Sunday, December 27, 2009

Celebrating Elvis and the South

Poems By: Patricia Neely-Dorsey
Tourism Attractions: Elvis Presley Birthplace, Reed's Department Store (est.1905 in Historic Downtown Tupelo), Tupelo Hardware Store (where Elvis got his first guitar)
Location: Tupelo, Mississippi
Tupelo is the seventh largest city in Mississippi and is located between Memphis,Tennessee, and Birmingham , Alabama, along U.S. Highway 78.
Tupelo is best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley.
Photos: Courtesy of Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau

"The King"
(Elvis A. Presley)
born :January 8, 1935- Tupelo,MS

From poor and meager beginnings,
A young man began to sing;
From the small town of Tupelo,
A voice began to ring.
As surely as it's been said,
A man's gifts make a way for him;
This humble diamond in the rough,
Became a sparkling gem.
Velvet melodies and explosive rock,
Were the gifts he'd bring;
The world responded with resounding praise,
And pronounced this man "The King".

Copyright Patricia Neely-Dorsey 2009

"Reed's Dept. Store"
(Established 1905)

Reed's Dept. store in Tupelo,
Is the oldest in the town;
It was the place, as a child,
Where all our clothing needs were found.
Each year, in the fall, with my mom,
Before the start of school;
We'd go to Reed's for school attire.
This was just the rule.
When it was time for a winter coat,
It was off to Reed's we'd go;
So I'd be prepared for chilly days,
Or maybe even snow.
Reed's is where we'd always get,
Our uniforms for scouts;
If we needed a new cap or sash,
Reed's would have it, without a doubt.
Over the years, it stayed the same,
If we had special needs;
For fancy occasions or big events,
We'd always go to Reed's.

Copyright 2008 Patricia Neely-Dorsey
from Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life in Poems

Reed's is located directly across from Tupelo Hardware Store, seen above, in Historic Downtown Tupelo where it is said that Elvis' mother Gladys bought him his first guitar.

Story of Elvis' First Guitar


The small town where I am from,
Gets its name from the Tupelo Gum.
No matter where in the world
That I might roam
This is the place that I call home.
Though I've been northeast for my education,
I've stayed fiercely southern in dedication.
In Memphis, I lived for many years,
By my own election,
And even still, there was that Tupelo connection.
At Elvis' Graceland fans come to mourn
But it's Tupelo, Mississippi, where he was born.
Tupelo is known as an All-American city,
If you've never enjoyed it, that's quite a pity.
It's so warm, so hospitable and so neat,
Everything about it to me is so sweet.
I love the trees, the flowers and the birds,
I can't really describe all its beauty in words.

Though many places in my life,
Have played a significant part;
It's Tupelo, Mississippi, y'all,
That still has all my heart.

Copyright 2008 Patricia Neely-Dorsey
poems from Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life in Poems

Tourism Guide

Tupelo is hosting several gala events to commemorate the 75th birthday of their most famous native son.

Thursday January 7th
Downtown Tupelo at the Lyric Theatre
Ultimate Elvis Tribute winners Brandon Bennett and Bill Cherry in Concert with the EAS band
Find details at

Friday January 8th 10am
Join Marty Stuart at the Tupelo CVB to unveil a special exhibit of costuming including one of Marty Stuart's outfits and a jumpsuit on loan from Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Friday January 8th 10am
Official opening of the Sparkle and Twang exhibit at the Tupelo Automobile Museum.
The collection is a homage to music legends like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline , George Jones, ect. and includes costumes, instruments, hand-written lyrics and personal mementos

Friday January 8th 1pm
Birthday Party for The King
Elvis Presley Birthplace
Free entry to the Birthplace
Birthday cake, Coffee and Punch
Visiting with Elvis fans from around the world
Special 75th birthday postcards and souvenier cups available for purchase

Friday January 8th 2-4pm
Marty Stuart Booksigning at the Tupelo Automobile Museum.
Marty will sign copies of his book "Country Music: The Masters"

Friday Janaury 8th 8pm
An intimate evening of music and storytelling with one of America's greatest talents, Mississippi born Marty Stuart: Live at the Link Centre
General Admission: $30 Balcony $25

The official hotel for the 75th Extravaganza is the Tupelo Hilton Garden Inn
Make reservations at

Tupelo is also an hour and a half drive from Memphis and Graceland, so check out both!

Tourism Links

Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau

Mississippi Division of Tourism

Visiting Mississippi/The Official Website of Mississippi

About Patricia Neely-Dorsey
Patricia's first book of poetry, Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life in Poems, was published in 2008. Reflections makes a great gift idea, especially in a gift basket. She is currently working on her second book of poetry in her hometown of Tupelo. Check out more of her work and reviews in the October Stories By Month on this site in the archives.

Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life in Poems

Order an autpgraphed copy from Reed's Gumtree Bookstore

Read more Elvis-inspired poetry in Beyond the Shadows of Graceland with work from Tupelo poet Heather VanHoose Truett by scrolling below.

COMING SOON: An excerpt and review from Literary Trails of the North Carolina Mountains: A Guidebook by Georgann Eubanks, published by UNC Press. Also, an excerpt from Conecuh People by Dr. Wade Hall, published by New South Books. This book was adapted into a play that is performed annually at the historic Red Door Theatre in Union Springs, Alabama.

Order Patricia's book at Amazon and other major book outlets.

Find out more about Literary Trails of the North Carolina Mountains: A Guidebook by Georgann Eubanks.

Find out more about Conecuh People by Dr. Wade Hall and the Red Door Theatre in historic Union Springs, Alabama, where his play is performed.

Beyond the Shadows of Graceland

Poem by: Heather VanHoose Truett
Attraction: Elvis' birthplace and boyhood home
Location: Tupelo, Mississippi
Photos: Courtesy of the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau

"Beyond the Shadows of Graceland"

I ask my mom for memories
of Elvis.
Did she drool over him
on TV?
I know the glitz and glam
of Graceland.
I know the awful drama of suicide
and overdose
and rumors, “He’s alive.”
It’s hard to connect these stories
to my daily image of Elvis,
the shoebox house
on the “wrong” side of town,
just a mile or so
from my home.
In this town,
Elvis is still a boy,
still a homegrown small town man
who learned to play guitar
and sing in church.
When I hear the tales

of his generous heart,
of all the hope he gave away,
then I can picture
the man as the boy
in the little house
in Tupelo.

-Heather VanHoose Truett

Tourism Guide

Tupelo is home to the birthplace of Elvis Presley.
He was born in the "shoebox" house that still stands there. The house is now a major tourist attraction which draws thousands of visitors each year. Although Elvis became the King of Rock and Roll, he found his roots singing gospel music in a Tupelo church as a boy. Ironically, it is his gospel music that still sells so well today, inpsiring millions of fans with his faith and love that he found first in Tupelo. In this town, fans can visit the house where he was born, the church that he first sang in, and the hardware store where he bought his first guitar.

The humble nature of the Tupelo attractions are in great contrast to the glitzy attractions of Graceland but no less impressive for their inspirations on Elvis. Perhaps that is why he is still wearing his overalls in the revered town statue above. Tupelo citizens like to remember him, much as the poem evokes, as the humble but talented boy they knew growing up here in this special town. Please visit the links below to learn more about Elvis' boyhood home. Please also visit Celebrating Elvis and the South for more Elvis-inspired poetry by Mississippi poet Patricia Neely-Dorsey.

Tourim Links

Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau

Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum

About Heather VanHoose Truett

Heather teaches poetry at the Main ARTery, an arts shop in downtown Tupleo. She also teaches creative writing in schools. Heather's work has been published in Devo'Zine, Group Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul: On Friendship, Slugfest Ltd, Everyday Musings,, Busy Parents Online, Abundance Press, Jackson Free Press and The Paintsville Herald. Her second book of poetry will be published next year.

Visit the Main ARTery on Facebook at:

Visit Heather's blog at:

Check out Heather's first book of poetry at:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Story By: Patrick Brian Miller
Tourism Attraction: historic Pendleton
Location: Pendleton, South Carolina
Photos By: See Special Note on Photos/Graphics at end

"Ohme, come on! We’re almost there!” yelled Tate to his grandma Ohme.

"Hold on, little one,” said Ohme as she struggled to hold onto her grandson’s tiny mittened hand. “I’m not as fast as a six year old like you. And we have to be careful crossing the street.”

Tate could barely contain his excitement as they stopped on Mechanic Street in Pendleton, South Carolina. The Village Green in downtown was lined with charming antique stores, restaurants, and beautiful 19th century buildings, but the real attraction for little Tate was a chance to see his favorite park covered in the magical wonderland of snow.

Across the way, through the heavy snowflakes of a cold Christmas morning, the cool white columns and rich red doors of the historic Farmers Hall seemed to beckon him on to the downtown Village Green, as if the pretty building were a grand front porch for the entire park. As soon as they crossed the road, he burst out of her grip and raced through the black tables and red umbrellas of the 1826 On the Green restaurant in front of the two-story hall.

Tate rounded the side of the Farmers Hall and jumped up in glee. The park was even more fantastic than he had imagined! The water oaks seemed as if they had been dipped in a magical coating of brilliant crystals. He had begged Ohme to take him here early in the morning before it all melted.

At the far end of the park stood his favorite building, the Old Guard House, with a bright red roof and white walls. Along the path stood the town’s tall ornamented Christmas tree. The iron lamp posts surrounding the Village Green were decorated with green garlands and warm red banners reading “Holidays in the Village.”

Tate pulled Ohme along the path down the center of the park toward the Old Guard House.

“Look, Ohme, there’s snow on the steps!”

“You be careful now, Tate. Snow is slippery. Stay off the steps.”

Tate raced for the Old Guard House, but he stopped short when he noticed a man lying on the red wooden bench.

“Ohme, he’s sleeping on your bench,” said Tate. “That’s your bench, Ohme.”

“Tate, you know I’ve told you before, it’s not my bench. The town put my name on the plaque as an honor for my volunteer work, but anyone can sit there.”

“But, Ohme, why is he sleeping out in the cold?”

“I don’t know,” she said, pulling him back. “You wait here a minute, and I’ll see.”

Ohme approached the bench cautiously. She and Tate were bundled up tightly with coats, hats, and gloves, but the man lying on the bench wore only a thin camouflage shirt, tattered pants, and worn boots. The unexpected snow storm had dropped the temperature to below freezing, and anyone who wasn’t protected from the cold was in serious danger.

She knelt down and nudged the man, whose face was curled up under his arm. At first he didn’t move, but then he stirred and rolled over. Most of his ruddy face was hidden behind a scraggly beard and long, unwashed hair. His black, glassy eyes seemed to slowly focus on her, as if he didn’t know where he was. She suddenly realized that this man was homeless and had probably spent the better part of the night on the bench in the cold.

“Are you all right, sir?” she asked.

“Yes . . . yes ma’am,” he replied in a surprisingly young voice. He must have been in his twenties.

The man turned his head around slowly, taking in his surroundings. “I’m sorry. I’ll leave.” He struggled to get up and pulled his arms tightly around his chest. She noticed a deep scar lining his neck.

“It’s Christmas,” she said. “Don’t you have any family to go to?”

“No, ma’am,” he said, standing up stiffly. “I’ll go.”

“It’s all right,” she said. “How long have you been sleeping on this bench?”

“I don’t know. I’m just passing through and had to lie down.”

“We need to get you out of the cold,” she said. “What is your name, sir?”

“Johnny, ma’am.”

“Where are you heading to, Johnny?”

“I was on my way to Greenville, hoping to find some work.”

“I guess you don’t have a car or a bus ticket?” she asked.

“No, ma’am, I was hitching. Didn’t have much luck in the snow storm last night.”

“Come with me, Johnny,” said Ohme. “We’ll get you into a warm place.”

Luckily, Ohme saw Sam, the owner of one of the antique stores, across the street. She and Tate led Johnny through the Village Green and over to Exchange St., where she got Sam’s attention.

“Sam, this man needs a place to get warm until he can take the bus. Could you bring him inside your store, and I’ll call my husband?”

Sam stared at the man carefully and then relaxed his gaze.

“Sure, I was just dropping off some things. Come on inside.”

Sam opened the door to the antique shop and followed them inside. Ohme went to the store phone and called her husband. She knew that her husband would handle things right. Sam watched coolly as the man went to a chair and sat down, rubbing his hands together for warmth. Sam finally stepped forward.

“Here, take my coat, son.”

“Oh, that’s all right, sir,” said Johnny.

“Go ahead, you’re shivering,” said Sam. Johnny reluctantly slid the warm coat over his filthy shirt.

After a quick call, Ohme walked back to Johnny and smiled.

“My husband is a doctor, Johnny. I asked him to check you over and make sure that you’re okay after being out in the cold for so long. We’ll make sure that you get a bus ticket and some warm food in you before you go, okay?”

“Thank you, ma’am,” said Johnny. “I’m sorry to be any trouble. I didn’t mean to fall asleep on that bench.”

“That’s my Ohme’s bench,” piped up Tate proudly. “The town put her name on it, but anyone can sit there.”

As Johnny warmed up some, his eyes seemed to focus more clearly on his surroundings. He leaned down towards Tate.

“Why do you call her ‘Ohme’?” he asked.

“That’s what I’ve always called her,” said Tate.

Ohme broke in with a gentle laugh.

“Johnny, when Tate was one year old, I had a knee replacement. Every time I would pick him up, he was so heavy that I would sigh, ‘Ohhh meee.’ I said it so many times that he started calling me that, and the name just stuck ever since.”

“Lots of kids have grandmas, but I’m the only one with an Ohme,” said Tate happily.

Johnny smiled for the first time.

“I like that name,” Johnny said. “I’ll remember that one.”

“Hey, Ohme, can Mr. Johnny come to Christmas with us?” asked Tate.

“That’s a wonderful idea, Tate,” said Ohme. “Johnny, would you like to eat Christmas dinner with us? There’s a big dinner planned with our friends at the Woodburn Plantation. It’s a special holiday fundraiser for the Pendleton Historic Foundation. It will be quite an affair with plenty of food.”

“Oh, ma’am, I couldn’t think of it,” said Johnny. “But thank you. I’m not much in any condition to be around decent folks right now. Best if I went on my way.”

“Nonsense, son,” said Sam. “I could lend you some clothes and take you over to my place to get cleaned up first. It’ll be fine. Be good to get some warm food before you go, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes, sir, it would,” said Johnny. “Are you sure?”

“If Ohme says it’s okay, then it’s okay with anyone in this town,” said Sam. “Ah, here’s Doc coming in now. He’ll see to you first.”

“Come on, Tate, we have to go get ready for Christmas,” said Ohme.

“Bye, Mr. Johnny,” said Tate. “We’ll see you at Christmas dinner!”

“I’ll be there, Tate,” said Johnny.

By midday, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and—sadly for Tate—the snow was melting. As soon as he got out of the car at the Woodburn Plantation, he raced for the few pockets of white magic still clinging to the grass. Tate made lines of footprints in several patches and then turned to admire his work. However, the long tables under the large, pretty green tents in front of the four-story house quickly drew his attention.

He soon found Mr. Johnny with Mr. Sam, but the stranger he had found on Ohme’s bench looked entirely different now. He was wearing a clean pair of pants and shirt, a red tie, a nice gray coat like the men in church wore, and some shiny new black shoes. His beard looked less ragged, and his long hair was neatly combed and tied into a tail at the back. Mr. Johnny grinned at Tate.

“Are you feeling better, Mr. Johhny?” asked Tate.

“Yes, thank you, Tate,” said Mr. Johnny. He turned to Ohme. “And thank you for inviting me, ma’am. This is a beautiful house.”

“Woodburn is one of our biggest attractions in Pendleton,” said Ohme. “It was built as a summer retreat by a wealthy Charleston citizen in 1830. Woodburn is also a popular place to rent out for weddings and is open for tours during much of the year. It is one of our pride and joys of Pendleton. The Foundation holds reenactments and special events throughout the year.”

“I’m honored to be here,” said Johnny.

“And we’re honored to have you,” said Ohme. “You sure do clean up well, Johnny.”

“Thanks to Sam’s help and your husband’s,” said Johnny.

“Speaking of which, we still have your clothes in the car,” said Ohme. “I’ve had them washed and dried for you. Sam said he would drive you to the bus station after lunch. Before I forget, Tate go and get Mr. Johnny’s clothes and put them into Mr. Sam’s truck.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Tate, always eager for a mission. He raced back to the car and climbed into the back seat. He found a bag of neatly folded clothes and pulled it out. Tate knew Mr. Sam’s big red truck well because he had once ridden in the back of it on a fishing trip with his grandpa. He held the bag tightly to his chest and ran towards the truck.

Naturally, it was more fun to race through the snow where he could find it. Halfway to the truck, Tate slipped, and the bag went flying onto the ground, spilling its contents all into the snow.

“Oh, no,” said Tate. He scrambled up and picked up the clothes before the melting snow could soak them. Tate turned around with a guilty glance to see if any of the adults had been watching, but they were all occupied. He carefully put the clothes back into the bag before anyone noticed. Just before he started back for the truck, he noticed something shining in the snow.

Tate put the bag down in the grass and bent down to pick up the new-found treasure. It was some kind of gold medal in the shape of a heart and had a man’s face on the front. There was a purple ribbon on top and a small white crest with three pretty red stars on it. Tate realized that the medal must have fallen out from one of Mr. Johnny’s pockets. He grasped it in his hand and picked the clothes bag back up. Tate raced again to Mr. Sam’s truck and put the bag in the back seat, but he kept the medal in his hand.

After accomplishing his mission, Tate ran back to the tables and sat beside Mr. Johnny. They were just saying the prayer, so everyone had to be quiet, but Tate was burning to ask Mr. Johnny where the medal came from. He listened as everyone bowed their heads in respect while the reverend spoke in a somber voice.

“Holy Jesus, we gather together today to celebrate your birth . . . We are the new Wise Men . . . We come from a wealthy nation, far away . . . But we bow down to honor You and your humble birth . . . We follow your shining star in the heavens . . . A star that outshines all the wealth of nations . . . We offer You all of the precious gifts that You have given us . . . Our love, our mercy, and our faith . . . Holy Father, we share these gifts with your children . . . We are the new Shepherds . . . We hear the angels sing . . . And we join in their glorious praise . . . Of the coming of a new king . . . Your divine Son, sent from heaven to earth . . We come to spread the joyful news . . . To our flocks, our little ones . . . And our weak, our needy . . . Our hungry, and our thirsty. . . Holy Father, bless this food as we prepare to share with others your love . . . Amen.”

As the adults began to eat the sumptuous feast, Tate finally got a chance to solve the mystery of the treasure.

“Mr. Johnny, this medal fell out of your bag,” said Tate. “Where did you get it?”

Mr. Johnny stared down at the medal with surprise, but then his eyes saddened.

“Tate, what did I tell you about handling other people’s things?” scolded Ohme.

“I’m sorry, Ohme,” said Tate. “It fell out. I just wanted to know what it was.”

“Give Mr. Johnny his medal back now,” said Ohme.

“It’s alright, ma’am,” said Mr. Johnny. “It’s fine, really.” He turned to Tate, and his face became very serious. “Tate, I got this in the war.”

“You were in the war?” asked Tate, even more fascinated now.

“Yes, but I was hurt,” said Mr. Johnny. “That’s how I got this scar.” He pointed to his neck, which still showed the ugly, ragged red lines. “A bomb exploded under our truck and almost killed me.”

“You must be very brave, Mr. Johnny,” said Tate. “I wish I could win a medal like that someday.”

“You know, Tate, my best friend was beside me in the truck,” said Mr. Johnny. “And he didn’t make it. I would gladly give up this medal if I could have him back again.”

“It’s called a Purple Heart, Tate,” said his grandpa. “It’s awarded to soldiers who are wounded in battle. It’s because of brave men like Mr. Johnny that we can have nice holiday dinners like this. They keep us safe. Johnny, we are honored to have a veteran at our table. Why didn’t you tell us before?”

“Times have been hard on me since I got out,” said Mr. Johnny. “I made it back alive, but I haven’t been the same person. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, as you can probably tell from where you found me this morning. But being here today with all you nice people makes me want to start over again.”

“Well, you’re always welcome in Pendleton, son,” said Mr. Sam.

“Thank you, sir,” said Mr. Johnny. “Thank you all. I will never forget this town.”

“And thank you for your service, Johnny,” said Ohme. “We are all so proud of you.”


Ohme smiled in delight as she wheeled her power chair alongside Tate through the huge crowd of families at Pendleton’s annual Spring Jubilee Festival. She always loved to see the dogwoods in their April bloom, but somehow the pleasant sight of so many children playing under their branches made their buds even brighter. She took in the rich scents of the freshly planted flowers around the Village Green and the delicious aromas of all the baked goods from the many vendors. The tents pitched throughout the Village Green teased her eyes with the best arts and crafts around. The strict judging had become well-known, and even getting approval to compete in the contest was a big achievement for any artist.

“You sure do make a handsome grandson in your Navy uniform, Tate,” said Ohme, proud of his service.

“I didn’t have time to change,” laughed Tate. “We just arrived in port this morning, and I came straight in. I didn’t want to miss the Spring Jubilee. We’re shipping out again next week, so I want to make the most of every day.”

“I’m proud of you, Tate.”

“Thanks, Ohme. It’s always great to come back and visit you in Pendleton, and the kids love it. Hey, let’s go see your bench by the Old Guard House.”

“I’d like that,” said Ohme. “You know, the library used to be in the Old Guard House. I have wonderful memories of reading there as a child.”

“It sure makes a great visitor center now, though,” said Tate.

Even after all the years of participating in the Spring Jubilee, Ohme never seemed to lose her excitement at seeing so many people enjoying her beloved town. She still remembered setting up Internet pages to promote Pendleton’s history and attractions, back when such innovations were still so new. She had had to learn how to email people and upload photographs and videos. Nowadays people took virtual reality tours instead of looking at web pages, but everyone still wanted to feel the magic of the real thing.

As they approached her bench by the Old Guard House, two men who looked to be in their late forties stood up and approached them. One’s face looked very familiar somehow, but Ohme couldn’t quite place him. Her memory wasn’t as sharp as it used to be. It was strange how she could remember the special things from her life so vividly but the smaller things slipped away so fast. The man’s hair was closely cropped and gray, but he stood tall and strong, radiating vitality and joy in his shining eyes.

“Miss Ohme?” asked the familiar man.

“Do I know you, sir?” she asked. “You look so familiar.”

“Yes, ma’am, my name is Johnny Hartford. We met years ago, right here as a matter of fact.” He looked up at her grandson. “And you must be Tate?”

“Yes, sir, I am,” said Tate. “Are you . . . Mr. Johnny from Christmas?”

Johnny grinned.

“You remember. The last time I saw you, you were about six years old. I’m surprised you remember.”

“Oh, yes, I remember you now, Johnny,” said Ohme. “You came to Woodburn with us. But we never saw you again after that day. How are you?”

“I’m doing well now, ma’am,” said Johnny. “Tate, I see you’re in the service now. A lieutenant, I see.”

“Yes, sir. I still remember finding your Purple Heart. I didn’t know what it was then.”

“This is my co-worker, Dale Adams,” said Johnny.

The other man bent down and extended his hand to Ohme.

“So nice to finally meet you, Miss Ohme,” said Dale. “Johnny has talked about you and Tate so many times over the years. Now I see what Johnny meant when he talked about this beautiful town of Pendleton.”

“What have you been doing all these years, Johnny?” asked Ohme.

“Well, ma’am, after I left here, I cleaned myself up and started out in life again. I went to school and became a paramedic.” He turned towards the pretty red bench, remembering that cold morning. “I never told anyone this, but I laid down on that bench to die that night. I had given up on life. Those war wounds tore me up so bad inside and out. Even the alcohol wasn’t enough then to block out the pain.” He turned back to them. “But the people in this town gave me hope and dignity again just when I needed it the most. I was very ashamed that day, but I became determined to change my life and make a difference. If you hadn’t taken care of me that day, then I wouldn’t be standing here right now. You saved my life, Miss Ohme.”

“Johnny is one of our best medics,” said Dale, sensing Johnny’s modesty. “He’s been awarded more citations than anyone else in our department’s history. He never gives up. I’d say he’s saved over a thousand lives on emergency calls over the years.”

“Well, I guess it’s a good thing that we invited you to Christmas dinner that day,” said Ohme.

“Yes, ma’am, it sure was,” laughed Dale.

“I have a great respect for paramedics and the work they do,” said Ohme. “Last year, we had quite a scare when my great-grand-daughter almost drowned swimming with friends in the Clinch River. Luckily, someone was there to do CPR, and he brought her back. But when the ambulance took her away, her friend’s parents were in such a panic that they never got his name. I’ve always wanted to thank that man for what he did.”

Tate noticed that Johnny’s face had suddenly become white, and Dale’s eyes had widened in surprise.

“Where did you say she was?” asked Johnny in a hoarse voice.

“The Clinch River in Virginia,” said Ohme calmly. “Oh, here’s my little darling now. Audrey, come meet someone very special.”

Johnny turned to see a five year old girl with bright blonde curls and beautiful blue eyes come running up to them. Her little face was beaming with a smile of excitement, but she stopped suddenly when she saw Johnny. Audrey looked up and studied his face carefully before turning to her father.

“Daddy! Daddy!” she yelled with glee. “That’s the man who saved me!”

“What?” asked Tate. He turned to Johnny, whose eyes were quickly filling with tears.

“Johnny did save a girl on that river last year,” said Dale. “He was off duty, though. Just happened to be fishing out there. Good thing, too, because no one else was around but the other two kids. When the parents finally got there, he sure let them have it for letting kids that young swim alone.”

Tate’s face had reddened.

“We never allowed her to visit that family again. Thank God you were there, Mr. Johnny. I never dreamed you would have been the one to save her.”

“Ohme told me that you must have been an angel sent to save me,” said Audrey. “Are you an angel, Mr. Johnny?”

Johnny leaned all the way down to her.

“No, sweetie, I’m not an angel. But sometimes God sends people to do the work of angels. Did you know that a long time ago, right here on this bench, your Ohme and Daddy were angels to me?”

“Really?” asked Audrey, intrigued.

“Yes,” said Johnny. “They saved my life just like I saved yours. If they hadn’t been there then, then I wouldn’t be here now. And I wouldn’t have been there to save you. But God sometimes looks out for special people like you, and Ohme, and your Daddy.”

“Well this is a special town then,” said Dale. “Wow, Johnny, you weren’t kidding when you said it was a magical place.”


“Ohme” Tourism Guide
I first ran across the real Grandma Ohme from Pendleton, South Carolina, when she became a fan of my partner, Patricia Neely-Dorsey. Nancy Hellams, better known to her grandson as “Ohme,” loved Patricia’s poetry book, Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life in Poems. Nancy was also a big promoter of her home town, Pendleton. Intrigued by her nickname, I started checking out her many web articles on Pendleton, which are posted on a great service called Squidoo.

As soon as I found out the incredibly cute origin of the nickname, I just knew that I had to include that somehow in a southern story. As I read, the potential story just got better and better. Ohme was honored for her volunteer work by having a bench named for her in the historic Village Green in Pendleton’s downtown square, the site of large festivals throughout the year. The bench was right beside a charming historic building called the Old Guard House that now serves as the visitor center for this beautiful small southern town. The town had named her Queen for a Day, complete with a crown. The Village Green was surrounded on all sides by amazing antique shops, a wide range of restaurants, and gorgeous historic buildings. There were two antebellum estates nearby that hosted weddings and tours throughout most of the year. This was a tourism story just waiting to be written.

That’s about where the facts stopped and the fiction began. The plot for the short story “Ohme” is entirely fictional, save for the inspirations and settings above. I wrote the first draft of the story on Thanksgiving Day of this year. As you can imagine, it was a strange request to ask Nancy if I could use her as an inspirational character in a fictional story inspired by her and her beloved town. She declined to accept at first and was very hesitant about the idea.

More than one person, including my partner Patricia, had to convince her to at least give the idea a try. Also, I had to convince her, with absolute honesty, that her character in the story would be a personification of all the generous citizens of Pendleton. I read through some of the articles of the other citizens and was greatly touched by their stories of growing up in Pendleton. Of course, you can probably guess that it might still be a bit embarrasing to have someone write a story featuring you, even if the story is meant to promote the town you love.

The Village Green hosts a Fall Festival and a Spring Jubilee. Additionally, Pendleton holds a Freedom Fest at nearby Veterans Park during the summer. All offer great antiquing opportunities in the nine shops located in and near the town, along with delicious places to eat in the several restaurants and many vendors. The Spring Jubilee is the largest event and hosts a highly-competitive arts and crafts contest that is well known throughout the region.

In addition, the historic antebellum estates of Woodburn and Ashtabula offer a beautiful look into the past through charming tours. The Pendleton Historic Foundation still works hard to maintain and preserve these Southern treasures of architecture and elegance. Please check out the website links below to learn more about all these exciting tourism attractions and Step into the Story yourself.

Special Note on Photos/Graphics: all of these were gleaned from Nancy's Squidoo lenses or sent over by Nancy from other people. Lots of people are out to promote Pendleton, so please check her lenses below for full crediting. The three photos of Woodburn (taken throughout different seasons) all come from the Pendleton Historic Foundation, found in the link below. Please visit their site for more photos and information on these interesting sites to visit. You will notice the Old Guard House in some of the spring photos. The visitor center for the Pendelton District Commission is now located in the Old Guard House. These pictures come from Ohme's Spring Jubilee lense in the links below. Please visit their link below also for all the nearby travel opportunities in the area. All photos and graphics should be considered copyrighted. Click on any photo/graphic to enlarge. The beautiful dogwood photo came from cindy47452 at Flickr. Check out her other work at the following link:

Tourism Links
Antique Shopping In Pendleton

Meet the real Ohme

Meet the real Doc, Ohme's husband

Pendleton Historic Foundation (site for Woodburn Plantation)

Pendleton District Commission (offers wide range of tourism in the region-located in the Old Guard House!)

Town of Pendleton

1826 On the Green at Farmers Hall (restaurant)

Spring Jubilee (includes videos)

Ohme named Queen for a Day!

Official South Carolina Tourism Site

How I first came across Ohme
Nancy created a lens to promote my parter Patricia's book. Please visit her link included in Patricia's posting on this site in the October Stories By Month in the archive. Nancy's link to Patricia's book has some features, like video, that the SELTI feature does not. Nancy did such a great job promoting the book that I decided to include her link on the SELTI posting.

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Coming Soon: Beyond the Shadows of Graceland . . . and later: an excerpt from Literary Trails of the North Carolina Mountains: A Guidebook by Georgann Eubanks, published by UNC Press.