10 of My Favorite Things about the Mississippi Gulf Coast

I love lists. Some more than others. Not that crazy about grocery lists. But here is one I had lots of fun creating!

Ten of My Favorite Things about the Mississippi Gulf Coast (in no particular order)

  1. THE MARSHES — When we cross the first marshes after arriving on the coast, I strain my eyes, searching for the elusive wildlife that inhabit the area — waterfowl, alligators, schooling fish. As we make our way into Willa’s neighborhood, we drive across several canals that provide an enticing glimpse of the distant Gulf. The marshes teem with activity — for those with eyes to see.
  2. SANDY BEACHES — Mississippi beaches are nothing like the white sugar-sand beaches of the Florida peninsula, but that’s just fine. They have their own personality. A more golden tan than white, and advertised as “twenty-six miles of man-made beach,” they do nicely. The cities along the coast work hard to keep them dragged and clean, something I wondered, after Katrina, if they’d ever accomplish. They’ve surprised me with the great job they’ve done.
  3. SUNSETS OVER THE OCEAN — Reds, golds, pinks, purples, all shades of blue and grey — basically all shades of the rainbow. Toss in a few wispy clouds, or even gathering storm clouds, and you have a recipe for a slide show of awesome proportions. Whether you’re driving the coast road or spending time on the beach, the skies will put on a performance for you.


  4. SPANISH MOSS — For a time a few years ago, I would spend a couple of weeks at a time with Willa, and I’d drive her to work most days, picking her up at 5. Her office is on the Back Bay, and the parking lot is in a large, enclosed area that has benches nestled under moss-hung trees. I loved to park, roll down the windows, turn on the car radio, and sit quietly waiting for her to come out. It was one of my favorite times of day.
  5. DOWNTOWN OCEAN SPRINGS — Ocean Springs lies just to the east of Biloxi, across the graceful bridge constructed after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the previous one. The French founded the town in 1699, and its downtown district is filled with businesses and shops, a mecca for visitors. You’ll find a wide variety of eating places, from potato donuts to Italian cuisine. But my favorite place is Mr. Bernard Clark’s Antiques on Washington. I love seeking out treasures in his display cases, and his collection of vintage post cards is awesome!
  6. FRIENDLY PEOPLE — No matter where I go, someone smiles at me. And show owners are extremely friendly, whether it’s a laid-back weekday morning or the middle of a festival-filled weekend. The biggest festival, drawing upwards of 150,000 people over two days, is the Peter Anderson Art Festival the first weekend in November in Ocean Springs. My other favorite is Cruisin’ the Coast, a fun-filled week (over two weekends) when classic cars from all eras visit all the coastal towns from Moss Point to Pascagoula.
  7. WARM, SALTY BREEZES — A cousin told me once to go down to the beach, wrap myself in a quilt, and breathe in. “It’ll cure whatever ails you,” she said. She may just be right.
  8. GREAT SEAFOOD — I know not all my favorites are always “in season” on the coast, and I’m sure at times I’m eating seafood flown in from faraway places. But it always tastes as if the chef went down to the harbor that morning and bought it fresh off the boats. I can eat about as many pounds of shrimp and crab cakes as my husband can of crab legs. And that’s a lot.
  9. VISITING WITH MY DAUGHTER — Willa has lived in Ocean Springs going on fifteen years, and we visit several times a year. Besides all the other things I love there, I do love getting plenty of time to kick back and relax with her, and more recently, with friends of hers as well. Sorry, no photo. She’s camera shy. But here’s her rescue greyhound, my granddog, Kenna.
  10. BASEBALL!! — This year is the third season for the Biloxi Shuckers, a farm team of the Milwaukee Brewers. Bill & I went to our first game last summer, and we had a blast! (Even though the Shuckers lost) We will definitely be going back this year. The players are personable, seating is ample, vendors are friendly. And c’mon, it’s BASEBALL! That’s all I need for a fun-filled outing.I call this Camera Envy.

There you have it. I could have easily done a Top 20. Perhaps another time. Until then, Take Care!

The Mystical Silence of Trees

Growing up on a farm, I always loved our woods more than our open lands. There’s something mystical about the silence that reigns there. Except that today the woods aren’t silent. The sounds of chain saws, de-limbers, and skidders are in the air. I don’t know how to feel about the changes.


It’s my land… so if I’m of two minds about it, why are they here? read more

Scotland, Wedding Vows, & Young People

June 9, 2014

On this date in 2002, I sat in the beautifully-appointed restaurant of Stonefield Castle Hotel in the western part of Scotland, celebrating with Bill our 35 wonderful years of being married. We dined on duckling and asparagus, haddock, and Chicken Kiev, with platters of fresh vegetables. Indeed, everything was fresh.

Our view over part of the sixty acres of gardens toward Loch Fyne (pronounced fin) was unrestricted, due to the walls of windows that surrounded us. After dinner, since it was still light, we strolled through the gardens and the surrounding woodlands, where well-worn trails took us alongside a narrow but deep ravine where exotic plants grew as if it were their native home. I suppose it is by now.

Whether they were Robber Barons or they inherited wealth, during the 19th century the western part of Scotland became home to a number of wealthy men who built homes modeled after the medieval castles that dot Scotland’s landscape. Then they sent away to all parts of the world for unique plant specimens for the large, sprawling gardens that became a must-have for the well-heeled gentleman.

Stonefield Castle is one such place. read more

A Letter from Grandma Josie

Grandma Josie has been dead almost fifty-one years, but I read a letter from her three weeks ago that brought her back to life for me, for a few minutes.

My cousin David visited from Oregon, bringing with him a suitcase full of family photos and papers. I couldn’t believe it when he handed me a letter Grandma wrote to his mother – her daughter – sometime during the month in which she died. As far as we know, it is the last letter she ever wrote. read more

Our Family’s Own “Little Eva”

Americans are more fortunate than we take time to realize. When was the last time you considered that you will never have to worry about the possibility of seeing your precious child in an iron lung, lying there forever with a monstrous contraption breathing for your offspring? Or helping them learn to maneuver on a set of crutches that causes them to walk like an automaton? The reason you don’t worry about such things is that DPT series of injections children receive when they are young, as a matter of course, during pediatric visits. It is a given today that the horrible disease of polio has been eradicated. One less fear for parents.

Another disease that has been all but eradicated is tuberculosis, though there has been a resurgence of sorts in recent years. TB does still exist, but it can now be treated in much better ways than was the case a hundred years ago. TB changed the dynamics of my mother’s family, and this is a story I have been urged to write by my daughter, who says I need to focus not quite so much on fiction but should also get the family stories written before I am no longer able to do so.

Without further ado – the story of Little Eva. read more

Dreams: Good or Bad for Us?

I am a firm believer in following your dreams. Even if you get stymied or sidetracked, you probably achieve something equally remarkable, perhaps something you never had dared to even dream. read more

Book Review: Breathing on Her Own

Congratulations to Rebecca Waters, one of my new friends from the My 500 Words Challenge. Rebecca has just released her debut novel, Breathing on Her Own. The book is available on Amazon in paperback on for Kindle. I urge you to take a look. I finished it yesterday. I hope I do as well with my own novel when it’s released. The book is a great example of good Christian fiction.

A loving husband, two beautiful daughters, two precious grandchildren. What more could anyone want? Well, maybe a nice retirement with a winter home in Florida, but that’s still several years away. Then in one cold, icy night, Molly Tipton’s world tips, and nothing will ever be the same again.

In Rebecca Waters’ Breathing on Her Own, we follow as Molly and her family struggle through the worst year of their lives, after daughter Laney, mother of two, is involved in an accident that takes the life of her friend. Laney’s accident, and her serious injuries, will test the family’s – and especially Molly’s – faith as never before.

With wit, wisdom, and wry humor, Waters takes readers into the family fold as they deal with problems that at times seem insurmountable. Just how important is faith? How is Molly supposed to keep faith in God when her family is in so much pain? Where was God when Laney needed him? How does a mother help her adult child without strangling her? Will the Tipton family grow closer to each other, and to God, or will they shatter?

Waters weaves a tale with which many of us can identify at least on some level, and she does so with grace and loving kindness. The story slowed a bit in the middle but was soon back up to speed. Overall, the book is a quick read at 248 pages. Just don’t read it so quickly that you miss the many lessons it contains.

My Best Days Ever

There is absolutely, positively no way I could choose one day out of a life of sixty-five years to be My Best Day Ever. There have been so many, because I’ve been blessed my entire life. Sometimes when I read the traumas and heartaches that you folks share with us so eloquently, it makes me all too aware of how simple my life has been, how awesome has been my lot in life.

Now, I can look back and name a handful of days… None of them will be about becoming rich in worldly goods, or about meeting famous people, or about winning a lottery.

Drumroll, please, for some of the Best Days Ever in My Life: read more

How the Fouke Monster Made a Liar out of Me

I believe I suggested that part two of my monster tale would include something about how the movie made my students believe I was a liar. Guess I lied. This is part three. Here’s how that came about.

Charles B. Pierce brought his crew to my hometown, Fouke, Arkansas, to record for posterity (and to make a bit of money) the stories about the Fouke Monster that had been circulating for the past few years.

He didn’t have a very big budget. Make that a very small budget, actually. He did some bartering and bargaining, as I understand it, and figured out how to get this movie made. He had a great deal of help from some locals, but nobody was more helpful to him than J.E. (Smokey) Crabtree. In later years, the relationship between the two men deteriorated dramatically, but that is another story, and not mine to tell. I would refer you to books Smokey has written if you want his story.

One of the coolest things about how the movie was made was that Smokey let Pierce rig up his welding truck as a light source for night time scenes.

I remember the night Charles Pierce called my mother. We heard only her side of the conversation, of course. I was visiting with my folks while Bill was at work.
Daddy and I began to get the feeling Mother was in the middle of an unusual phone call. It was frustrating trying to figure out what was going on.

Daddy had turned down the television so we could listen in. The call lasted perhaps five minutes, and toward the end Mother began to say things like, “No, sir. No, I don’t think I’d be interested.” Finally Pierce gave up and Mother hung up. She turned to us with a look reminiscent of the one she’d worn the day she saw her creature.

“He wanted me to play myself in his movie and I just don’t feel comfortable with that. People made fun of me enough when it happened. I don’t want to go through that again.” After all this time, I sort of wish she’d done it. I’d have a lasting memory of Mother, and of Daddy and his hounds. Oh, sure, we laugh at the movie, but it would still be fun to see them on film.

Years later I became a teacher, most of the time having a self-contained special education class. My students tended to be labeled Learning Disabled, and in my first school they were like many others who didn’t get referred for testing but who would also have been far enough below grade level to be LD labeled. The difference? Kids who were trouble-makers got referred; quiet ones did not.

Just before Spring Break all teaching goes to pot. The kids want a break, the teachers want a break. So I decided to give us all a break and have a movie afternoon. I brought a copy of The Legend of Boggy Creek, we popped popcorn and brought in soft drinks, and the class of 9-13-year-olds settled down for a treat they had never experienced in school before. (I’m happy to say they had a number of positive “firsts” while I was there.)

I gave them a bit of background about the movie – how and why it came to be made. And then I started the tape. Five minutes in…there were whoops and squeals and cackles. Fifteen minutes in, and they were both scared and unbelieving. By then I had started a running commentary they simply couldn’t wrap their minds around:

“See this guy lighting a cigarette? He used to be my bus driver.”

And this place where Travis is camping by the water and it looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere? It’s right down in front of his nice brick house, and we used to go camping right there sometimes.

See where they are showing the dogs not chasing anything but acting scared instead? Well, that was supposed to be about what my mother saw, but she wouldn’t do it. So they changed the story.”

See this guy, and that guy there? Well, he’s in prison for killing him.”

My daddy hunts all over those woods. Duck hunting, deer hunting, coon hunting. He can find his way around in the dark and come out of the woods anywhere he wants to.

We had to watch it again the next day, just because of all my interruptions and their responses. I loved it.

But they still didn’t believe me…not really.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)


Your Message

My First Squirrel Camping Trip

From the time I was a toddler, my parents took me camping. My earliest memory is of being somewhere up in the Ark-Tex Hills with several sets of family members squirrel camping. Mother and Daddy went out early that morning hunting and I woke up alone in the back of the truck where we had slept.

Daddy had a homemade cattle frame on the back of his pickup for carrying cattle off to market and for hauling cotton from the field. As workers filled their cotton sacks, he’d hang the sack on a set of scales attached to a board sticking off the back of the truck frame and jot down how many pounds they had picked. He paid them off at the end of each day.

He didn’t leave those rails (a frame consisting of horizontal boards nailed to corner upright posts) on all the time, but they were on more often than not. As I got older, he would let me and my friends ride in the back of the truck, and we loved sticking our feet on the boards and hanging up in the corner of the frame, wind blowing in our hair, bugs catching in our eyes, our noses flattened back against our faces making it difficult to breathe.

Ah, the joys of being young in the country in the fifties.

Back to camping. Daddy would string up mosquito netting, tying it to the top corners of the truck frame with hay string or cotton twine he always had on hand for making fish hoop nets, they’d shove a feather bed mattress up in the truck bed, and off they’d go. At camp, Mother would crawl around in the back of the truck making up the bed and tucking the mosquito netting underneath the edges of the mattress.

When we got ready to go to bed, after the camp fire had died down and the stories had all been told for the night, they’d pull out a corner of the netting and we’d quickly crawl inside and tuck it back in place, hoping we hadn’t let any mosquitoes in with us.

On this particular morning, I woke up alone in the bed and crawled to the foot of the mattress to get out. But I couldn’t. I was too little to realize how things worked, and there I was, all alone, cold, scared, hungry. I yelled for somebody, anybody to come help me. I could hear voices, so I knew I wasn’t alone. But nobody came for me.

I started to cry. I couldn’t have been three…probably about two years seven months, calculating squirrel season’s opening date. I truly believe this is my very first memory. I suppose it’s only fitting that it involve squirrel camp, since that has always been such an important part of my family dynamic.

Eventually Aunt Elizabeth heard me and came to rescue me, and she cuddled me and fed me bacon and eggs for breakfast. Not too much later, Mother and Daddy made it back to camp and I was a happy little girl again. For the rest of the day I played around the camp with some of my cousins, always trailing behind them because I was several years younger than any of them.

I have one other memory from that camping trip, though I probably don’t have the facts exactly straight. It’s more an impression of fear – my mother’s fear – than anything else. I remember she was terrified, and that it was daytime, and that it involved wild hogs. I remember her scooping me into her arms and running for the truck, jerking the netting out of the way, and tossing me in on the mattress before she scrambled in herself.

Daddy, of course, had no fear. He thought Mother was being silly, but she didn’t care. No razorback hog was going to have a chance to hurt her little girl. She had waited a long, long time for me to be born, and she wasn’t taking any chances.

What is your earliest memory? Does it involve a family tradition? Leave me a comment and share it with us.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)


Your Message