Category Archives: Mississippi

Hail State

Hail StateWhile standing in line at Barnes & Noble behind three Mississippi State fans buying Sports Illustrated, I realized this week has been very gratifying for a Mississippi State fan living in the state of Alabama.  I’ve lived in Huntsville, Alabama since 2002.  I quietly come and go each day not knowing how many Mississippi State fans and alumni surround me. However this week, it seems like they came out of the woodwork, but really they have been around me all along.  In a state full of houndstooth and War Damn Eagle, we have lived vicariously through other schools’ success.  No disrespect, we have been the yard dogs for quite sometime.  Mississippi State has never been ranked number one. But this week, we have been invited to eat with the big dogs.

Monday morning, I wore my MSU pull-over to the gas station where I encountered a man who I had never seen before and appeared to be homeless called me a band wagon fan.  Little did the man know, I grew up on a farm 45 minutes from Starkville, Mississippi, a farm with parents who both attended Mississippi State University, a farm where I had yelled and cried at radio and television broadcasts detailing the ups and the downs of the Bulldogs.  No sir, I am not a band wagon fan!

Thursday night, a chaplain going to the Space & Rocket Center’s Biergarten saw my maroon and white colors.  He stopped in his tracks and gave me a hug. “So proud for those dawgs”, he proclaimed and then talked about how much he admired Dan Mullen.  So many people at work have been excited for me and the other fans of Mississippi State.  It really is uncharted water for Mississippi State.  I think Dan Mullen and quarterback Dak Prescott will captain the ship through these waters to a successful season.  I am still just like any true MSU fan, it isn’t successful unless we beat Ole Miss!

In a response to more cowbell, they are selling cowbells in Huntsville, Alabama!  Local book stores have ordered extra issues of Sports Illustrated over the last two weeks. There was a sign last week at the MSU and Auburn game, “Win or lose, at least I don’t live in Alabama”.  I miss my home state tremendously, but this week has been really fun.  The Magnolia State Mayhem has bled over into houndstooth country which makes me happy and proud of my Bulldogs!  I am not about to predict Mississippi State making it past University of Kentucky, but I have enjoyed this week in my second state!


As a kid after school was always an event. I remember thinking what will I do after my homework is finished or what will I have as a snack. When I visited the gin it was icy Coca-Colas and a cold sausage and biscuit. Sometimes Pom-Pom would pick Walt and I up from school in the tan Nova. We would stop by the Jr. Food Mart to pick up a snack and a drink. Today, I picked up my niece and two nephews up from school, the same school I grew up attending.

Rhett, Reece, Lucy Grace and I loaded into the 4Runner after a long day at school and or visiting with family. We stopped by the Chevron station near the center of Winona. I think Lucy picked a brownie and juice out. I picked a Baby Ruth and Diet Mountain Dew. I don’t think Diet MD existed when I was a youngster. I gave the the same rule as Pom-Pom gave Walt and me, one drink and one snack… pizza didn’t count as a snack. We drove home and visited with my mom’s sisters.

After a while we all played like school was out for the summer. We jumped on the trampoline, rode a dirt bike, played football, climbed on the roof of the house and ran around like heathens. Yes, even though Rhett, Reece, and Lu aren’t red heads they act just like me.

We did have to study just a bit. Reece had to study for his spelling test. I took a practice test with him. Yes, I am not smarter than a third grader. I made a 95 on my practice test and Reece made a 105. Reece also beat me in a timed race around Big Momma yard on the dirt bike. Face it, I am an aging red head who is too big to be playing like a kid.

This afternoon was so precious. As I left to pick up the niece and nephews, I was reminded on my little brother Will. Each day around nine o’clock each school morning he would ask my mom, “When are we going to pick the kids up?” He would pester her until they loaded into the grey Subaru hatchback to pick Walt and me up. Picking up the kids was the highlight of my day. I wonder if I could commute each day to Huntsville. Or I could be a professional car pool driver.

A 500-Pound Gift of Love

On April 17th of 2004 Chris and I exchanged vows in the presence of our friends and family in Winona, Mississippi.  One year later we both unknowingly committed to purchasing traditional anniversary gifts for one another.  The next year we made it a tradition of ours to give traditional gifts when I gave him a bale of cotton.

This year was no different.  We’ve been married for six years now and the anniversary is iron. So as I type we are watching Iron Man.  See how quirky we are.  The point of the blog is to republish the story of our cotton bale, this time as it should be, with a photo of the bale.

According to “the lists,” the twenty-fifth and fiftieth wedding anniversary silver and gold gifts are familiar to most people.  Those same lists contain more obscure gifts like wood, iron, tin, and cotton for lesser marital milestones.  In a world of MP3 players, digital cameras, and video games, it can be difficult for a young couple to find an acceptable gift from a list published in 1937 by the American National Retail Jeweler Association.

I set out on a mission to find a new twist to the old list. The simple fact that I am Ruth Marie Oliver, a cotton farmer’s daughter, meant the common ideas for the second anniversary cotton gifts of shirts and sheets would not do for me.

My childhood memories revolve around cotton farming. My daddy, Bobby Oliver, has been farming land in Carroll County, Mississippi nearly all his life. My grandfather, Sandy Land, grew cotton and owned a gin in Winona, Miss.  I have so many memories of visiting with my grandparents in the office of the gin where my parents met and started my story. My parents say they drank coffee to pass the time.  I remember drinking ice cold Coca-Cola and eating homemade biscuits and sausage my grandmother, Ruth Land, made when I visited the office of the Land & Lott Gin.

My second anniversary dilemma: “How does a woman with cotton in her vein do justice to cotton? How could I let the second anniversary go by with out giving my husband, Chris – the love of my life – a piece of my childhood, my heritage?”  The idea of giving a full sized bale of cotton came to me while I was at work. I thought if there was anyone who could find a bale of cotton in the middle of April it would be my daddy. He was a bit surprised by my request. After that conversation I though I would have to settle for a small bale similar to the ones they sell yankee tourist.

My dad called around to his friends in the farming community. I was just as surprised as he was with my original request when he called me back to tell me that Emmett Chassaniol, who markets his cotton for him, had helped him locate a bale in Greenwood, Miss.  Then the problem became how to transport it from Winona to Huntsville, Ala., without my husband finding out.

On a spring day similar to our wedding day, I met my parents, Bobby and Shirley Oliver, just north of Tupelo, Miss., at the Dogwood Valley rest stop on the Natchez Trace Parkway to exchange the bale from truck bed to truck bed. My next challenge was that I have never been good at keeping secrets from my husband.  So, smuggling a bale of cotton into the house without any suspicion was truly difficult, but I had help from my friends.

Once home, I kept the cotton in the bed of the truck covered with a tarp until our anniversary. Over the next two days many ideas of what it could be ran through Chris’ head. But he never guessed anything close to a 500-pound bale of cotton grown in the hills of Mississippi.

On our anniversary, April 17, 2006, I took Chris outside to uncover the gift. He asked, “What is it?  What does it do?”  But when he saw the Cotton Incorporated logo on the bale, he knew that it wasn’t mechanical. It doesn’t do anything but clothe the world and support families like mine.

Currently, the bale sits is in the front room of our house in the corner as a testament to our quirky mix of modern and traditional love for one another and because, quite frankly, it’s too heavy to move anywhere else.

Ideas for making it into a coffee table or ottoman have been discussed. But Chris just likes to show it off.  I like to think it shows people how much I love him.  There is one thing that is certain. No matter where we go, the bale of cotton will go with us, no matter how hard it is to move.

Originality published in the October 2006 issues of Cotton Farming magazine.

Pom Pom

Grandparents are priceless! They are the people who spoil you when you are already rotten. One of the coolest things about grandparents is that you have two sets of them. Grandparents teach how to bake cookies, make Kool-Aid, and instant grits. My grandmother, Pom Pom, passed away last night. She was my father’s mother and my final grandparent.

Pom Pom lived just down the hill from my home. We could walk there in just a few minutes. I always walked with my German Sheppard Maggie or one of the Dobermans. I remember crazy things about walking down to Pom Pom’s house. Once I found a tick in my ear. My mother knew I had to have gotten the tick from walking thought the tall grass to Pom Pom’s house. One Sunday afternoon, Will and I were walking to her house, and Walter was riding on the three-wheeler. Will got excited and ran after Walt. It didn’t end very pretty but I have a lasting image in my head of Will telling me and Walt to hush up and stop crying after Walt hit him with the three-wheeler.

I remember watching Scooby Doo and the Andy Griffith Show. At some point in the 80s there was a United States Marine Corps Colonel on every afternoon for days. His name was Oliver North. I don’t know why I remember that, but I do and I only remember it at Pom Pom’s house. While watching copious amounts of television, she would let my brothers and me do pretty much whatever we wanted to do. We would make kamikazes with Kool-Aid and soda. We really just made large messes. Pom Pom had a red apple cookie jar which she kept stocked with butter chocolate chip cookies, the kind that had a hole in the middle and looking similar to a flower. We would stack these cookies on our pinky fingers and eat them like cookie kabobs.

Pom Pom was always around to take care of people. She was a constant spirit in our church. As long as there was fuel in her tan Nova, she was at church. She visited her little old lady friends on a regular basis. If she couldn’t get out visiting she would call. Our church really had a great foundation of strong women… old women.

Her faith was strong, just as strong as her will. Before I was even a thought in my parents mind, she worked in a shirt factory and kept the dairy farm going. She made sure everyone had what they needed. Some of my first memories of her were working in the garden. That lady could work hard. She had an iron will. In 2005, she had a major surgery to remove an abscessed colon. She was resigned to dying then. She was at peace with it and knew where she was headed. The morning of her surgery we visited and I read to her from Romans and Psalms. We all had wrestled with the fact she may die during the surgery. She woke up in the recovery room madder than a rooster with his tail on fire.

I guess when you hope to wake up face to face with the Lord and all the loved ones who’ve passed away before you; a nurse taking your blood pressure is a disparaging sight. I didn’t know my grandmother could say words like that. She was pissed. Well last night just before 11 o’clock she got what she had hoped for five years ago. This afternoon, she is chatting with all the little old ladies. Will has hugged her neck and welcomed her home. She is with all her loved ones that have gone before her and she isn’t pissed off anymore!

Welcome to 2010

Survival TrainingI started this grand and glorious year with my brother and nephews at Pilot/Co-Pilot camp, a program of Aviation Challenge. It was so much fun! Whoever runs that place is a redheaded mastermind of fun! It was great hanging out with my family at AC for the weekend! It didn’t matter that Reece, call sign Pigskin, looked like a homeless Vietnam War vet. God love the little man, but he doesn’t care how he looks. Rhett, call sign Yankee, was concerned with shooting Alvin down. We all wanted to seek revenge on someone. We are a very competitive family! Shot down everyone in the sims and won the Flag Award. We had our fire built before Cornbread came back to the Boy Scout Area with matches.

Great weekend. I think Walt and I will be remembered as the college football people (Ole Miss and Florida played in Bowl games), because everyone knows I have to keep up with Urban Meyer and his boy! Ole Miss, I was hoping, would get wrangled by the OSU Cowboys. Great weekend only leads me to believe this will be a great year!

I am looking forward to training the newbies, presenting at SEEC and Honeywell Leadership Academy, the Star Wars exhibit, another AC 12 Day camp, and who knows, maybe another trip to Prescott for Oak Creek Nut Brown Ale and a PBC Wedge, or maybe, just maybe a winning season for MSU football! This year I started a really cool five year journal. Every day for five years I will add a paragraph about the day. Quick thoughts, maybe the quote of the day or something like that. Sounds like fun!

With the new journal, I am going to make a few changes this New Year. And they are as follows:

  1. Wear more pink, “Pink is my signature color!”
  2. Watch more reality TV. I want to create a new show, “Real Housewives of the Barn.”
  3. Be more huggie! Being affectionate is the true sign of a great leader!
  4. Stop using Dixon Ticonderoga pencils. Truly, you can’t tell a difference in Dixons and the Staple’s brand.
  5. Finally, break up with Peyton; I think I am more interested in younger men now. Tim Tebow is a hottie!

Good luck and God Bless in 2010!

Great Deep South World Tour

Tour MapEach Christmas Chris and I venture across the state line several times to visit family. Chris calls this journey the Great Deep South World Tour 2009! I call it crisscrossing the Southeast in hopes to find sanity at the end of the trip, or somewhere in between. Don’t get me wrong, I love it! However, it is a little crazy if you break it down. Try and follow along.

Wednesday 5:05pm I complete a shift at the Barn. Chris, Boo and I drive feverishly to Winona, Mississippi 4.5 hours away. We unload the vehicle share a few stories and off to bed. We wake up at my parent’s house and prepare for a day of celebrating my father’s and sister-in-law’s birthday along with our Oliver family Christmas. Mom is not feeling well so we placed her on injured reserve for the day. Walter and Christy led the food prep team as Chris entertained the little ones and helped out where needed.

After we finished a wonderful meal of meats and carbohydrates, Daddy read Luke 2 from an English Standard Version of the Bible. He threw in a few thee’s, thou’s, and a goeth here and there to be reminiscent of the King James Version. Unfortunately, there was a Bible misplaced during set up for the day. No worries, we made it through the day! We made out like a bandits with Mississippi State Cheese, silverware, and a really cool flash light; all useful gifts. The night ended early because Santa was nearing North America in record speed. Did you know that you can track Santa on Google Maps? Very useful in getting kids to go to bed!

Boo the Traveling Dog!Christmas morning started at 5:30am with several, “I don’t want to get up” and a few “really do I have to?” Chris and I did have enough time to empty our stockings Santa had left for us before we hit the road heading for Hoover, Alabama and the Land of Houndstooth! We stopped by my brother’s house to check out the damage Santa and the reindeer caused to the roof of their house. By the way things looked under the tree, Santa landed well over his weigh limit, dislodging a few shingles in the process. We were back on US 82 at 7:20am an in Hoover, Alabama by 10:03am.

There is a great contrast between Chris’ family and my family. Chris would describe my family as loud and I would describe his family as quiet, reserved, almost boring. His family’s house feels like a very sterile place. His family has moved all over the US following their father’s career in the coal mining industry. So their home doesn’t really have the same lived in feel that the farm has. My parents still live in the home they built just before I was born. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when the new grandparents placed plastic under the 10 month old granddaughter’s high chair. This is the best comparison I can give. I am sure there are still hidden green beans in my childhood room from when I was stubborn and wouldn’t eat them; meanwhile Chris’ parents are a little worried about macaroni and cheese on their Persian rug.

We exchanged gifts at his parent’s, which is contrasting from Christmas on the farm. In Hoover, we all unwrap gifts at the same time. If we chose this method with my parent’s we would lose track of who gave what to whom. Did I mention we are loud on the farm? I got bath gear and Chris received three or four flash lights. I am not sure what message this sends, but useful gifts, so bonus points for both families this year. Great gifts given to me by my quiet mother-in-law… a THONG! Yes, thong! However, it wasn’t what you would think; it was a “Book Thong” bookmark. Why name it a book thong? I don’t know, but it is funny!

We left Hoover at 1:34pm headed north to Huntsville, Alabama and back home for Christmas on the creek! Chris and I chose to exchange gifts at home; this hopefully starting a new tradition for us. We enjoyed leftovers and hanging out in the peace and comfort of our own home. But wait; the weekend is still not over! I worked at the Barn the day after Christmas to find out that everyone visiting the Barn wanted items we didn’t have. We were out things which we had been sold out of weeks ago. I ended my Barn session at 8:00pm on Saturday.

Christmas Game of TossThe last leg of our journey was back to Mississippi to visit my mom’s side of the family. The Land clan gathered in Ridgeland, Mississippi to visit and share gifts. My cousins and my brother reminisced about epic backyard football games of our childhood as we tossed the football back and forth with the next generation. Things like that make zig-zagging across Mississippi and Alabama all worth it!

We ended our trip at 10:09pm Sunday night (just a few minutes ago) traveling 1,290 miles visit all of our families. We stopped for gas five times along the way. Boo peed on seventeen trees and lost tons of hair during the stressful trip (most of which seems to have landed in the vehicle). We passed Tuscaloosa’s Chipotle twice, stopping to eat only once. We crossed the state line four times and traveled through four area codes. However you slice it or dice it, Chris and I love our families and we enjoy visiting them. We shared homemade Kahlua with the reserved Key family. This would be the play of the entire tour! The combined trip time of nineteen hours in the TEV was worth the time spent with family! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

More Cowbell

Reece and BullyTwo years ago Chris and I joined my brother and his boys in the upper deck of Davis Wade Stadium to watch Mississippi State play Ole Miss, the in-state rivalry known as the Egg Bowl. State trailed late in the game until mounting a fourth quarter comeback. This was the point where my husband, the Alabama alumni, started his cowbell ringing career. There was a loud mouth Rebel fan in front of us during that game. He made our lives miserable the whole time State trailed; however, we had our sweet and noisy revenge when state took the lead and the golden egg home!

I am sure if you are not a Bulldog fan you probably will never like the sound of cowbells. But to a kid who grew up going to State games it is sweet music. Chris learned two years ago how much fun it is to ring that bell! Two years ago we had fewer cowbells than people in our group. We were forced to share. Unlike then, this year we came to the game packing a whole lot of bell! Lucy had a small pink cowbell, Chris had a houndstooth cowbell, Walt had an extra-large cowbell, and the boys and I had our cowbells from two years ago. The great thing about today was we had a lot to cheer about!

We started our game day off with some tailgating at the cheese store on campus. There was almost enough family at the game today to have our annual gathering and pass out Christmas presents. My mom had two of her four sisters present. There were five out of six cousins and their spouses. Finally, we had what all good family reunions have, a whole lot of food. Tailgating has evolved into an overgrown potluck social extravaganza. There is not a lot of tail in tailgating anymore; our truck was parked almost a mile away. The boys played a little football, while everyone was shared stories and caught up.

My mom’s family is mostly State people and my daddy is alumni of the cow college. I didn’t go to school there, but my brother did. We do have a few Ole Miss alums in the family, but we love them anyway. I am sure you can pick them out from the group photo. After a few photos we headed to the game. Unlike the cowbell clanging walk to the stadium, standing in the cue line to enter the game is very quiet. You don’t see a cowbell or hear any clanging (they’re technically not allowed). It isn’t until you emerge from the ramp and see the field that you start to see bells coming out of purses, out from under coats, and from the backs of blue jeans. But don’t tell the SEC or NCAA my secret hiding spot.

Who could it be?The first and second quarter seemed like typical Egg Bowl football, emotional but sloppy play. My whole family sat together in the shadow of the jumbo-tron. Lucy seemed sleepy and the boys just wanted to know who would win the game. Every five seconds Reece would pull on my pants leg, “Who’s going to win, will it be Mississippi State?” Mom and Dad left at the half to join the family back at the tailgate. They enjoyed drinking coffee and watching the game on TV with family. After the game, we all thanked my Dad for leaving. State plays awful when Daddy is watching. I remember one Thanksgiving where Mississippi State was beating Eli Who? (the guy who doesn’t have his own website). We had to stay quiet and at times mute the TV to keep from waking my Daddy. We all knew State would loose if we woke Daddy up!

I have heard that there was a clock in State’s locker room. It was counting down from some point this spring until today. Dan Mullen said that he looked forward to Thanksgiving weekend. He looked forward to the sound of those cowbells ringing in celebration of a victory. Mississippi State has had one of the toughest schedules in the nation. The Bulldogs played six ranked opponents at home this year. They faced #1 Florida and #2 Alabama and lost. Even so, Mississippi State could remember this season as a success if they won the Egg Bowl. All the hard work and planning paid off for Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs!

Dawg Fans UniteThey gave us so much to ring our bells and there were many cowbells that lost their clappers. My dad tells a story about ringing his cowbell so much the clapper fell out. I have never experienced this phenomenon until today. Early in the third quarter when things started going States way, I noticed a wounded clapper under the stadium seats. Later Chris’s clapper went flying through the sky. The girl a few rows above us lost her clapper. Then finally at the end of the game something hit me in the shoulder. Guess what it was another cowbell clapper. Either they don’t make cowbells the way they once did or there was just that much ringing in the stands today! When you ask for more cowbell, make sure it is built well!

It was only fitting that I saw my good buddy Jennifer D. Davis after the game. We have shared digital cheers on Twitter and Facebook this whole season. Today, we got to enjoy the win face to face. It was a great day for State and a great day for my family. I was able to visit with family and friends! Leaving the stadium ringing my cowbell was so much fun! Now, we have to rebuild Chris’s cowbell!

Rainbow Cupcakes

My place card at the dinner tableSome of my favorite memories have been standing around the chop block in my mother’s kitchen. This was the case this morning and this afternoon as we prepped for our large Thanksgiving Day spread. Last night as I helped my mom prep the turkey on the chop block for its overnight stay in the oven, I realized how lucky I was to be born in a family that knew how to cook. I remember standing on a stool in my Gran’s kitchen learning how to bake cookies. Each batch of her soda box cookies we made was precious and dear to me. Cooking is just as special to me as eating on Thanksgiving Day. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love Thanksgiving.

Today I woke up excited about helping cook the 2009 edition of Big Mama’s Thanksgiving meal. We have basically had the same menu for years. Oven roasted turkey, cornbread dressing, five-cup salad, sweet corn from our farm, asparagus casserole, green beans, giblet gravy, and cranberry sauce from a can. Mom has thrown in a few things to keep us guessing like broccoli salad, mac-n-cheese (the real stuff), mashed potatoes and fruit salad. I must mention the saga of the rolls. My dad loves brown-n-serve. I love the ready to eat rolls that come in a tin pan. But my mom loves to make home made yeast rolls. She seems to always win out.

This year as I was setting the table and the Little Indians were fighting over who could help. I devised a plan to split the warring tribes. Reece would make place cards for the table while Rhett helped me set the table. I knew working at the Barn would pay off. I would have never thought of this plan if not for the dozens of tablescapes I have worked on at the Barn. Everyone helps with lunch, even little Lucy helps by taking drink orders. She wrote each drink order on a note card with a Dixon Ticonderoga pencil. I trained her well.

The Cupcake PrincessThis afternoon I had to play “babies” with Lucy. Strange thing is, I didn’t know how to play “babies.” Growing up I played football, cowboys and Indians, or army with my brothers and cousins. This concept of playing with dolls was new to me. I didn’t know how to feed the baby, change the baby, or burp the baby. Come on, it has a plastic head with a cotton body and synthetic stuffing. You can feed it, change it, or burp it! The only thing worse about this playing “babies” is my brother put Lucy up to asking for a cousin for Christmas. Unfortunately I think she will be disappointed, because that isn’t on our Christmas list.

This afternoon it all seemed to come full circle. Lucy was left with me while everyone else went hunting. She wanted to make cup cakes with multicolored icing. She was standing on a stool helping me bake. Sure it wasn’t some family recipe or traditional holiday treat. It was more like we were playing in the kitchen than cooking. I learned that Lucy loves cake batter and icing. After putting the cupcakes in to bake we added food coloring to the frosting. Lucy had to sample the blue, the pink, the green, and the orange icing to see which one tasted better. As we were baking Chris was in the woods hunting.

Pumkin and BuckHe has taken on the sport in recent years. He loves growing his beard out, wearing his hunting clothes, and spending time in search of the great white tail buck! This morning he woke up and hit the dear stand before day break. This afternoon he tried his luck again. He is such a technology driven hunter. Last year he played with Blackberry more than he shot his gun. I text messaged him to see if he took a shot. He informed me that he shot at a six point. It wasn’t until I saw the bearded wonder outside with his not six point, but eight point buck I had confirmation of the kill.

We have a lot to be thankful for, cooking, cupcakes, and trophy bucks. I look forward to the Iron Bowl tomorrow, finding a taxidermist, and the Egg Bowl on Saturday!

Turkey Day

Everyone has their favorite holiday or day of the year. My favorite season is fall, favorite month is November, and favorite day is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the last great holiday left. The once great Christmas has been taken over by the high end retail firms and the big box stores. Easter should really be the greatest of all holidays, but my mom always made me wear a pastel frock. In my book, Halloween was never even in the top five. Nope, there just isn’t a holiday as great as Thanksgiving.

Traditionally Thanksgiving is a time to rest and give thanks after the harvest season. Here in the United States we trace the origin of Thanksgiving back to 1621 and the feast shared by the colonists of Plymouth, Massachusetts and Wampanoag Indians. Turkey was not on the menu. The Indians supplied many dried meats and grains. The colonist prepared fowl, deer, fish, and lobster for the feast. Turkey didn’t come to the party until much later. Just after the Battle of Saratoga, the Continental Congress asked all colonies to celebrate a day of thanksgiving for the victory over the British army.

Early in our nation’s history, our forefathers and mothers instilled in us the importance of stopping to thank our Creator for his grace, mercy and bountiful kindness. Abraham Lincoln, with a little encouragement from a magazine editor, signed into law the last Thursday in November to be observed as a national holiday. Lincoln was hopeful that this holiday would help the nation on the brink of war. The legislation didn’t bring peace to a nation divided, but has government ever solved a problem? Thanksgiving would lead to millions of families celebrating with Butterball turkey on their plates and a TV remote in their hands watching either Detroit or Dallas.

At my house on a farm in Mississippi we celebrate with the best of traditions. My mom cooks a twenty-plus pounds turkey overnight. The morning of Thanksgiving, as Macy’s Thanksgiving parade is on NBC, she prepares cornbread dressing with the drippings from the roasted turkey. We always have the same menu and way too much of everything. Coming together as family is really the best part of the holiday. However, I don’t think I would understand the greatness of Thanksgiving if I didn’t come from a farming family. The farm’s harvest is the best visual or teaching tool to show God’s sovereign power over the universe. God takes care of every detail, the rain, the temperature, the bugs and critters, and the farmer.

One of the most memorable Thanksgivings on the farm was while I was in college. I was home helping mom cook while Walter and Daddy had to work Thanksgiving morning picking cotton. It had been a rough harvest season with rain keeping them out of the field and forcing the crops to stay. The last cotton was picked that morning and my dad in his Ford pickup truck lead a line of John Deere cotton pickers and tractors home. It was the coolest Thanksgiving Day parade ever. My mom still cooked the same meal that day, but we did have a contingency plan to eat in the field if they didn’t get done.

The joy of Thanksgiving is being with family and praising the Master of all things. And when it comes to football, when and if Mississippi State beats Ole Miss we will be extra thankful! I hope everyone has a wonderful Turkey Day! Thanks for your friendship and for reading my random blog! I hope your turkey is filling, your team wins, and your afternoon nap is restful!

Good Okra Hunting

Fighting OkraToday we ventured to the book store to purchase our Fighting Okra paraphernalia! I’m sure you’re thinking, “What’s this Okra thing all about?” Delta State University’s official mascot is the Statesmen. And it is lame. Yes, I know that many Delta State alumni will disagree with me and accuse me of blasphemy! The older generation of alumni frowns on the popularity of our un-official mascot, the Fighting Okra. However, since the 1980s it has grown in popularity. Simply put the image of a politician is not particularly frightening. Wait? Some politicians are frightening but in a very different way.

Legend has it that the Okra was the inspiration of the DSU baseball team. I heard one story that the baseball field was once an okra patch and one stubborn plant returned seasons after the field was converted into a baseball diamond. I do know that tall baseball players clad in all green look similar to okra pods. The angry looking okra cartoon is much more villainous than an athlete. Its sinister sneer could be intimidating except that you do notice that it is a violent vegetable leering at you. There are really too many stories to tell, but as the popularity grew so did the tall tales. Heck, plus cheering for a “Lady Statesmen” is like cheering for a “straight lesbian.”

When I was a student… ten years ago(!!!!)…a student brought the cartoon character to life. Brian Formby made the first Fighting Okra costume from a green sleeping bag to be worn on the side lines. He converted the green sleeping bag into the angry veggie with a donation from Lynn Sullivan. She gave her father’s boxing gloves and boots. Paired with some funky green leggings, the Fighting Okra was brought to life. Way back when I was a student, the book store only carried one t-shirt and a coffee mug with the un-official mascot. Today, there were over a dozen items with the Fighting Okra! The items range from shot glasses to hoodies and beanie veggies to baseball caps. Wow, how the Okra has grown!

The popularity of the Okra is not the only thing that has changed since I graduated in 1999. My favorite eateries way back when were Airport Grocery and A la Carte! Both are still good, but not excellent. They have lost something. Airport moved away from the airport and A la Carte changed ownership. You really can’t be great forever. And I am sure my memories of all my friends and the wonderful times I had in college has clouded my current judgment. I have found two new spots that are absolutely fabulous. Please if you visit Cleveland, Mississippi stop by Hey Joe’s or the Warehouse, two super restaurants with great atmosphere, excellent service, and really good food!

On this recruiting trip I was able to look back at my time here at DSU. I loved every minute of it. I recall the hell of my first semester. I think I had all the toughest professors. I visited one of those professors today. Dr. Elizabeth Sarcone was heading to class when I popped in her office. I wanted to say hi, because after three semesters of Sarcone the Terminator, I actually learned something. I only got to spend a few moments with her, but I thanked her for encouraging me to write. I always respected her for teaching with fervor and integrity. I remember her never compromising her educational philosophy even on a bonehead like me. It was wonderful to see her, shake her hand and thank her!

All in all today was a wonderful day. Our trip was extended because we are speaking to a room full of pilots tomorrow. Great break for us! I visited with several librarians tonight as Amazon ate more food. She ate a gallon of loaded baked potato soup today at the Warehouse. Tonight it was more Mexican food! Whether it is an Okra or a Statesmen it is still my first home away from home. Whether it is Airport Grocery or Hey Joe’s this place has a special place in my heart. Whether it is a librarian or a rocket scientist my life is blessed from all the wonderful people I meet along the way.

Learn More about the Okra…

In Nickname Realm, Fighting Okra Snappiest

Good Eats

Weird Mascots

Mosquitoes and STDs

Rain, rain and more rain! I left North America and was transported magically to Southeast Asia or a tropical rain forest in South America. Oh, did it rain! Being in Cleveland as it rained today reminded me of all those days I didn’t want to go to class. I would rather hibernate in my room! But not today, we had to find staff to work at Space Camp and Aviation Challenge. Today we focused our efforts at DSU’s Teacher Career Fair and visited three Aviation classes.

The Teacher Career Fair was great, lots of great kids wanting to expand there knowledge base and have fun with kids. There was one lady I spoke to this morning that had a love hate relationship with the Mississippi Delta. She was telling me how many mosquitoes the Delta had. Her comment was, “The Mississippi Delta has lots of mosquitoes and STDs!” In my head I thought, “STD’s did the mosquitoes contribute to that high number? Where did this come from?” I grind and commented with the Delta has lots of great food and wonderful people. Her response was when right back to the gutter, “Oh, lots of food to make us obese and wonderful people to fall in love, giving us all those STD’s!” I didn’t know how to respond. I just asked if she should would like a coozie? Wait, we are in Mississippi, the people here call them huggies.

The Delta is a wonderful place. Lots of food places to eat! This afternoon we visited one of my all time favorite places A la Carte Alley on Court Street! I love it! My favorite sandwich from there is the Turkey & Cheddar on Kaiser roll! Sounds simple, but yum, yum good! Not as good as the PBC Wedge, but it would be on the map of good sandwiches. Amazon did enjoy her loaded baked potato soup and grill cheese sandwich but the butter had a sweet taste to it. I love how the Delta has so many great little shops and eateries! I miss the Delta, but I wish this rain would leave.

This afternoon we visited a few Aviation classes. We chatted with lots of wonderful people. In one class there was a guy, Mr. Talks-a-lot! He had on a John Deere ball cap. My comment to him was, “Did you know John Deere built airplanes way back when?” Obviously he didn’t know about this trivial factoid! We covered our material and hopefully encouraged a few Okras to work at Space Camp. Later in the afternoon, I check my email to find an email from “the John Deere Hat Guy.” He wanted to ask more questions about camp and such.

We met up with Mr. John Deere Hat at a great new restaurant called, Hey Joe’s. Great place, it looks like a warehouse but really funky and cool! It was non-smoking with lots of brick and old soda signs around the room. It would be the restaurant I would open if I could open a restaurant! It was a very fun place with lots of cool music. We heard Pearl Jam and Journey on the loop multiple times. Amazon is eating for a whole team of X-Campers. Since we have been on our trip she has eaten a large plate of fajita nachos, two sausage biscuits, soup and salad, and 12 wings from Hey Joe’s! WOW! I am use to traveling with Snapper who doesn’t eat much! Amazon eats everything. Wait… she is eating my computer.

Today was a gloomy day. It could have been because I realized that it has been ten years since I graduated from DSU in education. I still love being an Okra, even if the skies are gray. We visited the gym. I showed Amazon the six national championship trophies and the Margaret Wade Trophy. My school has tradition! It was fun showing a ball player around my school! I love Hey Joe’s! For me it is the new Airport Grocery! After Airport Grocery moved, it isn’t the same. It is dead to me! Bring on Hey Joe’s and bring on more recruiting.

Tomorrow we will purchase Fighting Okra shirts… America’s Favorite Fighting Vegetable!

Welcome to Missi-Sloppy, Rain Boots Required

This week recruiting I get to visit my home state, Mississippi! My companion is Amazon, fearless X-Camp Counselor and guardian of half names. Our trip to Missi-Sloppy (a Marcia Lindstrom term) started off rainy and wicked! The whole trip down, we drove under gray skies. We arrived in Starkville on the campus of Mississippi State University in the middle of a flood. Quickly we noticed random girls walking around campus with designer rain boots and running shorts. Yes, rain boot and running shorts.

It was not just a few girls. It was enough sightings while we were looking for parking that we felt obligated to ask a few who passed. The first girl we asked said she didn’t have clean jeans. The second girl said that her jeans wouldn’t fit in her boots. Hum… We met a good friend of mine at the student center of MSU. We asked her at the same time I was text messaging Auburn alum and sister of a current Auburn student. It was uncanny how precise the story duplicated itself across the SEC. I even asked a friend who lived in Oxford, home of Ole Miss, about the boot phenomena.

All girls witnessed with boots and running shorts wore designer boots. They had paisley, polka-dots, stripes, or plaid boots on and Nike running shorts. Why? What fashion statement does this send? Is it a cultural thing? Is it a sorority hazing? Or better yet, is it the minimum leg required shown on campus before the first frost of the year. Maybe it is a dress code for cow colleges (Miss. State & Auburn). No wait, it has been spotted at Ole Miss as well. Maybe this is the female answer to guy’s Bama Bangs.

As we left town we stopped at a local store that sold MSU gear, footwear, and Greek-wear. We found a rack stocked with hundreds of Nike running shorts and over in the corner were those fashionable boots. So if you want new rain boots, Sperry is the brand to buy. They will look great with your running shorts. If someone can figure out why these girls decided to make this fashion statement, please tell me. Until then I will continue to think for myself and wear what I want. Maybe they should pick their own clothes out too.

After leaving Starkville we visited Camp of the Rising Son. I listened to the rain falling on the trees and longed to be seventeen again. I loved working at CRS. Now, I am traveling all over the southeast recruiting staff to work at Space Camp. Amazon and I stood on the back porch talking to Carrie Browning, CRS Camp Director for about an hour. When I was seventeen, Carrie and I worked as cabin mates. She was the counselor, and I was the AC. If someone would have predicted that she would be the director of CRS and I would be managing Aviation Challenge as grown ups, we would have both thought you were crazy. It was good visiting Lake Anne, even if the dock was covered in water.

On the drive to the farm I think Amazon discovered why all the girls needed rain boots. We turned of highway 407 onto to a dirt road. Yes, I am sure there is a redneck joke somewhere. Amazon thought I was going to take her out in the middle of nowhere and feed her to alligators. She said, “What is this?” I was shocked. I thought she was a country girl from Tennessee. I asked if she had seen a “dirt road” before. Her answer was classic! She said, “Only in movies!” The roads were messy and sloppy. And I am sure the crew that works on camp vehicles will look at the Endeavour and ask if we went off-roadin’. No, we didn’t need to play in mud puddles, but we did visit my home. And to me home is from Starkville, to CRS, to Winona, and across to Okra-Land, Delta State University. But that is tomorrow’s story.