Friday, October 23, 2015

Coming down with something ——— maybe horse fever

I have done more this month of October than I've done in years.  The results.....happiness, better health, appreciation for so many things.  They say that once you learn to ride a bike you never forget.

Well, in the case of horses, that is true many times over.  This month I've been on an afternoon trail ride, spent five days with friends and horses at Chickasaw State Park in Tennessee, and just returned from a week-long trip to horse country in Kentucky.  My soul is smiling.

I wondered how I'd do riding when I've taken a break—a 14-year-long one.  What if I was too sore to get up in the morning, what if the horse and I didn't get along, what if I got sick while I was there?  Nervous Nancy was asking all those questions. I told her to take a hike.  Nothing but good things happened at Chickasaw.

After riding four hours, napping a little, sharing a meal with horsey friends, I was recharged for the next day.  My husband, children and friends, said, "I don't know what happened up there, but you look happier than you have in ages."  I was.

I added a little to the callus on my left hand where the reins overlap my index finger.  It never went away, just softened.  I instinctively used muscles that hadn't been called into action in 14 years.  When you ride in deep woods, all your senses are engaged.  You smell the piney woods, wet with a morning rain.  And then there's that intoxicating smell of horse.  If you aren't a horse person, you don't understand.

Camaraderie with like-minded, generous people can't be beat.  They just get it.

The beauty of the Kentucky countryside was breathtaking.  My friend and I just drove the narrow, curvy roads looking as far as the eye can see at miles of black-washed wood fences with elegant thoroughbred horses grazing on the still-green grass. Leaves there were turning faster than ours are here in North Mississippi. Every day we were in Kentucky we were blessed with beautiful weather and perfect photographer's cloudless blue skies.

We got to watch my friend's Rough Collie dog work a small herd of Cheviot sheep on the sloping fields of her herding trainer.  Even the little Smooth Collie boy took his turn and seemed to love it.  Collies are herders.

And then we were off to Claiborne Farm in Paris, KY, the working farm that was home to the fabulous Secretariat, Bold Ruler and countless more.   We visited their graves with sadness and admiration.

Secretariat's grave at Claiborne Farm. It is customary to bury only the head, heart and hooves of
race horses. Secretariat was buried intact. It was discovered that "Big Red" had a heart weighing an astonishing 22 pounds, twice the size of most horses. It was not enlarged, just larger in size.  That, experts say, no doubt contributed to his tremendous stamina. 

The next day took us to the Kentucky Horse Park, where we saw beautiful statuary, breeds of horses that we never knew existed, and watched the Parade of Champions, retired horses included the Thoroughbred, Standardbred, American Quarter Horse and more.

As we walked into the park, we were immediately drawn to the commanding statue and memorial of Man o' War. Though he ran his races just after World War I, he is still considered to be one of the greatest Thoroughbred race horses of all time.

Man o' War, Secretariat and Barbaro

We even managed to find time for the Collie dog show in Shelbyville, Ky.  That was the real reason for the trip, or maybe not.  Anyway, little guy did good and looked like the champion he is close to being in the ring.
To top off the trip we stopped for a tourist tour of Churchill Downs. WOW. It gave me chill bumps to walk in that paddock, see the track, sit in the stands and just imagine the great horses that have walked those grounds. When I took this pic in the gate, I knew we were tired and silly and it was time to come home.
I'm so grateful to my friends for letting me go along on these horse adventures. Thankful I didn't kill myself after a long break from riding—thankful I have friends that indulge me on these adventures—thankful for my lifelong love of horses, the ultimate gift from my daddy.
Since I've gotten home, I've dreamed in two-, three- and 4-beat cadence, smelled horses in my sleep and been absolutely at peace.  Maybe I'm not through.

The only thing that would have been any more fun, would be that we stayed until Oct. 31 for the $5 million Breeders Cup at Keeneland where Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh hopes to take his victory lap into retirement.   GO AP!!!

Monday, September 7, 2015

There's beauty in the meanies

I have been watching an air show, right from my back door. They swoop and turn and soar.  They are hummingbirds. I have had more this year than ever.  I love just standing there and watching.

This is their second favorite feeder, right outside my back door. 

Since I have so many more this year that in previous years, I've come to the conclusion that these tiny, beautiful creatures are mean birds. Not angry birds like the video game. My friend Susan calls them meanies.  I'm sure some of my hummer enthusiasts (Lisa C. and David H.) will be mad at me for calling them mean. Oh well.

In my back yard, they have a particular feeder that they all like. It has the same nectar as the others.  I've studied it and can't figure out why it is so special.

This is the special feeder. This cheap, faded thing. 

According to

 "Male hummingbirds are very aggressive. They set up their territory and will chase off any male that comes near. This helps the male hummingbirds eliminate the competition for the female hummingbirds in the area. This aggression also helps the female hummingbirds. Female hummingbirds do not let male hummingbirds near a nest because the male hummingbird's bright colors might alert predators in the area to the nests location. If there is only one male hummingbird in the area, the female will only have to worry about chasing away one male hummingbird and be able to better concentrate on her beaks and claws as weapons. They will chirp warnings as they head toward each other. Hummingbirds have been known to body slam each other in mid air and even lock their bills together while spinning in a circle until they hit the ground."

According to this site, if the males are not fighting each other they may be showing off for the girls by doing a "courtship dive."

Not only are they aggressive to other males, but they have even been mean to my Silky Terriorist since they hover right over their pen.  Silkys love to yap more than breathe.  But they don't yap at the birds.  I think they have been dive bombed a little too closely, like having a bee in your ear.

The Silkys in their pen.  Notice they are being good and
not yapping. 

For all their macho male bird antics, I have enjoyed them immensely will miss them when they start their great migration.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Katrina memories—share yours

This week you will see documentaries and news coverage looking back at Hurricane Katrina which slammed the Mississippi and Louisiana coast 10 years ago.  How was the weather in South Mississippi going to affect us here at the top of the state?  Believe me, it did.

Photos provided by Robert Latham

I had just assumed the duties as Director of Public Relations at Northwest Mississippi Community College.  Right before we had our football season opener, our new coach moved the team to the college's Multipurpose Livestock Arena to practice since rain was already heavy in our area.  Little did he know that there would be no game that week. Some of our sister community colleges on the coast took a big hit.

A community meeting was held in the Haraway Center on the Northwest campus.  City officials, emergency management personnel, elected officials, a local veterinarian and businessmen gathered to discuss how the city could help those fleeing from the coast.

An emergency shelter was established at the Family Life Center at the First Baptist Church of Senatobia.  Northwest cheerleaders took turns playing with the children there to keep them occupied.  Cosmetology students went over to do nails for the evacuees while they waited in the temporary shelter.

Another major Senatobia connection was the presence of Robert Latham, executive director of Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).  Latham, a Senatobia native, was there on the front lines of the disaster from beginning to end.

Latham recalls  "FEMA FCO Bill Carwile, Adjutant General “Hac” Cross meeting Governor Haley Barbour when he landed on Thursday after Katrina made landfall on Monday.  The Governor made daily trips to the coast beginning on Tuesday. "

"The photo (below, left) is of particular importance since it was the first time that the Governor’s major response cabinet members were able to get together after landfall," says Latham.  "This was right after we met him on the runway after landing in the previous picture.  Charlie Williams, also of Senatobia, who was Governor Barbour’s Chief of Staff is sitting to my left."

Latham also submitted this photo showing the sea of FEMA trailers that were brought in to provide relief for those whose homes were destroyed.

Share with me your Senatobia/Tate County Katrina memories. I'll keep them posted this week in memory of all those who suffered through Katrina.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Enchanted life in the ruins

Old corncrib with friendship quilt.
I've been an emotional mess lately.  I know I've written about family stories before.....well here I go again.  I'm working on a presentation for Quilt In the Grove, a quilt guild in DeSoto County that is set for September.

I thought I should focus on how to photograph a quilt for competition, how to take a photo for new release, and my to take an art photo, one that tugs at your heartstrings.

So I took a little trip down the road in Barr to the site of my grandparents' old home place. The Cathey Place was built in 1856 as a dogtrot house.  It was added on to, closed in, painted and was a very respectable home in the area.  It burned in 1981.

I took my favorite quilt, my friendship quilt, you know the one that made me fall in love with quilts. It was made there by a Dandridge/Cathey cousin and contains the names of many ladies in the Looxahoma/Thyatria communities.

Since I couldn't drape the 1939 quilt on the porch swing that sat at one end of the house, I did the next best thing. I hung it from the loft of the log corncrib, probably the oldest structure in the complex.  It was made of logs and probably dates to early 1800s.  It is in pretty sad shape, but I thought you'd like a preview of my presentation.  The quilt is at home, or as close to home, as it can be.

After the house burned, the ground was leveled.  Only a few small artifacts can be seen, a canning jar that would have gone in Grandmama's cellar, the rocks that formed the base around a pen for our wonderful English Shepherd Pepper's dog enclosure.  I know where every water faucet was, can see daddy in his leather shop, tack hanging in what was an old well house, grandmama's chicken house, the white picket fences that were on each side of the porch keeping the horses that occasionally grazed in the front yard out of her red salvia.

My first Lone Star on the corn crib hall gate.  If
it looks crooked, it's because it is.

I had a special tree right behind the corn crib.  We would turn the horses out and down the lane and I would sit in the tree and watch them for the longest time as they took their time working down the grassy slopes.

I can see daddy in every nook and square inch of that place. Helping grandmama plant her garden, working a colt in the round pen, sending Pepper after a stray,  pulling corn from that old crib and shucking it off the cob with one turn of his wrist to mix in the horse feed, and with Penny.  He would lead her up to the big concrete slab near the cellar door and I could mount from there.  Sometimes, he would take her himself, to gather a few strays, Pepper at his heels. I'd watch as he rode away, reins in his left hand, his right hand on his hip, his hat at his signature slant, shoulders slightly slumped from arthritis and from relaxing in the saddle.  I'd like to think that's how he rode into heaven.

You can see I didn't come from the upper class in Mississippi, but I came from the enchanted life only a few experience.   Now upstairs to sniff a little more.

Old Cathey/Dandridge Place, built 1856 burned 1981.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

What would Addie say?

WARNING:  This blog may be politically incorrect.  But if you read it, you may need a tissue.

In today's world of racial unrest, I wonder what Addie would think of all this. Addie Brownlee grew up on our land in eastern Tate County.  She was born in 1909 and died in 2009 at the age of 100.
She came from a different era.

Roy, Addie and Nancy

She and her common-law husband Manuel, lived in a little shotgun house "down in the bottom."  In case you don't know that term, bottom land is usually along a watercourse, in our case the Jim Wolfe Creek.  It was farmland.  Manuel and Addie never married. She refused to marry him because he wouldn't join her church, so they lived together for 50 plus years.

They were part of the now-dead sharecropper system.  It is my hope that they were treated kindly, and I believe they were. The couple worked for my granddaddy, then my daddy, and my first cousin.

She wrote a letter to my mother (not my daddy for whom she worked) when she decided to quit farming.  "Mr. Hayley and Mr. Ralph went the last mile with me to the rocking chair," she said. "I really hate to give up farming.  I love it and Mr. Hayley was a good boss.  He did not tell me when to go to the field. He always trusted me and that is something to be thankful for."

When she and Manuel were not working their allotted farmland, Addie worked for my family in town.  She usually came to help my grandmother and great aunt.  She much preferred outside work than in-the-house work.  When they knew Addie was coming, my grandmother Latham always made her "ice potato salad," as Addie called it.  "I think about Mrs. Latham and Mrs Ruth....when I come they cook a good meal for me and I eat a while," she said in the letter.

If I knew Addie was coming, I was overjoyed.  She had been there to take care of me when mama needed a little extra help. Always smiling, joking, she rode me on her back and tried to keep up with me. In that same letter she said, ""I thank you for letting me enjoy your baby girl, Miss Nancy.  To me she will always be a baby."

I was lucky enough that when my own children came along, they got to know Addie too.  When she came to our house, she always played and joked with them.  She drew giggles from the girls when she pretended to be scared of their big white stuffed horse.  When my son was born she sent him one of her rare Indian Head pennies.  Today, it rests in his baby book as one of the most prized baby gifts.

In my box of treasures are a set of hand-tatted Coke bottle covers and doilies that Addie made for my mama.  In the 1960s, we all drank Cokes from glass bottles, and it was quite an honor to have Coke bottle covers.  Who knew Addie made the first koozies?

One day she called me at work and said, "Miss Nancy, Miss Hayley done blowed up the microwave.
I'm so sorry."  I could tell she was upset. What had happened was that "Miss Hayley", while attempting to make hot chocolate, had put the cup in the microwave, forgetting the water.  The microwave was not blown up, but the cup was busted to smithereens.

Addie never had children of her own. She raised Manuel's nephew Roy, as her child.  When he "went up north" in his early 20s, he got mixed up with a bad crowd. Roy died of a heart attack associated with a drug overdose. She was heartbroken.

So what would Addie say about all these shooting and taking down of flags?  She wouldn't be happy.

I often wondered if Addie really loved us or was just "putting on a show."  I got my answer one rainy Sunday afternoon.

My husband, daddy and a few extra helpers were in the bottom working cows.  I was horseback, having left my vehicle at farm headquarters.  When the weather got really bad, Daddy said, "Give me that horse and go over and sit this out at Addie's."

I had never, in all those years, been inside her house. She cooked on a wood stove, by choice.  Addie had inherited land, but gave it to her church.  She preferred to live where she was raised.  Her little house was cluttered with discarded treasures she had been given by people she worked for.  The tiny fenced-in yard bloomed with flowers that she had dug when cleaning out other people's flower beds.
Manuel, now bedridden, sat in the small twin bed.  Addie said she slept sitting up on the couch.

While we sat there by the wood stove, listening to some of her stories and waiting out the rain, she said, "Miss Nancy, have I ever showed you this?"

She took down a blue scrapbook from her cramped bookshelf.  In it were Christmas and birthday card I had sent her over the years.   She had saved my snaggle-toothed school pictures along with notes I'd written her in my little-girl printing.  There were pictures I'd drawn, newspaper articles and photos of me with 4-H horses and band awards.

I think I got my answer.

My daughter and little granddaughter and two family friends went to Addie's funeral—the first black funeral I'd ever been to.  "Why is Miss Addie in that bed," asked little Bella. The preacher talked about how Miss Addie had loved her church and helped the youth there.   "Everybody loved Miss Addie, even the white folks....And we are glad to have y'all visiting with us today," he said, nodding in our direction.

When the time came to pay our respects, Bella helped me place a champagne rose on Addie's lapel. Bella looked up at me and said, "Nonni, why are you crying?"

"I feel like an orphan all over again," I said. As Addie said in her letter, "I hope the years don't end for a long time."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New Harper Lee book brings personal history to life

I simply cannot wait for Nelle Harper Lee's book, "Go Set a Watchman" to be released July 14.  I ordered an advanced copy long ago.  I have two special reasons to be so anxious to read this long-forgotten book by Harper Lee.

My maternal grandfather, the late Luther Latham of Eupora, was a small-town lawyer, former state senator from Webster County.  He died at age 51 while campaigning for the Fifth Judicial Judgeship in 1938. That was the year my mother graduated from high school with plans for being a lawyer. Her brother, Jim, was already at the University of Mississippi in law school.  Their lives changed.

Mama always said, if you want to know what your grandaddy Latham was like, just watch "To Kill a Mockingbird."  I did many times.  The similarities were amazing.

The Honorable Senator Luther Latham

They were both criminal lawyers in a small town—both wore their thick, black hair combed back. My mother even wore a "Buster Brown" haircut like Scout in the movie.  But the most important similarity was the way they dealt with their fellow man.

"We leaned on him.  He was a strong, vigorous man. When in the future, we are faced with this and that momentous problem, instinctively we are going to say:  "Ask Luther about it."  And then we are going to remember that Luther is not here.    .The last fifteen years have witnessed a great change for the better in Webster County. The improvements our people have made educationally, economically, and morally are obvious.  And much of this good work can be attributed to Luther Latham." From an editorial in the Webster Progress Times.

"He was a man of honor and personal integrity.  All of his dealings with his fellowman were based upon his idea of right and justice, of ethics and forbearance."  From obituary in Webster Progress Times.  
I rest my case.

But in case you aren't familiar with Lee's soon-to-be released book, "Go Set A Watchman" here is the scoop.

"It was written before Lee's only published novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). The title comes from Isaiah 21:6: "For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth."[1] It alludes to Scout's view of her father, Atticus Finch, as the moral compass ("watchman") of Maycomb."

This novel takes place when Scout is a grown woman, 20 years older than she was in Mockingbird.  She leaves New York to visit her father in Macomb and tries to sort our her feeling about her hometown.

The movie-like truth about this book is that the manuscript was lost for all these years. It was written in the 1950s before she wrote Mockingbird. At the advice of her publisher, she put it away and wrote a book about Scout's childhood (Mockingbird).  It was discovered by her lawyer in 2014.


Last night I watched the movie "Infamous" about the years of research that Truman Capote did leading up to his best-selling true crime non-fiction book "In Cold Blood."  He took his childhood friend Nell Harper Lee along to help with research and documentation.  Their conversations were priceless.  You can see how little Dill's character in the movie could have been based on Capote.

I can't wait...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bates goes behind bars with Shakespeare

I have an unusual book to recommend.  For all my English/Literature professor/teacher friends, you must read "Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard" by Laura Bates.  This first-person account follows Laura Bates, a professor at Indiana State University, as she goes to the depths of solitary confinement areas, known as Supermax, in a state prison to teach Shakespeare to the inmates.

Why in the world would these men, who have little or no formal education, be interested in Shakespeare? Bates sits in her chair at a designated distance from the men who can only see her through the slot in their cell doors where their food is delivered.

Photo from Indiana State University studies
She takes them through lively discussions and assigns homework. She challenges them to compare today's gang warfare to that of the feud and street battles seen between the Montagues and Capulets in "Romeo and Juliet."

"We are the only Shakespeare program in the segregated unit in solitary confinement anywhere in the world….Never before attempted….never duplicated either," says Bates in an Indiana State University publication.

Her star student, Larry Newton, is one of the most notorious prisoners in Supermax. I found her discussions with Larry to be fascinating.  She got a glimpse in to his mind and never-before insight into his psyche.

I highly encourage you to follow this super teacher into her adventure behind bars.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

What a great place to be on top of a mountain in the gloomy gray days of March

The end of the first week in March usually brings to this blog a report on our quilting retreat at Grand Oak in Scottsboro, Ala.  This year and last, we managed to leave a day early and outrun a winter storm. We will do unusual things to get to this mountain-top retreat once a year for a week of sewing, learning, eating, napping, talking, and giggling.

This year we had three new quilters—new to the group—so I hope we didn't scare them off with our silliness.  One lady woke in the night and asked her roommate to tell her what time it was.  "Three dollars and 45 cents," replied the roommate.  So for the rest of the week we told time in dollars.  You had to be there.

Quilt retreats have grown in popularity over the past few weeks.  Some offer the facility but guests provide their own meals.  Some, like Grand Oak, offer the facility, three prepared meals a day plus snacks.

We learn by watching.  We are inspired by watching.

On one particularly rain, cold day, the Grand Oak aging Golden Retriever, Buddy, came down to spend the afternoon.

Below Left, one of our buddies proves that it is ok to quilt all day in your p.j.s.  It's so fun.

We also had a demonstration on the Stack 'n Whack method by Cindy Allgood.  We came up with some unusual blocks, but could see this as a beautiful quilting option.

We all heard reports of snow and ice and school closing back home, but since our hairpin-curve driveway was clear we left Friday morning on schedule.  All was fine until we hit Huntsville.  All ramps and overpasses were blocked.  After riding around in many circles we found a nice Alabama trooper who got us on the highway by avoiding the ramps.

The bridge at Decatur was dicey, but my traveling companion did a great job driving on ice.  Well, until next March. May we have no snow.   Gotta go. It's almost seven dollars.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Path to the top of the hill

Riding on the mule with Howard on land that has come to me through my daddy Hayley Dandridge, from his father Cathey Spottswood Dandridge, from his mother Mary Eliza Cathey Dandridge and purchased by her father Matthew Lafon Cathey. I'm so fortunate to live on and care for this for my short life before it changes hands again. If you stand really still maybe you'll hear the Catheys sending their mules into the gullies to hide during the Civil War. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Distressed beauty

I had some extra time last week, so I started a few home improvement projects.  After painting a small half bath—ceiling, walls, trim—I decided to tackle something else.

There is a bedroom suit upstairs that belonged to my maternal Great-Aunt Ruth Cole.  She was very special to me, more than most great-aunts.  After retiring from Northwest in 1963 she came to live with us. Aunt Ruth must have been in her late 60's when she retired.  My third daughter is named for her—Olivia Ruth.

Aunt Ruth Cole in the Northwest cafeteria
in the 1960s when it was located in
the McGhee Building. 
Back to the bedroom suit….it was probably made in 1920s.  It is not a fine antique set of furniture, but valuable to me.  But it did look a little granny-ish.  So I decided to update it with some of the new paint finishes available. The furniture had probably followed Aunt Ruth from Eupora to Texas, back to our house that was where Everblooms used to be, to our house on Lafayette, and to our house in the country where it was Hayley's bedroom suit.

I chose a Milk Paint in Sunset mixed with a little white.  Good advice came from Lumley Belle here in Senatobia.  From them I purchased the paint and got a few ideas.  Thanks Joshua and Joanna! Check out their Facebook page

Chest with painting by Northwest Art faculty
member Lawayne House. 

The mirror was really what made the piece look bad, so I found an old mirror frame that belonged to my Grandmother Dandridge and switched it out. It was probably made before or around 1900.

I'm happy with my little project.  What are you doing with paint????  Chalk or milk?

All this painting has earned me a lot of hot pad time.  That's OK.  Gotta keep clicking along.

Painted and distressed dresser and mirror frame.