The Grove!

People had told us that the spectacle of an Ole Miss football game is unique, that there was nothing quite like tailgating in The Grove.  The Grove?  A bunch of trees?  I had so much to learn!  Is it still called tailgating when cars aren’t allowed in the area?

The Grove–a shady, park-like setting with a magnificent assortment of mature trees– is lovely enough to enchant any gardener.  It is situated in the middle of a campus so well designed that everything seems within walking distance for its just under 20,000 students.  The buildings are Southern classic and beautiful and the traditions deep.

The Lyceum, oldest building on campus, served as a hospital during the Civil War.
The Lyceum, oldest building on campus, served as a hospital during the Civil War.

The football players pass through The Grove on their way to the stadium on a brick walkway with arches at each end–the Walk of Champions.  The stadium holds over 60,000 and who knows how large the crowds are in The Grove.  Talk about a heady walk!IMG_0951

The Friday before the game, garbage cans were set out to mark spaces where hospitality tents could be set up, beginning at 9 PM.  During the day people hung around, marking their spots.IMG_0955The game was at noon and we went to the Grove on that overcast mid-morning, we found the area transformed into a sea of tents, chairs, people, and food.  Image 56What it wasn’t filled with was smoke.  No grills allowed and in fact, no smoking.  That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t food.


IMG_1113The game that day was a rivalry between the Ole Miss Rebels and University of Arkansas* Razorbacks, also known as The Hogs, so folks went whole hog with their food.  Hams galore!

Not that food was all they brought.  Some tents were quite elaborate, sporting generators, chandeliers, large flat-screen TVs, comfortable chairs, and satellite dishes.  One tent sported a replica of the Lyceum, with each of its columns holding a different beverage.

Just as there were plain tents and fancy tents, there were basic toilets as well as some with more panache, like the Hotty Toddy Potty, complete with attendants.


Image 78

The Arkansas fans partied, too.

As for me and my house, we will call the Hogs.
As for me and my house, we will call the Hogs.

Elvis was there–in several shapes and sizes–raising money for St.Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  They call themselves “The Elvi.”

Image 26 Who was he pulling for? Image 29

The cheerleaders were in The Grove.IMG_1095IMG_1096And the band was in The Groove.IMG_1097You’re probably wondering did we EVER get to the game.  I’ll have to save that for the next post.  It was THE ELVI in all their glory, for goodness’ sakes!  Show some respect! 

Are you there, Elvis, it's me, Mary!
Are you there, Elvis?  It’s me, Merrily!

*BIG OOPS on original post.  My brain said Arkansas, but my fingers didn’t listen.  Sorry, Arkansas!

M-I-Crooked Letter. . .

This time last week, Dearly Beloved and I were high-tailing it to Oxford, Mississippi–a nine to ten-hour drive, depending on traffic and my bladder.  We made it a two-day trip and planned to stay at a B&B along the way.

If you’re interested in trying a new career, look into opening a B&B in western Alabama or eastern Mississippi because you certainly won’t find much competition.  The problem is, you won’t find many towns along that route, either.

Charlotte’s ambient lights make this a tough place for stargazing, but let me tell you–nights on rural Alabama secondary roads are DARK!  That night, there was only a sliver of moon and few houses on our route, so we kept an eye out for deer or Bigfoot.   When we reached the small town B&B where I’d made a reservation, I learned that the one I’d chosen was on this bucket list!

IMG_0912I’m not sure I’ll make the other 99, but The B&B, a historic home built in 1870, happened to be serving their signature dish (in the lower left corner of the list)–a strawberry/almond Belgian waffle, not to mention bacon, fruit cup, and a giant chocolate chip/pecan muffin.    IMG_0907

I-85 through the Carolinas and Georgia is not a pretty route.  NC’s billboard lobbyists have won free reign at the expense of the trees and natural beauty.  South Carolina is even worse–it has seedy buildings intermixed with one giant billboard after another; one advertises Jesus and the next one an Adult Toy Store (perhaps an unfortunate order.)   I must say, KUDOS to Alabama and Mississippi for their highways and byways.  Their senators have done them proud securing federal road funds.   We’ve been in that area before, but this was our first time on the Natchez Trace Parkway or crossing the Ten-Tom Waterway.  Lovely!

My cousin had sent excellent directions, so we found the condo in plenty of time to visit before our lunch reservation:  a window table at City Grocery.  Since their food is to die for, it should top any list of 100 Places to Eat in Mississippi Before You Die.   The chocolate bacon bread pudding is certainly list-worthy.

I think I could live in Oxford, Mississippi and love it.  (That sound you heard was my cousin gasping in alarm.)   It is a beautiful old town with wonderful architecture, large trees, nice  restaurants and shopping, the best independent bookstore in the country, and right in the middle of it all is (drumroll, please…) Ole Miss.

(Photos of the campus and Saturday’s game in a later post.  It was quite a spectacle and even though I usually read during football games, I loved every minute of this one.)

Right after our City Grocery lunch on Friday, we headed downtown and our first stop was Square Books.  I could spend days…years… in there.  I’ve never seen so many signed books in my life!  IMG_0976

Next stop was their second store just up the block where I didn’t buy a cookbook because I couldn’t decide between…oh, 50 or so… that looked wonderful.  Garden & Gun magazine was hosting a book launch, so we browsed with their wine and hors d’oeuvres in hand.   A third store, filled with children’s books was in another block.

Square Books was the first bookstore to host a book signing for (then) local resident John Grisham’s books back when he was peddling his book out of the trunk of his car and he still shows his appreciation by signing his books for the store whenever he writes a new one.  Pat Conroy had been recently and signed books, as had authors like Lee Smith, Ron Rash, and Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch.)

The bookstore specializes in southern books, especially ones by Mississippi authors.  (Think William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Shelby Foote and a host of newer ones like Kathryn Stockett–The Help)  Even DB commented that there was something about the area that made one want to sit down and write.

That probably makes you wonder why it took me a week to write this post.

Faulkner Alley sign
Faulkner Alley sign
The alley.
The alley.

Image 66

Ceiling of an old downtown building.
Ceiling of an old downtown building.

Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in mississippi. – Oprah Winfrey

I’m not saying she was stupid, but I asked her how to spell mississippi and she said ‘the river or the state?’ – Unknown

Take Two Redials And Call Me In The Morning

As I’ve said before, my Dearly Beloved has some peculiar notions about doctors.

He still subscribes to the theory that all injuries should be ignored unless they occur on the football field which, of course, isn’t happening at our house this century.  So, when he was playing Tennis Ball Keepaway (which he shouldn’t) with our dog Scout recently and she jumped for the tennis ball in his hand and got the fleshy pad of his hand instead, he took care of the wound himself.   I wasn’t home and he had it bandaged by the time I returned, so I haven’t seen it and don’t want to.  He claims it probably could have used some stitches, but it was a clean tear, so he wasn’t going to get any.

I ignored it, staging my own game of Keepaway from the whole incident, refusing to offer sympathy.  That doesn’t stop him from holding up his hand occasionally and dramatically peeking under the bandage to give me a report.

Still, when he felt awful for several days in a row recently, I did feel bad for him and insisted he see the doctor.  Who’s going to set the mousetrap if he kicks the bucket?

He told me that he’d be seeing her soon for his October physical.  “When is that?”  I asked, it being the last week of September.

“I don’t know.  I haven’t made the appointment yet.”

“Well, MAKE it!  Right now.”  

A few minutes later, he said he’d done so and would be going in mid-November.  (And my dentist wonders why I grind my teeth!)

“Look at you, you’re in BED!  You’ve felt lousy for days!  Call them again and tell them you’re sick and need to come in NOW!”

He sighed dramatically.

“Okay. Dial the number for me and bring me the phone.”

My sigh was even more dramatic than his, but I took the damn phone to his bedside.  I’d punched in the number; all he had to do was hit “Talk.”  Which he screwed up.  He hit Redial and Talk a second, then a third time, before he ever got it to ring.

He began talking almost immediately, explaining that he’d just made an appointment for his physical, but wondered if he could see the doctor right away.  I was mystified, since I always have to go through several automated prompts before reaching the appointed appointment human.  How did he avoid that?

While he explained his symptoms,  I stood over him with my arms crossed, making sure he   didn’t omit anything.  A look of puzzlement suddenly crossed his face.

“Scout,” he said, obviously in response to a question.  “She bit me on the hand, but it’s okay.  It was an accident.”

He listened again, then answered, “No, the checkup is for me.”  Another look of complete confusion.  “Wait a minute.  Who have I called here?”

Animal Medical Hospital.

He burst out laughing, hastening to explain,  “My wife dialed this number for me.”  

I hadn’t!  I’d most certainly dialed the doctor’s number because I’d looked it up before doing so, but by then I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t defend myself.  I fell onto the bed, clutching my stomach, shrieking and gasping, as he answered that no, he didn’t think he needed a rabies shot, but he could use a bath.

I wanted to suggest anal gland expression, but I still couldn’t catch my breath enough to say the words.

Since he’d inadvertently disconnected the number I’d put in for him before it ever connected, hitting Redial had taken him back to the last number actually called–the vet  he’d called the previous evening to arrange boarding for Scout over the weekend.

Funny thing is, we laughed so hard over the ridiculous conversation, he began to feel better almost immediately.  Since it can’t do lab work, he still had to go in for a checkup, but laughter really IS the best medicine!

My doctor is wonderful. Once, in 1955, when I couldn’t afford an operation, he touched up the X-rays. – Henny Youngman

Sign on a cosmetic surgery clinic:
If life gives you lemons, a simple operation can give you melons.

Scenes of Charleston

We spent a couple of days sightseeing in Charleston, SC last week, mostly to see family, but we did get to the downtown area one afternoon to mosey around.  We walked down to Battery Park and back, far enough to give me shin splints, although 6-year-old Elmo took the same route with no difficulty.  In fact, his journey was much longer because he frequently raced ahead to the corner, then back to us, then back to the corner, etc. until we finally arrived there, too.   Not to mention that he climbed trees, poles, fences, cannons, bandstands, and even made a lunge at George Washington before Granddad intervened.

The rest of us were wearing our sensible walking shoes.  Elmo wore flip-flops.

We passed the guinea fowl, which announced our arrival with their strange calls.  A young man nearby said they’d been living in that area for over 100 years, but the articles I found online say that a couple of them just flew into town one day and hung around.   When you see the place, you can understand why they liked it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Watch that video link above because it offers a chance to wander, thanks to The Lee Bros.,  through one of the mysterious iron gates and see the lovely garden inside.)

I won’t even try to show you my photos of the houses or the wonderful shops.  (You can look at these by much better photographers.)  Instead, I’ll show you a few scenes that you may not see elsewhere.


Thou shall not park here.  Seriously.


The classic Charleston boot.

There were cobblestones. . .


And headstones. . . .


Two of the signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried there.  The Handicap Parking sign was mystifying, since it was inside the fence.

Here’s another one:


A headstone with my brother’s head.

There were pretty windows. . .


And pretty strange windows. . . .

Image 7This sign–with the same spelling–was in more than one window, so of course, my imagination ran faster than Elmo’s sprints to the corner.  Remolding.

Surely not this:black_mold

Crown?  Dentil? Toe?  Chair rail?  Wood? Stone? Polystyrene?

Making cheese?

One day we ate lunch on Daniel Island.  Right beside the restaurant was this sign:

Image 8

We took it seriously.  Didn’t want us–or the alligators–to get the boot.


I’m going back to dignity and grace. I’m going back to Charleston, where I belong.  — Rhett Butler, in 1939 movie, “Gone with the Wind

Please, Mr. Postman

I’m trying not to have a complex about this, but I’m not even sure that I’m Number 4 on our dog Scout’s list of people preferences.  I know with certainty that Spots 1, 2, and 3 are taken.

1.  Lord and master of the universe.  (That would be Dearly Beloved.)

2.  Our mail carrier, Danny.

3.  Ivy, our daughter’s Goldendoodle. (Yes, of course Ivy is a person!)

No. 2 on the list is the Pied Piper of canines in our neighborhood.  His mail truck generates as much excitement with the dogs as an ice cream truck for neighborhood kids and he does it without a bell.  Danny carries treats in his mail bag and hands them out to all the dogs he passes as he makes his rounds.

For the lucky dogs with mail slots on the doors, he slips a treat in along with the mail.  Once he realized that Ivy was spending the summer with us, Danny added a second treat, but Scout would race to our front door and wolf down both treats so fast that he barely had time to get his fingers out of the slot.

After Danny realized what was happening,  the mail slot started clanging three times. . . one time for the mail, a second time while he tossed in a treat aimed toward the left, then a third clang to aim one to the right–to give Ivy a better chance of getting to the one meant for her.


When DB took the pair on their morning walks, they watched for the mail truck and pulled in that direction, even if they’d already been treated on another street.

Emily, the big black lab on our block, has a case of Danny-love, too.  Once I saw Emily lying in the grass several streets away from ours. I would’ve thought she’d been hit by a car but for the disgusted look on her owner’s face as he tugged on her leash.

“Is Emily all right?” I asked him.  He nodded.

“Then what is she doing?”  

“Stalling.  She’s hoping Danny will come by.”  

As the weeks progressed, Ivy became wiser about the magic mail slot.  Rather than try to outrun Scout, she decided to outsmart her.


Having Ivy here for two months has been wonderful for Scout.  She appears to have lost her fear of other dogs, if her romps with Ivy are any indication.  We began calling them Thelma and Louise.  I’d be embarrassed to admit how many videos DB and I have made of those two clowns and their antics.

Over the weekend, we returned Ivy to her peeps.  It was a happy reunion for all of them, but we certainly miss her.  I hope Ivy doesn’t encounter any mail carriers for a while.

They might misconstrue her salivating.

Did you hear the one about the unstamped letter?

You wouldn’t get it. 

For Whom The Road Tolls

Our knitting/e-mail group got together for a few days at Lulu’s house in Birmingham this summer. They’d needle me if I posted a photo of the group, so here’s Lulu’s dog, Sami, just to prove I was there.


Why yes, that IS a pink elephant on the table and since wine was consumed,  I’m relieved that you can see it, too.  (And yes, you purists, that’s crochet, not knitting.)

On the way back, I stopped to see our daughter and her family in Atlanta  and attend one of Middle Grandson’s swim meets.  His older brother had strep throat, so I volunteered to drive Middle Grandson to the meet, a 20-mile or so trek on Atlanta’s highways and toll roads in rush hour traffic.

No problem.  The calm voice of Miz MapQuest anticipated my every question and took us right to the pool.

I set up camp in the last spot of shade to be had– just outside the men’s room door.

“How will I know when you’re swimming?” I asked Middle Grandson when he walked by later.

He stuck out his arm, which now sported a hodgepodge of Sharpie-tattooed tic-tac-toe lines and numbers.

“Take a picture of my arm,” he said.  Genius.

I misread the arm photo for his first race.  By the time I realized my error and made it  poolside, all I saw was an empty lane.  Grandson was probably out of the pool and off eating a popsicle somewhere.


In full-blown crazy grandmother mode, I bulldozed through the crowd of timers, coaches, and players for the next race. Squatting at pool edge, I aimed my camera to get a closeup of Grandson when he bobbed up at the touch pad.  I wanted to  send it to Dearly Beloved.

My camera honed in on the backstroker coming toward me, ready for the big finish.

What th’. . . ?

The kid that popped up, nose to camera lens with me,  was a complete stranger.  Wrong lane again!  Grandson was already towelling off.  I think that his time in the race was better than mine in trying to stand back up from that  squat.

My son-in-law, who’d come directly from work, called out, “Did you SEE that?  His best time yet!”

Mumble, mumble.

When persistent thunder delayed the meet for an hour or so, I decided to head back to the house.  Son-in-law stuck around and, as it turned out, saw a few more heats before the match was called for the night.

Once in my car, I kicked off my shoes and told Miz MapQuest to reverse her directions and lead me back.  At the toll entrance, I threw my quarters into the basket and started to drive forward.  The gate didn’t lift.  What now?  Did I even HAVE any more quarters?   Wasn’t an attendant supposed to be wandering around?  Had the people lined up behind me never heard of patience???

And where the heck were my shoes?

I scrounged around and found more quarters–and, because I’d already driven past the basket in anticipation of being able to proceed, I now had to walk back to put the money into the basket.

I didn’t take time to look for my shoes, so I opened the door and put my bare feet down,  cringing at the thought of what might await.

Want to take a guess what littered the pavement?


Pennies.  Dozens and dozens and dozens of pennies.  I’m don’t think my feet even  touched the nasty asphalt.

Who throws pennies out at a toll booth?  And why?

I usually pick up loose change I see in parking lots and on sidewalks,  so it might have been difficult to walk away from all that loot, had not the honking serenade behind me insisted.

The toll gods accepted my coins this time and the gate raised.  I jumped back in the car and screeched out of there.

I called Dearly Beloved.  Son-in-law had been sending him excellent videos of the races, he told me. . . “But I’m sure watching the videos is nothing like actually being there.”   

Yup.  Nothing like it at all.  I didn’t say so, though.  He didn’t offer me a penny for my thoughts.

All Systems Down

Because our kids and their families live in different states, communicating with them isn’t simple.  We aren’t big fans of Skype or Facetime.  Dearly Beloved and I are scary.  I’m all neck and he’s all nostrils.

None of us answers our landline phones, since we can’t say, “Please remove us from your call list” to the automated voices inevitably at the other end. “Not In Service” calls often.  You may remember my all time favorite, Phone Scam.

For a time, e-mailing worked, but now the kids say their e-mail boxes are overflowing, so it’s become all about “Texting.”   DB embraced that right away.  He lets a picture take care of his thousand words:  a video of the dog, a photo of his new banjo.  A  sneaky shot of a sweaty me in a bandana and overalls, working in the garden, gives them an update on mom.   When his fingers do the talking, he’s a man of few words.

Last week he texted a query to our youngest daughter and as usual, received a prompt response. . . just not one he expected.

It was a text from her youngest, our soon-to-be-first-grader grandson:

Sorry she is not avalabel.