Wednesday, May 06, 2009

First Stop on the Big Hats and Sweet Tea Blog Tour!

Hey, ya’ll! Dixie Ferguson here. I’m sitting in for Deb Staley, aka Deborah Grace Staley, who will likely stop by later today. I run Ferguson’s Diner in Angel Ridge, Tennessee, which is featured in Deb’s new Bell Bridge Books release, Only You.

First, I’ll tell you a little bit about our corner of the world, just to get you acclimated, and then I’ll mostly be talking about what it’s like living in a small southern town like Angel Ridge.

Angel Ridge is a picturesque town in East Tennessee, established in 1785. It overlooks the valley of the Little Tennessee River. This town’s seen a lot over the years. In the early days, its first families staked their claims on hundreds of acres along the banks of the river. Some built their homes along the riverbank, others operated more modest farms on the backside of the ridge, while others were content to build modest homes in the town that developed high up on the ridge where they’d be safe from the river’s flooding.

Long story short, the Flood Control Board came along in the 1970s and built a dam upriver, making a new lake and taking all the homes in the valley. Some called these stately homes relics of a bygone era, but regardless of how you might see it, these folks elbowed their way into our sleepy town and commenced to attempting to take over the running of Angel Ridge. I say “attempting” because some of us up here don’t take to being told how to live our lives. We’re more in favor of moving beyond old hurts to create a new generation in Angel Ridge made strong because of their roots, yet free of its past.

After all the years I've spent behind the counter at Ferguson's, I could probably tell ya'll a story about near everyone in town. In Only You, we’ll focus on Josie Allen and Cole Craig. This is a story about coming home. It's also a story about acceptin' folks for who they are. You could say it's a story about a librarian and a handyman, but I say it's a story about finding love where you'd least expect to. Ya know, those kinds of things always seem to happen when you open up your heart to possibilities. Of course, a little help from our hometown angels and yours truly don't hurt none either!

Now, let’s see . . . Where was I? Oh, yes. Life in a small southern town. Some believe a woman should be seen and not heard. That comes from our Baptist roots, but I say that’s a bunch of hooey. After all, the first folks to preach the gospel were Mary and Margaret who went to the tomb and found Jesus had risen. If they’d kept quiet, the disciples would have gone right on crying in their grape juice in the upper room. So, following in that tradition, you can always count on me or any other good southern woman who’s worth her salt to speak their mind!

Case in point, a woman should wear a hat to church, particularly on high holy days like Easter and Christmas. I sing in the choir down to the Baptist church in town. I point that out because there is one other church sitting at the end of Main Street, and that’s First Presbyterian. They have dances and socials in their fellowship hall where folks have been known to share a glass of wine. Of course, at the Baptist church, there’s none of that foolishness going on, but we have been know to get a little charismatic in church services saying, “Amen,” when Preacher Strong makes a good point that someone in the congregation needs to take to heart (and they know who they are), or the raising of hands when the choir sings a good song that touches you.

But I digress. One Easter Sunday morning a few years back, I busted up into the choir room of the First Baptist church sporting a mighty fine Easter hat as is my habit on Easter Sunday Morning because Jesus don’t like it when ladies don’t wear a hat on Easter Sunday! I put on my choir robe and sat down as we waited to have Brother Sam, our fine music minister, take us through a rousing rendition of “He Arose” which we were starting the service with.

I was sitting there chatting with Ella Clayman, minding my own business, when Sadie Watts, God love her, called to me from the back of the room, “Dixie!” in that clipped little voice of hers that sets your teeth on edge. “Dixie!” she said, “You are wearing a hat!”

I turned, smiled, and said, “Yeah,” because it was clear for anyone to see that I was indeed wearing a hat, and it was fabulous if I do say so myself, and I do. Peacock blue with yellow flowers to match my yellow dress. The shoes, of course, were also peacock blue. But again, I digress.

“Dixie!” Sadie called again from the back of the room. “You are not wearing that hat!”

To which I replied, “Yeah,” because I most certainly was wearing that hat, and very well I might add. Jesus was very pleased.

“Dix-ie!” Sadie called, a little louder this time. “You-are-NOT-wearing-that-hat!”

To which I replied, once again, “Yeah,” because I most certainly was wearing that hat, as I had previously stated.

I turned back to continue my pleasant conversation with Ella. Well, about that time, there was a commotion in the back of the choir room. Everybody turned to see Sadie huffing and puffing out of the choir room, her robe flapping the breeze. Well, I say good riddance.

I proceeded to Easter Sunday morning service wearing my hat with my choir robe. I looked fabulous and the choir sounded even better. I think we always sound better on Resurrection Day and Jesus' Birthday, but you know that wasn’t the end of it. No. Sadie called a meeting on Monday morning with the pastor, the music minister, and the chairman of the deacons, who just happened to be her husband.

Next thing I knew, I was called into a meeting with the music minister and told that henceforth and forever more, ladies would not be permitted to wear hats with their choir robes. To which I replied, “You know, Jesus don’t like it when ladies aren’t permitted to wear hats in his house on Resurrection Day. And besides, how can a person be expected to properly hoop and holler if they can’t throw their hat in the air?” One never knows in a good Baptist church when such an occasion might arise.

But to no avail. Brother Sam was out-voted 2-1. So, I guess I’ll have to sing in the choir without my choir robe when I choose to wear a hat, which I might add, is often because I do love how a fine hat sets off a fabulous outfit!

Which brings me to my next point. Southern women are born with steel in their spines. They may look and speak like the soft, snowy white, sweet-smellin’ magnolia blossoms growing on our centuries old trees, but looks are deceivin’.

Thank you for visiting with us on the High Hats and Sweet Tea Blog tour. We’ll be here all day talking about Deborah Grace Staley’s novel, Only You, and dispensin’ southern wisdom.

Ya’ll take care now!

Dixie Ferguson

Dixon here… You gotta love the South! We’re like the USA Network. “Characters welcome here.” I think we cultivate that perception. What do you think? Is the South filled with with more characters and old-fashioned wisdom per capita than any other region? Have you gotten any of that great “granny wisdom” from anyone in your life?


My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...

Hi Dixie and Dixon!

I love Dixie idea of hearing a hat to sing in the choir...What a beautiful noise I bet that was! And who needs choir robes, the good Lord never said Thou Shall Wear Robes To Sing My Praises. (and I'm pretty sure a fine hat sit nice upon your locks and is much more appreciated). You tell 'em Dixie and give 'em one for the Lord!

Sadly, I live in the Midwest and the only Southern wisdom I get is from the books I read, and this one sounds great! Great guest post!

Dottie :)

Playground Monitor said...

This is the north Alabama contingent checking in. ;-)

I'm married to a Southern Baptist preacher's kid and everything you've heard about them is true. He tells about the time he went swimming in the baptistry and the time he and another boy unscrewed the caps on the communion grape juice, let it ferment and then sat in the balcony to watch when folks took communion.

Great granny wisdom? How about "If you have a box of baking soda and a bottle of vinegar, you can clean just about anything."

I love the south. I lived out of it for 4 years and was so glad to get back.


Kylie said...

Dixie, your blog is a lovely touch of the south! What I love most about southern settings is the tone of the books, the voice of the characters. My Oct. 09 book happens to be set in a fictional east Tennessee town and I hope I captured a fraction of the rich voice you displayed in this post!

lois greiman said...

Hey Deb, thanks for joining us in the convertible.

The south is really fascinating to me, being a midwestern northerner. I'm pretty sure I was supposed to be born down there in warmer climes. Love big hats and attitude.

Your novel sounds great. Is it being released now?

Betina Krahn said...

Unfortunately I only lived in the semi-south until I was fifteen. All I got was the "be a lady" and how-to-stand-properly lessons. I never quite got to the you-get-to-have-attitude, but-you-have-to-earn-it part. I had to learn all that on my own and never quite got it down. Living in Minnesota for many years nearly killed it.

I vote for bringing back Sunday hats and for swimmin' in the baptistry on hot days!

Thanks for the great blog, Deb, Deb and Dixie! good luck with the series!

Deborah Grace Staley said...

Good mornin' friends and neighbors! Dixie Ferguson here. Thanks to all ya'll who have posted already! I was up late last night cookin' pies for the diner's blue plate lunch special today--chicken and dumplings, green beans seasoned with bacon, cooked carrots, and coconut cream pie for dessert. Come early 'cause it'll go quick.

My author friend Deb Staley was a preacher's kid, too. However, she didn't figure out the mishcief part of bein' a preacher's kid. She was the good girl who did everything her parents asked her to. Can you say, "Bo-ring!"

She's improved over the years. She's certainly earned and is learning the attitude part with my help, of course.

The south is such a lovely place. And I do wish they would teach girls these days how to sit in a skirt and how to walk in heels. Clomping around like you've got on tennis shoes in 4-inch wedges is just not a lovely picture. Neither is sitting with skirt hiked halfway up to your hoo-ha with legs crossed!

So, you see what I'm dealin' with her. So many people to advise, so little time.

I look forward to gettin' to know ya'll today. Feel free to ask anything, and I do mean anything, about growing up and living in a small southern town. Along the way today, we'll be giving away an autographed copy of Only You, some book magnets with the lovely cover art for Only You depicted, and some bookmarks.

Don't be shy now! Post away!


Dixie said...


Yes, Only You is a May 2009 release from Bell Bridge Books and is now available for order at


Playground Monitor said...

Ooooooooooh! Chicken and dumplings! My favorite. I season my green beans with fat back though. We went out to eat at some high falutin' restaurant for our anniversary last night and even though they're in the south, the cook must be a Yankee cause the green beans were crunchy.

Will y'all have peach or blackberry cobbler when they are in season? I LOVE them. Would eat them for breakfast if it wouldn't add back the 12 pounds I've lost.


Dixie said...

What is wrong with people thinking that green beans should be steamed instead of boiled. That's the stupidist thing I ever heard. A little pork grease never hurt anyone unless you drink it straight everyday!

As for cobbler, we'll have the peach starting in June, because Miss Estelee's canned peaches can't be topped. And during the hot lazy days of July, we'll have blackberry cobbler. That's when the blackberries are the best--when you have to sweat like a fat woman writin' a love letter and get stung a half dozen times by misquitoes and bees while trying to pick 'em!


Deborah Grace Staley said...

I do apologize for the fat woman comment that Dixie just made. She doesn't mean to offend. That's just one of her southernisms. So sorry!


Debra Dixon said...

Sandra Chastain makes the absolute best Chicken and Dumplings.

Marilyn-- Oh, yeah! Vinegar and baking soda pretty much sort the world out!

DebGS - Great blog.

Debra Dixon said...

Dottie-- I do think a fab choir with hats would be a great and good thing. Or at least the soloist each week should have a snappy hat!

Deborah Grace Staley said...

Hello, Auntie Deb! I'm all for ladies wearing hats to church on Sunday morning in the choir or elsewhere! I'll have to try that vinegar and baking soda thing. However, I am opposed to cleaning on principal. Too many other things I'd rather be doing!

Thanks for stopping by:)


My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...

Hi Debra!

I couldn't agree more! I love a good snappy hat!

Dottie :)

Playground Monitor said...

A few years ago I went to a luncheon put on by a group of black women. Now talk about hats and attitude! They have the most gorgeous hats and pull them off with such grace and style.

Markin' my calendar for June and July so's I don't miss the cobblers.

Marilyn -- posting between tornado warnings :-/

Dixie said...

Tornado warnings! Good Lord--stay safe!

Here in East Tennessee, we're on day 13 of 40 days and nights of rain. The town folk are trying to convince that good-lookin' Cole Craig to start building and ark...


Playground Monitor said...

We're right there with ya on the rain. I've been cipherin' to figure out how many cubits long my ark needs to be.

Christie Ridgway said...

Okay, as a Californian, I have to say I think we have our fair share of "characters" too! (Probably every region in the country can lay claim to that.) However, love Dixie's voice and attitude.

But I have a question. I know you Southerners like your sweet tea, but it occurs to me that I don't know how you make it. (Californians prefer their tea to arrive unsweetened, with maybe a slice of lemon or lime, and it tastes best if it is "sun tea" brewed by our usual sunshine. Those that want it sweeter will doctor their own glass themselves.)

Is Southern sweet tea made with sugar? Is there a set amount that makes a pitcher sweet enough?

Virginia said...

I love the south and your books Only You sounds like a great read. You mentioned the big High Hats which reminded me of the hats that everyone wears here during the KY Derby.

Janene said...

Dixie Ferguson is officially my favorite fictional character, right up there with our beloved Scarlett O'Hara!
By the way, sweet tea is made with sugar, just as much of it as you can stand. When your teeth hurt upon 1st drin, you've got it sweetened enough. And please God, do not ask a Southerner to sweeten her own tea in her own glass - that is nigh on sinful!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, Dixie, thank you so much for the walk down memory lane. You have me missing my mama like crazy, but that's nothing new these days. The older I get, the nostalgier I feel.

Mama was from Virginia. Her roots went way down and waaaay back. Tidewater Virginia. I know that's not considered "real South" by some, but believe me, it was when I was growing up.

Mama was Methodist. Daddy was Episcopalian. Mama converted to keep him "from turning Catholic" after he was wounded in WWII and "ministered to" by a Catholic chaplain. Noting that "Episcopalians can't sing" she became the backbone of our little choir. Mama had a beautiful voice, but she could not "show off," so she never sang a solo. She didn't seem to realize that most of her duets might as well have been solo. The alto was generally cradle-to-grave Episcopalian.

Hats! Mama loved hats, and she wore them beautifully. Regally! Easter bonnets were as much a tradition for Mama and me as the Easter dress and the patent leather shoes.

Posture was also a big deal. Mama carried herself like a queen, and she fussed over my posture to little avail. "I have to carry books!" said I. And she would put one on my head and say, "Just try it. Now, doesn't that feel better?"

Dixie said...

Here's how we make sweet tea at the diner in Angel Ridge. We do it the old-fashioned way. Add water to a good-size sauce pan. Heat your water and tea bags at a low temp lest you burst the tea bags. I like to use the gallon size tea bags and Luzianne is the best--caffeinated, of course. You'll need 2 or 3 bags per half gallon depending on how strong you like your tea, and we do like it strong in the south! After the water is warm, add at least 2 cups of sugar per half gallon and stir until it's completely dissolved. Then, reduce the heat to warm, place a plate over the the top of the sauce pan, and let the tea steep until it's a rich, dark brown. Pour into a pretty pitcher, add ice, lemon if you like, and enjoy.


Dixie said...

Oh, Kathleen... Me and your mama would have been fast friends! And I believe *southern* is a state of mind and not necessarily a location. You carry it with you wherever you go.

Now, please note, not all southern ladies are outspoken or feel the need to show off, but I say they can't help it no matter how hard they try. Like your mama singing a solo in a duet, the fabulosity factor will shine through whether you're tryin' or not.

Take my authoer pal, Deb. She was a Freewill Baptist preacher's daughter and has two brothers that are Southern Baptist preachers (and their last name is Grace--isn't that precious!). She, too, sings in the choir.

Now, Deb would never admit to showing off, but first time I laid eyes on her, I was at her church for a revival. She was on the front row of the choir wearing a fabulous lavendar pantsuit. She had the choir solo, and when the song was finished, everybody whooped and hollered and through their hats in the air. I said, that girl right there is my new bestfriend, and we've been pretty much inseperable ever since.


Kathleen said...

I love to read about the south and I love to visit the south when I am in the US and it is just because of people like you. You make everyday life seems to mellow compared to your stories and real life.
WTG girls, keep it up.

ForestJane said...

Hiya Dixie!

Nice to hear from you again! Was wondering when I finished 'Only You' if I'd ever see a book totally about YOU. Is that in the works?

And being a librarian myself, I enjoyed some of the scenes with Josie-the-librarian. ;)

Hmm... this librarian could use a cute hunk of a handyman like Cole in MY crawl spaces. *g*

Hmm, DebD, you asked for great granny wisdom?

The only one I can think of (that people wouldn't have already heard of) was used for lies and gossip - "If the fish had kept his mouth shut, he'd a never been caught."


Betina Krahn said...

Granny wisdom. . . hmmm. . . my old granny was married four times. I heard her say with a devilish twinkle in her eye, in her hill country drawl:

"Men are like streetcars. . . you miss one, another'un comes along five minutes later."

She was living proof.

Anonymous said...

I keep imagining Paula Deen's voice whenever Dixie speaks! When will the Kindle version of Only You be available? Becky

Dixie said...

Jane--there is a book in the works for Dixie. It'll be bringing up the rear in this series. DGS is saving the best for last, if you ask me. She has 4 books planned: Only You, A Home for Christmas, Heart's Desire, and The Dixie Chronicles. No, really, I don't know what mine will be titled yet, but I think The Dixie Chronicles sounds great, don't you?


Helen Brenna said...

Welcome, Dixie, or Deb, or ... I'm confused. Nothing new there, though. Glad to have you all aboard!

A midwesterner here, and I've always loved hearing about southern traditions. Almost as much as I love the accent!

Dixie said...

Betina--I love it!

Speaking of men, can we talk about southern men? In the south, we like her men to act like gentelman (at least in public;). He should open a door for a lady and let her precede him. He should offer her a seat if she's standing and there's no where for her to sit. Even if she declines use of the seat, he won't sit back down. He opens her car door and makes sure she's buckled in. His kisses are long, warm, and wet. He does not break eye contact when kissing a lady's hand.

Oh, despite their good manners, they are usually "good ol' boys" who look good in well-worn jeans, a fine sheen of sweat, and nothing else:)


Deborah Grace Staley said...


Thanks for joining us! Deb Dixon will have to tell you when the book will be available in Kindle. She's around here somewhere...


ForestJane said...

Christie - I think the whole trick to sweet tea is that the sugar has to be added while the water is hot.

And Dixie, I don't know about "Chronicles" for a book title. Can't remember my mom ever saying that word. Maybe Tales? Gossip? Something more southern.

But I agree with you about good ole boys in jeans. But add a ball cap to it. Sport teams, bass fishin' or John Deere logos preferred. :) Worn either with brim to the front OR back.

Have you guys seen the pic of the ole boy that was forced to remove his cap? He has a perfect crescent moon of tan, smack in the middle of his forehead... lol

Deborah Grace Staley said...

Let's give something away. For an Only You magnet, the first person who can tell me what's on the plate of food in the book trailer for Only You. To watch the book trailer, go to or search Deborah Grace Staley on

First person with the correct answer here wins!


ForestJane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dixie said...

Wow, Deb, you really slowed things down by offering a prize!

Deb Dixon asked about granny wisdom. I didn't really know much about my grandmother except what my mother told me about her, and she followed all these superstitions as those of Irish heritage in these parts are want to do. I say she followed them because, being a fine Christian woman, she would never admit to being superstitious.

For instance, she said you shouldn't wash clothes on Old Christmas (Twelfth Night) or someone in you loved would die.

She also said that to get rid of a wart, you should steal a wash rag, rub it on the wart, and then bury it.

When snow wouldn't melt, she'd say that was old snow hangin' on for new.

If you say someone's name when you mean to someone else's name, that means the person you named by mistake was thinking about you.

If your nose is itching, that means someone is coming. If your ear is burning, someone is talking about you. If your palm itches, you're going to come into money. If your foot itches, you'll walk where you're not wanted.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Did you parents or grandparents have superstitions?


Debra Dixon said...

RE: KINDLE verion

We put all our media up at pretty much the same time but Amazon controls how fast they get to the conversion. By control, I mean we can't do a thing to budge them. But they've been pretty fast lately.

One of the quickest ways is to check Amazon when the book goes on sale there (About 5/15) and click the Kindle request button!

Betina Krahn said...

Superstitions! My family had plenty of them. . . never stitch a garment while someone is wearing it. . . never put a knife in a glass full of water. . . old shoes are good luck, that's why they're tied onto the back of cars(and buggies)at weddings! Knock on wood to release the luck stored in it and ward off the bad. Never hand someone a pair of scissors blade first (just makes sense) or give a gift of knives or cutting implements for weddings-- that will cause a break in a friendship.

"Change the name and not the letter" is bad luck. . . for women marrying men with the same last initial. I have no clue where that came from.

Playground Monitor said...

Y'all heard this one?

Striking up a conversation with the attractive woman seated beside him on a
coast-to-coast flight, a would-be Romeo asked, "What kind of man are you
attracted to?"
"I've always been drawn to Native American men," she replied. "They're in
harmony with nature."
"I see," said the man, nodding.
"But, then, I really go for Jewish men who put women on a pedestal, and I can
rarely resist the way Southern gentlemen treat their ladies with respect."
"Please allow me to introduce myself," said the man. "My name is Tecumseh
Goldstein, but all my friends call me Bubba."

JoAnn Ross said...

After growing up in the west, I've been living in the South -- where I learned what "duck stranglng" rains actually mean (it's pounding down as I type this now, trying to take out my gardens), and where people never met a veggie they didn't think would be better deep fried, for 11 yrs now.

Not only is the scenery gorgeous, it's the friendliest place I've ever lived, (I merely overlook it when people tell me "Bless Your Heart", because although it's often preceeded by what may appear to be a not-so-veiled insult, I prefer to believe they're actually kindly bestowing a blessing upon me. Which we can all use, after all.)

As for the sayings and supersitions, it was initially surprising to me that many are the same ones I grew up hearing from my Irish grandparents and mother. Which only makes sense, I suppose, since so many of the South's Scots heritage settlers lived in Ireland for 200 yrs.

Whenever I travel anywhere else, where people are merely polite or a bit distantly friendly, I feel a little let down, but tell myself that they're probably just having a not very good day.

Also, just a small point, Dixie -- we Catholics used to wear gorgeous hats, too. Until Jackie Kennedy showed up one Sunday at mass in a mantilla. Which we all immediately started wearing. Which then shrunk down to doily size and finally mostly disappeared all together.

And, although some good ole boys do admittedly look fine in their jeans and John Deere ball caps, having grown up in ranching country, I still believe there's nothing male that quite equals a Setson wearing cowboy's Wrangler butt. And those wedge- heeled boots do give them a mighty nice swagger.

Deb, sweetie -- good luck with the book! I hope it sells gangbusters!

Deborah Grace Staley said...

Thanks for adding to the superstitions, Betina. And thanks for dropping by, JoAnn!

I, too, like a man in cowboy boots and Wranglers, popular in East Tennessee and Texas:)

And I am soooo glad you brought up the "thinly veiled insult." Now mind, my dear friends north of the Mason-Dixon line and those west of the Mississippi, only a southern lady can get away with this or someone who's lived here long enough to get away with it! You can say anything about anyone if you top it off with, "God love her," or "Bless her heart."

For example, "She's dull as dirt, God love her, but she makes a good apple pie." Or, "He's not much to look at, bless his heart, but he works from sun up to sun down." You can also say, "Isn't that precious?" with a smile when you might really mean, "That's really strange!" But then again, you never know, but a southern lady delivers these lines with a smile and a sweet, southern drawl that typically doesn't offend the listener.

Isn't that precious?


Dixie said...

Hey, ya'll. Just closing things down here for the night at the diner. Now that the dinner rush has past, I have coconut cakes to bake for tomorrow's blue plate special--chicken fried steak and gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, and the aforementioned cake.

I see ya'll are talking about superstitions. That puts me to thinking about southernisms. You know what I mean? Things we say in the south that mystify folks that aren't from here?

Like, "Can you carry me to the beauty parlor today?" That means, "Can you take me to the salon today?" Or, "I'm all tuckered out. I think I'll turn in." That means, "I'm exhausted. I'm goin to bed."

Do ya'll have any you're particularly fond of?


Deborah Grace Staley said...

Dixie and I've enjoyed blogging with ya'll today! The winner of the autographed book is...

Drum roll please!

Helen Brenna. Congratulations! Send your snail mail addy to me at

Have a good night and stay in touch!

All the best,