Everything is coming up Roses….so to speak

Everything is coming up Roses….so to speak


The dear wife’s roses bloomed all over (being a vet, I want to say “hell and back”) but, being an aging husband who wants to keep the peace, I’ll just leave it at “all over.” The rambling pink roses are my efforts to preserve some of the wonderful past we experienced when we first moved to Cedar View, Mississippi, just south of Olive Branch. That was something like shortly after the last ice age—the mid-1980’s.  On the drive down Highway 78, you now pass the Goodman Road exit where Kroger, Papa Johns, Sears and a couple motels now stand. That was once Mr. Crumpler’s cow pasture. I remember like it was yesterday when black and white cows grazed peacefully in the pool of misty white fog that always hung in that creek-bottom till it melted away in the late morning sun.

The next exit off of Highway 78 was Highway 305, AKA Cockrum Street, and if you turned south, rambling roses grew all along the highway right-of-way. Back then 305 was two narrow lanes bordered by barbed wire fences and piles of Kudzu. As the years passed, the roses dwindled along with the Kudzu, and in 2015…or maybe it was 2014, the highway had been widened, and new subdivisions had sprung-up, and they were staking out a new church where the last of the roses grew in a roadside ditch. I went up there one day with my shovel and some buckets and dug up as many as I could. Those are the pink ones you see in the photo.

The Rambling Roses of Olive Branch

The first time I ever saw Olive Branch, Mississippi was in 1965 when I worked a summer job as a brush cutter with a survey firm out of Memphis, called Moser Engineering. We left the recently completed I-55 just south of Memphis at the Horn Lake Exit, and drove Goodman Road eastward. The five-lane thoroughfare it is now, wasn’t even imagined back then. It turned to gravel about a quarter-mile after we left the interstate, and there was nothing more than a farm house here and there for twelve miles or so.

We ate lunch with city officials that day at the Olive Branch Country Club, where I was pretty certain I had reached the outermost limits of civilization. Moser Engineering was laying out the right-of-way for a new four-lane divided highway planned to run parallel to what is now called Old 78. Four years later, during my senior year of high school, I returned to Olive Branch, making several trips to Maywood, the now forever gone swimming pool with spring fountains and sand beaches—one that will never know any comparison—but that’s another story for another time.

Janet and I have lived out in the country south of Olive Branch for thirty-something years, and I think the locals are just about to accept us as something other than foreigners. Subdivisions surround us, and the urban sprawl of gas stations and drug stores is coming ever closer, but I think the roots are now too deeply sunk. Best wishes to all my readers and my vet friends. And I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record (You young folks ask your mother or grandmother, she’ll explain the term), but the next novel is coming later in the summer.

Eagles, Bluebirds and Opposums….and thanks to my friends

Eagles, Bluebirds and Opossums….and thanks to my friends

I went out with the camera the other day and got these shots. The American Eagle population at Beaver Dam Lake seems to be expanding. They were sort of going everywhichaway (which is southern-speak for “flying all about”), and it was difficult to do an accurate census, but it looked like there may be as many as three nesting pairs of American Bald Eagles this year. My friend Ted Spence and I did a quick stop on the way to the fishing hole and took a few pictures.

Fly By Beaver Dam Lake

Eagle at Beaver Dam Lake

The Blue Birds are nesting in my wife’s new bird house. That shot was taken in the front yard. The lab is my dog Blondie. He caught up with the opossum out by the barn the other day. I rescued the opossum and let him go in the woods.

Female Bluebird feeding her brood.

I want to thank my many readers and friends for their support with my writing addiction. I will be coming out with my fifth novel in a couple months. Valley of The Purple Hearts is the fourth in my Vietnam War Series. Several key players have contributed their time and efforts, and provided me with considerable feedback during the process. Eagles in their own right, Chris Davis, Ellen Morris Prewitt and Margaret Yates have all provided me with ideas, suggestions and corrections through their Beta-Reads. Thanks to you all.
Special thanks also goes to Carol Carlson, a friend since early childhood, who did an extensive story edit on the manuscript and confirmed much of what I heard from Chris, Ellen and Margaret. She put in more than a few hours and produced a detailed feedback document. If you are an experienced writer, I strongly recommend her services.
I will likely submit the manuscript to the line-editor Elisabeth Hallett in the next week or two. Meanwhile, if anyone reading this blog post is interested in receiving the electronic manuscript file of the novel in exchange for a written review that you will have ready to post on Amazon and Goodreads the day of publication, let me know. Read more about it at http://rickdestefanis.com/valley-purple-hearts/   I will send you the PDF file now, and when the book is published, a signed paperback copy.

Blondie meets his first opossum.

Bon Secour and Points South…a Road Trip to The Gulf Coast

A Gulf Coast Road Trip

The Old Lad….oops! Excuse me. I mean my sweet young bride, had a birthday this month, and we took a road trip to the coast. Say what you want, but Alabama has a Gulf Coast, albeit an abbreviated version, just as spectacular as Florida’s. Snow-white sand beaches, sparkling green surf and a warm gulf wind make it a beach goer’s paradise.

Of course, no visit to the Gulf is complete without a visit to Alvin’s Island to look at the sea shells, rubber snakes and lacquered alligator heads. Also, with a recommendation from our neighbors Jeff Aker and Tish Pierce, we visited The Steamer Restaurant at SanRoc Cay Marina, on Perdido Beach Blvd, www.gulfshoressteamer.com. Deep water red shrimp, oysters from the back bay, blue crab…..!!!! Relaxed atmosphere and excellent food. Enough said, right?

Anyway, the sun shined and the waves sparkled, and I felt like an aging manatee among the svelte spring breakers, but what the…? The scenery was exceptional. One nice thing about the Alabama beaches is that no alcohol is allowed, so it was a very civil crowd. As long as you pack your Margaritas in nondescript containers and don’t dance naked in the sand, life is good. Sorry, if you were expecting photos of chicks in swimsuits or lifeguards with six-pack abs, you are out of luck. You’ll have to settle for the boats.

Bon Secour Bay Boats

We do tend to get off the beaten path when possible. This included side-trips to Fairhope, Bon Secour Bay, Bayou La Batre, and a few other places where the beach-goers seldom wander.

I also discovered that people in the area tend not to think of the Russian, Ivan The Terrible, when you mention “Ivan,” but the Cat-3 Hurricane by that name that struck them dead-center in 2004. Bringing with it 15-20 foot storm surges. The area made a remarkable recovery, but evidence of the devastation remains.

Pelicans on a pier at the Dauphin Island Ferry

Leaving the Fort Morgan Peninsula, we caught the Dauphin Island Ferry and headed west to Bayou La Batre, Alabama. Janet and I have also come to the conclusion that there are almost as many Dollar General Stores in Alabama as there are churches.

The latest update on the next novel, Valley of The Purple Hearts, is I’m still working with the feedback from my Beta-readers, Carol Carlson, Chris Davis, Ellen Morris Prewitt and Margaret Yates. The final manuscript should be ready to go to the editor in a week or two, and with some luck, published by mid-summer.