From September 2010 through March 2012, Sharon wrote a weekly column entitled Chat n Chew for a local newspaper.

April 28, 2011

Whirly Girl Gumbo

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I really enjoy writing for The Southern Reporter as I do every week. It tickles me pink to think of those I have recently met and laughed with about something I wrote. What began as a self serving project to learn the computer has become somewhat of a social spotlight for me. I imagine myself as the host on a variety show from long ago. It comes not from the eye of a camera in a studio. It’s a grass roots effort about small town life in Mississippi and we all make up the show. Of course, far away family and friends often play their cameo roles. Here is an introduction to one femme fatale and dear friend of many years from New Mexico. Her name is Charmaine Brown but for a couple of reasons, I lovingly call her “Whirly Girl”. She has a quicksilver mind with wit and is a fun loving, energetic, determined woman. Secondly, Charmaine is always in motion and uses a wheelchair to get around. We talk often but always try to check in and chat every Friday afternoon. This week I’d like to share part of our colorful conversation. Dianne (Denman) Reed if you are reading this and are on face book you and Charmaine should become friends too. Because Charmaine is always seated have to look down to meet her gaze. She is also one who I look up to and identify with. I can’t consciously remember what it is like to see clearly anymore, except when I am dreaming. I wonder if Charmaine runs and dances in hers. My visual experience of the world is clouded and distorted. She has a view of it from a lowered level than most. Imagine looking up in public places that have been designed with the average upright individual in mind. Suddenly everything seems bigger, higher and objects are too far for hands to reach. Now you have to flag someone to get it for you now I’m going to head toward the meat of last Friday’s telephone visit with Charmaine. Recently while out shopping she had a close encounter with a human kind. Charmaine was in a parking lot where the woman noticed lifting the folded wheelchair from the back seat of her car and out onto the pavement. Shortly after transferring from the car to the chair, the kind human rushed over wanting to help. Charmaine being an old pro at this didn’t really need any but realized the woman herself had a need.
Simply, to be needed and to help after responding to the fragility of the human condition. Generally people tend to act out of fear or like this stranger out of love. Charmaine and I have had to continually struggle for our independence and aren’t very good at asking for help. I pointed out that when you learn to ask you will then understand what a gift you offer to those waiting to assist. What’s up with these helpful robots they are trying to develop? Will they take the place of us having to serve one another? Our conversation ended with her telling me about her weekend plans. She and some of her Si-Fi friends are heading two hours north of Albequerque to Los Alamos, New Mexico. They’re meeting a friend whose father owned a place he called the black hole. He was a Los Alamos lab freak and bought everything they would release and sell. Charmaine said it’s like a junk yard full of bazaar stuff. Parts from disassembled bombs, glass boxes that you can reach into with attached gloves and creepy gas masks. I can’t wait to hear about her strange sojourn this week.

Mrs. J.Q. West From the Sardis Women’s Club Cook Book – 1951
1 Tablespoon Lard
1 piece of ham or veal stew or both
1 small can tomatoes (or 6 fresh ones)
1 dozen crabs
1 quart okra
Chopped onion, green onion top, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, a leek, salt, pepper, Drops of Tabasco, Rice
Scald the crabs, pulling off the legs and clean well, then quarter them, saving the quartered pieces and the claws for use in the gumbo. Wash and slice the okra in small pieces. Put about 1 tablespoon lard into the pot and when hot add the sliced okra, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Then add the chopped onions. When lightly browned, add the tomatoes. Season with thyme, one or two bay leaves, a few sprigs of parsley, a leek, salt, pepper and Tabasco. Add 2 quarts of boiling water, the ham or veal stew and the crabs. Cover closely and resume the gentle cooking for about an hour. Serve with boiled rice.

April 21, 2011

Two Weeks Off

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I’m taking the next two weeks off so as not to miss any bright bloom in my flower beds. Last fall, David and I planted bulbs we hoped would emerge in the spring. Every year I stare long and study them, afraid I may not see them the next. I don’t ever want their memory to fade from my mind. I can recall perfectly light snowfall on an Easter Sunday many years ago in New Mexico. Tulips of all colors dotted the white blanket beneath the sun. It intensified the colors. The snow sparked brilliant white. A gloomy sky was giving way for the blue background. The drama of the Santa Fe sky with tulips in the snow is part of my mindscape. I can see them anytime I want. Another not so distant remembrance of this time of year was given to me by my neighbor Debbie Earnest. She took the time to cut and clear thorns from several sterling roses. She created a nosegay and wrapped the stems with tiny satin ribbon and bow. The thought, the perfection of nature, and the sweet smell made me cry. Speaking of watering eyes… I have had terrible allergies lately with everything popping out there. I can’t avoid it so why not join it? I suggest you not skip out on spring either. I’m heading outside right now and make a nosegay of my own for Deb.

Sharon’s front garden pops with Knockout Roses, Crocus, Dianthus, Dhalias, Merigolds, African Daisies, Hosta Lilies, Blue Pincushions, Zinnias, Daylilies, Amaryillis, Chrysanthemums, Gerber Daisies, Petunias, and Zinnias. It may be printed in black and white. Use your imagination and visualize it in color.

April 14, 2011

Real Rib Recipe

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Last week there was an error made in my column. I wrote what was meant to be David Hays’ easy rib recipe. Somehow it was replaced by a past one of Pasole. So sorry. Here’s the real rib deal.

David Hays’ Real Rib Recipe

Seven or eight racks Pork ribs
Number Five rub from Piggley-Wiggley
Rub ribs down well with the rub.

Place in baking pan and cover
Bake at 300 degrees for five hours.
Remove and place in smoker for about 20 minutes

This week ran away from me. I failed to visit with Mrs. J.Q. West about the 1951 Sardis Women’s Club cookbook. Mrs. West’s recipe for gumbo will print next week.

What had happened was that my quest to sift through and clear my cluttered closets continued. I stuck my nose in to a few friends too, seeking donations for the church’s Panama Mission yard sale. First was a call to Alice and Bob Kent. I asked, “Do you have anything at your house to donate”? Alice said they did, because Bobby had updated to a new flat screen TV. We scored their very nice old model for the sale. Next I called Ann Davis. Saturday morning she brought a table full of things. As she was picking through the items for sale, Ann told David and Glenn that she hoped she would leave with less than she brought. I wish those black satin hot pants had been my size! Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Panama Mission yard sale. Many people from Como neighborhoods came out to rummage and made the sale a success.

Some may know about how guide dogs are raised and what they do for blind. Guide Dogs for the Blind is a nonprofit organization that operates with private contributions only. They do not receive any assistance from state or federal funds. They have bred and trained guides since 1942. Seventy percent of the dogs bred and trained become working guides and most are Labradors or Golden Retrievers. Just last year they stopped issuing German Shepherds because only twenty five percent completed the program. The breed is more difficult to match with many people and sometimes harder to control. What about other breeds? Most were used for protection, performance or show. It is their long experience that the Lab is easier to pair with a person’s lifestyle as well as being very intelligent. They also have an undercoat that protects their skin from the sun and insulates them from the cold. Continuing to raise dogs that are more challenging to place as a working guide becomes a humanitarian issue.

GDB has a commitment to every dog they breed and train. They find homes for every dog born at the campus that doesn’t make the program. There are about ten guide schools in the country. The top three are of course, GDB in San Rafael, California and Portland Oregon; Leader Dogs in Rochester, Michigan; and Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey. All use Labradors. What makes GDB different is they offer follow up training for the team every year and whenever needed for the working life of the dog. There is an alumni association where graduates can communicate and give feedback to the organization helping them to continue to offer a better and more innovative program.

There are several regional staff members and field managers. Bill Archer is a manager for the southern states. There are 170 guide dogs in his area, and only three in Mississippi, including Avatar. He has been training guide dogs for twenty two years. Another fact that makes Guide Dogs for the Blind “top dog” is what they do for the team after they graduate and arrive home. Just one month after coming home with Avatar, Bill came to tailor train him in his Como environment. He then returned six months later to see how we were doing. Similar visits occur usually once a year and they’ll even come at the drop of a bone if you have a need.

Recently, I requested such a visit. I thought Avatar’s performance as a guide was slipping. It turned out that I was the slacker. I was confusing him with ineffective corrections, meaning Avatar had become the boss. These corrections are important to the team’s safety. Avatar, David and I met Bill and his wife Christine in downtown Memphis Saturday evening and we went through our paces. We walked all over a busy nighttime Beale Street. We returned Sunday to the Peabody Hotel to see how Avatar would respond to the procession of ducks to the fountain in the lobby. He didn’t even seem to care as they passed by. So we decided to bring him closer to the fountain. There he finally noticed the ducks and met Don the Duckmaster. I asked Don if my dog was disturbing the ducks. He said, “My ducks don’t know what a dog is”. I replied, “That’s ok, my dog has never seen a duck before either”. This event was well attended, and the lobby as well as the mezzanine was filled with visitors taking pictures of the ducks and dog.

I’m often asked if it’s ok to pet Avatar while he’s working. For those of you who know him, please don’t. It might be hard to resist, but it is better for our safety in the long run. If you want a Lab of your own, just like him, you can get one through the school’s adoption program. They are wonderful fully trained guides that retired early or didn’t make the program. They are referred to as career change dogs. If your application is approved and you pay for the air transportation, he or she comes to you at no charge. For more information call 800-295-4050 and ask for adoption services.

Still on the subject of guide dogs, one of my friends has become a raiser for a new school. The efforts to form this school are still in the incubation period. Former Como animal rescue woman Mary Dustin has a twelve week old Doberman Pincher. She is socializing the dog in preparation for formal in-harness training to become a guide. This is a large commitment and a hard one because she will have to give up the dog to the organization and hopefully later to a blind person. I think this could be Mary’s calling and one the reasons why we met. Through my first guide Bella and me Mary learned about protocol and training. And if it hadn’t been for Mary I wouldn’t have been able to keep Bella after her retirement. The new organization, “Gallant Hearts” mirrors Mary’s heart and we wish them blessings in their endeavors to serve the blind.

Avatar passed the duck distraction drill and we didn’t end up in the drink with the ducks.

April 7, 2011

David Hays’ Secret Rib Recipe

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This week is about one man’s junk could be another man’s treasure. It’s time to do some spring cleaning ya’ll. Maybe you have already done so and the stuff is hidden piled up somewhere else and you don’t know what to do with it. Follow the rule of feng shui, not what I call funk shui. Are you like me, saving it for the tag sale that probably will never happen? Here’s my plan for getting rid of the excess treasures. The Como church of Christ is having a yard sale and car wash this Saturday April 10th. Proceeds from that day will go toward the upcoming youth mission trip to Panama.

They want anything you don’t and will even come pick it up if necessary. The fellowship building is open every day and when the coast is clear, I’m adding to stuff already there. Or, load your vehicle up Saturday morning come to the church located on East Street. We will take your junk while you while you look at ours. Maybe you’ll discover a treasure. If that doesn’t motivate you to clean out and come, how about placing a value on your own things and receiving a receipt for a tax deduction? The sale and wash are from eight a.m. until everything is gone. The suggested donation for a clean car is only five dollars but you can offer more if you would like.

One Sunday David and I went over to say good morning to Tommy Williams. Tommy was looking at the table of recent donations. Many of us pickers have been checking out the growing stash of stuff regularly. Tommy had found an old cookbook from the Sardis women’s’ club printed in 1951. He was enjoying the local business advertisements from that time and ladies names he knew or had heard of. I circled around like a shark waiting for him to put it back on the table. If we weren’t at church I might have snatched it from his hands. Instead, I politely asked if he was going to buy the book. He said he might if it was still around the day of the sale. I thought, “Not if I can help it”. But I couldn’t rob Brother Tommy of his treasure. I asked if I could borrow it to copy some of the recipes. Some of the ladies who shared their dishes include: Mrs. W.C. Andrews, Mrs. James Moss, Mrs. Robert T. Ballentine, Mrs. J.Q. West, and Mrs. Fred Klyce. There are ads for: Panola County Bank “Friendly Service since 1904”; City Meat Market; Loden Motor Company “Repairs to all makes of Automobiles”; Hanson Mercantile Company “Dealers in ready-to-wear and high grade millinery”; E.L. Howery Company “General Merchants and cotton buyers”; and The Dixie Store “Meats and Groceries”. Each section of the cookbook is introduced by drawings of ladies serving up their dishes.

Here are some items to look for at the sale: A treadmill; four oak wooden children’s chairs; an old portable electric singer sewing machine that probably won’t make the sale just like the cookbook. I decided to take a break from writing and explore my attic and storage closet upstairs. David and I had a lot fun sifting through boxes of misfit things. Some kool items I’m donating to the sale are a Gemeinhardt silver flute. (Sorry mom and dad, I never play it); a lamp made out of an old wagon hub that reminds me of the wagon wheel table in the film “When Harry Met Sally”; and a like new canon color printer.

And hopefully someone will be crazy ‘bout a Mercury and cruise it down the road! Our preacher Glenn Bowman is selling his 2005 Mercury Grand Marquis with leather interior and gray exterior and only approximately seventy eight thousand miles. Why is he parting with this deluxe mobile? Glenn is leaving in May to become a missionary. He plans to first travel through Europe, and later to China. His exit will leave a big hole in Como and especially those of us of the church here. We had the pleasure of meeting his parents Terri and Richard. Like all mothers, Terri supports her son in following his heart, but will still worry about him so far away. In the past, my mom has worried about me in such places.

Mom is also probably one of the best pickers I know. She hunts and gathers for treasures to send care packages to all of us kids. This week she sent one for David and another for me. David has already begun reading the John Irving novel, and loves the 1970’s silver polyester shirt. I received an unidentified fur coat from what looks like the 1940’s. Along with her thoughtful package was a small newspaper clipping. It was written by a USA Today founder Al Neuharth. It was about the importance of brevity when writing, so as not to lose the reader. The short piece referred to such writers as Twain, Thoreau, Franklin Roosevelt and others. They knew it is easier to write long, but difficult to make things shorter. Mark Twain said, “If I had more time, I’d write shorter”. It’s mom’s gentle way of guiding me without discouraging words. As always, she’s right. Thanks for the advice, you’re right, I guess I’m not a columnist – I’m a writer of “short stories”. I know I can get carried away, so I will try from now on to mince my words.

Oddly enough, we also were gifted more vintage pieces from friend Brian Rice who is a picker plus. Brian is spring cleaning too. We love his gift of the Fire King coffee cups, the Maxfield Parrish art book and, most recently, an “Indian Maiden” print by L. Goddard. This piece was one of a series of calendar and advertising prints in the early 1920s. I think our renewed sense of appreciation for old things has been partly inspired by watching TV shows such as American Pickers, Pawn Stars, and Auction Kings.

Now on to something you can chew on. David and I were invited to a dinner party at Jeanette and David Hays’ home. We traveled through the town of Sardis. The hills and the land suddenly opened up and dropped into what is the Delta. This rural area is known as Ballentine. There are cotton fields that seem to go on forever. The land owned by David’s family which he now continues to farm was purchased from the Ballentine family. When we arrived at the large brick tutor style house I could smell the rich delta soil and the aroma of something on the grill.

We sat down to a huge table that seats fourteen. The menu: David’s ribs, potato salad, Jeanette’s slaw and dinner rolls. Everything was homemade, including the desserts – layered lemon icebox cake and a German chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing. How do Jeanette and David do it all? Lots of experience, cooking often for a large family of twenty to thirty. They have two separate full kitchens and three ovens. One is a wide open space with granite countertops including a long island that that is great for prep and later serves as a buffet. I said, “Oh what I could do in this kitchen”. I invited David and myself to cook for them in their own kitchen sometime. An awesome kitchen here in Como is Glenda and Joe Barber’s. They don’t have two separate kitchens but just as much in one. Viking everything – love it! They have custom cabinets that house the plates standing vertically and separated from one another to protect them from wear.

Monday night we had the pleasure of entertaining the Hays’, as well as Glenn and his parents. His folks live in northern California near San Francisco. They had come to spend some time with their son before he leaves on his travels. Glenn’s mom and I found that we have something uncanny in common. We both collect pins from Hard Rock Café. Terri is an avid collector of many years and has way more pins than I do. She has doubles from Rome and is going send one to me. All had an enjoyable evening.

Next week: Eddie Beasnett of Sardis was most excited about Mrs. J.Q. West’s gumbo recipe, so I’ll print that then.

David Hays’ Secret Rib Recipe

Seven or eight racks Pork ribs
Number Five rub from Piggley-Wiggley
Rub ribs down well with the rub.
Place in baking pan and cover
Bake at 300 degrees for five hours.
Remove and place in smoker for about 20 minutes.

Jeanette’s Crisp Coleslaw
1 medium head cabbage, shredded
1 onion, sliced in rings
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
¾ cup Wesson oil
1 cup white vinegar
¼ tsp celery seed (optional)

Alternate layers of cabbage and onion in large bowl.
Sprinkle salt over each layer
Sprinkle sugar over all and let stand 30 minutes.
Heat remaining ingredients and pour over cabbage mixture.
Cool, seal tightly, and refrigerate.
Keeps indefinitely

Crazy bout a Mercury? This one is for sale.

A page from the 1951 Sardis Women’s Club Cookbook.

March 31, 2011

Broadcasting Something Bigger than Yourself

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November of last year my bible study teacher Jerry Denman asked if I would consider an interview with World Christian Broadcasting. I remember thinking – me? My first thought was I am so not qualified to talk on Christian radio. I have just only begun my study and trying to apply its principles more in my life. Brother Jerry told me he thought I had a story to tell. He said that people would enjoy hearing it and to think about it. I’ve been interviewed countless times, but this time I felt apprehensive. This broadcast goes nearly all over the world. Along with my loss of sight and my livelihood went much of my identity and sense of purpose. My heart finally told me this was the opportunity to respond to what could be my new purpose in life. I can share my experience, hope and faith with all people. It’s about believing in something bigger than yourself to overcome and persevere through what seems insurmountable. It’s about surrendering yourself to God’s guidance.
World Christian Broadcasting Corporation is a non-profit organization. Its purpose is to take God’s Word—through mass media—to people who may have no other means of hearing the Good News. WCBC’s international shortwave broadcasting communicates the Good News to millions every day. I was told they have received letters from every country in the world. KNLS, located at the top of the world in Anchor Point, Alaska, has been on the air since 1983. A new station is presently under construction in the region of the Indian Ocean.
Through these shortwave transmissions, they can blanket highly populated regions such as China, Russia, Africa, the Middle East, and also hundreds of smaller areas. By speaking in people’s own language, forming friendships, and creating bonds of trust, World Christian Broadcasting sparks hope, interest, and curiosity among listeners. Programming encourages a search for meaning in life, spiritual reflection, and personal study of the message of Jesus. The programs consist a variety of popular music as well as news, Bible lessons, and feature interviews. By the grace of God and the technology He provides, many will hear the Good News, perhaps for the first time, and respond to the life-changing invitation of God. 2011 will be an eventful year because they are completing Station MWV in Madagascar. Construction is almost finished on the Madagascar World Voice station. Antennas have been erected and tensioned on the towers. The transmitter building is now completed and ready to receive the three 100,000 watt transmitters. 
When the new station begins broadcasting to the other half of the world, every day a total of 60 hours from five antennas will blanket the globe with the gospel. English, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese and from the African website, several languages spoken in Africa, will introduce literally millions of people to Jesus Christ. In addition to the daily broadcasts, websites in all of the broadcast languages will continue to share valuable information about Christ Jesus. In 2010, over 4 million hits occurred on these websites. Spanish programming into Cuba, Mexico, and Central and South America has already begun from Radio Miami. On their website,, daily broadcasts can be heard, as well as previous programs. The station in Alaska is at . (David Howell, Insert the date of Sharon’s interview)
Jerry is on the board of directors of WCBC. He is a retired U.S. Army Colonel, and a Graduate of United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. His Military decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal for Valor and Air Medal for Valor. He is a former elder for churches in Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas. He has been on World Christian Broadcasting staff for twelve years as Director of Planned Giving. Three weeks ago Jerry, Anita, Avatar and I went to the WCBC offices and studio in Franklin, Tennessee for my interview. It took us four hours to get there, but if felt much less because we told stories and laughed most of the way. There is one story about his trip to Alaska with Anita and the girls, pulling a trailer along the Al-Can highway. At one point the trailer was traveling beside the car. I would love to tell you the rest, but I couldn’t do it justice like Jerry. That trip sounded a little rough, compared to our ride to Franklin in their luxurious Lexus. It provided a very comfortable and road silent ride.
Upon arriving and entering the broadcast station I began to understand just what a big deal this operation is. Several staff members greeted us in the lobby. All were sincerely warm and friendly. I later learned that all of them have interesting backgrounds and experiences that brought them together there. There is a high level of enthusiasm and dedication to serve God. Their individual offices surround another separate building inside the building. It is a recording studio where Paul Ladd does his interviews. Paul is an excellent host and has received many accolades for his work in broadcasting.
The studio looked and felt like something out of Larry King live. We sat on high padded chairs at a round table equipped with two boom mikes under intense studio lighting. Shumei was following the interview and checking the sound in a separate engineering room. She is one of the Chinese language specialists. Shumei is from Taiwan. It is also her responsibility to edit and arrange various segments that create the “Chinese Log”. Paul told me he has the fun job while Shumei has a challenging one that requires great attention and talent.
Another person I met that day was Galena Koval. Galena was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the family of a high-ranking military officer. Her parents were atheists and they raised her as an unbeliever. All her adult life in Russia Galina taught English at the University level and during summer vacations she worked as an Intourist guide. In 1988 one of her tourists invited Galina to come to visit her in America. This visit changed Galina’s life forever. Her friend invited her to church where she heard God’s word for the first time in her life. It was a real revelation for her. Within a month Galina was baptized into Christ. While trying to find a Bible in Russian, she met people from World Christian Broadcasting Corporation who invited her to work with them. Since that time Galina has been working with WCBC. Her goal in life is to help others like herself who “sat in darkness” to see “great light” of God’s love and salvation (Matthew 4:16). Galena gave me a copy of her book entitled, “From Darkness to Great Light”. Her book can be requested through their website.
Paul said it would take a few weeks to edit the program which would include my interview. I hadn’t had any conversation or preparation prior to meeting Paul Ladd, but I did have blind faith and if I listened to and spoke from the heart it would be perfect in that moment. Paul and I launched into a journey through a myriad of memories, disease and desperation; my breakdown and breakthrough and creating art without sight. It was an awesome gift to be able to present myself in the rawest of forms in a safe place. It was probably the best interview I have ever had, and perhaps ever will. I could just imagine the echoes of my words and emotions transformed into radio waves, bouncing off the huge antennas, going out to people in faraway places. This was for me an uplifting, highly emotional and most humbling experience.
Last Sunday afternoon we went to the movie theater in Senatobia. How many small towns are lucky enough to still have one in business? It’s been a long time since seeing a film with friends and neighbors you know sitting all around you. The owner spotted my guide dog and went ahead to reserve a seat and area for Avatar. How kind is that? “The Grace Card” was the matinee movie. It was filmed in Memphis, using local talent. This is a Christian based story. It is about forgiveness, redemption, and grace.
The recipe this week: For some spiritual food, go see “The Grace Card” and support your local movie house.

KNLS Broadcasting Antennas
A listener Wrote: Thanks to your program which I manage to listen to, I begin to realize that atheism that was taught to me for 17 years of my life is a false conception about the world . . . I am somewhere between faith in God and atheism . . . Your programs make my faith stronger and stronger. But a person should himself read, think, consider the Holy Scriptures . . But I have no Bible . . . If you can, please send me the Bible.