Portly gentleman loved Port St. Gibson, Miss.

Published 2:32 am Saturday, September 14, 2013

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I noted why this is sometimes called “the Yellow Month” – yellow bitterweed along the roads, the yellow sunshine, yellow butterflies.

Today I want to complete the travel notes of the Portly Gentleman.

So far he has shared his time in Jackson, Miss., his five days in Vicksburg at the annual convention (“reunion”) of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and one day in Port Gibson, to which he was drawn because it is the birthplace of Irwin Russell, a poet of the Old South.

“I rested well at the bed and breakfast, Isabella, run by Phil and Bobbye Pennix. They were friendly and gracious hosts, who served me a cheerful breakfast of eggs and bacon, toast, strawberry jam, coffee, orange juice, grapes, Phil’s fresh figs and watermelon.

“As we ate, a friend of the Pennixes came by with a sack of his fresh tomatoes.

“All was bright, pleasant, summery, wholesome, and home-like.

“After breakfast I drove out several miles to Grand Gulf Military Monument. The monument is a park located at the site of Grand Gulf, once a thriving cotton port on the Mississippi River. The site is preserved because of the battles fought there during the War Between the States. The site includes a museum of War-era displays, a house of carriages, cannonballs, an observation tower, hook-ups for campers, cemetery, church, pavilions, dog-trot house, water mill and much else. One can spend a day or a week there, easily.

“Grand Gulf was once an important port along the Mississippi River, from which cotton was shipped north. It was a Confederate stronghold during the War, standing between Northern General Grant and his conquest of Vicksburg. Today it is a ghost town except for the park and some occupants.

“The first place I visited was the museum, where I came across a display about Irwin Russell, the poet. There was a picture of him, his childhood home, mother, two sisters, and brothers.

“After my visit to the museum, I rode and walked about the park. The thought came to me that I never would have heard of Port Gibson or anything connected to it, such as the town of Grand Gulf and this park, had it not been for my interest in Irwin Russell, awakened by my old college professor, Dr. J. L. King. Russell, like every other name, is a key to a new world of experiences.

“Back in Port Gibson I stopped at Leona’s Beauty Shop, occupying part of the old house in which Russell was born and reared. The owner, Linda Stuart, had promised me a ‘shake’ or shingle from the roof. Her husband Fred went up into the attic and came back with part of a ‘shake,’ part of the original, white-oak roof. The day before Linda had given me a handmade nail from the old house. Now I had two sentimental souvenirs by which to remember Irwin Russell and Port Gibson.

“Linda and Fred took me through the entire house and pointed out the original features of rooms, windows, doorways, and the central hall, plus the changes. They were most gracious to me and were obviously fine Christians. Linda gave me a handmade cross before I left. It was one a friend had given her as they worked with Hands of Hope, a mission organization in which she and Fred are active.

“By the way, the beauty shop was named for Linda’s mother, who had run the shop before Linda. Linda’s family had lived in the rest of the house. Fred told me that in the attic one can see hand-hewn supports.

“I left these two fine people with a heart, warmed by their kindness, openness, and spirituality.

“After one final stop at the Chamber of Commerce, I reluctantly bade farewell to Port Gibson and headed south to Natchez, Miss., on the Natchez Trace, a journey of about an hour.

“The trace begins in Natchez. One can get on it at Port Gibson and other entrances as it threads north, all the way to Tennessee.

“I had heard of the Natchez Trace for years but had never driven any portion of it. It was orderly that I just happened to cover the first section of the trace, though backwards. The Trace turned out to be a beautiful, scenic, two-lane road, free of commercial traffic, that runs from Natchez, up into Tennessee. It is nicely paved, shouldered with shaven grass, copses, and picnic stops, peaceful and lovely, serene and green.

“One hopes he will need no rest stops or have car trouble because, once on the trace, one is ‘trapped’ there except for an occasional exit.

“There are several places along the trace where one can turn off to see a special area. I stopped at only one on my way to Natchez, Emerald Mound, the second largest, Indian, temple mound in the country, which once supported a temple on top as well as ceremonial structures and graves, used by the Mississippians, ancestors of the Natchez Indians.

“After reaching Natchez I turned east on 84 and headed back to the ‘Dimple of Dixie,’ stopping for the night in Laurel, Miss.

“My last day out I stopped for lunch in Monroeville at David’s, the original one begun by David Ross. Now there is a chain, one of which is here in Andalusia.”

Thank you, Portly One, for sharing. Now I shall share some more news.

Not having been to Opp in a month of Sundays, I was surprised last week to find the bridge at Babbie, being replaced.

Seen for the lunch buffet at the Corner Market were Johnie and Wanda Davis, Byrum and Bobbie Lambert, and Hubbel Sowards, Mr. Personality.

Jim O’Neal of Chatom, Alabama, was in town recently, visiting his mother, Carolyn. Jim runs a cabinet shop and preaches part-time. His sister, Anne, was also here in the “Dimple of Dixie.”

Senior adults from First Baptist, East Three-Notch, gathered for a delicious dinner, Thursday evening, Sept. 5, at Simone’s, the new restaurant located in a storybook setting along East Three-Notch.

Feasting and fellowshipping were June Smith, Kittye Wyatt, Billy Beech, Gordon and Trudy Vickers, Morgan and Wilma Moore, Joe Wingard, Vivian Hickey, the alliterative Buddy and Betty Brunson, Herb and Sue Carlyle, Bea Miller and Bill Law.

The evening was organized by Gordon Vickers, minister to senior adults at First Baptist.

The Covington Rifles (local group) of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Camp (local group) 1586, met Sept. 5 in the Dixon Memorial of the public library for their monthly gathering.

Commander Curtis Hampton Thomasson, local genealogist, presided.

“Hank” Roberts, camp chaplain, worded both invocation and benediction.

Jimmy Cobb led the pledges to the three flags.

Randy “R” Kelley led “Dixie.”

Two guests were Joe Clark and Brian Fleming, both from the Enterprise SCV camp. Clark is commander of his local camp as well as of the Southeast Alabama Brigade of the SCV.

Business was followed by a report by Commander Clark. His camp wants to place a monument in memory of Confederate soldiers in his area. The Covington Rifles also want to place a memorial for Confederate soldiers from Covington County.

Fleming announced the upcoming 13th annual re-enactment of the Battle of Newton in John Hutto Park, Newton, Ala., Sat. and Sun., Oct. 19-20 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. with re-enactments at 1:30 p.m. both days. The Battle of Newton was a part of the War Between the States.

The program was given by Vaughn Bowers, who showed slides of his visit to Washington, D.C., with an emphasis on Arlington, the home of Robert E. Lee, now part of a national cemetery.

Attending were Derick Davis, Sir Francis McGowin, Curtis H. Thomasson, Ken Reeves, Vaughn Bowers, Jimmy Cobb, Larry Shaw, Jimmy Mott, Tony Wells, Joe Clark, Brian Fleming, Hank Roberts, Randy Kelley, Kelly Veasey, Joe Wingard and Fletcher Jones.

The Covington County Education Retirees Association met Wednesday morning, Sept. 4, in Opp High School, for their first meeting of the new academic year.

The retired teachers were ushered to the attractive school library by the OHS Ambassadors, a group of honor seniors, dressed in their best.

Sharon Dye, retired county superintendent and president of the CCERA, presided.

Ron Snell, principal of OHS, welcomed the retirees.

Geraldine Boothe, retired teacher, presented a devotional and offered a prayer in memory of a beloved member, Nan Johnson, who passed away this summer.

Minutes were read by Glenda Presley, secretary.

Kim Dyess, treasurer, although absent, sent his report.

Committee reports followed.

Refreshments were provided by OHS, spread on a table decorated in the school colors, gold and black. Librarian Wendy Donaldson served as hostess at a lovely buffet. She was assisted by the OHS bookkeeper, Jennifer Cosby.

A program by Mrs. Dye ended the meeting as she spoke and showed slides of a mission trip July 7-18 last year to Guyana, South America. She was one of a group of Christians who went to Guyana to teach the Bible to the natives.

Mention was made that a faithful member, Kay Cassady, had moved to Destin, Fla., much to the sadness of those who know and love her and will miss her.

Those who signed CCERA service forms were Linda Lucas, Gayle Weeks, Carolyn H. Davis, Evan Merrill, Ophelia R. Merrill, Larry Holmes, Nancy Holmes, Elaine Johnson, Larry Presley, Geraldine Boothe, Sharon Dye, Elaine Chavers, Glenda Presley, Allen Miller, Dot Jones, Earl Jones, Mary Flagg, Emma Locke, Ethel M. Robertson, Lucy M. Conner, Dean Morris, Janice Hudson Lindsay, and Joe Wingard.

Irene (Davis) Butler was reappointed by Governor Robert Bentley to the Historic Blakeley Authority, effective immediately, to a term running through Dec. 31, 2015.

Mrs. Butler has been serving on this committee already.

As a member she will continue to help make decisions affecting this state park, located at Spanish Fort, where the last battle of the War Between the States was fought, according to some historians. Original trenches are still there, and a re-enactment is performed yearly.

Blakeley was once the county seat of Baldwin County.

A boat ride can be taken from within the park, and Mobile can be seen from its shores.

Director of the Historic Blakeley State Park is JoAnn Flirt.

The celebration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 continues.

Again, I ask that citizens of Andalusia join the Covington Historical Society and pay its annual dues of $25 to help preserve the history of our county, whether you attend meetings or not. Mail to CHS, P.O. Box 1582, Andalusia, Alabama 36420. Include your e-mail address if you wish to be reminded of upcoming meetings.

To commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States, let us return to this week 150 years ago.

The Federal Army of the Cumberland, under General Rosecrans, divided into three groups, followed Southern General Bragg south toward Lafayette, Ga. Bragg had a plan to trap and attack each of the three groups following him, one at a time. He attacked prematurely, however, tipping the Northern troops off as to his intentions; thereby, his plan failed. A clash between the two forces was imminent. The South was in peril.

Meanwhile, Federal forces occupied Little Rock, Ark.

For those who collect stamps, consider those associated with the War of l8l2 and the Sesquicentennial of “the War.”

For the third week the mysterian is still a mystery. The answer is part of a riddle, “Where can one park at Straughn and yet not be at Straughn?”

Birthdays this week include that of Anton Dvorak, Czech composer. His “Hungarian Rhapsody” may be the greatest piece of piano music ever written.

The “Star-spangled Banner” by F. Scott Fitzgerald was written September 14, 1814, during the War of 1812. It became our national anthem. Our national motto, “In God Is Our Trust,” comes from one stanza of that poem.

Summer is almost over.

Now, gentle reader, allow me to join “Buffalo Bob” Smith to encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, Lord willing.

Fare thee well.