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April 2014

CONTENTS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Catherine Frederick MANAGING EDITOR Marla Cantrell CREATIVE DIRECTOR Jeromy Price CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Brenda Baskin Marla Cantrell Marcus Coker Catherine Frederick Liz Harms Rusty Henderson, DVM Anita Paddock Kat Robinson Tiffany Selvey Stoney Stamper PHOTOGRAPHY Marcus Coker Catherine Frederick Jeromy Price


PROOFREADER Charity Chambers PUBLISHER Read Chair Publishing, LLC




10 28 42 56

42 DO-GOODER Animal lover, great neighbor, all around good guy. This month's Do-Gooder shows us all how leading a thoughtful life can spread joy and make the world a little brighter.

COCKTAILS IN THE GARDEN Think about your garden in a different way with our feature on the cocktail garden. We'll show you which plants will add a little spice to your drink recipes.

LITTLE O' OPREY Spend an evening with some of the most talented musicians in Arkansas, and find out how you could take the stage at the Little O' Oprey.

ADVERTISING INFORMATION Catherine Frederick 479.782.1500 EDITORIAL INFORMATION Marla Cantrell 479.831.9116 Š2014 Read Chair Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved. The opinions contained in Do South are exclusively those of the writers and do not represent those of Read Chair Publishing, LLC. as a whole or its affiliates. Any correspondence to Do South or Read Chair Publishing, LLC., including photography becomes the property of Read Chair Publishing, LLC. Do South reserves the right to edit content and images.


FOR THE LOVE OF MUMS Flowers are blooming everywhere, even in the kitchen! We'll show you how to make cupcakes that are grand enough to give your mom on Mother's Day.

Subscribe to Do South! 12 issues per year for only $20, within the contiguous United States. Subscribe online at, or mail check to 7030 Taylor Avenue, Suite 5, Fort Smith, AR 72916.


letter from Catherine Speaking of sunshine and better weather, I’ve been wearing flip-flops for three days straight! You talk about one happy girl. The pool’s uncovered, the garden’s planned, and the outdoor flower pots are bursting with color. All that’s left to do to start planning our summer vacation, which will be here before you know it! I may have a better idea of what to do next month when we unveil tons of great ideas for things to do right here in our home state. In this issue we're taking you to the Delta, where the fishing is great, the tamales are out of this world, and there are some of the finest arts and crafts in the entire state. We're also bringing you the story of one of the Delta's most beloved sons, Levon Helm, and the mark he made on the world of music. When we're finished there, we'll travel on to West Fork for a live country music show that happens every Saturday night. The Little O' Oprey is steeped in history, filled with joy, and has some of the best entertainers in Arkansas. Since warm weather is finally in the forecast, we're getting our gardens ready. This month, we're focusing on plants you can grow that can be used in those summer cocktails you'll be making in a few months. We also have some extraordinary ways to dye Easter eggs, and a cupcake recipe that's so gorgeous you'll want to make them for your mom come Mother's Day. For those of you who haven’t been officially introduced, that little fur ball with me in the photo is the beloved Jack Brewster.

All this, plus the story of a how a DIY-er is turning his sixty-

He was my Christmas present from hubby last year. I never

five-year-old house into an energy saving wonder, using solar

could have imagined he’d bring such joy to our entire family

panels, geo-thermal energy, and a few simple tricks he came up

(even our other dog, Yoko) and an instant smile to all those who

with all on his own.

meet him. Except our cat Frankie. Frankie still hates his guts. So dig in! Read to your heart's content, and be sure to have a It’s quite the menagerie around our house. A cat, two dogs,

happy Easter with your family. I'll certainly be enjoying my little

tropical fish, a gerbil (free to a good home, anytime) — oh and

brood. Home-cooked food, too much candy, a whole lot of love.

the kids. I’m just thankful the weather is improving and the dogs

Doesn't get much better than that.

and kiddos love to spend time outside in the sunshine. To reserve this free space for your charitable non-profit organization, email:



Twelve Years Ago WORDS Liz Harms

Jessica M. had hot pink Mary–Janes strapped with bows, shining with real fake diamonds. Never a hair out of place on the playground. She was a mannequin from Limited Too. I had dirt on my skort and wood chips in my hair. My jelly sandals were naked. No bows adorned their fleshy skeleton. The silver glitter marrow had gone dull–fossilized in clear PVC. I needed cool shoes. STAT. My safety scissors were scalpels. I sliced the barrettes off two hair-bows. They would not die in vain. My fingers molted glue while I waited for my slippers to heal. To outshine Jessica M’s. There is a reason cobblers don’t use Elmer’s. Twelve Years later I saw ballet flats on clearance, Hanging on a bar alone. Two pleather bows stitched firmly on the toes, A real fake diamond in the center. My hot pink Mary–Janes.




Brent Jones Vice President J&B Supply 4915 S. Zero Street Fort Smith, AR 479.649.4915



You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. — Wayne Gretsky

Favorite spot in Arkansas? A fall Saturday afternoon at Razorback Stadium watching the Hogs. If you could go back in time, what year would it be? 2011, my senior year of college. Back before I knew what the “real world” was. Who helped make you who you are today? I have to give this one to my mom and dad. Without their guidance, there’s no telling where I would be today. Nicest thing anyone has ever done for you? The investment my parents made for me to get through college and grad school. Favorite food from your childhood? Geno’s Pizza. Last road trip? Dallas, for my girlfriend’s birthday.

About J&B Supply J&B Supply is a forty-six-year-old, locally owned family company in which a major portion of our employees have ten, twenty, or even thirty years in the business. Our family culture is a major asset when it comes to customer service. Our sales personnel are experienced, and they care for their customers in a way you can’t find in large corporations. A large part of J&B’s business is done with plumbing, electrical, and HVAC contractors, but we also sell to homeowners. We have an 8,500 square foot showroom full of lighting and plumbing fixtures from some of the top names in the industry. Our showroom professionals can help with your plumbing or lighting needs, whether you’re remodeling or building a new home! Locations in: Bentonville, Broken Arrow, Fort Smith, Little Rock, Russellville, Sherwood, and Springdale.

Best Easter memory? Spending Easter in Hawaii. There’s nothing like the beach on Easter. Do you have a nickname? Beej. A buddy made a word out of my initials and it has stuck ever since. What’s on your playlist right now? At the moment I’m listening to a lot of country, particularly Eric Church. Last movie you saw? American Hustle. Last book you read? Good to Great by Jim Collins. Favorite teacher? Mr. Pralle, sixth grade at First Lutheran. Never a dull moment in that class. Best advice you’ve ever been given? When given the opportunity, shine like a brand new penny. Most sentimental thing you own? I have little keepsakes saved from the past that are special to me. They range from pictures of loved ones I’ve lost, old cards I’ve received, or even tickets to various concerts. Just anything that reminds me of the good things in life. Strangest place you’ve called the Hogs? At the pool in Puerto Vallarta.

3 things Brent can’t live without

Best part of your job? Growing up in a family business meant I was around the office quite a bit as a youngster. Growing up in this business meant that I had built strong relationships with the people I would work with in the future. These relationships made the transition into the workplace easy for me and they make my job enjoyable every day. If you could go back and give your sixteen-year-old self advice, what would it be? Life flies by too fast. Make sure that you make the most out of every single day.








B L U M C M u L L in words Marla Cantrell Images courtesty Blu McMullin




lu McMullin is the kind of neighbor you wish you had.

but didn’t compete because the U.S. boycotted the Moscow

When winter hit with a fury, he cut and split firewood

Games that year. She returned to the Olympics in 1984 and won

for some of his neighbors. When snow fell, he rounded

the bronze and silver for her team.

up some of the neighborhood kids and went sledding. When a nearby animal shelter reported their water buckets had frozen

By the mid-1980s life changed again. Blu moved to Fort Smith,

and then burst during a bitter cold spell, it was Blu who started

Arkansas, where he met his wife, Jan, a schoolteacher, and

calling around, quickly finding replacements.

eventually opened Flame Gymnastics. During those years, his dream of a horse ranch faded. But when he sold the business he

The no-kill shelter is one of Blu’s favorite places on earth. “There

started looking for a place on the outskirts of Fort Smith. That is

are about thirty dogs there, and a different volunteer comes out

where he lives today, on twenty-five acres, with a flock of forty

every day to help,” Blu says. “I don’t do as much as they do. I just

chickens that follow him around and sometimes hop on his

take the dogs for walks, try to teach them

head for a bird’s eye view of the ranch. He

how to walk on a lead so that when people

has about a dozen horses, and a couple of

come out to look at them they can see

barn cats, one of which he found during a

they know how to walk, how to sit, how

bike ride. He heard the kitten mew, found

not to jump up on them. I’m pretty good

it abandoned near the road, then picked it

at basic training. The fun part is when I can

up and let the little bundle ride home on

let a group of them run free. I lead them

his shoulder.

around like the Pied Piper. It’s a blast to see these dogs rumble and tumble with

Blu is so connected with these animals

each other. I do such a small amount. It’s

that he often finds himself knee-deep in

the other volunteers that I admire.”

the duck pond, moving turtles to another duck-free waterway so that they won’t eat his little feathered friends.

This deflecting attention from himself is something Blu does throughout the interview. He pulls a list of names and

The animals make Blu’s world a happy

phone numbers from a notebook and

place. “It’s very Zen-ish to have dogs and

hands it over. These people, he says, are

cats and chickens and ducks and horses

the real do-gooders, the kind of people worthy of having a story

and fish. You feed them and you look out there and everybody

written about them. What he does is simply pay attention to

is happy. We’ve had rescue horses here that people brought to

what’s around him, to help when he can. But it’s in this paying

me because they didn’t have a place to keep them, and together

attention that all the good work happens. He does not turn

we took care of them. My wife Jan says if she came back as a

away when he sees a person in need, when he comes across an

horse this is where she’d want to be.”

animal in need. As Blu is talking, a big black dog trots by. “Wrangler was dropped His love of animals started early, in the years when he grew

off here in 2005. He was hit by a car, and paralyzed from the

up in Minnesota. He had horses then, kept at his grandparents’

middle of his back down. He would drag himself around with

place. He spent all the time he could there, learning their habits,

his front feet.” Blu smiles, all that heartbreak and victory

dreaming of the day he’d become a horse trainer. And he did

wrapped up in that one expression. “He’s just fine now,” he says.

become a trainer, although he soon discovered that making

"Absolutely fine."

a career of it was an extremely hard thing to do. But then he crossed paths with a gymnastics coach who trained Olympians,

Wrangler is just one of three rescue dogs that live on the farm.

and everything in Blu’s life changed. The coach invited Blu to be

They run amongst the chickens, but never think of harming one.

part of his team, and soon he was helping train athletes such as

That too, is due to Blu’s diligent training, and it is an amazing

Kathy Johnson, who was named to the Olympic team in 1980

thing to see, the dogs running through a huddle of chickens, the





hens looking up, unimpressed and unafraid. Farther away a few

is helping with her yard. I know a person around here who uses

of the horses are lying down in the field. Others stand nearby,

their own car to take people to doctor’s appointments.”

watching. This is the way of horses, Blu says. They would never all lie down at once. They understand that there is a time for

While he is saying this, a flock of hens ambles by. A rooster

some of them to rest, and a time for the others to stand watch,

crows, stops, crows again. Wrangler lounges under a tree in the

making sure all is well.

sun. The horses that were lying down rise now, and the other horses take their places. Some rest and the others watch over

Blu’s life seems to reflect this overseeing. “There are some ladies

them. And at that moment all the world seems exactly the way

who don’t have husbands, who need things done, and I help

it ought to be.

them out. My wife kids me that I have six wives. I sometimes mow yards. I have a dump truck and I can level out yards, things

Blu shakes his head, in awe of the good samaritan helping

like that. Nothing extraordinary.”

others find their way to the doctor. He begins to talk about his own mother, still in Minnesota, and the kind neighbors she has.

Listing what he does seems to be incredibly difficult for Blu. He

They stop by and check on her, they help her with the tasks she

stops often, he backtracks, and he gives up a story of a good

needs done. Without them, his mom, in her late eighties, would

deed and then decides he doesn’t want it told. And finally, he

not continue to lead an independent life.

says, “There’s an old saying that says, 'The meaning of life is to find your gift, and the purpose of life is to give it away.' It ruins

He thinks about them often, as he’s helping others here, and

the whole thing if it’s all heralded. It’s the anonymity that brings

they’re helping her. He sees how interconnected we all are,

the real pleasure, when you’re the only one who knows. Part of

each of us touching the lives of someone else, and how it all

being spiritual is not just helping other people, but helping them

comes full circle. How all kindnesses, great and small, fill this

without recognition. There are thousands of people out there

earth with hope and love and so much promise it can all but

doing good things. Someone helping an older woman who can

break your heart.

stay in her house and not go to a nursing home because someone

Nominate a Do-Gooder! Each month, Do South Magazine will feature the story of someone in our community who is making the world a better place. If you have someone you’d like to nominate for our Do-Gooder Award, email



Give Them the Best Doggone Easter Ever. Adopt a New Friend. Visit the Charleston Dog Shelter on Facebook for more photos and complete descriptions of all their lovable dogs. If you’re ready to meet your new best friend, call for an appointment today.



Bogie M


Jade F


Elvis M



Charleston Dog Shelter Donations are always needed and greatly appreciated. Charleston Dog Shelter | Charleston, AR 72933 | 479.965.3591 | Find us on Petfinder™ | Each month, Do South gives away this page to local and regional non-profit animal shelters. If you work with a shelter and would like to reserve this space, please email



Pet Anxiety THUNDERSTORMS Words Dr. Rusty Henderson, D.V.M. Eastside Animal Clinic, Fort Smith

When it storms, we often mistake our furry friend’s behavior as misbehaving. Pacing, hiding, chewing furniture, drooling, whining, and trembling are some clear indicators of a panicked animal. The cause of this fear, while still unknown, can affect one pet and not another. Since the best behaviorists have yet to get their patients to talk, we can only guess at the true reasons behind these phobias. Research suggests that the sight of lightning or the sound of thunder may incite the fear. Some believe that the sound actually hurts the animal’s sense of hearing. Still, there are some that blame a sudden drop in air pressure or even the electrical charge in the area associated with storms. A paper by the American Animal Hospital Association suggests that herding and sporting breeds are genetically directed to reacting to sudden abnormal noises in their environment. Also, “rescued” breeds and shelter pets share a predisposition to this phobia, since they may have developed an increased sensitivity to anxiety. The most important thing is to treat your animal gently when they’re afraid. However, don’t cuddle or reassure, since this could reinforce the behavior. Instead, stay calm and be sure to avoid eye contact. Provide a safe, familiar place where your pet can feel secure, like under the bed, or in their crate with their security blanket or favorite toy.

owners provided much positive feedback. It seems to help in all situations of increased anxiety. One advantage is that you can put your pup to bed with it on, calming your dog even when the storm arrives hours later. They also make the same type of shirts for our feline friends. Finally, there are the old standby – tranquilizers. I have used assorted tranquilizers with varied results. The trick is to medicate your pet at least thirty minutes before a storm hits. This is often impossible and certainly not practical from March to June, due to the unpredictable nature of spring storms. In summary, remember that your pet is terrified and it takes clues from you. Remain calm during stormy weather. Research the ThunderShirts®. I like them and recommend them to my patients. If drugs are your final choice, remember you must give them to your pet before the storm hits, and results are often hit or miss. Finally, be thankful that when your furry friend is under the bed hiding, it at least has the sense to get in out of the rain. Have a question you’d like to see answered here? Email it to

There are also recordings of thunderstorms that some believe help desensitize pets. Always consult a behaviorist before trying this method; however, results can be unpredictable. ThunderShirts®, a garment with a series of flaps that Velcro® around your pet, are a holistic remedy. Although I was skeptical,

Information contained in this article should not be construed as specific medical advice for your pet. If you have a concern about your pet, contact your veterinarian. DOSOUTHMAGAZINE




April Designer Show House April 2 – 30 // $12 Admission // 11am – 6pm Monday – Saturday, 1pm – 6pm Sunday Fort Smith, AR // 479.783.2273 // 4 Berry Hill Road Come see the creative works of local interior designers and decorators at the April Designer Show House. Project Compassion opens the doors of this beautiful home to showcase design talents, distinctive architecture, and beautiful lake views. The Show House will be open from April 2 – 30, and is located at 4 Berry Hill Road in Fort Smith.


Ozark Mountain Bike Festival XXVI April 4 – 6 // Contact Devil’s Den State Park for times West Fort, AR // 479.761.3325 // Grab your bikes and hit the trails at Devil’s Den State Park! Enjoy an exciting weekend of mountain biking with the family. There’ll be guided rides for every skill level from little tikes to daredevils. All riders are required to wear a helmet. So gear up for brake-squealing fun at Devil’s Den.


Super Heroes for Autism April 5 // 6AM // See website for details Fort Smith, AR // 479.225.0758 // Suit up and support a great cause! The Super Heroes for Autism fundraiser supports programs for children with autism in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Prizes will be given to the top finishers and best costumes. This event, which includes a 5K run and a 1Mile fun run / walk, will take place at Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith.


20th Annual Wine & Roses Gala April 5 // 6:30PM // See website for details Fort Smith, AR // 479.782.6302 // Join the Reynolds Cancer Support House in celebrating their 20th Annual Wine & Roses fundraiser. The evening will feature music by Hollye Dickinson and Jonathan Karrant, a wine auction, gourmet food and more. Get your tickets now for an evening of entertainment and charity. The fundraiser will be held at the Reynolds Cancer Support House. DOSOUTHMAGAZINE



Charleston Music Fest April 5 // 3pm – 11PM // $10 per person // 15 & Under Free Charleston, AR // 479.965.6442 // Head on over to the Charleston Fairgrounds for a day of music, food, and fun! There will be live music throughout the day, activities and entertainment for the kids, games and raffles. There's also a horseshoe tournament planed for earlier in the day. Don't miss this day of festivities at the Charleston Fairgrounds.


Chaffee Crossing Spring Festival April 12 // 12PM – 5PM // see website for details Fort Smith, AR // 479.434.6774 // Get ready for a rockin' festival at Chaffee Crossing. Elvis look-a-like contest, beer garden, classic cars, helicopter rides, BBQ cook-off, live music, raffles, poodle skirt contest, and hula hoop contest. There are costs for some items, admission is free.


Reveal the Teal April 23 // 11AM // FREE ( RSVP required ) Fort Smith, AR // 479.883.3379 // Join the Arkansas Ovarian Cancer Coalition in striving to make a difference in ovarian cancer awareness and education. This free seminar will be held at the Fort Smith Convention Center and will provide registered attendees with lunch and powerful information to help spread the word.


An Evening at the Gallery April 26 // 4PM – 8Pm // $20 Poteau, OK // 918.658.5334 // Take part in an evening of wine tastings from Oklahoma wineries, view exceptional gallery art, and sample a variety of culinary specialties from local vendors at The Poteau Rotary Wine & Arts Festival. There will also be live performing arts and a silent auction. Festivities will be held in the Donald W. Reynolds Center in Poteau.





As a former reporter for the Baltimore Sun, Lippman has the nose for a good story. When she read about Julius Salsbury, the head of a gambling operation in Baltimore who disappeared in the 1970s, leaving behind a wife, three daughters, and a mistress, she realized she should use that true story as a blueprint for a mystery novel. In After I’m Gone, we meet Felix Brewer, a flamboyant man who marries a beautiful woman named Bambi. He showers his wife and their three daughters with beautiful clothes, a beautiful home — everything his unlawfully successful business schemes can provide. Felix also has an eye for other women, and even though Bambi suspects, she puts up with it because she believes Felix loves her best. The first chapter begins on the Fourth of July, 1976, when Felix kisses his wife and daughters goodbye and flees Baltimore shortly before he was supposed to begin serving a prison sentence. He escapes by hiding in a horse trailer driven by his mistress to an abandoned airfield where he is flown by private plane to his hideout. The novel then jumps to 2012, and we meet Sandy Sanchez, a retired Baltimore detective who is trying to solve a cold case involving the murder of the mistress who helped Felix escape. The book then shifts into the lives of Bambi, a now aging beauty, and her three grown daughters who were all affected by the

After I'm Gone

desertion of their husband and father. Who killed the mistress? And why?

By Laura Lippman William Morrow: $2699

The answer is found by going forward and backward in time,

review Anita Paddock

uncovering clues, and finally solving the mystery of the dead


mistress and exactly where Felix had been hiding out after

uthor Laura Lippman has twenty mystery novels under

fleeing Baltimore. The chapters have dates on them, which

her belt, but I’ve only recently discovered her, and that

helps since the story is not told in chronological order. And

was after listening to an interview on the radio, where

Lippman is an expert in unfolding a story, adding one piece of

I was impressed by how smart she is.

the puzzle at a time. That’s what makes this mystery such an entertaining read, and it’s why she has such a loyal readership.

Lippman is a native of Baltimore, where all her novels are set.

She gives her audience exactly what they want, and she keeps

The city is as much a character in her books as the fictional

us guessing until the very end.

characters she writes about. She shares this love of all things Baltimore — crab cakes, the Enoch Pratt Library, Edgar Allan Poe — with crime writers like Dennis Lehane and those talented creators of the excellent HBO series, The Wire. DOSOUTHMAGAZINE


entertainment was time to hit the bricks. It was time for me to go." In it a man is waiting, minute by minute for the girl he loves to show up, and she's late, crazy late, and it's driving him a little nuts. But she does show up, in the nick of time. On "Before The Devil Knows We're Dead," Evan writes what could be considered a short story in song. He said he read a great deal of short stories while writing this album, and that maybe some of that influenced his work. In this song he tells the story of an eighty-year-old grandfather, hard drinking, hard working, keeping up with the twenty-somethings. The old man bales hay with his younger counterparts and then jumps to oblivion from a cliff into the river below. The storyteller then sings, "Well I'm 28 years old now. I was born in '84. And I've been as free as I can be and I won't ask for anymore. So let the fiddle player hoedown after I've drawn my last breath. But tell everyone I know that I loved them all to death."

Goodbye Normal Street

That's gorgeous writing. And it continues throughout this album, showing up in lines like "You've got more than a tattoo up your

Turnpike Troubadours: $10


sleeve," and "You wrecked it all, you wrecked my heart, you

review Marla Cantrell

wrecked our house and you wrecked my car."

he Turnpike Troubadours, sons of Oklahoma, writers of some of the best country music around, aspired to

There are songs about war, about those who signed up hoping

play at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa, and when they finally

for a tech school degree and ended up writing home from

did they knew they'd arrived. Cain's is where Bob Wells once

beneath the big Afghan moon. There are songs about cheating,

played, where Hank Williams played, and for a band from the

and even a lucky rooster shows up. "A rooster he's got twenty

Sooner State it meant everything to walk onto that stage.

gals. He's happy as a lark. He wakes them up in the morning time. Put them all to bed at dark."

The group plays what's known as Red Dirt music – soulful, independent music named for the red clay earth of Oklahoma,

There is a rugged quality to the vocals, rough and raw and

and of course, Texas. The Turnpike in their name comes from

true. The accompaniment is perfect, filled with sounds of the

the Indian Turnpike they've traveled since birth. And their

South, nights on the porch listening to the guitar, to the fiddle,

music, filled with fiddles, guitar, bass, drums, harmonicas and

to a song of lost love, of people trying to find their way, to bad

mandolins is as soul shaking as any music I've heard lately.

choices that break people apart and the grace that draws them back together again.

Their newest album, Goodbye Normal Street, is set in the land we know. The town of De Queen and Southwest Arkansas show up

The Turnpike Troubadours is a band to follow, and if you're

on "Good Lord Lorrie." Oklahoma City makes an appearance on

interested in hearing them live, they'll be playing at the

"Gin, Smoke & Lies," and the CD was produced at 115 Studios

Arkansas Wakarusa Music Festival on June 7. In the meantime,

in Norman, Oklahoma.

buy this album. You'll be glad you did.

The lyrics, written mostly by frontman Evan Felker, knock you to your knees. "Empty As A Drum" is filled with great lines like, "Well 2 old red-nosed whiskey drunks were talking politics. It

I Rate It



Easter Eggs To Dye For DIY Catherine Frederick IMAGES Jeromy Price

Natural Beauty

Dye eggs naturally with foods and spices (dyeing agents) from your pantry. Choose your dyeing agent. Place in saucepan with 2 cups water. If using more water, increase amount of dyeing agent. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain dye through paper towels or coffee filter into container. Submerge hard-boiled eggs in cooled dye, let soak for as little as 5 seconds or as long as overnight, depending on the depth of color you desire. Remove eggs with spoon, place on paper towels or rack to dry. Canned dyeing agents produce paler colors. Boiling the agent with 1 teaspoon vinegar produces more vibrant colors. The following dyeing agents were used for the eggs featured here: canned blueberries, canned cherries, paprika, purple grape juice, chili powder, dill seeds, coffee, red wine, yellow onion skins, pomegranate juice, pickled beet juice, turmeric, and red onion skins. Find a detailed chart of color options and coordinating ingredients at DOSOUTHMAGAZINE



For natural cream and tan shades, submerge hard-boiled egg in a mug of lukewarm Earl Gray tea. For blue shades, add hard-boiled egg to a mixture of 1 cup white vinegar, 1 cup water, 2 drops blue food coloring and 1 drop green food coloring. Vary the shades by varying the amount of time the egg is left in the liquid — lighter shades, less time, deeper shades, longer time. Dry eggs on wire rack. Dilute 1 tablespoon brown acrylic paint in 1 tablespoon water. Dip clean, dry toothbrush in paint mixture. Hold toothbrush 2-3 inches from egg with bristles pointed at egg. Run finger along bristles, creating a spray of paint onto egg surface. Let dry 15 minutes. Rotate egg. Repeat paint process.



Volcano Make baking soda paste by combining 1 tablespoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons water, and a few drops food coloring. Place egg in a bowl or dish with sides. Using a paint brush, paint, or dab, the eggs in a few colors of baking soda paste. Next, drip a few drops of food coloring directly on the egg’s surface. Pour a small amount of white vinegar on top of the egg and watch the “volcanic eruption” take place! Repeat the steps until you have the desired effect, and colors, on the egg. Pat dry. You may wish to wear gloves for this process!

Kool-Eggs Combine 2/3 cup water and 1 packet Kool-Aid. Stir to dissolve. Submerge hard-boiled egg in mixture until desired color is reached. Less time for lighter colors, more time for deeper hues.

Find step by step photos and a color/ingredient chart for natural dyes on our website at



55 Stickers

55 Barrettes

55 Fortunes

55 Character Band-Aids

55 Finger lights

55 Plastic bugs

55 Finger puppets

55 Slime

55 Mini dinosaurs

55 Lip gloss

55 Play Dough

55 Pictures of larger

55 Bouncy balls

55 Silly Putty

55 Magic grow capsules

55 Temporary tattoos

55 Balloons

55 Marbles

55 Glow bracelets

55 Tiny bubbles

55 A set of jacks

55 Dollar bills

55 Mini nail polish

55 Army men

55 Coins

55 Barbie accessories

55 Hair ties

55 Whistles

55 Rubber bracelets

55 Earrings

55 Yo-yos

55 Hot Wheels

55 Necklaces

55 A mini slinky

55 Movie tickets

55 Wind-up toys

55 Jokes on sheets of

55 Batting cage passes

items (the larger gift is hidden in the house)

paper 55 Rubber stamps

55 Rings





words & Images Tiffany Selvey


garden There are a lot of different types of gardens. We have formal

best harvested fresh, so use it in summer-inspired drinks with

gardens, cottage gardens, medicinal gardens, the list goes on.

gin. Likewise, mint is in-season during the summer and should

Perhaps one of the most fun garden themes is the cocktail

be used fresh. With drinks like mint juleps and mojitos touting

garden. While I would love to teach you how to grow vodka (in

this herb, there is no reason not to grow it. Did I mention it’s

the same way that I wish I could purchase bacon seeds), we must

easy to grow? It grows like a weed, literally, so keep its invasive

rely on the liquor store to provide some of the ingredients, but

growth habit at bay and keep it in a container on the porch.

the most flavorful cocktail additions can be grown right outside your own door.


In The Drunken Botanist, author Amy Stewart delves into the botanical background of the world’s most famous adult

Sure herbs make beautiful garnishes, but is there any prettier

beverages. She explores the roots of alcohol, so to speak. It is

garnish than an actual bloom? Borage and nasturtium both

certainly fun and educational to learn how to purchase the best

have edible blooms and leaves, making them lovely and safe

products, but in my humble opinion the best part of this book is

for garnishing. Not only are they pretty but both varieties are

its collection of recipes. In a world of high-fructose corn syrup

highly desirable for our bee friends. As an added benefit, each

and cheap wines, The Drunken Botanist returns us

plant has tasty leaves. Young borage leaves can be

to civilized drinking, for the enjoyment of an artistic

harvested for a plethora of recipes, while young

beverage, rescuing us from what we may have

nasturtium leaves are a spicy addition to fresh salads.

learned as young adults. We might call this up-andcoming movement “farm to bar.”


Creating a cocktail garden is much like creating any vegetable garden, except our focus is slightly

When you think about cocktail-related plants, you

changed. Instead of growing the hardy foods that

probably don’t think about vegetables. Let’s change

send us to bed with full tummies, like carrots,

that. Many popular and easy growing veggies

potatoes and fibrous greens, we focus on distinct

pair perfectly with liquor. I’m a firm believer that

flavors, beautiful edible blooms and gentle essences.

everyone should grow cherry tomatoes, if for no other reason than for snacks while enjoying the

When we discuss plants, there are a few important keywords

outdoors, but as it turns out, they also pair well with vodka and

everyone should know. Perennial plants return every year.

tequila. Hot peppers are equally easy to grow and make great

These are varieties that are hardy to our environment and

spicy cocktails; jalapeno-infused vodka, for example, makes an

will survive the winter. Annual plants live for one season only,

extra spicy and extra tasty bloody mary. Use a few additional

while conditions are favorable, often until the first freeze. Some

pepper slices for garnish to impress your guests. When it comes

bushes and trees are not hardy to our area, that is, they will not

to cocktail vegetables, the Mexican sour gherkin wins the

survive the winter. Some of these can be brought indoors to

“cutest veggie award.” These miniature cucumber-like fruits

overwinter, and placed back outside after the last freeze. While

make almost any drink exciting.

I wouldn’t suggest having a lot of cold-sensitive trees, it’s fun to have one or two, which make nice house plants in the winter.


{ FRUITS } We can’t talk cocktails without mentioning berries. Strawberries and blueberries are popular ingredients but can be fussy to

We begin our exploration of cocktail varieties with herbs.

grow. As an alternative, try juneberries. With a flavor similar to

English thyme and lemon thyme are perennial herbs that pair

blueberries, and an almond finish, juneberries can hold their

well with bright fruits, like citrus and berry flavors. Thyme is

own as a cocktail ingredient. Freeze these sweet berries and add





to summer drinks as an alternative to ice. The delicate flavor will pair well with most fruity drinks, and using frozen berries

Classic Whiskey Sour

to cool your drink will keep it from getting watered down. As

1 ½ ounces Whiskey ¾ ounce Simple Syrup 1 ½ ounces Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice Ice Cubes

a garden plant, this bush is very low-maintenance, with birds as the most common pest. They are tolerant of almost any soil, very cold-hardy and appealing to the eye as they mature from gentle blooms, to bright purple fruits.

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and

I said that you shouldn’t grow too many frost-sensitive trees,

shake well. Strain into a glass and enjoy.

but everyone should have their own citrus. You can brag to your friends that you grow lemons in Arkansas! If bragging isn’t

Perhaps the best thing about cocktail gardens is that they can

your style, then you can at least enjoy a margarita with the

be grown in any space. Consider turning a boring flowerbed

satisfaction that you grew those tart limes yourself. Look for

into your new garden, devote a raised bed to a cocktail garden

dwarf citrus varieties to grow in containers. Meyer lemons are

or even grow your cocktail varieties in containers! Always use

among the most popular container fruits. Not a true lemon, the

high-quality garden soil amended with compost to keep your

Meyer is a cross between a lemon and orange, giving a sweet

plants healthy and happy.

and tart flavor. Once the nightly lows are above freezing, trees can stay outside, just remember to bring them in before the first frost. Try using Meyer lemons for a classic whiskey sour. DOSOUTHMAGAZINE


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The Art of "Step" Parenting WORDS Stoney Stamper IMAGES courtesy Stoney and April Stamper




tatistics show that one in two marriages end in divorce, and that currently there are over 30-million children living in a home with a step-parent, in the USA, alone. That’s a

lot of families, and a lot of confused little kids having to learn to live with, and trust, someone who is not their “real” mom or dad. It also makes for, in my case anyway, some very confused step-parents. First off, if you’re a step-parent, let me tip my hat to you, and say thank you. You freakin’ deserve it. Knowing that there are millions of others out there, losing their minds, struggling with some of the same “you’re not my dad” issues that I was going through daily, gave me a certain amount of confidence. It’s an if-they-can-do-it, I-can-do-it kind of thing. I don’t think I’m any better than anyone else, but I don’t think I am necessarily any worse, either. Abby and Emma are my beautiful “step” daughters. That’s what

Abby and Emma

the law calls them. I just call them my daughters. My girls. They are no less my daughters than their little sister Gracee,

her, and the possibility of these kids jacking everything up, was

my biological daughter. I love them, and would do anything for

a pretty legitimate fear. And, even though others may not admit

either one of them. However, it’s been a helluva long, screwy

it, I know I’m not the only one who had ever felt that way.

ride to get where we are today. I'm a very capable person. I can generally handle myself adequately, and with confidence, in

And these two girls were quite different from one another.

nearly any situation. Few things make me shake in my boots.

They couldn’t be more opposite, in fact. First, there was Emma.

But THAT day, three years ago, well, that day I was as nervous as

Oh, Emma. She had just turned seven years old when we met.

A-Rod taking a drug test. I couldn’t sit still. I was up, then down,

She’s a blonde, with bright blue eyes. She’s spirited and wild.

walking around. A jittery mess. I was terrified. The gravity of the

The next thing that will come out of her mouth, well your guess

situation, to me, was crushing. Afterwards, I realized that I was

is just as good as mine. I’d calculate that about sixty percent of

nervous on many different levels.

the actual words that come out of her mouth probably make their way onto The Daddy Diaries. If you happen to have an

First, April, this awesome, hot chick I really liked a lot, liked me

itch to write a daddy blog, well Emma is a friggin’ gold mine.

so much that after several months of dating, she wanted me to

I have to write down the funny things she says, because she

meet her kids. That in itself made me a little shaky. Because she

says them so often, and I’ll forget them if I don’t. She’s also

was really hot. Oh, and she had never introduced a man to her

outgoing, loving, and so easy to get to know. She’ll talk to

kids before. To me, that screams commitment, which made me

anyone and she’ll tell you all about herself in the first ten

feel like there was a cable clamped around my esophagus. But

minutes after you meet her. Not long after we met she’d sit

then, I began to think about other things. Like, OK, I really like

on my lap, give me a hug when I would leave, and when she

her. Love her, even (gulp). But what if her kids don’t like me? Will

first told me she loved me I thought I might freak out. As far as

she still want to date me? That’s heavy. I’d had a hard enough

making me feel comfortable, she did great.

time trying to get one woman to like me for any extended period of time. Much less three! And, what if I didn’t like them?

Then we’ve got Abby. She was ten years old and was a WAY

I know that sounds a little harsh because they’re just little girls,

tougher nut to crack. She’s a brunette, with hazel eyes. She has

but let’s be honest, some people are “kid” people, and some

an excellent, dry sense of humor. She’s quiet, calm, and mature

just aren’t. I never had been. Ever. So, the thought of really liking

for her age, and extremely laid back. Now, don’t get me wrong,




people she’s completely capable of going off the rails of the crazy train,

And then she probably farted.

but hey, she just turned thirteen. We’ll give her a pass. But, she’s also very cautious. She and her mom have a unique relationship,

What I am getting at is that she began to trust me, a little, finally.

and when I first came along Abby was scared that I was going

She realized that I wasn’t there to steal her mother away. Or to

to somehow affect that. She wasn’t necessarily mean to me, but

steal her things, or kill her dog. She realized that I just genuinely

she was totally and completely indifferent to my existence. She

loved her mom, and that I also genuinely loved her. She realized

would act like I wasn’t in the room. She refused to look at me

that my attitude towards her wasn’t an act, but was who I really

and would only speak to me in muted, one syllable words, and

was, and how I really felt. I was there because I wanted to be.

only if her mother made her. She made me so nervous.

Not because I had to be. And, finally, it worked!

It became my mission in life to make Abby like me. Almost

So, if you’ve got some new step-kids, if you are slamming your

everyone likes me. Surely, I can make this girl like me. I tried

head against a wall or thinking about jumping off a bridge,

being sweet. Nope. Not even close. I tried being funny. Nope.

just hang in there. Just keep showing them that you’re there

She’d go out of her way not to laugh. I tried buying her things, to

for the long haul. Be nice to them. Try not to be too awkward

which she would say thank you, because she has good manners,

or uncomfortable, like I did, because that probably ain’t gonna

but nothing seemed to crack through her shell. For months I

help a whole lot. But if I could only give you one solid piece of

tried, and hadn’t seemed to make any progress, whatsoever. It

advice, the most important thing that you can do by far is show

really upset me, although I did my best to not let Abby know it.

them that you really love their mother (or father). Once they see

April tried to make me feel better about it, but I was at a loss.

that, and they believe it, I promise you, those kids will fall in

She said, “Just ignore her. She’ll come around eventually.” But

line, eventually. I know some of you will have a harder time than

that was impossible. I couldn’t make myself ignore her. So, I just

others, but perseverance is the key.

kept trying. Now, don’t get me wrong, after three years, we’re still a work in And then one day, Abby came and sat down by me on the couch.

progress. Some days I just want to scream. We have our days that we

And then she told me a story of something funny that happened

all want to kill each other. But that’s just regular family, right?

at school. And then she laughed about it, and said, “Isn’t that funny?” And then one night she asked me if I’d take her to Sonic to get her some ice cream.

Stoney Stamper

is the author of the popular parenting blog, The Daddy Diaries. He and his wife April have three daughters: Abby, Emma and Gracee. Originally from northeast Oklahoma, the Stampers now live in Tyler, Texas. For your daily dose of The Daddy Diaries, visit Stoney on Facebook or on his website,




The DIY Green Guy words Marla Cantrell images Jeromy Price

Aaron Wirth

On a Sebastian County road near Greenwood, on some of the

the oak floors – remains. But the engine of this place has been

prettiest land in Arkansas, stands a rock house built in 1949. It

converted by Aaron, a do-it-yourselfer who has yet to say no to

is a lovely building; the rock has been chiseled into even pieces

a home improvement project.

that make it look like the kind of dream house you might have drawn as a child, and there's a massive tree so tall it blocks the

It probably helps that Aaron, now thirty-five, was trained as a

sun, standing like a sentry near the front door.

mechanical engineer, once working at a plant that produced Cesna aircraft. And it’s likely a plus that his day job is with

The land beyond, and the dairy barn that sits idle after years of

Cobblestone Homes, where he’s a partner. He loves the building

industry, were part of the reason Aaron and Sara Wirth fell in

process, watching craftspeople start with a cleared piece of

love with this place. And so they bought it seven years ago and

land and create a new house fitted with the latest gadgets to

began to remodel. Much of what drew them to the house — the

make life a little easier. But it was earlier, while he was living

woodwork that covers the ornate archways, the now-vintage

in Wichita, that he found the charm of older spaces. There,

light fixtures still in perfect condition, the knotty pine paneling,

he remodeled his first place, a 1960s duplex. “My marriage


people survived,” Aaron says, and then flashes his bright smile. “So, I figured I’d been a success.” That first win is what helped him see the potential of this house, and why he’s working so hard to turn this sixty-five-year-old home into an energy superstar. While he’s not arrived yet, he is well on his way. He’s switched out the single-pane windows with their steel frames. “Before we replaced them,” Aaron says, “we woke up one morning with icicles on the inside of the panes.” Aaron shakes his head at the memory. “Someday the old windows will end up in my greenhouse, yet to be finished.” Aaron opens the hatch that leads to the attic, flips on the light so the eaves are in view. Well, not exactly the eaves, those are not visible. Instead, insulation shows, covering the entire ceiling

his dryer vent, which he switches in the winter months to blow

space. “They had a local CV's grocery in town they were tearing

heated air inside the house. Not something most of us would or

down. I went over there and they gave me a trailer load, literally.

should try, since the humidity might overwhelm us. But Aaron’s

So I insulated, with Sara’s help, the entire attic. I insulated all

dryer is downstairs, below ground, where the original cellar

along the roofline, the floor’s covered, all of it.”

used to be. And he has a dehumidifier already in place.

The question, of course, was whether this way of covering

Also downstairs is the master bedroom/bathroom/office. He

everything causes excess moisture in the house. Aaron says

points to the bedroom floor. “I got down here, and I loved the

it most certainly does not. “I put sensors in to make sure that

old concrete floor, so we left it, just stained it. You can see

I wasn’t getting too much moisture. I’ve never had a water

where the old water heater was, and where the cans sat from

problem and I’ve never had a moisture problem. ”

all the canning." He walks to the adjoining bathroom, which was undisturbed earth when the remodel began. "I took a saw

Aaron also tackled the heat and air unit, which usually accounts

and made a hole in the farthest wall, and I just started digging.

for fifty percent of a homeowner’s energy consumption. He

At first it was fun, but it got to be quite a job; I was up to my

bought a geo-thermal unit, which is an underground system.

shoulders in dirt.” Today, the results of his hard work show, in

There is a ground-source heat pump that cycles water through

the brand new bathroom that looks like a showplace.

the underground piping loop, and costs about $1 a day to heat or cool a 2,000 square foot house. Aaron installed it in 2012.

Aaron steps into the wide shower and turns on the body dryer

His Christmas present that year was the use of an excavator. He

he came up with. “I use this all the time. It heats up and blows

dug an 800 foot ditch in his backyard, three feet wide, seven

heated air. You can get dry this way. The floors are heated with

feet deep, to contain the piping.

hot water that runs in a loop beneath the floor.”

“You walk around the outside of my house and you can’t tell

The space looks like a high-end hotel. The addition added 500

I even have heat and air in here,” he says. “My old, traditional

square feet to the 1,500 square foot house, and gave Sara the

system ran at one speed, about 3,500 watts, the equivalent of

massive closet she’d been pining for.

35 light bulbs. This system runs on two speeds and at its low stage, even though it’s the same size unit, it will run at about

As Aaron talks, the excitement builds. He is thrilled to be in

1,700 watts, almost half. Even at its high stage, I run about

this place, where he conjures up ideas and sketches them out.

1,000 watts less than the old unit.”

He has high-tech monitors he checks often. They show him his energy consumption, humidity levels, everything he needs to

He’s done other things that aren’t exactly conventional. Like

know to show him how his house is operating. His wife Sara is a





godsend, he says, always letting him tinker with this, alter that,

boat jacks and bought them and installed them at the base of

try out an idea that might seem a little fanciful for those of us

the panels. Four times a year I change their position with the

with lesser knowledge of how things work.

jacks, by hand cranking them: summer solstice, the equinoxes, and the winter solstice.”

He tells the story while standing on his new deck. A pizza oven rises behind him, Aaron’s first attempt at brick laying. “Thirty-

Beyond the solar section is a grove of 100 newly planted oak

six pizzas down since the end of last year, and the first five I

trees he plans to place strategically when they grow a bit taller,

ruined. I’ve gotten pretty darn good now, but the oven itself did

to block the sunniest parts of the land closest to his house.

collapse after I first built it, and I had to start over.” Behind him

“Landscaping is one of the easiest ways to bring down your

is a crank system that raises a wide screen TV from down below

energy bill,” Aaron says.

when the Razorbacks are playing. Already there are some grand trees on this place. Aaron points He rubs his neck, stretches, and then points to a fallow field

to scaffolding he’s installed near a towering walnut tree. He’s

where twenty-five solar panels, each three feet by five feet,

got a tree house planned, one that will have heat and air and

glint in the midday sun. These panels are a joy for Aaron, and

every possible convenience. He smiles so wide his eyes squint

he pulls out his electric bill, which averages $25 a month, and

from the effort. “When I get that finished you’ll have to come

hands it over. He points to the grid that shows the months when

back. Now that will be something to see. The tree house will

he actually earned a credit instead of paying for electricity.

have a basement, its own septic system, pretty cool stuff.”

“I installed the solar panels myself about four years ago. I spent

Just then his daughter runs by, a streamer in her hand catching

in the low twenty-thousands, and they’ve even gone down

the wind, and Aaron turns to her and the smile grows even

since then, and they’ve become more efficient. I did this when

wider. “Such a great life,” he says, “out here, in the country, on

Arkansas was doing its renewable energy program, and that

land I can basically do anything I want with.” He stops, looks

paid me about $12,000, and I got a federal tax credit. I ended

back toward the house where his wife and other two children

up with about $1,000 in it. But that doesn’t count my labor. It’s

wait. “Such a great family.”

a lot of work, but I enjoyed it. It probably provides sixty-five to seventy percent of my energy.

The sun is starting to wane and the wind is picking up. Aaron puts his hand on the solar panels, he looks across his land, and

“It was hard to put them in just because people would stop every

he seems lost in thought. Perhaps he’s considering his next

day to talk to me about solar energy. They face the south. And

project, the next challenge, the next trick he’ll pull from his

here’s my good old Southern, Walmart engineering. I walked

sleeve that will make this place even more efficient, even closer

the aisles of Walmart looking for a simple way to convert these

to his engineering heart.

from north/south according to the season. And I found these DOSOUTHMAGAZINE



words & images Marcus Coker




t’s Saturday night in West Fork, Arkansas, and the doors to

Jerry’s guitar seems to cry. But later, when another artist sings

the Little O’ Oprey have been open since 5:30pm. Teresa

Down at the Twist and Shout by Mary Chapin Carpenter, hands

is selling tickets, Andy is serving pie behind the snack bar,

are clapping and the five-piece band that includes a guitar, bass

and several of the regulars are marking their seats with pillows

guitar, drums, and a keyboard is absolutely soaring.

and blankets. By 7:00, the lights go down and the house band starts hopping. Before long, Jimmy is behind the keyboard

The band never uses a single sheet of music, and the set up

singing Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On, and the audience is

is always the same. The artist comes up on stage, requests a

singing with him. It’s unforgettable, toe-tapping music, music

song in a certain key, and the band just starts playing. Jerry

that sweeps through you, music that makes you

says, “If they do a song that’s not one of the real

feel right at home.

current ones, I’m gonna know it. If I don’t, maybe the keyboard player will know it. And sometimes

For the next three hours, the house band plays

we bomb out, but we don’t worry if we mess up. Of

traditional country, rock and roll, and gospel,

course, we don’t mess up on purpose.”

backing up a variety of performers that take turns on stage. Each sings a few songs and then passes

Since 1991, the Little O’ Oprey has been a

the microphone to the next. There are a few bumps

501(c)3 non-profit corporation. Their mission is

along the way because none of it’s rehearsed, but

to both promote country music and fellowship

the occasional missed note or forgotten song lyric

with the community. “We try to promote young

is part of the charm that makes the entire evening

entertainers, but we have performers of all ages,”

seem like hanging out on your front porch with a

says Roy Melton, who’s seventy-two and a member

group of your most talented friends.

and past-president of the board. “We have singers come from Fort Smith, Tahlequah, and Tulsa. One

“If we had a polished show like Branson or even

gal even comes from east Texas. To get on the list

Eureka, it wouldn’t be the same,” says Jerry Roller,

of singers, we just ask that someone audition or be

who’s seventy-five and plays steel guitar. “They’ll


close during winter and practice three months, and at a certain point in a song, the steel guitar

The Little O’ Oprey takes place in a two-story

does a certain lick, and that’s what they have to

building that was built in 1886. Over the years,

look forward to. If we had a show like that, and the

the building has been home to a tavern, a grocery

audience came three or four weeks and saw the

store, a bank, and even a casket maker. Roy says,

exact same show, they’d be gone. But we have a

“There’s a lot of history here. This whole block used

variety — probably sixty or more acts.”

to be buildings, but they were all wood. At some point, there was a fire, and this is the only one that

Jerry, who grew up in Fort Smith and started

was left standing.”

playing the steel guitar when he was fifteen, has been part of the band for twenty-four years. He says, “The

In addition to being a board member, Roy is also the show’s

Oprey started in 1989 — twenty-five years ago. I came in one

sound technician and emcee. He says, “Everyone pitches in to

night as a spectator and a guy knew me and said, ‘Hey, do you

make things work. The house band gets paid, and the folks that

have your guitar with you?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ (This very guitar, by

do the tickets and snack table get paid, but no entertainer gets

the way.) And he said, ‘Our steel player quit last week. Would

paid. I volunteer to do sound, and we have people volunteer to

you play?’ And I did. And I’ve been here ever since.”

clean up. When things are slow, that’s kept us in business.”

Jerry’s wife, Carlene, is one of the show’s staple singers. Tonight

Back on stage, Tommy Kemp is playing a rose-colored guitar. He

she sings Lord, I Hope This Day is Good by Don Williams, her voice

joined the band in 2008, and tonight he’s singing The Fireman.

like a warm blanket on a cold night. The mood is almost sad, and

It’s a song made famous by George Straight, but was actually





written by Tommy’s brother, Wayne Kemp, who was born in

cry. And I came to two or three shows before I decided to sing. I

Greenwood, Arkansas.

thought, I’m going to do this for me. And it’s saved my life more than once, during a lot of times when I might have folded. But I

Listen to the folks at the Oprey talk and you’ll learn lots of cool

had the Oprey and the music to look forward to every Saturday,

facts. Jerry’s played with Carrie Underwood, Jimmy Ritchie, the

so I kept on going. After twenty-five years, you know that

keyboard player, has played with Barbara Fairchild. Joe Nichols,

everyone here is your friend.”

who grew up in Rogers and is known for the country hit Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off, actually sang regularly at the Little O’

And that’s what’s beautiful about the Little O’ Oprey. Not only

Oprey when he was in high school.

is it a wonderful showcase of talent, but it’s also a home for the people both on stage and in the audience. Jeanne says, “I think

“There are so many good memories,” says Jeanne Simmons,

people love the music, and they get the feeling people here are

who’s sixty-four and known as the Queen of the Little O’ Oprey.

also good-hearted people and really dedicated to the music. And

“I loved the early days because we struggled. Many times there

we’re just kind of like a family. We call it the Oprey family.”

were more people to perform than there were people in the audience. Back then you didn’t have to audition. But the funniest thing was when a bluegrass performer named Bill Mounce started back up on stage for an encore, and his false teeth

The Little O’ Oprey takes place every Saturday at

fell out on stage. Everybody was so tickled that we couldn’t

7pm at 271 S. Campbell in West Fork, Arkansas.

do anything for a few minutes and then Bill said, ‘I always did wonder what my smile looked like, and there it is, right there.’”

Tickets are $9 for adults, $7 for seniors (55+), $4 for children (4-11), and free for children 3 and under.

Jeanne has been at the Oprey since the very beginning. She says, “I lived out at Winslow on a chicken farm, and I came down

For more information, including a calendar

to West Fork to get a hamburger. Some people said, ‘They’re

of entertainers, visit or call

gonna start a country music show in that old historical building.’


Well at that time, I was getting a divorce, and the band would play their sad, old timey songs, and I’d sit in the back row and DOSOUTHMAGAZINE



Loving Fort Smith words Marla Cantrell image courtesy Kim Singer

Just last month, while on a trip to Atlanta, Kaci Singer considered what it would be like to live in such a big place. Traffic everywhere, noise that never stopped, throngs of people hurrying. It was a little overwhelming for this small town girl who loves the slow pace of Fort Smith, Arkansas, the place she’s called home for twenty-two of the twenty-five years she’s been on this planet.

Kaci Singer


people While she was in Atlanta, she started up a conversation with

into this one portable file. She smiles, talking about what’s still

a man waiting for the same train as she was. He’d not been

ahead, what’s just over the horizon.

to Arkansas, so she described it to him: the wide rivers, the lush mountains, the sprawling trees that form canopies across

As for blogging, that’s evolving as well. Her focus used to be

roadways. Finally, she narrowed down how her home felt in one

her personal life but now she writes about her hometown. In

word: peaceful.

February of this year, she unveiled her new website, Follow Me Fort Smith. On it, she writes about things like the UA-Fort

Kaci thought of the word “peaceful” again late that night in her

Smith baseball team winning three games in a row on a recent

hotel when sleep was interrupted by the sounds of police cars

weekend. She also writes about businesses in town, places small

and ambulances and fire trucks. She didn’t relax until she was

enough to get to know you, to ask after your family, to remember

back home, surrounded by the places she loves, close to the

how you take your coffee, or what your favorite color is.

people who make it home. Since her venture began, her Follow Me Fort Smith Facebook Two of those people are her parents: Matthew and Kim Singer.

page has gained attention. Kaci smiles when she talks about

Matthew is a veterinarian in Greenwood, and Kim is a well

how her idea took off. She’d been following Courtney Kerr, a

known photographer. Kaci talks about what it was like to grow

Texas blogger, for quite some time, and she loved what she saw.

up with the two of them guiding her. She watched them work

Courtney is a fashion expert who quit her career in retail to

hard, and they cared deeply about what they did.

blog. Since that time, she’s snagged a role on a Dallas morning show, where she co-hosts with three other women.

Her path, however, was not so easily found. She majored in English at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. After

And while Courtney writes about fashion, not hometown life

graduating in 2012, she thought about teaching, something her

– her latest post is filled with photos from an afternoon she

parents thought she’d enjoy. But what they hadn’t factored in

spent with actress Sarah Jessica Parker – Kaci believes the

was that she’d been watching them make their own way her

fundamentals of successful blogging will help her succeed.

entire life, not working for anyone else. Teaching, while a noble calling, was not for her.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get my own TV show,” Kaci says, and then she laughs. “I’m not really after that. I just want to promote Fort

What she did love was writing, particularly blogging, and so she

Smith, to get a lot of followers. That’s success to me.”

did that on her personal webpage. She’d write about what life was like in Fort Smith. Sometimes she’d write about fashion. But

Kaci is dressed in jeans with cuffs rolled up far enough to show

always she wrote. At the end of a long day, it’s what she looked

off a pair of suede heels Sarah Jessica Parker would surely

forward to.

swoon over. She looks as if she could easily take on a blog about fashion, but that’s not where her heart lies. “I just like living in

It’s impossible to love the written word and not love paper.

a town where I wave at everybody when I drive around,” she

Books, Kaci adored. But she also adored stationery, greeting

says, and then shrugs, as if that explains every reason she had

cards, wrapping paper. So she started doing her homework,

for starting her website.

looking for products she thought others might like as well. That’s what led her to Atlanta last month, to market, to stock her

It truly does. This land that she loves, this place she describes

new store, named Paperwerk, which will open on April 15 inside

to strangers as peaceful, is the only home she’s ever wanted.

Fort Smith’s BrickCity, a collective of small shops.

Life here is slow and easy. Most everybody has a heart of gold. That’s what she was trying to tell the man she met recently in

Kaci hopes one day to have her own storefront where she’ll

Atlanta. Kaci's learned early a lesson some of us never quite

have more space to expand. As she’s saying this, she pulls a

grasp: loving where you live makes everything in your life so

sheath of papers from her bag. She has organized every product

much better, makes every day a little sweeter, and every year

she’ll carry, every contract, every vital part of running a business

that passes that much dearer.





Levon Helm: As Down to Earth as Delta Dirt words Brenda Baskin image courtesy Art Meripol


people On April 27, 2012 — the day of Levon Helm’s funeral —

workers. As a child, Lavon served as water boy, pumping water

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe ordered that all flags in the state

from the well and running it out to those who labored in the

be lowered to half-staff. A cloud of nostalgic sadness hovered

blazing heat. Until he was ten, his family had no electricity,

over the music world when news of the singer’s death was

but they knew how to have fun. Diamond and Nell instilled

announced. Those who came of age in the sixties and seventies

in their children a love of music, and taught them that the

had grown up listening to his music, and thanks to the award-

reward for a hard day’s work was an evening spent listening to

winning albums he recorded during the last decade of his life,

the Grand Ole Opry and the King Biscuit Time broadcasts on

a new generation had begun listening as well. Here in Arkansas,

a battery-powered radio. Nearby Helena was a stopping point

folks not only listened — they felt a kinship with him. Until his

for traveling musicians, and Diamond took his son to see nearly

dying day, Levon Helm was one of us.

every minstrel show and concert that came through town. By age six, Lavon had decided on a career in music. When he was

He’s been called an American icon. Countless musicians

nine, Diamond bought him a guitar. At twelve, he rigged up a

claimed he was the best drummer in the world, including the

washtub bass for his younger sister and the two performed

late, great jazz drummer Buddy Rich. Drummers who sing are

together as Lavon and Linda, once opening for Conway Twitty.

a rarity, but Levon did it and did it well. He was ranked #91 by

Helm became such a fixture at radio stations and clubs in

Rolling Stone magazine in their 100 Greatest Singers of All Time

Helena that musicians let him come practice on their drums.

list. It probably amused the man who once stated, “I’m not in love with listening to the sound of my own voice.”

In high school, he formed a popular band called the Jungle Bush Beaters, and after graduation, fellow Arkansan Ronnie Hawkins

A founding member of the 1960s group The Band, he helped

recruited him to join his rockabilly group, the Hawks. In 1958,

change the course of rock and roll history. No one had ever

the band traveled to Canada in Hawkins’ Chevy. Everyone soon

played the way they did, or wrote tunes that diverged so much

grew homesick and quit, but Ronnie and Levon stayed and hired

from the usual radio fare. In regaling his band mates with

Canadian musicians to replace them.

stories about the South, Levon inspired numerous songs, and his distinctive vocals highlight some of their most memorable

In 1965, the band broke away from Hawkins, recording and

ones, including “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie

performing first as The Canadian Squires, then Levon and the

Down,” and “Up On Cripple Creek.”

Hawks. Bob Dylan liked their sound, and hired them as his backup band. He was experimenting, transitioning from folk

It wasn’t just Levon’s musical gifts that made an imprint on

to electric rock, and audiences weren’t pleased. Levon got so

the world. His high-beam smile, tenacious spirit and plain-

exasperated with their boos and heckling that he returned to

spoken honesty (delivered with an Arkansas twang) charmed a

Arkansas. He played in clubs with assorted musicians, including

generation, and made him a favorite son of his home state. While

his cousins, the Cate Brothers. After two years of drifting, he

some celebrities downplayed their Arkansas backgrounds, he

rejoined his Canadian band mates, who were living in a big

wore his like a badge of honor.

pink house in Woodstock, New York. Locals referred to them as simply “the band,” a name the group officially adopted.

He was born Mark Lavon Helm in Elaine, Arkansas on May 26, 1940, the second of Nell and Diamond Helm’s four children. His

Many musicians say that The Band’s first album, Music From Big

family called him Lavon (La-VON), though he’d later change it to

Pink, was a revelation. Eric Clapton claimed, “It changed my life,

Levon (LEE-von), a concession to his Canadian band mates, who

and it changed the course of American music.” For a while, four

were unable to properly pronounce it.

Canadians and an Arkansan were among the most respected rockers on the planet. But bad management, in-fighting and

Shortly after his birth, the family moved to the nearby area

other pitfalls of rock stardom broke them up. Their 1976 farewell

of Midway, in between Turkey Scratch and Marvell, along the

tour was the subject of the Martin Scorsese documentary, The

Mississippi Delta. Diamond Helm was a dirt farmer who worked

Last Waltz. It’s still acclaimed as a masterpiece, though Levon

his land himself, with the help of his family and some hired

hated the film.




people After The Band split up, Levon put down roots in Woodstock,

Levon’s lease on life was extended for a dozen years after

which he said reminded him of the Ozarks while still allowing

his cancer treatments ended, and he never seemed to take

him to stay in close proximity to his daughter and his fellow

it for granted. He exuded joy, in his music and his life. His

musicians. In 1981, he married Sandra Dodd. He recorded

voice returned, now craggily beautiful and ingrained with the

albums, performed with various artists, and in 1983 began

sound of his Delta roots. His relationship with daughter Amy

touring again with The Band (minus guitarist Robbie Robertson).

deepened. A gifted musician/producer, her vocals enhanced

His easy-going style and Southern accent made him a natural

the Rambles, as well as the three Grammy-winning albums her

for films, and friend Tommy Lee Jones suggested him for the

father recorded during his last five years. Levon also lived to

part of Loretta Lynn’s father in Coal Miner’s Daughter, the first of

welcome his grandson, Lavon Henry Collins, into the world.

several movies and TV shows in which he appeared. He was showered with honors and accolades, but seemed Mixed with his successes were setbacks. In 1986, while touring

unfazed by the attention. When The Band was inducted into

with band members Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Rick

the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he skipped the ceremony. He

Danko, Manuel committed suicide. In the early nineties, Levon’s

was also a no-show for a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award,

home and studio were destroyed by fire. In 1998, he was

opting to stay home and play music with family and friends. And

diagnosed with throat cancer, which left him unable to sing.

few had more friends than Levon Helm. His name inspired Elton

He faced a mountain of medical bills, bankruptcy loomed, and

John’s song, “Levon,” and is also the middle name of the pop-

foreclosure on his rebuilt residence seemed imminent (despite

star’s son. Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Steely Dan and members of

their acclaim, he never received much money from his days with

the Grateful Dead were all lifelong friends; so were the folks he

The Band). Then, in 1999, band mate Rick Danko, one of his

grew up with in Arkansas.

closest friends, died in his sleep, a loss Levon grieved over for the rest of his life.

When he died on April 19, 2012, 2,000 fans came to his barn to pay their respects. Two years later, his loved ones are still

It all might have crumbled a weaker man, but Levon’s

mourning. Barbara O’Brien, who still manages his affairs,

hardscrabble Delta upbringing had made him resilient. He got

says, “His passing has left a gaping hole in our lives. He’s

well and regrouped, surrounding himself with family members,

missed terribly and will never be replaced. A more honest and

friends and fellow musicians. Woodstock rallied around him. He

benevolent man we’ll never meet.”

sweet-talked Barbara O’Brien, the local sheriff’s administrative assistant, into becoming his manager (and in the process, one

When those flags waved at half-staff on the day of his funeral,

of his best friends). They began holding “Midnight Rambles,”

everyone in the Natural State understood. Levon Helm showed the

Saturday night jams held in his three-story barn. The Rambles

world all that was best about Arkansas. In a way, he was Arkansas.

were based on the traveling music shows of Levon’s childhood, and they became legendary. Visitors paid $100 a ticket and brought a covered dish for

To learn more about the Midnight Rambles

the community potluck that accompanied each show. Almost

(including samples of the music played there),

every Saturday night, 250 eager fans arrived to hear Levon


and his Midnight Ramble Band perform with some of music’s greatest artists. Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Los Lobos, Norah Jones, Jackson Browne, Sheryl Crow, Billy Bob Thornton were among those who dropped by for impromptu performances, which sometimes lasted eight hours. The Rambles lifted Levon’s spirits, paid his medical bills, and helped him keep the home he loved. They’re a tradition that continues to this day, though tickets are now $150.




The Lower Delta

Eat, Stay, Discover words Kat Robinson images Kat Robinson and Grav Weldon

Rhoda's famous hot tamales

Between the furthest reaches of Bayou Bartholomew, the longest bayou in the world – and the wide expanse of the Mississippi River along the eastern border of Arkansas – lies the Lower Delta, a rural area rich in cultural and historical experiences. Here are some great places to eat, stay, and discover along the southern portion of U.S. Highway 65 in Arkansas.

u EAT Tamales Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales Rhoda Adams got her start in the early 1970s making pies in Lake Village. After the suggestion by a frequent pie buyer, she and her family started making and tying tamales, which they’d steam and sell throughout the community. Today, you might find Rhoda driving around town, pulling into parking lots and RV parks to sell those tamales, two dozen packed inside a coffee can. If you want to make sure you get your fill, head to Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales on St. Mary’s Street. There you’ll also find sweet potato, pecan and meringue pies, along with daily lunch specials and some of the best fried chicken in southern DOSOUTHMAGAZINE

Arkansas. Just don’t wait for dinner – Rhoda’s closes up by 2 p.m. 714 St. Mary’s Street, Lake Village 870.265.3108

Home Cookin’ R.A. Pickens & Son Commissary Some folks thought Laurie Black was out of her mind when she decided to open a restaurant inside the 100+-year-old R.A. Pickens and Son Commissary south of Dumas. But the local lunch crowd proves she was onto something. Known for fried pork chops, meatloaf and a unique squash dressing, Pickens Commissary offers daily lunch specials cooked just like they’d be at home – served up hot to your table. While you’re there, check out the last cotton bale sold


Lake Chicot State Park at the facility, memorabilia from the community, and a Delta gift shop. 122 Pickens Road , Pickens 870.382.5266

BBQ Hoots BBQ David and Suzie Powell spent a couple of years after retirement traveling from place to place by RV. When they grew tired of that, they decided to head back to their hometown of McGehee and open up a barbecue joint. Their eclectic tastes and nostalgic collection of restaurant items have been put to good use in decorating Hoot’s BBQ (The restaurant gets its name from the high school mascot, the McGehee Owl.) with recycled and reclaimed décor from dozens of different locations. The barbecue is also divine –

with great pulled pork, chopped beef, burgers and some of the best onion rings in the region. 2008 US 65 , McGehee 870.222.1234

u STAY Lake Chicot State Park Lake Chicot State Park features one and two bedroom cabins that face out onto Lake Chicot, the largest oxbow lake in North America. Each cabin sports a fireplace, full kitchen and bath, dining area and living room, along with one or two bedrooms. The park will supply you with firewood in the colder months; when it’s warmer, head over to the pool. Fishing along Lake Chicot is good any time of year, with bluegill, DOSOUTHMAGAZINE

channel catfish, crappie and largemouth bass as the main catches. 2542 Highway 257, Lake Village 870.265.5480 Delta Resort & Spa The Delta Resort and Spa near McGehee is an escape designed for outdoor enthusiasts who want a chance to go Olympic track shooting, to shoot skeet or just relax in the Arkansas Delta. Accommodations include two hotels and a lodge – along with a spa, restaurant and conference center. During the fall and winter months, head down and join the duck hunting club. 8624 Bucksducks Road, Tillar 877.463.3582




Lakeport Plantation Lighthouse Inn on the Lake This classic motor-court style hotel offers rooms with and without kitchenettes along with private cottages. The reasonably priced accommodations come with access to a pool, marina and bait shop, coffee shop and a landing right on Lake Chicot. Onsite dining with live entertainment on weekend nights rounds out the package. 4403 US 82, Lake Village 870.265.2238

u DISCOVER Lakeport Plantation This nineteenth century home is the only antebellum plantation on the Mississippi River in Arkansas. Built in 1859, the yellow-washed home has

been painstakingly restored by Arkansas State University and now houses items original to the property. An interpretive program talks about the plantation’s history and that of the family that lived there, as well as the tenant farmers who once plowed the land. 601 Highway 142, Lake Village 870.265.6031 Paul Michael Company Paul Michael’s eclectic tastes in home décor have become legendary – and today his shop is frequented by no less than famed television show host P. Allen Smith. Inside the series of warehouse-sized rooms in Lake Village, you’ll find everything from sofas to sideboards, chandeliers to Christmas decorations and every sort of DOSOUTHMAGAZINE

knickknack that will make your home the envy of the neighborhood. 3696 US 65/82 South, Lake Village 800.732.3722 Miller’s Mud Mill Gail Miller’s art is now recognized by leaders all over the nation; her pottery is lauded by many, including former president Bill Clinton. Her bright colors and free-flowing shapes have become iconic representations of Delta art from Delta mud. Today, you can visit her in her Dumas shop and buy your own collectables. 862 US 65 South (in the Brookhaven Shopping Center), Dumas 870.382.5277





For the Love of Mums origin What’s New, Cupcake? Karen Tack & Alan Richardson images Catherine Frederick and Jeromy Price

My mom loved flowers — flowers of any kind, really. Especially yellow ones. Her love of flowers must be in my DNA because I truly believe they’re the perfect gift for any occasion, or just because. They instantly brighten a room (and my mood). Now, we all love our mommas. Most mommas love mums. So what could be better than mums for moms? Cupcakes that look like mums, that’s what! This is not one of those last-minute, dash and grab gifts from a Wally World seasonal display. And it’s not difficult or terribly time consuming. This means dads could pull this off and the kiddos can help. A homemade gift screams LOVE! And the mom in your life will know you took the time to craft something delicious, just for her. For the cake, bake your mom’s favorite flavor then decorate the cupcakes as I’ve shown here. Does mom have a favorite color? Create a single color cupcake bouquet or vary them as I’ve done. I promise these mums won’t die, but they’re sure to disappear. Happy Mother’s Day!





Ingredients 8 cupcakes baked in paper liners (I used vanilla cake mix and green liners) ¼ cup each blue, white, yellow, purple, pink, and orange decorating sugars 1 bag (10.5 ounces) mini pastel-colored marshmallows 1 bag (10.5 ounces) mini white marshmallows 1 tub vanilla frosting 40 licorice pastels (purchased at Candy Craze) Green licorice twists (purchased at Candy Craze) Ziplock® sandwich baggies

Method Pour colored sugars into separate Ziplock® baggies. Sort 22 like-colored marshmallows for each cupcake. To create the petals, cut the marshmallows in half diagonally. Place white marshmallows in the bags of purple, blue, white, and pink sugar. Place orange, yellow, and pink marshmallows in the bags of corresponding sugar color. Seal the bag and shake to coat. Ice cupcakes with a thin layer of vanilla frosting. Starting at the outside edge of each cupcake, arrange the marshmallows, sugar side up and pointed edge out, sides touching. Continue for two additional rows, leaving room in the center for stamens (licorice pastel candies). Place 4 to 5 like-colored licorice pastels, vertically, in the center of each cupcake. Arrange the cupcakes on a platter or tray. Cut green twists in half lengthwise. Add the twists to look like stems, trimming to the desired length.




RECIPE Burford Distributing image Jeromy Price

2oz Viral Orange Sherbet 2oz Light Cream 3oz Orange Sherbet 2oz Vanilla Ice Cream 2oz Lemon Lime Soda Orange Slice and Cherry for Garnish

Combine all ingredients with six ice cubes in a blender. Blend until smooth, and pour into a parfait glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and an orange slice.

Sponsored by Burford Distributing,

Fort Smith, Arkansas Please drink responsibly.



southern lit

On a Day Like This fiction Marla Cantrell


andy was starving. For twenty-two hours he’d driven; for eight of those, the windshield wipers worked full speed, the rain like a river drowning his old Chevy truck. Back home in Arkansas the drought was the worst in fifty years. Wildfires sprang up, the foundations of houses cracked as the ground shriveled beneath them, and roofers brave enough to show up for work found stacks of shingles melting on shorn rooftops. He’d passed Leo’s Diner, its neon sign glowing pink, and then turned back. The road was empty here, the whoosh of water keeping sensible people at home. He heard the lyrics from “It Never Rains in California” sweep through his brain, his mother's favorite song. What would she think? he wondered, if she knew he’d driven all the way to Swami’s Beach, with only a vague sense of how to get to California and a map he found in his glove compartment that was printed in 1989.

Inside, a carousel of pies turned in a glass case. Coffee mugs sat upside down on the scratched, mismatched tables. Something loud and frenetic was playing on the radio, some band he would have known if he’d kept up with music, although he had not. The waitress, a stout twenty-something with a tattoo of a dolphin that peeked through the neckline of her tank top and swam toward her throat, brought him water in a red plastic tumbler. “What brings you out on a day like this?” she asked. Tandy wiped the rain from his face with a fistful of paper napkins. “Just, you know, out for a drive.” She tilted her head and looked at him, and he felt the way he did when his mother accused him of some wrong he had not been guilty of, yet still felt remorse for.


southern lit “What can I bring you?” she asked. “What’s good?” he asked, and he realized he was twisting his watch back and forth across his wrist. The waitress nodded to the board where a dozen choices were written in pastel chalk. Omelet, spaghetti and zinfandel were misspelled.“That’s everything we have,” she said, and tapped her pen against the green pad she had pulled from her pocket. Tandy ordered the spaghetti and wine and coconut cream pie, something Laurie would have hated. Laurie counted calories — well, she counted Weight Watchers points — the math a foreign language to Tandy. If she had the pie, she’d starve for a week. He looked at his watch. It was six at night, on the money, back in Arkansas. Laurie would be home by now. He wondered if she’d miss him. The breakup was so quick he was still trying to sort it out. He said he wasn’t happy and she asked who was. She folded her arms across her chest, a defensive move he’d seen her do a thousand times, he supposed. He said he was looking for adventure, and until the moment he said it, he had not known how true it was. “Adventure? You won’t even go dancing,” Laurie said. She looked him up and down. She narrowed her eyes. She seemed to hate what she was seeing. “Dancing, well no, I wouldn’t go dancing,” Tandy said. "I’d go and watch you, I guess.” He frowned, knowing he never would. “I was thinking more about learning to sail. Figure out what a boom is, where the heck starboard is.” Even to Tandy, it sounded lame. If he sailed it would be on a lake where the bass boats would fight him, where power boats would crush him in their wake. “Sounds like a plan,” Laurie said, and turned to walk away. But then she turned back, she touched her throat. She put one hand on her hip. “Sail away, Tandy. You might as well. You’ve been drifting away from me for months.” Tandy’s mother used to say, “Every marriage is a mystery.” He'd thought it was a beautiful expression, but now he knew better. She must have been saying, "How the heck does anyone tolerate another through the mundane days that make up an entire lifetime?" Maybe he'd only lived with Laurie because he was trying to trick a system that couldn’t be tricked. I’m thirtyone, he thought, and I just had a straight-up epiphany.

By then Laurie was on the phone, the bedroom door ajar. She was telling someone on the other end how hard it was to live with Tandy. “Daddy,” she said, “was either mad or happy. That I understand. Oh, he’d yell, of course, but then he’d get over it. This brooding business is for the birds.” There was a pause, and Laurie’s voice dropped. “No,” she said, “you’re not a bit moody. You’re straight-up perfect.” So Tandy grabbed his backpack and stuffed in a week’s worth of clothes. He hoped Laurie would tell him to stop, would explain the call, but she only stood in the doorway, looking the way you do when you watch the polar bears at the zoo for the umpteenth time. A little curious maybe, but ninety-nine percent sure there’s nothing they can do that has the power to surprise you. The waitress brought Tandy’s food. He breathed deep, stretched his weary arms, and then pulled his phone from his jacket pocket and checked again to see if Laurie had called. She had not. He hit the camera icon and snapped a picture of the table, the first time he’d ever taken a food photo. It was something his sister did all the time — the too-skinny sister who talked about food the way evangelists discussed the Bible. He then tore into the pie, pushing the spaghetti aside. He drank the zinfandel quickly, and asked for more. “You got a name?” the waitress asked, and Tandy told her. “I’m Merrill,” she said. “You look weary.” It took Tandy off guard. “I believe I am.” And then she sat down heavily in the chair across from him, smelling like tomato sauce and strong coffee. The diner, which was about the size of an RV, shook when a semi drove by. Merrill lifted her foot and put it on the chair beside her. She had on red flip flops, a bad choice for a waitress, he thought, and a toe ring on her pudgy middle toe. “You’re not from around here,” Merrill said. “You sound like you could be on that TV show Nashville. “ “I’m from Arkansas,” Tandy said. “Pretty place. Mountains, deer everywhere, pine forests.” “So what brings you here?” Merrill asked. “Work? No, that’s not right, is it? And you don’t look like a man on vacation.” Merrill tapped her forehead. “I know, woman trouble. Definitely woman trouble.”




southern lit “Yeah,” Tandy answered, his face growing hot.

“Nah, not much sailing going on in Arkansas.”

“Me, I got man trouble. All the time. Like serious man issues, but I never stop. Just go from one Joe to the next. At some point, my grandmother used to say, you have to believe somebody’s BS, because it’s all BS. That’s where I mess up. I believe everybody’s I love you and you’re my soul-mate and I only need the money ‘til payday.”

“It’s not a big one,” Merrill said. “Twelve footer, one sail, built before I was born. But I can sail it as easy as I can breathe.” She pulled her hand away from Tandy and rubbed her thumb across her forehead. “You won’t believe how much you’ll love it. On the water, away from all this, nothing else matters. Your woman trouble, my man trouble, it won’t matter. If I could marry the water, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’d do it in a second. No BS out on the water.” She looked as if she might cry. “The water just…” she stopped for a second and then said “The water just is.”

Merrill rubbed her eyes, leaving tracks of mascara under her dark eyes. The ends of her black braids shone Kool-Aid orange in the fluorescent light. There was a rash around her left ring finger in a wide circle. “Married?” Tandy asked. “Not hardly” Merrill said, and then laughed, a little too loud, Tandy thought. “There was this guy. His name was Jonathan. Used to wear his football ring on my wedding finger — California state high school champions 1999 — but I gave it back last week.” “Sorry,” Tandy said, but Merrill brushed off the apology. “Nothing to be sorry about. He was nice enough — liked to gamble more than he should have — Vegas and what not. Mostly though, he just wanted someone to look after him, wash his clothes, tell him when to shave. Felt a little creepy after a while. Like this one time when we were fighting, I swear I almost said, ‘Jonathan, go to your room!’ That’s when I knew.” The jukebox was quiet now. Rain thrummed against the plate glass windows. The ice machine started up, a churning sound that rumbled across the space. Merrill reached over and took Tandy’s hand. He wound his fingers between hers, amazed at how easy it was. “I get off in about an hour,” Merrill said. “I could show you around Encinitas. Nice places to see if the rain stops. I have a friend who has a boat,” Merrill said, and pointed past the rainsoaked parking lot.

Tandy felt his mood lighten. “What about adventure?” he asked. Merrill nodded. She tapped the dolphin tattoo on her chest, once, twice, three times. “Sure,” she said, and wiped her eyes. “Adventure. Mystery. It’s all there.” Tandy peered out the windows. The bed of his truck looked like a watering trough. Back home the earth cracked, the farmers met at the truck stop to bellyache over lost crops. Ranchers were selling off cattle. Nothing to feed them. Laurie would be watching House Hunters now, like it was a game show. If the couple didn’t pick the house she did, she’d throw the remote at the TV. Tandy reached for his wallet. He had enough cash to last a week, two if he was careful. Merrill smiled at him. She had a little gap between her two front teeth, and he thought she was beautiful. Just then, his phone buzzed. He pulled it from his pocket and there on the screen was Laurie’s name. If he answered it, he might not have the nerve to stay where he was. He looked back at Merrill, who had started to clear the table. She’d placed his wine glass atop two white plates, and the glass was listing to the right. The rain slowed and the sun broke through. Merrill seemed to glow in it. He shut off his phone and put it away, deep in his pocket, so far out of sight it hardly even mattered.

“A sailboat?” Tandy asked, and felt his pulse racing. “How’d you know?” Merrill asked. Tandy smiled.“I had a feeling,” he said. “You ever been sailing?”


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Do South Magazine: Mighty – April 2014  

Do South (formerly @Urban magazine) is a free, monthly lifestyle magazine focusing on the great state of Arkansas, primarily the NWA and Riv...

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