The Frog Prince
I was born in Biloxi Mississippi at the Keesler Air Force base, where my Dad was stationed at the time. We moved to Seminary, MS when my mother got a teaching job there. And by the way, yes, Seminary is the real name of that very little town, which is in Covington county, MS, and was named after the Zion Seminary which was formed in 1845.
Because both of my parents worked, my grandparents helped care for me on their farm until I was about two years old. My grandparents raised dairy and beef cattle and grew soybeans, corn, and other row crops. We moved to Santa Susanna, California, when I was two, because my Dad was promised a job by my uncle who lived there. Not long after, though, we moved again because my Dad, Carl, felt called to plant new churches in California, and I guess in a way he was a farmer of sorts too, except his harvest was souls.
We ended up In Barstow, CA, which has a marine base nearby where Dad worked. My Mom taught Home Economics at Bartstow High School while Dad started a church plant. In the summers, I’d spend time back in Mississippi on my grandparent’s farm, and those of my aunts and uncles. I really enjoyed those summers working on the farm and being close to family.
In 1968, we moved to New Orleans, so that my Dad could attend seminary (for one year), and then he was called to a church in Brookhaven, Mississippi, which is about 55 miles west of Seminary. I still spent my summers back at the farm with my grandparents, helping them with the dairy and the row crops. I was very close to my grandparents, and I guess because I loved the farm so much I became something of a favorite grandchild with them, which caused a certain amount of ribbing from my cousins.
In 1975, my Dad received a call to serve as a pastor in Springfield, South Carolina. Those summers, I worked with local farmers during the summers until I graduated high school in 1977. It shouldn’t be surprising by this time that I decided I wanted to go to college in MS, and live with my grandparents. So I started at Jones Junior College in 1977, where I completed my Associate’s degree. My grandfather died from lung cancer in May, 1979, and I stayed on with my grandmother through the fall of 1981 to help her with the farm, and to go to school.
My grandmother’s oldest daughter, Olene, came to live with her that fall, so I moved into an apartment with my best friend, Jeff Ford. By this time, I was attending the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, attending college full time, while also working full time in an auto body shop to pay my way through school. I graduated college in 1982 with a BS in Construction and Engineering. I worked for two construction companies in Mississippi during this time, and in the same period I got married. All the while, I kept searching for other career opportunities, and ended up in Tennessee working for the THDA Housing Authority from 1987-1996. Our family grew bigger with a great source of joy…our two sons, Lin and Landry.
In 1996, I was approached by a private construction company to develop additional THDA opportunities, and I joined them for the next ten years. In 2006, four of us who worked for this company, formed a partnership and bought the company we worked for. Today there are three separate entities under this partnership: engineering, property management, and construction.
Life isn’t always smooth sailing though, and between 1998 and 2000 my wife and I separated and eventually divorced. I met my current wife Leigh in 2001, through two mutual friends, Judy and Linda, who thought we would make a good couple. I’d already dated a few women since my divorce, so was already interested in meeting Leigh, but she hadn’t had such a positive experience since her own divorce, and that negative reinforcement from dating a few “frogs” made her reluctant to meet me.
Leigh thought of “frogs” as men who, no matter how much you kiss them, don’t turn into princes. And like I said because Leigh had met a few of these it took a while for our two matchmakers to get Leigh to go out with me. One day in January 2001, Judy came to Leigh’s house with a newspaper picture to show her what I supposedly looked like. The picture was of Jeff Fisher, who at the time was the head coach of Nashville’s NFL team, the Titans. Leigh thought Jeff Fisher was a pretty handsome guy (and I can’t argue), so she agreed to go to lunch with me in Nashville.
I called her the week before our date and to her surprise (Leigh later told me) we talked for 45 minutes on the phone. It became clear we had a lot in common, both our childhoods being spent on farms, strong among them. Two years later, we walked down the aisle together, soul mates then, and soul mates now.
When we decided to buy the property that is now Stoney Creek Farm, where we live, Leigh wasn’t exactly enthusiastic. Although she’d been raised on a farm, or, maybe, because she’d been raised on a farm, she’d told her family when she left to go to college that she wouldn’t ever marry a farmer, or live on a farm, ever again. Well, she’d already married me, so I thought the next step wouldn’t be so hard, but I had to get very creative to persuade her to take the leap back to the farm with me.
I guess even though it was, and is, hard work, I’d never lost my love of farming that I first had from those early years working on my grandparent’s and relative’s farms. The respect I have for the land, and the deep satisfaction that only comes from a job well done through hard work, stayed with me all my life. I could always see these same qualities in Leigh, and I always believed that once I got her “back to the dirt” that she would recognize where these traits really came from, and fall in love with the land again the way I’d always been in love with it.
I’d say maybe she has.