During the final day of the Southern Legislative Conference, our last tour was to the Lazy Magnolia Brewery, located in Kiln, Mississippi. The tour started with a delicious lunch and Christina (the only 21-year-old ambassador) got a chance to sample the hard ice tea. Before the tour guide began to lead us, we had a few minutes to play some pool.
Once again, Makayla and Ryan, the masters of all games, demonstrated their astounding prowess.
Everyone finished eating their food, meanwhile, the owner of the brewery, Mark Henderson, began by telling his story. Lazy Magnolia was an idea he had after getting a beer-making kit for Christmas one year.
His wife, Leslie, helped make his dreams a reality, and that led to him providing us with a tour today!
There was a large room which contained the fermenting tanks.
A few of the workers were preparing to run the line, then box, and ship the beer. Mark Henderson explained all the moving parts which allowed us to understand the process of beer making without the kit. Another of the more interesting artifacts in the brewery, was the recreation of Amelia Earhart’s plane that hung from the roof.
The tour ended with Al Saucier telling us stories about his book, The Broke Spoke Moonshine Book. Inside the book are many facts about moonshine. For example, the story of the first moonshine high-speed race car. He shared many of his stories that inspired him to become an author. We headed to the bus and it felt bittersweet knowing this was our last tour for the SLC, but the state dinner was next and we couldn’t wait to represent the best state in the United States.
“Meet Me at The Crossroads” State Dinner, by Makayla Mason
The final night of the Southern Legislative Conference began with a cocktail hour.
We mingled with different legislators and had the opportunity to take a picture with Speaker Gunn of the Mississippi House of Representatives.
He informed us that he was originally a Texas man and had graduated from Baylor University in Waco.
While we mingled, we were informed that we would have the honor of representing Texas during the Parade of Flags. A few minutes before the dinner began, we met with the other representatives of the states and lined up in the order in which we joined the Union. This meant we were in the 13th position out of the 15 states that were represented. As we marched in to “Deep in The Heart of Texas” with our flag flying high, we couldn’t help but feel our Texas pride shine through us.
We made our way to the tables. Makayla and Beatriz sat with Oklahoma Representatives, while Christina and Ryan were seated with Mississippi Representatives. After a short introduction, presentations, and invocation, Speaker Gunn invited us to enjoy our dinner. We enjoyed a fresh salad with tangy and sweet Heirloom Tomatoes and Mississippi Watermelon. For our main course, we had Filet Mignon, Spicy Garlic Gulf Shrimp, Mississippi Grits, and Vegetables. Throughout the dinner, we were entertained by Pianist Bruce Levingston…
…who was praised by the New York Times for his “mastery of color and nuance.” We were honored, because he actually gave a shout out to us for being from Texas before he played his songs.
Also on hand was American Idol runner-up La’Porsha Renae…
…who certainly knew how to fill out a camera frame, and to belt out a tune.
An interesting dinner conversation quickly led our way to dessert where we enjoyed Mississippi Mud Pave.
While we walked away from the night, we realized how special and bitter- sweet the conclusion of the conference was. As the majority of the LEAP Ambassadors are graduating in the coming academic year and Ryan leaves for the University of Arkansas, the relation of finality hit a little too hard. The blow was softened, however, by a nice discussion with Levingston…
…and a nice goodbye to some newly-made friends.
Before the night ended, the LEAP Ambassadors threw a surprise party for Stephanie, who always goes above and beyond for every single one of us. We decided to get her a Mississippi themed cake to represent the great time we had at Biloxi, Mississippi as well as provide her with a memory she would never forget.
Everyone had a great time at the Southern Legislative Conference and it was sad that we had to go back to Texas the next day.
As LEAP Ambassadors, we contribute to the travel costs of our own trips. This contribution is an investment in our own education, and while part of our money goes for trip t-shirts, conference registration and museums, our money also goes to fun activities that we engaged in on trips. And that applied today, when we had a chance to go parasailing!
Only one member of our group had ever experienced parasailing and the rest of us were excited to embark on this new adventure. While making our way to deep waters (in every sense of the phrase), one of our tour guides helped the first pair into their harnesses. First up were Christina and Makayla, followed by Ryan and Beatriz, and ending with Mike and Stephanie. With the sun shining down on us, we were anxious for the adrenaline rush the thrill of parasailing elicited. The release from the boat was very smooth…
…and as we climbed higher into the Biloxi sky we began to understand why people love to parasail. It was a very peaceful 10 minutes, with a breeze and even sightings of dolphins!
While a pair was up in the sky, the other four took advantage and enjoyed the boat ride filled with music and the occasional splash of salty water. Probably the happiest of the para-sailors were Beatriz and Ryan, both of whom were productive while air-sailing.
Ryan filmed the entire 10-minute ride…
…while Beatriz waved her arms and kicked her feet in excitement!
The view from the sky was amazing, with the boat looking tiny.
It’s amazing to have these opportunities as undergraduates, and we had a great time in our rarefied adventure!
Hibachi Dinner, by Makayla Mason
For dinner, we decided on going to Kyoto Japanese Cuisine. Beatriz had never experienced a Hibachi style dinner so we happily made our way to the flat top grill. We made our decisions quickly with Beatriz and Makayla sharing the Hibachi Chicken and Shrimp, Ryan and Christina shared the Rock’N Roll Sushi and noodles, and Stephanie and Mike split the Hibachi Chicken and Lobster. We told our Chef, who was a very humorous man, that Beatriz had never experienced a Hibachi Grill, so he invited her up to cook for us. Beatriz did not last long as our Chef. We experienced an onion train with fire, steam, and sound effects, and then we watched our dinner being skillfully cooked. Beatrix also tried lobster for the first time, she enjoyed it! We left Kyoto with full stomachs ready to dance it all off at the conference’s “Missouri Night” gathering.
Missouri Kick-Off Party, by Christina Perez
After dinner, we headed to the 2018 Missouri Kick-off reception. Each year, the state who is hosting the following year (in this case, 2018’s Conference) gives a preview of the conference by hosting a night full of their state favorites. Although the states work together, there is no doubt they are a bit competitive, and the states try to provide as much fun as possible to “show off” their state.
When we arrived, we were greeted with goody bags which contained goodies from Missouri companies, and an entry way that was clearly Missouri made!
We took a group photo and headed for the dance floor. Although some of us were too shy to show off our groovy moves (Ryan), others did not waste a minute. We danced to hit songs from famous artists such as Michael Jackson, Gloria Gaynor, The Isley Brothers, and many more–alongside legislators from 15 states, including at least one Speaker of the House! Makayla expressed her enthusiasm of how she had enjoyed dancing to one of her favorite songs, Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson. Interestingly, for the first time ever, the LEAP Center Ambassadors are on tape “dancing”….
But this was not the last time! As a special treat, we also danced in a conga line while holding onto the mascot for the St. Louis Blues.
According to Missouri’s Speaker of the House (Todd Richardson), the purpose of the event was to allow everyone a great time, and we think the “show-me” state did its job well!
With school still more than a week away, the LEAP Ambassadors still have time for some fun learning before the semester gets underway. So, six LEAP Ambassadors and friends traveled to Houston to visit Murder by the Book and enjoy a presentation by author (and family-law attorney) Wendy Walker.
Ms. Walker has written several books, but her reputation as a writer was largely established with the publication of “All is Not Forgotten.” The book, addressing “memory science” and the affect that it can have on personality and the legal system, was a hit, and it prompted Walker to adopt a similar theme for her latest, “Emma in the Night.” By “similar theme,” we don’t mean to suggest that she wrote “All is not Forgotten” part 2; rather, she is continuing her exploration of how cognitive or personality disorders can play out in families and in the legal system.
In “Emma,” Walker explores Narcissistic Personality Disorder. As Walker notes, her books are a mix of psychology, family relationships, crime, and the legal system, and that is a good description of “Emma in the Night.” It’s an engaging book. In fact, it is so engaging, it has even prompted to Christina to read it!
Walker did a fine job of describing the book and her career at Murder By the Book.
She discussed her various careers, her slowish path to becoming an attorney, and—most interestingly—her foray into writing. Her first books didn’t sell well (“friends and family”), and her agent told her to adopt a new approach to her plots. Taking a step back, inspired by a NY Times article on memory science, and working more closely with her agent, she produced “All is not Forgotten.” With that hit—and the film rights picked up by Reese Witherspoon—Walker got the sales and publicity needed to become a full-time writer.
Walker was more engaging than most authors, and she was particularly gracious in reaching out to us during her presentation, asking us what we were studying, what interested us, and thanking us for coming.
We had time for a nice group photo…
–she even indulged us in a selfie–
…and she spent time discussing her travels and career after her presentation.
We thought about inviting her to dinner with us, but she had previously mentioned her crazy book-tour schedule, and we didn’t want to impinge upon her sleep availability further. So we headed off to Azuma on our own, to continue to expand our cultural horizons with six types of sushi!
It was also a chance for us to catch up—four of us work full-time, two of us work part-time—and to begin some preliminary plans for our trip to Big Bend National Park next week as well as the beginning of the fall semester.
The night was a nice break from the summer job grind, and many thanks to Wendy Walker for an educational and entertaining evening!
Biloxi, Mississippi is known for its delicious seafood, beautiful sunsets, and of course its lighthouse. The Biloxi Lighthouse is the signature monument that has withstood many sunny days and several stormy nights, as the city grew around it. It all began in 1847, when the US Congress authorized funds for a lighthouse to be built in Biloxi. By 1848, it was ready for operation.
Today, the Leap Ambassadors climbed its 57 spiral steps to the top that many keepers have had the task of climbing.
Inside of the lighthouse are the water marks of where the high waters of certain storms reached.
The most damaging of all was that of Hurricane Katrina, whose waters went up to 21.5 meters above sea level. Although the high waters and high-speed winds damaged most of the city, the lighthouse stood firm, a (literal) beacon of hope through all the disaster. As we reached the lantern room, we could see the mesmerizing glass lens that had illuminated the town through every situation imaginable.
The tour guide shared many fun facts about it and the lighthouse in general. Through the windows we could see miles and miles of sand, as well as people enjoying a day at the beach.
We also had a chance to explore Biloxi’s interesting Visitor’s Center, which has art…
…and a nice porch for observation and relaxation.
Sal & Mookie’s New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint, by Makayla Mason
For lunch, we decided to go to Sal & Mookie’s New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint. A family style diner, it had a character all of its own. As a starter, we snacked on Hummus with Brick Oven Flatbed as well as Portobello Fries. Both were delicious. After thoroughly contemplating the menu, we finally decided on two of Sal’s Selection Pizzas: the Rockaway Beach and the Gambino. After trying each, the savory Gambino was the resulting table favorite. Following soon after was our dessert. We ordered Crème Brûlée for those who have never tried it before. We also ordered the Grand Central Station. What pulled up to our table was 10 scoops of 10 different flavored ice cream balls with 10 different toppings. Afterwards, we had to ask ourselves “Did we conquer it, or did it conquer us?”
Gator Ranch, by Ryan Brim
As some of us spent time roaming the beaches, riding bikes along the coast, combing the beach, and relaxing this afternoon, two of us rode a bus to Moss Point, a town about 30 minutes away, to go on an airboat tour excursion at Gulf Coast Gator Ranch & Tours.
The airboat tour of Gator Ranch was less a gator-spotting adventure, and more of what can be described as the nautical version of an ATV driving through mud.
The trip was not a complete loss for those who wished to see an alligator while out on the murky waters.
We saw what our tour guide estimated to be a three-year-old gator, which was around three feet long. He (our tour guide, not the gator) also said that female alligators grow up to nine feet long, and that male alligators will continue to grow their whole lives.
Surprisingly, alligators really seem to enjoy marshmallows. When we asked who found this out, he said that some poor guy must have dropped his snack and the gators tore it up. That poor fellow’s sacrifice was surely a noble one, and now our tour guide had something to lure the little reptile to the side of our boat for a better photo-op.
The fact that we only saw one or two gators was fine, though, because after we finished our thrill-filled boat ride…
…we visited the gator ranch side of the facilities, where around thirty alligators were visible in a sectioned off part of the bayou.
With gator ranch under our belt, we returned to the hotel, eager for a “family-night” evening on the beach with more than 500 state legislators!
On Sunday, July 6th, the LEAP Ambassadors were enthusiastic to return to Houston. One of our favorite stops in Houston was the Moody Art Gallery, which Betty Moody generously opened to us on a Sunday.
As on our previous visit to the gallery, Ms. Moody treated us to a great tour. The works exhibited in her gallery were from Flatbed Press in Austin, with work by some of the most talented of artists: Luis Jimenez, Terry Allen, and Mary McCleary, among others.
Ms. Moody, displaying her immense knowledge in art, explained to us the various forms of printing showcased in the exhibit.
To begin her tour, Ms. Moody pointed out one of Luis Jimenez’s prints, Abu Ghraib. Reminiscent of Francisco de Goya’s “The Disasters of War,” Jimenez took to oil-crayon to sketch out this depiction of contorted, enslaved bodies.
Notice the mediums that he used to make this print. Jimenez, as Ms. Moody described, used a form of printmaking called lithography. In this process, the artist uses an oil-based crayon to draw onto Bavarian limestone (this limestone offers the greatest porosity). The surface is then washed with water. Following this rinse, an oil-soaked paper is placed on the surface of the limestone, pressed, and then removed from the stone. The reverse image from the limestone is then permanently inked on the paper. However, not every print in the exhibit was conceived through the same process.
A series of small Terry Allen works, for example, were printed through line etching, aquatint, and chine collé.
If these terms are foreign there is no need for alarm. For us, we had limited to no knowledge on print making. Thankfully, Ms. Moody had the patience and enthusiasm to describe all these various print-making processes. As complicated as these are, one thing that each print showed us was that, like any painting or drawing, prints are just another form of expression. No print is the same since each has wonderful, subtle differences that set them apart from each in the series. Similarly, our second visit to Ms. Moody’s spectacular gallery was filled with new attractions that we all marveled at.
For one of our alumni (Alex Galvan), it was her first trip to the Moody Gallery. Ms. Moody took her to behind the scenes, where Alex had a chance to see (and hold!) a Picasso…
…and a wonderful bird created by Moody’s husband, Bill Steffy.
One of the more interesting pieces she saw was a work by Luis Jimenez. The piece was given to Steffy following his heart attack, and it depicts Steffy punching death, with an inscription to Steffy saying something to the effect of, “Congratulations on kicking death to the curb.”
After visiting Moody Gallery, we drove to one of the Ambassador’s favorite Houston restaurants, the Black Walnut Café. There we met Junior Fellow/LEAP Alumni Austin Campbell, Justin Beiser and his fiancee Chelsea Halblieb. Ms. Moody and Alex Galvan also joined us, which added to the conversation and fun! Ambassadors sampled dishes such as the French dip sandwich, the signature grilled chicken breast topped with pico de gallo and walnuts, as well as the spicy chicken jalapeño pasta. Our group enjoyed visiting with alumni and sharing stories over a tasty meal. Some even decided to indulge in dessert! After our bellies were full, we headed to the Alley Theatre, eager to see The 39 Steps.
Written by Patrick Barlow, The 39 Steps is a satiric farce of all things Alfred Hitchcock. Bearing the same name as the Hitchcock thriller, the play The 39 Steps loosely follows the same plot of the movie: an innocent man is framed for a murder he did not commit and must now clear his name, revealing the mystery of the allusive ring of spies “The 39 Steps” along the way. There are 150 roles in the play, but only four cast members, making for a whimsical adventure full of laughter and fun.
Some of us had never been to the Alley Theatre and this performance made the visit all the more special. In the intimate setting of the theatre, we had the chance to appreciate every comic bit with more enthusiasm.
As said before, the play was performed by four actors (three male and one female). But that did not mean that there were only four characters. These four actors wore many hats (figuratively and literally). Incompetent cops, murderous spies, farmers, and other comic personas were all played by this small team of actors. The ability of these actors to switch roles from one line to the next, personified at times by the mere switch of a hat, made the performance a spectacular scene of comedy. But apart from the physical humor and comical bits, what added to the comedy of the play were the occasional references at Hitchcock films. Through satiric recreations of the shower scene from Psycho, the plane scene from North by Northwest, or references to Vertigo, Strangers on a Train, and other classic films from the “Master of Suspense”, the play kept Hitchcock fans entertained with the cleverly incorporated puns.
The play’s non-stop silliness kept us at a state of uninterrupted guffaw for the whole two or so hours. Alex was even heard saying “it’s not only the play making me laugh, hearing your giggles and chuckles makes me laugh even more.” Whether she was referring to Professor Yawn, Brian, Beatriz, or all three combined (all three could be heard laughing throughout the play) we are not sure of. What we are certain of is that The 39 Steps was a performance we will not so easily forget.
At the end of the play, we caught our breath from the continuous laughter and grouped together for a photo-op with Alfred Hitchcock. Well, in reality it was just his famous silhouette, but we could all feel his imposing presence in the theatre.
We said our farewells to our fellow alumni with a sense of melancholy. For Ryan Brim, who is heading off to college, we wished him luck on his notorious voyage to Arkansas. Without a shadow of a doubt, we are sure that his time in college will not make him psycho. And even though we do not encourage him to dial m for murder in case he feels vertigo on his first day of school, he is well aware that the LEAPsters are more than strangers on a train and can always count on us to cast a rope to pull him into our lifeboat.
For the rest of us, we headed home after a fun-filled Sunday.
Hopeful that we can come back for another visit to Moody Gallery and the Alley theatre, we now look forward to our next adventure at Big Bend. The summer is drawing to a close, but not without the LEAP Ambassadors making the most out of the last few days before the Fall semester begins.
When the Wynne Home Arts Center and the LEAP Ambassadors join forces, good things happen. And Saturday was no exception, as the two collaborated on a “Huntsville Luau,” a Hawaiian-themed event on the grounds of the historic home.
The event had plentiful opportunities for children to have fun. Children had the opportunity do a ring toss on a shark nose…
…or to play limbo…
…to do “seahorse races.”
HEBuddy, the mascot for one of the generous sponsors of the event, even got in on the action.
The hula hoop contest was also popular, with one very clear expert among the bunch…
This past Saturday, the LEAP Ambassadors were called on to do some very special volunteer at the Wynne Home.
Recently, the Wynne Home found boxes of special material. These special items required proper preservation and cataloging. Most of these artifacts belonged to the Wynne family, and the combination of volunteerism and education made us happy to help.
We began our beautiful Saturday morning with coffee and pastries, courtesy of Dr. Ralph Pease. This breakfast was accompanied by pleasant conversations before getting started with a tour of the Wynne Home, one led by Victoria Mcclendon-Leggett. Victoria is a former intern and frequent volunteer for the Wynne Home. She proved her knowledge with interesting facts about special items around the home, as well as fascinating background on the Wynne family that proved helpful during our archiving.
Next, we moved to the fun work. Brian, as the current Wynne Home intern, explained our duties at each different station.
Each station had specific tasks: (1) cataloguing letters dating back to the 1800s; (2) sleeving nitrate film that was potentially explosive;
(3) and protecting newspaper articles, many of them featuring the work of Samuella Palmer; and
(4) foamboarding labels for the home’s many artifacts.
While volunteerism is part of the LEAP Center mission, education is, too. And the day was nothing if not educational. We learned about the history of Huntsville, but we learned it through a unique perspective: the view from two leading families in the community. John Thomason III married Ruth Wynne, and their letters to their family (and to each other) offered a unique take on community happenings.
The learning also involved the news of the day on a more global level. When the Thomasons went to India, for example, Mr. Thomason interviewed Ghandi. Knowing that, we searched the photos we were cataloging for photos of the meeting. Despite a fruitless search for that, we did find much else of interest in the photos.
Finally, we are group that visits many museums and historic homes, but we typically see the artifacts on display–not behind the scenes. Today’s volunteerism allowed us to see the work that goes into such venues, while also learning of the special care that artifacts need to be preserved.
And, of course, it was an opportunity for our group to come together in the summer–when our get togethers are more rare–and to visit with the Peases, who joined us for lunch. It was a day of good company and education, with much accomplished!
The sun slowly peeked its rays through the cypress trees, and the glow from the horizon steadily became warmer and stronger. As the light spread across the land below, the Leap Ambassadors began waking up from their groggy states–as did the wildlife that surrounded them. It was the LEAPsters’ second sunrise at Caddo Lake. This time, Mr. Burns and the others sat in the still water, waiting for the golden-hour (actually about 20 minutes) of warm lighting.
Suddenly, red, orange, and purple flooded the sky.
The perfect lighting was upon us. Mark reached for his Nikon and began to shoot.
As the sun emerged from the horizon, Mark continued to shoot…
…and we joined in, pausing to enjoy the prettiest of the tours on which we had gone.
Mark then directed the captain to a new destination…
…one we had seen several times with productive results. Once we arrived at the spot, the area’s salvinia invasion was noticeably present. Benign as these water herbs may seem, they pose a true threat to the ecosystem of the lake. This floating fern has endlessly propagated itself throughout the lake causing many problems over the past years. Stealing precious oxygen from the waters, making boat travel impossible in some areas, and having them at every corner has created an overall nuisance for the prosperity of the locals. Wes, enthusiastically explained how local and state entities are currently attempting to develop an effective method to eradicate this pest. Although it is our hope to see this threat neutralized the next time we visit Caddo Lake, it seems that a successful extermination strategy has yet to surface.
However, Caddo Lake perseveres, and is in fact, teeming with life of all shapes and sizes, even wing spans!
As we were wrapping up our tour, we pleaded to our captain to take us to a location where we could catch one last glimpse at the wildlife. It didn’t take much pondering before Wes quickly turned his boat and lead us to the perfect location.
Crossing an archway of cypress, the woods resembled an aviary sanctuary. A blue heron soaring over the water one second, a white egret creeping through trees the next, or the vanishing sight of flying black-bellied whistling ducks, made for sights begging to get photographed. With cameras to spare, everyone was quick to photograph or record this bountiful wildlife.
Egret Surrounded by Salvania
Wes also provided more of his knowledge of the lake, showing the students lily pads, and the way that they react to water.
We really can’t say enough good things about Wes or his Caddo Lake Tour Co. We heartily recommend his tours to anyone contemplating a Caddo Lake visit.
After a couple hours of floating on the river…
…we stopped our photography, enjoyed the ride…
…and we returned to terra firma and drove to our next shooting location: the Caddo Lake State Park.
Although Burns was not going to shoot any film this time, but instead be filmed as he walked us through the process to prepare a shot with his 4X5 camera. He explained that, on average, this procedure lasts around 15 minutes.
Every component should be set with extreme caution as it is imperative that the camera stand absolutely still. With a self-deprecating smile, Burns told us how after tedious preparation of this same camera for a photo session of Reliant Stadium, it all went to waste when his leg got tangled with the camera, knocking everything into a state of disarray. As Burns had no film or intentions to photograph anything, he was comfortable letting us approach the camera to look through the view-finder.
Under the hood of the camera, we all took turns to look at this upside-down, inverted image of the scene created by the optics. Walking through every step in how the camera functions and how to set it, Mark Burns held the attention of the Leap Ambassadors captive. Even, Sierra was fascinated, as she approached the camera to record the aperture in motion.
Finally, it was time to depart from Caddo Lake.
After carrying the bags of camera gadgets and lenses, we said farewell to Mark. Although our scouting trip at Caddo Lake was temporarily over, we looked forward to seeing Mr. Burns again soon. He had opened up a whole new world to us. One in which we did not just gaze at the wonders the world had to offer, but were able to capture it.
We were sad to leave this magical place, but we had to perk up as our adventures was far from over!
Kaitlyn- The Grove
This trip has been full of many new and exciting experiences. Our next stop was no exception. We traveled a short distance from Marshall to Jefferson to visit the Grove, also known as the Stilley-Young House. Registered in the National Registry of Historic Places and recorded as a Texas Historic Landmark, the Grove was built in 1861 as a wedding gift for Frank and Minerva Stilley. Small, this home had the exterior of a Greek Revival architecture, while the interior was in a French Creole style.
However, it was not necessarily the architecture, or its age that lead us here. No, it was something much more than that. You see, the Grove was one of the top Haunted Houses in the Lone Star State. For the first time in LEAP history, the ambassadors were going on a historic home/ghost tour!
Our tour began on the front porch, where Mr. Mitchel Whitington, the current owner of the house, greeted us. He briefly introduced us to the history of the different generations of families that had lived at the Grove. Everyone waited outside semi-impatiently. We were about to enter in a widely-rumored haunted house. It didn’t help that it was scorching hot outside and we were dripping in sweat. Thankfully, after putting our medical booties on, we were moved out of the East Texas heat and into the formal dining room and parlor of the home. Not only did the tour guide describe the history of the Grove’s numerous owners, but he also discussed interesting ghost stories during the first stop of our tour. Although any mention of ghosts made some LEAP Ambassadors uneasy, the tour guide tried to put us at ease by explaining that all the ghosts in the home so far have been friendly.
Since the home is over 150 years old, it’s history is rich and fairly-well documented. Throughout its entire life, the home only had two major renovations completed throughout which helped preserve the original style of the home. Each room of the home, was particular to a family member. Throughout the tour Mr. Whitington enthusiastically told us the ghost stories and tales which allowed visitors to gain a sense of understanding about the homeowners who had cherished their home so much that they still returned to this day (now as ghosts) to make sure that their beloved home was still in good hands.
We toured the informal dining room, family room, and utility room before finishing our tour in the kitchen addition. Interestingly enough, the house surprised us with two different items. One of them being an art piece by George Rodrigue, the Blue Dog. This particular Blue Dog was depicted in a dark, gloomy forest to go along with the theme of the haunted house. The second item was a statuette nicknamed the “Bird Girl”. The Bird Girl was first introduced to the LEAP ambassadors, Brian Aldaco and Kaitlyn Tyra, when they read the book “Midnight in Garden of Good and Evil” as preparation for their Savannah trip. Rumored to only be 4 original statues created, finding even a replica was astounding.
It’s safe to say the Ambassadors had never visited a haunted historic home before and certainly not one that was recognized in by magazines such as Texas Highways, or the Dallas Morning News! Although some enjoyed the tour more than others, we left with much to talk about and an appetite ready to be fulfilled by lunch!
Christina- Downtown Jefferson and the General Store
Just before heading home we decided to visit the City of Jefferson, Texas. Jefferson is a small town perfect for a leisure-filled weekend. Its architecture is, in places, similar to New Orleans, with its shops, antiques, and family-owned restaurants. Our lunch stop was Kitt’s Kornbread Sandwich and Pie Bar, which is known for its diverse options of Cornbread Sandwiches. My sandwich was called “The Irish” and contained corned beef, tomatoes and onions in between two slices of cornbread. We couldn’t leave without trying one of the many pies listed on the menu. We ordered chocolate pecan pie, very berry pie, and bread pudding all with a scoop of sweet vanilla ice cream. Surprisingly, Chocolate Pecan won the most votes in favorite flavor.
It’s also worth noting, that we saw a Charlie Chaplin image, of note because Brian dresses as Chaplin each year for Halloween. Aldaco good-naturedly posed with the sign, contorting himself to cover “restrooms.”
We also decided to stop at the Jefferson General Store before getting back to Huntsville. The General store sold many old school items including Candy, socks, shirts, toys, home décor, and many other objects. Some of us bought candy to cure our aching sweet tooth, while others bought toys. Overall, our stop in Jefferson was a success and finally it was time to go to our own small town of Huntsville.