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FALL 2014 a sip of life from the most soulful state

in the South

PORTRAIT: Rick Cleveland

LIFESTYLE: Southern Belle Yogi

FOOD/CULTURE: The Blue Biscuit

MUSIC: Shardé Thomas

Champion of Mississippi’s Sports Stories

Biscuits and Blues in B.B.’s Indianola

Posing History in Natchez

Following Family Fife Legacy

Also: Squirrel Dog • Hattiesburg Artist Heidi Pitre • Ugly Greenhouse Bed N Beer

This year, we’re celebrating Mississippi’s flavors and culture. So come grab a plate and join the party. From tamale shacks to refined southern cuisine, this is more than food. This is love, and it tastes just like home. No matter where you’re from. Discover the festivities at and come on down. No reservations required.

Robert St. John


Photo by Melanie Thortis



features Page 18

Mississippi Brewed Mississippi is in the midst of a craft beer revolution. Learn the history of how beer brewing came to be in the Magnolia State and tour the growing list of breweries. COVER SHOT

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Southern Belle Yogi

Blues Tradition

A Natchez yogi takes her passion to a new level by using historic backdrops for her yoga poses and sharing them online.

Fife player Shardé Thomas bears the torch and carries on a tradition begun by her grandfather, Mississippi blues legend Otha Turner.

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Blues and Biscuits

Portrait: Rick Cleveland

The Blue Biscuit in Indianola is drawing an international audience to celebrate the food, music and land of blues legend B.B. King’s former stomping ground.

Former sports journalist and sports hall of fame founder is now preserving the history of Mississippi sports he wrote about for decades.

Local beers fill the taps at Martin’s at Midtown, a restaurant and craft beer hangout in Vicksburg. Photo by Melanie Thortis 1


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We use only the best materials to insure a quality roof.


4 « Editor’s Note 6 « Spotlight 27 « ‘Sip Trip 23 « 52 « ‘Sip of Nature 64 « The Last ‘Sip



14 | Ugly Green House Bed and beer owner gives guests inside look at Ocean Springs. Contents page photo by James Edward Bates

We have many shingle styles and colors for you to choose from, including designer series shingles. McDaniel Roofing is locally owned and you may rest assured that we’ll be here if you need us after installation.


ART 30 | Heidi Pitre Hattiesburg artist is living life on her own terms. Contents page photo by Melanie Thortis


FOR Everyday Women

MUSIC 40 | ‘Sip Sounds Cat Head Gallery owner shares his Top 10 blues albums.


OUTSIDE 48 | Squirrel Dog Meet Katie, a hunting dog who cuddles the family cat. Contents page photo by Melanie Thortis Marlena Duncan, Instructor

HISTORY 62 | Tombstone for Emma A teenage rebel with a Confederate cause Contents page photo courtesy of Old Court House Museum



| Fall 2014

Vivian Taylor, Instructor

Fall into F I T N E S S at

Pilates V Studio! 601·665·4530

1867 Crane Ridge Drive, Jackson 3

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from the Front Porch “Here’s to you and here’s to me…”

So goes the start of the ever-popular toast my fellow imbibers and I have long recited while raising our glasses and celebrating… well, anything, really.

PHOTOS by Melanie Thortis


For me, the tradition of clinking glasses and bottles goes back to The Cherokee Drive-Inn — an iconic Jackson watering hole and restaurant — when it was on State Street and served up, among other things, cold beer and a sausage and cheese platter that still makes my mouth water at the thought. As anthems by Mississippi bands, such as Oxford’s Beanland, played from the jukebox. I would frequently raise my green bottle of Rolling Rock. The brew from Old Latrobe was the closest I could get to “craft” beer at the dawning of the new millennium. The toasts always centered on good friends and good times, and I never seemed to have a shortage of either at The Cherokee. Now, beer-lovers in this state have even more reason to celebrate. Beer, brewed in Mississippi, abounds! This issue of The ‘Sip celebrates the eight companies that are hand-crafting beer right here at home. No need now for the “imports” from Pennsylvania and beyond. We have our own beer, and, like so many Mississippimade goods, each one of them gives reason to “raise your pints.” And, while my old hangout is still hopping in a different Jackson location on Old Square Road, dozens of craft beer havens thrive all over the state. As The ‘Sip grows to cover the whole state, my group of fellow glass clinkers continues to increase. Life has brought me many more reasons to celebrate and raise my glass, and my own personal toasting tradition continues — albeit with better and local — beer.

Welcome 2015 with a new MSU hanging wall calendar. Enjoy beautiful pictures of familiar places and campus scenes that bring back special memories of your time at Mississippi State. The official State calendar has become a Bulldog tradition. With pictures taken by MSU’s own award-winning photographers, it’s truly a one-of-a-kind treasure. Spread the Bulldog spirit in your home or office by ordering one today. Visit the MSU Foundation website at or call 662-325-7000.

MSU is an AA/EEO university.

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TAKE A ‘SIP OF THE SOUTH Available free at

FALL 2014 a sip of life from the most soulful state

in the South

visitor centers, restaurants, hotels and b&b’s, shopping centers, coffee shops, local businesses and welcome centers

throughout Mississippi

PORTRAIT: Rick Cleveland

LIFESTYLE: Southern Belle Yogi

FOOD/CULTURE: The Blue Biscuit

MUSIC: Shardé Thomas

Champion of Mississippi’s Sports Stories

Posing History in Natchez a sip of life from the most soulful state

Biscuits and Blues in B.B.’s Indianola

So, here’s to celebrating our beer, our music, our food, our football and all of our toast-worthy times in the ‘sip!

Cheers, y’all,

9/28/14 7:12 AM

in the south

Following Family Fife Legacy

Also: Squirrel Dog ‡ Hattiesburg Artist Heidi Pitre ‡ Ugly Greenhouse Bed N Beer

subscriptions also available!

advertise • subscribe • enjoy 4

| Fall 2014 5


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a big thanks to this issue’s talented contributors BEN BRYANT | WRITER Ben is an attorney who lives in Jackson. He worked during summers and other college breaks as a reporter for his hometown newspaper, The Vicksburg Post, and also has 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 since 2012.

SUSAN MARQUEZ | WRITER Susan has been writing professionally for newspapers, magazines, business journals and trade publications from her home in Madison for 13 years. She particularly enjoys writing stories about colorful people, interesting places and fun events in the South, especially when they have anything to do with food. She recently was accepted into the Association of Food Journalists and is passionate about knowing where our food comes from and how it’s prepared. “I see food as a lens through which we can view our region.”

SEAN MURPHY | WRITER Sean, a native of Peekskill, N.Y., has worked in newspapers for 27 years. A 1996 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, where he majored in journalism and minored in history, Sean is an avid craft beer drinker and home brewer. He has won many regional writing awards for his sports, news and feature writing and was published in Zymurgy magazine, a publication of the American Homebrewers Association. Sean lives in Ellisville with his rescue dog Caliber.

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.

MIKE STANTON | PHOTOGRAPHER Mike is a documentary photographer and filmmaker living in Oxford. Born in the Mississippi Delta, Mike spent his childhood in Hattiesburg. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi, where he studied psychology and Spanish. His work includes social and cultural archetypes of the American South, the Middle East, Latin America and East Africa. His photographs have appeared in The Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone, The Oxford American, Garden & Gun and Living Blues magazines.


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Publisher/Editor Lauchlin Fields JAMES EDWARD BATES PHOTOGRAPHER For nearly two decades, photojournalist James Edward Bates has used his camera to create a compelling body of work, including photographs of five U.S. presidents. His work has been viewed by audiences worldwide, in print publications, such as The New York Times, Rolling Stone and People magazines, The Daily Mirror, various Marie Claire editions worldwide and Italy’s Panorama. James, a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, is a native Mississippian currently residing in Gulfport. He spent much of his career as a staff photographer for The Sun Herald, including contributing to team coverage of Hurricane Katrina that earned the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize in 2006. For the past 15 years, James has served as founder, director and primary photojournalist of Passing the Torch, Documenting the 21st Century Ku Klux Klan, an award-winning project he began as an outlet for his intense interest in understanding racism and human culture.

KATHERINE RHODES FIELDS ILLUSTRATOR A Mississippi native, Katherine is an internationally recognized artist whose print work was recently displayed as a solo exhibition in Belgrade Serbia. She was the invited graphic artist from the United States for the Fine Arts International Assembly in Visegrad, Republic Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovinia. Her work will travel to Xalapa, Mexico for a solo exhibition at the University of Veracruz, and she will return to Serbia to conduct non-toxic printmaking workshops and participate in the Sicevo Art Colony Residency. Her work can be found in printed publications, as well as many private and public art collections, including the Mississippi Museum of Art. Katherine also has created broadsheets for famed author Jeffrey Eugenides and the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction winner Adam Johnson. Katherine lives in Houston, Texas, where she is a professor of fine arts and head of printmaking at HCC Central and teaches printmaking at The University of Houston Clear Lake.

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 Erin Norwood Claiborne Cooksey Sales Executives Tina Abernathy

Cortney Linares

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 2014 The ‘Sip by Front Porch Fodder Publishing, LLC Reproduction of any part of this publication is strictly prohibited.

YOGA for

SOUTHERN BELLES Natchez woman bends the rules.

Yogi Lee Carby poses in front of Stanton Hall (left) and on the grounds of Longwood (right), both historic properties in Natchez.

They say yoga is a journey.

It’s about the deep breathing and quiet meditation. It’s about the focused strength and body awareness. It’s about challenging yourself to work harder while carving out a little “me” time in each day.

In yogi Lee Sturdivant Carby’s case,

it’s also about bringing a new – but centuries old – practice to modern-day Natchez and inspiring a new generation of yogis. A Greenwood native, Lee is naturally athletic with soccer, track, basketball and cross country playing an active role in her high school years and dabbling with running after college. She took her first yoga class 10 years ago, but it took three more years for it to become her passion. “At first, it was very new to me and just a different type of exercise to try,” said Lee, 34. After marrying her husband, Hyde, in 2007 and moving to Birmingham, she started to attend more and more classes, amazed at all the fitness options a larger city had to offer. 9

Yogi Lee Carby strikes a yoga pose at Natchez City Cemetery.

“If you come to my class and just want to spend that time relaxing and sitting on your mat because you need the quiet time, that is completely fine with me. Yoga is about your own journey and doing something good for yourself and your body.�

~ Yogi Lee Sturdivant Carby

“I started liking it much better than any other exercise I was doing. My joints felt better, I was loving the mental benefits of clearing my mind, and I certainly didn’t sweat as much as I did with heavy cardio,” she said. In January of 2009, Lee moved to Hyde’s hometown of Natchez while expecting their first child. Throughout the next nine months, she continued to take yoga classes to help ease the aches and pains of pregnancy and stay in shape. After her daughter Jane was born, she, like most new moms, quickly realized her schedule was not much of her own anymore. “I will be the first to admit that I didn’t practice as much as I should have,” she said. Naturally, it took time to get into the rhythm of life with an infant while still trying to keep a focus on fitness. In March 2011, Lee decided to pursue yoga certification. She drove back and forth to Oxford for five intensive weekends of training at Southern Star Yoga, and, after a seven-day immersion, she became certified as a 200 RYT, meaning she completed 200 hours of study to become a registered yoga teacher. She started teaching classes a few days a week in Natchez and even taught all the way up until two weeks before son Walker was born in May 2012. “Walker has wonderful balance, and I like to think it’s because of all the yoga he did with me while he was in the womb,” she said. Soon after the birth of Walker, the yoga studio where Lee was teaching closed. She took it upon herself to seek other options from teaching private lessons in her home to teaching adult classes on Tuesday nights at the Catholic church and even teaching 2- to 4-year-olds on Wednesday mornings at the daycare down the street. “This really is something you can do at any age – from 2 to 92. With the kids, when we practice an animal pose, they have fun making the noise that the animal makes. We have fun with it. I hear people say all the time, ‘I can’t do yoga. I’m not flexible.’ I don’t buy that. There’s no way to improve your flexibility unless you practice it. And yoga is so much more than that,” she said. “If you come to my class and just want to spend that time relaxing and sitting on your mat because you need the quiet time, that is completely fine with me. Yoga is about your own journey and doing something good for yourself and your body.” Last Christmas, Lee decided that 2014 was going to be the year to dedicate time each and every day to do something good for her own body. In addition to teaching classes, she decided to make a yoga goal both personally and publically to make sure she spent time on her mat daily, specifically challenging herself with headstands, often called the “king” of yoga poses and one of the most difficult to achieve.

To hold herself accountable, she turned to social media by creating a public Instagram profile and joining in a worldwide trend among yogis. “There’s a whole yoga community on Instagram, and they’re all very supportive,” she said. “They post a pose-aday challenge, and anyone who wants to do it can take a picture of themselves trying the pose and hashtag it so it shows up whenever someone searches the hashtag. These people do their poses in front of the most interesting backgrounds from all around the world. It’s really pretty cool.” By March she was posting publicly as part of the posea-day challenge, and she decided to incorporate a little bit of her proud Mississippi heritage for the world to see. Lee’s family roots run deep in Natchez, and Lee’s children are ninth-generation Natchezians. Each spring, Lee dresses up in her very own hoop skirt and antebellum dress and participates in the annual Spring Pilgrimage with other family members, giving tours of the historic homes. “I decided I would embrace it. When the tours would slow down, I would do some yoga in my hoop skirt. I thought it would be an amazing backdrop for my daily pose, as well as a free advertisement for Natchez and the Spring Pilgrimage. That’s how I came up with my Instagram name, @southernbelleyogi,” she said. And the rest, as they say, is history. The Pilgrimage posts gained some attention, and the Instagram followers on Lee’s public yoga profile started to grow. She now even serves as an ambassador for a yoga clothing line, hashtagging their name in her Instagram posts. “Instagram is such a word-of-mouth community,” she said. “People will ask, ‘Where’d you get those leggings?’ or ‘What app do you use to take your pose pics?’ It just spreads.” Social media has also helped spread a local awareness of yoga in Natchez, and now many of Lee’s friends are getting into yoga and posting their pose-a-day challenges. “It’s so exciting for me to now share this interest with them, and I tell them all the time not to compare trhemselves and their progress with others. It’s important to be present and accept where you are in your journey,” she said. Natchez resident Jenny Robinson, a friend of Lee’s and a fellow yogi, said Lee has really been an inspiration for others who might be interested in trying something new or rekindling the interest they once had in practicing yoga. “I practiced years ago before my first child and then just recently picked it back up in March, but never before have I done all the crazy yoga poses and headstands I do now,” said Robinson. “Lee has really created a yoga vibe in Natchez in the spring through her $5 classes she’s held on the Bluff and private lessons for clients. She has a very 11

Yogi Lee Carby poses on the carriage steps of Dunleith Historic Inn (above) and in front of Stanton Hall (right), two historic homes in Natchez.

“I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life, and even five minutes can rejuvenate you. Yoga strengthens muscles, improves flexibility and joint movement, prevents injuries, lowers cholesterol — I could go on and on. Every pose has its benefits.”

~ Lee Sturdivant Carby

fun spirit and brings that playful spirit to the Natchez community.” Members of that Natchez yogi community now have a new yoga studio they can call home. Satya Yoga Wellness Center opened in August in downtown Natchez, and Lee is teaching classes three times a week and one Saturday a month. While she says she’s content with where she is in her own yoga journey, Lee said there’s always room to grow. “I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life, and even five minutes can rejuvenate you. Yoga strengthens muscles, improves flexibility and joint movement, prevents injuries, lowers cholesterol — I could go on and on. Every pose has its benefits,” she said. One of the biggest benefits Lee identifies is breath control and movement. “It’s really like learning to breathe again,” she said. “It’s the Southern thing for ladies to always suck in their stomachs, so we only breathe with our chests. You honestly forget how deep you can actually breathe when you do it the right way. It’s amazing.” While the health benefits of yoga are too lengthy to list, 12

| Fall 2014

there’s an added bonus to some of the headstand work on which Lee has been focusing this year: a fountain of youth. “They say that headstands help with the blood and oxygen flow, so it’s supposed to help you look younger and reduce wrinkles,” she said. Lee says that any time is the right time to start doing something good for your body, and she welcomes yogis of all levels with open arms, hoping to share her love of yoga and inspire others to do the same. There’s a traditional gesture and saying in the yogi community, usually performed at the end of a class or session. Said with a slight bow and hands held together in a prayer poses, it translates to “I bow to you” and is a sign of mutual respect and admiration. “I understand it to mean ‘the light in me sees and respects the light in you,’” said Lee. And so to both the newbies and the longtime yogis alike, she simply says, “Namaste.”

Story Elizabeth Grey PhotographY Melanie Thortis

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The Ugly Green House

A ‘bed and beer’ overflowing with hospitality


Jessie Zenor, owner of The Ugly Green House, with her dogs, Eloise, left, and Stevie.

To Visit: Book your stay at The Ugly Green House Bed N Beer on Holcomb Avenue in Ocean Springs online at The home offers two guest rooms for a minimum stay of one night. Guests have access to the kitchen and receive a map of places to visit in Ocean Springs.

Weekly price: $275 Monthly price: $600

The ugly green house on Holcomb Boulevard in Ocean Springs might seem like an unlikely place to spend a night away from home. Yet, when the front door opens, Jessie Zenor and her dog greet guests with a smile and an offer of a cold beer. And, soon, any road weariness disappears. “People need something cold when they get off the road,” said the smiling hostess. “Sharing a beer gives people a chance to stop and talk and get to know each other.” Jessie is part of a new movement that offers lodging alternatives to those who want to get to know the local culture better when they travel. Jessie began renting two of the three bedrooms in her home through in June 2013. She estimates she’s had about 60 guests in her “bed and beer.” What she offers is a comfortable bed in a well-appointed bedroom, use of the home’s bathroom and kitchen and plenty of advice on places to go and things to do in the area. Guests come and go at their leisure, making themselves at home in the funky, fun home in the middle of a quiet neighborhood. A transplant from Auburn, Ala., Jessie moved to Ocean Springs after Hurricane Katrina. She had graduated from the architecture program at Auburn University and gone to work for the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. “I worked designing houses that were stronger and nicer than what was here before the hurricane,” she said. “We started a language of building that included front porches on houses, 9-foot ceilings and more windows. We worked to improve the quality of life for the residents on the Gulf Coast.” Meanwhile, she created a very rich and full life for herself. Jessie purchased her 1962 mid-century modern home three years ago. “The original owners decided to ‘update’ the house in the 1980s,” Jessie lamented. “They covered the exterior in hideous green vinyl siding and added a bay window to the front. So, now I call it ‘The Ugly Green House.’” She has plans to rectify the ugliness on the exterior, but for now she’s slowly re-doing the interior, which features original wood parquet flooring in the living room and original linoleum floors elsewhere. While she stresses that she doesn’t serve food, Jessie always has a good selection of beer in the fridge, and guests are encouraged to help themselves. If she hosts a party for her friends, her airbnb guests automatically are invited. Often, guests will bring in groceries and they all cook together. Jessie’s specialty is craft cocktails made from her eclectic collection of libations. “My boyfriend and I traveled to the Florida Keys a few years ago, and we stayed in bed and breakfasts along the way,” she said.

home away from home

TOP: The Ugly Green House Bed N Beer in Ocean Springs welcomes guests to come in and explore local culture and cold beer. LEFT: Guests of The Ugly Green House gather and enjoy each other’s company while the owner prepares a meal. RIGHT: Michael Brochard shares his beer with Eloise at The Ugly Green House.



| Fall 2014 15


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“When my roommates moved out, I decided instead of getting more roommates, I’d try renting the rooms out to travelers. It’s been great because I’ve met people from all over, and many have become friends.”


She wasn’t sure if it would be successful, but, within a few days of listing her home on airbnb, a father and daughter from Germany came and stayed four days. “I’ve also had a couple from England and a woman from Arizona who came with her dog, and we really clicked as friends. There was a lovely older couple from Illinois who came and stayed a month and a journalist from France who stayed a week,” she said. By using the airbnb system, Jessie feels confident about the guests who book rooms in her home. “There is a system where the guests rate the place and host, and the hosts also rate the guests, so everyone knows what they can expect,” she said. She gives each guest a map she designed that indicates places to see, things to do and a list of restaurants and bars in Ocean Springs. Her list includes a barbershop and a yoga studio. Each of the listings comes with her personal recommendation and a line or two describing the place and, often, why she likes it. Guests also get an instruction page with house rules, such as where to put recyclables, how to work the temperamental clothes dryer, where to find necessities in the kitchen, how to work the TV and checkout information. The Ugly Green House is just a few blocks from the beach and a short jaunt to the main part of town. Ocean Springs is a quaint, Southern town with a downtown that encourages walking to the many shops and restaurants. The Walter Anderson Museum of Art is on Washington Avenue. From the floor-to-ceiling murals in the adjoining community center (painted by Anderson himself in the early 1950s) to the revolving exhibits, the museum is a treasure. Shearwater Pottery, founded in 1928 by Peter Anderson, also is close. The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art and the new Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum are just over the bridge in Biloxi.

Hit the Bricks • Nov. 13 Farmers Market • through November Small Business Saturday • Nov. 29 Old Fashioned Christmas Open House • Nov. 30 KCS Holiday Express Train Dec. 5 at 4pm Downtown Vicksburg Christmas Parade of Lights • Dec. 6 at 5pm ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Simply. Uniquely. Southern. •••••• •••••• 601.634.4527

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| Fall 2014

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••• 17

The revolution is most astounding considering

Mississippi’s less-than-beerfriendly historical culture.


years ago, however, when the state’s lone brewery, Lazy Magnolia, was still in its infancy, a beer-loving bar owner in Hattiesburg foresaw the possibilities. John Neal is now reaping benefits that still boggle his imagination. His Keg and Barrel on Hardy Street in Hattiesburg is widely considered the best craft beer bar in the state. It was the birthplace of Raise Your Pints Mississippi, an organization that would change the culture forever, and had more taps — 36 — than any bar in the state. John realized there were people who desperately wanted to pass on the thin yellow fizz commonly found on Mississippi taps for a brew with a backbone, a lips-pursing hop bitterness, crafted in small batches for a down-home feel. John and brewer Sam Sorrells, who eventually left K&B to open Hattiesburg’s Gordon Creek Brewery, created the state’s first brew pub — which offered both beer made inhouse and brews from established national craft breweries. (Sam opened Gordon Creek Brewery downtown in 2013, but in late August of this year, announced that his brewery was closing due to several reasons, including funding.) It was a slow-go at first, though, as the state’s antiquated beer laws kept many of the best selections out of the state. Even now, nearly a decade after opening the K&B, John shakes his head when he ponders the massive growth of craft beer in the state. “I never, ever thought it would get this big,” said John, whose restaurant now features 64 taps as the highest-volume craft beer bar in Mississippi. So how has Mississippi gone from one brewery to seven, with more in the planning stages? 19

FIRST- let’s take a look back at Mississippi beer history: In 1918, a constitutional amendment that would ban the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States and its possessions was waiting for states to ratify it. Mississippi became first to sign on, voting Jan. 8, 1918, to pass Prohibition. States followed suit in 1920 and, for the next 12 years and a few days, the country went legally dry after the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was approved. On Dec. 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took effect, the only amendment to be repealed. It allowed states to make their own laws regarding alcohol. As revelers rang in the end of Prohibition, Mississippi chose not to join in the party. No, not until 1966 — 33 years after the rest of the nation — did the state end its prohibition of alcohol. However, many counties remained dry. More than 20 counties in Mississippi remain dry today, but in many of those, cities have declared themselves wet. In Jones County, for instance, beer is available and legal in Laurel and Ellisville, but it is illegal to possess anywhere else in the county. After the law’s change, the state still found itself far from a beer mecca. Into the late 1990s and 2000s, if a patron wanted a craft beer in Mississippi, it took a long, hard search to find it. A few of the craft brews that survived the first national revolution in the 1980s, such as Sierra Nevada and Samuel Adams, could be procured in this state, but only a few European beers were available. John set the trend in the late ’90s when he opened Keg and Barrel, Mississippi’s first and only brewpub. Under then-state law, beer could be brewed in an establishment that served food, but that beer could not be packaged or sold out of the restaurant. Tucked in a closet-sized room behind the beer taps is the original Southern Prohibition Brewery. Sam and John had created a niche all of their own. The beer was receiving rave reviews and business was bustling, but the two ended their business relationship, and Sam opened Gordon Creek while John wanted to expand beyond the small brewpub system. State law, though, would not allow a business to brew 20

| Fall 2014

beer for retail and serve it onsite at the same time. So, John diverged the Keg and Barrel of the brewery, which moved into a Mobile Street warehouse. He had to relinquish control to Quinby Chunn. The brewery could can and keg its beer for sale, and the Keg and Barrel could serve it. Early resistance to craft beer fell squarely on the old beer laws that did not allow beer to be above 5 percent alcohol by weight. Large craft breweries scoffed at having a footprint here because many of their beers easily exceeded the 5 percent threshold. That would all change when a group of five people — three from the Jackson Metro area and two from Hattiesburg — with a love of beer in common — formed the group “Mississippians for Economic and Beverage Advancement,” a name each will happily tell anyone is terrible. That group morphed into Raise Your Pints Mississippi in 2007. Its members immediately began lobbying state government for changes to Mississippi’s beer laws. The craftier, more expensive beers routinely came in over the 5 percent cap. At one point, 90 of the top 100 beers as chosen by Beer Advocate, an online beer resource website, were unavailable in Mississippi. Craig Hendry, Butch Bailey, David “Soup” Campbell, along with Todd and Katie Parkman met at the K&B to brainstorm. They then set out on a mission. Three years of fundraising, cajoling with brewers for donations and pleading with legislators to end the Prohibition-era stranglehold on beer, and things went nowhere. The fiercest resistance came from lawmakers, who refused to let a beer bill out of committee. Frustration mounted among RYP members, but a growing groundswell of support from craft beer drinkers kept the group moving forward. In the fourth year, RYP hired a lobbyist. In 2012, Gov. Phil Bryant signed a beer law raising the allowable alcohol in beer in Mississippi to rise to 8 percent by weight, which equals about 10.2 percent by volume. The results were so amazing other special interest groups began asking RYP to lobby for them. “We’re not surprised at all by the tremendous growth

“When the signature hit the paper on both laws it was a sense of relief and accomplishment and great feeling of anticipation for what we knew was about to come to Mississippi.� Craig Hendry, President, Raise Your Pints Mississippi


| Fall 2014

“I think the market has been there all along. It took the laws being changed to get the growth more rapid.” — Lucas Simmons, Lucky Town Head Brewer of Mississippi’s beer industry the last two years,” Hendry said. “It’s what we were expecting and was a reason RYP fought so hard to get it done. We knew of the positives it would bring to the state.” Store shelves began filling with craft beers never before seen here. Following that trend, one brewery in the state evolved into breweries popping up across the landscape from Oxford to the Gulf Coast. The first, Lazy Magnolia of Kiln in Hancock County, began producing beer commercially from a warehouse near a small airport in 2003. Lazy Mag started distributing in party pigs — five gallons filled inside a pigshaped vessel allowing for draft beer at home. The company also played to the craft-beer-craving college towns, offering Reb Ale only in Oxford and Southern Gold only in Hattiesburg. But, as the company started by husband-and-wife team Mark and Leslie Henderson continued to grow, they began bottling. Southern Pecan quickly became the company’s flagship beer, the only beer brewed with whole roasted pecans. One year after the alcohol bill passed, the state legislature passed a homebrewing bill allowing residents to brew up to 100 gallons of beer per year, but it could not be sold. As the beer laws were relaxed, the market responded. Four friends from Jackson founded Lucky Town Brewing Company. “I think the market has been there all along,” said Lucas Simmons, head brewer at Lucky Town. “It took the laws being changed to get the growth more rapid.” They had begun making a name for their product before Lucky Town was a brewery when they won best big beer at the inaugural Keg and Barrel Outlaw Homebrew Competition in 2009. Homebrewing was still four years from becoming legal, but John has never been afraid to take chances. The inaugural event drew home brewers from four states. Award-winners at those early shows are making names for themselves now in the regional beer community. Outlaw winner Will Brown is a brewer at Lazy Magnolia and won a first-place at the inaugural competition. Ben Green is head brewer at Southern Prohibition and won Best-in-Show three years ago. Dan Murphy, head brewer

at Alabama’s Fairhope Brewing Co., won first-place for his Black IPA, a beer he still produces at the Lower Alabama brewery. Louisiana’s Chafunkta Brewing Company of Mandeville also participated in the Outlaw competition before the brewery went professional. “That is something, isn’t it?” John said. Lucky Town was hoping to begin producing beer at its Mill Street location in Jackson in mid-September. It has been contract brewing at Back Forty in Gadsden, Ala. The growth of beer in Mississippi is also leading to the creation of the Mississippi Beer Trail, where beer-lovers can travel from the Coast all the way north to Oxford to experience Mississippi’s beer revolution by touring the breweries. Seven breweries are in operation from the big — Lazy Magnolia — to the small — Mississippi Brewing Company of Gulfport, which only produces beer one barrel—or 31 gallons—at a time. To put it in perspective, Samuel Adams produced about 2.7 million barrels in 2013. Mississippi Brewing’s beer is not packaged or available in stores, but it is available at the brew pub and gumbo house in Gulfport. They have eight beers on tap with four seasonal selections. Known as a nano brewery, they pride themselves on serving it “one pint at a time.” Crooked Letter Brewing, based in Ocean Springs, became the third brewery into the Mississippi market and just began bottling. Their flagship Mystery Romp is a coffee oatmeal stout, rich and thick, with a pronounced chocolate and coffee flavor. Crooked Letter’s bottles are available from Jackson south. The company plans to increase its distribution north as the calendar moves into 2015. They brew eight beers and are not afraid to be experimental. On the beer trail north, Hattiesburg’s Southern Prohibition occupies a warehouse on Mobile Street. SoPro produces 3,000 barrels of beer per year and theirs is available on tap and in 16-ounce cans throughout the state. Friday tours include samples and a walk through the brewery. After leaving Hattiesburg, the trail heads west to the Mississippi River where a couple with a thirst for craft beer sees an opportunity in one of the most historic downtowns in the state. Pending a federal permit, Natchez Brewing will open by the end of the year, according to co-owner Lisa Miller, 23

“We’re not surprised at all by the tremendous growth of Mississippi’s beer industry the last two years. It’s what we were expecting and was a reason RYP fought so hard to get it done. We knew of the positives it would bring to the state.” ~ Craig Hendry,

President, Raise Your Pints Mississippi

who is opening the business with her husband, Pat. The brewery will be small — a three-barrel system to start — and might expand to six barrels, if the market is right, Lisa Miller said. “We are not trying to be a Southern Prohibition or a Lazy Magnolia,” she said. “We just want to brew good, quality beer and stay within our limits.” Pat Miller began home brewing while living in Asheville, N.C., a craft beer mecca. But when they moved to Natchez in 2012 to be closer to family, they saw craft beer selections lacking. Their beers will play off the city’s traditions, with its Bluff City Blonde, Old Capital IPA, Silver Street Pale Ale and Revival Pecan Coffee Porter. Lisa Miller also said the brewery will offer seasonal selections. A jaunt up the Natchez Trace — an experience in its own — will take visitors to Lucky Town. Simmons said they will have a tasting room and offer tours once the final touches are put on the brewery. While South Mississippi is dominating the brewery market, a couple upstarts in the north are making waves. In Water Valley, the Yalobusha Brewing Company is leading a revitalization of downtown. The brewery pays homage to the name of the county and the river that runs through it. It occupies a former machine shop on Main Street. Yalobusha distributes in Mississippi and Louisiana and their flagship beer is the 6 percent Miss-iss-IPA. Keep traveling north to Oxford, the home of the Ole Miss Rebels and now the Oxford Brewing Company. They produce Sorority Blonde Ale and MPA No. 8, a pale ale that has won several awards at state homebrew competitions. The Mississippi market is still ripe for additional breweries. A budding group of home brewers who span the state should lead to more of them venturing out to become professionals. 24

| Fall 2014

For that reason, along with the fact that Mississippians are thirting for additional craft beer selections, more breweries are being rumored throughout the Mississippi beer community. Cleveland, Vicksburg and Laurel are possible future brewery locations, but no official announcements have been made. If Mississippi looks to its neighbors in Alabama, the brewery revolution is far from over. In the last decade, 14 breweries and four brewpubs have opened in Alabama. Fourteen others are in the planning stages. The next step for Mississippi brewers is gaining the ability to sell beer onsite. Currently, if a brewery offers tours, it is allowed to provide samples but cannot sell beer. This law was one of the reasons for Gordon Creek’s closing. Legislation failed in the last session that would have allowed for the sale of beer on premises. Lucky Town’s Simmons said if breweries had that option, they could do much more, including small-batch offerings and experimental brews. The United States currently has 3,000 breweries, by far the most in the history of the country. More than 4,500 brewers have applied for licenses. According to the Brewers Association, 2,403 breweries existed in 2012, which was the highest number since before 1890 when there were 2,000 breweries. In the years after Prohibition, the brewery count topped out at 703 before falling to fewer than 100 in the mid-1970s. And, there is no sign of Mississippi’s craft beer revolution slowing down, either. “The well-capitalized breweries, the ones that know what they are doing, they will be just fine,” John said. Story Sean Murphy PhotographY Melanie Thortis

“We just want to brew good, quality beer...” ~ Lisa Miller, co-owner, Natchez Brewing Company

raise your glass TOP LEFT: Patrick and Lisa Miller, owners of Natchez Brewing Company. TOP RIGHT: Southern Prohibition Brewing staff are, from left, Tyler Krutzfeldt, Chris Coleman, Whitney Miracle, Benjamin Green, Emily Curry and Quinby Chunn. BOTTOM LEFT: The SoPro Brewery offers tours to show guests behind-thescenes. BOTTOM RIGHT: Lucky Town Brewing Company owners, from left, Angela Blackburn, Chip Jones, Brandon Blacklidge and Lucas Simmons stand in front of their new facility off Mill Street in Jackson.

Where to have a cold one Jackson:


The Bulldog 6111 Ridgewood Road (601) 978-3502


Fondren Public 2765 Old Canton Road (769) 216-2589

The Pig & Pint 3139 N. State St. (601) 326-6070


Martin’s at Midtown 1101 Belmont St. (601) 636-2353 The Klondyke Trading Post 100 N. Washington St., (601) 638-4321, Facebook


Delta Brewing Supply and Beer Garden 631 Washington Ave. (662) 537-4984


Proud Larry’s 211 S. Lamar Blvd. (662) 236-0050


The Blue Canoe 2006 N. Gloster St. (662) 269-2642


Brewski’s 301 Highway 12 West (662) 323-5347 Halfway House 409 University Drive (662) 323-3888

Brickhouse Bar and Grill 2206 Front St. (601) 490-5242

Buffalo Wild Wings 1826 Jefferson St. (601) 342-2951 The Oilmen’s Restaurant and Lounge 1105 Sawmill Road (601) 651-2269 Facebook: Oilmens Restaurant


Keg and Barrel 1315 Hardy St. (601) 582-7148 Mahogany Bar 3810 Hardy St. (601) 264-0657


The Camp Restaurant 21 Silver St. (Under the Hill) (601) 897-0466 King’s Tavern 613 Jefferson St. (601) 446-5003

gulf coast:

Government Street Grocery 1210 Government St. Ocean Springs (228) 818-9831 Mellow Mushroom 1108 Bienville Blvd. Ocean Springs (228) 875-4888 Celtic Irish Pub 4901 Chicot St., Pascagoula (228) 938-6800

For a list of homebrew shops visit





Made in Mississippi

the way you want your beer Crooked Letter Brewing 1805 Government Street, Ocean Springs, MS | (228)-238-1414

Lucky Town Brewing 1710 N. Mill Street, Jackson, MS | (601)-201-0988

Mississippi Brewing Company 13247 D Seaway Road, Gulfport, MS | (228)-591-1969

Natchez Brewing Company 413 Franklin Street, Natchez, MS

Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company 7030 Roscoe-Turner Road, Kiln, MS | (228)-467-2727

Yalobusha Brewing Company 102 S. Main Street, Water Valley, MS | (855)-925-6273

Southern Prohibition Brewing 301 Mobile Street, Hattiesburg, MS | (601)-255-7120

Oxford Brewing Company 1613 Jackson Ave. West, Oxford, MS 27

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Monday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm 1400 Washington Street Vicksburg, MS 39180 601-636-7210 400 Second St., Indianola MS T: 662-887-9539 29

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Heidi Pitre

Young-at-heart art brings independence.

“Heidi is a very talented, creative A

At age 48, Heidi Pitre is just now starting her life as the type of artist she has always wanted to be. “I have raised two daughters and set them out on their own. It’s time for me to be the same kind of independent woman I have encouraged them to be,” she said. That brassy streak of independence is evident in Heidi’s colorful artwork. As a matter of fact, one of the figures in a series of her paintings is a Rosie-the-Riveter-type character with a never-fading look of determination on her face. “That series started with me wanting to paint something with big yellow rubber gloves,” Heidi said. “That kind of evolved to a brave woman with attitude and a blow torch.” It’s easy to assume the subject in the painting is Heidi. “I wanted to feel ‘connected’ to my work, so I started out by putting myself in the paintings. But it was all the other elements, I realized, that were me. I really like the character. She knows she


| Fall 2014

can handle things if she needs to, and yeah, I suppose that’s a lot like me.” Heidi grew up in New Orleans, a place she left when she was 40 years old until moving to Bay St. Louis – five weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit. “I lost everything, but that made me move to Hattiesburg. I had two teenaged daughters and we had to settle somewhere. As it turns out, Hattiesburg had everything that I was looking for when I moved to Bay St. Louis.” Her art career began early in life. “As a child, a friend of my parents was over. I knew he was an artist, so I traced a cover of a Charlie Brown coloring book and he called me on it. He told me that I could draw it on my own, and I did. I felt powerful, amazed that I could do that.” She didn’t last long in private drawing lessons because the fundamentals bored her. She didn’t fare much better in high

and imaginative artist. She has amazing skills to do what she wants to do in a painting. It is painstakingly slow work, adding layer upon layer to get the desired look. She really knows her craft.

— Charles Price, owner, Oddfellows Gallery

school art classes. Heidi went on to study at the University of New Orleans but dropped out after the first semester. Coerced by a friend to attend Delgado College in New Orleans, she found a perfect fit in the school’s art department. “The instructors there saw my potential, and they really encouraged and nurtured me.” Heidi went on to earn a bachelor’s of fine arts from UNO with a concentration in painting. After graduation, she worked for 10 years at a sign company. “It was a steady job, and I was able to work and raise my two daughters on my own. I did commission work on the side and then some freelance. I started out doing dog portraits, which I still do, and that was a lot of fun.” Heidi’s dog portraits are personalized for each owner, with the owner’s home or other personal items in the background. “Something new is wedding gifts, with the bride’s and groom’s dogs painted together. I’ve even done some as save-the-date cards, with the bride’s and groom’s feet in the portrait with the dogs. Pet portraits have always been a fun way for me to supplement my income,” she said. Heidi looks at herself as realistic, but not a realist, and feminine, but not a feminist. She paints on large canvases using bold, rich color. “When I’m painting, I want to have an element of humor, but not in-your-face. It’s more subtle,” she said. When she first created a workspace for herself in 2004, she painted 31


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a piece called Constant Craving, a somewhat disguised selfportrait of a naked woman crawling on a wire grid, reaching precariously for a creamy, pink cupcake. “It can be interpreted as a commentary on the discomfort that women go through, the temptations and yearnings we have,” she said. “But sometimes, it’s just a snapshot of a woman and a cupcake!” Heidi’s studio is off the kitchen of her kitschy little cottage she shares with her dog, Lula, in Hattiesburg. Full of windows, the small studio is filled with light. “I love it. I once had a studio in a basement with no windows,” she said. “I had plenty of room to spread out, but it was so dark. I would rather have a small, workable studio with plenty of light. I’m perfectly happy here!” The home is filled with her large-format canvases hanging in each room amid vintage furnishings and accessories. Her eyes light up when asked about what’s coming next. “I’m fascinated with childhood, and my next series will be scenes from my own childhood. I had a very interesting upbringing, so I’m excited about the series,” she said. Heidi will fund her next series through a recent Artist Fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission. The agency awards fellowships of up to $5,000 in several categories each year to professional artists living and working in Mississippi. The awards are based on merit and are highly competitive. “I was awarded a mini-grant last year, which was great, but this is really big. I’ll be able to purchase all the canvases and supplies for the series thanks to this fellowship. I’m so grateful that I live where the arts are appreciated. I’m also very active in the Hattiesburg Arts Council, where I’m serving as the new president. The director of the Council, Rebekah Johnson, has done amazing things in this community. She’s responsible for


| Fall 2014

making the art community in Hattiesburg blossom.” Heidi also was selected as the artist for the FestivalSouth in Hattiesburg this year. The multi-week music and arts festival is one of the area’s largest festivals. “I wanted to highlight Mississippi as being the birthplace of American music. That’s where my whole music series stemmed from. I wanted to highlight that because music that comes out of Mississippi is so uninhibited, and I am a big lover of good music.” As artist for the festival, Heidi displayed her work in Oddfellows Gallery in downtown Hattiesburg. “It was very well received,” said gallery owner Charles Price. “Heidi is a very talented, creative and imaginative artist. She has amazing skills to do what she wants to do in a painting. It is painstakingly slow work, adding layer upon layer to get the desired look. She really knows her craft.” More and more people are taking notice of Heidi’s amazing artwork. For the third year in a row, her work has been accepted for The Cedars Juried Art Exhibition in Jackson. Her piece won Best of Show at the 2012 inaugural exhibition, and in 2013, she was awarded a month-long art residency at Seaside. With the same look of determination on her face as the character in many of her paintings, Heidi plans to find more galleries to showcase her art. The young-at-heart artist has started this new phase of her life on her own terms, and she couldn’t be happier. “I’m in a good place, and I like where life is taking me,” she said.

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Story Susan Marquez PhotographY Melanie Thortis 33

Blues and biscuits in B.B. King’s backyard

Indianola’s Blue Biscuit celebrates the town’s blues legacy

THIS PAGE: (Above) The Blue Biscuit’s 72-hour pulled pork, shown atop nachos, is the restaurant’s top-seller. (Right, Top) A plate of fried catfish, hush puppies and fries with homemade comeback sauce sits on the bar at The Blue Biscuit. (Right, Bottom) A colorchange plastic cup sports the Blue Biscuit name.

“If you was in Indianola, Mississippi, on a Saturday night on Church Street…and see all the things that was going on…you would remember it forever!”

9 B.B. King 0


Keeping it simple and focusing on three key ingredients — the music, the food and the landscape for which Indianola is known — seems to be a recipe for success. This is especially true for the Blue Biscuit, the hip restaurant and live music venue that pays homage to the Delta’s rich blues culture and lures tourists from all over the world. Trish Berry, an owner of the Blue Biscuit, was a young teenager when she first heard B.B. King, the internationally famed blues legend who calls Indianola home. She remembers the distinct sound that wailed from Lucille, the celebrated performer’s guitar, as it played through the jukebox at one of her favorite daytime hangouts in her hometown of Vicksburg. “I grew up listening to B.B. King when I was way too young (at) Cleo’s Hilltop in Vicksburg,” she said. “It was


over the hill from my house.” Little did she know that those first sounds from the iconic King of the Blues would be her intro into a life of celebrating the land, music and food that encompass B.B. King and his Delta roots. Trish and her husband, Stan, moved to Indianola in the early 1980s when the city was only a few years into hosting its annual B.B. King Homecoming, a yearly pilgrimage B.B. made for 34 years to perform on his home turf. (The 89-year-old performer’s last homecoming performance was this past May.) Trish, who had just moved to Indianola from Clarksdale, was eager to help with the festival. For years, Trish served on the B.B. King Homecoming committee and hosted sponsor parties at her house. She also had the honor of driving the blues legend around his former town.

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THIS PAGE: (Left) The Blue Biscuit’s back room is filled with blues-inspired collectibles. (Below, Top) An Indianola-stamped brick welcomes guests to Trish’s home behind The Blue Biscuit. (Below, Bottom) A hamburger and fries is one of many lunchtime favorites at The Biscuit.


“I’ve got pictures of B.B. asleep on my sofa,” she said. “I schlepped him all over town to all these events, and he never complained. He just is the most patient person I’ve ever met in my life. We all love us some B.B. King.” Her time spent with the most renowned contemporary blues musician in the world gave Trish a deeper connection to her new home. Indianola also claims blues legends Albert King and Little Arthur Duncan and is reportedly a stone’s throw from where Charley Patton, the father of the Delta blues himself, took his last breath. But, other than a B.B. King marker and Club Ebony, the legendary nightclub that hosted Ray Charles, Count Basie, Bobby Blue Bland, Little Milton and other legendary acts, the city did little to celebrate its blues legacy until recently. Indianola Mayor Steve Rosenthal, a native of the city and a self-proclaimed blues fan, worked as a teenager at his grandfather’s department store, Ben Fried’s, which was only two blocks from Club Ebony. He claims his retail experience helped him understand the importance of the music scene in Indianola. 36

| Fall 2014


“I can remember the heyday of Church Street,” he said, referring to the area where B.B. King and his contemporaries would flock to hear and perform live music. Club Ebony was always hopping in the evenings when Rosenthal’s family store closed. “I would walk the two blocks just to see who’s playing, and I would see unbelievable musicians,” he said. Trish seized an opportunity in 2005 when she heard through the grapevine that a $15 million museum honoring B.B. King was about to break ground right across from her home on Second Street. “I brought some friends down from Clarksdale who were big in the blues tourism thing, and I stood them right here and I told them, ‘There’s going to be a $15 million B.B. King blues museum. What do you think I need to do?’ And they said, ‘You need to get home and get to work.’” Trish and her husband heeded the call and teamed up with Harlon Malone, a Clarksdale native retired from Stephens-Adamson who “can build anything and do anything,” Trish said. About seven years ago, they bought the building — literally steps from Trish and Stan’s home —

THIS PAGE: (Above) Owners Harlon Malone and Trish Berry stand at The Blue Biscuit bar. (Right, Top) The restaurant and live music venue is filled with local art. (Right, Bottom) The Blue Biscuit’s “redneck beignets” top the dessert menu.

on the corner of Second and Pershing streets. The building needed major renovations, all of which Trish and Harlon did themselves. “We didn’t have all this done — we did it,” Trish said. “I did not realize I had gone to school to be a construction worker, but I found out indeed I had, because we did all this.” Trish’s background is a far cry from construction. She learned to love cooking as a young child in Vicksburg on the apron strings of her housekeeper, Addie Lewis, the same woman who regularly caught her sneaking to Cleo’s Hilltop. “We cooked our way through a Julia Child cookbook when I was growing up,” she said. “I’ve always loved it. We were making rolls and making cakes from scratch.” After graduating from Ole Miss, Trish attended culinary school in Memphis and took specialty classes to perfect her cooking style. She later landed her role as one of the chefs at actor Morgan Freeman’s Madidi Restaurant in Clarksdale, which has since closed. While building the Blue Biscuit, Trish worked for Indianola Pecan House on product development. But, now, she’s “full time Biscuit,” she said.


“I love my job, because I hear really good music and meet people from all over the place and get to cook a little bit, which I love,” she said. “I can roll to work and crawl home. You can’t beat it. You just can’t beat it. And, it’s pretty much a labor of love.” Trish and Harlon transformed the former church into a down-home place that, in many ways, resembles a juke joint. The building outside is outlined in strands of colorful Christmas lights, and a “weather vane” sporting a blue guitar, rests on the roof. An inviting blue glow seems to radiate from within the brick building at night. It’s as inviting as its name, which Harlon accused Trish of finding “at the bottom of a Jack Daniel’s bottle.” “That’s not true. It was just a process of elimination thing,” Trish said. “The Blue Biscuit was a friendly sounding name, and we wanted it to be a really casual place. And, what is more Southern than blues and biscuits?” Inside, guitars hang from the ceiling, which is lined with composite sheathing board to add to its simplistic juke joint style. The walls are covered with knicknacks, vintage signs and local folk art, including a hand-carved Blue

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So much good food in the South and so much good music —everything started with the blues.

THIS PAGE: (Left) Trish Berry, an owner of The Blue Biscuit, sits in front of an old jukebox inside The Biscuit. (Right, Top) The “yellow house” is one of several lodging options for overnight guests of The Blue Biscuit. (Right, Middle) A plate of redneck beignets. (Right, Bottom) The blues bungalows create a Delta escape for guests.

Biscuit sign and a piece composed of old license plates. The bar is découpaged with post cards, old 45s, guitar picks and photos — including some of Trish’s pal B.B. in her living room with her children. A back room and side porch were added for additional dining, private parties and other gatherings, including the Blue Biscuit Book Club. “We wanted it to be a homey, kind of comfortable atmosphere. And, it’s full of junk. We accept junk,” Trish said. The Blue Biscuit restaurant operation didn’t open until 2009, but while it was under construction, Trish and Harlon’s concept evolved into offering overnight lodging to accommodate guests of the B.B. King Museum, which opened across the street in 2008. By then, the two had converted Trish’s pool house and moved a shotgun shack from right outside Clarksdale to the property, making both spaces into “blues bungalows.” The bungalows — decorated by “slinging junk around” — provide an authentic Delta lodging experience. The former pool house has corrugated tin for shower walls and a glass “sky light.” The bungalows have stayed full pretty much since the beginning. Some guests come and stay for months at a time. To keep from turning people away, Trish has started offering her own upstairs bedrooms as guest space. “We were full so much — since I was pretty much an empty-nester — I just re-did those rooms, took out all the evidence of 20 years of 1,000 boys living up there and it being a dorm and just kind of fluffed it up a little bit.” More bungalows are in the works, too. “We can have up to eight or nine little rental houses right here,” she said. Trish’s inspiration for the bungalows was the hugely successful overnight lodging offerings in Clarksdale, such as the Shack Up Inn, modernized shotgun shacks available to overnight guests. “I had seen what was possible in Clarksdale, so that was the inspiration for getting it going down here,” she said. “I hope it’s given people a reason to spend some more time in the Delta rather than just go to the museum and get in their car and leave.” Since opening June 4, 2009, the Blue Biscuit has served authentic Southern food that showcases Trish’s culinary past and embraces the food culture of the area. Fried catfish, hush puppies, New Orleans-style po’ boys and “redneck beignets” are classic Biscuit dishes available for lunch Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays and dinner Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The “big @ss” ribeye, “big @ss” pork chops and “big @ss” hamburgers are also big @ss sellers. “You hang around here long enough, and you’ll get one of your own,” Trish joked about her apt food description.


The pulled pork is the real shining star at the Biscuit. It’d better be, since it takes Trish and Harlon “72 hours of tender love and care” to get it just right each time. “It’s quite a process — a lot of blood, sweat, tears, screaming and hair-tearing every time, but we do about 50 butts at a time, so we have to do it about once a month,” Trish said. “It’s a giant pain, but it’s so worth it. It’s so good.” The pork is what captivated English chef, restaurateur and television presenter Rick Stein, who camped out at the Blue Biscuit while filming his hour-long documentary, “Rick Stein Tastes the Blues,” for BBC Four. “Every day, at least two meals a day, he ate pulled pork,” Trish said. “He said, as far as he’s concerned, that it’s the best pulled pork in the world.” Stein’s documentary digs in and celebrates the blues music and the food of the Mississippi Delta. The film features scenes of live music from the Blue Biscuit stage, where local and regional performers jam every Saturday night. Trish said on Fridays solo and duo acts usually grace the Biscuit’s stage, a no-frills platform where locally and nationally known performers, such as Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Jimbo Mathus, Pat Thomas, Steve Gardner and the late Duff Dorrough, make music history each week. Rosenthal said the Blue Biscuit is a constant for live entertainment, which is key to bringing in tourists — and keeping them around a while. “When we’re dealing with tourists, we have to have something we can count on for live music,” he said. “I can always say, ‘Go to the Blue Biscuit on a Saturday night, and you can count on live music and a good time.’” The formula — along with the international press — seems to be working. Trish said 50 or 60 people from the United Kingdom and Australia have strolled into town to get a taste of the Blue Biscuit after the BBC documentary, which helped put the Blue Biscuit mission in perspective. “(Stein’s) deal coming over here was to kind of see how the music and the land and the food all tied together,” Trish said. “The first thing that popped into my head was — the music is real simple, but it’s really good. And the food is real simple, but it’s really good, and so much of it is the basis for everything else — food and music-wise. So much good food in the South and so much good music — everything started with the blues.” And, the blues is what you’ll get at the Blue Biscuit. “We’re just one more something to do in the Delta — or in Indianola,” Trish said. “It’s just something to help put Indianola on the map.”

Story Lauchlin Fields PhotographY Melanie Thortis 39


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1.) Essential Delta Blues (Not Now), The title kinda’ says it all. 2.) Pushin’ My Luck, Robert “Wolfman” Belfour (Fat Possum Records). The last, significant, culturally connected Hill Country bluesman. 3.) She Ain’t None of Your’n, James “T-Model” Ford (Fat Possum Records). Arguably his best release.


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5.) This is the Blues, Charley Patton (Primo). Proves he deserves the title, “Father of the Delta Blues.”

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2 6 10

6.) Chess Blues Classics: 1957-1967 (Chess Records/ MCA), various artists, is a wellsequenced set of awesome. 7.) Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings/The Centennial Collection (Sony Legacy). Johnson continues to inspire musicians around the world. 8.) The World Must Never Know, The Mississippi Marvel (Broke & Hungry Records). A church deacon who played jukes. Under his alias, this gloriously anonymous CD was born.



Roger Stolle owns Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art, an award-winning blues store in Clarksdale. He is a Blues Music Magazine columnist, Juke Joint Festival cofounder, Hidden History of Mississippi Blues author and co-producer of blues film projects like M for Mississippi and Moonshine & Mojo Hands. For Roger’s complete commentary on his Top 10, visit


4.) Off Yonder Wall, The Jelly Roll Kings (Fat Possum Records), Three modern Mississippi blues masters.

| Fall 2014

9.) Mississippi Bluesmen (AAO Music), provides a general overview of Mississippi-born bluesmen from the 1930s to 1960s. 10.) Mistakes Were Made: Five Years Of Raw Blues, Damaged Livers & Questionable Business Decisions (Broke & Hungry Records), captures the music of Mississippi’s surviving juke joint culture.

Choose your path. Millsaps students choose their own paths, propelled by individual interests and goals. Whatever their major, they gain a common set of powerful, portable skills. Guided by teachers and mentors who know them well, they are elevated by countless opportunities to put ideas in motion.



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h the “chosen one” keeps drum and fife alive and well

h Otha Turner lights and smokes a cigarette at his rural North Mississippi home place as the drums play and fife whistles around him. Wearing overalls, he joyfully dances at his Gravel Springs farm in the tiny community of Como as his young granddaughter plays the fife. When the performance ends, Shardé Thomas hands her grandfather a fife, and Turner leans down to kiss her forehead. Then he begins, with more sophistication, playing the instrument that grew out of the Mississippi soil. 42

| Fall 2014

“Are you the little girl in that film?” is a question Shardé, now 24, is often asked when performing around the country, and sometimes internationally, as the leader of the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band. Today, she’s a singer, songwriter, musician, college student and, since Turner died in 2003, the last living link to the fife-and-drum blues music tradition. “I started playing the fife when I was 7,” said Shardé, days away from performing at the annual Hill Country Picnic in Holly Springs. “I would go back and forth to my grandfather’s house and play every day. We had a very close connection. He stayed on the hill, and I stayed down the hill. Sometimes, he would stand on the top of the hill and yell down for me to come up.” Her grandfather’s hard work and motivation inspired her to learn the fife. “His way of teaching me fife was giving me the instrument and showing me how to place my fingers,” she said. “He never told me I was doing it right or wrong; he 43


| Fall 2014

LEFT: Sharde Thomas thanks her fans after a live performance.

Greg Johnson, blues curator and associate professor at the University of Mississippi’s Blues Archive, said fife-anddrum music sounds like a fusion of West African drumming elements with American blues and ideas from gospel spirituals. The music was often ceremonial. “After slowly roasting a goat in an earthen fire pit most of the day, no one was allowed to eat until the fife-anddrum music consecrated the grounds,” said Johnson. “It is also possible that military fife-and-drum bands of the American Revolutionary War and later American Civil War had an influence on the African American fife-and-drum tradition as well.” While one can list the names of hundreds of guitar players from Mississippi, the fife has been limited to only a handful, Johnson said. They include Turner, Shardé and musicians Napoleon Strickland, Ed Young and Sid Hemphill. “While people in the future could build a fife and perform this music from North Mississippi, would it be a continuation of the tradition or nostalgic recreation of a tradition?” he wondered. “Shardé is carrying on the tradition. It remains to be seen whether others will learn from her and help it continue.” Alice Pierotti began working as the branch manager of the library in Como the week Turner received a Mississippi Blues Trail marker. She met Shardé that week, and they have

“She’s under a tremendous amount of pressure to live up to all those expectations, but she’s getting better at coping with attention. The technical ability of what she can do with a fife is like watching a miracle. If we lost her, we would be losing a musical link to our heritage and culture,” Pierotti said. Periotti describes Shardé as a modest young woman who won’t tell you her depths. “She doesn’t tell you a lot of the amazing parts of herself,” she said. “It takes a tremendous amount of energy to keep a band together, and there’s a lot of family politics when you’ve got a big family like that. Shardé is a conduit for her family, a conduit for our community, a conduit for hill country music. “Mr. Otha did a great job raising his family, and all his daughters have done a great job raising their families. They are top shelf character. Mr. Otha was just oozing with character, and subsequently, every generation that I’ve been exposed to — they are so open and revealing. “They were remarkably equipped to be great representatives for that style of music. They are well-

“I don’t think that she would be able to put the fife down. She may not do the goat picnic every year. She might not lead our fife-and-drum parade down Main Street, but music is inside of her. It’s inside so many members of her family. It can’t leave them. It has to spill out of them.” ~ Alice Pierotti


would just smile when I was doing it right. He wasn’t the kind who would sit you down and say, ‘Here’s what you need to work on.’ He just let me have my space, and I did it.” Turner was the son of sharecroppers, and he spent most of his life farming. He taught himself to play fife as a teenager and began performing at local picnic celebrations in North Mississippi. As the leader of the Rising Star Fife and Drum Corps, he hosted an annual Turner Family Labor Day Picnic at his farm, featuring barbecued goat and music that attracted locals and the occasional celebrity blues fan, such as singer Robert Plant or director Martin Scorsese, who later featured Turner in his documentary “The Blues.” Turner’s fifes were made from cane he found growing wild on his farm. He cut it into pieces and burned holes in the cane with a hot poker. He won many awards for his fife-and-drum music, including a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage award and a Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement Award. At age 90, Turner released his first CD “Everbody’s Hollering Goat,” and Rolling Stone magazine named it one of the top five blues albums of the decade. Four years later, Shardé, then 13, led her grandfather’s funeral procession, and in 2010, she released her first album ‘What Do I Do?’” In a BBC interview, Shardé compared the fife to “a magic wand” that can cast a spell on people. Bret R. Pimentel, a music professor at Delta State University, said Turner’s fifes were made from a type of locally grown cane from the group Arundinaria. He said the fife is similar to a piccolo, which often is used in military band music. However, fife-and-drum music seems to be regional.

TOP: Sharde Thomas plays fife on stage with the North Mississippi Allstars.

continued a professional relationship. Shardé traditionally kicks off the summer library program in Como by leading her band in a parade down Main Street, and she particpates in the library’s music program. “She’s always been in the spotlight since she was nine, but I’ve seen her really mature over the last few years and become comfortable speaking in front of crowds,” Pierotti said. “People are just crazy about her. Being so young, she has a lot of people that look up to her and count on her, and that’s a lot of pressure to put on a young person, but she seems to handle it with grace.” Pierotti said Shardé is a link to local culture. “It’s kind of an odd thing,” she said. “There’s a lot of artistic and musical talent in Como. You could have a world-class singer in your library, and it’s the most amazing thing, and the most normal thing at the same time. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. “She’s such a link to the past and the Hill Country music that was played here. People around the world understand that, but I’m not really sure people in the community fully understand or appreciate that. It’s special and unspecial all the same time.” Shardé also is a link to a way of life in North Mississippi – the communal nature of congregating. “Music is a healer, and we have a lot of things to heal in this community,” Pierotti said. “Kids eat free lunches. There’s domestic violence and drug abuse, not to mention race relations. Music helps to fill in those chasms. The Turner Family Picnic is the best example of Panola County race relations that you will see in any environment. You don’t see it in church. You don’t see it in schools. You barely see it in daily life. You’d be hard-pressed to see different races interacting with one another, but it’s a different level when there’s a goat picnic.” Some fear the fife-and-drum tradition could fade away if Shardé, a Delta State University elementary education student who aspires to become a teacher, chooses a life path that doesn’t include the fife. Pierotti doesn’t think that will happen.


mississippi hill country blues

“When my grandfather passed in 2003, the whole band was in my hands. Either I had to go forward with it or drop it and let it go. It wasn’t hard because I was still young, and at that age, I just wanted to play music. I just wanted to be out there and be heard.” ~ Shardé Thomas


ABOVE: Shardé Thomas is the last remaining link to the drum and fife blues tradition.

respected in the music community. Their music is so real, unscripted and unproduced. It’s raw, and that really resonates with some. You can’t manufacture genuine, and Shardé a good example of the most genuine kind of sound in music and human spirit.” Shardé said she feels like the fife was handed down to her by her grandfather because he knew she would continue the tradition. “When my grandfather passed in 2003, the whole band was in my hands,” she said. “Either I had to go forward with it or drop it and let it go. It wasn’t hard because I was still young, and at that age, I just wanted to play music. I just wanted to be out there and be heard. As I got older, I had to decide whether to hang with my friends or play with the band.” Fortunately, her friends loved it, and they came to the picnics to watch her perform. They were excited that their friend was traveling the country and performing as a professional musician in such places as New Orleans, New York, Chicago and abroad. “I think I was the chosen one because (Turner’s) grandchildren could have picked up the tradition,” she said. 46

| Fall 2014

“His kids could have picked up the tradition. His friends or people who knew him personally could have. “But I think, in his mind, he knew I could take it to that level. He knew when he passed it on, I would keep it going. I don’t know what he saw in me, but I’m glad I was chosen to take over.” It might be because Shardé is determined and innovative. This has served the Senatobia native well in music and school. While attending Independence High School, she was a member of the band and played flute. She graduated in 2008 before enrolling at Delta State. When she isn’t studying, she’s a Rising Star in a band of three drummers and a base player. She plays the fife and sings lead vocals. “If I see something that needs to be done, I’m going to give it 100 percent,” she said. “Me being at a young age, I try to reach all the audiences — young and old — just to keep that music alive. If you get to the point where it’s dying down or people don’t want to hear it anymore, we can spice it up for the next generation, but also keep the traditional part that would keep them wanting to buy our records and coming to our shows. Each step you make is always a challenge, but I always try to leave a good impression with the crowd or hit them with a bang.”

Story LaReeca Rucker Photography Mike Stanton ILLUSTRATIONs Katherine Fields

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Squirrel Dog



Family pet is barking up the right tree

Admittedly, I love dogs more than most, but most dog owners would agree there’s a unique bond between human and canine. An old Arabian proverb states, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of man.” I think the same phrase holds true for a dog.

PORTRAIT by Melanie Thortis



| Fall 2014


And although I haven’t always owned a squirrel dog, I can’t recall one year when dogs weren’t a part of my daily life, even through college. My first dogs as a boy were two female beagles, Phoebe and Hannah. I cherished those dogs throughout most of my childhood. Although my mom would let me sneak them inside the house from time to time, these rabbit-hunting dogs were kept outside. That’s the way my grandfather kept his coon dogs, and dad followed suit. So, how goes life in a secluded pen out back for my mountain cur, Katie? Well, my wife, Heather, wouldn’t have it. As a result, Katie has been garnished with the luxuries of an inside dog. To Heather, it’s all about comfort for our canines and felines. Pampered daybeds, central heat and air — the life of which a hunting dog could only dream. And so went the journey of raising and training Katie, as both an elite hunting dog and an inside pet. Katie entered my life just a few years ago. I drove from Vicksburg into the Ozark

Mountains of northwest Arkansas to pick up a young mountain cur that would soon know her purpose in life — to become my hunting partner. I was beyond excitement as I loaded her in the vehicle and headed south. While she slept peacefully in the backseat, my mind was racing, thinking about all the adventures in hunting we would share. From childhood on, my favorite times have been spent venturing into the woods with a hunting dog. Whether running rabbit dogs as a young man with my dad, training coon dogs in high school with my best friend or following squirrel dogs through the woods with friends as a young adult, fantastic memories resonate with me still today. Today, I still hunt with my best friend, Peter Armstrong. He’s a veterinarian, and, while specializing in large animals, his secret passion for canines is what makes him such a valuable asset to have onhand around dogs. I’ve hunted nearly my whole life with Peter, and while I’ve shared my knowledge of the outdoors, he has instilled in me a wealth of knowledge about dogs. According to Peter’s logic with hunting, it is the dog that makes the experience paramount. The majority of squirrel hunters spend their time hunkered down quietly below a den tree or sneaking quietly through the woods waiting for the elusive squirrel to show. To me, I find hunkering down and waiting for a squirrel slow-paced — I’m too hyper. And since so many other types of hunting I enjoy require that I sit stationary, unless I’m equipped with a flask of hot coffee and a honeybun, my ability to sit still and wait on a squirrel quickly diminishes. Rather, with a dog, squirrel hunting becomes an adventure. I get to walk through serene bottomland hardwood forests, talk freely with those hunting with me, and simply enjoy looking around and exploring the Mississippi Delta until the dog trees a squirrel. Then, the excitement begins. It’s what we came for. The yodeling bark of my cur is music to my ears — no bawling bark as you’d expect from a hound dog. Cur dogs have a distinctive bark; it’s sharp, clean, and clearly resonates — like a drawn-out ARR, ARR, ARR. Once my dog trees a squirrel, she maintains her position at the base of the tree until we arrive to scan the tree and find where the squirrel is hiding. Once someone spots the squirrel, BOOM, it’s ours for the taking. When the squirrel cascades down through the canopy, the dog retrieves it from the ground and brings it to me. The squirrel is placed in my vest and then it’s on to the next one. When hunting squirrels, the value of using a squirrel dog is that it is able to discern —at least a good dog is — where the last place a squirrel was on the ground and which tree it last ran up. Sounds easy, right? It’s not. Of the thousands of scents for a





dog to discover on the forest floor, the skillset to discern which scent is the correct one and where that scent last occurred is the most important possession. Wind and rain make this more challenging. But the dog’s uncanny ability to chase, search out scents and find its target excites me to no end. Training Katie to hunt squirrels wasn’t hard. In fact, it was a breeze compared to efforts of training treeing dogs with Peter while in high school. He and I worked with several young dogs he had bought to train for hunting coons and squirrels. In our first real training experience, Peter’s choice of hunting, at the time, was coon hunting. Despite their tenacious personalities, young canines can be horridly injured by an adult coon. So, to get a young dog excited, but avoid possible injury by the coon, we used a roll cage — a ball-shaped cage that rolls along the ground allowing the dog to chase the prey inside. This engages the dog safely and eliminates the risk of the dog getting injured. Perhaps more importantly, the roll cage keeps the dog from being intimidated from such an adversarial opponent with a mean bite and razor-sharp claws. Some mistakes aren’t meant to be repeated, and, for Peter and me, we endured a mistake one afternoon that we would remember for a lifetime — but some mistakes give the biggest laughs. We once attempted to transfer a 25-pound boar raccoon from a live trap into a roll cage. This massive coon was the meanest thing from here to Alaska and his black-masked face only made him look tougher. He was less than pleased to be messed with. A dog warden’s catch-pole would have been ideal, but we didn’t have one. I attempted to make the next best thing, a threefoot section of 1-inch PVC pipe, hay string fed through the pipe section with an adjustable loop that even MacGyver would have been proud to use. I placed the string around the coon’s head, tightened the end, held and lifted the masked villain straight out of his cage. Peter was holding the roll cage in place while I dropped the vicious beast inside. Our plan was flawless. Not a finger was lost. The makeshift catch-pole worked liked magic. But then — the hay string broke. In a split-second this 25-pound furry stick of dynamite was falling right at Peter’s feet — and there was nothing we could do. When raccoons are scared for their life, they climb. And climb it did. But instead of piercing its claws into the bark of a tree, it clamped onto Peter’s leg and was climbing fast. In just a flash, this formidable beast had dug into Peter, and by midthigh, the situation had turned dire. With sheer terror in Peter’s actions, he nearly jumped out of his body. As he leapt and jolted side-to-side to shake the beast that was assuredly as frightened as he, Peter let out high-pitched girly screams no man should 49


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FAR LEFT: Nathan Beane demonstrates how he trained his mountain cur, Katie. Photo by Melanie Thortis. RIGHT: Katie snuggles with Reese, one of the two house pets with whom she shares her home. Photo by Nathan Beane.

make. I wouldn’t wish his torment on my worst enemy. And there’s my dad, watching our mastermind plan unravel before his very eyes. No help, only smiles watching Peter wail and shrill. That day Dad laughed harder than he ever had. But Peter wasn’t laughing. I was trying my best not to. The coon bailed before inflicting physical damage, other than crushing our spirits as “tough” country boys. It was a great lesson learned, but not one to be repeated. Following high school, I transcended into a more apt dog trainer. Even more fortuitously, I was blessed to find a hunting dog with an innate prey drive and natural aptitude toward becoming a legitimate squirrel dog. Katie was a joy to train with her adolescent and developing yodel bark and funny grinning smirks. I worked with her all spring using dog toys to instill the desire to bark and chase things. Before long, I was tying a squirrel’s tail onto a string and running it around the yard with her in tow. By summer, I had progressed into dragging the tail along the ground and into shrubs and small trees, and I would entice her by saying, “Get him,” waiting until she barked to throw the tail down to her and extend praise. Before long, I could tie her to a tree and drag the tail through the woods to a tree out of sight. I would walk back, make her sit and then say, “Look for him,” enticing her to focus on where I had just walked. Once she had keened in and was alert, I released her, saying, “Get him.” With time, I could tie the squirrel tail at a random tree and walk all around and zigzag randomly, while out of her sight, before returning to her. The goal was to ensure she was tracking the scent of the squirrel’s tail and not just using my scent trail as the giveaway. Once she identified the right tree, sometimes struggling, I would have her bark stationary at the tree before I would approach. When she worked with success, I’d come to her side, make an imitation sound of a gun firing, and drop out the


| Fall 2014

tail from the tree for her to briefly chew on and play with. She loved it, and so did I. The most enjoyable part of this journey was watching her learn. I was able to watch her figure things out, and it was amazing to observe her master such a difficult task. Watching a young dog discern and search out and distinguish the right scent from all others in the woods is a true feat. And to see her excitement grow as she “found” the right tree —beyond words. With repetition and added complexity, she was treeing her first squirrels a couple of months before the fall season opener. Today, her enthusiasm to go hunting is almost uncontainable. At just the touch of the leash I use specifically to take her hunting, Katie is at the door. Ears alert, docked tail wagging and brown eyes aglow. She loves to hunt, just like her master. At the turn of the doorknob, she awaits the command, “Let’s go” — then it’s out the door and a beeline to the truck. She knows the drill. In January, Katie will turn 4 years old. I wouldn’t change a single thing about the experiences we share with her being a dual-purpose dog — a hunter and a family pet. Katie shares her house with two other animals — our 9-year-old silky terrier and 3-year-old Siamese cat. That’s right. I have a dog that has been trained to crush the spinal column of a squirrel on command, yet she shares a doggie daybed with an 8-pound kitty cat. It’s as though she possesses a hunting “switch.” In the woods, she’s a cold-blooded killer, but at home she’s a spoiled housedog like any other. Katie has matured into a seasoned hunting dog, and as a result, I often take friends and their young ones to the woods to experience the joys of hunting squirrels with a dog. On one of her best mornings, Katie treed 28 squirrels. With that many “chickens of the trees” harvested, we had enough squirrel meat to feed five families! If you are ever given the opportunity to squirrel hunt with a dog, be sure to seize the chance and go along — I bet you’ll love it.

Story Nathan Beane PhotographY Melanie Thortis and Nathan Beane


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N The White Ginger Lily : The white ginger lily (Hedychium coronarium), a majestically fragranced plant, is a close relative of the culinary ginger. In fact, both root and flowers are reported as edible — the roots with a similar taste to true ginger and the flowers with a unique ginger-mint flavor. As if the large, delicate flowers weren’t enough for their aesthetic qualities, this plant has a wonderful fragrance — very similar to Gardenia. To me, the fragrance is even sweeter and lingers in the air for longer periods, particularly late in the afternoon. Although a host of nectar feeders will seek out this plant — including hummingbirds — the most radiant visitations will be by moths after dusk. A common visitor is the five-spotted hawk moth, which exhibits a wing span up to five inches and requires a long straw-like mouthpart that uncoils to reach the base of the long corolla of the ginger lily — a fascinating sight to see. These moths are common — as caterpillars, they are the tomato hornworms we often seek to rid from our garden each year. Once you see them as adults, performing their nighttime ritual of pollination, hopefully you will reconsider removal methods from your tomato plants. Ginger lilies serve as an excellent backdrop or border around the deck or patio at your home. They attain heights of up to 5 feet and have long, strap-like leaves that resemble a corn stalk. As they are a tropical species, ginger lilies fade out as winter approaches and will die back to the ground. At the end of the growing season, simply cut back dead stalks and lightly mulch. They will come right back each spring. This perennial plant grows fast, likes partial sunlight and moist, organic rich ground. Also, the rootstock can be easily divided and given to friends or transplanted in your own yard. So if you’re interested in creating a garden that smells as good as it looks, consider adding the ginger lily to your landscape.


mississippi sports icon


CLEVELAND he’s told our state’s sports stories ...and now he preserves them


| Fall 2014

This was a Saturday in August 1981, near the beginning of Rick Cleveland’s career at The Clarion-Ledger. A passenger from Jackson could get a direct flight to Birmingham, Bear Bryant was still at the University of Alabama and the Ledger had allotted Cleveland some 50 column inches to tell the story of a much less famous football coach.


Rick Cleveland stands inside the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, which he helped create and currently runs. Photo by Melanie Thortis.

In no other world would the readers of Sports Illustrated have met Robert “Bull” “Cyclone” Sullivan, the gridiron overlord from East Mississippi Junior College whose Clarion-Ledger profile — written by Cleveland — captivated Frank Deford as he returned from interviewing Bryant. The plane Deford boarded in Birmingham had arrived from Jackson, and some previous passenger had left the paper containing the story in the seat next to his. The article became the germ of an even longer cover story — entitled “The Toughest Coach There Ever Was” — that Deford penned on Sullivan for Sports Illustrated in 1984. Three decades later, Deford calls the article the best football story he’s written. Fans occasionally ask him to autograph it, all of which causes Deford to wonder whether something more than serendipity arranged his in-flight introduction to Sullivan. “Mrs. Sullivan called it divine intervention,” said Deford, who today contributes weekly commentaries to National Public Radio, occasional television pieces to HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” and the odd feature to Sports Illustrated. “I think she may have been right.” If so, Deford acknowledges, God directed him to a particularly eloquent voice in the Mississippi wilderness. “If this had been written by some hack writer, who just threw a bunch of facts at a page, it probably wouldn’t have captured my attention to the extent that it did,” Deford said of Cleveland’s article. “But Rick tells a beautiful story.” Cleveland has told enough of them to occupy nearly 50 years as a sportswriter for newspapers in Hattiesburg, Monroe, Louisiana, and, finally, Jackson — where he worked, beginning in 1979, as a beat reporter, editor and columnist for The Clarion-Ledger. He took a buyout from the paper’s corporate owner in 2012, joining a small diaspora of Mississippi journalists now applying the skills of communicators to other crafts. It’s difficult to believe that any of them experienced a more seamless transition than did Cleveland, who, as executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, is essentially responsible for preserving many of the stories he helped tell. “What’s neat about what I’m doing is, the first week I was at the Hall of Fame I wrote a personal note to every living member of the Hall of Fame,” recalled Cleveland. “At that time, there were 153. What became clear to me was that I knew all these people. I had covered all these people. Hell, not only did I know the athletes and coaches — in most cases, I knew their families! I knew their stories. That’s when I knew I had made a good move. ” 55

“I wrote a personal note to every living member of the Hall of Fame. At that time, there were 153. What became clear to me was that I knew all these people. I had covered all these people. Hell, not only did I know the athletes and coaches — in most cases, I knew their families! I knew their stories.” > RICK CLEVELAND

mississippi sports




That knowledge helped Cleveland stand out among the candidates the Hall of Fame’s board of directors considered for the executive director’s post, which was left vacant with the death of Michael Rubenstein in 2011. “He’s a natural as far as the relationships that he has and the contacts that he has,” said Jackson attorney Cal Wells, a member of the board of directors of the nonprofit that runs the Hall. Richard Darrell Cleveland was born in Hattiesburg on Tuesday, October 7, 1952, around the time that Mickey Mantle launched a 3-1 Joe Black pitch over the Ebbets Field scoreboard to secure Game 7 of the World Series for the visiting New York Yankees.


| Fall 2014

His parents initially dubbed him “Rickey,” a partial concession to the impulse to name their firstborn for the baseball demigod who triumphed in Brooklyn that day. Rickey’s father, Robert “Ace” Cleveland, was a sportswriter who, when Rickey was 3, went to work as the sports information director for the University of Southern Mississippi. As SID, Ace was USM’s representative to the press his son would one day join. And, as a former sportswriter, he enjoyed the company of his old colleagues. Many would gather at the Cleveland home following a Southern athletic event, rehashing the day’s happenings over libations. Young Rickey would usually be there, too, absorbing the scenes. “It just seemed like a hell of a good way to make a living,” he said.

And so Rickey contrived to acquire a byline before he could get a driver’s license. It was 1966, and Cleveland was 13. The Hattiesburg American was running advertisements for “stringers” to help the paper cover that season’s area high school football games. “Do you think they’d let me do it?” he recalls asking his father. Replied Ace: “Well, why don’t you call and ask?” Rickey called. The paper agreed to give Ace’s boy a shot. And so it came to pass that the future dean of Mississippi sportswriters arrived at his first assignment — a 12-0 victory by Lucedale over Brooklyn — in the passenger seat of his father’s automobile. According to Cleveland, the night ended with Ace making a contribution even more valuable than transportation. “I get back to the house. I roll that clean sheet of white paper into that Underwood typewriter. And Ace leaves the room. He comes back in about 30 minutes later. And that sheet of paper was just as blank as it was when he had left. I said, ‘I know what happened, but I don’t know how to get started.’ And he said, ‘Well, if I were you, I would write it like I would tell it.’ “And that’s still the best writing advice I’ve gotten. I still use that tool to write. There have been times during all my years as a columnist when people have said, ‘You write like you’re having a conversation.’ They tell me that I have a very conversational style of writing. I think back to what Dad said any time someone tells me that.” Cleveland worked at the American clear through Hattiesburg High School and five years at USM, from which he graduated in 1975 with a degree in journalism. By 1978, Cleveland said, “I thought I needed to get away.” And so he landed a job as sports editor of two sister papers in Monroe, Louisiana, pulling in a salary that he remembers as 300 bucks a week to go along with responsibilities that kept him in the office on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The following year, Cleveland was at a sports editors’ convention in Minneapolis. Tom Patterson, then a ClarionLedger sports editor, saw him and asked for suggestions to fill an opening for a Mississippi State beat writer. Cleveland suggested himself. A few months later, he was back in Mississippi for good. As the kind of writer whose copy impressed Sports Illustrated scribes, Cleveland continued to entertain outof-state opportunities. Papers in Atlanta, New Jersey, New

Orleans, Orlando and St. Louis are among his suitors. Practical considerations played a role. Cleveland’s wife, Liz, had a good job with the Mississippi Development Authority. Their kids, son Tyler and daughter Annie, liked their schools. But Cleveland acknowledges that Mississippi itself exerted a pull. “It’s home,” he says. “There’s nowhere I could ever go and have the knowledge about a place that I have about Mississippi.” Cleveland’s words call to mind an observation by William Faulkner, who discovered “that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about, and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.” Faulkner, however, invented his own world and created his own characters: “I can move these people around like God,” he exulted, “not only in space but in time, too.” The profession of journalism and the Earth-bound likes of Bull Sullivan afforded no such luxury to Cleveland. Like Faulkner and a host of other home-state literary saints, nevertheless, he has spun stories about flawed people striving against their limits — self, nature, and others — in that most notoriously flawed of places, Mississippi. “Rick doesn’t just write about sports,” said JoAnne Prichard Morris, an editor and the widow of Mississippi author and longtime Cleveland intimate Willie Morris. “He writes about the human condition.” “He reminds me a lot of Willie Morris,” said Langston Rogers, Ole Miss sports information director from 1981 until 2010. “Willie had tremendous recall and could tell a great story. Rick has those same qualities.” “He has so much institutional knowledge, and, by that, I mean the entire institution of sports in Mississippi,” said Rusty Hampton, sports editor at The Clarion-Ledger from 2002 until 2013. “If someone had died who had been a star, he could just make a couple of phone calls off the top of his head and tell stories about that person. He still can. He still does.” Cleveland spent his first two years in Jackson covering Mississippi State as a beat reporter, his next two in the same capacity at Ole Miss, a few more as editor of the sports section, and the ensuing decades as The Clarion-Ledger’s sports columnist.


That simply entailed, he said, “waking up in the morning, finding something interesting to write about and writing it.” He wrote about Archie Manning’s most gallant defeats and stuck around long enough to describe Archie’s sons’ most satisfying victories. He wrote about Steve McNair’s awesome rise and Steve McNair’s awful end. He wrote about Monta Ellis when he was playing for Lanier High School in Jackson. He wrote about Super Bowls, Master’s golf tournaments and nationally televised college football showdowns. But he also traveled to the sorts of high school stadiums where he began his career. “He would attack a column about a game between Ruleville and some other small school the same way he would Ole Miss-Alabama,” said David Brandt, a colleague of Cleveland at The Clarion-Ledger who now covers Mississippi sports for The Associated Press. “I always thought that was cool.” “I’ll go further than that,” said Tyler Cleveland, Rick’s son and now the sports editor of the Madison County Journal. “I think he’d rather cover the 1A or 2A high school game. That’s where he can find stories that are more interesting and stories that wouldn’t be told.” Obscure but remarkable figures are stock characters for Cleveland columns. Bull Sullivan, the football coach whose story got retold by Sports Illustrated, is an example. So is former Delta State baseball coach and Boston Red Sox pitcher Dave “Boo” Ferriss, the subject of Cleveland’s 2008 book Boo: A Life in Baseball, Well-Lived. Ferriss, from Shaw in Bolivar County, had won 46 games over his first two seasons for the Red Sox. Only one pitcher, Grover Cleveland Alexander, has done better. But, one 1947 night in Cleveland, Ferriss’ shoulder “popped” while he threw a curve ball for a strike. Under the relatively lax medical standards of the day, Ferriss kept pitching — and never returned to his record-setting form. Cleveland’s book celebrates Ferriss as a player and a person — “the best human,” he says, “I’ve ever known.” As the tale of an amazingly talented small-town Mississippi boy confronting defeat, the story is a familiar one to longtime Cleveland readers. “Rick can do investigative stories, and he has done investigative stories well,” says Larry Templeton, athletic director at Mississippi State from 1987 until 2008. “But that was never really what he did best. His strength is looking at a game or a player and bringing out the human interest.” Though Cleveland credits his father with teaching him how to write, he says the example of his mother, Carrie


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Cleveland, helped him understand what to write about. “My mother, she loved sports,” he says. “She loved it. But she didn’t care about X’s and O’s. She didn’t care anything about that. But she cared about the people. She cared about the pageantry. She cared about the emotion. And so that’s what I tried to keep in mind.” The Sports Hall of Fame’s Jackson home itself has roots in Cleveland’s columns. There has been such thing as a Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame since 1961, but, for years, its members were honored only by plaques displayed between a bathroom and a storage area on the first floor of the Mississippi Coliseum. Cleveland noticed them while covering a state high school basketball tournament for The Clarion-Ledger in the early 1990s, and he immediately started devoting ink to the necessity of a permanent museum for the state’s sports heroes. His first one attracted a call from Jim Buck Ross, the state’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce since 1968. Ross’ bailiwick included the Mississippi State Fair, Dixie National Rodeo and the (not coincidentally named) Jim Buck Ross Agriculture and Forestry Museum off Lakeland. Ross also happened to be an avid sports fan. He outlined a plan to Cleveland. He’d re-bid the right to sell soft drinks at all those venues and the proposed Hall of Fame, and he’d get a million dollars. Then Ross would lean on the Legislature to match it. “That’ll be your seed money,” Cleveland remembers Ross saying. “I said, ‘Commissioner, I love that idea, but there’s one

“ Rick doesn’t just write about sports. He writes about the human condition.” > JoAnne Prichard Morris

problem. I go to all those places, and Coca-Cola already has the rights.’ He said, ‘Yeah, son, but they’re about to pay a whole lot more for it.’” As a group including Cleveland began fleshing out the museum idea, Coca-Cola came through with a little more than $1 million in 1993 to secure the drink rights for 12 years. By 1994, the Legislature had outdone even Ross’ expectations, authorizing a total of $3.5 million in stateissued bonds to fund the facility. Operated by the nonprofit Mississippi Sports Foundation, it opened in 1996 in its current home off Lakeland Drive between Smith-Wills Stadium and the Agriculture and Forestry Museum. The Hall of Fame’s first director was Michael Rubenstein, the former sports director at Jackson’s WLBT. He kept the job until 2011, when he died at age 60 of complications from a blood clot. Cleveland’s arrival has coincided with an uptick in Mississippi Sports Foundation fundraising, according to tax documents. The museum has not received “a dime” of tax money since the initial infusion of cash, Cleveland says. It relies on special events, often corporate-sponsored, for funding, as well as on rentals of its facilities. That includes, Cleveland says, “everything from weddings to business seminars. We host team banquets and team parties. We get lots of lots of school groups.” More funding arrives from

admission fees and museum memberships. Cleveland has supervised exterior and interior renovations at the museum and updated the electronic kiosks on which visitors can touch a screen and call up stories, audio and videos of Hall of Famers. “When I got there, it was still 1996 technology,” Cleveland said. “Now it’s 2013 technology.” And the Hall is about to begin construction of a “badly, badly needed” 2,000-square-foot storage facility, said Cleveland. “We basically have no storage right now,” said Cleveland, whose office is now occupied by a game-worn Steve McNair helmet and other memorabilia. “We have to store the chairs that we use for events in the gift shop area.” He’d also like to update one of the Hall’s chief video presentations. “When we bring groups in, that’s the first thing they do, is watch a 12-minute theater presentation on the history of Mississippi sports,” he said. “It’s 16 years old. A lot has happened in Mississippi sports in the last 16 years. And not only have we had three NFL MVPs, three Super Bowl MVPs, and I don’t know how many Olympic gold medalists in that time, we’ve also had the advent of high-definition. So, we need to replace the camera equipment, we need to replace the projector, and we need to have a high-definition film. I’ve gotten estimates, and it’s a $250,000 project.” 59

“Any room he walked in, someone knew him. You would just be with Rick, and you couldn’t walk to your table, because someone there had known him in 1984 or something.” > kyle veazey


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The Hall has also revamped its website,, under Cleveland’s watch. It features bios of Hall of Famers, as well as a platform for Cleveland to blog and share the weekly column he writes for syndication by the Mississippi Press Association. Cleveland has the confidence of the Sports Foundation board “to a person,” said Cal Wells. “People love Rick and want to help him in his job. “And that’s great for the museum.” It is indeed difficult to find a Cleveland enemy, at least outside of anonymous Internet sports message boards. “I don’t think you can find anyone who’s more congenial than Rick,” said Curtis Wilkie, a Mississippi native and former Boston Globe reporter who now teaches journalism at Ole Miss. “There is nothing that he does not do well socially,” says Brandt, the AP sportswriter. “He’s a guy who is very comfortable to be around,” said Ed Ellington, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Jackson and longtime Cleveland friend. “He is great at making other people comfortable.” Kyle Veazey, a Clarion-Ledger sportswriter from 2006 until 2011, nicknamed Cleveland “the Governor.” “Any room he walked in, someone knew him,” Veazey said. “You would just be with Rick, and you couldn’t walk to your table, because someone there had known him in 1984 or something. And I guess one day I just thought, on name recognition alone you could run for governor in this state hands down.”

This would be an especially impressive accomplishment given that Cleveland spent decades writing about sports in a state riven by passionate sports rivalries. And, like virtually every Mississippi sportswriter in history, Cleveland received mail, phone calls and, later, e-mails blasting his alleged bias toward Ole Miss…or Mississippi State…or Southern Miss. But, says Veazey, that criticism was always invalid: “I think Mississippians who wanted to rip him would be stunned at how many times after a game we’d be walking out, and the Mississippi team had lost, maybe fumbled at the goal line or something. I don’t know that he’d say, ‘Gosh, I wish they’d have won!’ But you could tell he just wanted good things to happen to Mississippi teams. Period.” This urge is reflected in Cleveland’s latest project, a coffee table book called Mississippi’s Greatest Athletes. It will include stories about every Hall of Famer and is set to come out on October 23, Ole Miss legend Bruiser Kinard’s 100th birthday. All proceeds will benefit the Hall of Fame. Editing the book recently, Cleveland noted that the entry for another Ole Miss legend, Archie Manning, appears on the same page and below one for former Mississippi State Athletic Director Carl Maddox. “That’s what I like about the Hall,” says Cleveland. “It brings us all together.”

Story Ben Bryant PhotographY Melanie Thortis 61

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There was a photo in the archives of the museum at West Point Military Academy in New York, the voice on the phone told me. VIC KSBURG, MS

Tombstone for Emma

Remembering a teen rebel who fought for her cause

Did I know anything about it? The photo was of a Miss Emma Kline of Vicksburg, he said. It was taken during the Civil War, and two Union Army guards were holding her. The caller was Mike McAfee, curator of the West Point museum. His call was made about 15 years ago. I could hardly believe it. Only a short time before I had read Thomas Kline’s account of his sister’s arrest, imprisonment and of being photographed for propaganda purposes. Mike graciously shared the photo with me. Had he called a few days earlier — well, I wouldn’t have known anything about it, and had he not called at all, I might have thought Thomas Kline’s story was just that — a good Southern tale about the Late Unpleasantness.

The timing was just right. There are no accidents in history.

She was a teenage rebel with a cause, which resulted in her arrest and imprisonment, and her Yankee captors decided to make an example of her. Her name was Emily Kline, and her story happened 150 years ago. HER CAUSE? The Confederacy.


Emma was 19 in 1864, the daughter of Nineon and Patience Lynch Kline, who lived on China Grove Plantation, about 11 miles from Vicksburg. Emma had an older sister, Annie, and brothers Nineon Jr., and Thomas. There might have been other siblings. Thomas Kline recalled in an interview in the 1930s that he was about 8 years old when his father awakened him to hear the bombardment in Vicksburg in 1862. In the coming months, the war drew closer when Confederate troops camped in the Kline’s fields, but it was a year later, in the spring and summer of 1863, that the Kline children witnessed war and its aftermath firsthand. Never imagining that Vicksburg would become a besieged city, their parents sent them to town to live with their cousins, the Lums. Ironically, the Lum home became headquarters for Gen. U.S. Grant — and it was probably because of the actions and attitudes of the Kline children.


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According to Mrs. Grant, the general’s escort party was looking for a suitable house for his headquarters and for his family when “a belligerent young woman (a visitor, the family told me afterwards) imprudently made ugly faces at our handsome captain,” who, for spite, at once took possession of the fine home and spacious grounds. Thomas described his sister Annie as “an ardent Rebel” who refused an introduction to Grant and forbade him to play with the general’s son, Freddie. Both Annie and Emma came by their stubborn Southern pride honestly, for Gen. James B. McPherson, military commander of the occupied territory, suspected the entire Kline family of complicity with the Confederate guerillas, commanded by Capt. Isaac Whitaker and his Scouts, whose headquarters was on Regan’s Island not far from the Klines’ home. Not only the Klines, but just about everyone else in the community was under surveillance, and McPherson told his staff:

“There is a class of persons in that section who require watching. Although seemingly disposed to remain quietly at home and pursue their peaceful avocations, they are hostile in spirit…” He didn’t mince words when it came to the Klines, for he thought them “guilty of acting in bad faith toward our government and imparting information to the enemy.” He singled out Emma — “especially Miss Kline.” McPherson’s solution was to banish the family to what the Yankees called “Rebeldom” — lands in Hinds and Claiborne counties under Confederate control. The removal was to be immediate, and the Klines would not be allowed to return to Warren County without written permission “under penalty of being dealt with as spies.” They could take their personal clothing and household furniture; everything else would be confiscated by the United States government. Thomas Kline told how the family was put on a raft with their belongings and towed across the Big Black where they lived with the Gibsons until the end of the war. Nineon Kline, too old for the regular army, joined Whitaker’s Scouts. When the Klines returned to China Grove nothing was left but the house and lands — everything else had been stolen. While the family was exiled, the daughters managed to go back to Warren County and smuggle items such as clothing to the Confederate army. It was during these forays that they were caught, along with their neighbors, Sue Nailer and Lucy Highlender. The arrests were in May and October 1864. How long they were incarcerated isn’t known, but their names appear in the records of the Provost Marshal, which are among the holdings of the Old Court House Museum. There was more to the story: Emma Kline was photographed, a prisoner between two Yankee guards from the 5th Iowa Infantry. The picture was circulated as a warning, a bit of war propaganda, of what would happen to Southern girls who aided and abetted the Confederate cause.

After the war, Annie moved to California, where she gained fame and fortune as a lady gold miner. The remainder of the family continued to live at China Grove. The year 1878 was one of joy and sorrow. On Jan. 31, Emma married William Lum Lane, a descendant of the founder of Vicksburg. Tragedy came in late summer when the worst Yellow Fever epidemic in the state’s history devastated many households in Warren County with more than 1,000 deaths recorded. There were few families the scourge did not touch. The first of the Klines to die was Emma’s mother, Patience. She died on Oct. 10 and was hastily buried that night at Asbury Cemetery “without the procession of friends,” Mrs. Sophie Goodrum, her neighbor, wrote in her diary. Two days later, Mrs. Goodrum penned another tragic entry: Nineon Kline Jr., had died, and she wrote “Poor Fellow. Just been married nine months. None are spared.” There were other deaths with many of the burials at Asbury. The first frost usually brought an end to Yellow Fever epidemics, but the effects were often felt long afterward. Two days before Christmas in 1878, Emma Kline Lane died, her health thought to have been broken by the terrible scourge. Emma’s wedding had taken place only 11 months earlier in the Klines’ parlor. Now, on Christmas Day, her body lay in a casket in that same parlor, dressed in the same wedding dress, a request she had made shortly before her death. It was a miserably cold day with sleet and snow falling as she was laid to rest beside the still fresh grave of her mother. Until recently, no stone marked the grave of Emma Kline Lane, but now a monument reminds those who visit Asbury Cemetery of the teenage rebel who risked all for a cause she held dear 150 years ago. Story Gordon Cotton Photograph Old Court House Museum Archive 63



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backward blues

photo by Melanie Thortis 64

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The 'Sip | Fall 2014  
The 'Sip | Fall 2014