health and social services. Tutwiler has more single mothers with children under 18 than married couples of the same demographic, and about 100 grandparents in the town care for their grandchildren. The largest number of residents 25 and older have less than a ninth-grade education. Fewer than 100 people have any form of higher education. Only 6.9 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Lucinda Berryhill, an administrative assistant with the Tutwiler Education Center, has been working with the Tutwiler Quilters since the program was created. Berryhill said the center began holding meetings in the late 1980s, inviting women from Tutwiler and the surrounding communities to participate. Today, the quilters receive 80 to 85 percent of the proceeds, and they don’t have to wait for program leaders to sell the products to get paid. They bring in their work and are paid after it passes inspection. “For some of them, this is their income,” said Berryhill. “We have two single moms who work in the program.”




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ABOVE: Sister Joann Blomme cuts out fabric for the next quilting project at the Tutwiler Community Education Center. RIGHT AND BELOW: Finished quilts hang in the gymnasium of the Center.

ABOVE: Susan Rogers of Webb uses a ring to quilt during a meeting of the Tutwiler Quilters. Rogers has been quilting for 17 years.


Spring 2015




“I’m the kind of quilter who wants to do what you like. Some quilters are like: ‘This is the design you’re going to get.’ I like to just give the people what they want.” ~ SUSAN ROGERS of the

Age doesn’t matter, but creativity does. Quilters may piece the quilt with a machine, but the finished product is hand sewn. The program started with 24 quilters, and today it has 12. “It’s kind of like a lost art, and what they are doing is keeping it alive,” said Berryhill. Tutwiler is also the place of another art form. It’s where W.C. Handy discovered the blues in 1903. While sitting at the train station, he heard an unknown musician seated next to him sliding a knife blade down the strings of his guitar. That was Aleck Miller, a harmonica player also known as Sonny Boy Williamson, who is buried in the town. A map to his grave is painted on a series of murals across from the Tutwiler Community Education Center. The center, where the quilting program operates, has become the focal point of Tutwiler. It was established in 1993, and a gymnasium, funded by donors, was opened in 2010. Bobbie Spears, who came to the center to have her work inspected and pick up more fabric, said she quilts because of the extra income it brings and the encouragement she receives from others about her work. “Each time, you do a different pattern,” Beryhill said. “My sister used to say it looks like it’s been drawn. All them little pieces, they were put together by hand.” Reola Hollins has been quilting for 17 years. Before joining the Tutwiler Quilters, she sewed wedding dresses and baby clothes. “I heard about it from a friend girl,” she said. “I got interested in it. I’ve improved a lot.” Susan Rogers is both the youngest Tutwiler Quilter and the quilter who has been with the program the longest. She became part of it at 16 and has stuck with it for 21 years. She completes about four or five quilts each month. Rogers grew up watching her grandmother quilt by hand. “At that time, she didn’t have a sewing machine,” said Rogers. “She said, ‘I’m just making a quilt so I can be warm.’ It used to be so soft.” Rogers decided to become part of the program when she heard about it. “I wanted to see what I could do,” she said. Given blocks to sew and later told to create designs, Rogers proved she could do it. Then she was given a pack of

Tutwiler Quilters

fabric and sent home to be creative. “Over the years, I seem to have gotten better,” she said. “You got to have patience. I think that’s one of the reasons I started, because I have patience.” Program leaders teach quilters what customers like and don’t like, she said. “When I came here, I learned how to put the colors in the right order, how to do the patterns,” she said. “This year, I’m learning how to do strips and loving it. All the quilters have a little test to do. Once we succeed in that test, we go on to the next.” Rogers said she enjoys pleasing customers. “I’m the kind of quilter who wants to do what you like,” she said. “Some quilters are like: ‘This is the design you’re going to get.’ I like to just give the people what they want.” Rogers said she learned more about quilting by reading books and watching television shows on the subject. “Other quilters may design it on paper,” she said. “Me, myself, I just do it out of my head. I know I want the star in the center, or I want it going all around. I like fall colors and the bright colors. I look at the design and, whatever comes to mind, I do it. When I do quilts, I do it mostly from my heart.” Rogers said she’s learned a lot over the years about the quilting process, which is a lot like life. “When I was 16, if I got turned down, it hurt so bad,” she said. “I had to go home and cry if I did it wrong. Now, if I do something wrong, I go home, and I make it better. So I always tell Sister Joann (Blomme) it’s good to let me know my mistakes.” Rogers said she’s watched many quilters come and go over the years. “We’re still pushing on,” she said. “It’s like when I first got here, there were so many of us. The people we have now, it’s like we are getting better and better, every year. “I’ve grown to love my work. I love to see people’s expressions, and when they write, it’s exciting. The last stitching of the quilt, I feel so proud.”

STORY LaReeca Rucker PHOTOGRAPHY Melanie Thortis


Clinton artists, from left, Ron Lindsey, Paul Fayard, Wyatt Waters and Sam Beibers stand on the brick streets of downtown Clinton.



Art buddies REVEL IN



They call themselves the Coffee Klatch, the Serendipidudes, the Four Mules of the Apocalypse, or even the Clinton Four. But this group of gentlemen is really just a special support group in the truest sense of the word.

They’ve been meeting for coffee and pastries at 9 a.m. sharp every Sunday for at least the past five years. It started in a booth at the Waffle House in Clinton and then moved to the cozy alcove inside the Starbucks down the road. Their topics du jour range from current events to pop culture, but the mainstay is always what brought them together in the beginning: art. Ron Lindsey, Wyatt Waters, Sam Beibers and Paul Fayard are all well-known in the Mississippi art world with a diverse fan base and regular gallery showings. Their skill and passion for art is obvious, but what lies subtly beneath is compassion, not rivalry, and the authentic critiques of one another’s work. “As artists, we mostly work by ourselves, so it’s great to have honest feedback from other artists and to get opinions from people you trust,” said Fayard, a New Orleans native and the youngest and newest member of the group. Each usually brings a piece he’s working on and casually passes it around for criticism. The suggestions can range from adding more color here or there to better defining a shadow or highlight. Their paths have been intertwined for years, and it’s fair to say that fate brought the foursome together. All four studied fine art at Mississippi College, and

all four studied under the same professor, Dr. Sam Gore. Waters and Lindsay met in a college creative writing class. Beibers and Waters met on the street where Waters was painting a cityscape on a drizzly day. Beibers met Fayard while speaking to his class about painting in the mid ’90s. Fayard met Waters at a gallery show and then befriended Lindsay at church, often borrowing books from him about art theory. While there is an unspoken, but acknowledged, degree of competition among them, they all agree that supporting and critiquing one another only strengthens their bond. “I think of it as a collective conscience,” said Waters. “This is the pure-of-heart painting. We want to perform well for each other. We’re really competing against ourselves, not each other.” With such immense talent focused in one small space, it would be natural for the ego to win. But this meeting of the minds does just the opposite for these artists. It brings out their honest insecurities. “The difference between the amateur and the experienced artist is the amateur is timid and afraid of making a mistake,” said Fayard. “The experienced artist wants to make bold mistakes and appreciates the spontaneity in the process.” Z







“The hardest part about being an artist is knowing when to stop. You want to make it good; when you try to make it perfect, that’s when you kill it. It’s like a dish. When you overcook it you take all the flavor out of it." Paul Fayard


n "This is the pure-of-heart painting. We want to perform well for each other. We’re really competing against ourselves, not each other.” Wyatt Waters

Critique Clinton artists, from left, Ron Lindsey, Sam Beibers, Paul Fayard and Wyatt Waters discuss Lindsey’s artwork during their weekly coffee shop meeting.

Beibers agrees and said such spontaneity usually comes in the middle of the process. The beginning establishes the piece, and the ending finalizes the details. “If there’s any magic, the middle is when it will happen,” he said. “I don’t mind failing. I fail a lot. But every now and then I get something decent. I do a lot of work that I just don’t like. I appreciate the freedom of being able to rip it up or scrape it off. It’s just paper and paint.” And truly, even if an artist’s work is hanging in the most famous of galleries, not every piece they create can be considered a masterpiece. “You have to do a lot of art to get to the ‘good’ art,” said Lindsey. It’s a rarity for an artist to be able to make a living through painting, but these four have been able to fit in their love for art into their respective “day jobs.” Lindsey teaches art at Mississippi State Hospital, Beibers is an exhibit designer at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, and Fayard is a ceramicist at The Wolfe Studio in Jackson. “Wyatt is, of course, the exception,” said Fayard of Waters, who has published several books of his work and illustrated numerous pieces by other authors.

The four often meet outside of Starbucks for art shows or drop by one another’s studios or galleries for a short visit and to see the latest works in progress. After all, the lighting inside the coffee shop is not exactly studioquality. “Sometimes it looks completely different in the space where it was created,” said Beibers. Regardless of the locale, this creative rendezvous is really something each of the artists sincerely appreciates and looks forward to each week. These artists of Clinton are a modest bunch, considering the extraordinary amount of talent they collectively share. Nonetheless, they know that a kind word of encouragement or a pat on the back from a respected colleague in any field is invaluable. “There’s a quote by Somerset Long that I really like, and it says something to the extent of, ‘We all ask for criticism, but what we really want is praise,’” said Lindsey. “I think that’s about right.”

STORY Elizabeth Grey PHOTOGRAPHY Melanie Thortis



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Raising Chickens


In the lap of nature, funny critters bring joy — and food

Chasing chickens around the barn as a boy is probably why I can’t stop today! Flopping wings, stampeding feet in a dry, dusty yard and the sounds of ear-piercing squawks and crows definitely help steer a lad in life. And, while I tried so hard to catch and play with my favorite Barred Rock hen, I never could outwit her.





Spring 2015

Call them dumb birds all you want, but my childhood birds never once let me strap them to the hay nest while I waited impatiently for my golden eggs of the day. I’m proof that chickens are intelligent, entertaining to watch and they provide a plethora of benefits to a yard. Everyone — tried and true country souls and lifetime city slickers alike — should have chickens. Around the home, free-range chickens are mini-cultivators, scratching about, mobile fertilizers (well, you know), and they drastically reduce the things that make my wife cringe — insects and spiders! Watching chickens feed and wander about the yard curiously is a sight to see. They display a real-world pecking order,




pun intended, and watching the dynamism and social interactions they display is entertaining, especially after being cooped up all night. This is when the feathers become unruffled. While I have more than 70 chickens today, I certainly didn’t start with that many — I’m not even sure what happened or why my interest in chickens grew to this extreme. I never dreamt of feeding so many beaks. My intention with the latest accrual of chickens was to purchase several different egg-laying breeds to try — and well, I went overboard, sort of like a Black Friday shopping sale. Before I knew it, I had more chicks at my house than a John Mayer concert. Squawks and balks soon became my bedtime songs...and I loved it! My chickens are all egg-laying breeds. The hens produce colorful eggs in a range of shades and sizes that are just as enjoyable to collect each day as they are to eat. Farm-fresh eggs offer a thick shell, golden yolk and rich flavor that can’t be beat by any store-bought egg. Just try one and you’ll see. I typically mail-order new stock from a hatchery, although select breeds often are available at local farm supply stores — especially in the spring. With today’s modern shipment of newborn chicks, knowing the development process of a chicken egg is pretty cool. The yolk is what develops into the chick inside a fertilized egg. The white of the egg, more accurately termed the albumen, is a protein-rich fluid that the developing chick actually absorbs into its tiny body prior to hatching. Although it serves many functions, the albumen’s most vital role is to provide adequate food and water allowing the newborn to survive for a full three days once hatched! It’s amazing what nature does, and, because of this, chickens can be ordered through the postal service from all over the country and shipped live when not even a day old. With the exception of delays or extremely cold weather, the success in getting healthy young birds to your house is easy; however, if chicken breeds you desire are available locally, obviously, that is the safest means. Not being limited on what breeds you can have is exciting; just be careful or you’ll end up with 70 birds in your backyard, too. After moving to Vicksburg, I started with 30 chickens — 18 were Barred Rock, the breed I grew up with, and 12 were Ameracauna. Barred Rocks are a cold-hardy breed, and although they readily adapt to the taxing Mississippi heat, they do well during cold winter nights and actually lay eggs more productively than many other breeds. Barred Rocks are beautiful birds with black and white barred feathers and pretty red combs. They are a classic breed, sometimes called the Plymouth Rock chicken, and likely one of the breeds your grandparents kept. The Ameracauna was a new breed for me, and I have grown to adore it. They are called “Easter egg” chickens, laying colorful eggs ranging from blue to blue-green to olive. When mature, Ameraucanas are a variety of colors and add a pleasant diversity to the backyard flock. They are a great breed to introduce to children, too, as they are docile and friendly, and the eggs are strikingly beautiful. And, while I have eight different chicken breeds at Beane Farm, these two are still my favorite.





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LEFT: Bobby McComas teaches his daughter, Vivian, the proper way to hold a recent hatchling. RIGHT: Friends visiting let their daughter, Cora, enjoy a nice summer day in the company of a silkie bantam chick. Photos by Nathan Beane.

For anyone pondering the idea of having chickens or ready to take the plunge, the first questions to ask are: 1) Do you have space to keep them? 2) Where would you build a pen for them to roost and be protected at night? 3) What breeds would you want? and 4) How many chickens can you care for and house safely? One of the most common questions I’m asked pertains to chickens in the backyard creating foul — not fowl — smells. The quick answer is no. The caveat is that it’s true as long as you keep the coop dry. With any animal you keep, except pigs, when moisture is present, smells occur. The wet dog principle, I call it. So keep a dry coop and the smell concerns disappear. Plus, your chickens will stay healthier and cleaner within a well-maintained coop. Chickens are an enjoyable form of entertainment and present an opportunity to learn about nature. For people living in the city limits, consideration of a rooster is important, particularly if neighbors are in close proximity. Not everyone enjoys a 4:30 alarm each morning with no option to snooze. Our coop is close to our house and guests staying the night always mention hearing the roosters crowing. Often, it’s a pleasant surprise to our guests — creating a classic country feel to our home south of Vicksburg. My roosters provide 24-hour security to my flock and are,


Spring 2015

or course, a necessary component if wanting to incubate and hatch eggs from the flock. Hatching eggs is exciting, and it can be accomplished on a minimal budget. I built the incubator I use with little expense. The only material I didn’t already have on-hand was a water heater thermostat, which cost $8. Hatching eggs is a science, but with care and minimal research on rotating eggs daily and the humid temperature at which they must be maintained, it can be performed with ease. Talk about a fun experience if you have kids or grandkids! With marginal cost, a thrifty coop and a half-dozen hens, anyone can have fresh eggs daily and enjoy a minor role in living “off-the-grid.” It’s a rewarding feeling to have a level of self-sufficiency, and, with chickens, it is a breeze to get started. Before you know it, you’ll be as hooked as I am, and look forward to hatching eggs each spring and always maintaining an ample supply of can’t-be-beat farm eggs. If you would like additional information on how to get started or which breeds would better fit your lifestyle, e-mail me at Additionally, be sure to visit our website for more pictures of the flock at Beane Farm.

STORY Nathan Beane PHOTOGRAPHY Nathan Beane

2015 FLIGHT PLAN DEPARTURE DESTINATION March 28-29 April 11 April 17 April 18 April 22 May 15 May 15- 19 May 23


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Keesler AFB Performance Amphibious Plane Rides$100/ride at Vicksburg City Front Documentary Presentation: “Never the Same - The Prisoner’s of War Experience” Amphibious Plane Rides$100/ride at Vicksburg City Front Monthly Hangar Lunch - $10 a person Veterans and Servicemen eat free. Attempt at breaking a Guiness World Book Record Harley Davidson, Jackson, MS Trail of Honor and Vietnam Wall Visit Harley Davidson, Jackson, MS Lake Fest @ Eagle Lake - Flyover with WWII planes and a booth at the Flea Market Monthly Hangar Lunch - $10 a person Monthly Hangar Lunch - $10 a person Various 4th of July Flyovers in MS and LA Monthly Hangar Lunch - $10 a person NATA Formation Clinic,Dubuque, lA OshKosh Airventure in Oshkosh, WI Monthly Hangar Lunch - $10 a person Monthly Hangar Lunch - $10 a person Annual SHAF Formation Clinic Chennault Air Show in Lake Charles, LA Monthly Hangar Lunch - $10 a person Veteran’s Day Fly-overs in MS & LA Monthly Hangar Lunch - $10 a person Thanksgiving Turkeys for Veterans Partnership with Debut Broadcasting & Steve Harvey Pajamas, Pancakes & Planes - Breakfast with Santa

For information on events at Southern Heritage Air Foundation, visit our website or text AIREVENTS to the phone number 95577. Find us on Facebook and Instagram and Follow us on Twitter. Download our mobile app from the AppStore or GooglePlay!

A place for Purple Heart recipients to find brotherhood, support and healing at the Bonfire. To learn more about the Warrior Bonfire Project, visit



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N Purple Datura : ( Double-flower Purple Datura )


While most gardeners are familiar with the horticultural plant known as Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia), the Devil’s Trumpet or Black Daturas (Datura) is, perhaps, not as well-known. With a broad range of colors and cultivars available, the Angel’s Trumpets are typically woody shrubs with pendulous, trumpet-shaped flowers that are bright and showy. The Devil’s Trumpets, on the other hand, are tall-growing annuals with erect flowers and a dark side — ebony-colored stems with a double corolla that is a deep purple outside and creamy white inside. The Devil’s Trumpet plants I grow are Datura metel var. fastuosa, or more simply, Double-flower Purple Datura. These plants, although they wither to the ground each year, attain heights of five feet or more and bloom magnificently from mid-summer until the first frost. Although up close these plants produce an unfavorable pungent odor if touched, at night they release a pleasant fragrance that attracts moths to their huge flowers. The moth visitors have specialized mouthparts to reach deep inside the long, tubular flowers for nectar — their reward for pollination. And pollination is important, as this is the only way to get seeds for regeneration the following year. (Use caution, though, where you store the seeds as they are highly poisonous!) Although Angel’s Trumpets are also poisonous if ingested, the Devil’s Trumpet is an immediate relative to a common plant,

known as Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium). This barnyard weed has been the culprit to livestock poisoning and, because of tropane alkaloids within the plant, extreme hallucinations and erratic behavior due to poisoning have been recorded. Jimsonweed also is called Jamestown weed, because the British soldiers — posted there to stop the Rebellion of Bacon in 1676 — were accidently fed boiled parts of the plant in a salad. Described in The History and Present State of Virginia (1705), Robert Beverly stated that the British soldiers presented “a very pleasant comedy, for they turned natural fools upon it for several days,” and that, “In this frantic condition, they were confined, lest they should, in their folly, destroy themselves — though it was observed that all their actions were full of innocence and good nature… After 11 days returned themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed.” I’ve never had any issues with cats, dogs and chickens around, but history shows this a plant to partake only aesthetically. If you want an edible garden, this plant isn’t for you; but, because the plant has a pungent odor when touched, most animals won’t eat it. Devil’s Trumpets will add beauty to your yard, they are drought-resistant and deer won’t mow them down as they do other yard plants. Look for seeds online or contact me at outside@ for additional information on where to find seed. Happy gardening!



T B NES Ă&#x; -



Independent Record Shop rocks with eats - and even books

Live in-store

performances from local and regional artists are regulars at TaBones.


Hattiesburg — As expected at a rare, independent record shop, an eclectic combination of music fills the air at T-Bones Record Store and Café just off Hardy Street in Hattiesburg. But the music doesn’t cover the sounds of a busy kitchen that does a “rockin’ lunch biz,” in the words of one owner, Harry Crumpler III. “It dawned on me that I could be creative with the business,” Harry said of his decision to start a café in conjunction with the music store, one of only a handful of independent record stores in Mississippi. “There are so many places that are the same in every town, and it feels good to find a place that is unique, where it’s not like you can get it anywhere. T-Bones sticks in your mind that way.” As an avid music fan who spent most of his money on records, a 19-year-old Harry got a part-time job at T-Bones in the 1990s. In 2002, he and his parents, Jennifer and Harry Crumpler Jr., bought the store just before the dawn of illegal Internet music downloads. The rising cost of CDs sent even more people to download music online, and the fate of stores like T-Bones became increasingly uncertain. “We were concerned about the future of music retail, and we had some unused space, so over the course of a year we began building the café,” Harry said. “Originally we were just doing coffee and desserts — that did horribly in the beginning — but, fortunately, the record store was strong enough to take a hit. We began to add in some sandwiches and salads, and that’s where we got some traction.” After opening the café on a paltry budget that allowed only for three panini grills from Walmart, T-Bones has become beloved in the Hub City for its Sunday jazz brunch, signature salads and hot and cold coffee. While many come in to enjoy soup or a grilled sandwich, others are still coming to get their fix for CDs, despite the availability of music online. “In the record store world, it’s sad to see, but CDs are obviously declining. They were so strong for so long, but they’re still at a sales point where it would be ill-advised to say we don’t sell CDs anymore,” Harry said. “If the record store was losing money, we wouldn’t keep it open.” And Harry disagrees with those who call vinyl records a “dead medium.” “The funny thing that happened with vinyl is that it never really died,” he said. “It definitely shrunk significantly, but it’s been growing lately. And, as it does, so does our vinyl section.” T-Bones is expanding to meet the increasing demand for vinyl. “It’s fun to go music shopping,” he said. “It’s convenient to be able to pick up my phone and have a song within a minute, but I think that’s part of the


Spring 2015

problem. There’s so much convenience, listening to music becomes an accompaniment to things. A lot of appeal with the record stems from the fact that listening to music becomes the focal point. It becomes what you’re doing. “We’re continuing to try to meet those demands. It’s a shot in the arm for us,” Harry said, adding that events such as Record Store Day, which will be in April this year, are a great boost. Live in-store performances from local and regional artists also are regulars at T-Bones. No cover charges for the shows means that it’s more likely for artists to be able to sell their albums, and it exposes more people to more music. “T-Bones is the cultural hub of Hattiesburg,” said Travis Thornell, a University of Southern Mississippi graduate who frequented the record shop and café during his time as a student at the university. “The record store with the café is a great place to relax during the day, and at night you can catch a small band performing.


“The funny thing that happened with vinyl is that it never really died. It definitely shrunk significantly, but it’s been growing lately. And, as it does, so does our vinyl section.” Harry Crumpler III, owner

OPPOSITE PAGE: Live music and food pair well at T-Bones Records & Café, a hotspot in Hattiesburg. THIS PAGE: Customers peruse the vinyl selection at T-Bones.

"T-Bones is the cultural hub of

Hattiesburg." Travis THornell

The staff knows their music and can recommend anything based on your tastes.” “We’re just fans of good music around here,” Harry said. “We try to have a little of everything come through.” And most recently, the T-Bones inventory has expanded to include books. “I felt like there was a niche we could get into here without stepping on other toes in town,” Harry said. “I felt like it was worth a shot.” Titles are carefully chosen, and right now between 700 and 800 books are available at the shop. “It’s not millions of books, but we’re getting close to 1,000,” Harry said. “We really take our time curating that section, making sure we get good quality stuff that our customers will like. Part of it is gut, what you think your clientele would appreciate and what’s missing in town.” “In the beginning, it was all my obsession with the record store and love of listening to albums. I never envisioned I would be running a restaurant,” Harry said. Whether a record store or café, at T-Bones we want to take care of our customers, and we want to give them the best.” And in a place like Hattiesburg, no two customers are alike. “Everyone from babies to 90-year-olds, and everyone in between, comes in here; it’s such a diverse customer base,” Harry said. “When you come in here, you do get a good feel for the diversity of the town. I like to imagine that T-Bones is a reflection of Hattiesburg itself. Hattiesburg is a college town. It’s a certified retirement community. It’s a lot of things. It’s not like it’s the richest city in the state. It’s very middleclass America.” “You couldn’t have a very tight niche. Here you’ve got to have a broader stroke,” he said. “I’m beyond happy that Hattiesburg has supported us enough to keep doing this. And in turn, we’ll keep finding ways to kick it up a notch for them.” STORY Mary Margaret Halford PHOTOGRAPHY Eli Baylis

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Spring 2015










Here are some of our staff’s favorite Mississippi-made items from across the state. Look for them in Vicksburg or online. Buy local! 1.) Snipped Scarves By Madison Kendall Panoplee, Vicksburg

3.) StoryCook Cheesestraws By StoryCook Favorites Peterson’s, Vicksburg

2.) Volcano Candle By Aspen Bay Panoplee, Vicksburg

4.) Mississippi Platter By Vessels Pottery Sassafras, Vicksburg

2 3


5 5.) Mississippi Block Print By Haley Montgomery of Small Pond Graphics

6.) Necklaces By Laurie Henley Chaplain Panoplee, Vicksburg


7.) S.O. TEREC T-Shirts By S.O. TEREC Main Street Market, Vicksburg

Store location information is available on our website at




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Farmers Grocery

Home-cooked food served up fresh and fun

Farmers Grocery Hours Store: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily Lunch: Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday lunch buffet: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner: Sunday through Thursday 4 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday 4 to 10 p.m.


Spring 2015

When Chris and Laura Hamlin tell their 4-yearold son it’s time for supper, he hurries to put on his shoes. “He thinks we’re going to see Mr. Mark,” Laura said. “That’s all he knows.” The Hamlins are among many area families who dine daily on the tasty creations at Farmers Grocery in Grace, a tiny Delta community of about 200 people about 15 miles from Rolling Fork. Mark Crawford, the friendly owner who stops to shake hands, hug and greet his guests — most of whom he knows by name — started in the restaurant business when he was 17. He left the Delta for Nashville and started working as a dishwasher at a hotel. “I was curious to learn how to cook, and one day a cook didn’t show up, and they gave me his position, and I’ve pretty much been going ever since,” 47-year-old Mark said. After 15 years in Nashville, Mark moved back to Greenville to cook at





Garfield’s Restaurant & Pub, a national chain restaurant. He worked his way up to become a corporate trainer and manager and spent about 15 years with the chain. He later operated his own restaurant in a Greenville casino for a year but decided to take a break from the restaurant hustle-and-bustle and moved to Houston, Texas, to spend the next four years driving a truck. “I was ready to get back home, and the idea came to open up a restaurant in Rolling Fork,” he said. The Highway 61 Café was open only about six months before it burned down. After another six months, Mark moved his homestyle fare into Farmers Grocery building on Highway 1. Formerly a convenience store and restaurant with the same name, the building had been closed for about five years before Mark took the reins. The rustic cypress building, built and owned by a local farmer in 2001, resembles an old country store, which is a fitting scene for the down-home eats that fill the café-style tables daily. The restaurant’s front is filled with easy-grab convenience store goodies and a cold-cut counter, where fresh cuts of meat are sold throughout the day. Farmers Grocery is the only convenience store for miles, so tourists and travelers add to the everyday mix of friendly faces, up to 100. Every first and third Saturday features a seafood buffet with live local music. Mark said about 200 hungry patrons fill the restaurant on those nights. While that’s almost the entire population of Grace, people travel from outside communities — many from Vicksburg to Greenville — to dine and have fun. “Good food and good customer service” are what Mark attributes to the success of Farmers Grocery. “We try hard on customer service. I try to get to know each guest on a one-on-one basis,” he said. “That’s the only way you can make it now. That’s what sets us apart from the corporate, and I think that’s what makes us successful.” Born in Rolling Fork, Mark and his family now live in Greenville, where he also owns and operates Crawford’s Wholesale, “a miniature Sam’s.” Mark’s home is about 35 miles from Farmers Grocery, where he drives every day. Surrounded only by fields and steps away from the far-fromcrowded Highway 1, Farmers Grocery is one of only a few restaurants in a 20- to 30-mile radius. And, from menu right down to ambiance, it’s the only one of its kind, Mark said. “We’re the only ones doing what we do,” he said. “And, you know, people don’t mind driving 35 or 40 minutes to get a good meal.” The menu, hand-crafted by Mark, offers a unique mix of Southern soul and farm-fresh Delta favorites. Homemade fried hot tamales and fried alligator are a couple of star starters, while the Catfish Pontchartrain is a top-selling entrée among diners. “We pretty much make everything from scratch here,” Mark said. The Farmers Grocery menu is inspired by Mark’s Mississippi upbringing and seasoned with “a touch of love” that sets it apart from other restaurants. “We grew up dealing with catfish here in the Delta,” he said. “My father is a cowboy, so I grew up dealing with beef.” While steaks and seafood top the dinner menu, lunch is buffetstyle — and plentiful.




the ‘


“We’re the only ones doing what we do. And, you know, people don’t mind driving 35 or 40 minutes to get a good meal.” ~ MARK CRAWFORD of Farmers Grocery Fried chicken, baked potatoes, heaps of veggies and mouth-watering dessert are among the self-serve plate lunch offerings. The buffet works well for the nearby farmers, who stroll in from the fields. “They don’t have to wait. They call their order in, and we’ll have it ready for them when they get here,” Mark said. Just like the name suggests, Farmers Grocery is a hub for area farmers and their families, who come in to eat and visit. Mark, who left the Delta to escape becoming a farmer, never imagined he would be back in the Delta doing what he loves most. “I left because I didn’t want to work on a farm,” he said. “Now, I’m back. I have a lot of farmers that support me. It’s been a blessing. I can’t knock anyone for working on a farm.” Mark opens the store by 7 a.m. each day. By late morning, he is joined by his staff, including culinary chef Jamika Smith, who worked for him at Garfield’s; his kitchen manager, KK Miles; and restaurant manager Carrie Crawford (no relation). “We have an excellent staff,” he said. “I mean — they’re awesome.” The Farmers Grocery motto, Mark said, is “Food is everything,” and that’s something that has rung true for him since he was a young Delta boy. “I always did want to cook,” he said. “I started with my grandmother — in the kitchen with her when I was a little boy. I just took the trade and ran with it.”


Spring 2015

Lunches start rolling by 11 a.m., but the crowd thickens by half past noon. And, when the weather warms up and the farmers take to the fields, the lunch and dinner crew grows even larger. The restaurant has two dining areas with seating for 75. The front porch provides additional seating in the spring and summer. He also offers a sausage and biscuit breakfast when the farmers are in the fields. While Farmers Grocery is Mark’s “baby,” he is opening another restaurant 50 miles south, in Vicksburg, which will carry out the same “food is everything” concept and focus on customer service. While the food and atmosphere are clear draws, the owner himself — with his wide grin and kind demeanor — seems to have no trouble making regulars out of his customers. “I love to see people smile,” Mark said. “We’re familyoriented. I talk to every kid. If the kids enjoy it, they will be back. Pretty much all of our customers — probably 80 percent — are regulars.” The Hamlins are proof. “We love the food, and (Mark’s) like family,” Laura Hamlin said. “We love that it’s close to us, and it’s a good, homecooked meal.”

STORY Lauchlin Fields PHOTOGRAPHY Melanie Thortis

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TRIBECCA ALLIE Cafe SOARS IN SARDIS h Award-winning pizzeria finds success with a

made-from-scratch menu AND attention to quality


Spring 2015

"Our passion for food came from missing food from back home, so this was born of necessity — not because we wanted to get into the food business. It was selfishly motivated.” - Rebecca van Oostendorp Sardis — Just five years ago, Sardis, a town of fewer

than 2,000, wasn’t exactly known for its food scene. But today, its residents — and visitors from nearby towns, cities and states — flock to TriBecca Allie Café, the little restaurant that has put this tiny town on the map. Located on Main Street, this two-story spot boasts a wood-burning brick oven, award-winning pizzas and now a sister location next door, Frog’s Pearl Station, which serves up sweets and espresso. At the heart of this thriving operation are husband-and-wife team, Damian “Dutch” and Rebecca van Oostendorp. Married 17 years this May, the pair fittingly planted the roots for TriBecca Allie as a labor of love not long after moving to Sardis from New York nearly two decades ago. Rebecca, a country club manager, had met pro golf instructor, Dutch, just before leaving the state. And, after a visit to Mississippi, he soon followed. Though Rebecca had followed her family down South and accepted a director of catering position at Ole Miss, she left within six months, and the two instead focused on recreating the recipes they missed most. Dutch built a brick oven in their backyard, where they started making bread, and Rebecca (also a swim coach) sold loaves at the Mid-Town Farmers’ Market in Oxford for six years. Eventually, they started making sauceless cheese and veggie pizzas for tailgating. “People were really excited about it, and they started to ask, ‘Why don’t you open up a place?’” Rebecca said. “We, unfortunately, listened!” Because Dutch and Rebecca, along with Rebecca’s family, lived in Sardis, the tiny town felt like home, far from the New York hustle and bustle. Even more so, they wanted to help restore the town’s neglected Main Street. “Main Streets in America are disappearing, and we have an interest in cultivating and bringing new business to small-town Mississippi,” Rebecca said. “And it is more costefficient — we wouldn’t have been able to buy and renovate a building in Memphis or Oxford or Southaven. It’s a great

asset to be in Sardis. As we continue to grow, with opening our new place next door, we’re able to revitalize our Main Street. We wouldn’t be able to do the things we do here anywhere else.” With financial help from a partner, they bought a building in Sardis and renovated it from the ground up predominantly by their own hands, which required three years of rebuilding and construction. Meanwhile, they researched recipes and engaged in endless experimentation to nail down the tastes and feel of the food from back home. “We were relentless,” Rebecca said. “I was mean and evil if he’d have me taste something and it wasn’t right; or I’d make something, and he’d say it wasn’t right. We’d get mad at each other a lot!” That obsessiveness has served them well when churning out handmade delicacies on a menu dominated by pizzas — red-sauce, white and specialty creations — made by Dutch, rounded out by appetizers, desserts and daily specials whipped up by Rebecca. With only a dishwasher and two or three servers on hand, the couple prides themselves on their personal touch. “When you eat in our restaurant, every plate we send out has been through my hands, Dutch’s hands, or both,” Rebecca said. “We run our kitchen and dining room. If we were anywhere else, we’d have a lot more people involved, we’d have to be open a lot more hours, and we’d have to delegate a lot of responsibilities to someone who might not have the same passion or care that we do. If we make an error, we’re responsible for it, and we like it that way.” TriBecca Allie Cafe quietly opened just after Thanksgiving in 2009, then officially opened the first week of January 2010. Five years later, the owners used the same timetable for Frog’s Pearl Station. The business has advertised very little, except to support small local papers. And, at first, the folks in Sardis weren’t accustomed to their Italian-style wood-fired pies. Early customers voiced concerns over the crust’s trademark char or would request an “everything” pizza, antithetical to the TriBecca esthetic of keeping it simple. Z 59

“I couldn’t go in tomorrow and make chicken salad the way she does.”

- Dutch van Oostendorp

“The push-back really wasn’t as bad as we’d thought Adjustments are perpetually under way as they’ve because we were at the farmers’ market in Oxford for become more skilled at making dough, working the so long,” Dutch says. “A lot of the buzz we had around oven and honing their recipes. Dutch might tinker with creating the restaurant was through customers we already new flour blends. The pair will eat pizza after a shift and had, and they understood that the crust needs some color. offer critiques, then fiddle a little more — all in hopes of But previously, locals might have known only Pizza Hut or becoming better at their craft. Dutch believes it’s an old Domino’s.” habit from being involved in competitive sports. Unlike the big-box pizza chains, TriBecca’s pizza could “You commit yourself to constant improvement, never be mass-produced. In summer, the proprietors grow and you’re critical of yourself in order to make that their own basil and chives to sprinkle on piping-hot pies; a happen,” he said. “You have to be willing to change. We’re local farmer supplies arugula. The simple dough — made constantly trying to make each better than the last, but with only flour, water, salt and yeast — is made fresh and if we can at least make it as good each time, I think we’re allowed to ferment at least one day for improved flavor. doing a darn good job.” “In true Italian fashion, we try to get the freshest and Rebecca laughs now when she remembers her humble the best, as close to where we are, dreams for the business — opening as possible,” Dutch says. a little cafe, living quietly in Sardis, “We love when someone walks in The star product, which continuing to sell bread at the Rebecca describes as “thin-crust farmers’ market. Instead, this oneand has a passion for food; you pizza with a pillowy outer rim underdog has scored national can’t hide that excitement, and we time and a crackle of a crunch for that recognition and a slew of passionate feel the same way. We love good textural feel, soft but crisp,” has fans. The Magnolia Rosa Insalata, won over everyone who walks topped with red onion, whole-milk food and love to socialize and through the door. After the initial mozzarella, Mississippi pecans, communicate with food. And we “training process” with customers, mixed greens and pine nuts tossed love having people here who have in homemade balsamic vinaigrette, they now rarely voice concerns, that same energy and passion.” and the van Oostendorps have and freshly grated Pecorino grown the menus, such as five Romano, won second place in PMQ toppings max on a pizza, to “stay Pizza Magazine’s American Pizza true to the flavors on the pizza and Championship in September 2010, a provide a better crust experience,” Rebecca said. “People competition entered after a national competitor visited the have been incredibly adaptive, and they continue to come restaurant, worked the pizza oven and said, “I’m putting back. They’re excited about it.” your name in this competition, ‘cause this pizza is good!” Adjustments have been made on both sides of the The same pizza was highlighted on a 2014 Thrillist. table. The couple always augmented their pizza menu com article that named the best pizza in every state. A with daily lunch specials, but now they’re as likely to offer similar list by Zagat picked TriBecca’s Patate — with Southern comfort food (think chicken and spaghetti) as olive oil, thinly sliced potato, whole-milk mozzarella, Italian classics like penne alla vodka. And, because locals cheddar, bacon, chives and sour cream — as the best pie in had never tried some of Rebecca’s dishes, minor menu Mississippi. And Dutch placed first in PMQ’s SEC Pizza adjustments helped: When Rebecca offered Hungarian Championship, held at the Oxford Craft Beer Festival goulash, no one bought it — but with different wording, in April 2014, with a white pizza topped with Rebecca’s the “beef tips served over egg noodles” became a huge homemade Italian sausage, wild mushrooms, crispy kale, seller. citron and pepper vinegar — winning him a trip to Italy “We had a different style of cooking than most folks; for an international competition this May. we might be the only restaurant in this area that doesn’t “We never thought we’d get national recognition, and have a fryer,” Rebecca said. “So we learned to adjust to we never knew anyone would write about us or travel from each other. And within nine months to a year, we saw farther than Oxford,” Rebecca said. “We never thought it people branch out and try new things, which was really would grow as big as it has, and it couldn’t have done this fun to see happen.” anywhere else.” Z 60

Spring 2015

Passion for food Husband and wife team Dutch and Rebecca van Oostendorp fill orders at their bustling TriBecca Allie CafĂŠ in Sardis, where they have garnered national attention for their food.

Frog's Pearl Station is a perfect venue for hosting guests who are waiting for a table or topping off their meals with coffee or dessert.

Frog's Pearl Station Some of the sweet treats offered right next door to TriBecca Allie.


With success comes a lot of hard work. The pair routinely clocks 80-hour weeks, making dough, prepping and keeping up with operations. Any “vacations” are spent on maintenance or building improvements. They’d love to extend their hours or recruit an impassioned budding pizza maker to work the oven, but their biggest issue now is running out of dough on particularly busy shifts. Dutch churns out up to 240 pizzas per week from the single brick oven. Luckily, the pair makes a perfect team, maintaining a balance of work duties and mutual support. “We’re critical of each other whether or not we like it, but we stick with the stuff we do well—and we’re doing the same thing every day,” Dutch explains. “We don’t try to mix in each other’s jobs. I couldn’t go in tomorrow and make chicken salad the way she does.” “Hard work is the key,” Rebecca added. “We’ve been relentless in maintaining our standards and putting in the work to keep our restaurant at the level we want.” That dedication is a large component of what makes customers come back, but they also feel like they’re a genuine part of the business that has seen so much success and yet stays true to its roots of crafting food with care. “We think of them more as guests than customers, but a lot of them are family,” says Dutch, recalling a local attorney who helps slammed servers on the fly by wiping a table clean, setting silverware or filling tea. “I can’t imagine that happens in any other restaurant — where people patronize the restaurant not only because of the food, but for the camaraderie.” “We’re spoiled rotten, because the people who come in are the best customers of any restaurant I’ve ever been in, in terms of being understanding, excited and passionate,” Rebecca said. “I think it’s because we’ve had such great word of mouth.” And, though their space and staff are limited, the couple continues to expand in their well-planned, careful way. Another self-proclaimed “selfishly motivated” move came to fruition when the pair opened Frog’s Pearl Station. In the front room of a charming Victorian-style home, formerly a local attorney’s office, local artisans sell their wares — a delightful mishmash of specialty items including dehydrated dog treats, crocheted baby hats, home decorations, embroidered dog collars, baby dresses and local honey and soap. In adjoining rooms, guests enjoy appetizers, gelato, espresso, baked goods, and ice cream from a maker in Walls, Mississippi. With two dedicated operators at the helm, pizza that’s been praised nationwide and an ever-growing following, TriBecca Allie continues to grow on its already cemented legacy in the small town of Sardis. But it all comes back to the couple’s main drive — a love of food prepared with love.

STORY Tracy Morin PHOTOGRAPHY Lauren Wood



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a sign of spring

photo by Melanie Thortis 64

Spring 2015


It’s a deal that’s hard to pass up. We can’t promise you’ll be transformed into a guitar legend, but we’re pretty sure you’ll leave a changed person. This place gave Tennessee Williams plenty of material based on his early life here, and music legends like Conway Twitty, Muddy Waters, and Sam Cooke didn’t come from some ordinary place. The literary and music history sets the stage for good food and lots of events. Come visit and see what sets us apart. And remember, when you get to the Crossroads, you’re here. CHECK OUT OUR AMAZING NUMBER OF FESTIVALS AND GET DETAILS ON OUR WEBSITE. Juke Joint Festival and related events April 9-12, 2015

Cat Head Mini Blues Fest II August 11, 2015

Second Street Blues Party April 12, 2015

MS Delta Tennessee Williams Festival October 2-3, 2015

Cat Head Mini Blues Fest I April 12, 2015

Second Street Blues Party October 11, 2015

Friday at the Stage Each Friday in May 2015

Cat Head Mini Blues Fest III October 11, 2015

Clarksdale Caravan Music Fest II May 8-10, 2015

Pinetop Perkins Day October 11, 2015

Delta Jubilee June 5-6, 2015

Deep Blues Festival October 15-18, 2015

Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival August 7-9, 2015

Hambone Festival October 30-31, 2015

Second Street Blues Party August 9, 2015

Holiday Festival Parade December 1, 2015

Coahoma County Tourism P. O. Box 1770 • Clarksdale, MS 662.627.6149 •

The 'Sip | Spring 2015  
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