Wednesday, December 30, 2009


On this day before the last day of 2009, I thank you, each and every one, for dropping in on the sparse communication here---next year will have more substance, more attention, as we start to populate Paxton, Mississippi, with some people we've all known---the schoolmates who grew up to be exactly who they were in fourth grade; the ones who blossomed and surprised us all, the old friends and neighbors who made us who we are and revel in our successes, weep for our pain.

Sis and I know these people, from our hearts, as we've lived with them and by them and down the road from them, and had dealings of all sorts with them in everyday things, in celebrations, in sorrows, in outrage and hilarity and comfort and travail. I think of them every day, those folks who are still alive in my heart and in my mind---old ladies of sweet, gentle Spirit like Miss Dovie, and the ones of sharp words and sour grimace; gentlemen of the hat-lifting sort, and those who sit heedless down to eat with John Deere caps shading their plates.

There's Mrs. P.T., who undressed in the beauty shop, and Mrs. Martindale, whose prize-winning dahlias were her reason to live. Miss Hazel of the drugstore, who married in her sixtieth year of maidenhood, and Mr. Pellum of the round-bellied, courtly Dickens sort, whose guinea hens and gold-crested chickens were coveted and prized around the county. There's Mr. Keene, whose talents at the Singer were the envy of seamstresses far and wide, and whose open-windowed Bach at the Hammond caused rough-dressed huntin' fishin' neighbors to pull up chairs on their lawns to drink in the music. There are the four Jenkins girls, whose glorious voices made your heart leap and your own voice exponentially better just by proximity.

Biddy, the long-feathered little rooster, who was raised indoors on hardwood floors and who invaded the neighbors' chicken yard to their distress, and cats and dawgs and a pet crane and a turtle bigger than a dinnerplate who lived in the kitchen of a quite nice family and went for walks down the block.

There are people and there are folks who live in Paxton---and I hope next year will start to bring the town to life and give them substance and voice. And if you're interested---we hope to see you in the New Year.

I hope you warm and well and happy as we turn this corner, this leaf, this calendar page to new and wonderful things.


Friday, November 13, 2009


Amazing pictures of cotton by Janie at Southern Lagniappe.

This is double-posted from LAWN TEA, but of all the subjects I've covered about the South, this one seems to belong HERE, as well.

One year ago today, I hesitatingly sent out my first post, into the ether of the Internet, with no expectations that I can think of. Each day’s little remembrances or anecdotes or recipes or family tales were just put OUT THERE, with no idea of how far-reaching this medium is. And each day, people have looked in---the names of cities have scrolled across the counter, with the familiarity of old friends and the exotic ping of new, exciting places. And several real friendships have come of this---I count my readers and followers and commenters and e-mail friends as a great blessing.And today is also Post Number Three Hundred.

So I pondered for a subject to befit my heritage and my raising and the home I lived in for so many years. And there’s no doubt, it has to be Cotton. And Janie's post this week on Southern Lagniappe, her wonderful photographs of the fields of home, so familiar and so far away, was the deciding factor---a sign, so to speak, when she offered any and all, to illustrate this story.

In the Delta where I’m from, you can turn in a complete circle, your eyes on the horizon, and you see trees. No matter what distance, from close, see-the-bark, count-the-leaves, to a dwindly wisp of greenish mist at ground level far, far in the distance---you see the woods. There’s something so comforting about that---even the placid hills and the far-reaching prairies, the majesty of mountains and waves bursting on rocky shorelines cannot match the secure feeling of being surrounded by a forest, somewhere. It’s like our own secret garden wall, immense and constant, and it is embedded in our history and our beings. And always, on the landscape---the cotton fields.

I loved looking out my front door in Mississippi---I love the process of it, from the primal scent of first turning, to the flying dust as the planters roll like growling beasts over the land, to the vista of the tiny "turtles" as the sun-seeking leaves peek out, glimpsing the sky for the first time. They have an odd way of coming up through that dense Mississippi gumbo, aiming for the sky, and the little periscope lifts up a half-dollar-sized solid flat lid of dirt; for a few days, each long row does, indeed, seem to have a horizon-reaching line of baby turtles, marching their way to the woods.Then there's the greening, as the fields take on a tinge, then definite delineations of those long, symmetrical rows, growing higher and higher, until the blooms unfurl purple---I think of them as "hollyhocks with jobs" in their purpose and their definite usefulness. And the dainty-fringed little bishop's-hat bolls, which grow, ripen, and then burst with their fluffy hatchlings. The long vistas of green change to brown, crisping stalks and thorny hawk-talon barbs, guarding their treasure like Sleeping Beauty's hedge.

The days of drag-a-sack for $4 a hunnerd are no more---the people have gone from the old silver-glazed cypress tenant houses which dot the land, and the battered old houses stand witness to another time, but certainly not a gentler one. Cotton was higher then, in stature, if not in value---head-high-to-a-hand was a common measure, as the crop sometimes topped six feet, and as the drying came, the brambly rows were all but impenetrable. But the workers persevered, making their way through the thorny forest day after day for scarcely the price of their grits and lard. They barely made a livin’ and it sure wasn’t living. And machines tend the crops now, from first turning to harvest.

The great beasts are unleashed once again, to blunder over the fields, trampling the scratchy stalks and sucking up the clouds of white into that immense cage, into huge round bundles like convoys of blue-tarped gypsy wagons encamped in the fields. Thence to the gins, which seed and comb and bale, and on goes the crop to whenever and wherever---for the most comfortable clothing there is.

The process of growing and harvesting and ginning and selling and brokering and spinning and weaving and dyeing and sewing---I've been in on quite a lot of the procedure; cotton kept our lights on, kept our fridge and freezers full, and pretty much tended to our welfare, as we tended the fields. Even the aftermaths---counting up those green tickets, with the almost-illegible scribing, adding the pounds and the amounts, calculating the wages and all the other usual paperwork---that old yellow formica kitchen table was often laden with the grimy, gin-grease tokens of the growing and the labor and the gain.

Oh, the prayers and the wishes for rain, or for the incessant rain to stop; for the mud to dry enough to get wheels in the field; for enough hours in the day to plant or tend or defoliate or pick---many a midnight "lunch" I've delivered to the sweaty, grime-covered or damp or shivering workers in the fields, out there with picker-beams lighting up the hazy, dust-billowed landscape like some great gathering scene in
E T.

Driving up to a "stoppin' place" with the old woody wagon's tailgate laden with all the hot stew and biscuits or bean soup and cornbread and big urns of coffee, or an afternoon's heat modified by the arrival of a trunkful of chilly watermelons, ready for plunging thirsty mouths and hot faces into, or a big dishpanful of "strawberry shortcake"---several angelfood cakes or just-cooled cake layers, torn into bits, tossed with fresh-cut, sugared strawberries, and a couple of pints of cream whipped into a gallon of snowy fluff, all folded together into a luscious redpinkwhite-striped confection---occasionally the guys would pass right by the stack of bowls and stand around the pan with their spoons, their mugs of strong black coffee one-fingered ready in the spare hand. They came to the meal, exhausted from their since-daylight labor, looking like a troop of just-emerged coal miners, their faces etched with grime and cotton-dust and wisps of stem and leaf---the only clean spots the goggle-covered area around their eyes and that telltale white circle of "farmer's halo" where their caps preserve the pale skin from the hot Delta sun.

Cotton has been a mainstay of my family since I can't remember when. It's a magical, none-like-it plant---the green stems growing their tight green-fringed fists, known as "squares," which turn into flowers; the flowers drop, for the bolls to emerge, and then Summer's heat and rain call forth the growth and the splitting and the burst of down-soft fiber, older than memory and more comfortable to wear than the finest silk. The miracle of seed and growth are one of the great wonders of the world, and I'm especially thankful for those fat furry seeds which go into the dirt like dead stones, rise up with blooms sweet as roses, then butterfly-burst into the miracle that is Cotton.

Dyed-in-the-Cotton Delta girl, that's me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I'm trying to conserve posts on Lawn Tea, as there are only three left til I reach the Big 300.

Also, the one-year anniversary of the first post will be on November 12, and I had Grand Plans of having them coincide in one spectacular moment (A Party!! A Cake!!) But Life gets in the way of lots of best-laid plans; there's been so much AGLEE going on round about, I barely have two thoughts to rub together.

I've been composing a post to go with Marty's Auto Graveyard, and the People of Paxton send up a never-ending clamor in my head---all the Miss Vestas and the sultry Renees and her ever-faithful husband of the Bubba Body and the poetic bent.

So---if anybody's reading---Hello!!! And I promise to do better by all four of you in future.

Happy November!!!

Monday, September 28, 2009


Thank you three dearies for signing up, sight unseen, for whatever dreams may come. I did not mean to post much here, as I was just reserving the name---those four words burst out of my mouth one day in reference to my own Southern upbringing---a play on Dyed in the Wool, of course. Then I realized what I'd said, and signed up to Klep the blog title for myself. But your faith in my scribblings and your bright enthusiasm are precious gifts, and I'll not let them go unanswered.

I keep such lively young company several days a week, she who has embellished my world with Fifi the Flowertot and her milieu, as well as Bert and Ernie and Elmo the Red, and an entire new little being whose vocabulary grows by the leap. Sentences today, an entire Sportscast for my merely asking "What did YOU do this weekend?" at the breakfast table.

From her barely-two mouth, full of biscuit, came, "Soccer game. Em'ly run. Kick it, Em'ly, Kick it!"

The Monday night jock-touts would be PRAOUD. The estimable Em'ly is her cousin, whose five-year-old exploits will soon become the things of legend, methinks, as this little one adores and admires and emulates.

The days are full and rich and hold not nearly enough time, and on the spare days, I've been so wrapped up in populating that hazy place called Paxton, for what my Sis calls "Our Book" that nothing seems to come from my brain but the next weird or familiar (or both) person to live in the pages.

The folks jump around in my mind, one with money, one with faith, one with a gift for creating such beauty as to make your heart burst---they have quirks and errors and foibles all mingled with the hope of them, the possibilities. They're slowly coming to life, stumbling blinking into the dim light, and though I meant them for HERE, they spring up on daily posts in Lawn Tea, full-blown and with lives and minds of their own.

I thank you for your patience, and for checking in on my meanderings through Paxton and other foreign places so familiar and so real they want the telling and goad the words. As the dust piles grow, the laundry sends out an SOS, and the sinkful of last night's dishes languishes tepid and wet. And the noises through the monitor grow softer, as the Little One is lulled to sleep in her room with the open windows---I can hear the Autumn breeze and windchimes outside.

Moire non,


Sunday, September 13, 2009


Another quiet Sunday, weeks later. I've just finished up the kitchen, got everything washed and scalded and/or in the dishwasher; it's doing its own quiet little chores, whilst a big ole turkey sits huddled in the smoke of the grill.

A little foil packet of whole, unpeeled baby beets lotioned with olive oil is in the small oven upstairs---they'll be slip-skinned, quartered, anointed with a bit more oil, a dash of red vinegar, some coarse seasalt, and garnished with a handful of sweet onion slivers, to be served warm alongside the beautiful golden rutabaga Caro's cooking.

Kinda a mis-matched feast, but we have fresh croissants to cuddle thick warm slices of the turkey breast with some Blue Plate and maybe a chiffonade of iceberg. There's a two-cup Tup of the lime Jello version of Pink Salad, with crushed pineapple, cottage cheese, mayo and pecans stirred in.

Chris is out on a few tiny errands, Caro's reading one of her beloved Mitfords in the sitting room upstairs preparatory to a nap, and I'm headed back outside into this glorious day. I'll bet I could find about a peck of leaves to sweep, just because. Blessings, blessings.

And you?

Sunday, August 2, 2009


No peas and cornbread in this first post, though they are loved, and will come later.

Today, we Southern folks skipped Sunday Dinner and had popcorn and a big diet Coke instead, at the early matinee of Harry Potter.

And just now, no collards or snap beans or pintos for us---I put a pot of salted water on to boil, washed several of the huge juicy red tomatoes, right from the vine, and chopped them into a bowl. I went out to the garden and cut the shiny-bright heads from three stems of basil, scissors-snipped them into the salted tomatoes with a little stream of olive oil.

A quick toss with the hot, just-tender farfalle, leaning into the steam for a deep breath of Summer's best pasta dish: Hot Caprese pasta, with a great snowing from the block of Parmesan. Salad and toasty-bread and another installment of Warehouse 13, with the one ever-present Southern must-have: Big glasses of 40-weight iced tea.

Nice restful day.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Title and site reserved for future meanderings.

Nothing happening yet.