Robot in the Room
A roving robot named after an English butler becomes a beloved new pet, despite the skepticism of the family dogs.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
An array of delicious items on their new Pub Menu adds a new facet of dining to this favorite Bay St. Louis café.
- story by Lisa Monti
The Mockingburger is the perfectly named and simply dressed patty on a toasted bun spiked with jalapeño and cheddar and served with a pile of homemade chips. Who knows how many of those have capped off Second Saturday or after a day of shopping and showing off Old Town to visitors.
At $10, the meaty Mockingburger and its delicious counterpart, the Summer Garden Burger, are at the high-end of offerings on the Pub menu, which is available Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to closing and on Second Saturday from 2 p.m. to close.
The new Charcuterie Board is $10 for a nice assortment of cheese, meat and fresh fruit that could easily be shared. Also new are the crunchy pork rinds and pretzel bites, both $5, and loaded fries that start a $7 and are elevated by $3 with the addition of pulled pork.
I finally went for the tacos, prompted by an enthusiastic recommendation for their taste and thrifty price. You can have one taco for $3, $5 for two and 3 for just $7. Choose from pulled pork, grilled chicken and the Summer Garden or have one of each for a range of tastes.
The pulled pork is sauced with rich espresso BBQ. The chicken is dressed with pico, cheddar and a sour cream Sriracha mix. The Summer Garden taco is filled with the aforementioned patty made with chickpeas, black beans and fresh vegetables splashed with red pepper aioli.
All the sauces are made in house, not a surprise to Mockingbird regulars who enjoy what the talented kitchen staff produces. Each of the three tacos was tasty in its own style, and the pulled pork was especially good thanks to the bold espresso sauce.
And of course the Pub food menu is balanced with a menu of drinks, all $5, and some with bird-themed names like Bird Brew Martini (cold brewed coffee, vodka and vanilla) and the sublimely named and tasty Tequila Mockingbird, a refreshing blend of rosemary honey, blood orange juice and of course tequila.
There’s a lot of variety in the drink selections, from the secret recipe Mockingbird Sangria, the Lushy Lemonade with vodka, the made-for-summertime Lavender Gin and Soda, a rosé wine-based Froze and the classic Mimosa.
Coffee lovers can sip a Bright Eyed Irish coffee or a Bird Brew Martini in keeping with the coffee theme. You can even match a trio of tacos with three beers that are paired for the pork, chicken and veggie versions. That’s just $12.
There’s also house wine and beer ($15 for a pitcher) available to cover all the bases for a visit to the Mockingbird.
110 S. Second St.
Bay St. Louis
Telephone (228) 467-8383
Monday-Wednesday : 7am-5pm
Thursday-Saturday : 7am-9pm
Sunday : 7am-2pm
Judy and Freddie: A Love Story
Judy and Freddie both needed a friend. Now they're inseparable.
- Story by Denise Jacobs
Judy, a self-described "Irish Setter person," became a Shelter volunteer out of a need for canine companionship after her beloved setter Colleen died in 2011. While not ready for another dog, Judy thought volunteering might help take her mind off her loss.
Most of her Judy's shelter work involved walking the dogs, an activity she heartily embraced as both a woman of action and a woman of accountability; she was happy to get those dogs outside and into fresh air for as long as possible.
Upon arriving at the shelter one Friday morning, Judy spotted a new dog in the fenced-in area outside. Her heart went out to the pup, and, quick as a wink, she made a decision to rescue the animal. It wasn’t a thinking thing; it was just the right thing to do.
Judy immediately went inside the shelter and lay claim to Fredericka - a name she'd shorten to "Freddie" - but she insisted on taking the dog home with her right then and there. Many of the shelter dogs were already infected with Parvo, a deadly dog virus. Judy wanted to get the Freddie out of harm’s way.
That was not the way it worked. There was a formal process for adopting a dog. Yet since it was a weekend and Judy was a volunteer, rules were bent. She was allowed to take Freddie home on the condition of returning on Monday for processing. Judy agreed. Neither of then knew it then, but Freddie had seen the last of the old Hancock County Animal Shelter.
But the first weekend at home with Judy, Freddie became sick as the proverbial dog. Judy took her in to see Dr. Charlie West, her favorite local veterinarian, saying, “She’s not my dog, but I want you to save her anyway, and I’ll pay for it.”
Judy remembers Dr. West looking at Freddie and then Judy and back again before saying, “Ah, Judy, she’s your dog.”
It turns out that Freddie was already infected with Parvo. Somewhere between the medical treatment and the healing process, Freddie inched her way into Judy’s heart, where she remains.
Judy says Freddie’s best attribute is a willing and eager spirit. From the beginning, Judy remembers that Freddie was game for whatever she had in mind. The has been sailing, motor-boating, kayaking, and canoeing. She even has her own life jacket, something Judy recommends for all water-loving dogs. If Judy’s on the water, you can bet that Freddie is beside her.
The pair also got a “minor start” in agility training.
“Freddie was game,” Judy says, “but I’m not as agile as I used to be.” Still, Freddie can ace the balance beam!
Regardless of the rationale behind our canine redemptions, the rewards are almost always more than we could have anticipated.
Hancock County Adoptables
The dogs below are available at the Hancock County Animal Shelter as of April 23, 2019. Call the shelter at (228) 466-4516 for availability.
This beautiful, sweet girl is becoming increasingly despondent at the shelter. The stress of living in a noisy, strange, unpredictable environment is taking its toll on Xavia. Her zest for life and the enthusiasm that she once had is slowly diminishing, and it is heartbreaking for us to see her waning spirit. Xavia needs a hero, and she needs it ASAP! Please take the time to read her profile below and if you've been considering adoption, please come by this week and meet Xavia. She is an awesome dog!
We can't figure out why this unusually beautiful gal is still available. Her sweet disposition and good looks combined make her a great catch! She doesn't even need those green beads to accentuate her natural beauty!
XAVIA is a gorgeous 2 yr American Pit Bull Terrier/Basenji mix, with the most perfect head tilt and curious personality. She is super alert and attentive and loves both other dogs and people, including children. We adore her head-to-toe freckles! She would love to join an active family. Whether it be an "on the go" couple looking for an activity partner or a single person wanting a BFF to share adventures, Xavia would be the ideal companion. She loves outdoor activities, so a family with middle school-age kids or older would also be a great fit for this fun-loving gal. She sits on command, especially for treats! And she seems very smart and eager to learn. We are not sure of Xavia's training, such as house or crate training, but she keeps her kennel clean. Don't wait, though, to find out if this is the pal for you... come see her now!
Xavia's adoption fee is $37.50 ("Lonely Heart"), which includes worming, spaying, vaccines, microchip, and a free vet check with one of our participating veterinarians. Heartworm status is unknown. An approved adoption application always applies.
Caspian came to the shelter as a very nervous stray, who preferred the security of his kennel to interaction with our staff, but thanks to our awesome volunteers Mrs. Gail and Ms. Shay, this handsome 2-year-old German Shepherd mix has gained confidence and trust. Their gentle persistence with Caspian, which included treats, kind words, long walks, and brushing his beautiful coat, enabled him to bond with humans, maybe for the very first time.
We sense that this sweet boy did not receive the positive, loving attention and interaction one would expect between a pet parent and dog. Caspian is still spooked by loud noises and sudden movements, but he is more relaxed now with our staff and regular volunteers.
When meeting potential adopters, we recommend the same approach as our volunteers took with him... gentleness, bonding activities, and patience. The reward of gaining Caspian's trust and having him by your side as a loyal companion is so worth it! At this point, we are unsure how he will react to children, so we recommend your kiddos meet him at the shelter. He is good with other friendly dogs, however, and has never shown aggression towards other animals or people. This handsome boy just needs his family to show him unconditional love and understanding. Please take the time to meet Caspian! ❤
* Caspian's adoption fee is $75, which includes worming, neutering, vaccines, microchip, and a free vet check with one of our participating veterinarians. Heartworm status is unknown. An approved adoption application always applies!
This super loving lap pooch is ROMA, a 3-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier mix, who loves nothing more than snuggling in the lap of our dedicated kennel tech Matt Ladner, and most recently in the laps of her foster family, which included Mom & Dad, a teenager, and a toddler! She was in her element – lots of cuddling, kisses and playing!
Roma was brought in as a stray along with her fur sister Ruby, who has since found her forever home via a Labrador Retriever rescue. We fervently wish the very same for this adorable, loving girl. Her foster family told us that Roma is crate, house, and leash trained, loves to go for car rides, and absolutely adores kiddos!
She greets everyone with the full body wag, whether it be her caregivers, visitors to the shelter, or the many new friends she meets at PetSmart. She is looking for her very own person, though, and would be an awesome partner for a single person/couple, retirees, or a family with school-aged children. She is truly happiest when in the company of people.
Roma is most compatible with other female dogs her own size or smaller, and with submissive male dogs (also her size or smaller), so a meet-n-greet with existing family pets is recommended prior to adoption. Please come meet her...she is back at the shelter in hopes she'll find true love. You couldn't ask for a more loving, devoted furry family member than Roma.
*Roma's adoption fee is $37.50 ("Lonely Heart"), which includes worming, spaying, vaccines, microchip, and a free vet check with one of our participating veterinarians. Heartworm status is unknown. An approved adoption application always applies!
SCARLETT was brought to our vet by Animal Control because she was found limping along a roadside with an injury to her leg. She is no stranger to life on the streets, and scrapes with adversity seem to be her norm. Yet all she wants is the affection, attention, and love of humans!
She works eagerly to be noticed – the full body wag, big smile and purposeful eye contact. It's as if she is begging to be seen: "See me, pet me, love me!" It appears that it has been a long time since anyone took an interest in Scarlett, and that makes us so sad, because she embodies all that is good and pure about dogs, yet her exterior comes across as "rough," and she is overlooked for adoption.
This 3-year-old Labrador Retriever/American Staffordshire Terrier mix would be a loyal companion for a single person or couple. She is calm, sweet, and just wants to please everyone she meets. She would also thrive as any child's best buddy. In fact, she gravitates towards kiddos and other dogs for confidence and security.
Although she gets along great with new doggie friends, she does need to be fed separately from other dogs (in her crate), as she is protective of her food. Unfortunately, this habit is symptomatic of scrounging for food while straying. Please consider giving Scarlett a chance to know unconditional love and be part of a real family.
Scarlett's adoption fee is $37.50 ("Lonely Heart"), which includes worming, spaying, vaccines, microchip, and a free vet check with one of our participating veterinarians. An approved adoption application always applies!
This happy, loving boy is LANE, a 3-year-old American Pit Bull Terrier mix who is not only handsome, but very charming as well. He gives great hugs and kisses, and never meets a stranger. He is a pretty calm-natured fella with other dogs and seems to make friends easily.
Lane came into the shelter in very good physical condition and is very well socialized, so we feel he was part of a family very recently. While he keeps his kennel clean, we are still observing his kennel habits to determine if he may be house trained. He walks well on a leash and never seems in a hurry. Lane is a very content and obedient dog, and he is best described as having a medium energy level.
He sits for treats and seems eager to please, so it may a great bonding activity to continue Lane's learning of new commands. If you've been seeking a buddy for companionship and to share in your adventures, then Lane is your dog. He would also be a great choice to join a family with school aged children or older. We hope you'll stop by and meet this terrific boy.
Lane's adoption fee is $37.50 ("Lonely Heart), which includes worming, neutering, vaccines, microchip, and a free vet check with one of our participating veterinarians. Heartworm status is unknown. An approved adoption application always applies!
**UPDATE** Because CZAR meets and exceeds every criteria for rescue transport and apparently has no local adoption interest (we can’t figure that out), our rescue partner, ARF, Inc., has generously offered to fund his fast-kill heartworm treatment, so that he can be transported to Maine. However, he MUST have a local FOSTER while he undergoes treatment. The foster period would be approximately three months. All vet care and supplies are provided at no expense to the foster. Please consider giving this awesome boy, and our longest residing dog (7 months and counting) this amazing chance at a forever family in New England. Please contact Denise at 985-285-2244 for info on fostering Czar.
CZAR is a 2-year-old Labrador Retriever/Husky (medium) mix, who has endeared himself to our staff and volunteers with his happy disposition and fondness for everyone he meets. He is great with other friendly dogs, and he is always excited to see the kiddos and play with them at our adoption events. He is even cat friendly!
This smart boy sits on command, especially for treats! He understands "kennel up," and travels well, but he is not completely crate trained. We can't understand why Czar has been continually overlooked for adoption. He came into the shelter as a stray, but in very good physical condition. He also has the most intense deep amber-colored eyes and cool look (in our opinion).
He was wearing a collar but with no rabies/ID tags or microchip. He is just so sweet and jolly that we feel he was part of a family very recently. He would be an awesome family pet, or he’d be a fun partner for a single person/couple. Active retirees would also find a great companion in Czar. Please stop by and meet this loving boy...he is an all-around great dog who has been waiting way too long for the unconditional love he deserves.
*Czar's adoption fee has been generously sponsored by Brandilyn Strahan. He is wormed, up-to-date on vaccines, neutered, microchipped and receives a free vet check with one of our participating veterinarians. Czar is heartworm positive, but he is currently on a monthly heartworm preventive and is doing great. An approved adoption application always applies!
A Craftsman for an Artist
One of the most distinctive houses in Bay St. Louis has been renovated by and serves as home to a lifelong artist.
- story and photographs by Ellis Anderson
Both her sisters and one son (local attorney and Shoofly Magazine history writer,Edward Gibson) are long-time residents of the Bay. A second son lives in New Orleans. Eventually, the pull of family and the relaxed lifestyle had the life-long Jackson resident shopping for a permanent coast home.
Kit and sister Marilyn Mestayer often walked miles together through the Bay’s historic district – the conversation and their scenic routes made the exercise fun. Their path sometimes led down Washington Street where the two always admired the wood and stone cottage near the beach.
The design itself is a standout on the coast. While Craftsman homes (mostly built from the 1890s through the 1930s) aren’t that unusual – few were constructed using stone, a material that had to be imported from hillier regions.
The stout porch columns over the stone foundation give the building a sense of permanence. Indeed, the house, built in 1909, was one of only two on the block to survive Hurricane Katrina. Yet, the home’s many windows provide a lovely counter-balance, welcoming both light and air.
One day in 2016, Marilyn called Kit who was visiting in the Bay and excitedly shared the news that 119 Washington was going on the market. Both knew it would sell within hours because of its unusual design.
Their prediction was correct. By the end of that day, Kit had a contract to buy it, despite the fact that it needed major renovation.
There were the obvious issues. For instance, kitchen ceiling had collapsed, although it appeared that the sinker-cypress cabinets had survived. An inspection revealed more problems – including the fact that none of the sinks were hooked up to the city’s sewage system. Although there were no active termites, a lot of older termite damage would need to be addressed.
But to Kit, the cottage’s charms far outweighed its problems. It’d been built as part of a family compound for the Edwards, owners of a local lumber mill. The larger house next door was constructed for the father, the Craftsman cottage for his son. The family milled all the lumber for both houses, presumably hand-picking the best wood available. Heart pine from now extinct old-growth forests went into the main body of the cottage. For siding, they used cedar shingles.
Inside, most of the original woodwork trim – and there’s lots of it – has been left natural. Except in one room.
Kit explains that although the dark woodwork trim, windows, cabinetry and doors in the house grace the rooms with an understated elegance, it also darkens the interior spaces – despite the many windows. The dining room at the heart of the house, visible even as one enters the front door, contained ceiling and wall trim in addition, making it something of a “black hole” at the heart of the house.
Kit had considered painting all the wood in the house to lighten the ponderous feeling, but first consulted with local interior designer, Al Lawson, of Lawson Studio. Al pointed out that painting only the millwork in the dining room would achieve the effect she was looking for. Kit followed his advice.
“It made all the difference,” she says. “Al made a follower out of me.”
Extensive repairs had to be made on the exterior before painting – which required the use of tall bucket trucks to replace some of the eaves.
She tackled the restoration of interior woodwork herself, without striving for absolute perfection in the upper story.
“We sort of did the woodwork there the French way – letting it sparkle as it is,” Kit explains, smiling. “It’d be a shame to come into an old house like this and try to make everything perfect. I like that it’s flawed – just like me.”
Kit had planned to move into the house while the work was being completed. But one day while she was painting upstairs, water started pouring through the ceiling. It turned out that the old HVAC system couldn’t handle the load. She counted herself fortunate that she’d been on site or she would have been dealing with another collapsed ceiling. Two new HVAC systems had to be installed, along with additional insulation.
In addition to the dining room make-over, the entire 2300 square foot interior was repainted as well.
“You might notice everything is grey,” Kit points out. “It doesn’t compete with the woodwork, which is the jewel of this house. It also makes a wonderful backdrop, letting the artwork come forward. And this house just calls for art.”
Kit has answered that call. She began her art collection when she was twenty and hadn’t stopped for the last fifty years. While the collection ranges from traditional Choctaw basketry to contemporary paintings, she says the pieces have one trait in common.
“Imagination,” she says. “Creativity. There's freedom of expression, even in the folk art pieces.”
Much of her own work is on display as well – glass sculpture, photography, painting and pottery. Even mosaics. The showstopper in the kitchen is a stove backsplash Kit created from shells and dish shards she collected on the beach after Katrina.
As a young girl growing up in Jackson, Kit wanted to be an artist from the time she was 13 (“Maybe I just liked making messes,” she jokes). She took art lessons from a “magical” teacher named Elsie Mangum, who introduced her eager student to painting and drawing.
Later, while attending Milsaps, Kit worked as an assistant to the renown Mississippi artist, Carl Wolfe. She immersed herself in art, focusing on watercolors, fabric design and pottery. During summers, she studied at Memphis Art Academy. Kit also attended Mississippi University for Women before graduating from Ole Miss as an art educator with minors in history and English.
Later in life, starting in the early 200os, she began studying art glass, twice attending The Studio of the fabled Corning Museum of Glass in New York state, where she studied with internationally recognized Donna Milliron.
While there, Kit became part of a new “Garage Movement,” which advocated use of techniques and equipment that would allow glass artists to make a working studio in a garage.
While Kit kept her artistic flame alive, her first career-track jobs involved promotion and marketing for state parks. That led her to eventually becoming director of the state craftsmen guild, where she helped raise seven and a half million dollars for a permanent crafts center in the state. Serious illness led her to resign the position. When her health allowed, she returned to the post and oversaw the construction and completion of what’s become a state showpiece in Ridgeland.
She also worked for the state’s Wildlife and Fisheries agency, where she was one of four people to write a program that helped people with developmental challenges to have outdoor experiences. The team was recognized with a prestigious Governor’s Award. She calls that “the most fun job I’ve ever had in my life.” Kit has also served as state director for the Mustard Seed Foundation and later, as president and CEO for the Mississippi Make-A-Wish Foundation.
To celebrate her retirement several years ago, she climbed Mount Whitney. The timing was coincidental. Climbers must win a lottery to receive a permit to climb the mountain. Kit had put her name in eight years before. Over a two-week time-period, Kit and a friend hiked two shorter ascents first to acclimate themselves to the mountain’s 14,000+ ft. elevation. She laughs about being a Mississippi flat-lander where “the highest place in the state is Duck Hill, which is 200 feet above sea-level.”
Now the main restoration of the Craftsman cottage is complete, Kit’s finally enjoying a more relaxed coast life – spending time with her grandchildren and playing bridge. She’d like to return to her glass work and painting – on canvases this time instead of walls.
But she sees the house as a continuing artistic project.
“I’m still working on it,” she says. “I’ll always be working on it, I guess. I see it as a creative opportunity.”
Have Baby, Will Travel
Does a baby necessarily mean curtailing your travel schedule? No - or at least, not yet.
- story and photos by Grace Wilson
Our first major plane trip was an adventure to Hawaii a few months before that. My husband has family there, so we wanted to show off our new bundle. In the airport, you get all sorts of special treatment when traveling with a small baby. We were granted the TSA Pre-Check for every flight, which meant keeping our shoes on and not having to unpack our electronics, which was heavenly.
No questions asked about liquids because: baby.
It also turns out a pram-style stroller also doubles as an excellent luggage caddy.
The flight attendants will work to get you get the best seating – choose the first row if you can with plenty of legroom. (Read: Plenty of room for baby stuff.)
Also, no passengers really want to sit next to you for fear of the meltdowns, so you almost always have extra seats around to stretch out. On some flights, you can even request a bassinet.
The old wives’ tales are true about babies flying. Make sure the wee one is nursing or taking a bottle as the flights are ascending and descending to relieve the pressure on their little ears. Also, iPads and phones (with headphones for the kid) are key, and don’t worry about all the judging looks. Everyone will thank you later.
Once in Hawaii, we didn’t let having a baby in tow stop us from doing what we wanted to do. We went out for meals and shopped, of course, but we also went snorkeling on a tour boat and hiked up volcanoes.
When Pearl was one and a half, we took her and our pooch Presley to Mexico. Have you ever tried bringing a Chihuahua INTO Mexico? Of course, not. Who would be so silly? We got loving looks all through the airport, until we got our bags. I could see the palm trees swaying in the distance and my mouth was watering for a margarita when a guard tapped my husband on the shoulder and motioned for us to follow.
My husband, Christian, gave a slight smile as my eyes got big. We had a stack of paperwork from Presley’s vet in preparation for the trip, and now it was time to show these government officials we’re all up to snuff.
Have you ever been detained in a small room in an airport with a small dog and a one-year-old? Of course not.
The sea breeze slipped away; the air got hot and heavy. They seemed to enjoy making us wait, and I occupied myself by reading the paperwork the Mexican official had on his desk. There was a list of things he was checking for – at the top it read something like: “The animal shall have no fleas.”
All of the sudden I was itching all over. The guard came in and I recall holding Presley’s little paws so he would not be tempted to give a quick scratch behind his ears.
After a few questions, a stamp on a paper and a big sigh of relief, we were on our way to the hotel. Once there on the island, we saw the preferred method of transport was golf carts – just like home! Pearl and Presley knew the drill, and we strapped them in and took off to find the nearest frozen drink.
We’ve found that no matter where we go, for the most part our little family follows along just beautifully.
I will say that carting a baby around who doesn’t walk or talk is pretty easy. The true difficulties come later when they are walking and talking and forming their own ideas of what they want to do. Forget traveling across the country or filling her passport with stamps. Now that Pearl is two, we can hardly cross the railroad tracks without her demanding, “Go back home now!”
Her father, who has been to almost 80 countries, says this part of the world is his favorite. So maybe Pearl is simply learning early there really is no place like home.
My Earliest Vehicle to a Book
These four wheels transported books to readers - and readers to untold adventures.
- story by Scott Naugle
Davidsville remains a small community in western Pennsylvania. It was founded in the 1830s, German stock, dairy farmers, and a dry town, not by law, but because it was considered prudent to avoid spirits. The Lutheran church at the top of the hill at the eastern bend on Main Street recently celebrated its dodransbicentennial (175 years). My relatives from the early eighteenth century are buried in its cemetery.
Main Street, logically, is the main thoroughfare. In the winter after a heavy snowfall, it had just the right slope to serve as our sled-riding racetrack. After it was plowed, scraped clean and salted, we moved to the cemetery to ride our sleds in the deeper and fluffier snow. Too young to know it then, but this was only the first in a lifetime of blasphemous acts on my part.
A bookmobile is a vehicle, often a truck, and nowadays possibly a tractor trailer, designed for use as a library. Books are transported to readers, often in rural or underserved areas, encouraging reading, engagement with ideas, and literacy.
The first bookmobile, or horse-drawn book cart, dates to 1839. It was a frontier traveling library in the western United States, established by the publishing house of Harper & Brothers, known in the present day as HarperCollins, one of the world’s largest publishers.
Like so many childhood memories recalled through a hagiographic lens, I assumed that the Somerset County Bookmobile was a thing of the distant past. Fortunately, I checked. The big red creaky behemoth, dually tires on the rear, has been replaced with a long bright heavy-duty truck, green, blue, and bright, with large lettering shouting BOOKMOBILE. Literature still rolls among the Appalachian Mountains of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Among the many pleasant memories of childhood, those connected to reading and books are most vivid. I easily recall the two steps up through the tall bi-fold doors into the bookmobile as big ones for a young lanky boy. Once inside, it was a paper cocoon of hardback books, shelved spines out, with the identifying Dewey Decimal number easily visible taped on the lower outside edge. There was order in this little bus, comfort, tidiness, with a small card catalog as a guide.
All questions and conversations were whispered to the librarian/truck driver. She had a small desk attached to an interior half-wall behind the driver’s seat. I’ll call her Mrs. Blough, because that was likely her name if it wasn’t Mrs. Kautz.
No more than four books were to be checked out for two weeks. As a matter of pride, I imagined, Mrs. Blough always had her date stamp prepared to two weeks in the future and a moist ink pad at the ready. She precisely stamped the due date on the glued card in the back of the book and underscored it by chiming, “this book is due back on August 4th, 1968. There are fines if it is late.”
Over the summers I read through Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, The Hardy Boy Mysteries, and the crime-solving of Encyclopedia Brown.
By my preteen years, I discovered Thomas Paine and The Age of Reason, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus from this faded red bookmobile. Bram Stoker’s Dracula could only be properly read late on a hot summer night. Stoker’s writing style oozes succulent prose deepening the darkness of midnight reading under a small bedside lamp while building suspense, horror, and trepidation for the appearance of the dark, flowing cape of the titular, fanged vampire.
Four books a week was a tad light for me even at nine years old. I was able to read eight a week once I convinced Mrs. Blough that I was also checking out books for my mother. To legitimize the additional four books, I wrote them on a notecard before entering the bookmobile. I pulled out the list after obtaining the first four books I wanted and then pretended the books listed on the notecard were for my mother. Honestly, I never felt that I was fooling Mrs. Blough.
My mother was unknowingly the best-read adult in Davidsville.
Serendipitously, the bookmobile always parked in front of Main Street Bakery. A stack of books, chocolate milk, and a warm cinnamon-sprinkled donut and I was content. Would life ever be better than this?
When the scheduled two hours had passed, Mrs. Blough would secure the rear and side doors, then climb behind the large steering wheel. Sitting stiffly upright, hair tightly pulled up into a peppery gray bun, she would depress the clutch and crank the engine. While grinding the engine into first gear, Mrs. Blough, librarian and truck driver, steered our bookmobile onto Main, popping the clutch as she headed north over curvy, hilly roads to the afternoon stop in Stoystown.
Permanent gallery space at Century Hall an attractive, welcoming venue for local artists and art lovers alike.
- Story by Dena Temple
In 2005 the building suffered at the hands of Hurricane Katrina, and after a three-year renovation it was reincarnated as the Shops of Century Hall.
The Century Hall building is a formidable yet inviting structure. A wide porch and balcony grace the façade, beckoning visitors to explore the eclectic shops inside. As you cross the threshold into the vestibule, the scale of the building is evident: sturdy, hand-hewn beams crisscross above and around you, and the comforting aroma of aged timbers beckons you to enter – and explore.
Once inside, decisions must be made immediately: Do you follow a short flight of stairs that lead up, or the stairs that lead down to the lower level? Both levels feature tasteful antiques, original art and home décor items, but a glance upstairs reveals an austere white room: Gallery Edge at Century Hall. We ascend the stairs, anticipating what’s in store.
Gallery Edge started as a collective of ten artists. Spearheaded by Bay St. Louis artist Kerr Grabowski, the space was converted into a gallery. The collective disbanded a year later, but Susan Peterson, manager of the Shops of Century Hall, didn’t want the space to revert back to retail.
“Susan wanted to make sure the space remained an art gallery,” explains Stacey Johnson, an artist from Biloxi whose ceramic art is featured in the gallery. “She has given it the time and energy it deserves, and thanks to her, local artists have a beautiful venue to display their work.”
Susan Peterson continued, “We wanted to expand the opportunities in the area for contemporary artists. Bay Saint Louis has a thriving art community, and we wanted Gallery Edge to play an important role in that.”
Gallery Edge will be open late on the third Friday of each month for special exhibits highlighting the work of one featured artist. These showcases allow the artists to display a broader representation of their work rather than just a few key pieces.
“It also gives the artists a chance to talk about their work and make that human connection,” added Peterson.
Susan revealed another surprise at the Shops of Century Hall: a third level of retail shops is preparing to open soon. This bright, newly renovated space features walls adorned with elegant reclaimed Victorian-era tin (from the building’s original ceilings). It’s a fitting backdrop for the antiques, collectibles and décor items on display within.
There is little question, however, that Gallery Edge is Peterson’s passion.
“When someone walks into the gallery for the first time and makes an emotional connection with one of the pieces, I know we made the right decision in keeping this a gallery space,” she says. “I’m excited to be here every day. Not many people can say that about where they work.”
There are currently works of 16 local artists on display at Gallery Edge:
The Shops of Century Hall
112 S. Second St.
Bay St. Louis, MS 39520
Hours: 10-5 Tuesday-Saturday, 11-3 Sunday
Second Saturday Artwalk - April 2019
During the Second Saturday Artwalk each month in Old Town Bay St. Louis, you'll find cool deals, fresh meals and lots of art and live music!
This month we are featuring some of Bay St. Louis's best hotels, inns and B&Bs, rather than one or two local businesses. For a week at the beach or a romantic weekend getaway, check out this list of the "best of the best."
- stories by Caroline St. Paul, photos by Caroline St. Paul and Ellis Anderson
Bay Town Inn
208 N Beach Blvd.
Bay St Louis, MS 39520
This adorable bed and breakfast, located on Beach Boulevard, is one of the best on the Gulf Coast. With a view of the Bay St. Louis Marina, the beach, and just minutes away from the great shops and restaurants in Old Town, you cannot beat its location and charm.
The inn is also beautifully decorated at all times by owner, Nikki Moon. Stay in this luxurious bed and breakfast and enjoy all that Bay St. Louis has to offer. Walk to the shops and discover something unique for your friends and family, and enjoy delicious food and drinks at one of the many local restaurants.
Bay Town Inn features ten guest suites of over 500 square feet which each include a kitchen and living area, full bath and bedroom with a king bed. Many of these king suites offer a beautiful view of the pool and courtyard as well.
There is also the poolside accessible room which features two double beds, a large bathroom, and a kitchen area. The second floor "Lighthouse Room" is over 700 square feet with a queen bed, sofa-sleeper, full bath and kitchen area. This spacious room also features its own private deck.
In true bed and breakfast fashion, the Inn serves full breakfast room delivery on Saturday and Sunday, and a lighter breakfast during the week. Enjoy a homey atmosphere and relax in a luxurious waffle-weave robe which you will find in each room, as well as fresh flowers during your stay.
Every room also features complimentary Wi-Fi, a small refrigerator and freezer, a microwave, coffee maker, and an iron and ironing board. Each bathroom offers a full size tub and shower, and shampoo, soap, lotion, and a hair dryer. You will find practically everything that you may need.
There is a minimum 15 year-old age requirement for guests and visitors, and a limited number of dog-friendly rooms, so make sure to check availability.
Countless testimonials speak for the charm and luxury that you will experience when you book your stay at the Bay Town Inn. You can visit the website at baytowninn.com for more information and booking. Nikki Moon will make it her pleasure to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable. You are sure to experience the best of the best here and fully enjoy Old Town Bay St. Louis!
305 Main Street
Bay St. Louis, MS 39520
The Bay Cottages, owned by Ronnie and Sandy Robert, are the perfect place for you to stay if you would like to experience Old Town Bay St. Louis like a local!
This historic 1920s stucco double is known for its spectacular location and Spanish style exterior. It is just steps away from Main Street, where you will find shopping and dining galore. There are two apartments available for rental, named “Southern Comfort” and “Latitude Adjustment.”
Besides its fantastic location, these apartments are ideal for families to rent for large gatherings such as weddings. “It’s the perfect place for extended families because they can rent both sides” Sandy Robert explains.
The couple began renting out the cottages several years after Hurricane Katrina, and since then, have had many wonderful guests. A lot of these guests have since decided to purchase homes in Bay St. Louis themselves! This was Sandy’s ultimate goal, so she is more than pleased with the success of the charming cottages.
Enjoy “beautiful hardwood floors, beaded board walls and ceilings,” and comfortable furniture, and make yourself at home in one of the apartments. Each apartment features one full bath with a tub and shower and one half bath, a fully equipped kitchen, including cooking utensils and dinnerware, a washer and dryer, cable, flat screen television and DVD player, and Wi-Fi.
In the Latitude Adjustment accommodation you will find one bedroom with a queen bed, one bedroom with two twin beds, and two twin size sofas in the living room. In the “Southern Comfort,” sleeping arrangements include one bedroom with a queen bed, one bedroom with two twin beds, and one queen sleeper sofa in the living room. There is also a shared front porch and back deck for you to enjoy the outdoors.
This location is perfect, as you can view all of the action right from the front porch or walk into town to experience the one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants all within blocks of the cottage! The cottage is also two blocks from the waterfront and less than a half mile from the public beach and fishing pier.
Bay Cottages will allow you to experience Old Town Bay St. Louis in the best way possible. The combined comfort and location make for the perfect vacation rental. You can visit the website at baycottagesllc.com for more information. Book your stay today!
Carroll House B&B
304 Carroll Ave.
Bay St. Louis, MS 39520
Carroll House Bed & Breakfast is owned by Jane Alford-Kulpeska and can be found on Carroll Avenue in Old Town Bay St. Louis. Find “warm southern hospitality” at this lovely Victorian style home built in 1890.
Jane grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and fell in love with B&Bs after living in Europe for a few years. She lived in Bay St. Louis for 20 years and worked in healthcare for 25 years before opening the Carroll House B&B. She also owns Bay-Tique, a boutique located on Main Street.
“It was a life dream of mine to own and operate a bed & breakfast,” Jane says. She bought the home in 2006, renovated it, and brought it back to its original splendor. She then lived there until 2011. After moving into the cottage next door, she was ready to open the B&B for business.
The home is on the National Register of Historic Places and features three bedrooms, each with a private en suite and a large claw foot tub. Each room is furnished with lovely antiques, luxury linens, free Wi-Fi and DirecTV. There is also a separate beach cottage on the grounds, which features one bedroom and a full kitchen.
A full gourmet breakfast is served each morning for guests, which they may enjoy in the dining room on fine china, or in the privacy of their rooms. “I love gardening," said Jane, "so we grow a good bit of what we serve for breakfast.”
The home features large front and back porches as well, great for gatherings or relaxing and reading a good book. "I have walked up on the back porch many times to find a guest napping on the porch sofa,” Jane recalls.
Carroll House is conveniently located within walking distance of all of the shops, galleries, and restaurants of Old Town, and just two blocks from the waterfront.
Jane enjoys entertaining and making her guests feel welcome, and the biggest compliment that she receives is just that. “We have found over the years that many of our guests fall in love with Bay St. Louis and end up moving here or purchasing a vacation home here.” This is something that she takes great pride in.
“We take our role as ambassadors to Bay St. Louis very seriously and strive to treat each guest with the warm, Southern hospitality that embodies our little beach front community.” One stay at the Carroll House will prove this fact for you. Visit their website at www.carrollhousebnb.com for more information.
Manieri Real Estate
501 Main St #3, Bay St Louis, MS 39520
“Manieri Real Estate manages a number of vacation rentals in Bay St. Louis. These properties are listed on VRBO.com,” explains Joey Manieri, manager.
These VRBO listings include: VRBO #1506453, VRBO #36901, VRBO #49042, VRBO #960130, VRBO #1543165, VRBO #735458, VRBO #497992, VRBO #1455843, VRBO #313124, VRBO #400259, VRBO #987619, VRBO #1034190, VRBO #909248, and VRBO #639097, with three or four more vacation rentals to be expected to join soon.
Each one of these properties ranges from two to five bedrooms. Guests from all over the United States come to stay in Bay St. Louis at one of Manieri Real Estate’s properties. Even a few from other countries choose to visit as well. Winter guests include snowbirds.
“Manieri Real Estate LLC offers quality service and comfortable living at a competitive price. It is our goal to provide our customers an enjoyable visit to Bay St. Louis” Manieri says.
111 Court St.
Bay St. Louis, MS 39520
Gulfview Properties LLC is managed by Kevin Jordan, the owner, and Tammy Petone, property manager. Their office is located in the Bodega building on 111 Court St. “We have been in business since 2005, managing vacation rental properties in the Bay St. Louis area.”
Gulfview Properties currently manages and owns five vacation homes, which includes The Bungalow Bed & Breakfast and The Abode Guest House. “Our specialty is older classic homes in the historic district,” Kevin explains.
In addition to these properties, they manage vacation rentals for other owners, also in the Bay St. Louis area. All of the properties are listed on the website, gulfviewproperties.net , VRBO, and Airbnb. For more information, they can be reached by phone at (228) 344-3004.
Heart of Old Town
The Heart of Old Town, owned by Ed and Sylvia Young, is a charming place to stay. Get the full Bay St. Louis experience in this vibrant apartment, truly in the “heart” of Old Town.
This two bedroom, two bathroom vacation rental apartment is located next door to Antique Maison, the Young’s antique shop. It is also within walking distance of the other shops, restaurants, galleries, entertainment, and the beach.
One bedroom contains a queen bed, while the other has two full size beds. There is also a trundle bed in the living room, a rollaway twin bed, and a crib. The apartment comfortably fits six, so it is perfect for a family or a larger gathering.
There is an outdoor patio with a 6-person table, a gas grill, and a 3-person rocking bench, so that you can enjoy warm summer evenings and the company you are with. Grill some food, pour some wine, and unwind after a long day.
Inside, you will be welcomed into a 1,300 square foot interior decorated with lovely decor and colorful walls. There is an HD TV in the living room and a fully equipped kitchen for meal time.
The apartment features air conditioning, Wi-Fi, 2 flat screen HD TV’s with DirecTV, Showtime, and Starz, a DVD player, washer and dryer, toiletries, a high chair, four driveway parking spaces, boat and trailer parking, and much more.
You can check out this vacation rental on both Airbnb and HomeAway. Book your stay in the true heart of Old Town today!
Life’s A Beach Cottage
Life’s A Beach Cottage got its name from a simple phrase that owner/operator, Nona Morlan and her friend used at the time she was debating opening a vacation rental. Ever since then, it has been a lifestyle.
Nona and her husband, James Morlan, moved to Bay St. Louis in 1982. Since she has been here, she says that she “was made to feel at home by the locals” and has “developed long friendships” with them. The couple lived in the cottage for 15 years before opening their doors as a vacation rental.
The cottage “has ingress and egress on Ulman Avenue in the back of Old Town Presbyterian Church’s parking lot, but is actually located on the back of a Carroll Avenue property.” Life’s A Beach Cottage is almost 1000 square feet and can “comfortably sleep six.”
There is one bathroom, two bedrooms, and “a queen sleeper sofa in the living room.” The cottage also “has a full kitchen with a dishwasher and access to a washer and dryer.” There is also a convenient outside shower to wash off in after the beach, perfect for children. The house is “handicap accessible with a large shower that would fit a wheelchair.”
“It is close enough to the downtown area that walking to the restaurants and shops is an easy trek. It’s far enough away that the loud noises some locals complain about isn’t an issue” Nona points out. There is also a view of the Bay Bridge from the front porch swing.
Nona’s favorite part about owning and operating the cottage is meeting new people and having return guests. Visit www.lifesabeachcottage.com for more information, or check it out on Facebook.
The Rose Cottage, owned by Ann Hager, is conveniently located on deMontluzin Street, just a short distance away from the shops and restaurants of Old Town, and of course, the beach. It is known for its rose-colored exterior, which sets it apart from all of the other homes in the area. The surrounding roses of the same color exude joy and serenity, and this is just what you will find when you book your stay at the Rose Cottage.
This fully renovated, modern cottage from the 1950s offers all of the comforts of home. Your stay will be made comfortable with the central air, ceiling fans, cable television, Wi-Fi, and washer and dryer.
There is also a wrap-around deck and furnished front porch to enjoy your evenings on. Sit back, relax, and watch the world go by in this quiet, residential neighborhood. The home also features a BBQ pit, and a shaded picnic table for a peak southern living experience. A charming picket fence surrounds the uniquely pink home, and one of the best features of this vacation rental is the two-car carport.
There is an open living area, which includes a living room, a full-sized kitchen, and a sit-down dining room where you will enjoy your meals. The Rose Cottage has two full bathrooms and two bedrooms.
The entire family can make themselves comfortable in the two bedrooms offered at the Rose Cottage. One features a queen-size bed and a TV, while the other has a full-size bed. For additional sleep options, you will find two full-size futons in the living room, as well as extra linens.
The past guests of the Rose Cottage have nothing but joyful things to say about their stay here. Relax, explore, eat, shop, and enjoy your stay at the unique Rose Cottage. You can find it listed on VRBO.
Sandy Feet Retreat
This charming townhouse located on de Montluzin Avenue in Old Town is the perfect family friendly getaway.
Nikki Moon, owner of the Bay Town Inn across the street, renovated and opened the townhouse for Cruisin’ the Coast in October, 2018. “I wanted something that was family friendly… people with children could come in and enjoy the beach, enjoy Old Town,” she explains.
The townhouse is completely renovated and fully furnished. It features two bedrooms, one with a queen-size bed, and one with two twin beds. There is also a full bathroom with a tub on the second floor, and a full bathroom featuring a shower on the first floor.
There is a fully furnished kitchen, washer and dryer, two televisions, Wi-Fi, and two parking spaces for your stay.
One of the biggest advantages of staying in this townhouse is that you can walk everywhere. It is located half a block from the beach and one block from bustling Main Street, which features shops and restaurants.
The townhouse is listed on VRBO, where you can check out more details on this charming vacation rental. Book your stay at the Sandy Feet Retreat today!
The Trust B&B
204 Bookter St.
Bay St. Louis, MS 39520
“Gracious living of a bygone era on the Mississippi Coast.” This is the essence of the Trust Bed & Breakfast, which is unlike any of the others. It is family-oriented, historic, elegant, and a place where you can truly enjoy the company that you are with.
Hilton and Joan Eymard bought the bed & breakfast in 1970. The New Orleans natives stumbled upon the property while they were visiting their eldest son who was boarding at St. Stanislaus.
The home had been closed for 15 years before they discovered it. It was run down and needed a lot of work. Nevertheless, they saw the potential, and asked if it was for sale. “We made an offer, and the following day we got it,” Joan recalls.
They originally saw the home as a great place for their sons to stay in with Joan’s mother while they were attending school nearby. The couple renovated one room at a time and slowly but surely restored it to its original glory.
Once the boys graduated, “The house stayed vacant for a while, and finally we said, ‘We could open a bed and breakfast here, and we did!’” Joan explains. The Trust Bed & Breakfast opened its doors in 2000.
During Hurricane Katrina, Hilton and Joan found refuge in the bed & breakfast, which was ruined during the storm. They once again had to renovate the home. “We were able to get it back in full force about two years after the storm,” Joan explains.
Located on Bookter Street, this historic home, built in 1850, is 10,000 square feet and has seven bedrooms, each with a private bath. Children are welcome here, as it has been a family home for years. It is also located close to the shops, restaurants, and beaches.
“What we have tried to do here is keep the house in character of the years that it’s been here,” Joan explains. In the home, you will find lovely period antiques that the Eymards have taken special time to collect.
The heart of the Trust Bed & Breakfast is family. It is unique in the fact that it was a family home long before it was a bed & breakfast, and it was not built recently simply to become one. As Hilton Jr. explains it, the home belonged to a family that was holding it together and then “turned it into a B&B after everyone got older and left.”
Hilton and Joan are also extremely accommodating, and they go above and beyond to make sure that their guests are comfortable and have everything that they could need.
“It’s more of a family experience than going in a hotel room and being alone,” Hilton Jr. explains. The Trust Bed & Breakfast is a place where you will truly immerse yourself in your peers and share experiences amongst one another. Call 228-467-5715 for more information.
This local musician's talents are woven into the fabric of our American musical heritage.
- story by Edward Gibson, photos courtesy the Moran family
At twenty years old, he joined a band led by Werly Fairburn. Fairburn, the “singing barber,” is a lost legend of rockabilly, one of the few that successfully transitioned from country to the “new” music. This was in 1953, before Werly turned away from country.
“Werly was a good songwriter and a good singer. He was serious about it,” said Tommy.
Tommy moved to New Orleans, and along with his brother, Ola Gene, backed Fairburn. They recorded Werly’s music and played live fifteen minutes every day on WDSU.
The group earned extra money playing dances and barrooms. Soon, Fairburn and Moran landed a gig on the Louisiana Hayride. There, they shared the bill with Johnny Horton and Elvis Presley. From there, they went to the Grand Ole Opry, playing alongside the royalty of country music, most notably, the great Webb Pierce.
But music is always changing, and country was giving way to rock 'n' roll. Tommy played a bill at Pontchartrain Beach with Presley. Tommy said, “They wanted to tear his clothes off of him. That always baffled me.”
By the late fifties the Bakersfield sound was catching on, and Fairburn wanted to move to move west and cash in.
“I wouldn’t go,” Tommy said. “I figured I had never lost anything in Bakersfield, and so I didn’t have to go out there to find it.” Besides, it was the old-timey music Tommy loved, “Fire on the Mountain” and “Billy in the Low Ground.”
For the next ten years, Tommy also became a popular session musician. He recorded in Nashville and at the Studio in the Woods in Bogalusa. Along with the many unknowns, he recorded with Loretta Lynn and Don Price. He played with Dolly Parton and George “Possum” Jones.
But the recording artist has enjoyed performing as well. Early on, Tommy formed the Moran Family band with two brothers and two sisters (listen to one of their recordings at the end of this story). Along with his talented son, "Little" Tommy Moran, he toured with Moe Bandy. And he took home numerous top prizes from fiddling competitions through the years.
But mostly, he cut timber. He worked oxen long after the mechanization of the timber business. Tommy said he cut less timber, but he could make more without the cost of skidders and tractors. He could feed an ox for a dollar a day. They never broke down, and I think he liked the quiet of the woods and the company of the animals.
We talked about the players he liked, consummate session and side men like Don Rich, Roy Clark, Jerry Reed and Glen Campbell. A good player, he said, isn’t out front. He is there in a way that you hardly notice, but if he wasn’t there, the song would be missing something.
Two of his sons, Tommy and Gene, are carrying on the family tradition, currently playing together in "Monsters at Large" (catch them at 100 Men Hall, June 21, 2019).
Years ago, I had an opportunity to play at church with Tommy Moran and his wife Annette. He came out day or two before. We ran through the number I picked, Doc Watson’s “I am a Pilgrim.” I asked him if he wanted to run through it again.
"That’s all right,” Tommy said, “I got it.”
Yes, he did.
In the recording below, Tommy Moran's brother, Doug Moran (now deceased) sings lead.
Tommy Moran plays in this 2012 video by BSL singer-songwriter Rochelle Harper
Special thanks to Tommy Moran's daughter Michele Seal for photo/video assist for this story!
Hansen Custom Painting
Quality and professionalism are the hallmarks of every project at Hansen Custom Painting - and it shows, on buildings across the coast.
- story by Lisa Monti
"Handling it all" is not an inflated claim. Hansen's wife is Jackye Crane, president of Crane Builders, a company started by her father, Jimmy Crane in the 1980s. Jackye grew up working alongside her father, who developed a reputation for meticulous craftsmanship.
In 2010, Jackye graduated with honors from LSU with a degree in Construction Management. She officially took over the helm of Crane Builders in 2017.
She and Hansen worked together on many projects through the years and married in 2016. The couple enjoy working together on projects, each of them bringing experience and a love of their professions to the table.
The work and family environment extends to the Hansen Custom Painting crew, many of whom have been with Chris for years. He describes the team members as dependable and dedicated to the shared goal of providing quality service to each customer.
Safety also is something that’s important to Hansen Custom Painting and the crews carefully follow guidelines for coatings and equipment that are called for by OSHA.
Another thing that sets Hansen Custom Painting apart is the use of high quality paint products, which make their paint jobs look fresh for years. It’s an investment that Chris says, “makes our work an exceptional value.”
And Chris has a favorite quote when talking about making an investment in a home.
“Like my father-in-law says, ‘If you think hiring an expert is expensive, just wait ‘til you hire an amateur.’”
Traveling Through Time on a Playlist
A riff, a lyric or a chorus can transport us to a time long gone, to a place far removed, as we choose.
- story by Rheta Grimsley
I filled my glass, put my feet on the leather ottoman bought on the cheap 30 years ago at a Jackson department store, and mentally strapped down for serious time travel. The shuffle feature made the trip more kaleidoscopic than chronological.
Bob Dylan, for instance, carried me ‘way back to Loachapoka, Ala., where oddball friends often gathered on old bedspreads in tall grass to solve the world’s problems. My back pages are in braille, a stubble of memory and meaning that feel good to touch.
Aretha took me to a dorm room in Auburn where a steam radiator hissed and, without irony, we sang “Natural Woman” while wearing electric rollers in our hair and cold cream on our unlined faces. Collegiate independence came with a safety net – “I’ve overdrawn my checking account, Daddy, and I don’t know how it happened.” – a sweet spot in life.
The inimitable John Prine put me on the pristine banks of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River on an early June raft trip. We weekend adventurers ended each night around a campfire listening to Prine’s soft picking and the recitation of Robert Service poetry.
Before that trip, I didn’t know anything about either Prine or Service, two poets you discover you need while negotiating what Lewis and Clark called The River of No Return. Try bookending Prine’s “Souvenirs” and Service’s “Yellow” and your boat will float.
Music is lightning. Every listen might just bring to your life something you didn’t know you couldn’t live without.
Speaking of rivers, Emmylou and Mark Knopfler sang Hank’s “Lost on the River” and reminded me that I come by my passion for music honestly. My father played Hank again and again on the first piece of furniture he ever bought: a Crosley record player, one with a lid that had to be cleared of Mother’s knickknacks to use.
Hank has been to my life what calcium is to women; you need more and more Hank the older you get.
I was enjoying myself immensely, feeling better and wiser with each selection, when suddenly Patty Griffin weighed in with her “Mother of God” song. “I live too many miles from the ocean,” she sang, “and I’m getting older and odd….”
I’m definitely getting older and odd, but thank goodness the first part of that lament doesn’t apply to me any more. I no longer live too many miles from the ocean.
Each time I go to the grocery or the bank I make a point to get at least a glimpse of the Gulf, the reason I’m here, the reason almost all of us are here.
I try to remember what a great gift it is to live on the edge of the sea, whence we came. Life and politics and aging may make us blue, bring us down, and send us running to the stereo and our most dependable old tunes.
But as long as I have what Jimmy Buffett called “Mother, Mother Ocean” a few steps away, there should be a smile buried somewhere in my wrinkles and a song in my flinty heart.
Read more about award-winning author Rheta Grimsley Johnson on her website - you'll also be able to order her books!
Felder, Felder, Quite Contrary...
One of the country's most engaging gardeners is also the best public speakers that writer Rheta Grimsley Johnson has ever heard. Here's her take on a personal hero.
- story by Rheta Grimsley Johnson, photos by Rheta Grimsley Johnson and courtesy Felder Rushing website.
Felder bills himself “The Gestalt Gardener” on public radio, and single-handedly takes the intimidation factor out of gardening. He merrily laughs at the manure spread by garden clubs, garden masters and extension services.
“Refreshing” doesn’t cover it.
I once was assigned by the Atlanta newspaper to write about a venerable women’s club in Danville, Va. After the meeting, two members invited me to join them at a country club dinner.
At some point the ladies noticed an acquaintance coming into the gilded dining room and immediately started whispering behind their hands to one another. They shared the dirt: She’s the kind of womanwho plants zinnias in the front yard!
Let’s just say that zinnias in the front yard would be fine with Felder.
He plants whatever he likes wherever he likes. He sometimes uses plastic buckets and old enamel dish pans for his containers. When someone asked him if he cared what his neighbors thought he said, “I do care, but it just doesn’t matter.”
He plants things that years of experience have taught him will do well in the South. No Oriental garden for Felder. No British country look – unless he’s at his second home in England.
And he plants things that “when I’m tired of looking at it, I’ll eat it.” Like the day lily bulbs he sautes.
He plants tomatos every year though he says he can’t grow them. “They give me hope.”
And he plants things that don’t need much weeding, “…because I’m old and when I bend down I see sparkly things.”
He loves bottle trees and has the concrete chicken his grandfather gave his grandmother as yard art rather than some fancy and expensive long-legged lawn bird.
In other words, Felder practices what he preaches. I’ve only seen his yard in the slides he shows at his talks, but I have it firmly planted in my imagination. It gives me license.
Years ago, when he moved into his suburban Jackson, Miss., home it was all St. Augustine grass, a steep slope and “a lawn mower on a rope.” You should see it now.
No contortionist pruning of shrubs for Felder, a look he describes as “gum drops and meatballs.” His approach is laid back and heavy on the whimsy.
When he’s asked about whether he puts weeds in his mulch pile, he answers in the affirmative. Why not, he reasons. After all, there are weeds in his beds.
“I put a dead raccoon in my mulch pile. I sifted out the bones and teeth.”
While describing the “proper” way to prune a rose, he knows the textbook answer but also adds “you can prune a rose with a cherry bomb.”
Because he spends the hottest months in England – conveniently bookmarked by his favorite London flower shows – Felder rents out his main house to medical students and lives in a shed in the yard. His kitchen is eight feet by eight feet.
“You can open the oven or open the drawer.”
And the last wonderful thing about Felder, the hero I haven’t quite worked up the courage to say hello to. He knows his lore from “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Azaleas, he says, are like the show’s “Fun Girls from Mount Pilot.” They blow into town and cause a stir, but just as quickly they are gone and things get back to normal.
That quip alone is reason enough to adore Felder from afar.
Read more about award-winning author Rheta Grimsley Johnson on her website - you'll also be able to order her books!