Adorable four-year-old Ryleigh Harrell, daughter of Russ and Jessica (Joyce) Harrell and granddaughter of Alan and Cathy (Stone) Harrell, recently took this writer on a captivating tour of her burgeoning vegetable garden at her grandparents’ home in Alapaha, Georgia, for a feature in the local Berrien Press.
Sequestered behind a sturdy wooden shed undergoing painting renovations to become the little girl’s permanent playhouse perfect for daily tea and dance parties, late March was the first time that Ryleigh—with her Nino’s assistance—planted vegetables.
Perched on stakes, two miniature, well-crafted scarecrows welcome visitors and hopefully ward off pesky birds, squirrels, armadillos, and other varmints. For the time being their names are Ryleigh and Karleigh [i.e. Cathy’s second grandchild, the four and a half-month-old daughter of Lance and Savannah (Roberts) Harrell]. During our conversation, Ryleigh mentions a name out of the blue that she believes more fitting of a friendly scarecrow—Rosie.
Four shovel-enhanced rows judiciously picked clean of weeds and rotten flower petals contain once towering Irish potatoes—askew after the previous weekend’s mighty winds—along with caged tomatoes, radishes, bell peppers, strawberries, and carrots. Uprooting a flaming red radish almost ready for harvesting, Ryleigh admits that she isn’t a fan of their acquired pungent taste. Carrots are her favorite by a wide margin.
A giant brick red wash tub and adjacent flower pot holds a miscellaneous, overflowing assortment of plants that couldn’t fit elsewhere. The perceptive farmer in the making is confident that next year’s garden will be even bigger.
While browsing Jernigan’s Farm Service and Supply one afternoon, Nino asked what type of pepper plant should they choose especially for Ryleigh’s mother. Without hesitation, Ryleigh blurted out, “Dr. Pepper!” Nino gamely conceded by placing an upturned Dr. Pepper can on a stick mere inches from the actual bushes. Ryleigh laughs infectiously every time this story is told.
Walk around the future playhouse and a lilting aroma of petunias, red salvia, Black-eyed Susans, and zinnias await unsuspecting visitors. Bright pinks and dark purples are Ryleigh’s most cherished colors. A viable task on Ryleigh’s bucket list for 2016—planting roses.
A down-to-earth hair stylist with Becky’s Beauty Shop for 21 years and married to her semi truck-drivin’ husband since 1984, Cathy loves Ryleigh and Karleigh to pieces and is “blessed to have such beautiful and sweet granddaughters.”
- DON’T GO ANYWHERE YET! Marshall Terrill has written three captivating Elvis Presley tomes with close friends and a ravishing former flame of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Terrill readily admits, “I’ve always tried to approach the Elvis story from an outsider’s perspective with a lot of common sense and no excuses. Many people in the Elvis World come to the subject matter with their minds made up, lines drawn in the sand, and have pegged everyone as either a hero or villain.” In “Gauging Elvis Presley’s Shakespearean Destiny from an Outsider’s Perspective,” the celebrity biographer scrutinizes how Elvis’ inspired performances often hinged on his level of instrumental commitment, why the artist didn’t compose more material, how lifestyle choices gradually diminished his recording career, the often pointless Elvis vs. Beatles debate, the shocking degree of entanglement degenerate gambler Colonel Tom Parker became mired in with the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel to his client’s detriment, and the collapse of the big screen adaptation of Fame & Fortune.
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Exclusive Interview: Easy listening song interpreter B.J. Thomas won a well-deserved Grammy for “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” after it appeared on the soundtrack of the legendary Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In “Just a Regular Guy With a Burning Desire to Sing…”, the effortless “Hooked on a Feeling” singer exclusively recalls amazing stories about arriving in Memphis in the late ’60s and singing for Elvis Presley, appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show and having buckets of rain inexplicably thrown on his head, opening for the notoriously temperamental James Brown, his conflict with the Contemporary Christian industry, and his most popular album in 30 years, the duets-laden Living Room Sessions, recorded in Nashville.
Exclusive Interview No. 2: Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductee Collective Soul has sold more than 10 million albums worldwide during their ’90s heyday with such nuggets as “The World I Know” and “December.” Will Turpin, founding bassist for the Grammy-winning alternative rockers, grew up obsessed with the Beatles. The musician spent hours dissecting Paul McCartney’s melodic bass playing style. Stick around for the most comprehensive interview of the rocker’s career [i.e. “Follow the Lighthouse…”] as he volunteers a profound tribute to John Lennon, how he congratulated Dolly Parton when she performed “Shine” on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, opening for a shockingly sober Aerosmith during the “Get A Grip” worldwide tour, and how growing up with a desire to play music in a tiny Georgia suburb gave way to the big leagues.
Exclusive Interview No. 3: John Denver will forever be remembered as the consummate multihyphenate artist of his generation. The radio friendly, environmentally conscious entertainer possesses an incredible body of work with such landmark recordings as “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” “Back Home Again,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Annie’s Song,” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” all staples of early ’70s AM radio. Chris Nole, the icon’s final touring pianist, recently agreed to revisit his memorable relationship with the singer on the commemoration of his 70th birthday. Stick around as Nole discusses how he came to join Denver’s band, what it was like to have a single rehearsal and then debut in front of thousands of fans, Denver’s homespun sense of humor, whether the singer had any pre-show superstitions, their final conversation, and much more.
- Exclusive Interview No. 4: If World War II battle-scarred Lee Marvin hadn’t stubbornly insisted on taking the lead role in the derided musical Paint Your Wagon, he might have had the opportunity to star in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch with celebrated cult actor Warren Oates. Though not a household name, Oates lit up the screen in a 25-year career cut inexplicably short by a heart attack at age 53 in April 1982. His hardscrabble Depression-era upbringing in the predominantly coal-mining community of Depoy, Kentucky, no doubt influenced his honest characterizations as the voyeuristic deputy of In the Heat of the Night, the psychotic pill-poppin’ villain in Lee Van Cleef’s Barquero, a tall-tale spewing car driver in Two-Lane Blacktop, the sympathetic title role of Dillinger, and Bill Murray’s constantly exasperated sergeant in the comical Stripes. His pre-eminent biographer, Susan Compo, speaks in a fascinating interview [i.e. “That Guy You’ve Seen But Can’t Remember His Name…”] about Oates’ hell-raising and humanity, best and worst movie roles, working alongside the mercurial Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, and what she might have said to Oates if their paths had intertwined.
Further Reading: John Wayne had no plans to retire after The Shootist opened to excellent reviews but slow box office receipts in August 1976. After open heart surgery in late spring 1978, the Duke was determined to begin work on Beau John, a movie revolving around Kentucky small town life in the 1920s with the actor set to portray a cantankerous family patriarch.. He went to impressive lengths to secure the project, actually buying the film rights via Batjac, the first time that had happened since he unsuccessfully bidded for True Grit 10 years earlier. The legend also had plans to reunite with The Shootist costar Ron Howard. To learn more about the one project that gave Wayne some much needed hope during his final days, head on over to “‘Beau John’: The Untold Story of John Wayne’s Last Project.”
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