January 03 '98
Alabama Reunion Carters Visit Penningtons
I promised Richard Pennington, when he moved from Greenville to Greensboro, that I would visit him during the Christmas Holidays. I had reaffirmed my intent when I spoke to Richard about a week before beginning my Christmas vacation. Richard's family would all be arriving the weekend before Christmas and leaving prior to Christmas Day. Richard gave me his home phone number, and I assured him I would let him know if we would be able to visit the weekend after Christmas.
I had to work the Monday before Christmas, breaking the contiguity of being off 10 consecutive days as I had once planned. Tuesday was consumed in transporting Jason to a dermatologist in Tupelo (He has a small skin cancer under an eye. The cancerous growth is scheduled for removal on January 6.), taking Barbara and Jason to the Mall at Barnes Crossing for a last minute shopping dash, then driving Barbara to Ripley to pick up Lillie Belle who had been visiting a sister since the previous Saturday. Tuesday evening I began to try to contact Richard concerning our plans to visit after Christmas. I was surprised to hear a message stating, "the call cannot be completed as dialed." I made three phone attempts in order to be certain my bifocals, fingers, and self were all working together before deciding to postpone the contact until Wednesday.
Wednesday was about the busiest day I had the entire week I was off work. There were all sorts of last minute cleaning tasks, indoors and outdoors, as we readied our home for Christmas Eve visitors. There was also a bit of last minute gift buying and grocery buying to be done. Somehow, I managed to find time to again try contacting Richard, but the message I received stated the number had been changed to an unlisted number. Finally, I decided to try the Alabama phone information service and asked for Richard's listing. I was informed that no number existed for a Richard Pennington of Greensboro, but there was one for a Richard Pennington in Mobile. I explained the number would be a new listing, since Richard had moved there right after Thanksgiving, but the male operator stated that perhaps his directory had not been updated. I was beginning to believe I would have to delay my impending visit.
During the early hours of evening on Christmas Day, I connected to the Internet in hopes of finding a way to reach Richard Pennington. I found the listing for the guy in Mobile, along with about a half-dozen other Richard Penningtons in Alabama, but none were listed in Greensboro. The next morning I continued my search for Richard's phone number. I found his brother-in-law's business phone number, but no one answered when I dialed it. Finally, I decided to call his old number in Greenville, MS. I was happily surprised to hear the recording explain the number had been changed, followed by a recording of the new listing. Ain't Bell South grand? It seems that either Richard or I made a mistake with the last digit of the phone number.
Upon dialing the new number, I wasn't convinced I had the right number until I heard a woman's recorded voice explaining, "...if you are calling about the puppies, we do have some." (Jane raises and sells Lhasa Apsos.) I left a phone message for Richard to call me. He returned my call around 2:30 p.m. and was elated over our plans to visit on Saturday. I explained that we would be leaving around 8:00 a.m. and expected to arrive between 11:00 and 11:30 a.m.
Saturday morning, Barbara, Lillie Belle, Sarah, Felicia, and I loaded into the car for our trip to Greensboro. Our drive was pretty uneventful. The highway was wet enough during the early portion of our journey to ruin my Wednesday afternoon car wash. By the time we reached Columbus, MS, a few snow or ice crystals were observed by Sarah, but I never saw them. Felicia kept us awake with a continual verbal barrage of questions and statements.
The new home of the Penningtons was on the main highway leading into Greensboro from Tuscaloosa, and was quite easy to locate. The house is on a corner lot. We found the driveway and arrived just as Richard was unloading several sacks of groceries. We were greeted warmly, first by Richard, who was outside, and later by Jane, as we entered the house through the kitchen. Richard was anxious to give us a tour of the house, so as soon as we could drop the groceries in the pantry, we began the grand tour.
Like other ante-bellum houses the kitchen was not originally incorporated into the house, but was several feet away from the main structure. A dogtrot connected the two structures, and at some point, a prior owner enclosed the dogtrot forming an area that is now used as a breakfast room.
The next area we toured was the dining room. It is centrally located and is a spacious twenty something feet by twenty something feet (my estimate is 20' by 24'). All rooms in the main portion of the house have high ceilings, approximately fifteen feet. A fireplace with mantle and hearth is also in the dining room. I believe it is now equipped with gas logs or radiant heat. A beautiful, original oil painting of a still life floral arrangement hangs above the mantle. It is but one of many original paintings by Richard's talented wife, the former Jane Marshall. Centered in the dining room is an enormous, antique, oval-shaped table with exquisitely detailed carvings on its legs and sides. The table, when fully extended, will comfortably seat 24 people. The last occupant of the home, made the Penningtons an offer they could not refuse on the table and several other antique furnishings.
Adjacent to the dining room is a spacious room with southern exposure that serves the Penningtons as a den. It is enclosed with several windows that flood the area with warm lighting and contains a working fireplace, that stood filled with wood, ready to be kindled. Richard claimed to be waiting for the weather to get just right before lighting a wood fire. He said the chimney would not draw good until the weather was cold. Jane and I thought it sufficiently cold, but Richard was not persuaded to start a fire. I must check out this thing about the chimney draw and cold weather; that's news to me. I soon noticed a beautiful painting, impressionists styled, that Jane later told me was her "mock Monet."
"Now let me show you to the parlor," Richard stated, as he led us into a room that fronts the porch, and connects to the foyer.
The parlor appeared even more elegant than the other rooms. An ornately framed mirror rose above a footed, marble shelf to a height of approximately ten to twelve feet, culminating in sweeping arcs etched deeply into the wooden frame. Another beautiful painting was displayed over the mantle in the parlor. Richard described the still life painting as his personal favorite and one that he would not permit Jane to sell. It was a rendering of a vase of beautifully arranged spring flowers, so real you could almost smell them.
Leaving the parlor we, next, visited the foyer with more gargantuan mirrors. Our tour continued to a downstairs bedroom, and adjoining bath. We climbed the stairs and toured the upper bedchambers, baths, and balcony. I have elected to not describe these rooms individually, but I can assure you each is unique, well furnished, and contributes to the grandness of this beautiful home.
The entire house is basically sound, structurally speaking, but improvements are planned for the kitchen and will include excavation in order to level the kitchen floor. Several exterior areas have commanded the attention of the new owners and include; the endless, repetitive task of repainting, and the rerouting of externally exposed, second-story pipes and wires in order to enhance exterior aesthetics.
The grounds of the home are populated with a multitude of deciduous trees, oak, dogwood, and pecan as well as evergreens, cedar, pine, and magnolia; fruit bearing trees include apple, pear, plum, peach, and fig; shrubs of holly and camellia abound. Directly behind the house is a large swimming pool, enclosed by a high, cypress, privacy fence. The extreme back portion of the property consists of a neglected area, approximately one acre, which the Penningtons intend to convert to a vegetable garden this coming summer.
Upon finishing the tour of the house and grounds, we gathered inside for a lunch that would have impressed the aristocracy of bygone years. Prime rib was the principal entree, along with baked ham, green beans, fried corn, and mashed potatoes. Yeast rolls and iced tea or hot coffee rounded out our delicious meal. Deserts included lemon icebox pie and a chocolate Yule log. Seated around the big dining table, we absorbed not only the fine cuisine, but the aesthetics of the room itself. Felicia and Sarah, our conversationalists extraordinaire, took a back seat to Jane Pennington as she related numerous accounts of her artistic, and humanitarian interests, each event leaving us wanting to hear still more. It was an after-dinner conversation steeped in the best Southern tradition.
It was while we were sitting around the table that Richard shared his intent to rename their historical landmark to reflect the names of the current owners. Since 1905 the house has remained in the hands of a single family and has been named Stickney Oaks. Richard has declared it will be called Marshall Pennington Oaks. Jane mildly objected to the choice, preferring simply Pennington Oaks. Which will it be? Stay tuned to RRN.
Richard invited us to see the sites of the small town. The town is so small that he says though he has lived there only a month, whenever he meets someone new, he is stopped short of explaining his background with comments such as, "Yes, I know where you are from and the type of work you do." Richard's helpful, friendly, and courteous demeanor mark him as a person to remember. He was recently greeted by a butcher at the local Piggly Wiggly store who explained he had once worked at one of the Gregerson's Stores, a SUPERVALU supplied chain, and remembered Richard was one of the SUPERVALU team members who had helped retag the store.
Before we left Richard invited us to return as often as we liked, but to be sure to come in the springtime for the big, whole town, barbecue planned by Jane's brother, Jack Marshall. Jack once played for the Blackwood Brothers and plans to have the famous gospel quartet sing for the occasion. Exactly why Jack is willing to sponsor the event is not clear, but if it consists of free food and music, it is certain to be well attended.
As we journeyed back to Pontotoc, Felicia felt compelled to once again speak at every available opportunity. She also shared with us how, during the early morning hours in her excitement and anticipation of the day's visit, she had composed a song to commemorate the occasion based on the tune from the once popular TV program, Gilligan's Island. Naturally, she also shared the composition. I had never learned to sing the TV show's theme, so I could not join her in song.
My weary entourage arrived back in Pontotoc around 7:30 p.m., almost 12 hours from when we left.
Two Maples Leaves Froze To The Tree
How will you remember the weather in 1997?
Some years are easy to recall because of weather extremes or disasters that occurred. The winter of `76 was a killer in terms of deaths attributed to freezing temperatures across much of our land. Ice Storm `94 is still fresh in the minds of those North Mississippi residents who suffered through the storm that struck on February 09, 1994. The storm was the worst this century, eclipsing the ice storm of 1951. The tree branches broken by the ice are still noticeable when leaves have fallen. The ice storm has not been so long ago that we cannot recall what it was like to be without electricity for several days to several weeks, and for much of the area in North Mississippi no electricity translates, no water.
A tornado ripped through portions of Pontotoc County, the first day of March, 1997, and the George Rutledge family is not likely to soon forget the destruction around them even though their home was not severely damaged. 1997, brought heavy rains to Mississippi in the spring months and rainfall was greater than normal well into summer. The times I went fishing, the temperatures were opposite of that which we expected. Fall seemed to be pretty much normal until early November when a hard freeze came earlier than in most years. Thanksgiving was too warm for me to get into a festive spirit. In the middle of December, a nice snowfall, up to ten inches, blanketed Jackson, MS, and surrounding areas, but insufficient moisture prevented the northern part of our State from seeing even a flake. Following the snow, a warming trend sent temperatures back to the high sixties and low seventies in less than a week.
In the latter part of 1997, a lot of speculation took place as to why we saw so much in the way of weather extremes with the majority of it pointing to El Niño as the culprit. Naturally, none of the weather observers and forecasters can be certain, but we keep listening to them anyway.
I will remember 1997 for all of the above, yet one of the most peculiar events I recall having seen relates to the maple trees in my backyard. Both trees were small saplings when we bought the house in 1975. Only in the last five years have their leaves changed to an autumn yellow fast enough to appreciate them before they fell from the branches. For most of their lives, when Autumn arrived, a few leaves would turn yellow and fall, and a few more would repeat the pattern. I often admired the maple trees along South Main Street, because their foliage would become a brilliant yellow almost overnight. I would go home and ask my trees why they couldn't do the same. They never said anything. They just stood there and slowly dropped leaves on me. They did not respect my wishes anymore than the kite-eating tree in the Peanuts cartoon respects Charlie Brown.
Both maple trees are the same variety, but they have individual differences. First of all, the one on the western side of the backyard is slightly larger than the other one. The larger tree is always the first to bud in the springtime and the first to turn yellow in the Fall. It is also the first to defoliate itself. Just as the larger tree had shed its last leaves, a hard freeze accompanied by a heavy frost hit our area in early November. The smaller maple was not prepared for the early freeze. It had shed only about half of its leaves. Overnight, these turned an ugly brown and stubbornly clung to the branches in a sort of death grip. It is unscientific terminology to say the maple leaves froze to the tree, but that is how I picture them. Even now, most of the, once frozen, leaves are still in the tree, and there, I suppose, they will remain until new buds push them aside in the Spring.
The Saturday afternoon before Christmas, I completed my leaf mulching chores for winter. I don't intend to crank the Lawn-Boy again until the first weeds of spring arrive, which, now that I think about it, is not that far away.
Christmas Cards Let's Get Personal
Did you receive any Christmas cards this year that contained a personal note? We did, and were thankful someone took the extra time and effort to pen a note. Of course, we appreciated each card we received and were grateful for each sender. We also understand that some folks do not wish to send Christmas cards, and respecting their choice, harbor no ill feelings toward them. Yet, a brief note added to a store-bought greeting personalizes the card and makes it more special, a bit of icing on the cake if you please.
No, I did not personalize any of the seventy cards I mailed this year and cannot guarantee that I shall personalize any next year. As my penmanship rapidly deteriorates, I find the chore of signing the cards, taxing enough. But, since having bought a computer, type font that was created based on my actual handwriting, I may be able to arrive at a solution. However, if I do not personalize any cards next year, I will feel no guilt. Afterall, have I not, by means of this newsletter, sent each of you a personal note each week of the year?
Though, above, I stated we appreciated each card we received, allow me to exempt one card. That one came from the executives of our company's regional office in Atlanta. Its message was motivational, heralding that which we can accomplish through teamwork. It was so blatantly secular that I elected to discard it rather than display it among those we attached to ribbons on our kitchen wall.
Bodock Beau It's All In The Wording
Beau recalls hearing his exasperated wife exclaim as she rummaged beneath the cabinets for a container, "What has happened to my breadbasket?"
Beau says he asks himself the same thing every time he looks at his profile in the mirror.
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