Sunday, October 15, 2017

It was a dark and stormy night...

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in Columbus, Mississippi, that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. 


                             Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the opening sentence of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.


Well...it wasn't dark the day we discovered Eggleston Hall, nestled in among overgrown trees, set back aways from Third Street North; nor was it stormy, since Columbus seems to be caught up in a mini-drought. Nonetheless, unless you're looking for this old ante-bellum two-up/two-down, you probably will pass right by it. As the sign says it was built circa 1847, which just might make this old house one of the oldest in Columbus. But it's one of the forgotten, hidden historic houses that has seen much neglect and ruin in the last few years. It was obvious (from the satellite dish) that it hadn't been completely abandoned too long ago, and there is also evidence that someone had made emergency repairs to the back of it, probably to make it habitable (barely) for whoever the last tenants were.

I couldn't find any extant photos of the house as it must have been in its heyday or later when photography made it possible to capture images for newspapers. Like many old homes in the antebellum Columbus, it survived the Civil War.






There are Egglestons in Friendship Cemetery, as well as references to Egglestons in Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi. But I've been unable to find any other information about this house. There are other Eggleston Halls in the U.S. and the U.K. Whether or not there is a direct family history (ancestor immigrant) to the Eggleston Hall in the U.K. and the home in Columbus is obscured by time—at least as far as access through Google goes. I'm not much of a researcher on genealogy, so I hope this post will inspire those who are to do so. And if any Eggleston family members have more information on the house here in Columbus, contact me through this blog and I will expand the information.

I could imagine a multitude of stories when I saw this house, a film perhaps with Gone with the Wind music and the drama of a young Eggleston daughter awaiting the arrival of another prominent family of Mississippi for a few weeks of visiting (as Southerners were won't to do), because she had met the young man of that family in a colder month, and the two families were betrothed through their daughter and son. Maybe it was cooler here in Columbus than it was down near Vicksburg, and so the visiting family came to escape the harsher heat. Maybe one of the Eggleston daughters attended the Columbus Female Institute, a private school founded in 1847 and the future site where the Mississippi University for Women would be established in 1885. Eggleston Hall, whatever its condition is today has seen a lot of history, even though it now crumbles quietly and forgotten amid the overgrown trees and bushes along 3rd Street North.

In my year plus four months in Columbus, I'm always discovering new places, but among the very best are those that are obscured by the overgrowth around them, lending an air of mystery and the passage of time from a languid and deep history. I've seen two other antebellum homes of the same era as Eggleston Hall rise from the ashes of decay and ruin when they were renovated, which now stand proudly, imbued of new life through the hands of dedicated renovators who love the old homes and buildings here in Columbus and Mississippi as my partner and I do.

But about those dark and stormy nights, there will be those, along with lightning and thunder and the sirens of tornado warnings, and maybe I'll be caught out in such a storm and when lightning illuminates the hulk of a building in front of me...abandoned and forgotten...I will think of stories to tell about it.

A little more about Mississippi...Enjoy.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Poets, Storytellers, Writers, Books

Thursday Nite and Friday Nite Events in Columbus, Mississippi...

As I might have indicated in earlier posts, there is virtually something going on in Columbus, Mississippi, and many other cities and towns in the state every weekend of the year—but the best part is how easy it is to get to many of these events within a five-minute walk, a short jaunt to the next town, or an hour or so drive time. Sometimes, the problem is that it's difficult to decide which event to attend to the exclusion of other events.

Looking out from the Coffee Shop at the back of Books &
Boards during a busy night.
Thursday night, October 5, at the Books & Boards venue on Main in Columbus was Open Mic Night, where poets, storytellers, and writers read their work before a nice crowd, filling up all the chairs and tables in the store, as well as standing in the aisles. During this entire time, people kept the pie and coffee shop at the back of the store busy, as well. The readers covered all manner of genres, from poet-rap (with audience participation) to dystopian poetry read with a soulful cry to one reader bursting into ribald song as his piece called for, which delighted the audience. I took advantage (again) of open mic to read from one of my published works. I've been doing this once a month as I work my way through Book I of the Summer's Change trilogy. My purpose for these readings is to introduce many of my character sketches.

Friday, October 6, at the Rosenzweig Arts Building, several writers of the Columbus Writers and Storyteller group presented writing, in poetry and stories, in front of an appreciative group of listeners about "Livin' Mississippi." Angie Basson introduced the program to the audience and then read her piece "Mississippi You're a Crazy Quilt," and then because Deb (another writer in the group) couldn't be there, she read Deb's contribution to Livin' Mississippi. Jeanette Basson followed her daughter and read her piece about how her family came to Columbus, when she was a preteen and living on the west side of Columbus, and even how she ended up marrying the annoying boy on a church bus. Jeanette's piece took us back to a different time and evoked memories in the listeners, no doubt, of their own past. Jamella followed with an autobiographical sketch of her life and how she made it through as an adult, with beautiful daughters, after a lifetime of physical challenges, operations, and was inspired to be strong. I'd worked on my piece for several weeks and on the day of the presentation, I threw out everything I'd written and just spoke from a set of quickly jotted notes, which I used to initiate a thread that I could follow. It worked, and so I could spend more time engaging the audience than keeping my head buried in text. Donna Both, a retired teacher and grandmother used her time to read a poem she had written inspired by a local southern writer who had collected writings of her high school students into a book. Donna's poem, "I Know Things," hinted at a student in deep trouble, with a kind of cry of the lost, trying to brave her secret pain with bravado. And Donna's second entry was a children's story she had written for her grandchildren, complete with pictures about "Santasippi," a Mississippi version of Santa Claus. If I've left any of our writer's group readers out, I will correct this story.

Both events back to back on two nights is just one of the usual kinds of weekends we have around Columbus. This coming Friday at the Elbow Room Lounge is a free music night by a renowned blues musician—and this is just one venue.

I launched an ebook last September called Slices of Real Life, which is a collection of my essays written over several years and appearing in several literary anthologies. This year, this month, I launched a paperback edition of the same book. I worked for Amazon for many years, and now I am using their unique publishing venue to take care of a few of my writing projects in a way that makes them accessible to readers and to permanently capture them in book and electronic form. One reason I published this collection was to show readers of my fiction that my Common Threads in the Life Series, now seven volumes long (and finished) is not autobiographical. Slices of Real Life is autobiographical, and if anyone who likes my fiction wants to discover who I am (in part, maybe) my collection is now available. Slices of Real Life and the rest of my published work is available on Amazon. I'm currently working on spin-off novels for my Common Threads series and the next books in my fantasy series Twilight of the Gods.



One of the long-established southern bands from Houston, Texas, is ZZ Top. Their musical range spans several genres, including rock and blues. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Mother Goose Lives in Columbus, Mississippi

Mother Goose paid a visit the other day...

[Note that all facts and pictures of Edwina Williams (Mother Goose) come from the quarterly magazine Catfish Alley, Summer 2017 issue]

Edwina Williams
Photo from Catfish Alley, Summer 2017.
We were wrapping up work on Cliff's house, preparing for his move in, once the workers had finished installing the new (antique) chandeliers in the dining room, center room, foyer, hallway, guest bath, and kitchen, when Mother Goose dropped by with a friend named Charlotte. I knew immediately who Edwina Williams was when she came up the front steps of Cliff's house. Since moving to Columbus in May of 2016, it was impossible not to learn of the real-life "Mother Goose" (Edwina Williams), and I had hoped to be sitting in a restaurant when she would come in and break into song (never breaking character as she is wont to do) to the delight of the patrons. Instead, she came a-callin' to get a look at the house that neighbors had told her was being returned to a residence from it's former iteration as an appraiser's office.

Not to belabor the point, but from May until mid-August, I had been working on the house to get it ready for Cliff, and as news spread in the neighborhood that the old appraiser's office was being returned to a residence, people came to get a look at what was being done.

The guest bath in Cliff's House.
We were delighted to discover
that behind the drywall was the
original bead board. Nice and
rustic and the effect is whimsical
At first, we were standing on the sidewalk getting acquainted, and I noticed that passersby would wave and say, "Hi, Mother Goose!" Everyone knows who she is. So, then, I took Edwina and Charlotte for a quick look of the house. During the tour, I was delighted with Edwina's sense of humor. I pointed out that a French Empire chandelier was going in the dining room. She looked up at the pitiful incandescent bulb hanging haphazardly from the ceiling, and she said, "You're going to replace that with an old chandelier?" That was as if to say what a pity the dangling light bulb would be coming down. And then when I showed her the antique chandelier that was hanging in the guest bath, both Edwina and Charlotte chimed in unison, "How cute!"

As I write these posts on Mississippi, I have been struck time and again by just how varied and delightful the town of Columbus is, how historically significant in some ways, how creative it is in others, all colored by Southern hospitality and Deep South charm. One overlooks Mississippi's darker side as part of the Old South that continues to fight the Civil War, that continues to make headlines as a racially divided state and ultra conservative. It is and it is not. The "is not" part is what endears me to the state and mostly Columbus.

But I digress...

Mother Goose and Story Time at the Columbus
public library
Edwina Williams (aka Mother Goose) has been a fixture in the town of Columbus for many years. Quoting from Catfish Alley, Summer 2017 issue...

For generations of Columbus children, Mother Goose has been a source of love and affirmation, of encouragement and inspiration. For the adults, many of whom grew up on the floor of the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library listening attentively as Williams read to them during Mother Goose’s Story Time — something she has done every week since 1985 — she is easily the city’s most recognizable citizen. Her presence at an event gives the proceedings an air of legitimacy. It isn’t really a party without Mother Goose in the middle of it. And she is always in the middle of it, naturally.

And so, Edwina William's visit this month was one of the many delights I've experienced while living here in Columbus.

Cliff is now moved into his house. There's still work needed on the kitchen, but the beauty of the transformation from offices to a residence is astounding.

I just discovered Justin Johnson and wanted to share a bit of his talent on guitar. Wait for the rather messy intro to be over and then enjoy the music at around 0.55 in the video.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Echoes of the Past from a Real Place

The Haven, Columbus, MS

As Columbus, Mississippi, celebrates it's second-hundredth year, it's a rewarding experience to walk around the iconic buildings in the town. Just off the main drag through downtown and a couple of blocks west of the busy 5th Street, stands a house with a history that reflects what Columbus once was and still is—a place of change and timelessness. It's both the New South and progressive and not tied to stereotypes and surprisingly willing to accommodate both liberal and conservative voices and people; but it is also part of the Deep South, the Old South with its ancient prejudices and post-Civil-War attitude. Cliff had discovered a home in Columbus online called The Haven, which was built in 1843 by two freed men. And then one day, he and I decided to stop by there and look around. After many decades it is now for sale.

"The Haven is nestled in a shady lot just across from the Trotter Convention Center (downtown) and sits on a hill which, 170 years ago when the home was new, would have overlooked downtown antebellum Columbus," The Commercial Dispatch, July 19, 2017. According to the article, The Haven was commissioned—and possibly built by brothers Thomas and Isaac Williams, who were freedmen of color. And, also according to the article, Rufus Ward says, "...the real interest is that it was a freed black family that lived there in antebellum times." To me, this fits with the kind of place Columbus has always been, unconventional in super-conventional times like the old South. The Haven was (probably) built by and for freedmen, the Williams brothers, but it is not the only structure in Columbus that was built by former slaves. The first bridge over the Tom-Bigbee river was built by slaves, as well. According to the article, in the 1850s and in the years leading up to the Civil War, a lot of attitudes were changing toward free blacks. While early on the Williams brothers might have been accepted, they might not have been later. One of the brothers moved to Texas in 1858, and the house was sold to a man named Adam Gabs. The property stayed in this family for a long time.

And now it is for sale. The architectural style is similar to homes built in the Carolinas, and in fact the Williams were from there. They were also master builders. However, a visit to the realtor website will provide more information for those interested in the house. There you will see 24 pictures of both the interior and exterior. This is truly iconic and historical home in Columbus, MS, and shouldn't be missed.

Closer in time but still as integral to its past as the historic homes is the music that emanates from the Southern DNA. Below is a two-hour video, "Slow and Sexy Blues Music Compilation, 2017".  Put this video on and go about your business, just allowing the music to flow freely in your home. It's well worth listening to.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

First Impressions Shattered

Revisiting West Point, Mississippi

Looking North into West Point's
neat little downtown. Taken
from the city park.
West Point is the smallest of the three towns that make up the Golden Triangle area of Mississippi, known for its recent claim to massive investments from foreign and domestic industry to the tune of over eight billion dollars, including a Japanese tire manufacturing plant in West Point. On our trip through this part of Mississippi in 2015, when we knew very little of the Golden Triangle area, Cliff and I got gas in West Point after visiting Waverley Mansion just outside of Columbus, between Columbus and West Point. We stopped for gas at a busy little gas station on what turned out to be the outskirts of West Point, on the east end of its main street.

We were not impressed and wrote off West Point as disinteresting, doubting that it had much in the way of historic homes or history in general. But in the last few weeks, now that Cliff is living here in Columbus, we have been back to West Point three times and plan to make reservations at one of the town's locally owned restaurants to take in dinner and the usually great blues bands that play at Anthony's Restaurant each Wednesday night. We've been back several times, because our first ill impression of West Point has been shattered with each subsequent visit. I wrote about another cafe in West Point in my last post, and we have eaten there three times. But we've also found a delicious antiques store called Annabelle's and we plan to go back there, as well.

Howlin' Wolf is one of the
iconic blues players of the
South and a native of
West Point, Mississippi.
But our biggest misimpression was that because West Point is small (around 11,000 people) it couldn't have had much of a history. Not so; West Point is almost 200 years old and it has a treasure in its historic homes and bustling downtown, as well as a contributor to Mississippi's Blues history. Howlin' Wolf is one of the best known blues greats and is a native of West Point. His museum resides in West Point and a memorial stands in the city's beautiful park, which covers several blocks in the downtown area. This small city has another historic point of interest however that fits well with the history of Columbus, and that is its history of slave relations before and during the Civil War. Let me put that another way. I had already found out that Columbus has a progressive history, is LGBT friendly, and is the home of the first Memorial Day celebration. But Columbus and West Point have a shared history in how slaves and former slaves were treated, compared to other parts of the Old South. Word of mouth from native West Point citizens have told me that West Point was progressive and had elements of abolitionists there before the Civil War. But I will have to leave this notion to further research. Make no mistake, West Point is a Southern city and also has a long history of plantations and slavery. Still, there's no way to just write off this town. It has a great deal to offer. There is a busy section of big box stores, fast food joints, and other businesses, but there is also an interesting downtown, where the store fronts have been maintained and a collection of fun places to visit.

Like other towns in Mississippi, West Point has the annual Prairie Arts Festival.

39th Annual Prairie Arts Festival

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A greatly anticipated annual event in West Point and the surrounding area is the Prairie Arts Festival.  The Festival is held each year on the Saturday before Labor Day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in West Point's downtown. Including Fine Arts, Crafts, down-home southern cooking, four stages of live music, Classic Cars, Kidsville, and much more, the Prairie Arts Festival features more than 600 exhibits.
The festival has been recognized as one of the top ten events in the south, and is one of the largest arts and crafts festivals in the country.
 I leave you with a musical performance in 2013 by a band called The Kevin Waide Project, singing "Meet Me by Your Back Door" from their album Lost in Mississippi...

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Last One to Leave, Turn Out the Lights

Exodus...


Cliff entered Columbus, Mississippi from the west
and had I been standing on the steps of Harvey's
restaurant, as I was when I took this picture, I would
have seen his SUV clearly.
My partner Cliff arrived in Columbus, Mississippi, on Friday, June 30, around 7:30 p.m. He traveled for two days, spending only one night on the road in Weatherford, Texas, west of Fort Worth/Dallas and just barely out of the west Texas desert and into the rolling hills on the edge of much greener and wetter east Texas. He left Las Cruces, New Mexico, embroiled in triple-digit heat and a haboob, and after two days of grueling driving (with our cat Julia), he crossed the Mississippi River and drove through Vicksburg, Mississippi in a rainstorm—just exactly what my experience was one year and one month ago, when I entered Mississippi.

This is the Haboob that hit Las Cruces shortly after
Cliff had left to move to Mississippi
But in fact, he was not the last member of his family to leave Las Cruces, New Mexico, for greener climes. His brother Clay and his wife Angie left Las Cruces a day after Cliff did. They were the last ones of his family to leave and to turn out the lights. I have to mention that Clay and Angie were in a caravan with friends driving trucks and trailers and hauling the great bulk of possessions, some of it was for Cliff's parents who had previously moved to Rosebud, Texas.

But in fact (yeah another one), Clay and Angie's three children are still in Las Cruces. The twins are entering college at NMSU, and their oldest daughter is getting married and will be living in Las Cruces with her husband.

But I digress...Cliff's arrival closed a chapter in our relationship—the one year and one month we were apart, while he sold property, bought property, closed the family business, and otherwise settled accounts in New Mexico, so he could finally leave. Now that he's here, he said—and I agree—this past year apart just seems like the blink of an eye. Cliff and our cat Julia moved into my house while his house is continuing to be renovated. That, too, is quickly coming to a close and in a few more weeks his house will be move-in ready.

On the night that Cliff arrived, we make a late evening trip to Harvey's Restaurant for a small meal and a dessert. It reminded me of our first trip to Columbus in 2014 when we first looked at property and were astounded at the sheer beauty of the small city, the friendly people, and the progressive atmosphere.

In the two weeks that Cliff has been here, getting settled, opening accounts, etc., we managed a delightful trip to West Point where we ate lunch at The Main Street Market and Restaurant. We were both astounded at the deep menu selections, including entrees from fish, chicken, pork, and beef. It is also a meat market, and when we left, we took both brisket and pulled pork. The decor is down-home with a nod to Mississippi's musical heritage and culture. There are two pictures of Elvis. The waitress Martha was delightfully ready to talk and answer our questions. One of the dessert items was called "Elvis Cake" and, as it turned out, that's what Cliff and I shared. I took pictures of our main entree, as well as convinced Martha to stand with Cliff in front of one of the Elvis pictures and jointly holding a serving of Elvis Cake. It is a basic white cake with soaked in brown sugar and pineapple bits, covered with a butter cream (cream cheese) and pecan icing. Martha told us that it was one of Elvis's favorite desserts. The chef of the Market recreated that dessert for his restaurant. Throughout our meal, even on a Monday afternoon, people came and went, mainly to get take-out. We had planned to eat at another popular restaurant in West Point, called Anthony's. But fortuitously it was closed and we discovered the Market restaurant, which Cliff recalled reading about in some Mississippi magazine.

Cliff and Martha posing with
the Elvis Cake
We do plan to return to this restaurant, and we know that our friend Jim (who hails from Arkansas) would love this place. Yes, I could have tasted their catfish on this particular afternoon, but I tried the small pulled pork sandwich, instead. I cannot imagine how big the upsize of this sandwich would be. I felt stuffed as it was with the small sandwich.

Once again, I find myself talking about the food and hidey holes in the area where I live. West Point is just minutes away from Columbus, and there are at least three stellar restaurants there. We had originally decided to make the jaunt to West Point to visit Annabelle's Antiques, which is also on Main Street. We'll be returning on a later date for that purpose, but I hope that we can take time to have another meal at the Main Street Market.

Cliff has taken it slowly in meeting people that I have come to know, here in Columbus, but we're both looking forward to a trip to Ruben's Fish House on the Tom Bigbee waterway, just outside the entrance to Columbus from the west. I've already eaten there. Ruben's has a colorful history. That restaurant sits on the banks of the waterway. That's where we're going with two friends of mine this coming Friday, July 14. And while we have been exploring Columbus a little bit, most of our time is taken up with overseeing the final touches to Cliff's house. It's coming along fine, with a few hiccups along the way. Sit back and enjoy a 26-minute episode of Mississippi Roads:

Friday, June 16, 2017

I've Been through the Desert on a Horse with no Name...

Actually, after leaving the desert of southern New Mexico...


When I arrived in Mississippi a year ago, just as June got underway, I looked forward (with some trepidation) about what the summer and humidity would be like. I knew (intellectually) that even if the temperatures were not in the triple digits in the summer in Mississippi, the humidity would be in the high double digits and that it would be a different but just as uncomfortable heat—maybe worse. In the desert in the summer when it rains (and I might add at higher altitudes there) the rainfall can be cold, and after a good rain, the air is cool and there is a respite from the baking temperatures and relentless sun. I didn't think the rain would bring as much respite from the summer heat in Mississippi.

I've only lived through one complete summer here in Mississippi, and we're moving into my second summer. June has turned out to be hot and muggy, but I was delighted that a cloudy day and a little gentle rainfall does wonders in a different way than the rainfall in the summer in the desert. Yes, it feels wet after a rain, and no, even if the temps don't plummet nearly as far as after a cold desert rain, it can still be quite pleasant. So, I'll go with the hope that, unlike last summer, we get more rain. Last summer much of Mississippi suffered a drought, but as Fall came on and through the winter, the drought lifted. The worst day I can recall from last summer was when I traveled to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in July to attend a book club meeting. I wouldn't have missed it, because they were discussing one of my novels. The sun was relentless that day, and the meeting took place in a strip shopping center in a Metropolitan Church meeting room. The L-shaped center faced right into the afternoon sun, and I can remember sucking in the hot, wet air before scurrying into the building.

There were also soul-sucking, muggy and hot days here in Columbus, when I stepped out of my air-conditioned car on my way into the post office, and thought, "yes, this is really miserable heat." But I'm really not complaining. I was grateful that I didn't have a job that required me to work out in the heat, and my heart went out to construction workers that were roofing a house or mowing the grass, and I hoped that they were getting plenty of water. Even here, I noticed that people seek the shade to park their cars under and pedestrians walk on the side of the street when they can to get under awnings or walk on the shady side of buildings. When I have to do yard work (now that I finally have my lawnmower and edger and other garden tools) I only do it in the mornings when it's not quite as hot or at dusk, just after sunset.

But this all adds up to the fact that if I made it through all four seasons last year, I can do it again this year. Winter was mild here, but not as mild as southern New Mexico. Even then I welcomed the rain and the clouds, but perhaps the very best difference between here and the desert of southwest New Mexico is the lack of incessant wind from the west, and a companion to that blessing is that here the dust doesn't blow non-stop and coat everything.

Now...about those tornadoes, warnings, and sirens...


Thanks America for your haunting lyrics

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Deconstructing the Past

Finding bones in the closet and other discoveries...


The demolition stage of the house that Cliff bought here in Columbus and my on-site work and viewing of the demolition has revealed the house's past, including the bones that were laid bare in a closet we demolished to create one leg of an L-shaped hallway. We found more bones in two of the rooms behind the paneling which, when removed, took the house down to the studs.

No, this is not a picture of the bones of Cliff's house...whew!
I hope I got your attention. Ok, the "bones" are the skeleton of the house, but it reveals just how the house is put together and what changes were made from the time the house was built around 1905 through its evolution to the almost 2,000 square foot structure it is today.

It was both an ugly reveal once the paneling in two of the rooms was removed and a godsend that behind the paneling there was nothing but studs and insulation. It was an ugly reveal, because that meant...unexpected expenses for sheetrock (drywall). It was a godsend, because it meant that the new interior walls in those rooms would be smooth and seamless and easy to paint. We can create a crisp, fresh look to what might have otherwise been a tired but painted look. Even modern renovations for a historic home to be lived in should be allowed with no fear that the historic house police will come knocking.  You should be jailed, however, for destroying the period elements of a historic house that has not lost its original elements and seek to not only replace windows with period windows and materials. Such a renovation will cost many times over what the original home cost to build. Columbus has many such houses.

Uh...no. This is not a picture of Cliff's House,
but it is a good graphic of what Victorian
elements can be included in the design of a
house.
Anyway, the house was built as a Queen Anne Victorian in about 1905 but since then much of the decorative features have been lost; we especially believe on the outside, where fretwork (gingerbread) might have once graced the front porch. The stately and large Queen Anne windows have been replaced with smaller, metal-clad windows, and inside, more history is revealed. The house used to have five fireplaces, but when the first remodel was done to turn the place into commercial offices, the fireplaces were covered over, and so when we were removing the paneling and inset, built in (ugly) shelves were removed, we all hoped that the fireplace mantels had just been framed over and the fireplaces were intact. But just as there was nothing  but bare studs behind the paneling, the overzealous remodelers and destroyers of history demoed out the fireplace mantels, leaving only a gaping brick maw...the jaws if you will of the bones we discovered behind the walls. They destroyed two of the five fireplaces.

During some time over what has to have been several years, the house must have been vacant, and we think that was before the building was converted to offices; during that time, a leak had developed in what we call the center room (might have even been a wide center hallway originally that let off into the four principle rooms of the house, a parlor, a music room, a dining room, and a bedroom). The leak got worse, and when we took down the drop ceilings in that room, the ceiling had suffered a lot of damage, as no doubt did the hardwood floors, there. As a result of the water damage, we believe that a sub-floor was placed over the hardwood and tiles laid on top. We do know there's hardwood under the tile, because we removed a single tile and there it is...hardwood flooring, but we might find, once the tiles are removed that the hardwood flooring in the center of the room, where the roof leaked possibly damaged the hardwood. We're hoping not, but we'll have to remove the tile before we know.

In Cliff's house there are three fighting doors, which we've
alleviated by walling up one of the doors and, just down
the hall, we've walled up another door. By removing the
closet, we opened up that area with much better traffic flow.
What is now a long room off the main bedroom to the back of the house, which we're converting to a laundry room and walk-in closet, was once an outdoor porch, and I believe what is now the hallway at the back of the house might have also been partially an outdoor wall, because there is a transom window over the south door out of the center room leading into the hallway. While the kitchen may have been original to the house, it was cannibalized at some time to create a second bathroom. The kitchen, hallway, and both bathrooms are linoleum, but like the center room, we believe there is hardwood underneath. Our goal is to reveal all the hardwood throughout the house and marry them all together at the doorways, so that the house flows from one room to the next, using the hardwood flooring as the medium that ties the rooms together. We have also removed many of the doors and have demoed out the door sills, so that we're not beset with a house of doors, many of which fought with each other in some of the tighter spaces. For example the short hall had five doors, three of which when fully opened blocked the back door entrance. You had to keep two of the doors shut, just so you could fully open the back door. We've at least removed one of those three doors and will close the doorway into a wall.

So, what we've learned about the history of this house and what the bones tell us is that the house is built like a tank with good wood being used for the original walls, on true 16-inch centers. The wood is actual 2x6, rather than the cheating "2x6" lumber you get now, or worse, some homes are built with 2x4 outside walls. Truly "stick" building. The house was originally floored with hardwood and that has not been removed, there was a moment in time when the house must have stood vacant and the roof leaked, causing some damage to the center room. There have been small additions to the back of the house, and that area was not nearly as neatly designed as the original. Some of the architectural elements have been removed over the years, but what is left is a solid, strong, and a "young" hundred-year-old house. The house has a marvelous crawl space that runs under the entire house with lots of room to maneuver, and the plumbing, duct work, and venting are all under the floor. The house sits on a solid foundation on a rise of land, so it isn't subject to flooding; further, the roof now has architectural-grade shingles and should last for several decades.

The video for this post is once again one of the "Stormy Monday Blues Band" live performances. People here in Columbus were treated to their appearance last week at the Riverwalk.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Final Steps Toward...

House closing, renovations, final acts...

I don't know how many of you have been following the year-long history of me saying that Cliff will be moving to Columbus, once he settled his property in Las Cruces, but all that has been accomplished, and now we are in the final acts...

Cliff's valuables have already been moved to Columbus
The closing and change of title took place on May 17.

Renovating his house before he moves is now underway. This activity has shifted to me in overseeing the renovations. Turns out, while the house is solid as a rock, we had a rude surprise once we took out the dropped ceilings (you know, those fluorescent banks of light and Celotex tiles) and once we removed the paneling from the walls. There was no drywall beneath the paneling, just studs—and I'm glad to say lots and lots of insulation, both in the walls and blown insulation in the attic.

This is the parlor BEFORE the paneling was
removed.
Yes, it's kind of scary having the whole house in what appears to be utter chaos right now, and those who don't know Cliff's knack for renovating might think that the house was move-in ready. In the photo of the parlor, you can't see the drop ceilings, but by removing those, the ceiling will go from 10 feet to 12 feet.

The contractor is soldiering on, despite the fact that we had to move the furniture into the house, because it was delivered before the closing. A snafu occurred so that the original closing was delayed, and had that taken place on time, the contractor would not have had to work around the tons of furniture and several hundred boxes, making the chaos even greater.

The red paneling is hiding the
fireplace.
In what will be the dining room, once the paneling was taken off an interior wall (not complete, here), we saw that the fireplace had been demolished, leaving only the brick structure. Same with the parlor fireplace. We were, however, able to gain a few square feet in each room. In this picture of the demolition (to the dining room), you can see that once the dropped ceiling was removed, conduit and wiring were exposed. This is currently being removed or rerouted. There will be lots of sheet rocking (drywall) work. From floor to ceiling the height will be 12 feet. I hope to get more pictures of the work-in-progress and then be able to take photos of the finished rooms. Stay tuned. This is almost like a "Flip this House" episode.

We're trying to get this project finished, including painting, refurbishing the hardwood floors, installing new appliances in the kitchen and utility room, and getting the house thoroughly cleaned before Cliff gets here. We only have five weeks to do it! Once he arrives, there will also be further work, like designing his walk-in closet, replacing the front door, turning it from a commercial entrance to a residential entrance.

And here is a picture of the front of the house. It is virtually ready as it is, but a good power-wash and porch rails (period to the house) will transform the look of the house from the street. I will be mowing and trimming the yard, as well.

Architecturally, this is a Queen Anne Victorian; however, the windows have been messed with during its past renovations, and while Cliff calls it a "mutt" house, I call it a modified Victorian. Inside, we're also going to add crown molding, and with the tall ceilings the crown molding should add a cozy feel to the otherwise stark height of the ceilings. There will be a chandelier (French Empire) in the dining room, as well as several other chandeliers in some of the other rooms, including the foyer.

Again, stay tuned! Time is passing quickly both for finishing the renovation and for Cliff's arrival here, with our 12-year-old cat, Julia, in tow.

Got news today that Greg Allman, who developed Southern Rock to a great degree died at the age of 69. Here is a video tribute just posted on Youtube:

Monday, May 8, 2017

Events On My Birthday 2017

The Market Street Festival, Columbus, Mississippi...

Yeah...Right!
I got up around 4 a.m. on my birthday to witness the last day of my 69th year, the day when the odometer turns to exactly 69 years, 0 months, 0 days, and then at midnight becomes 69.0.1 (69 years and one day...69 years and 2 days). You know the countdown here. Kids know it when you ask them how old they are: "I'm six and a half!" On days like this, I like to think about my parents and how old they were when I was 40 or 50—and Heaven forbid—how many years I have left if I die at my mother's age or my father's age, or for all that will I outlive my longest lived aunt or uncle or be among those who died relatively young? I'm sure a life insurance agent could pinpoint my death day to the nearest month and year, but I'm not interested. I like to see for myself, and NO, I don't dwell on how long I will live or how soon I will die, but on birthdays, this inevitably comes up for review.

On my birthdays, however, I also like to anticipate the day ahead and plan how I will spend my "special" day, which of course I probably share with millions of people around the world, because they were born on the exact day and month and year that I was.

So, I got up before dawn, got my girls fed, turned on my computer to see what was going on in the world, showered and shaved, and then I anticipated the 22nd Annual Market Street Festival here in Columbus. By about ten o'clock, I could see that the day was going to be perfect with sunny skies, just a slight breeze, low humidity, at a maximum temperature of just 74 degrees. This time of year, as well, everything is green and lush and homeowners have been mowing their lawns, so the walk to downtown was stunning and lovely.

This is from an earlier festival, but it's typical of what
I saw.
Market Street Festival has been named a Top 20 Event in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society for 20 years. A crowd of nearly 40,000 gathers each year to enjoy the two-day festival and offers over 250 arts, crafts, and food vendors, as well as dozens of special events, musical acts, and activities throughout the festival. Considering that Columbus is only around 24,000 people, it's easy to see that the festival gets thousands of out-of-town visitors for the event, as well. There were over a dozen musical groups performing around the area during the two days of the festival, including two groups at the Riverwalk, just west of downtown.

The downtown grid that was laid out for the festival included twelve square blocks, and the street nearest my house where I entered the festival area was only two blocks west and one block north. I entered there, and the first thing I saw was the train, which at first I thought was a kiddy ride, but there were adults getting on board. The crowds were not yet evident...

I wandered the familiar downtown streets where the festival was underway, around eleven o'clock, and I was surprised to see that every street was filled with people from sidewalk to sidewalk, filling the street, along with the hundreds of vendors with everything from food to arts and crafts to book stalls, home remedies, and even a stall that specialized in creating exotic birds out of old tires. That they were old tires was not evident until I got up close and felt of them.

One of my goals was to get a piece of cake for my birthday at the Cafe on Main. I had seen previously that chocolate Coca-Cola cake was on the menu—a more perfect cake is hard to imagine, unless it was my mother's white cake with chocolate fudge icing. Just because the festival was mainly outdoors didn't mean that people stayed on the streets. When I walked into the cafe, virtually every table was full and those that weren't were still dirty from the previous customer. It took awhile, but I did get served. I had chicken spaghetti, candied yams, lima beans, jalapeƱo cornbread, and my cake and coffee. I sang "Happy Birthday" to me under my breath when it was time to dig into the cake (hehehe), even though the whole idea of my needing to sing to myself and celebrate my birthday was tongue-in-cheek, because I don't really feel it's necessary to celebrate my birthday. Now the day the odometer turns over to 70.0.0...yeah, that will be a milestone.

As I continued to walk from one street to the next, all filled with people, the smell of the typical food wafted through the air and as I walked from street to street where performance stages were set up, one song diminished and another came into hearing range. I took time to listen to a set performed by Rachel McCann and the Carnal Echo on 5th Street South, just around the corner from where last year I had attended the annual Stella Shouting Contest.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Momentous Writer's Event

Dispatches from Pluto author Richard Grant...

Before I even moved to Columbus, Mississippi, I had the distinct impression that it was a place where people loved writers and turned out for book-signings and other author events. Since I've lived here, I've attended two events sponsored by the Columbus Arts Council where well-known writers spoke about themselves and their writing. One was by a local writer, Michael Farris Smith, who is gaining a good reputation as a writer. I believe he teaches at the "W" here in Columbus. The other such event was for Richard Grant.

Both writers' events were well attended, but Richard Grant's event had to be held in a larger venue, which took place at Mississippi University for Women in Parkinson Hall. 

The MSMS high school is housed on the MUW college
campus.

An Aside

Now, the thing I was delighted to see about this venue had nothing to do with the room where the event took place, but rather that it was held in the science building for the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science—which is the two-year high school for Mississippi's excellent students—one of the top high schools in the US. That's right a Mississippi school with an impeccable reputation.

Bright Students of any Ethnic minority are welcomed
into MSMS
Another important point about MSMS is the fact that it is a functionally integrated high school, which again just might detract from the notion that Mississippi schools suffer from a lack of integration. Well, there are schools here that are vast-majority white or vast-majority black, just as you might find in other schools in the US (not limited to the South) that really have nothing to do with a hold-over policy of segregation but has more to do with demographics and where people choose to live.

But I digress...


Author Richard Grant ended up moving to Mississippi a few years ago by what he described as a circuitous route. He went to high school in London, wandered the world, and by chance ended up in Oxford, Mississippi, during that time when he was working as a writer and ended up doing a few pieces on the music of Mississippi. He lived in New York City for a time when he was working on his writing career, but on one of his trips to Mississippi a friend of his gave him a tour of her hometown of Pluto, Mississippi—or rather the Mississippi Delta region. Long story short, Richard Grant chose to move to Pluto and convinced his wife that they should leave New York. It was while living there that Grant wrote Dispatches from Pluto. It is a New York Times bestseller.

The other thing about Columbus, Mississippi, that was evident when Grant spoke was that while Mississippi has a reputation as being deeply religious and some would assume almost puritanical as a result, the audience thoroughly enjoyed his sometimes graphic and earthy talk. Of course Dispatches from Pluto is also about Mississippi and the Delta region, so the audience was also delighted to have an outsider be able to capture the essence of that region, as some people in the audience attested having read the book beforehand. Here he is in a video interview about Mississippi and specifically about the Mississippi Delta region. The video is over eleven minutes, but readers might be interested by its range of coverage about Mississippi and its culture. Richard Grant narrates.

Monday, April 24, 2017

More Cafes, Local and Nearby

Food for the Soul...

There's only one month before my one-year anniversary living in Columbus. I closed on my house here in Columbus, Mississippi, on April 20, 2016, and I just passed the one-year milestone three days ago, and now within a month (by May 26), I will have been here for a whole year. Spring was also a season I had not lived through until now. Well, I did see the end of May and the tail end of spring when I moved here. But now that I'm living through the spring from the beginning, I've discovered that this season is by far my favorite time of the year here. Back in the desert, Spring is usually relentlessly windy and dusty, so this is a nice change. The fall here was also quite pleasant.

I feel more like getting out and about, even when it's raining, and so since my last post, my friend Pat has shown me more restaurants. Following the dinner and concert in Starkville,  Pat and I went to West Point to Anthony's Restaurant, where the menu selection is deep for all manner of food. I had usually been trying the catfish at various places, but at Anthony's I ordered a ribeye, a whopping 14-ounce hunk of meat that usually costs as much as an 8-ounce steak elsewhere. I was able to get four meals out of that single steak, since I've learned that white rice is a medium for all sorts of food items cut into bite-sized pieces. Anyway, the restaurant offers a full line of food, appetizers, and deserts. And the owners of Anthony's is going to open "Magnolias at the Ritz" just around the corner from its present restaurant. The Ritz location will be an upscale eatery, and so of course I want to try that when my partner has moved here. I had only been to West Point once by myself on an antique hunting expedition. But now that I see where West Point's downtown is located and caught glimpses of the historic neighborhoods as we drove into town, I can bring Cliff with me for that as well.

And then...

I had been wanting to go to Proffit's Porch just outside of Columbus, and so Pat, her friend Rebecca, and I made a Saturday date for that trip. It overlooks a small lake where Pat said she used to come to when she was a kid for swimming. The road to Proffit's Porch winds around that lake, and offers what I've come to realize is typical, beautiful scenery in Mississippi. The restaurant evolved over time, according to Pat to what it is today. You can sit either outside (on the porch) which overlooks the lake or sit indoors (which we did). Basically the restaurant offers soups, salads, sandwiches, and dessert. I had intended to eat light, but I wanted to try the gumbo, and I ordered that, as well as a thin-sliced steak sandwich, and the cheesecake. The bread is made at the restaurant. All three items were good and filling, but I had skipped breakfast that morning, so I had little trouble eating most of everything I ordered.

This is an inside view of Proffit's Porch. My friend Pat is on the left, and her friend Rebecca is on the right. I forgot to take a picture of the food when it was served, so I kick myself about that. But I did take shots of the restaurant and the setting.

As this photo shows, the outdoor seating is pleasant and would even be quite nice during a rain. The lake is in the background, and when we were there, a couple of boats were on the water, children were exploring the quite substantial sandy beach, and the setting itself was bucolic, quiet, and the air cool but not cold. So this is another place I will be bringing Cliff. Proffit's porch is only about five miles outside of Downtown Columbus, and if you get there early enough seating is not a problem.

So here I am having already experienced over a month of this year's spring, and there are so many other restaurants, funky cafes, and hidey holes I want to explore. In May comes the blues festivals, Market Street festival, and a continuing number of events.

One of the local bands (from the Golden Triangle area) will be performing in Columbus, soon. Stormy Monday Blues Band has gotten quite a reputation and regularly plays at area venues. Rebecca told me about them, and on the way back to Columbus from Proffit's Porch, she popped their newest CD in her cd player. I was able to find a YouTube video of one of their performances. If you like traditional blues, you should enjoy this music by the Stormy Monday Blues Band.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Columbus, Mississippi, 77th Annual Pilgrimage Home Tour

And...The 27th Annual "Tales from the Crypt" Event at Friendship Cemetery


RiverView, Columbus, MS
The beginning of April in Columbus, Mississippi, is so full of events and celebrations that it is almost impossible to do them all. For example, the heritage home tour is not just one event over several days. There are so many historic homes and buildings that they have had to break the tours into areas of town, each with multiple dates for the tour. During the same period, there are parties, carriage rides, food in the "Catfish in the Alley", artisans display, the half-marathon and 5K Run, a picnic, book signings, and a formal garden party.

In addition, during the same time, the Mississippi School of Mathematics and Science (one of the top rated high schools in the nation), which was featured in The Atlantic, put on its annual "Tales from the Crypt" program. Each year Juniors from the MSMS spend a year researching particular people that are buried in the Friendship Cemetery (a cemetery that existed before the Civil War and of course exists today). It was the site of the very first Memorial Day celebration, where  both Union and Confederate soldiers are interred and who were honored by four women from the town of Columbus after the war.

Columbus was a hospital town where both Union and Confederate soldiers were treated. There is also a poem, "The Blue and the Gray" which was written for the soldiers buried here.  From the New York Tribune:
Southern States: Columbus, Miss.
The Blue and the Gray
Francis Miles Finch (1827–1907)
          “The women of Columbus, Mississippi, have shown themselves impartial in their offerings made to the memory of the dead. They strewed flowers alike on the graves of the Confederate and of the National soldiers.”—New York Tribune.

Read the Poem, here.
The MSMS students choose characters they will bring to life during the tales from the crypt program, turn in a research paper, and write a script for their presentation at the cemetery. Only nine student skits are chosen, and those who do not get selected then become tour guides and support for the presentations. Groups of tourists take the tour and listen to the students who become the person who has been buried there. They don't have to be soldiers and they don't have to be people from that era who are brought back to life to tell their stories. As the groups stroll from one presentation to another, guided by a student from the high school, other students perform music, and one can hear the strains of music throughout the cemetery. The tour begins shortly before dusk and continues into the growing darkness. On the opening night this year, over 700 people took the tour. I went on the third night and at least 200 people were divided up into smaller groups and as dusk came and then darkness fell, I could year the presentations all around, though distant enough from my group that it wasn't a distraction. Nor do the personalities buried in the cemetery have to be noble or well known; they can be anyone, and one of the livelier presentations was a personality who married several times, attempting to better herself, and the student did a good job of bringing this complex personality to life.

I decided to spend my time during these few days attending another annual event in Starkville, which I wrote about in my last blog post. And I attended the "Tales from the Crypt" event. Next year, when Cliff is living here, I am sure that we will enjoy the heritage home tour together.

But April and May and on into the summer are very lively times here in Columbus with the annual Market Street Festival, Juneteenth Festival, the Southside/Townsend Park Blues Festival, the Crawford Cotton Boll Festival, and on and on. For me the coming of April and the beginning of all these events heralded the one-year anniversary of when I closed on my house, here, on April 20. A month later, in late May I moved into my house, and I will celebrate that anniversary, as well.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Adventure in Starkville, Mississippi

Ragtime Jazz Festival 2017


My new friend Pat Matthes, who works at MSU in Starkville, Mississippi, invited me as her guest to attend both a dinner and the last night of the Charles H. Templeton Ragtime Jazz Festival, an annual event, hosted by the Mississippi State University Libraries. Both the dinner and the concert later that evening, April 1, was one of the most memorable adventures I've had since moving to Mississippi, and truly a great topic for my Postcards.

The last time I was out of Columbus I attended a book club meeting in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, during the summer of last year. The weather on my way to Starkville was a direct contrast to my trip to Hattiesburg. I left Columbus around 4:15 and while the sun was moving toward the western Horizon, it was well above my windshield, and so I was able to see with clarity the now resurgent greenery as Spring takes hold. Starkville is one of three small cities in what is known as the Golden Triangle region, which is experiencing an industrial renaissance, and on the way from Columbus to Starkville (about 28 miles), the industrial activity is evident. There are community colleges and tech schools, the Golden Triangle Industrial Park, and the airport, off the highway amid lush greenery, and the sides of the highway was freshly mowed. Again, one of the beautiful aspects of Mississippi are its highways and the fields and trees and large and small bodies of water.

Starkville, of course, is a college town, and much of it is dedicated to fulfilling the needs of the student population. The dinner I attended was held at Restaurant Tyler right downtown, but there are several coffee shops and restaurants all around the downtown. There were four such businesses within my view as I entered the Tyler. As Pat and I visited, I pointed out the "mason jar" water glasses and said "rustic" as we looked around the restaurant. She countered "sophisticated rustic" and I agreed. The dinner is part of the program for the ragtime festival, and is attended by faculty from the library and, I imagine, from other university departments. My friend Pat is next to the gentleman in the tuxedo, and had I not been taking this picture, I would have been seated between them. The gentleman in the tuxedo is Matt Musselman, the trombone player for Dan Levinson's Roof Garden Jazz Band, from New York City. They perform around the world. Anyway, we had a choice of three entrees, and of course I chose the catfish entree, which was complemented with garlic potatoes, fried okra, and hushpuppies. And I do have to say that I will be returning with my partner when he gets here, because the catfish at this restaurant is second only to the catfish one can have at the Friendship House restaurant in Aberdeen, Mississippi, about 30 miles north of Columbus.

The concert held on the campus of MSU, just outside of Starkville had two musical components. The first was a piano concert that surveyed early Ragtime from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Part of the reason for the historic survey of piano music, performed by internationally renowned pianists Brian Holland and Jeff Barnhart, is as a relevant part of the Charles H. Templeton, Sr. Music Museum at the university as a means of enhancing research in the area of ragtime music and increasing awareness of the Templeton Collection housed in MSU Libraries. The second musical component of the concert surveyed early twentieth century jazz, performed by the Roof Garden Jazz Band.

Both jazz and ragtime are two of my favorite musical genres and Mississippi and other southern states were directly responsible for the advent of both types of music, along with blues and early rock 'n roll. There's no denying that the South is one of the most active generators of uniquely American music.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

More People of Substance

And more hidey holes...

I read about a new locally owned restaurant that opened up in North Columbus called Nana's Country Kitchen, which had opened in a location that used to be a BBQ joint. The building was long and low-slung  with just the right kind of atmosphere that promised an interesting experience. I arrived in the dark and couldn't readily get a good picture of the outside—just think red tin walls.

Inside the cafe, along the outside walls, had I been much over six feet, I would have had to duck, but toward the inside of the cafe, , behind which was apparently the kitchen, the height of the ceiling approached eight feet, but not quite. There were plenty of tables, a salad bar, and on one end of the room a fireplace. There was only one other customer at this fairly early hour, but it was dark out and the restaurant was warm enough that I could remove my jacket.

The other customer was reading a book, apparently waiting on her order, and so I zeroed in on the menu, specifically the catfish, but when the waitress asked me how I wanted it, I asked what the choices were. She said fried or blackened. I had seen "blackened" catfish on other menus, but until that night I hadn't explored what that meant. About that time another waitress brought the other customer her order. And then I asked the waitress what "blackened catfish" was. The waitress for the other customer overheard me, and she said, "Come over here and have a look," and I did. The customer smiled as I looked down on her fish. I could see a few black spots on the filet, which looked like pepper...hmmm. I thanked the customer for giving me a chance to see her entree, but when I sat back down, I told the waitress I'd stick with the fried.

My meal was brought. I dug in, but I looked up at the other customer and asked how it was. She smiled. "I should have also ordered the fried." We started talking across our tables and how I had become addicted to it and how she liked it, too. We ate our meals, but at one point, after we had visited for a little while and given the usual elevator summaries of who we were, Pat decided to join me at my table.

She talked about knowing all the little places around Columbus and in nearby counties where she knew many of the kind of cafes we were now in—little hidey holes as I have been calling them, and she was soon reeling off all kinds of places, telling me about a cafe in Amory, Mississippi, that had been in continuous business since the late 1800s, where all you had to say when you walked in was "with" or "without." It was a hamburger joint, and if you wanted onions (cold cut or sauteed) you said "with." Apparently the only thing they serve in the way of an entree is a hamburger. She told me about the "Tin Lizzie" in West Point, Doug & Hazel's Drive In in Columbus, and a whole host of other places.

Pat Matthes is a Librarian at the Mississippi State University Libraries and works with Collection Development Services. That department orders books, newspapers, and journals in print and electronic formats. Access is provided to these materials via an online catalog. Pat has lived in Columbus since 1964 when her father was stationed at Columbus Air Force Base. Her family is from Booneville, Mississippi. She graduated from Caledonia High School and from the Mississippi University for Women (right here in Columbus) with a BS in Library Science. She got her MLS from the University of Alabama. She's both a strong Mississippi State Bulldog fan and Roll Tide Alabama fan.

I gave her my quick summary of degrees and the kind of work I've been doing for over thirty-five years, but the most significant (in this present context) about her is that she's got the inside track on hidey hole cafes and restaurants from here to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and from here to Tupelo, Mississippi, and points in between—and more. We have been getting together for dinner as the winter has given way to spring, and the last place we ate was just this past Friday at Doug & Hazel's. I've discovered other cafes and one of my favorites is The Cafe on Main, which serves up multiple entrees, along with scrumptious desserts, which I usually don't have room for. I was there for lunch one day as soon as I saw that catfish was on the menu that day. In fact, the owner told me that The Cafe on Main will be including a purely Southern line of foods, and I'm looking forward to trying every one of them.

Maybe this week or next I'll venture farther afield and head over to Starkville to a place(s) Pat knows there. We both agree that the chain restaurants are convenient and some of them good, but nothing beats the locally owned cafes in these small Mississippi towns.

Ellie is sacked out on
Mae's nice soft tummy.
An update on Cliff's progress getting to Columbus. He closes on a house he has found here, March 31, and I've been working with the realtor to line up a contractor and other individuals that will turn this office back into a residence. While it's a small house, it's bigger than mine and will accommodate a lot more of his furniture and artwork—and his family's grand reproducing piano. Pictures will appear in this blog just as soon as the work starts in earnest. And we can watch the transformation from office building, back to a residence.

My twin girls are now the ripe old age of one year old. And while they probably think they know all there is to know, I'd say they got surprises ahead of them. I now call them my little yearlings, or stout farm girls, or little squirts, depending on just what they're up to.