May 17 '03

Volume 363

Dena’s Forty Surprise Birthday Party

It has been saidBirthday that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas Tree lights. Though not mentioned in the previous sentence, one can also tell a lot about a person in the way he or she handles a surprise 40th birthday.

Dena Kimbrell, friend and frequent humor contributor to the Bodock Beau portion of this newsletter, was certainly surprised by a large gathering of family, friends, and well-wishers at the Seafood Junction restaurant near Oxford last Saturday night. Dena's husband, Bob, had arranged the surprise for his wife by luring her away from home (Thaxton, MS) to shop for something in Batesville, MS.

The Kimbrells have been members of First Baptist Church, Pontotoc approximately two years, but in that short time have made numerous friends among church members, particularly those in their Sunday School class. That speaks volumes for both the Kimbrells and members of FBC, Pontotoc. The Kimbrells joined our congregation knowing only a few of our members, but they and their children were soon actively involved in the various programs and activities provided by our church, and our membership enthusiastically welcomed their participation.

A few weeks ago, Bob contacted a host of individuals regarding his desire to treat his wife to a surprise birthday party. Bob asked the invited guests to be at the popular seafood restaurant by six o'clock p.m. and hoped to have his wife and family there no later than six-fifteen p.m. Though most guests arrived on time, the honoree and her entourage were thirty minutes later than expected. The upside to the delayed surprise was that guests had a longer period of time to chitchat with one another.

Barbara and I had the opportunity to visit with Dena's sister, Kim Goslin and her family: husband Mark, son Adam, and daughter Lindsey. Kim and I became good friends when she was still an employee of Supervalu in Indianola, and I usually explain to folks that I knew Dena a long time before I ever met her. It's hard to say which I enjoyed more visiting with Kim and her family or helping surprise Dena, for both experiences were great.

Guests were largely segregated along regional lines with Deltans on one side and Hill folks on the other. Barbara and I, since we knew most of the Hill folks, decided to congregate with the Delta folks and sat across the table from the Goslin family. I had always heard Kim's family members were big eaters; they lived up to their billing as Mark, Adam, and Lindsey revisited the seafood buffet repeatedly.

While waiting on the guest of honor to arrive, Adam and I swapped guesses as to how many folks were in the room. His estimate was closer than mine, after a quick count resulted in approximately forty on hand for the surprise party. Adam and I share a common interest in writing, but the University of Mississippi pays him for his columns in the Daily Mississippian, while my writing is strictly pro bono (i.e., no compensation). Since Adam and my niece, Felicia, are both sophomores at Ole Miss, I suggested he look her up and introduce himself sometime. I'm not trying to play matchmaker, but I think they might develop a friendship.

At a quarter 'til seven p.m., the Kimbrells arrived. Lookouts kept us apprised of their movements toward the private dining room where we awaited. When the door finally opened and Dena saw the throng of smiling faces and heard the shouts of SURPRISE, she went into what I call "home improvement surprise mode."

My daughter makes me watch all her favorite decorators and designers on HGTV or TLC when she's at our house, and I've observed that practically every female who is surprised by those who've redone a room, deck, or yard for her, screams, "Oh, my God!" covers her mouth, then repeats herself several times. That's the mode Dena went into, too. Kim, the family photographer, captured a few "precious moments" for posterity.

Immediately afterwards, there was a mad rush to the seafood buffet by the hungry guests who didn't order from the menu. I'm not sure Dena ever sat down to eat, once she recovered from the initial shock of being surprised, though surely she did.

When most everyone had finished eating, we all sang Happy Birthday to Dena. Dena was then asked to open her gifts and cards. Bob, in inviting everyone, had requested no gifts, but some folks can't help themselves when it comes to marking milestones in the lives of others.

Dena received several cards that poked fun at her age. She received a couple of gag gifts for those folks considered "over the hill." I recall seeing denture cleanser and a hair coloring kit. But, the gift that got her goat was two photos laminated on a placemat-sized card wishing her Happy Birthday. The unflattering photo had her wearing "Bubba teeth," which made her look like a real hillbilly. Her hair was mussed, and she was wearing a checked print shirt. Under normal circumstances, Dena is considered attractive, but with garb she describes as last Halloween's getup, she was a sight to see.

Whatever surprise she had felt earlier, paled in comparison to the picture surprise.

"No one was supposed to see, that," she protested. "Who did this? I told everybody that night those pictures were just for Halloween. I can't believe you did this to me!"

Again, Dena repeated herself over and over, as she walked huffily about the room. Seeing her initial reaction, I was glad I was not the responsible party for the laminated card. Later, Angie Gillen admitted her guilt.

It's been my observation that women, as a whole, are vainer individuals than men. I don't know many women who can pass by a mirror without checking a hemline, hairline, eye line, or lip line. And usually an adjustment to one or more areas is required. Men, on the other hand, could get along just fine without mirrors. Women have an innate need to feel pretty, whereas a man with a similar need is considered "unusual" at best.

Dena's reaction was understandable, given my understanding of vanity. As best I could determine, she was soon herself again, having forgiven a friend's infraction. I'm sure she'll long remember her 40th Birthday Party. If, in any way, the Surprise Party can be considered a test, I'm sure she passed.

Spring Fishing 2003 Fishing, Food, Fellowship, Fresh Air

There’s always more to a fishing adventure than fishing. With that in mind, I’ve elected to report on the various aspects of a recent adventure.

Fishing: The foursome feared by fish everywhere doesn’t get together very often, but when they do they most always catch a heaping helping of fish, and they definitely have a good time. The foursome consists of Gordon Sansing of Forest, MS; Jim Hess of Vicksburg, MS; Lee Gordon of West Point, MS, and this writer. In our latest adventure, Lee’s son Jason Gordon of West Point, MS, joined us, too.

There’s a man named Toxey Haas, who owns the brand names, Mossy Oak and Bio-Logic. He owns a few thousand acres of prime land for hunting and fishing in west central Alabama, and his company leases a large track of land owned by International Paper Co. near Camden, AL, that attracts hunters from all over the country, including celebrities from the world of Country Music and major league baseball.

Thanks to Lee Gordon’s church connections with Mr. Haas, we received permission to stay at the Hit-or-Miss Lodge on the Portland Hunting Reserve and allowed to fish the seldom-fished lakes nearby. The smaller of the two lakes was overstocked with crappie and bream, but the larger lake was a bass fisherman’s paradise.

Lee and Jason, arrived at the lodge on Tuesday evening and had spent the day fishing when I arrived late Wednesday afternoon. Gordon and Jim debuted shortly before noon Thursday. Joe Champion manager of the lodge and all the property leased by Mossy Oak came around each day to check on us after initially welcoming us and directing us to the appropriate lakes.

I can honestly say that ours was some of the best fishing we’ve ever had. Our trip last year to Livingston, AL, also courtesy of Mr. Haas, is undisputedly the best fishing trip our foursome has enjoyed. With respect to size, the bass we caught this year were roughly the same size as those caught last year and averaged more than two pounds each. However, we probably caught less fish this year.

Since returning from the trip, I’ve had several people ask me how many we caught. I really don’t know and didn’t even record the number I caught, but I imagine we caught several hundred over a four-day fishing period.

We discovered that top-water fishing lures worked well all hours of the day, and I stuck pretty much with top-water baits until late Friday evening and early Saturday morning, when I switched over to plastic worms. Lee and Jason had to return to West Point, Friday night, but Jim, Gordon, and I stayed over to fish Saturday morning before heading back to our respective homes. Lee must have caught two fish to my one, but he wasn’t there to see me boat the lunker of the week, a nice six-plus pounder, near dusk Friday evening.

Jim and I kept enough for a family fish fry or two at home, and we all ate some of our catch on two different occasions while at the lodge, but the large majority of fish went back into the lake.

Food: Whenever our group goes fishing, we eat well. We had nourishing breakfasts that consisted of biscuits, bacon, eggs, grits, coffee, and orange juice. For sweets we enjoyed jelly and syrup. The lodge had plenty of refrigerators and freezers for food storage and was equipped with two double sinks in the kitchen and a commercial gas range.

Two of our evening meals consisted of fried fish and hushpuppies. The fish we ate were mostly bream and crappie. Lee’s hushpuppies were good but not up to par, because we didn’t remember to bring all the required ingredients. However, we didn’t have any trouble eating them.

A third evening meal consisted of steak and baked potatoes with toasted bread. Our steaks were U.S.D.A. Choice ribeyes, grilled over charcoal. Though, there was an ample supply of beer in the pantry, we managed quite well with our carbonated drinks.

We didn’t eat lunch every day because we changed our routine from previous trips, where we got up early, fixed breakfast, packed a lunch with plenty of snacks and drinks and spent the whole day on the water before coming in for supper. The big lake was less than five minutes from our lodge, so we conceived a better plan of getting up, fishing for a couple of hours, coming in to eat breakfast then returning to fish. We also found it a good idea to eat in the late afternoon and get back on the lake around six p.m. for a couple of more hours fishing.

The lunch or two that we did eat consisted of ham and turkey sandwiches on wheat, dressed with mayonnaise, deli mustard, and jalapeno peppers.

Since others are charged with bringing the fishing boats, motors, etc., I usually pick up the food items. I guessed a little light on eggs, but the refrigerator had two flats of two and one-half dozen each, and we felt obliged to help ourselves. The morning we needed the extra eggs, Lee broke each egg into a bowl to check for freshness before dropping into the black skillet full of bacon grease. Neither he nor the other fishermen knew how to check an egg for freshness by immersing it in water. And, here I thought everybody knew a bad egg will float, but a good egg stays on the bottom.

Gordon Sansing may have enjoyed the bacon more than anything he ate during his stay. When he and Lee wanted to know what kind of bacon I had brought, all I could tell them was it was unbranded slab bacon, a thicker sliced version than can normally be found among the various prepackaged branded bacons.

Golden Eagle syrup is a breakfast staple at my house, so I made sure to pack a jar of it for the fishing trip. However, when I arrived, Lee had already found a like-sized jar in the cupboard and opened it for his and Jason’s breakfast that morning. My fishing friends all enjoy Golden Eagle syrup on biscuits, but they’ve got a way to go when it comes to handling the syrup properly, though I do try to be patient with them.

Jason was about to pour his syrup from the wrong side of the jar, when I corrected him. I teach all my syrup-students to pour away from the label or the front of the jar. The hardest part to learn is probably how to cut off a portion of syrup without some of it running down the backside of the jar. Forks and knives are allowed, fingers are not. Jim would have run a spoon inside the jar, if I’d let him. I maintain spooning out syrup is the equivalent of sticking a knife down inside a ketchup bottle to get the ketchup flowing. Both will get the job done, but both methods will also contaminate the contents. Give me a few more trips, and I’ll have my guys trained.

Joe Champion ate with us the second time we had fish. In our conversation, Lee prodded him to comment on Golden Eagle syrup.

"I came from a poor family," Joe laughed, "We were so poor, mama made us sop the jar of Golden Eagle."

Seeing the puzzled look on my face, he then asked, "You know what sopping is don’t you?"

"Oh, yeah!" I replied, "I’m familiar with sopping."

I’d just never heard of someone sopping a jar, and it took me a moment to catch his humor.

Fellowship: It may be that the best part of any trip is the fellowship, i.e., that portion of the trip individuals spend with one another, fishing, playing, talking, joking, cooking, eating, cleaning, relaxing, and generally enjoying being with each other. Lee and Jim caught up one another on items of interest to Ministers of Music. Jason and I fished together and enjoyed ourselves immensely, as we came to appreciate each other more fully.

Both Lee and Gordon, on more than one occasion, expressed how much they enjoyed being away from work. Lee’s now in favor of similar trips once every month or two, but we all know that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

I came back home exhausted from the demands of the trip, but refreshed in spirit. I also came back convinced Gordon Sansing is getting old, and mentioned the same to my wife.

"Gordon’s getting old, Hon," I commented in sharing with her some of the highlights of the trip. "Like an old man, he’s gotten to where he tells the same tales over and over."

However, Gordon laughs so much when he remembers his favorite times as pastor in Pontotoc, it makes the old tales enjoyable all over again. I’ve detailed the tales in previous issues, so I’ll just mention them here as:

  • Gordon’s first Sunday in the pulpit when he called on John Sewell to pray the offertory prayer and because John had a voice problem that day I prayed in his stead and Gordon thought he’d called on someone who didn’t pray in public.
  • The time the ushers came down front to pass out visitor’s cards and the associate pastor called on Thomas Boyd to pray an offertory prayer, and he actually did, though the offering was to occur later.
  • The time Bobby Davis dropped his offering plate on his way down the aisle and ran straddle-legged halfway down the aisle trying to overtake it.
  • The day the office mimeograph machine was on the blink with Gordon, Dot, and Wayne Kimbrough working on it, and Wayne thought Gordon’s "turn dummy, turn," was directed toward him and not the machine.
  • The day Wayne Kimbrough leaned too far trying to retrieve his golf ball while seated in the golf cart, fell out, and rolled down an incline.
  • Various practical jokes the staff played on each other.

Every tale was remembered in detail, and we laughed until our sides hurt and our jaws ached.

Fresh Air: There’s a freshness about the air in the country that’s unique. After all, there are far less things and people in the country to pollute the air. Our sense of smell is a powerful sense, and scientists have long known of the power of smell with respect to memory.

The yard at my grandparents’ house at Thaxton, MS didn’t have a lot of grass, as grass was normally hoed and the ground scraped clean near the house. Paths to the shop, barn, out buildings, and toilet were also relatively free of grass. I remember Granddad used a mule drawn mower to cut the deep grass between the house and the road. However, it was the moist dirt in shady areas that holds a smell memory for me.

Granddad’s yard and the yards of many country folk my family visited smelled similarly, and most of them had patches of dark green fungus, lichens, molds, or something that grew or formed on the hard packed surface of dirt yards. The moldy growth and the dampness produced a smell that I cannot describe, but I can remember it, and from time to time I get to revisit that smell. Last week, I revisited the smell on moist, moldy dirt under a covered patio area where we fried fish, grilled steaks, and recharged marine batteries for our trolling motors.

Joe Champion trimmed the yard one of the days while we fished. Later, as I walked toward a portable deer stand in a nearby pine tree, the scent of drying grass reminded me of the smell of freshly mowed grass at my Granddads, too.

A portion of the land we traveled daily to and from the lake went through a huge cow pasture that was home to a large herd of cattle. Riding inside a pickup, one doesn’t get a smell of the land, but on two different occasions, I rode in the back of the pickup. There was one area where the smell of fresh manure was overpowering, and again I was reminded of my days spent on my grandparents’ farm, or the days my childhood friends and I trekked everywhere on foot and that included a lot of smelly cow pastures.

One also doesn’t notice the subtle temperature changes from hills to hollows while riding inside an air-conditioned truck, but in the truck bed, the changes are obvious. In the early evening, as the sun sets and the earth begins to release it’s heat into the atmosphere, the low areas cool the quickest, and any fragrance associated with cedar and pine are more pronounced.

I’m not a proponent of anyone riding in the back of a pickup truck, even in the country, because of the inherent dangers, but if one is already in such a situation, one might as well make the best of it by smelling the fresh air.

Bodock Beau Bridge Needed

The struggle for men to understand women is never ending. Most persons who believe in "The Almighty" are convinced God can do anything. However, the following suggests otherwise.

Build Me A Bridge

A man walking along a California beach was deep in prayer. Suddenly the sky clouded above his head and, in a booming voice, the Lord said, "Because you have TRIED to be faithful to me in all ways, I will grant you one wish."

The man said, "Build a bridge to Hawaii so I can drive over anytime I want."

The Lord said, "Your request is very materialistic. Think of the enormous challenges for that kind of undertaking. The supports required to reach the bottom of the Pacific! The concrete and steel it would take! It will nearly exhaust several natural resources. I can do it, but it is hard for me to justify your desire for worldly things. Take a little more time and think of something that would honor and glorify me."

The man thought about it for a long time. Finally he said, "Lord, I wish that I could understand my wife. I want to know how she feels inside, what she's thinking when she gives me the silent treatment, why she cries, what she means when she says 'nothing's wrong,' and how I can make a woman truly happy."

The Lord replied, "You want two lanes or four on that bridge?"

Submitted by Cheryl Radford

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