The Return to Victory Gardens

In Memory of June Davis Davidson. Your spirit lives on through the many words you left us.

With the ever-escalating cost of produce, you can save money and still feed your family a nutritional diet by planting a Victory Garden in the corner of your backyard. A small plot of earth will provide a family with red, green and yellow vegetables all summer long; plump red tomatoes, yellow crook-neck squash, butter or green beans, purple eggplants, dark green leafy collards, cucumbers and red skin potatoes are hearty choices for the miniature southern garden.

These small gardens were originally called War Gardens and Victory Gardens during World War II when canned goods, sugar, meat and gas were rationed. War gardens helped provide food for the family and prevented a food shortage, ensuring a food supply for the military during the war. There were approximately two million victory gardens in the United States during this period, producing almost half of the food grown in America. .

A family affair

Engaging your children in gardening will be the perfect time to discuss the nutritional value of each vegetable grown. Not all will enjoy planting and gathering their crop, but most enjoy the hands-on experience and learning about soil preparation and the methods of planting and harvesting a victory garden.

Tomatoes

The tomato is called the world’s healthiest vegetable because it’s rich in the anti-oxidant, lycopene. In the early 1930s, tomato clubs were formed in schools to teach girls about growing this popular and versatile tomato. Tomato Clubs would later become known as the 4-H Club, which began in Mississippi.

Tomato plants require staking, Wire cages, available at most any store with a home and garden department, can be used year after year. Six tomato plants will be sufficient for most families.

Garden tomato plants

Lush, healthy tomato plants

Tips:

1) Scalding washed whole tomatoes will aid in removing the skin before canning or freezing.

2) Wash all vegetables thoroughly before preparing.

3) Add a tablespoon of vinegar in simmering pot of snap beans to preserve the rich dark green color.

4) Fruit and tomatoes should be refrigerated indoors to prevent fruit flies.

5) Take a soil sample to the County Extension service to test for your soil requirements.

6) Plant in full sun, or at least morning sun in a well-prepared bed to achieve maximum crop results.

7) Plant by the moon phase; underground crops such as potatoes are planted when nights are dark. Above ground crops are planted when the moon is full.

8) The Farmers Almanac’s is free booklet filled with useful information for the beginning gardener.

9) A tablespoon of vinegar in simmering dark green snap beans preserves the color.

 

Garden 2 Squash blooms

A beautiful squash bloom

 

Garden-Bobby Davidson gather squash

Harvesting the squash

Then and Now

Years ago, our grandparent used wood poles, attaching wire to the top, which ran the length of the row. Twine was added and zigzagged from the wire and anchored to the ground to allow the beans to grow up the twine. With Victory Gardening, do what the Native American’s did. Plant beans near the base of corn stalks and let the beans grow up the stalk. Not only will this reduce gardening work, but is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

From the garden to the table

Instead of a hamburger or hot dog meal, gather a couple of nice size green tomatoes. Wash and slice the tomato into thick pieces, salt, pepper and meal before frying in that seasoned iron skillet grandma gave you. Serve fried green tomatoes between a layer of bread spread lightly with mayonnaise and a leaf of dark green lettuce before you lightly toast the sandwich in a buttered skillet. Serve with a side of vegetable soup made from your garden; tomatoes, beans, corn kernels and okra and a quarter of an onion, simmered with a dash of salt, pepper, oregano and basil for a easy and delicious hearty meal.

Thoroughly washed and freshly cooked collard greens can’t be beat for flavor; garnish them with a dollop of sour cream and serve. A dish of cucumber and diced tomatoes is a cool,refreshing addition to your dinner table during the summer months. These two vegetables contains nutrients that decrease during the cooking cycle. Season and cook young, slender green beans in a wok. Scrap corn off the cob, add butter, salt and pepper and bake until done. Less butter is needed to season food than imitation margarine.

The Gardener’s chore

Victory Gardens are easy to maintain and require little work, other than preparing the soil for planting, just keep the weeds at bay and water. Sit back and watch it grow and produce. A rule of thumb is to plant one row about 14 feet long for each vegetable, except for eggplants, cabbage, cucumbers, and radishes.  A tiller comes in handy for breaking up the ground, but this can also be done with a shovel, although this takes longer and requires more effort. You’ll need a hoe regardless, to keep the weeds at bay. A weed free garden helps reduce pests. Some plant marigolds between vegetable rows because they claim marigolds keep insects away from vegetable plants, although there is no scientific proof that supports this theory. After the harvest, can or freeze excess vegetables, but follow FDA safety instructions on canning.

From acres of vegetables on family farms in the rural south to the small Victory Garden in our backyard, we can still supplement our diet with wholesome, healthy and additive free food.

 

So, grab your straw hat . . . its time to plant!

 

USEFUL RESOURCES:

FDA

Fenway Victory Gardens

Organic Gardening

June Davidson book cover image copy

June Davidson

 

June Davis Davidson is the author of Country Stores of Mississippi, Images of Meridian and coauthor of Legendary Locals of Meridian. She is a member and former board member of the Mississippi Writers Guild and currently serves as the Meridian Chapter head. June is member of Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education and is listed on the Mississippi Arts Commission as a literary artist.

 

 

 

Quick Shrimp Pasta

 1 cup fresh diced tomatoes

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil or T of dried

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup, plus 2 tbsp freshly grated Romano cheese

sea salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 lb penne pasta, prepared

 

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil and 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Stir well, then set aside. Preheat your oven’s broiler for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange the shrimp on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Then, sprinkle with 2 tbsp Romano cheese.

Broil the shrimp for 4-5 minutes per side, until cooked through and lightly browned. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside. Add the cooked penne pasta to the tomato mixture and stir well. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Romano cheese, salt and pepper. Stir again. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary.  Spoon the pasta into bowls and top with 1/4 of the shrimp. Serve immediately.

 

Leighannelocalflavor

Yum!!

Fresh Pico de Gallo

Fresh and Fast: Fresh Pico de Gallo

3 Roma tomatoes,diced

1/2 cup purple onion,diced

2 T diced jalapeño

1 diced avocado

Fiesta lime mrs dash to taste

Fresh cilantro to taste

Fresh lime juice to taste

Gently fold all together.  Serve with tortilla chips

Leighannelocalflavor

Snack Time!

 

CHRISTMAS IN NEW YORK

Spotlighted on our street is the manger scene that Sue and Sam Gressett display each December.

It’s still my favorite expression of Christmas. On Friday morning, the trees surrounding it were covered in snow, which made it even more beautiful.

I recently saw the lights of the big city, the glitz and glamor of Manhattan where every tree is wrapped in tiny white lights. I saw the flashing lights of Times Square and the huge live tree at Rockefeller Center–it is all spectacular.  With my granddaughters and daughter-in-law, I road the elevator 67 floors up to the Top of the Rock to look out at the city–a mass of lights all around.

I loved seeing New York at Christmas time, but as we wove our way through the crowded streets, I began to wonder, “Does anyone here know what Christmas is really about?”

And then, we went to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes. I’ve never seen anything like that show; it embodies the very best of talent in the music, the lights, the spectacular sets, the gifted musicians and dancers—it is magical. I found Baby Jesus there, where the real Christmas story was portrayed with Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the Wise Men, and live camels and sheep. Yes, some people in that big city know the reason for the season.

We also found Jesus in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In the Medieval art section, there are scores of sculptures and paintings depicting the life of the Savior. 

     We took the subway to Ground Zero, where we saw the Little Chapel that survived Nine Eleven. Just steps away from where the Towers collapsed is the historic Saint Paul’s Chapel. It is said that George Washington once prayed there. The little church served as a refuge, a soulful abode for rescue workers during the aftermath of the tragedy.

Guideposts Magazine reported that: “Saint Paul’s Church survived without a scratch when the world around it crumbled.”

Just steps away from death and destruction, there were no broken windows, and even the steeple remained intact. Among the trees in the church-yard, only one fell—a nearly 100-year-old sycamore. This tree served as a protection for the church. According to the Associated Press, it was this tree that prevented a huge steel beam from smashing the 235-year-old church. The Daily News reported that Saint Paul’s Chapel had also survived the Great Fire of 1776.

When I researched the story of the Little Chapel,

tears stung my eyes as I realized that Jesus had been there all along. He is wherever His Name is honored. We read in the Bible that “Jesus wept,” and I’m sure He was weeping on that horrible day. Prior to the Nine-Eleven attack, in the midst of all our unearned freedom, in the hub of our power to choose, we Americans had taken our freedom for granted and had almost forgotten about the Creator. His “still, small voice” speaks to us now from that little church.

In Central Park, the carriage driver wrapped us with red furry blankets and drove us through the park while telling us stories of New York and its famous people. Every day, we looked up and stood gawking at the tall buildings that towered over us. We were jostled by crowds of people as we headed toward Broadway to see the shows, smelling the food-smells of the restaurants, and hearing the beeping of taxis.

Christmas in New York was an unforgettable gift,

and now I am home, looking out my bedroom window at the manger scene across the street. That’s the real thing—the reason for the season.

by Virginia Dawkins

DESTINATION MISSISSIPPI

From the mighty river to the Gulf of Mexico,

Mississippi’s landscape spreads into hills, farmland, sandy beaches and the great piney woods and features a multitude of National and State landmarks and manmade destinations for families around the world to enjoy.  So why leave Mississippi for family summer vacation when these destinations are just around the corner from your house? Here are some favorite Mississippi destinations this summer:

Natchez 

With festivals, historical reenactments, musical tributes, parades, powwows, music and arts, and events with Tricentennial themes, there will be something for all ages. Discover Southern belles, cotton barons, Civil War soldiers, and Civil Rights pioneers while exploring antebellum homes and historical landmarks for a glimpse of the past. Visit museums for history on the Natchez Indians or daily life in antebellum Natchez. Enjoy bird watching, tour an ornate historic cemetery, or watch the sunset over the Mississippi River.

 

 

The Natchez Trace

Connecting Natchez to Nashville, Tennessee, the 444-mile long Natchez Trace Parkway penetrates incredible scenery and over 10,000 years of history.  The Old Trace was the path through early Choctaw and Chickasaw lands used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” settlers, and future presidents. This path became a vital, though rugged, roadway for General Andrew Jackson and his troops during the Creek War. The seven mound groups along Natchez Trace parkway in Mississippi display rich American Indian culture and legacy. Today along the Natchez Trace, families can hike, bike, horseback ride, and camp in this resilient, almost untouched territory.  The Natchez Trace Corridor Birding Trail features six state parks and one natural area perfect for bird viewing.

The Mississippi River Trail

From its headwaters in Itasca, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River Trail offers approximately 3,000 miles of on-road bikeways, pedestrian and bicycle pathways for the recreational enjoyment, health, conservation and tourism development of river communities, river states, and the nation. As a part of the Southern Trail, Great River Road State Park provides a breathtaking natural landscape ideal for picnics and a 75-foot high overlook tower for panoramic views of the Mississippi River. Along this trail, Leroy Percy State Park, the oldest of Mississippi’s state parks, has artesian springs, cypress trees and ancient oaks dripping with Spanish moss and is the only state park with a wildlife preserve. Natchez State Park is located approximately 10 miles north historic Natchez, the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River. 

Mississippi Children’s Museum (MCM)

This 40,000 square foot museum houses five galleries of educational, interactive exhibits and enriching weekly programs that focus on literacy; health and nutrition; the cultural arts; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); and Mississippi heritage.  The Literacy Garden encourages early language and reading skills development. MCM has been recognized for excellence by the Association of Children’s Museums, Trip Advisor, Parents & Kids Magazine, and Mississippi Magazine. Exhibits include the World at Work Gallery, Exploring Mississippi Gallery, Healthy Fun Gallery, Express Yourself Gallery, Wild About Reading Gallery, and Wild About Reading Gallery.

 

 

Mississippi Museum of Natural Science

Located in Jackson, Mississippi, this 73,000-square foot complex introduces you to a world of exciting exhibits, nature trails and an open-air amphitheater. Here you enjoy a series of life-size displays like the Monsters of the Deep exhibit as well as a 1,700-square foot gigantic greenhouse aptly called The Swamp. Children enjoy their interactive aquarium where they handle live marine creatures and learn more about how to conserve the environment.

 

 

 

Old Capitol Museum

Built in 1839 and restored to its original grandeur, the Old Capital reopened as a free museum focusing on the history of the building and the events that took place there. Interactive multimedia exhibits explore the roles of the legislature, governor, and high court, as well as the importance of historic preservation to the state, the activities that took place in the building after the New Capitol was constructed in 1903, and much more. A National Historic Landmark, The Old Capitol is one of the country’s premier examples of Greek Revival public architecture with a limestone exterior, copper dome, and massive interior spaces. Enjoy a guided tour that covers the construction of the building as the statehouse, its architect and caretakers, and the ways the Old Capitol has been used.

Smith Robertson Museum

Located near the State Capitol in Jackson, this museum houses art, artifacts, and photography, the work, lifestyle, and artistic contributions of African Americans to not only celebrate their heritage, but evoke a greater understanding of the African-American experience in the deep south. Exhibits such as From Slavery to America, 1670-1864 and in the Hall of Fame, which includes personalities from the state who are pioneers in their respective positions highlight the contributions of black Mississippians through struggle and achievement. In addition, the museum houses the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Services organized exhibition, Field to Factory: The Afro-American Migration, 1915-1940, which explores and interprets the great migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North. 

Mississippi Petrified Forest

The Mississippi Petrified Fhttps://www.mspetrifiedforest.comorest lies within hills and ravines hollowed out by nature during the past century. According to the size of the petrified logs, as living trees, these stones were over one hundred feet tall and could be over a thousand years old. According to history, a thunderous, flood-swollen river snatched everything in its path as it roared southward, ripping into ancient trees, leaving behind only remnants to settle deep into the watery ooze. More floods from the North sent more sand and silt, burying the old trees even deeper and petrifying the living trees into stone logs. The perfect spot for history and science discussions while having fun, families enjoy a Nature Trail where nature continues to thrive alongside the huge stone logs that are close enough to touch. There is also a museum, campground, gem mining flume.

Vicksburg Military National Park

Vicksburg National Military Park offers historical, cultural, and natural resources through options tailored to the visitor’s interest and timeframe. Included is the U.S.S. Cairo, one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These powerful ironclads were formidable vessels, each mounting thirteen big guns (cannon).  The Heritage Garden is based on the typical Victorian-era kitchen garden, flower beds, and traditional commodities grown on 19th-century southern farms. Visitors also discover the 116-acre Vicksburg National Cemetery that holds the remains of 17,000 Civil War Union soldiers, more than any other national cemetery. “Soldiers’ Rest,” the plot in Cedar Hill Cemetery, is the final resting place for an estimated 5,000 Confederate soldiers. The African American Monument memorializes over 178,000 black soldiers who served in the Union army and the almost 18,000 African-Americans who joined the Union navy. Service figures for the Confederate States remain unknown. Licensed Park Guides make history come alive at Vicksburg National Military Park through their knowledge of civilian life and military operations of the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg in the spring and summer of 1863.  Visitors may also use the self-guided driving tour

Chotard Landing Resort

Located 20 miles north of Vicksburg, off of Highway 61 North, 24 miles on Highway 465, Chotard Landing Resort sets on the banks of Chotard Lake, a Mississippi River Oxbow.  Chotard Landing Resort offers a place of tranquility for the Fisherman and Outdoors Person. A large common area with grills and tables under the tavern accommodate family cookouts, reunions and all kinds of outdoor get-togethers. Fish and hunt on the Mississippi River oxbow lakes and over 100,000 acres of public land. Bait and fishing supplies are available, as well as a boat ramp. Guided fishing tours available.

Clarkco State Park

Located just south of Meridian near the Mississippi-Alabama state line, Clarkco State Park has been a favorite Mississippi recreation spot since 1938. Situated on 815 acres of gently rolling woodlands, Clarkco State Park offers camping, cabin rentals, and water sports in a convenient, unspoiled location for an afternoon or weekend getaway. There are 43 camping sites, 7 primitive tent camping sites, 20 vacation cabins, and 1 vacation cottage plus laundry facilities, picnic sites, pavilions, playgrounds, playing fields, nature trails, tennis courts, disc golf. Clarkco lake offers a boat launch, fishing and water skiing, plus a zero depth splash pad. 

Dunn’s Falls

The 65-foot waterfall in Lauderdale County, just outside of Meridian, was once used as a power source for a gristmill and the manufacture of Stetson hats. The park is a natural wildlife refuge with a picnic area with barbecue grills, a gristmill pond, hiking and swimming areas. The 1857 grist mill was moved from Cave Springs, Georgia in 1987 and reconstructed on the site of Dunn’s original mill, as well as the rustic homestead fascinate history buffs. Stocked with catfish and complete with ducks, the mill pond and picnic area are a great spot for a family outing. Here you can fish, canoe and swim or enjoy the nature trails weaving through the woods where wild turkey, deer, squirrels and other wildlife run free. Historic Carroll-Richardson Gristmill is also open for tours.  Also available are primitive camping sites.

Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) 

Over 150,000 visitors annually participate in activities including fishing, hunting, hiking, wildlife photography, wildlife observation, environmental education, and research at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. Photographers capture photos of alligators, waterfowl, warblers and other species living in the refuge. The 42,500-acre refuge serves as an outdoor classroom for Mississippi State University and other local educational institutions and was designed by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area (IBA), one of five of global importance in Mississippi. Four green-tree reservoirs (GTRs), two major lakes (Bluff Lake – 900 acres and Loakfoma Lake – 400 acres), 16 small impoundments, and assorted wetland areas provide important habitat for the wood stork, American alligator, bald eagle, and wintering waterfowl. Here, fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the refuge system. The refuge visitor center exhibit hall features a timeline describing how the land was formed, what it is now and how it is managed, and the creatures inhabiting it. Guided walks and talks by volunteers provide opportunities for visitors to connect to wildlife.  Enjoy great views of alligators and look for any of the seven species of common wading birds.  Boardwalks and overlooks provide great vantage points as well, so bring your binoculars and camera.

Elvis Presley Birthplace

Mississippi legend Elvis Presley returned to his hometown Tupelo on September 27, 1957 to perform a benefit concert for a new Youth Center and park in Tupelo. The proceeds helped purchase his birthplace and as well as build a park for the neighborhood children. Within the Elvis Presley Birthplace Park visitors find the Birthplace, Museum, Chapel, Gift Shop, “Elvis at 13” statue, Fountain of Life, Walk of Life, “Memphis Bound” car feature and Story Wall.

 

 

The B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center

Located on Highway 82 between Greenwood and Greenville, in the Mississippi Delta, close to the Crossroads at Clarksdale, The B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center honors the life and music of B. B. King. Museum exhibits and educational programs build bridges between the community and the world and preserve the Mississippi Delta’s rich cultural and musical heritage. Exhibits explore King’s 60-plus year career through Mr. King’s personal papers, materials, and objects from his life and work, and multi-media and film.

Delta Blues Museum

The Delta Blues Museum, Mississippi’s oldest music museum, is housed in the historic Clarksdale freight depot, which was built in 1918 for the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad. The Museum preserves, interprets, and encourages interest in the blues and its story. The museum’s hometown, Clarksdale, situated where Highways 61 and 49 connect, has been a center for blues culture since the 1920s. Numerous music legends have been born and raised in this Delta area, such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Ike Turner, Jackie Brenston, Sam Cooke, Junior Parker, and W. C. Handy. Today, visitors flock to Clarksdale where the blues culture has been preserved and the Delta blues tradition continues. The museum offers many current exhibits.

Tanglefoot Trail®

In advance of National Trails Day in 2015, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis designated 10 local and state trails as national recreation trails, adding more than 150 miles to the National Trails System. Tanglefoot Trail® was included. Mississippi’s longest Rails to Trails, preserves the abandoned 43.6-mile railroad corridor passing through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the Mississippi Hills National Heritage. These rails were assembled in part for the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad by Col. William Clark Falkner, beginning in 1871.  Replacing the rails with a trail, the Tanglefoot Trail® offers outdoor opportunities to families, groups and visitors of every age. The Tanglefoot Trail® towns include Houston, New Houlka, Algoma, Pontotoc, Ecru, Ingomar, and New Albany.

African American Military History Museum

Opened in 1942, in the segregated army of World War II, the USO Club served as a home away from home for African American soldiers stationed at Camp Shelby and is the only remaining USO constructed especially for African American soldiers in public use in the United States. It is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is a Mississippi Landmark. Hundreds of artifacts, photos and unique displays, including one of the most complete sets of authentic Spanish-American War medals, fill the restored main hall. Each item tells a story of pioneers such as Hattiesburg’s own Jesse L. Brown, America’s first black naval aviator, and lesser-known heroes such as Ruth Bailey Earl, also of Hattiesburg, whose image and actions represented the more than 500 black nurses who served during World War II. Docent-guided and self-guided tour, available Wednesday-Saturday, last approximately 45 minutes to an hour. 

Landrum’s Homestead & Village

The beautifully landscaped Landrum’s Homestead & Village is located off Highway 15 in Laurel. With exhibits, wagon rides, gem mining, nature trails, a Confederate soldier encampment, an Old West Shooting Gallery, and a Native American Village, every visitor steps back into the late 1800s. In addition, through a partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the Mississippi Forestry Commission, the Landrum’s created an educational display on the Civilian Conservation Corps and South Mississippi’s reforestation history to show the importance of preservation and conservation. Biscuits are cooked on an old wood stove and there is a nature trail and a small lake with a pier where people can feed the catfish.  You can also play horseshoes and basketball.

Ship Island

Ship Island played an important role in the history and settlement of the Gulf Coast. In 1699, French explorers named Ship Island, which soon became an important port for French Louisiana. Here, many colonists took their first steps on American soil and Ship Island became known as the “Plymouth Rock” of the Gulf Coast. Once a single island, 1969’s Hurricane Camille split the land mass in two. Ship Island with its tranquil stretches of National Park beaches offers an affordable family vacation to explore, swim and relax for a fun-filled day.  Experience the pristine gulf waters, explore the beaches and tour historic Fort Massachusetts, all part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Mississippi’s finest beaches are located on Ship Island approximately 11 miles south of Gulfport and Biloxi and are accessible by Ship Island Excursions’ ferry boats, located in the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor. During the 50- minute ferry boat ride, watch for Bottlenose dolphins. Ship Island MS

 

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies

Located in Gulfport, Mississippi, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) is an educational outlet with programs for conservation, education and research of marine mammals and their environment.  The facility also houses an educational museum, a 200 seat auditorium for media presentations and lectures, classrooms, a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital, and more. Visitors of all ages engage in hands-on learning experiences to help them understand and appreciate the species that make Mississippi Gulf Coast waters unique. Explore the interactive museum, and encounter sea creatures such as stingrays, sharks, horseshoe crabs, fish, blue crabs, sea stars, and sea urchins in the new Discovery Room touch pools. There is a fossil dig and a dock to meet dolphins face-to-face.

 

Railroads of Northern Newton County

By Ralph E. Gordon

 

Prior to 1905, folks in the northern part of Newton County traveled by horse and buggy, mule and wagon, rode a horse, rode a mule, or sometimes they used the oldest form of transportation known to man. They walked. It would probably be safe to say, they stayed home more often than not, and when they did go somewhere, it was out of necessity, and not far from home. In 1905 things began to change. Life began to change. Progress was on the way.

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The Mobile and Ohio Rail Road (M&O) laid tracks running north and south through the heart of the county, connecting Union with Decatur, and Newton to the south, and Philadelphia to the north. Eventually, connections were developed on into Memphis, St. Louis and Chicago. During that same year, the Meridian and Memphis Rail Road (M&M) laid tracks connecting Union and Meridian. These ribbons of steel not only changed the way folks traveled, they changed their way of life forever.

Some thirty miles of tracks were laid between Union and Meridian, using mostly manual labor to handle the heavy crossties and rails. Men swung nine pound hammers in the heat of summer, and in the cold of winter, driving spikes into treated oak crossties. For the most part, mule drawn dirt slips were used to build the roadbed. What few steam powered machines they used in building the line were confined to the newly built tracks, unlike bulldozers, and rubber tired earth movers of today.

Trestle bridges had to be constructed across the Little Rock, the Tallhashie and the Okatibbee Creeks as well as smaller streams. Workers, who built the railroad, nicknamed the M&M the Mud and Misery because of the swamps they had to cross, and the heavy rains which fell that year. Mosquitos and snakes were a constant menace in the blistering summer. Icy rain made life miserable for the workers during the winter months. The hours were long, and the work was grueling, but it provided a paycheck, something many Newton County farm boys had never seen before joining the construction crew.

       The first train to run the line was dubbed the “Doodlebug” which was a one car trolley-like vehicle with seats for passengers, and enough room for the mail, and a few small freight items.  The Doodlebug departed Meridian in the morning bound for Union, where it turned around, and headed back to Meridian, that same afternoon. Eventually a larger steam engine replaced the Doodlebug. It pulled one passenger car, and as many freight cars as needed. In the early years a train was made up of two or three freight cars, along with a caboose. Diesel-electric locomotives replaced the steam engines on the line in 1946.  The more powerful diesels pulled as many as seventy cars. They hauled everything from canned beans, to chemicals, to cotton bales. Perhaps the most unique piece of cargo shipped into Union by rail was a prefabricated house kit from Sears and Roebuck, delivered to a Mr. Nutt, around 1915.

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The M&M gave birth to several hamlets, and business in Newton and Lauderdale Counties.  The first stop for passengers who purchased their twenty five cent tickets from Union to Meridian, was Willoughby, about three miles out, near the Greenland Community. Their next stop was Little Rock, where Bunion Williams operated one of the largest cotton gins in Newton County, and then on to Perdu, and Duffee in Newton County. The train stopped at Shambersville and Suqualena in Lauderdale County before reaching its final destination in Meridian. The trip took about three hours.

William H. Smith, who celebrated his one hundredth birthday in January of 2012, recalled boarding the M&M at the Perdu station when he joined the Navy in 1934. He rode the train to Union, where he connected with the M&O to Newton, and then made a second connection with the Illinois Central to Jackson where he was processed into the service.

The M&M changed owners and names at least three times during its lifetime. A complete list of mergers of the railroads that served Newton County are too numerous to list, but this is a condensed version; in the early 1940s the M&M merged with the Gulf Mobile and Ohio line (GM&O.) The GM&O merged with the Illinois Central around 1970 and formed the Illinois Central Gulf (ICG). Several mergers have occurred since then.

As with other railroads, the coming of the automobile eventually diminished the need for the rail service between Union and Meridian, more especially for passenger service. The last passenger train departed the Union Depot in 1951.

Union was a major railroad terminal in the early 1900s. The town owes much of its existence to the railroad. Originally, the center of the town was located about a mile east of its present location on Old Jackson Road, (Mississippi Highway 492), where the Spaceway Store and the new Family Dollar Store are presently located, but the location of the railroad changed that. Business gravitated to the west to be near the depot and railroad.

New businesses sprang up in Union, thanks to the railroads. One of those businesses was Buckwalter Lumber Company. Buckwalter was a major supplier of lumber in Mississippi from 1906 until 1961. The company built small railroads which paralleled the M&M line, called dummy lines. These short railroads hauled logs from the woods to a loading area. From there, the logs were loaded onto the M&M flat cars, and transported to the sawmill in Union. Remnants of the dummy line road beds can still be seen in the woods between Union and Duffee.

By the late 1960s, light freight was rapidly becoming a thing of the past on boxcars across the United States. Trucks were faster. They cut down on the number of times an item had to be handled, by delivering their loads directly to their destination, and ultimately less expensive than the railroads. Eventually most of the cargo hauled on the short Union/Meridian line was bulky items, and petroleum products.  Pulpwood from the wood-yards along the way made up a large portion of the freight. Little Rock wood-yard was among the bigger ones. But as technology changed the method in which pulpwood was harvested, it also changed the way it was transported. Instead of short five-foot lengths hauled on specially designed rail cars, more and more pulpwood cutters began hauling tree-length cuts on eighteen wheel trucks to more centralized railheads, like Meridian, for transportation to paper mills. The closing of the small wood-yards in the 1970s dealt the final blow to the life of the ICG between Union and Meridian.

While the railroad no longer serves Little Rock, the rail yard is still abuzz in Union, thanks to the giant Tyson feed mill there. Each year hundreds of tons of corn and other grains arrive from farms in the Mid-West, and the Mississippi Delta to fill Tyson’s needs. Dozens of grain cars can be seen lined up, waiting to be unloaded, or waiting to be pulled back to their homes for another load.

The whistle of the GM&O is but a distant memory to the people of Willoughby and Little Rock—or is it? Some folks claim they can still here its lonely whine echoing across the red clay hills and marshy hollows, late in the afternoon, about the time the train would be making its return trip to Meridian.

The dates in this poem, The Ghost Train, obviously don’t square with the dates in the article but, the M&M could be any abandoned railroad, and Little Rock could be any town progress built, and then left behind.

 

THE GHOST TRAIN

By

Ralph E. Gordon

In eighteen hundred and fifty-nine,

tracks were laid for M&M Line.

Mud and Misery she was called back then,

built by the sweat and the blood of good men.

For more’n a century she hauled riders and freight,

not a single time was she ever late.

She hauled brothers and cannons for the Blue and the Gray.

She saw many young men meet the judgment day.

She carried sailors and soldiers to two world wars,

America’s bravest rode in cattle cars.

Women folks would wait by the tracks,

praying she would bring all the young men back.

They took up her rails many years ago,

but the M&M whistle still wails and blows,

‘cause an old steam engine still runs the line.

You can hear her whistle blow around suppertime.

A man named Kirby is her engineer,

She squeaks and she rattles as she’s drawing near.

She’s hauling cotton, and cattle and coal and grain.

You can even hear her brakeman yodel and sing.

Some are skeptic and don’t believe,

But I’ve heard her whistle on a summer’s eve.

If you have faith, you can set your clock,

by the Old Ghost Train to Little Rock.

***

 

 

 

Canine Cuisine

Once upon a time on an aisle in a grocery store,

Debby Martin searched for the healthiest dog food and treats, wanting only the best for her Dorkie (Dachshund and Yorkie mix) Kirby. Then, one Thanksgiving, after Kirby became sick from eating dressing from the table, Debby was determined to find out what dogs should and should not eat. Her discoveries surprised her – not about table food, but about commercial dog food.

“It’s been proven that some commercial products have tiny bits of the drug used to euthanize pets.” There can also be poisons and pesticides, said Debby. “I think over the years this builds up to the cancers we are seeing today.”

Thus began Debby’s seven-year journey from grocery store aisle to the kitchen. Questioning every ingredient in her canine’s diet, she researched holistic veterinarians and other websites on healthy food ingredients. In turn, she developed her own website to inform and educate others and to provide tried and trusted canine recipes.

“I started making Kirby’s treats and now he eats about 90 percent homemade. I just love creating the recipes. Kirby is very picky and won’t eat just anything.” 

Realizing, however, that one day her website might be gone, she wrote the canine chef cookbook to provide people with the same information and recipes on her website. The book includes sections on Wholesome Canine Nutrition, Recipes, and The Pantry. Within these sections, she includes pertinent information on healthy and harmful ingredients, food colors, tips and tricks, tools in the kitchen, and much more. Her ultimate goal: Pay attention to what your dog is eating. 

Take spices, for instance.

Holistic veterinarians consider garlic very healthy and safe for pets, but certain ingredients can be very dangerous, especially if your dog has health issues. 

“For example, Rosemary is beneficial for dogs, but if your dog is epileptic, it can cause seizures, whereas Nutmeg is extremely toxic for a dog,” said Debby. Always check with your vet first about the ingredients before cooking for your dog. “If you have any reservations about any ingredient, leave it out.” Table foods are fine as long as you know what’s in it.

Debby’s passion and concern for other people’s pets most likely grew when Kirby got sick. Sugar, Debby’s dog before Kirby, lived to be 15 years old. Though Debby did buy dry dog food, Sugar ate mostly table scraps from carefully prepared family meals that were low in sugar and fats. 

“So Sugar was really eating some very good food, said Debby. “He ended up living a long life and never had any illness.”

There is no moisture in kibble and a dog’s diet should be 70 percent water, explained Debby. Food that dry overworks the kidneys to reconstitute and break down that food. Over time, this can lead to kidney failure.

“Would you eat the same dry food every day?” she asked. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. As humans, we try to avoid fast foods. It’s healthy for your pet to eat fresh foods, just like you.” Even if you don’t prepare every meal for your canine, make treats and supplement the dog food. Juicing is healthy for you and your pet, so pour a topper over your pet’s dry food. 

When Debby provides foster care to neglected and abandoned animals, she feeds them the same food Kirby eats. She admits to being an advocate for healthy pet diets, saying, “I keep a list on my refrigerator of things Kirby can and cannot eat so everyone knows.”

Kirby knows not to take treats from people because Debby doesn’t know what’s in that treat and a well-meaning bite can be dangerous.

“Your dog is a member of your family, so you want them to live longer. Think about what you are feeding them,” said Debby. “You feed your kids well so they will grow up healthy. Feed your dog with the same attitude.” 

BREAKOUT BOX:

http://thecaninechefcookbook.com/  –  All recipes in the cookbook are on the website for people who can’t afford the cookbook.  Debby responds to all emails and contact.

https://www.facebook.com/kirbythedorkie

the canine chef cookbook is available on Amazon, the Book Store on Main street and at Animal Medical Center, Starkville, Mississippi.

 

This article originally published in Town & Gown Magazine.

 

The Deason House

Built in 1845, the Deason home in Jones County, Mississippi stands as a Greek revival architectural gem from the antebellum era. As the oldest home in Ellisville, it was also the first painted home in the area and its detailed semi-octagonal vestibule is the only one of its kind known to exist in Mississippi, according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

“It’s one of the oldest structures completely made of longleaf pines in the world because longleaf is only indigenous to the Southeast United States,” said Frances Murphy, Regent of the Tallahala Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR). “Studies have shown that the wood was likely cut in the 1830s and the [longleaf pines] are estimated to have been growing in the late 1300s.”

The first owners, Amos and Eleanor Deason, built the home as a farmhouse.

In 1890, Isaac Anderson, Jr. and wife Sarah Rebecca “Sallie” Pool purchased the home and lived there until 1939 when it went into the Anderson estate. In 1965, Mrs. Frances Anderson Smith, a descendant of both Amos Deason and Isaac Anderson, Jr., bought the home and in 1991 presented it to the Tallahala Chapter.

“Actually a lot of the Chapter members are family or descendants of the Anderson family, so I guess you could say it’s still owned by the same family,” said Frances.

Oh, and by the way…it’s haunted.

“The claim to fame the home is most notoriously known for is that Major Amos McLemore, Confederate Army officer was shot and killed in the home during the Civil War by Newton Knight,” said Frances.

Newton Knight had deserted the Confederate Army because of the 20-slave law, which stated that a man owning 20 slaves or more didn’t have to fight. Knight, who had never owned a slave, felt the Civil War had become a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” Jones County, being mostly wooded country, wasn’t a good place to raise cotton and therefore very few slaves lived there as compared to the rest of the state, Frances explained. Other soldiers with the same sentiments deserted the Confederacy along with Knight. Major Amos McLemore, who was from the area, headed up the troops sent to round up these deserters.

“Newton and his men could have stormed the house and killed everybody, but Newton specifically targeted McLemore,” said Frances. Everyone accepts that Newton Knight killed Amos McLemore even though there was no eye witness to the crime and Newton was never charged. “From this event, the house got the reputation of being haunted.”

Every year, the Saturday before Halloween, the Deason Home hosts a reenactment of the McLemore shooting, with the assistance of the Rosin Heel Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“They are dressed in Civil War Army uniforms and they sit around the campfire outside,” said Frances, adding that the ladies are dressed in the period costumes. When guests touring the home enter the bedroom where Major McLemore was shot, McLemore is waiting for them. “As he talks to the guests. the door flies open and Newton Knight rushes in. So guests get a little taste of what it was like when the shooting took place.”

The reenactment event, which has been going on for 20 years, is family friendly, said Frances, although it may be a little startling when the gun goes off.

“But nothing gory.”

Frances encourages parents to make the tour a family event because children experience what life was like during the war while learning about the oldest home in Jones County.

“It’s not your traditional Halloween spook house by any stretch of the imagination.”

The house will also be open Halloween night, but rather than a reenactment, the night will be a Ghost Tour with past residents of the house telling their stories.

After all, some stories never die…and some characters refuse to.

 

For information on special events, tours, cost, and space rental, visit the website: http://www.deasonhome.org/

photo courtesy of  The Deason House

Resolving Family Conflicts

We romanticize and glamorize families and we place great expectations and demands on them.

While we often expect families to be above the chaos that exists in the rest of society, that belief places unrealistic expectations upon them. In the real world, families are not always a haven, since they, too, can be filled with conflict.

Still at the very least, families are much more than groups of people who share the same genes or the same address. We look to our family as source of love and support. This does not mean that everyone gets all he or she wants or that it comes to us without struggle. Conflicts, then, are a part of family life and is the rule rather than the exception.

Families are under constant stress, being pushed and pulled from many directions.

Conflicts can come from many sources both internal and external. Parental conflict is commonplace. Sibling rivalry and competition and present. Parent-child conflict takes the cake. Death, illness, physical separation, financial strains, divorce are some of the events to which families have to adjust. Some families experience conflict as a result of different views about the world. Although stress and disagreements are common, they can be destructive to families, especially when conflict gets out of hand.

Parental conflict is common in many families and often leads to friction involving the entire family.

Most parental problems revolve around financial matters, infidelity, different views regarding child rearing and family decision making. Homes with high levels of parental conflict often have a tense and hostile environment is detrimental effects children. Children learn what they live.

Looking back at recorded history, it appears be common for brothers and sisters to fight. Sibling rivalry makes good literature but it’s not pleasant for anyone in the house. And a family can only tolerate a certain amount of it.

Parent-children conflicts are commonplace too.

As parents assert their authority, and children try to assert their autonomy appropriately, strife is inevitable. A parent-child power struggle can create conflict and stress for the entire family. Power struggles frequently appear when children reach certain developmental stages. Ask any parent who has parented a two year old or a teenager.

Change is a part of life. Issues such as illness, disability, addiction, job loss, school problems, and marital issues bring on additional levels of stress. Consequently, stability shouldn’t be the only measure of a family’s success. Many families function quite well, despite frequent disruptions. In fact, one important measure of a family’s success is its ability to adjust to change. Daily life is full of stresses that constantly demand accommodation.    

Another type of family conflict is lack of proper communication.

Many families communicate superficially and don’t have time to share meaningful conversations. The conflict in this arrangement is that there are no opportunities to discuss family values, and other important issues.

Yet despite these differences, parents are responsible for imparting to each child a sense of being loved and accepted, for helping each child to succeed at various developmental tasks, and for socializing each child into respecting the rules and accepting the responsibilities society imposes. These are indeed awesome tasks. Disagreements will happen as part of being in a family and living together.

In all the years I worked to help family members get-along better, I found things that stand out as true detriments to resolving these normal conflicts. I suggest the following remedies.

What’s A person To Do?

  1. Accept that conflict is normal. This the first step in dealing with it. Look for and use appropriate ways to deal with problems; the kind that promote growth and acceptance of each family member.

  2. Remember that the person in the conflict is someone you love and you want to preserve the integrity of the relationship. Winning the battle is not as important as the relationship.

  3. Refrain from unhealthy communication such as in yelling, cursing, blaming and insulting one another.

  4. Listen to each other and work to resolve conflicts. Do your best to see things from the other’s point of view. Psychologists call is empathizing.

  5. Focus on the issue at hand, not on past transgressions or the person’s character.

  6. When you speak, use a conversational tone. Loud voices increases emotionality which get in the way of resolving the conflict.

  7. Take leave (temporarily) when your emotions get the best of you. Cool down and return when you are more level headed.

  8. Life happens in ways you can’t predict. Welcome change and learn flexibility.

By Dr. Rachell Anderson 

Build A Village…and They will Come

Thomas Landrum of Laurel, Mississippi didn’t set out to build a village.  It just…happened.

The village started as a business of handcrafted pine furniture, which has now been in business for over 33 years, explained Deborah (Landrum) Upton.

“My dad said the grandchildren didn’t appreciate how the people used to live and how their ancestors lived, worked and built their homes.”

Tom Landrum took the kids into the woods where they logged the trees and had a portable sawmill come in cut the wood into boards. This family project started in 2003.

“There was no master plan,” said Deborah.  “We started the first cabin. As soon as we got the cabin built we filled it with old things.” 

Today, that one cabin is one of 70 buildings located in the beautifully landscaped Landrum’s Homestead & Village located off Highway 15 in Laurel. With exhibits, wagon rides, gem mining, nature trails, a Confederate soldier encampment, an Old West Shooting Gallery, and a Native American Village, every visitor steps back into the late 1800s. In addition, through a partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the Mississippi Forestry Commission, the Landrums created an educational display on the Civilian Conservation Corps and South Mississippi’s reforestation history to show the importance of preservation and conservation. Biscuits are cooked on an old wood stove and there is a nature trail and a small lake with a pier where people can feed the catfish.  You can also play horseshoes and basketball.

 

“We do all kinds of groups and see a lot of families,” said Deborah. “Kids who come say it is their fifth time here.  We have families that come on a regular basis because they can bring a picnic lunch or tour.  They go at their own pace.  Nobody is rushing you through.”

Deborah grew up as the oldest of five children and during their travels, they always used the back roads, never the interstates.  Plus, they camped in a tent.

“Dad and Mom were always into history and preserving history,” said Deborah. “Dad always said that’s where you see things on the back roads.”

In today’s world of technology, a place like Landrum’s Homestead & Village is important to children. We don’t have conversations anymore, said Deborah. “What we’ve found is that when kids come here on a trip they can feel and see things and experience things they can’t get from a computer.”

The Landrum family always has a project going, but the one thing Deborah hopes people take home with them is a sense of family.

“This is my mom’s family land,” said Deborah. “We have a connection to the land. But when kids and other families are here, you see they are connected as well.”

At Landrum’s Homestead & Village, you hear and share stories of what was, but leave with a sense of heritage and an understanding of why heritage will always be important to future generations.

 

Website: http://landrums.com/

Open year round Monday – Saturday from 9 – 5

Walk-ins welcome!

 

Photos courtesy of Landrum’s Homestead & Village 

Originally published in Parents & Kids Magazine and Brad Smith