It’s off the beaten path in rural Chickasaw County, but well worth the trip.
Beautiful yards are easily seen in Houston, Okolona, Woodland and Houlka, but you have to be going to Gerald and Elise Gray’s house on County Road 28 to enjoy a very large manicured lawn, massive pecan trees, several gardens and an Indian mound.
“This place is really too big for us,” said Gerald Gray. “We enjoy working it. It keeps us active.”
Gerald is best known as the barber at Warnick’s Barber Shop where he has been trimming hair for almost four years. And his ability to keep things cut and looking neat is evident in his 15-1/2-acre yard.
“This didn’t happen over night,” said Gerald. “We’ve worked on it for years and we’ve about got it the way we like it.”
The yard has 26 pecan trees that drop a bumper crop of nuts every other year. He also has a golden rain tree that drapes long limbs with yellow flowers late each summer and a dozen Bradford pear. The Grays also have more oak trees than you can shake a stick at and cedar and sycamore trees to boot.
“It gets pretty around here in the fall,” said Gray. “We do mow the leaves to keep it looking nice.”
And then there is the Indian mound out by the road.
“It’s called Thelma Mound and since it is on private property, it is restricted and its location is supposed to be secret,” said Gray. “When I bought the house they told me I couldn’t dig it or move it – I don’t want to.”
An archaeology class from Mississippi State came out last month and did a quick survey of the site.
“I showed them some of the shells, flint and this red, round rock that I found,” said Gray. “They acted like they wanted me to give it to them. I still enjoy showing those things to people and I’ve still got them.”
Elise Gray handles mowing duties and can be found atop their big 60-inch mower after every rain.
She said she tries to mow in the morning and afternoon and finds the work relaxing.
Elise also points out the flowers around the house are hers.
“I buy them and tell him where I want them planted,” said Elise with a grin. “Then I tell him when they need watering, weeding and trimming, too.”
Gerald, a former Marine, does have a yellow-and-red USMC windsock in the front yard flower bed.
The Grays have found many of their flowers growing wild on their property or along the roadside.
“We’ve got this orange flower that grows in the shade under trees,” said Gerald. “I have no idea what it is, but it grows well.”
Wild hydrangea, rambling roses and black-eyed Susans grow around the house.
Gerald also has three gardens on his property that produce corn, water melons, beans, okra, onions, squash and cantaloupe.
“The corn has done real well this year,” said Gray. “Sometimes one garden will do a lot better than another.”
Gray also plants a couple of rows of brown cotton each year.
“It looks just like regular cotton until the boll pops open,” said Gray. “Where regular cotton is white, this has a natural brown color. I just like it because it’s different.”
The Gray’s bought their spread north of Houston in 1998 and much of it was covered with woods. Constant care has seen downed trees quickly cut up and mowing has kept saplings from taking over.
“We’ve got blue bird houses and purple martin houses, too,” said Gray. “We’ve got a love-hate relationship with the deer, racoons and possum. We like them but we don’t want them eating up our garden.”
Both Gerald and Elise said there is an immense satisfaction with tending to their spot on this earth.
“Man’s made to work and we try to do something on this place every day,” said Gray. “We are proud of what we’ve made together. God has blessed us and we are just trying to be good stewards.”