Friday, December 19, 2014

Deception thy name is divinity-revisited

Here I am again, asking forgiveness for a blog re-run.  I haven't tried Divinity making this year since the weather has been gray and murky for most of December. Give me a good cold, sunny day and I might give it a whirl.  Hope you enjoy reading or re-reading this blog from 2011.

Never a Christmas comes and goes that I don't think about my Mama making Divinity candy.  There are two versions of this family legend.



Her version:  "I think I won your Daddy's heart by making candy.  I tried every recipe I knew, and he thought I was a really good cook."

Daddy's version:  "When we were dating, your Mama made the most wonderful candy for me.  After we got married, I soon realized that was all she could make.  Nothing for dinner."

My version:  Mama always made Divinity at Christmas.  The weather had to be right. No humidity.  I've seen her throw a whole batch away and wait a day to start again.  She had certain rules in this Divinity making.

1.  It needed to be cold
2.  No mixer was allowed
3.  I got to "lick the bowl"—meaning I got to scrape the bowl for any remaining candy when she was through.


When I looked through her little recipe book in the candy section, which just happens to be the largest section, I also found fudge, praline drops, peanut brittle, date loaf, caramel fudge,  and chocolate dip candy.  It's a wonder she didn't send Daddy into a sugar coma before they ever got married.

She sometimes made the Divinity with chopped pecans only. Other times she added chopped pecans and topped it with a perfect pecan half.  She was very adamant about the no mixer rule.  My Great Aunt Ruth, who lived with us, was the dietician at Northwest in the 1950s and '60s.  She usually had Mama make a beautiful tray of Divinity which was delivered to the McLendons.  R.D. McLendon was the president of the college.

We had a set of cooking spoons that Daddy had brought home from Germany in WWII.  They were oversized spoons. She would use one to beat the candy until it was the right consistency.  When she was through, there was usually a blister in the palm of her hand.

If she didn't think the temperature was right in the house, she would go outside and sit on the steps to continue beating.  And she also did this because all this whipping, whisking, and beating made her hot.

Peanut brittle was also a production. She would pour the hot candy, mixed with paraffin, right out on the kitchen counter.  I wanted to help so bad. If you grow up in a house with three women (Mama, my Grandmother, and Aunt Ruth) you don't learn to cook until you leave home.

Mamay, my grandmother, had a candy specialty too.  She made taffy the old-fashioned way—pulling it over and over until it turned from a soft ball into a long strip. When it cooled she would break it with the blunt end of a knife and put it on wax paper.  She would give me a little piece to try to pull.  It didn't get long and pearly white like hers did.  She would pull it until it snapped when she brought the two ends together.  Mine would go from a small, gooey ball, into a long brown gooey strip.  Needless to say, we didn't eat the one I pulled.



Marjorie Latham Dandridge in the kitchen in the 1950s when we lived in the house on Hwy. 51 where Ever Blooms was next to May's Pharmacy. She must have posed for this picture, because that was NOT her usual kitchen attire.

I've said all this to say what is really important. I brought my mother home from the hospital in 1993—21 years ago on Dec. 23—with a terminal lung cancer diagnosis.  She also suffered from Parkinson's disease, macular degeneration, heart disease, and chronic depression. Hospice came to set up equipment right before Christmas.

For those of you have lost loved ones this year or for those who have lost friends and family at Christmastime, I offer you hope. You never forget. But time does make a difference.

This Christmas I don't see Mama in those final years with oxygen, wearing a wig from taking chemotherapy, and looking pale. I see her sitting on the back porch at our house on Lafayette Street, in her "pedal pushers" and house shoes, her breath making a fog in the cold, beating Divinity candy.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Turkey Talk Revisited

There is something about this time of year that makes me more accident prone than usual.  I said "more" because my family will tell you that I'm a little accident prone all the time.  I'm going to revisit an earlier post, "Turkey Talk" that describes some of my past Thanksgiving mishaps.

It isn't even Thanksgiving and it's already started.  Last Thursday I finally persuaded my husband to get rid of the HUGE TV in the living room. The TV worked fine, but the remote was compromised since one of my grandchildren had eaten off the buttons at the top.  Every time the lights flickered, I had to move the batteries around and stick a toothpick in the remote where the missing buttons were.

You may have one.  This TV is about 15 years old and must weigh 900 pounds. ( I exaggerate)
It looks like kind of a square flat screen from the front. Oh, but looks can be deceiving.  There is a gigantic triangular part growing out of its back.

So we tried to pick it up and it was too heavy.  We brought my trusty Rubbermaid wheel barrow into the house, and the plan was to slowly ease the TV off the stand and into the wheel barrow.  One, two, three, pick up.

"Oh, my gosh Howard I can hold it!  It's cutting into my hands.  I have to put it down."

"Well, put it down then and we'll try again."

"Oh, my hands, I can't hold it, I'm going to drop it.  Oh my hands!"

Mine was bigger, but you get the idea.
I drop my side and it lands right on the instep of my right foot.

"Oh my foot!  Get it off my foot!"

He just looks at me, amazed at my inability to help move things.

"Get it off my foot!!!"

My foot immediately turns blue.  I honestly don't remember how he got it in the wheel barrow, but he did, and we wheeled it outside and had to pick it up again to get it in the back of the truck. I'm so glad the TV on the counter weighs 6.5 pounds. I've still got almost a week to go and hope nothing else happens.

Here are some other accident-prone memories.

About 1992, when we still lived in town. I had put a turkey in the oven in one of those roasting bags. When it was finally done and falling apart, the following scene took place.

Me:  Thank goodness it's done.  (I open the over door)

Howard:  Stand back. You know you are too clumsy to take that out of the oven without dropping it. (He reaches in and grabs the pan.)

SPLAT

Hayley:  (About 11 years old)  Olivia, Jason, come quick!  Daddy dropped the turkey on the floor!  Hahahahahahahaha.

Me:  Great.

Another one

About 1996.  I'm cleaning up the kitchen and washing the electric knife that I had carefully used to slice the turkey, without incident.  I reach across for something and slice my finger on the clean blade. Blood is going everywhere.  It looks like the Dan Akroyd  version of Julie Child on Saturday Night Live.

Me:  I think I need a cold towel.

Jason:  Oh man, you really sliced it.

Howard:  (From his recliner, not looking)  Do you need a bandaid?

Jason:  I think it's a little late for a bandaid.  I can see white stuff in there.

Me:  I think I better go get some stitches.

Howard:  Emergency Room! Your favorite place.  

Jason takes me to the ER and they don't take me immediately. 

We wait.  They finally call me.

Jason:  Can you tell them to hurry. I really didn't plan to spend all night here. I have plans.

Me:  I'll try. Sigh

Happy Thanksgiving. May there be no turkeys on the floor, blood on the counter or TVs on your feet.  Thanks for letting me post this turkey rerun.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Not Just Another Horse Book

Time for a book review. New author Malcolm Brooks gives us a splendid epic novel that takes us to the American West in the 1950s.  If you are just looking for a book about horses, this may not be for you.

Young Catherine Lemay heads West to investigate what historically significant artistic elements could be lost if a new proposed dam goes in, thus flooding the area.  Along the way she learns that she is way over her head.

She meets the mysterious John H who teaches her more than to love the stark landscape and art.  Her companion Miriam, a young Native American, gives her insight into her culture as she embraces the modern America.

Brooks' detailed descriptions of horses, characters, landscape, make reading more like watching.  He has  been compared to Cormac McCarthy and even Hemingway as he recounts John H's war memories.

The author says his inspiration was reading and rereading "Lonesome Dove" by Larry McMurtry.

If this is ever to become a movie, in my mind, it will take on the style of "The English Patient" or "Out of Africa."  You can see the characters, feel the texture of their clothing, smell the caked on dirt after weeks of riding in the desert.

I was surprised and thoroughly entertained.  Give it a shot.

Learn more about Malcolm Brooks at malcolmbrooks.net.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sad smile sweet friend

I really don't want my blog to turn into an obit page, but some people were so special to me that I can't help but want you to know them through me.  This past week I said goodbye to my closest childhood friend, Wayne Carter Gulledge, attorney of Flowood.  Here are some of the remarks I made at his memorial service.

Thanks to a special friendship between my parents, Hayley and Marjorie Dandridge and Bill and Elizabeth Gulledge, Wayne was my constant companion from the time of my birth, exactly three months after his, until our high school paths took us in different directions.  But we have stayed in touch via email and letters ever since.
I want to tell you some of the things about Wayne that made him special to me. 
Sketch of Gulledge in his law school days. 

You see, I became an organ donor for Wayne at the age of 6…not in the ordinary sense of the word.  The night before I went to Oxford to have my tonsils removed, he called and asked my mother to save my tonsils for him if, “They were an acceptable specimen.”  I guess they were. We brought them home in a jar.  For the next few years when we started science in school, he would bring them in proudly and plop them on the teacher’s desk, much to her horror, and say, “These are Nancy’s tonsils.”

They eventually decomposed and lost their shock effect. When I had my appendix removed the next year he made the same request.  My appendix must have not looked too good, because the doctor said NO.

We had so many wonderful childhood adventures.  I was a typical giggly girl and Wayne was always beyond-his-years-smart.  When we toured the Wonder Bread factory in Memphis, I ate the center out of my bread before we got home and his was preserved in pristine shape until mold set in. 

Christmas at the Gulledges' with Bill Gulledge
I always got great Christmas presents, but Wayne’s were super-great and I couldn’t wait every Christmas to go over and see what he got….a robot, additions to his full-size train city in the basement, loads of fireworks. I was scared to go in his room because he delighted in my horror of his pet tarantula spider, various toads, and even a pet snake. But Wayne was an avid animal lover of the more normal variety of pets from childhood to the present.  From the collie of his boyhood days to the many cats over the years, animals were a vital part of his life.

He even found more delight in my horror of his hero, The Monster of Ceremonies SIVAD, host of Fantastic Features. He would call when it came on and make me watch it with him over the telephone and when it got creepy I would hang up.  When SIVAD himself made a live appearance at the then-Gloria Theatre, he had SIVAD sign his arm and refused to wash it for days.

He was an interesting boy who could spend hours looking through gravel for fossils; would go through piles of coins, hoping for a rare find; and he amazed me that he could place a magnifying glass just so and start a fire which he did when we camped once at his family’s farm property. My fires never lit.


When I did my girly giggle or got over-excited about one of our adventures, he would look at me over his glasses and tell me not to “get overjoyed” or to “compose myself.”

What I really want you to know about Wayne Gulledge is that he was ridiculously-intelligent, a sweet soul, funny, witty, serious, well-read, firm in his beliefs and a true eccentric.  When I sent him the name of a fiction author I was reading this summer, he informed me that he was reading non-fiction these days…accounts of religious relic research……outsmarted again.

I checked Wayne’s Facebook page last night and found many remarks from his friends in Jackson, many he had counseled through their own dark times.


So it is with a sad smile that I remember my friend, no more tears, you know he would tell me to “compose myself.”

My favorite pic, from the Tom Thumb wedding.
We were groomsman and bridesmaid.
Not sure he was sold on all
this pageantry.


Obituary
Wayne C. Gulledge, 59 of Flowood and Senatobia, attended Senatobia City School, Harding Academy and Memphis University School where he graduated with honors.
Gulledge graduated with honors from Davidson College where he majored in pre-med.  He completed his Juris Doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1979.
While living in Flowood, he was an active supporter of Alcoholics Anonymous at the Jackson Chapter where served as mentor and counselor.
An avid animal lover, he supported MARL (Mississippi Animal Rescue League) in Jackson.
His parents, William Ralph Gulledge and Elizabeth Carter Gulledge, long-time Senatobia residents, preceded him in death. Survivors include his sister Anne Gulledge Boling (Charles) of Senatobia; a brother William Ralph Gulledge Jr. (Liz) of Springdale, Utah;
Nephew Jeff McGee of Senatobia; nieces Suzanne McGee Creekmore (Robert) of Senatobia; and Ashley Gulledge Franzen (Doug) of Seattle, Wash.; and several great-nephews and many friends.
Gulledge was a member of the church of Christ. A memorial service was held at the Senatobia church of Christ Nov. 6 and another service will be held in Jackson Nov. 15 at the Raymond Road AA. 
The family requests that memorials be made to the Senatobia-Tate County Animal Shelter.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Historical home in Barr shines

Thanks to the Democrat-Record for publishing this story on a historical home in our area. It just happens to belong to two of our best friends.  Check the beautiful spread in the newspaper for a look at more of the photos of the Crockett house. 


Nestled out in the country on Crockett Road in Eastern Tate County is one of the area’s most interesting historical homes.  Now occupied by Randy and Susan Crockett, the 120 year-old home is a sanctuary for birds, flowers, and friends.

Originally a dogtrot house consisting of two rooms and a porch, the house has had several renovations over the years, but the original log walls are still visible in the main part of the house. The house had been vacant for a period of six years following the death of Annie Dee Crockett who was born (1900) and died (1986) in the log cabin built by her father Samuel B. Crockett.

Miss Annie Dee never married.  She enjoyed a full life there in the little house where she tended flowers and was visited often by friends and relatives.


 According to Randy Crockett, the house had an addition that was in bad repair when he moved in, so he tore that out and remodeled the kitchen area.  “There is nothing straight about this house,” says Susan. “We knew the floors were not even and the windows were crooked. The house sits on logs for the foundation, so it is too low to the ground for anyone to get under.”  They later found out that Samuel Crockett was blind in one eye, which might explain why things are not quite straight.

Susan thinks Samuel Crockett used hand tools to construct the two-room structure.  Eventually the dogtrot was enclosed and a front porch added.  It had two original fireplaces.  The front door to the house today is the one that was placed there when that first renovation occurred.

Also original is one wooden gate post and decorative wire fencing of the period. On either side of the gate stand cedar trees, well over one hundred years old. Some believe these to be the oldest standing cedars in the county.

Cistern signed by Walter B. Crockett
Susan, who is an avid gardener and bird watcher, says she knew she loved Randy when they got married but says, “I would have married him for the dirt.”  She says she is blessed with great soil on the place thanks to Miss Annie Dee’s love of flowers and the vacant state of the yard for six years that let leaves and grass compost and enrich the soil.

Unusual objects are found in the flower beds surrounding the house include an antique plow, chamber pot,
old wash bucket and fountain turned bird bath. “People know I love old rusty things,” says Susan. “They give me things, and if they are not working, I plant them.”

One of those objects is a “planted” cistern that is signed by Randy’s great-granddaddy, Walter Barnard Crockett.  The inscription reads WBC January 31, 1922.  While Walter Crocket did not live in the house, he was a relative of the home’s owners, and put in wells and cisterns for a living.

On days when the temperatures are not near 100, the Crockett’s can sit on their back patio and watch the hummingbirds that come back every year.  “This year we have had about 200,” says Susan.  “If it rains or cools off, I have almost a solid wall of birds.  You always have a few mean birds that want to be the only one to drink from a particular feeder.  I call those birds ‘meanies’.” She estimates that she is making two gallons of nectar a day. 

The Crocketts do light construction, painting and minor renovations. After a hard day at work in the Mississippi heat, who wouldn’t like to sit on the back patio of a 120-year-old house, watching birds and looking at flowers, while horses slowly swat their tails in the nearby pasture.  The Crocketts feel very much at home.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Big Dose of Horse Medicine

I haven't felt great lately.  Today, instead of going to bed after church or reading a book, I decided to do something about it.  The perfect pre-fall weather triggered in me the need for a ritual that has been part of my whole life, except for the past 11 years or so.

Every Sunday in my childhood times, I went with my Daddy to the farm and rode his old mare Penny (whom you have read about before) while he did small tasks, always keeping an eye on me.

"I sure wish we had an arena to ride in," I'd say.  "Go ride in the orchard," was his reply.  "Be happy with what you've got."  I had it all and didn't know it.

We rode down what is now Dandridge Road, across Highway 305, down in the "bottom" land.  Later I graduated to other horses and brought my three children with me.  They rode ponies that balked and ran up banks, just to make them squeal.  The kids finally won, and we ended up with a couple of good ponies.

I was so lucky that when Daddy was unable to take us on a Sunday ride, we had a nearby farm neighbor who led us on great trails.  We rode around cotton fields and over ditches.  Sometimes I'd look back and see the smallest pony, Nugget, chest-deep in ditch water while the other horses were taking it about knee-level.  The kids just stuck their feet out and rode through.

My youngest daughter and I continued the Sunday afternoon riding ritual when we had our last show horse at a local trainer's barn.  As soon as we got home from church, we shed our Sunday clothes and put on jeans and boots and headed over to the barn for a lesson or just some riding.

Until today, I hadn't ridden since we sold that last show horse in 2003.  The Sunday ritual called, and I put on my back brace and went to ride.

Growing up with Quarter-type horses, I wasn't sure about this spotted saddle horse my daughter put me on, but we got along great.  My back was sore, the stirrups rubbed my bone spur in the wrong place—even my saddle squeaked with neglect.  This is the saddle I bought for another daughter and paid it off $25 a month for what seemed like forever.





That saddle is like me.  Still looks OK at a distance, but its parts are a little dry and rusty.  But on this beautiful, slightly cool day, I felt totally rejuvenated.  I may be in some health professional's office this week, but it was so worth it.  Sometimes things get in your blood that just can't be ignored.

Oh, and we had some pretty good conversation on the trail.  My heart is happy.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Here She Is

For the price of a ticket ($1) you might be the lucky person to win this
beautiful row quilt made by members of
Loose Threads Quilters.  Proceeds go to the
Comfort Quilt Project that provides lap quilts for cancer patients
at West Clinic in Southaven.
Quilt hanging at Cotton Treasures in Senatobia.  Tickets available
at Cotton Treasures, Tin Roof Market, both in Senatobia; and at Sit and Rock in Oxford. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wrapped in Comfort

If you have never been a cancer patient, never had a friend or relative who is a cancer patient, never been to a cancer treatment center, you cannot image the reaction of Wings Coordinator Karen Sudduth at West Clinic in Southaven, when Loose Threads delivers their bi-annual shipment of quilts.

Karen cries every time.

Treatment rooms are cold sometimes.  Many patients come without someone to hold their hands unless it by one of the wonderful volunteers at the clinic.  Karen says when she gives a patient one of our quilts, she is rewarded with a huge smile, sometimes a tear.  What makes someone feel more loved than being covered in a hand-made quilt?  
President Virginia Rhynes (left) and Elinor Baker
present Karen Sudduth (center) with
a recent quilt shipment.

I hope they spend their treatment time looking at each fabric in their quilt.  Many will be reminded of quilts long ago made by their grandmothers, quilts found in attics, quilts still on their beds.

Loose Threads quilters in Senatobia have been making Comfort Quilt, little lap size quilts, for the patients at West Clinic for three years now.

While we have had many donations of fabric, our "stash" is running low.  Last spring while on our quilting retreat in Alabama, we saw a row quilt and were inspired.  That's a quilt where each member donates a row.
No rules except in the width of the row.

Members show off some of the quilts in the last shipment


We came home and looked through our stash and decided to make a row quilt to raffle.  Funds will be used to replenish our "stash" of fabric or to buy batting and other supplies to make our quilts.   Many members bring their own fabric from home.

Yellows, grays and reds are the colors of our quilt.  If you can imaging turning these ladies loose to do their own thing, you can imagine that the rows were all different. Yet when we put them together and Chantay Rhone at Cotton Treasurers quilted it……..we have pure magic.

Row quilt in progress.  It could be yours!


Yes, this is a plea to support our Comfort Quilt raffle. You can purchase tickets at Cotton Treasures where you can see and touch the quilt and at Tin Roof Market, both in Senatobia.  We hope to add other merchants to the list soon.

The patients may have received the gift of the quilt, but the real gift is ours.


Chances $1 • 6 for $5 • 24 for $20
             

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Young journalist will be missed

T.J. Jernigan was a guy that made you sit up and take notice. I have been in a state of disbelief since hearing of his death on Sunday. TJ served as the editor of Northwest’s Ranger Rocket, the student newspaper, in 2008-09.  

When he walked in my office to ask about the editor’s slot, he already had bylines under his belt, from weekly newspapers in the state. He was serious about journalism, but always smiling.

That smile didn’t always hide his grief, having lost his sister not too long before coming to Northwest. 

When we talked to TJ about his newspaper experience, he told us, “Jim Prince owns three newspaper companies here in Mississippi: Kemper County Messenger; Neshoba Democrat and Madison County Journal.  After working for him, I realized that journalism is something I really love.”

While at Northwest TJ was named outstanding student in Journalism and was the recipient of the CPRAM (College Public Relations Association of Mississippi) Scholarship.  He traveled with the PR staff to that state conference and spoke eloquently to a room full of seasoned journalists.

TJ wrote for the student newspaper, the yearbook, and his stories were sent out through the college’s Public Relations Department.  

On the day his first newspaper came back, he jumped right in with delivery.  Not long afterward I got a call from College President, Dr. Gary Lee Spears.  “I was eating my lunch in the President’s home, and looked up and this guy with a dew rag on his head was standing in the foyer,” said Spears.  “Can I help you,” Dr. Spears asked.

“Oh hey, Dr. Spears.  What are you doing in here?”

“Well, I live here TJ.  What are you doing in here?”

“Oh man, I thought I was in the education building.  Oops.”

His byline gained national attention when he covered the story of Elvis’ John Deere tractor, which had been restored by Northwest Agricultural Technology students.

Over the years I have captured my share of awards—for writing, photography, service—but I was never as honored as I was when TJ chose me for the subject of his tribute speech—part of a final grade in speech. He said whenever he felt homesick, he would pull up a chair and talk to one of his PR Mamas, meaning LaJuan Tallo, Julie Bauer, Renate Ferreira and me.

After leaving Northwest he went on to study journalism and electronics at the University of Memphis.

The spring after he left us at Northwest, TJ sent us a message saying he had gotten his hand caught in the garbage disposal.  We all shrieked.  He even sent a picture of the gory, mangled fingers.  It was April 1.  “NOT funny, TJ,” we said.  “PR mamas are faint at heart.”

I will miss my friend—sweet soul, beautiful boy, picker, singer, writer.