Monday, May 28, 2018

Delta rain

I stay in my little area of Mississippi—the rolling hill country of North Mississippi—so much that I forget how beautiful other parts of the state are. Only 35 miles from back door you drop off into the Mississippi Delta—flat, treeless, but beautiful in its on right.  Land of the field hollers, birthplace of the Delta Blues, home for the rich and poor, and landscapes all its own. Driving back home today I saw rain in the distance but never felt a drop, then looking in the other direction experienced one of the most beautiful full rainbows I've ever seen—the sign of a promise. Only a few raindrops fell.


Friday, May 4, 2018

New Gunsmoke fan 43 years after series ends

It looks like spring might be here, after a long, gray, bleak winter. It must have rained every day since October. Stuck in the house, I had found myself binge-watching Gunsmoke. I have done some research and found out some things I never knew about Matt and Festus, in particular.

Did you know that Festus, Ken Curtis, was a singer before beginning his acting career? He was with the Tommy Dorsey Band in 1941, and succeeded Frank Sinatra as vocalist until Dick Hayes contractually replaced Sinatra. ( Ken Curtis joined the Sons of the Pioneers as a lead singer from 1949 to 1952. His big hits with the group included "Room Full of Roses" and "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky."

Take a listen.

Columbia pictures hired Curtis in the role of the singing cowboy in early Westerns.  Through his second marriage, Curtis was a son-in-law of director John Ford. Curtis teamed with Ford and John Wayne in Rio Grande, The Quiet ManThe Wings of EaglesThe SearchersThe Horse SoldiersThe Alamo, and How The West Was Won. Curtis also joined Ford, along with Henry FondaJames CagneyWilliam Powell, and Jack Lemmon, in the comedy Navy classic Mister Roberts. He was featured in all three of the only films produced by Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney's C. V. Whitney Pictures: The Searchers (1956); The Missouri Traveler (1958) with Brandon deWilde and Lee Marvin. (

Karl E. Farr Collection. Bob Nolan

I though that was pretty cool stuff. I saw ole Festus on board his mule at the rodeo at the Mid-South Fair in Memphis when I was a kid. He rode right past us, waving his hat and making his corny jokes in his Festus voice, which I'm understand was nothing like his regular speaking voice.

Then there is the issue of Matt Dillon's (James Arness) horse. Although he rode several horses in the series, his most remembered horse was Buck, or Old Faithful Buck, a buckskin of Waggoner Quarter Horse breeding. If you look closely in some shots you can see the JA brand on his right shoulder.

That brand had to be covered up when the series ended and the horse went on to become Ben Cartwright's (Lorne Green) steed on Bonanza. 

Bonanza's Michael Landon once remarked on a talk show that Lorne Greene didn’t much care for riding or horses. Still when Bonanza was cancelled, Lorne bought Buck, for fear that the horse would end up in a bad way. He then donated Buck to a therapeutic riding center. Buck taught mentally and physically challenged children to ride until his passing in 1992 at the age of 45, an unusually long life for a horse. (INSP tv blog)

I'll see if I can find more tidbits on old Westerns, their characters and their horses. "Happy Trails."  Oops, wrong Western.
James Arness and Buck (Getty images)Buck

Lorne Greene and Buck (

Thursday, April 26, 2018

I'm out of my comfort zone with Carving Place and loving it

I have written all my adult life—first news for radio, commercials for radio, scripts for video; in journalism—print news, feature writing, many papers when I returned to Ole Miss at DeSoto Center to finish my degree, stories about students, about art, about our college (NWCC), resolutions to be spread on the minutes of the Board of Trustees honoring retiring board members, and even an occasional sports story, mainly covering rodeo.

I have written obituaries for people and delivered remarks at funerals including  2 co-workers and my best childhood friend. Among the obits are several for animals—an ancient pony, our beloved cat Patches, and Howard's bird dog Sam. What do all these writings have in common?  They don't include one original thought from me.  They are all factual. All that writing was in the mode of, "Just the facts ma'am."

"Just the facts, ma'am" is a well-known line of dialogue from an old TV show called Dragnet. Detective Sgt. Friday was always using this line to get factual answers from the witness to a crime. (

I've never, in my 37-year career, been able to make up anything. So when I decided to write a novel, I had to step out of my comfort zone to create situations and characters and especially dialogue. 

When I returned to Ole Miss in 2003 to finish my Liberal Arts degree, I told one of my professors that I struggled with the dialogue problem.  "Read good writers," he said.  "Like Greg Iles."  So I did.  I put my novel on hold while I read Greg's huge three-book Natchez Burning series.  His books were thousands of pages long. Mine was just over 200. During my reading phase, I've read many other great authors.  I was even more intimidated about writing something myself.

I released The Carving Place April 12.  Response has humbled me. Thanks to all who have read my little book.  I'm hard at work on the prequel The Bargain. I wrote about so many things that I love in the first book—horses, dogs, tradition, customs, art, music, and the name tree—I hope I left a few to include in the new book.

This liberation from the facts and Associated Press style writing has been so fun.  I feel like I've done something slightly naughty.

For more information, visit or find us on Facebook at The Carving Place, a novel.  You can email me at

Celebrating the release of my book are Judge Melvin McClure, Jr. and his wife Mary Claire. Over a year ago we celebrated his book, Forrest's Cavalry in The Battle of Hurricane Creek. (left)
With me at the book launch are (l to) daughters Olivia Patterson DeMuth, Hayley Patterson Hayes and granddaughter Bella Hayes. (right) 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Borrowed time

She trips over pine cones and sticks.  She can't find her bed and spins in the room looking distraught. I hear her crying at night when she wakes up and can't figure out where she is. It's hard for her to find her way into the house.  She ends up in a corner by the steps and can't understand why she can't push the door open with her little nose. She has more accidents.

I got her in 2006 when I had shoulder surgery. I'd always wanted a little dog in the house, but the other person that lives here did not.  After taking care of me for a week he decided it was time to finally let me get one.  And then he went to Texas bird hunting for more than a week, leaving me with this little puppy and still unable to drive and put my clothes on.  It snowed. Baby silkies do not like to get their feet cold or wet (adult ones don't like it either), so there I stood in the snow, my arm in a sling, in my pj's, begging this little three pounds of hair to POTTY.  We survived and bonded.

Sydney the Silky Terrier is 12 now.  She started losing her vision when she was four. Navigating around the house has never been a problem, until this year.  Almost all vision is gone.

Sydney, leftt, and Ellie give me the stare down from
the stool.
She still can smell a coon or possum on the window ledge outside the bedroom window before the big outside dogs do. Her hearing is fine.  If I say the word "treat" she will come from the comfort of her bed and sit at my feet....if she can find me.

When I learned she was going blind, I got her a companion dog—Vamaro's Elegant Gal or "Ellie", but most often she's is called, "you little %$#*." I put a cat bell on Ellie's collar so Sydney could hear where she was.  They travel together and sometimes fight like sisters, over a milk bone, or the favorite kennel, or for no reason at all.

Ellie is affectionate and wags all the time.  Sydney has always been a little reserved, shy, and wound a little too tight, like me.  That's why she's my heart dog.

When she hears my voice and wiggles and wags.  I pick her up and tell her to "give me a kiss" and she gives me half of her tongue on my cheek for half of a second.  That's all I get, and I'm lucky when I get that much.

Hanging out in the clothes basket that holds the dog
laundry.  Sydney (left)
Sydney still runs and jumps in her pen, threatens the birds overhead when they get too close, and can out-walk her companion Ellie.  I pick her up when she cries and she stops.  When I wake up and take my first big breath, she immediately comes to life and wants out of her kennel.

It's not time Sydney.  Not yet.  As long as I get wags and wiggles and half kisses, it's not time.

Below, walking the team.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Hay in afternoon light

I've been waiting all summer to get our hay cut.  It finally happened this week.  I'm not sure why this has been so important to me. But it has.  Now I can ride my horse and not wonder if I'm stepping in a hole.

Hay and horses. It's hard to beat the smell of good, fresh hay. My pre-teen memories with hay emerged tonight as I looked at the late afternoon sun setting behind the hay rolls.

I spent my weekends and most of my summers with my daddy on this farm. He knew he didn't have to do much to keep me happy and out of his way—just put me on a horse.  I would wait patiently on old Tobie for the baler to spit out a row of square bales, not big round ones like the photos here.

Tobie and I would trot around the bales.  That was fun, but the most fun was jumping them. We jumped and jumped until daddy would tell me to go put her up.

I love living here in my farmhouse on our family land.  It is my hope that I can pass it down to someone who will love it as much as I do, as Daddy did, as Cathey Dandridge did, as his mother Mary Eliza Cathey Dandridge did, as her father Mathew Lafon Cathey did.

Here's to hay and horses.

My farmhouse in Barr

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Time to kneel

I have several odd, little chairs in my home.  My husband and I have picked them up at estate sales, junk shops, and some were handed down to me. One of my odd chairs is a prayer chair. I found it at Katie's Antiques in Independence about 10 years ago. She wasn't sure if it was a valet chair or a prayer chair.  So I did some research.  

Valet or butler's chairs have a slope to the top bar to accommodate hanging a suit coat or shirt and keeping the shoulders in shape.  It may also have some compartments to hold such things such as a clothes brushe or shoe polish.

Mine is a prayer chair.  They have been in use for many centuries.  Some are fancy as the example of a beautiful 19th century walnut kneeler (  Below, top.

I was thrilled to find this example, which looks just like mine, on eBay of a pair of French prayer chairs from the late 1800s. Below, lower.

My chair needed a little pick-me-up.  How appropriate.
So does my prayer life. I have only felt the need once before to be on my knees, praying for my country daily. 

That was after 9/11.  Today I pray for peace and healing for our wonderful country. Will you join me?

My chair after cleaning and painting with Miss
Lillian's Chock Paint in Chanel. (available at Miller Station)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Animals, plants to be affected by solar eclipse

Mexican Petunias waking for the day
Too much, in my opinion, has been written about the upcoming solar eclipse, set for Monday, Aug. 21.  Yet, here I go with another story from a non-human perspective. It seems that Monday's solar event will have an effect on plants and animals.

As an animal owner—horse, dogs, cats—this concerns me.  Not enough for me to go buy them protective eyewear, but enough to take note.

According to articles on this subject, dogs and cats do not usually look at the sun, so they shouldn't be so much at risk of eye damage. They can experience behavioral changes such as excitement and confusion.

Horses could seek shelter as they would during an upcoming rain storm. I found a good source on this subject in a recent National Geographic post.

A more dramatic effect is expected for spiders, bees and other insects.

Not as much research has been done on plants, but scientist seem enthusiastic about studying this aspect of the eclipse this time around.

I found this interesting article on NPR's (National Public Radio) website.

I have two plants in my backyard that are especially photosensitive. My Mexican Petunias open in the morning and bloom all day, losing their flowers around dusk.  It will be interesting to see what a mid-day nap does to their blooms.

Four O'clocks beginning to close this morning
Just the opposite, the four o'clocks don't open their hot pink flowers until about.......four o'clock or late afternoon. Their blooms can last until morning.

On Monday, you might catch me in the yard taking photos of these plants to see if they are misbehaving, but I WILL NOT be observing the eclipse in any way. As a person who has lost central vision in one eye, I cannot warn you enough to protect your precious vision.  Go inside and watch it on TV.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Naysayers have gone too far

I just may have to take a vacation from social media for a while.  Of course, I might have to post a horse, quilt, or kid photo.  I am very discouraged.

While going through my morning newsfeed, I read that wearing flip flops is extremely hazardous to your health.  They put too much tension on your toes.  Better to go barefoot, the article said.  They are full of thousands of bacteria since sidewalks and streets are dirty, where people spit. Yuck! Just one bacteria can make you sick, they say.  Well, don't all shoes touch those same surfaces?   Are you sure you want us to go barefoot?

I scrolled on down. I learned that even though my doctor recommended I take a vitamin D supplement, thousands of people are taking vitamin D supplements, unnecessarily.  I don't drink milk, and my sun bathing days are over.  I'm taking my vitamins.

Just as I prepare for 10 days of outside time, I am told that chemical insect repellants are deadly to people.  So should I take my chance with Deep Woods Off, or battle it out with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or get a bite from a Lone Star tick? What about Lyme Disease?
Squirt, squirt.  That was me, spraying my ankles with Off. 

The list is endless. Seems I am blowing my hair dry the wrong way.  Looks like I am offending my hair follicles by fluffing them from the wrong direction. My dog is eating the wrong food, and I am not using my iPhone to its full potential. I'm also not moisturizing my skin right.

Every day I see headlines like, "10 signs of cancer," "10 signs of toenail fungus," "10 signs of vitamin deficiencies."  Didn't they just tell us we were wasting our time on vitamins? These social media people are making hypochondriacs of us all.

The last straw was when I heard on the radio that a "scientific study" has proven that eating cereal out of a round bowl was not as good for you as eating it out of a square bowl. This is especially bad if you eat standing up.  Siting down with your square bowl to eat will make you feel fuller and help with digestion. Who has square bowls? I'm doing good to drink a deadly Diet Coke and a fiber bar on the run. Who gives a rat's ______?

I give up.  I think all the "scientists" should just quit thinking about all this stuff. If they are scientifically-inclined at all, please go find a cure for cancer, heart disease, or something else really important.

I'll take my chances and continue to eat from round bowls while wearing my flip flops.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sam's passing closes an era for Patterson

Portrait of Sam painted from a photo following one of his last good hunts.

Sam Patterson, a white field pointer, died today, April 27, at his home in Barr, Miss.  He would have been 13 on his birthday in May. Raised by avid hunter and sportsman Mike Stephens of Coffeeville, Sam was a 2004 pup who came to live with Howard Patterson, who would be his friend, master and handler for nearly 13 years. 

Sam first hunted quail on the Dandridge property that now belongs to the Patterson’s. When local quail hunting became scarce in the area, Patterson took Sam on several hunts in Arkansas.  The team served as dog handlers at many corporate pen-raised hunts in Arkansas.

The dog excelled in wild-bird hunting and made several trips to Texas to hunt on leased land near Midland, Texas.  He became a camp favorite there where sometimes 50 dogs were used daily. 

"I even let Sam go to Texas one year without me," says Patterson. "My buddy Mike picked him up, and Mike and Bruce Hawkins of Morrilton, Ark., had a good hunt out there with him.

"I had to tape his feet to protect him from the nasty Texas burrs," said Patterson. He describes his dog as always good-natured and ready to work.  "He loved his job."  

Sam was quite a clown at home.  When he saw someone approaching his kennel he seemed to "talk" much in the dialect of the cartoon character Scooby-Do, to the amusement of the family and grandchildren.

The old white dog was never registered or the held a field trial championship, but he was at the top of his game in his sport.

Sam’s death marks the end of an era for Patterson. He and his brothers grew up quail hunting with their daddy, the late A.M. Patterson. There is no such thing as wild quail hunting in this part of Mississippi anymore.  While Sam enjoyed the Texas and Arkansas hunts, it was never quite as good and a Sunday afternoon hunt right here in Tate County.

Patterson's sister, Tupelo artist Robbie Boyd, painted Sam's portrait for her brother for a Christmas gift three years ago.  When Patterson saw it, he was touched.  "Look at that eye," he says pointing to the painting.  "I've seen him look at me like that a hundred times.  He would point a bird, and hold, and then cut his eye back at me like,'I got 'em, your turn next.’"

For the first time in our 37-year marriage, our dog kennel is empty.  Sam closed that chapter for us.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Mustang Photos

Waiting for adoption
Visit for full story and photos.