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M. Scott Morris is an award-winning feature writer and columnist, and has worked at the Mighty Daily Journal since 1996. If you've got a story idea about an interesting person, place or thing, he'd love to hear about it.

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scott.morris@journalinc.com

Stories Written by M. Scott Morris

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com In June, Mooreville high school student Kayla Neal, 17, of the Auburn community, was chosen by the Mississippi Beef Council to be its Mississippi Beef Ambassador. Among her first duties was to give out samples of filet mignon at Sam's Club in Tupelo.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
In June, Mooreville high school student Kayla Neal, 17, of the Auburn community, was chosen by the Mississippi Beef Council to be its Mississippi Beef Ambassador. Among her first duties was to give out samples of filet mignon at Sam’s Club in Tupelo.

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

It’s not Kayla Neal’s responsibility to create more understanding between human beings and cows.

“No,” she said. “That’s not it.”

In June, she was named Mississippi Beef Ambassador by the Mississippi Beef Council. It’s her job to spread the benefits of eating beef and to share recipes.

Those are things cows probably couldn’t endorse.

“I can still eat chicken,” the 17-year-old Auburn community resident said.

But steak is her favorite, especially ribeyes.

Neal was selected as an ambassador based on her 4-H involvement, her academic work at Mooreville High School and her interview skills.

Those interview skills will be put to the test in September, when she’ll travel to Denver, Colorado, to compete with kids from about 20 other states to become National Beef Ambassador.

“You have to tell them your knowledge of beef,” Neal said.

The national title comes with scholarship money that Neal would like to spend at Mississippi State University, where she hopes to study veterinary medicine.

“When I become a vet, I want to work with all animals, even the crazy ones, like – I don’t know – lions or something,” she said.

To prepare for the career, she works at Tupelo Veterinary Hospital.

“I do a lot of kennel work. I take care of the animals. I give them their medication,” she said. “I also hold the animals during their exams.”

She has her own personal barnyard at home that requires care and feeding.

“One time, our neighbors had goats and I wanted goats so bad. I talked my mom into it and got some, and it sort of started from there,” Neal said. “Now, I’ve got all types of animals. I’ve got goats, sheep, donkeys, ponies, pigs, rabbits. I’ve even had a pet opossum.”

She’s shown cows with her sister in the past, but admitted she has plenty of studying to do to increase her beef knowledge by September.

It also might be worth her time to learn how to work a barbecue grill, something her mom usually handles.

“I never have, but I’ve seen her do it,” Neal said. “I’m sure I could do it.”

Her Mississippi Beef Ambassador duties will include talking to Boys & Girls Clubs, and she’ll probably visit classrooms when school’s back in session.

She’s especially looking forward to Aug. 17, when she’ll travel to Starkville, home of her beloved Mississippi State Bulldogs.

“I’ll get to feed the football team steak,” Neal said. “That’s going to be great.”

Members of the team don’t have to worry about Neal’s lack of training behind a grill. The cooking will be done by members of the Mississippi Beef Council and the Mississippi Cattleman’s Association.

scott.morris@journalinc.com

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com Dorothy Dailey, left, and Norma Grissom both took up quilting after retirement and have a string of first-place and best-of-show awards to their names.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Dorothy Dailey, left, and Norma Grissom both took up quilting after retirement and have a string of first-place and best-of-show awards to their names.

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

Blood stains are a real hazard when hand-sewing a quilt.

One finger on the back side of the fabric tends to get abused by needles. The sticks usually aren’t deep enough to draw blood, but it happens.

“That finger gets stuck pretty good, but finally …,” Dorothy Dailey, 82, said.

“… it kind of gets dead after a while …,” added Norma Grissom, 77.

“… so it doesn’t hurt anymore …,” Dailey said.

“… then when you get through with the quilt, it gets back to normal,” Grissom said.

Normal is relative because Dailey and Grissom move from one project to the next, grabbing whatever free time they can to sit in their recliners – Grissom’s is in Corinth and Dailey’s is in Burnsville – to sew away.

It’s relaxing and enjoyable, they said.

It’s also a consuming passion.

“I don’t clean house. I don’t do anything whenever I’m quilting,” Grissom said. “My husband, I’ve heard him say, ‘I do not talk to her. She might miss a stitch.’ He says that, but he’s just kidding.”

Dailey said fixing dinner is something she does after she finishes a quilt. These days, she tries to finish one a year, though she’s put as much as three years into a single project in her drive to get everything just so.

“You work hard to be perfect, but you can’t hardly make it,” she said.

Grissom has worked up to two years on a single quilt.

“I was quilting on it every spare moment,” she said. “Sometimes I’d work until 10 or 12 at night, and put in 6 to 8 hours a day on it.”

The type of dedication Grissom and Dailey devote doesn’t go unnoticed. The Mississippi Quilt Association created a Mississippi Quilt Legacy Committee to honor the work of great quilters.

Two quilts by Dailey, including the one she spent three years on, and two quilts by Grissom, including the one she spent two years on, will be on display at the Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum in Jackson until October.

“The first quilt hanging and facing the new entrance was Dorothy’s ‘Bluebird Garden’ quilt,” Grissom said in a press release about the exhibit. “If you go in from the left, my ‘Hearts & Flowers’ was the first quilt hanging and facing the entrance.

“You could see both of them before you entered the right or left. I thought that was quite an honor for both of us and it was more special since we were from the same guild.”

They’re members of the Needle Chasers Quilt Guild of Tishomingo County, and Dailey is a founding member. Grissom is also a member of Cross City Piece Makers in Corinth.

Finding the time

Dailey’s introduction to quilt-making began when she was a child by her mother’s side. But working and raising a family didn’t allow much time for hobbies.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com When her daughter wanted Dorothy Dailey to make a peacock quilt, she wasn't sure how to do it until her daughter went to the library and copied a bunch of photographs of peacocks for inspiration.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com
When her daughter wanted Dorothy Dailey to make a peacock quilt, she wasn’t sure how to do it until her daughter went to the library and copied a bunch of photographs of peacocks for inspiration.

The same goes for Grissom, who focused her efforts on practical matters.

“I was always sewing,” Grissom said. “I made everything my daughter and I wore until she got a job and started buying her own clothes.”

They found their time in retirement, and the two took different paths to acquiring their skills.

Grissom studied patterns and books, and took classes to learn new techniques.

“I take classes all the time,” she said. “You always learn something. I think they’re fun.”

Dailey certainly checked patterns and books, but trial-and-error was her teacher.

“I mostly learned by myself,” she said.

Their stories show how different roads lead to the same destination. They’ve both reached a point of mastery, with first place and best of show awards from quilting contests around the South and the Midwest.

“There are people in Mississippi who know our names, if not us,” Grissom said.

For family

Both have had their work appraised, with numbers ranging from $3,200 to $3,800 – not that they expect to get people to pay such amounts.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com Norma Grissom thought this colorful quilt was going to be hers, then her son saw it. She named the quilt "It Once was Mine."

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Norma Grissom thought this colorful quilt was going to be hers, then her son saw it. She named the quilt “It Once was Mine.”

“Nobody understands how much it takes to get a whole quilt finished, how much time and money we put in,” Grissom said.

“I never sold them,” Dailey said. “I’ve given mine to nieces and nephews, my children and grandchildren.”

“I give them away, too,” Grissom said.

She keeps photographs of those quilts in a journal, while Dailey has a package of photos that she hasn’t gotten around to putting into an album.

Not all quilts go to others – theoretically, at least.

Grissom loves bright colors, so she made a multihued quilt that really popped.

“I thought it was going to be mine,” she said. “My son walked in and said, ‘Who’s quilt is that?’ I said, ‘It must be yours.’ I named it, ‘It Once was Mine.’”

Dailey’s daughter came with a request that turned into a challenge and something of a mother/daughter project.

“She said, ‘Why don’t you make a quilt of a peacock?’ I said, ‘I don’t have a pattern for a peacock,’” Dailey said. “She went to a library and ran off a bunch of pictures of peacocks.”

The resulting piece is a well-planned dance of purples and greens, complete with the kind of attention to detail that stops just short of perfection simply because Dailey is only human.

Grissom also strives for a personal standard, and she’s bothered by inevitable mistakes.

“I told my husband, ‘There’s a error,’ and I pointed it out to him. He said, ‘Don’t tell anybody because they won’t notice,’” she said, “but I knew it was there.”

To the finish

A reporter at a quilt show in Des Moines, Iowa, once asked Dailey to describe her favorite part of quilting.

“I told her, ‘The best part is getting one finished,’” she said.

When the women get rolling, it can seem like a race with the devil, especially near the end.

“The last two weeks, you can’t wait to be done,” Grissom said, and Dailey nodded along with her.

Toward the end of their projects, significant others know to tread carefully, and their much-abused fingers become numb to the pain of thousands and thousands of tiny sticks.

“You really have to watch out,” Dailey said, “or you’ll end up with blood on your quilt.”

scott.morris@journalinc.com

M. SCOTT MORRIS

M. SCOTT MORRIS

A baby boomer has told me multiple stories about growing up in Tupelo as a free-range kid, who walked, ran or rode his bike all over town for fun and distraction.

One day he and his friend found some dynamite.

Yeah, they got their pyrotechnic jollies with a dilapidated structure – everything went BOOM!

No one was hurt, and his mama’s been dead several years and can no longer worry about what could’ve been.

(You might be shocked to learn how much responsibility those kids grew up to wield.)

I’m from Generation X. We’re the ones who were going to bring down America, like the baby boomers were supposed to do before us.

Now it’s the Millennials who are destined to destroy our great and powerful country, and I think they can do it, too.

Millennials are a little bit too nice, don’t you think? They’re so darn pleasant that they must be up to something.

But back to me, a Gen-Xer.

I also was a free-range kid. I never blew anything up, but I was in a couple of stupid bottle rocket battles that I would appreciate your not telling my mother about.

Speaking of my mother, there were times when I was ordered to get out of the house. It didn’t matter where, just out.

The point is my childhood came with ample freedom and I survived, just like the baby boomers did.

If you’re reading this, you obviously survived, too, so congratulations, though I don’t know if yours was free-range survival or more of a gilded cage type of thing.

My kids – I haven’t heard if their generation has a name yet – are of the gilded cage variety.

(Hey, I’m going to go ahead and put forth Gilded Cagers as a potential generation name. Consider it for a while, talk about it amongst yourselves and get back to me. No rush.)

Why would I want my kids in a gilded cage? Well, I don’t, but there are reasons for it.

First, I could’ve been killed or maimed at least three times that I remember, and there could’ve been more dances with death that slipped my notice.

Second, there are more people on the roads these days, and many of them use fingers that should be on steering wheels to type the letters “lol” on their phones.

(Another side note: I would hate for my last communication to the world to be the letters “lol” but I’d feel privileged to actually laugh out loud a moment before the darkness overtakes me.)

The third and worst reason to keep my kids in a gilded cage is because everybody else is doing it.

The current situation can’t stand. I know the kids need more freedom, mainly because Millennials might fail to destroy America.

Who’ll be left to accomplish the deed? My kids, of course. They’ll need to be ready.

M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com State Sen. Chris McDaniel speaks to supporters Friday night at the Summit in Tupelo during his "Truth and Justice Tour" throughout the state.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
State Sen. Chris McDaniel speaks to supporters Friday night at the Summit in Tupelo during his “Truth and Justice Tour” throughout the state.

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

TUPELO – State Sen. Chris McDaniel and some 65 supporters shared a sense of outrage during Friday’s meeting at the Summit.

It was part of McDaniel’s “Truth and Justice Tour” that began in Olive Branch on Thursday and continues into next week.

“The conservative movement in this state feels betrayed,” McDaniel said.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com State Sen. Chris McDaniel shakes hands with a supporter as he is welcomed at the Summit on Friday night during his "Truth and Justice Tour" throughout the state.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
State Sen. Chris McDaniel shakes hands with a supporter as he is welcomed at the Summit on Friday night during his “Truth and Justice Tour” throughout the state.

He received more votes than U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in the June 3 election, but not enough to avoid a runoff. Cochran won that June 24 runoff, helped in part by appealing to traditionally Democratic voters.

McDaniel said Friday his campaign recruited 30,000 more Republican votes between the primary and the runoff.

“My opponent added 40,000 Democrats to his total, a Republican record,” McDaniel said.

He said Cochran’s campaign hired democratic operatives and used race-baiting phone messages to get black votes.

“By extension, they said all of you were racists, which is not true,” he told the crowd, many of whom had blue McDaniel signs. “It is not race we see; it is principles we see.”

Jordan Russell, Cochran’s spokesman, told The Associated Press outreach to African-Americans was based on relationships the senator developed over four decades of service.

“If Chris McDaniel had asked African-Americans to vote for him rather than complaining about them participating in the process, he might have won the election,” Russell said.

McDaniel said his campaign’s investigation into the election has resulted in “more than 10,000 irregularities,” and his team still hasn’t been granted access to the voting records of 22 counties.

He said he’s committed to carrying on his investigation and considering filing a legal challenge, no matter what Mississippi Republican Party leaders would prefer.

“Let me tell them something: Justice has no time table,” he said, and several in the audience responded with “Amen.”

Santo Arico, 76, drove from Oxford to attend the gathering. He’s campaigned for other Republicans in the past, but he’s not sure how he will vote in November.

“With what the party leaders did with this election, they crushed the will of hard-working conservatives in the state,” Arico said.

Starkville resident Mary Cole, 72, said she fears for the country’s direction and believes McDaniel is the man to help turn things around.

“I’ve been a Republican all my life, but today, because of what happened, I’m not a Democrat, I’m not a Libertarian and I’m not a Republican,” Cole said.

McDaniel spent nearly an hour and half at the Summit, and much of that was for questions and answers. He’ll be in Jackson today, followed by stops in D’Iberville on Monday and Hattiesburg on Tuesday.

“Conservatives, we are just getting started,” McDaniel said. “This will not be my last trip to Tupelo.”

scott.morris@journalinc.com

Humans have been warned to stay away from the apes, but Malcolm (Jason Clarke) needs help in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Pictured, from left, are Caesar (Andy Serkis), Koba (Toby Kebbell), Malcolm and Maurice (Karin Konoval). (AP Photo/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

Humans have been warned to stay away from the apes, but Malcolm (Jason Clarke) needs help in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Pictured, from left, are Caesar (Andy Serkis), Koba (Toby Kebbell), Malcolm and Maurice (Karin Konoval). (AP Photo/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

There was a moment in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” when I asked myself, Is this silly?

Caesar (Andy Serkis) the leader of the apes is having a heartfelt conversation with his son, Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston). They speak in a halting way, affected, I assume, by the shape of their mouths.

Then I thought, No, this is an important scene for these two characters. I’d merely been caught off guard by two real-looking apes having what I’m tempted to think of as a human moment.

I fell out of the movie’s world one other time, which I’ll cover later, but for the most part, I was a captive audience.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” begins after a simian flu has wiped out the vast majority of humans on Earth.

A group of survivors live in San Francisco, and they’re not far from a group of former lab animals that evolved more complex brains because of an experimental Alzheimer’s drug.

Being former lab animals means they have a natural distrust of humans.

The humans, as you might suspect, have a hard time understanding the concept of talking apes.

But the humans need access to a hydroelectric dam in territory controlled by the apes. The question at the center of the movie is, Can these different tribes peacefully coexist? If you’ve seen the movie previews, you probably already know the answer.

Concerning the second time I popped out of the movie’s world, there was a stretch when I wondered, How long is this going to last?

I definitely felt a drag, but soon slipped back into the movie for more cool interactions between apes and humans.

This is science fiction done well. It’s clear the cast and crew committed to what they were doing, otherwise a story of highly evolved apes could’ve come off as hokey.

Instead, my 9-year-old son and I left the theater with a way to talk about cycles of violence and how something like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could continue, even with people of good conscience on both sides.

It’s an entertaining and thought-provoking parable, with plenty of action-packed sequences of apes swinging through a post-apocalyptic cityscape, as well as quiet scenes that touch upon what it means to be human.

I give “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” an A minus.

It’s showing at Malcos in Tupelo, Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, as well as Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville and Movie Reel 4 in New Albany.

Look for movie reviews in Scene on Thursdays, and listen each Tuesday morning on Wizard 106.7 between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.

M. SCOTT MORRIS

M. SCOTT MORRIS

In a different life at a different newspaper, I covered a pleasant town of mostly good, relatively civic-minded people. There were a few cranks and criminals thrown in, but you can’t have a town without at least some cranks and criminals.

Up the road was another town that I dare say was just as picturesque with a more or less equal distribution of fine folks and a smattering of less-desirables.

I was a newcomer to the area, so I didn’t have a rooting interest one way or another.

For some longtime residents, real hatred – or something as close as to be indistinguishable – existed between the towns. A win for one was considered a loss for the other.

This mutual distaste didn’t involve everyone, and I never witnessed violence because of it, but there was such unexpected pettiness.

For instance, the Department of Environmental Quality had a program to collect all the castaway tires in the county.

This was a beautiful part of the country, but a number of its residents saw nothing wrong with throwing trash wherever it landed.

Certain creeks and ditches became impromptu dumping grounds overnight, and you didn’t have to look far to find whole or shredded tires in someone’s yard or along a right-of-way.

The two towns needed to work together to choose a central place to store the tires until DEQ picked them up for disposal at no charge to anyone but the taxpayers.

As the mayor of one town told me, “This is a gift. DEQ is giving us a gift.”

It would seem like a no-brainer, especially since these events happened in the days before Tea Party politics, when government spending to improve quality of life wasn’t as despised as it is today.

But the mayor had to work to convince the city council of the program’s value.

The problem?

The opposing town would be able to store its used tires at the host town’s site. That wasn’t fair, councilmen said.

I was a younger man then, so much so that I was shocked by the difficulty of implementing a plan that seemed to be a win-win.

What I didn’t take into account was how human we all are – terribly and wonderfully human.

Now, I know I should’ve been happy that the towns weren’t firing rockets at each other.

World history and current events remind us how truly nasty two different groups of people can be toward one another.

No matter how contentious things got between those towns with mostly good people, they were dealing with a small issue.

Maybe it’s better for us to expend our energy over tiny squabbles, leaving us too tired to start real, life-altering trouble.

We’re lucky to have our petty problems because they’re the kind that will shrink to nearly nothing when we’re unlucky enough to have big problems come our way.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com Extras in Pitch Perfect 2.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Amanda Harville, left, Heather Harville, Delta Jurney and Rob Sandlin drove to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to work as extras for “Pitch Perfect 2,” which is slated for a May 2015 release.

By M. Scott Morris
Daily Journal

Amanda Harville can’t be too specific about how she spent part of her summer.

“If we speak about what happened, we could get sued for over $100,000,” the 18-year-old Shannon resident said.

“We signed non-disclosure agreements,” said Delta Jurney, 22, of Amory.

They weren’t dealing with the National Security Agency or the CIA. They were dealing with Hollywood – or in this case, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Amanda Harville and her sister, Heather, 20, along with Jurney and Pontotoc resident Rob Sandlin, 21, drove down south to be extras in “Pitch Perfect 2.” It’s a follow-up to a 2012 comedy about an all-girls’ singing group.

They learned about the opportunity on Facebook, and were told to dress as though they were attending an outdoor music festival.

“It was supposed to be a Bohemian, hippy feel,” Jurney said. “Bright colors. Any kind of patterns.”

“Modern hippy,” Sandlin said.

Their first experience was June 20, when they were on set from 7 p.m. until 2 the following morning.

“We didn’t stay the night. We drove straight back,” Sandlin said. “They got back at 8 in the morning. I live in Pontotoc so I got home at 8:30.”

“I had to get back in time to go to work,” Heather Harville explained.

During breaks in filming, they were given water, Gatorade, chips, cookies and pizza.

They didn’t sign up to be extras in time to get paid, so the trip that could cost them more than $100,000 each was a volunteer effort.

Sandlin and Brett Gullick from New Albany returned to Baton Rouge last week for more filming, and they were paid $101.50 a day for a pair of 12-hour days.

“I have a lot of respect for actors who work 12 hours, day after day, on a film,” Sandlin said.

Additional payment for the pair came in the form of steak and chicken dinners.

The women were annoyed by the report about the steak and chicken, but they enjoyed their brush with Hollywood stars in Baton Rouge.

“It was definitely a good experience to go with my friends,” Heather Harville said. “We made some new memories together.”

Sandlin said he appreciated the chance to see the performers in person, though he’s contractually barred from mentioning them by name.

The extras were allowed to say “Pitch Perfect 2” is slated to open May 15, 2015.

“We made a pact to go see it all together,” Heather Harville said.

When they go, they’ll surely see Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow and others from the cast of “Pitch Perfect” on screen again, if a quick Internet search for “Pitch Perfect 2” can be trusted.

TUPELO – With a pair of 4-1 votes, the Lee County Board of Supervisors agreed on Monday to take baby steps toward building a new jail.

The first vote authorized Sean Thompson, board administrator, to write up a resolution in favor of constructing a regional jail.

Such a facility would be hosted by Lee County and run by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, but one or more counties would have dedicated beds. The county also could receive payments to house state and federal prisoners, which would help pay the jail’s operating costs.

The second vote was to enter into an agreement with Pryor & Morrow Architects and Engineers to conduct a jail study.

District 4 Supervisor Tommie Lee Ivy voted “no” in both cases, saying that he wasn’t against a regional jail but needed more time to study the issue.

There are several more steps to take before Lee County can build a regional jail.

First, the board must pass at a later meeting the resolution it agreed to draw up on Monday.

Then county officials need to find another county (or counties) willing to partner in a regional jail.

District 2 Supervisor Bobby G. Smith said he’s discussed the issue with an official of a potential partner county within the past 45 days, and there are plans for further talks.

Next, the Mississippi Legislature must pass a bill to authorize construction. In the best-case scenario, that authorization would take effect on July 1, 2015.

Board President Darrell Rankin said some in the Legislature have been against regional jails.

“If we don’t get legislative support, we’re dead in the water, anyway,” Rankin said.

Ed Hargett, president of Magnolia Correctional Management, agreed with Rankin, but said there are reasons to be hopeful.

One reason is Mississippi House Bill 585, which changed the threshold for grand larceny from $500 to $1,000.

“The law puts a burden on local sheriffs to house prisoners the state will no longer house,” said Hargett, adding that he expects sheriffs across the state to make their concerns known to lawmakers.

Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said most larceny cases his department deals with fall within the $500 to $1,000 range.

At this point, there are numerous issues to resolve before construction of a new jail can begin, but Johnson and board members agreed that something must be done to relieve overcrowding and other issues with the current Lee County Jail.

The American Correctional Association’s standards of operations detail square footage needs, as well as the number of day rooms, showers, commodes and more. An increase in the female prison population is also a factor as the county considers its jail options.

“We definitely need long-range planning,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to have the same problem 10 to 15 years from now.”

THOMAS WELLS | BUY AT PHOTOS.DJOURAL.COM Sheila Franklin and Spencer, a Capuchin monkey, share some quality time at Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo.

THOMAS WELLS | BUY AT PHOTOS.DJOURNAL.COM
Sheila Franklin and Spencer, a Capuchin monkey, share some quality time at Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo.

TUPELO – Sheila Franklin works with a bunch of animals.

She’s a team member at Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo, where bird song can be interrupted by a lion’s roar.

Kiki the lion purred when she saw Franklin, who reached between holes in a fence to rub Kiki’s fur.

“I do it as long as I know where her mouth is because they are animals,” said Franklin, 57, of Belden.

She used to sell commercial and residential real estate, then she asked her husband and park owner, Dan Franklin, if he needed any help.

“He said, ‘Yes, you can help with the Buffalo Park,’” she said. “That was five or six years ago, and I’m still here.”

Her duties vary from changing diapers on baby monkeys to manning the gift shop. Guess which of those activities she’d rather avoid.

“The gift shop is so confining,” she said. “I like meeting people and talking to them, but sitting in the gift shop for eight to 10 hours a day, I don’t like it. I’d rather be outside.”

The monkeys are her favorites. She said their DNA isn’t far off from a human’s, and she feels a cross-species connection.

“You just become closer to them. Their needs are just like ours, pretty much, and they’re probably the meanest things we have here. They’ll bite,” she said. “But you look at them in the eye and it’s like you’re talking to a human being.”

Howie the howler monkey is a buddy, and Franklin helped raise him.

“He’s pretty much the best monkey we have. It’s just his disposition, mainly because when he bites it doesn’t hurt that bad,” she said. “I think everybody probably likes Howie the best. He usually puts on a show for everybody.”

Ray Ray the Capuchin monkey has a personal relationship with Franklin. Ray Ray goes home with her each night, and even has a cage and “nanny” at Franklin’s other business, Efficiency Billing Services.

“If we go out of town, we can’t just put her in a kennel,” Franklin said. “Her nanny Rebecca takes care of her for us.”

Franklin can drive the big buses that take visitors to see where the buffalo roam. She’s also cleaned out the barn that houses Tall Boy and Patches, the park’s giraffes.

“They’re just so beautiful,” she said. “They’re gorgeous.”

On any given day, Franklin and her co-workers give tours, mend fences, oversee pony rides, care for sick animals, rescue calves from mud holes, wash the monkeys’ stuffed animals, and much more.

“There’s nobody here who has a special job,” she said. “We are small and everybody jumps in to do what needs to be done.”

That said, Franklin refuses to feed the snakes or clean their enclosures. About the only thing she’ll do is make sure the locks are secure.

On the flip side, it’s the furry little marmosets who refuse to let her get close.

“They don’t like me. I don’t know why,” she said, sounding hurt by the rejection. “I don’t understand it because I raised them and fed them, and I can’t feed them any more.”

It’s a mystery, but that’s what comes from working with animals.

“We’re around them all day long. You learn all their personalities,” Franklin said. “You have to respect that.”

Besides, the animosity from the marmosets might be a blessing in disguise.

“If you have to clean out the marmoset pen,” she said, “you come out smelling like a marmoset.”

M. SCOTT MORRIS

M. SCOTT MORRIS

I need to build anticipation back into my life, since my summer vacation was pretty much spent before we hit July.

It was an excellent trip, packed with fishing, fellowship, river rafting, more fishing and plenty of quality food and conversation.

From that sentence, you might surmise that the food included fish we caught, but no. I spent hours belly-deep in an Oregon stream where trout laughed at me and my meager offerings.

Maybe that’s a positive. Vacations should be good for the soul, so it’s nice to have a humility-building exercise in the mix. It’s hard to tell, but I might be a better person than I was the previous week.

I’m a big believer in vacations. I sold my vacation back to my employer many years ago, and I have no idea why.

Actually, that’s not true because I remember exactly: I didn’t have enough money to go anywhere.

That was stupid because I could’ve stayed around my apartment and read for the week.

I’m talking about the kind of reading binge where you have to peel your clothes off after a few days.

The kind of reading where the couch develops permanent indentations that you must apologize for when company visits.

The kind of reading where you injure yourself by keeping your neck at an odd angle on that same couch.

Those days are in the past and maybe in the future. For now, I have kids and dogs and a cat, so I can’t lose myself the way I might wish.

As already mentioned, my vacation had too many fish mocking me so there was no time to truly become an old-school reading slug.

But among the favorite memories I have from visiting the in-laws out West is sitting on their back deck with a book in hand, while a breeze blows through the trees and the hummingbirds buzz overhead, occasionally fighting for control of the feeder.

I so much enjoyed sitting still and reading that I had to ask my wife if it was OK. Was I being antisocial?

She assured me the others preferred for me to be quiet and in a corner with something to occupy my mind so I didn’t bother them.

She’s a hard woman, my wife, except she didn’t really say that. She said I should read as much as I wanted, and if it got to be a problem, she’d whack me upside the head.

She didn’t really say that, either. She said vacations are for relaxing, and if reading did that for me, it was fine.

In truth, it was far more than fine. It was exactly what I needed.

Maybe you’ve already had your vacation. Maybe it’s upcoming. Whatever your plans, I hope you get what you need.

And if you sell your vacation, make sure you get a whole heck of a lot for it.

M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.