Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Remembering to tie a boat to the porch

Growing up, I spent many summers visiting Momma’s people in the Mississippi Delta. I loved it.

The excitement built as soon as the hills leveled out and the delta began. That was the point where Momma’s eyes begin to twinkle with mirth and memories of a happy childhood.

“I would ride on the cotton sack while Momma picked,” she said. “She would just drag me down the rows.”

Momma’s family has always been an interesting clan. The Yelvertons came to the United States from Scandinavia, and settled in Mississippi not long after stepping onto dry land. My great-grandfather, T.H. Yelverton, farmed the rich delta soil his entire life while raising four sons practically single-handedly through a depression and World War II. Three of the four left home for Europe and Japan to fight for freedom – two returning wounded.

During those days, the Yelvertons experienced what nearly every Mississippi family coped-- draft notices, the fear of telegrams delivering bad news, 12-hour work days just to put food on the table, and the possibility of another devastating levee break.

Living in a modest cypress shotgun house, the family survived every ebb and flow life dealt them. They just tied a boat to the porch in preparation for what the Lord had in store for them.

Through the years, the family persevered. They worked hard, played hard, prayed hard, and leaned on each other for support. And the tales they told about life left me wondering if they were fact or fiction. From experience, I figured out they were mostly fact with just a touch of Southern exaggeration.

I remember sitting in my Uncle B-boy’s (real name, Breland) kitchen listening to him talk about growing up with his three brothers – the oldest being my grandfather, Benoit. He spoke of riding through Belzoni, shooting all the streetlights out with a revolver. He laughed about Uncle Burnell accidently chopping off my granddaddy’s big toe while in pursuit of a rat.

Now, with all of my uncles and my grandfather gone, the delta holds much meaning for me. My ancestors thrived in that black, gumbo mud. The delta is a part of who I am.

Recently, I visited Tallahatchie Flats in Leflore County. For those of you who have never had the privilege of visiting Mr. Bubba and his establishment on Money Road just north of Greenwood, the experience is a step back in time, and it is completely worth the trip.

Tallahatchie Flats is a group of restored shotgun shacks situated on the banks of the Tallahatchie River. Guests can rent a shack for a night, a week, or a month and truly experience Mississippi’s past.

The beds are covered in handmade quilts and mix-matched printed sheets; the kitchen filled with cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens. Eclectic antique furniture is sprinkled sparsely throughout each shack. Handmade rockers line the front porch, and the view consists of acres of cotton and soybeans.

My stay at Tallahatchie Flats allowed me to become a character in one of Uncle B-boy’s stories. I was able to experience a taste of life through his eyes – and the eyes of my mother and grandfather.

I can now imagine how a family that large became so close-knit. Those shotgun houses did not allow for much privacy with its connecting rooms and open floor-plans. Unlike today, there was no place for a brooding teenager to retreat and wile away the time with video games and television. There was no video games and television. Most Mississippians in that time were lucky to have a radio. Families depended on each other for entertainment.

The front porch was a popular perch for most to bask in the fresh air. This is where so many families churned butter, washed laundry, and prepared vegetables from the garden. It was a place for families to spend time together, and with families like the Yelvertons, swap lies and laugh.

I learned a lot from spending time with Momma’s family. I learned coffee could never be too black and thick, there is humor in every situation if you just look for it, and even those who have long-departed this earth are just as close as ever in our memories. I learned who my grandfather really was, even though I never met him in person.

Most of all, I learned that life can be difficult and cruel and deal some a bad hand. But, if I just remember to tie a boat to porch, the waters will recede, and this too shall pass.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Don't know why they call it a tasting -- more like guzzling

I attended my first wine tasting last weekend at the Winona Country Club. It was my first for a reason. I hate wine. Pretty much all of it except champagne and Clos Du Bois (a sweet Chardonnay that is really warm and butter). Wine make me act like an idiot. I get really giggly drinking wine -- not a good look for me, by the way.

When we arrived, the host gave us champagne. Good. Liked it, drank two glasses. Then the entertainment began.

The first flight:

The whites. It is the lessor of two evils. I really enjoyed the third selection which was a German Riesling wine. It was sweet and slightly fizzy, but not to the extreme of champagne or sparkling wine.

The last one of this flight was a rose from California that smelled like cake batter and tasted like ass.

Now, at most wine tastings, you are supposed to sip, taste, and then spit into a bucket on the table -- like this one:

We don't spit in Winona. It's tacky. In Winona, after a flight you got this (oh, and it is tacky to waste as well):

The second flight:

I am not a fan of the reds, but I will drink a glass of Shiraz with dinner. My favorite wine of the entire night: Quinta Do Crasto LBV Port from Portugal. I finished mine and everyone else's before I left. I became quite tipsy because unlike normal wine, port, has 20 percent alcohol which is 40 proof.

I tried taking more pictures, but I decided to put my camera away so the Baptists could quit hiding under the tables.


I wonder if a beer tasting will ever come to Winona? Or a gin tasting? With tonic. And lime. Here's wishing!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One Word Meme

Here is another meme from Conversations with my Hairdryer.

1. Where is your cell phone? purse
2. Your significant other? fields
3. Your hair? clippy
4. Your mother? talking
5. Your father? driving
6. Your favorite thing? tivo
7. Your dream last night? None
8. Your favorite drink? (Diet) coke
9. Your dream/goal? bestseller
10. The room you’re in? office
11. Your church? beautiful
12. Your fear? everything
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? happy
14. Where were you last night? working
15. What you’re not? punctual
16. Muffins? Mac
17. One of your wish list items? desk
18. Where you grew up? Eudora
19. The last thing you did? talk
20. What are you wearing? jeans
21. Your TV? friend
22. Your pets? idiots
23. Your computer? necessity
24. Your life? busy
25. Your mood? content
26. Missing someone? friends
27. Your car? filthy
28. Something you’re not wearing? necklace
29. Favorite store? Turnrow
30. Your summer? hot
31. Like(love) someone? Keith
32. Your favorite color? pink
33. Last time you laughed? moments
34. Last time you cried? Sunday
35. Who will repost this? dunno

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Passing the time this summer

Conversations with my Hairdryer introduced this meme called Summer Lovin'. It got me thinking about all the plans I wanted to accomplish this summer. Let's see how interesting the past couple of months have been.

Watching -- My summer television shows -- Big Brother, Nashville Star, Closer, Monk, and Psyche. Oh, and Masterpiece Mysteries on PBS.

Reading -- Liberating Paris by Linda Bloodworth Thomason. I have a HUGE list on my to-be-read list because I am participating in two reading challenges.

Listening to -- Robert Johnson, opera

Over-indulging on -- Diet Coke, fresh tomatoes

Thankful for -- My significant other, Keith. I am a lucky girl if I say so myself!

Praying for -- my family, as always, and my own sanity

Trying out -- Cooking for fun, landscape photographer, gardening

Gearing up for -- Our August trip to Hot Springs. Hopefully, both my sisters will be able to join. Also, Magazine ad sales. Work is the largest part of my life, so I have to mention it.

Looking forward to -- finally cleaning my closets out, organizing my office as soon as I get someone to move my desk, and cleaning out the butler's pantry (aka, my catchall for everything from unused household crap to personal papers screaming to be filed.)

Friday, July 18, 2008

"I've got the split-end blues"

Maggie Reads is holding a contest for the best blues name. I thought the Blues name generator wasn't very authentic because they weren't Southern names. So gave mine a little Mississippi twist. (Thank you, Mark Twain, for teaching me to write phonically.)

Itchin' Plantain Ken'dy: The prissiest, most high maintenance gal in the juke. (and her backup group, The Peels.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Searching for Robert Johnson

This weekend, my significant other, Keith, and I searched for the grave site of the king of the Delta blues singers, Robert Johnson, in the Mississippi Delta.

Mr. Johnson:

Now for those of you who know Keith and me, we are polar opposites on most accounts except for our dry sarcasm, unnatural obsession with sports of any kind, our love of Southern history, and, of course, our enthusiastic appreciation for Mississippi blues. Case in point, Keith took me to Morgan Freeman's Ground Zero Blues Club on our very first date.

For those of you who are not familiar with Johnson, he is the famed Mississippi bluesman from Hazelhurst who supposedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for talent to sing the blues. This exchanged occurred at the "Crossroads" near Clarksdale. Johnson died at age 27 in Greenwood after being poisoned by a woman's husband after his wife's alleged affair with Johnson. Read more about Robert Johnson.

Just as mysterious as Johnson's life, his final resting place is very ellusive. In fact, there are three different cemeteries where his tombstone sits.
So, we paid homage to all three.

Now, we know he died in Leflore County, Mississippi. And lucky for us, all three grave sites are also in Leflore County.

Our search began at Tallahatchie Flats, three miles north of Greenwood. Keith and I reserved our very own shack for the night to get to the heart of Johnson and his life. We stayed in the Tush-Hog House, named for the man with Johnson when he died of strychnine poisoning.

Our House:
The back porch overlooked a soy bean field and the Tallahatchie River. Keith was jealous that his beans did not look so good.

As a matter of fact, it was Mr. Bubba, the proprietor, who suggested we try to find all three sites is we were true enthusiasts.

Our first destination: Itta Bena. We were searching for the Quito Plantation. There in the church yard of a chapel was the first marker. Surrounded by other Johnsons, a simple flat tombstone lay with the inscription, "Resting in the Blues." Keith felt it fitting to share a beer with him.
Quito Plantation, Est. 1904

The church in Itta Bena with the first marker:
More Johnsons live in the area: We thought it had to be the real thing -- a family cemetery.

That was until we got to Morgan City. South of Itta Bena is a small cotton community known as Morgan City. Keith actually did an internship here while he was in school. He would drive out to Morgan City twice a week to check cotton.
We could not find a church, but a nice lady at the Morgan City Grocery gave us directions.

I read that Johnson was buried at Mount Zion Church, and if we did not pull straight up to Mount Zion Church. A large marker sat near the street, and we knew immediately that it was his. The obelisk was inscribed on all four sides.
The second marker:

This was the REAL one, I told Keith. He agreed.

A photograph of Johnson was inset on the monument. And fans from across the globe have paid tribute. This was proved with a British pound placed at the base of the stone.

On our way back to Greenwood, we came upon this -- the big ass bridge in the middle of nowhere.
Big Ass Bridge in the Middle of Nowhere:

View from the Bridge:

The YA-YA-Yazoo!

It was just too interesting not to mention. It crosses the Yazoo River.

Near Tallahatchie Flats, we found the last of the markers. It was under a pecan tree at the Little Zion Chapel. An eye witness supposedly saw Johnson buried in this spot. After finding out she never received a dime for her story, I was inclined to believe this was the spot.
The third marker:

Of course, after discussing the matter further over dinner at Lusco's in Greenwood, we don't know what the hell to think. (We had the porterhouse for two, Lusco's famous fries, and the chocolate sin with chocolate bourbon sauce, yum!)

You can take the boy out of the delta, but....

Chocolate Sin....oh, yeah!

It certainly is fitting that Johnson's final resting place is just as mysterious as the man.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The village idiot goes for a run

Saturday afternoon, I took a stroll through my neighborhood. Sounds pleasant, huh? Well, not so much.

With gas prices at $4 a gallon, I decided to celebrate our nation’s independence with a quiet weekend at home in Winona with friends. There had only been a few occasions where I was not with my family on the holiday weekend, and it was a little peculiar without the roar of my large family.

To lighten the blow, I asked my sister, Deana, to drive down Saturday for a cook-out. She could definitely turn my quiet weekend at home into something a bit more comforting – or at least a light roar.

Deana arrived after lunch and was greeted enthusiastically by the dogs out in the yard. She didn’t even have to ring the bell before I was alerted to her presence.

Now, I will say, my dogs love my sister, mainly because she brings them presents whenever she visits, and this visit was no different. She immediately pulled out a bag of bacon snacks for the dogs and a container of kitty treats for my cat, Deadline, who lives in the storage room.

“Let’s not bring them in yet,” I told Deana.

So we settled into the den, and Deana told me about the family Fourth of July I missed the day before. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who had missed. My middle sister, Stephanie, was required to complete some sort of combat training with the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department where she is a captain, and spent our nation’s birthday getting beat up by would-be perpetrators.

After a few minutes, I walked into the kitchen and saw it. The gate was open, and the yard was empty. My dogs had escaped and were now loose in the city. Pure panic washed over my body. My dogs had never been off a leash, and I was afraid they would not know to get out of the way of cars.

Without thinking, I ran down the steps, across the yard, and down the street – barefoot. As I rounded the corner, I noticed something running full speed down the street. Don Juan, my Chihuahua, ran right to me and jumped into my arms.

I passed him off to Deana and continued my hunt for the fastest, severely ADD creature the Lord ever created – Skipper, aka the village idiot.

It rained that morning, and water still flowed in the gutters. The grass was wet, and the dirt was mud. The rain had also washed gravel onto the street, and my bare feet were now muddy and bleeding as I called out for Skipper.

“Skipper,” I called. “Here Doodle Bug.”

I was trying to sound playful and sweet. I did not want him to realize when I caught him, I planned to kill him.

Some children on bicycles pointed me in the right direction – gravel road, mud – and a group of children who sat on church steps directed me further. Skipper was obviously touring the town, and he was headed back towards my street.

“Did you lose one?” my neighbor asked.

“Yes, the little black and white one. Have you seen him?”

“Let me see if he is around the back?”

A few minutes later, I heard my neighbor direct me behind his house and through the back yards of the houses behind him.

Then I saw him, a black and white terrier was running towards me as I called. Then I realized, this might be Skipper’s cousin, but it is definitely not Skipper. Impossible, but there is another one!

I caught a flash of white. It was Skipper. I called – all sweet remember – and he actually ran to me. I flung that raging idiot into my arms – I seriously thought I lost him forever.
I didn’t kill him. I didn’t even punish him. I just walked home – sweaty, bleeding, and muddy – with Skipper in my arms.

As I handed Deana the dog and hosed off, we discovered the village idiot could actually open the gate with his nose. We doggie-proofed the latches. Now, remarkably, I can’t open the gate.