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Monday, October 3, 2016

For Tommy

How do you thank a lucky star
for sending you what
thought you'd never find?
Where do you send a note of thanks
when you've never believed there
was anyone to send it to?
No one to hear about your griefs
or your joys but a big empty sky
on a glittering black background?
I'll thank the sky for holding
out until I knew when I should
reach for it.
I'll thank the earth for holding
me up so I didn't fall when
I thought I'd never find it.
I'll thank the trees for sheltering
me from the waiting.
I'll thank the water for listening
to my silent, whispered prayers
to myself.
I'll thank you for being here
With me.
And trust that the universe understands.
I love you.


An early memory. 

of smoke curling
past the lamp.
Gin and tonic
and lipstick on the glass
and laughter.

You, slender as a reed,
fraught with a need
to be more than you
can be.
Laughter brandished
like a sword. 

Smoke curls
up against the door,
circles three times
and makes its bed in
whomever you've become.

Your skin hangs
on your skull,
yellow teeth and pale
bones beat a dying rhythm.

I look into your eyes
You look at mine.
Can you hear them scream?

~ Elodie Pritchartt, April, 2009

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Summertime Eats

                                   (Photo by Elodie Pritchartt)

This is one of the easiest, most delicious recipes I have, and perfect for a summertime dish.

Tomatoes & Brie with Linguine

Okay. I admit it. I'm lazy. But I've also got very snobby tastebuds. Pleeeease give me recipes that will indulge my inertia!

tomatoes, lots of 'em.

If you grow them yourself, even better. I use a variety of organic yellow, orange and red cherry-sized, teardrop and plum tomatoes. But chopped beefsteak is fine, too. Also I once used these little teeny, tiny tomatoes I discovered at Von's Grocery that are the sweetest I've ever tasted, and no bigger than a large blueberry. They're called Mini Charms and come from Victory Garden in Livermore, California.

1 lb. of Brie cheese, rind removed, torn into irregular pieces.

(The lazy soul that I am, I also discovered Alouette brand, rindless Brie cheese. It's delicious and soft and comes in one of those little triangular packages. Find it with those potted Alouette cheese spreads.  Let it come to room temperature so it's liquid. That way, you can skip cutting the rind off perfectly good cheese)

1 cup cleaned fresh basil leaves, cut into strips

3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced

1 cup best-quality olive oil

one-half teaspoon salt

(I prefer coarse, Kosher salt. Just tastes better)

one-half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

One-and-a-half pounds linguini

(I like the fresh linguini, but am too lazy to make it myself, so I buy it at the market)

Freshly grated, imported Parmesan cheese (optional. I don't use it.)

1. Combine tomatoes, Brie, basil, garlic, oil, salt and pepper in a large serving bowl. Prepare at least two hours before serving and set aside, covered, at room temperature.

2. Cook the linguini.

3. Spoon linguini into small serving bowl and spoon sauce onto the pasta and EAT!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Knick-Nack Paddy Whack

I ran across this post when looking at some old Facebook posts.  It was 2010, and I was living with my dad in the country.

So yesterday I get up to let the dog out to go potty. Usually when she comes back inside she heads straight for the kitchen. But yesterday she ran back up the stairs and started barking to get back into the bedroom. Soooo....naturally I trudge back upstairs and let her in.

She jumps up onto the bed and starts rooting around in the covers. Then she pulls out this HUGE, nasty-looking bone. I swear it looked like a human femur. Probably a deer bone. Egad. This is the first time I've ever had a dog that likes to hide things. I keep finding doggie biscuits behind the sofa cushions.

So anyway, I get to work yesterday, and I'm rooting around in my purse looking for my chapstick when I find ANOTHER BONE in my purse. Right next to my favorite pink toothbrush. Hmm...most of the marrow was gone. You think it's okay to use that toothbrush?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Waiting for Gustav

Saturday morning
and the sky
is gentle blue
Has it been
only three years
since I watched
a mother
her dead son's
marine uniform
in the ruins
of her home?
soiled in ways
that will never
wash out.
The detritus
of a nation's
failure rubbed
into the fabric
of the world
Politicians smile,
announce the coming
raise joined hands
in triumph
speak about a bright
and shining future
They do not see
the haunted eyes
of frightened souls
fleeing from the coast
and the sky
such a gentle blue

30 Aug 08

Friday, July 22, 2016

Immersion by Elodie Pritchartt

Like teabags poised
over the roiling water,
we dangled, by turns,
from a rope.
Pushed off the roof
of the boat,
swung out and dropped
into the muddy mug
of the Mississippi
only to emerge
at having survived
the fall.
Little mud mustaches
etched the sepia
memories of
that river
that day
that summer
that childhood
into our skin.
Now the sandbars
whose soft embrace
showed us the way
rarely surface --
the channel and our veins
with the detritus
of forty years.
We have reunions,
make note
of those not there.
Search name tags
for faces
we no longer
We bury
and fears
of the undertow
as the bank sloughs
each spring
our expectations
and we emerge
at having survived
at all.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Garter, the Sword and the Veil

The Garter
“Guard this with your life,” said Stella Jenkins Carby as she handed over a scrapbook made for The Garter Girls, a group of women in Natchez, Mississippi, who began a wedding tradition around a bridal garter in 1946 that still continues. 

Stella’s daughter, Bettye Jane Carby, was the thirty-fifth girl to wear the coveted garter when she said, “I do,” to husband Charlie Roberts on December 13, 2008, at the Carby’s home in Natchez.

The garter was made by the late Mrs. Howard Pritchartt, Sr. for Buzzy Parker, when she married Bobby Crook in 1946. Buzzy and her friends, decided to share the garter, which would see them through marriages and births, war and peace, riches and despair, and beyond.

Rather than having the groom toss the garter, the girls decided it should be passed down to their children. 

They made some rules:

1. Can only be worn by a daughter or a son’s bride
2. Can be worn by Mabel (Raworth’s) children (an honorary member who was not part of the original group)
3. Can be worn once by any person to get married
4. Can be worn on 25th anniversaries (and now on 50th)

The first photo of the garter girls was taken by Mrs. Helen Jenkins, whose son, Sonny, was Bettye McGehee’s beau. He would later become her husband.

“She took the photo to send to Sonny in World War II,” remembered Sallie Ballard, one of the original Garter Girls. “He was flying the Hump in Burma. We were at the Beltzhoover’s pool at Green Leaves, and we were all sophomores, maybe juniors,” she added.

“The bigger girls at the pool all had cigarettes, so we all got cigarettes from them and posed. It was the first year two-piece bathing suits were available to the public, so it was kind of shocking.”

It’s too fragile now to actually wear, but is still reverently passed from one girl to the next, all descendants of the original seven girls, whose friendship lasted throughout the years — Mary Ann Brandon Jones, Bettye McGhee Jenkins, Virginia Beltzhoover Morrison, Sallie Junkin Ballard, the late Dunbar Merrill Flinn, the late Buzzy Parker, the late Mabel Conger Raworth and the late Alma Cassell Kellogg Carpenter.

“Once somebody had worn it, you kept it until somebody else needed it,” recalled Mrs. Ballard.“After [my daughter] Dix got married and the garter was hers, I remember telling [my late husband] Basil, ‘If by hook or crook our house catches fire, grab up all the family pictures and — whatever you do — get the garter.’”

Mrs. Ballard continued: “Basil looked at me and said, ‘I’ll go back into a burning house for family pictures, but not that garter. If it’s that important, you need to take it and put it in a lock box at the bank.’”

And that’s exactly what she did, as have many others burdened with the onus of such responsibility.

The Sword

“Be very, very careful with these,” said Joie Morrison as she handed over family photos. “Please don’t let anything happen to them.”

Standing in the hallway of a house that has been owned and lovingly cared for by her family since 1849, and surrounded by heirlooms such as bone china attributed to John James Audubon, a family Bible dating back to 1670, and old Natchez silver made by Natchez silversmith George MacPherson, it is clear that care should, indeed, be taken. The members of this family are keepers of the flame, stewards of history and tradition.

The story of the sword begins at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

“Unfortunately, this is all oral history, as the best stories always are,” said Ruthie Coy, Joie’s cousin and the niece of Joie’s mother, Virginia Lee Beltzhoover Morrison.

According to family lore, the sword was picked up after the battle of Waterloo by a French soldier whose grandson joined the Confederate army and was in Colonel Daniel Beltzhoover’s unit — Watson’s Louisiana Artillery. It was in Vicksburg where the grandson was mortally wounded, and as he lay dying gave it to “Colonel Dan.”

Can’t you just imagine the young soldier, mortally wounded, his lifeblood leaking out onto the Vicksburg soil, gasping, Colonel Dan, suh…cough!

What is it, son?

Mah sword, suh. Please, take it. It belonged to mah grandfathuh at Waterloo. Cough! Suh, guard it with your life!

Later, when Colonel Dan’s horse was shot out from under him, the bullet struck the scabbard of the sword and cracked the sword, itself.

“See, here’s the bullet hole,” said Joie, pointing to the scabbard. She pulled out the sword. “We still have the whole sword, but it broke it right in two.”

Still, the story has a happy ending: the family uses it to cut the family wedding cakes at Green Leaves.

“The first wedding that we know for sure it was used in was my mother and father’s [Ruth Audley Beltzhoover and Richard Conner] wedding in 1945,” said Ruthie Coy, “when he was on leave from the Army Air Corps during World War II. We have an account…of my grandparents’ wedding there in 1891, but no mention of the sword. The latest was my niece, Denise Conner Hiller in 2007.”

But if you want to use the sword to cut your cake, the keepers of the sword agree: get married at Green Leaves. The sword stays put.

The Veil

It was in 1848 when Fanny Turner married Lemuel P. Conner, wearing the beautiful lace veil that would also become a tradition at Green Leaves weddings.

“The weddings have been held at the church, in the parlors, and in the back garden,” said Coy. It was actually a Britton family [of Melrose Plantation] tradition, but then included us again when my mother and father married.”

Denise Conner Hiller, who was also the last to use the sword, was the last to use the veil, as well.
“Denise was the fifth generation to wear it,” said Coy, who included a list of all the family members who have worn the veil.

“My favorite part of the story is how jealous all her girlfriends were because she had all this fabulous ‘old stuff’ for her wedding.”

Ruthie recalled that when Denise wore the veil in 2007, the keepers kept careful watch.

“Oh, she didn’t wear it to the reception,” she said. “As soon as she walked back down that aisle, we snatched it off. Well, not really,” she laughed. She had wedding photos taken in it, but we weren’t going to chance it getting danced on.”

With their careful care the keepers ensured the veil will be here for future generations.

How does a tradition become a tangible link to the past and a generous gift to the future? 

You guard it with your life.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Parchman Prisoners Ponder and Paint

Icarus and His Sons by Michael Orell
Ink and Crayon

One of the artist's themes is that that crime (going too far) is passed down from generation to generation and it is all but impossible the break the cycle.
As many of you may already know, I have a writer friend from Oxford, Mississippi, who teaches writing to prisoners at Parchman Prison.  Louis Bourgeois, whose own memoir — The Gar Diaries — was nominated for the National Book Award, teaches poetry, fiction and memoir to the inmates.  He and his class have just released their second collection, 

Unit 30: New Writings from Parchman Farm.  Click on the link to purchase at Amazon.  The book is very good.  It definitely gives one a glimpse of the humanity behind the inmate, and not only helps the reader to understand, but also helps the inmate get insight into his own life and behavior.  I highly recommend it.

One of Louis's students, Michael Orell is a very talented, self-taught artist.  He'd like to get an art program at the prison and toward that end, is selling some of his work.  The money will go toward the art program.  Louis Bourgeois is trying to help that dream come true and has agreed to offer the artwork for sale through his publishing company, VOX Press.

If you're interested in any of these works, please make payment to:

VOX Press
P.O. Box 2954
Oxford, MS 38655

More artwork below
by Michael Orell
Ink and Crayon

This piece reflects Orell's fascination with pagan mythology

by Michael Orell

Ink and Crayon

This painting demonstrates how Christianity destroyed the beauty of the Native American gods and belief systems.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

My daddy: An old post revisited

Someone was posting on Facebook a little while ago about snakes, so I thought I'd bring out an old post and dust it off. Makes me miss my daddy. last night I was all freaked out and complaining about that damned Murphy whose law just plains sucks eggs.  You know, the one that says if it can go wrong it will?

I was visiting the boyfriend in town and called my dad to see what was going on.

"Dee, Versace is gone.  I've looked everywhere."

Versace, for those of you who don't know, is my daughter's precious little puggle (cross between a pug and a beagle).  The ex-husband decided he didn't want to deal with her anymore after my daughter got an apartment, so I went over to the house on my last visit to Los Angeles and got her and brought her home.  My daughter loves that dog more than anything or anyone else.  So on the few occasions something's happened where we thought we'd have to make that dreaded call and tell her something awful has happened have been truly horrifying times.

Last night was one of them.

My dad lives on 400 acres in the country.  There's a fellow who lives  behind us who raises cows, and he and my dad have an arrangement.  If he'll come and cut the pasture and make it look all pretty like a golf course, he can keep the hay and use it for his cattle.

But Versace loves to chase cars.  So we have to keep her inside if anyone's driving around outside.  So back to the story.

"I'd waited until I was sure Robert had left and then I let her out," he said.  "But a little while later I heard the other dogs making a big racket, and went out to see what it was."

Turns out all the dogs were frantically barking at a big-as-all-get-out water mocassin.  My 85-year-old father, who cut down a pecan tree all by himself last year, got a stick.  Not even a big stick.  Just a stick.  And beat that three-foot-long, four-inch-diameter, mean-ass water mocassin to death.  A little stick maybe two feet long.

"I felt bad for the poor snake," he said.  "But I had to do it."

The closer he gets to his own mortality, the more he hates taking a life -- any life.

I'd have been scared silly.

Then he noticed Versace was gone.  And that's when I called.  We both knew what had happened.  She'd been bitten and run off to die somewhere.

"I'll be right out," I said, along with a few rather horrible profanities under my breath, and drove pell-mell out to Daddy's.  We called and called and called.  Nothing.

I was supposed to have taken her to the vet this week for all her shots, her worming, and her rattlesnake vaccine.  This was a water mocassin...but still.

I was heartbroken.  And exhausted.  I went to bed.  I ranted about Murphy's Law on Facebook for a bit and then turned off the light and went to bed.  I was in that twilight where you're not really asleep but not awake either, when I heard something running into the room and jumping onto the bed.


She waggled her butt and smiled and licked my face.

Am I dreaming?  I stumbled out of bed and went downstairs.  I crept into Daddy's room.


"She came to the door a few minutes ago.  I was so glad to see her I gave her a whole can of cat food."

Canned cat food is Versace's guilty pleasure.  He usually curses at her and kicks her out of the way when she tries to horn in on the kitties' food.

I took her today to get those shots.

How do you spell relief?  W-o-o-f!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Tate Taylor wants us to vote for Darryl Grennell for Mayor of Natchez. So do I.

Without Darryl, the movie would not have been filmed in Natchez. I thought, “This guy should be running this town.”  
No Images? Click here
Get on Up and Elect Darryl Mayor!
Letter to the Voters of Natchez from Director,  Tate Taylor
To the Voters of Natchez:
Natchez NEEDS Darryl Grennell to be the next Mayor of Natchez, and here’s why:
When I was working so hard to make NATCHEZ the location for filming Get On Up! I faced many obstacles, both in the city and from Hollywood. Natchez is not the first choice when it comes to setting up a project like this in terms of resources, community support, or accessibility.
When I met Darryl everything changed.
He was assertive, efficient and sophisticated in his approach to solving potential problems in a way that worked for both local businesses and the interests of Get On Up!. 
I thought to myself, “This guy should be running this town.”  
Just for fun watch
the official trailer again!
From left:Mr. Boseman as James Brown and director Tate Taylor on the set of 'Get on Up.' 
Darryl saw the potential for the city both in terms of financial gain and community growth. He is a selfless advocate for Natchez and a trusted friend. He helped this
community shine in the eyes of the world when it came to hospitality and business savvy.
Without Darryl, the movie would not have been filmed in Natchez.  
The filming of Get On Up! not only brought international attention to Natchez,
it also brought new revenue and created jobs.  
Please join me in supporting Darryl for Mayor. 
Elect him to help us build the Natchez we all know we can have!
Tate Taylor, Director
The Help • Get On Up!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Smoot's Grocery -- Bringing the Blues Back Home

Story by Elodie Pritchartt
Photos by Dub Rogers and Elodie Pritchartt

When tourists visiting Steampunk Coffee Roasters would ask owner Dub Rogers where to go for live blues music in Natchez, he often had to disappoint them. For years, the music scene in Natchez was mostly country & western and a little rock and roll, and that was hit or miss. “Every now and then there was a cover band at one of the other bars, but no place where you could go on certain nights and know there was music.” 
So the coffee entrepreneur decided to expand to fill that niche. He found a place next door to Steampunk:  the old Smoot’s Grocery, a small store that had operated on the bluff at the corner of High and Broadway streets for many years.  
The little tin building with the covered porch, which had been owned and operated by George Henry Smoot and his wife Gertrude, still held its charm, although it had fallen into disrepair after closing in the 1970s. “I could’ve done this anywhere,” Dub said, “… but I thought it was the most perfectly set, perfect location anywhere.”  
Smoot’s sits on Natchez’ famous bluff, directly across from the old train station with the river rolling by two hundred feet below. Barges and steamboats chug slowly past, carrying America’s cargo and tourists. Looking across the river at the flat Louisiana Delta, the past reverberates with the gospel music and slave songs from which the blues ultimately sprang. “We’ve had probably twelve acts come through, and all of them commented about the feeling they get when they come here,” Rogers said.

The renovation took a year and a half. During that time other clubs in Natchez— Rolling River Bistro, Under-the-Hill-Saloon, Andrew’s Tavern, Bowie’s Tavern, and others—started booking music more regularly, including the blues. Featuring several markers along the Mississippi Blues Trail, Natchez now finds that its reputation as an antebellum attraction has expanded to include its position as a music destination in its own right.
Cities and towns along Highways 61 and 49 that played an historic role in the development of the genre have been able to maintain or reestablish their connection to the blues. Across the river in Ferriday, Haney’s Big House had been a feature attraction for years on the Chitlin’ Circuit, hosting such notable African American entertainers as B.B. King, Moms Mabley, Redd Foxx, Ray Charles, and Bobby Bland, until it burned in 1966. At one point, it had seemed like Natchez could be as well known for its African American music as its neighbors along the Blues Highway. But the 1940 tragedy at Natchez’ The Rhythm Club may have been responsible for halting the African American music scene there. Two hundred nine people were killed when the overcrowded club, a dance hall that catered to the black community, burned. It is still the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history and is responsible for many of the fire codes that exist today, such as doors that open out instead of in, requirements for the number of exits, occupancy limitations, and interior finish standards. Having occurred in the Bible Belt, where dancing was often considered a sin, many people believed the tragedy was an assignment of God’s judgment. Along with scores of lives, April 23, 1940, was also the night the music died in Natchez. Until now.
Sitting in the bar with Dub (pictured left), there was a flurry of activity as workers prepared for the evening’s entertainment: Bud “Dr. Who” Carson and Mark Du ‘Velle Doyle. It was going to be an evening of blues music extraordinaire. Dub proudly pointed out the workmanship and materials that went into the renovation. “Every piece of wood in this place has a story,” he said. “Either it’s come from somewhere, or I took it apart. I’ve been collecting wood for a number of years. This is reclaimed wood that came from the old Natchez Landing Restaurant under the hill. We used the rafters to make the bar.”
He pointed to another spot, “This wood came from the Masonic Lodge over in St. Joe, Louisiana. Buddy Chauvin gave me these lights that came out of the Herold & Miller Coffee Company. We’ve got the Pasternack sign that was over in Haney’s juke joint in Ferriday. There’s a lot of historical stuff here. That white wood there came from Smoot’s; the colored wood over there came from a house over on Garden Street.”
Dub recalled his first memories of Smoot’s: “My first experience over here was with the Natchez Pecan Company [located just a few feet down the street] because that’s where I made my very first dollar on my own. It was back in 1963 or ’64, and I’d been picking pecans from Halloween to, like, the last week before Christmas. I was about ten years old.
“We had several big coffee sacks and got the yardman to load them up in my grandmother’s Cadillac. She took us over here, and I got about $40. That was a lot of money back then. We never had cash. If we went to the grocery store, we put it on a ticket. So right after that, we came down to Smoot’s, and I bought banana planks and Moonpies.
For those who were teenagers in the 1960s and 70s, memories of Smoot’s consisted of strolling into the store with a fake I.D. and false bravado to try to score a six pack of beer or malt liquor. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. “I remember one of my friends went in there once,” said Tommy Polk, who, like Rogers, also grew up in Vidalia. “… and tried to buy some beer. Mr. Smoot looked at her I.D. and said, ‘This isn’t you.’
‘Yes, it is.’
‘No, it’s not.’ 
‘How can you tell?’
‘Because your earrings have different initials than the name on this I.D.’”
A trip to the Historic Natchez Foundation reveals that the area where Smoot’s is located was once the red-light district. Poring over old city maps, Foundation Director Mimi Miller remarked, “On the site in 1892, there’s a long rectangular building labeled ‘Negro Tenement.’ No porch, no nothing.”
She explained that the late Elizabeth Britton Conner had a scrapbook of the houses facing Broadway all along this block. “I’m not quite sure what she meant by it, but she wrote on it, ‘Where the white slaves lived.’ And whether that’s a reference to them having worked in textile factories or being prostitutes, I’ve never been sure of, because many of them worked in the textile mills, which were also located on Broadway,” said Miller.
Between 1897 and 1901, a two-story building appears on the map labeled “Armour Packing Co.” Then, between 1925 and 1939, the lot is empty. No building. But between 1939 and 1941, the building we know as Smoot’s appears, labeled “Grocery Store of George H. Smoot,” with a telephone number of 1246.

The building sat vacant. For Dub, though, who’d moved away for thirty-plus years, the little building was a persistent memory. “This was the epitome of Natchez for me,” he said. “I thought this building, in particular, because each time I’d come to Natchez, I’d drive around. Even forty-something years ago when I got out of high school, I’d always thought if I had a bar it would be right there.”
His vision has materialized. Dub said he’ll book primarily blues and Americana music. At the moment, Smoot’s specializes in craft beers but will have a full bar as soon as the liquor license comes through. For the time being, if you don’t want beer, you can bring your own liquor and Smoot’s will provide glasses, ice, and mixers for a small fee.
Smoot’s Grocery held a soft opening the weekend of the Balloon Festival in October, finally opening for real a few weeks before Christmas. By early January, he’d already hosted several top blues acts: Grady Champion, Kern Pratt, Mississippi Bigfoot, Will Kimbrough, Brint Anderson, and the Runnin’ Pardners, with many more to come.
“We’re part of the Americana [Music] Trail,” he noted, adding that Aubrey Preston, who spearheaded the music tourism website, told him he thought it was one of the best things that could’ve happened for Natchez. The blues bug has spread throughout the area. And that’s a good thing.
Smoot’s Grocery 
319 North Broadway Street
Natchez, Miss. 
(601) 870-6882 
To hear a bona fide blues musician sing about the Rhythm Club fire, listen to Howlin’ Wolf sing “The Natchez Burning” at