SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT

"Ships that pass in the night and speak each other in passing," Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
We didn’t get to where we are on our own.   Everyone we met, some like “ships that pass in the night,” helped to make us what we turned out to be.

PREACHER ROE

You may have read the story I wrote a while back for Grit Magazine titled “Living Off the Land.” (You’ll find the link on the EDoc page).  Like all stories, there is a before and an after or, as Paul Harvey would say, “The rest of the story.”  What follows isn’t the rest of the story.  But it does tell of an incident that happened when we took our first trip to the Ozarks to purchase the land we “lived off.”

          The United Real Estate agent lived in Hardy, Arkansas.  After we closed the deal for the property, Carl and I decided to take a little time to explore the town.  We parked the car in front of the post office, got out and headed up the street.  We had gone only a short distance when who should we run into but Preacher Roe!

For those of you who are not baseball fans, or are too young to remember, Preacher Roe was one of baseball's great pitchers—a Major League Baseball pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Brooklyn Dodgers

Of course, Carl, who was a great baseball fan, recognized him immediately and had to stop, shake his hand and talk.  It turned out that Preacher’s sister was married to Robert Clay the owner of Hardy’s one and only grocery store.

Preacher Roe’s full name was Elwin Charles Roe.  He was born in Ash Flat, Arkansas, ten miles up the road from Hardy, and grew up in nearby Viola (population 160).  His father was a doctor.

In the years that followed, we ran into him from time to time.  He always had a friendly wave and once in a while, he and Carl would stop and chat for a few minutes. 

 Preacher Roe played his last game with the Dodgers in 1954 and, in 1955, opened a grocery store, “Preacher Roe’s Supermarket,” in West Plains, Missouri—about 45 miles to the north—which he operated for 20 years.

The town named a street, “Preacher Roe Boulevard,” for him and he lived in West Plains until his death, at 92, in November 2008.

He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1967 and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1976.

The Ozarks has produced a number of very talented people.  Elsewhere on this page you can read about Academy Award nominated movie star, Tess Harper, who was born and raised just a few miles up the road in Mammoth Spring.

A couple of other prominent Ozarkians who were born nearby are Actor, Dick Van Dyke, and Country Western Singer, Porter Wagoner, who were both born in West Plains; Dick Van Dyke in 1925, and Porter Wagoner in 1927.

But that’s another story.


BURL IVES

 

          As publicity director for the newly established Arkansas retirement community, Cherokee Village, I accompanied Ralph Johnson, developer and promoter, and his wife, Mary, to Kansas City where we had reserved a booth at the 1955 Kansas City Boat, Sport and Travel Show.

            We arrived early on February 1st, checked in at the Muehlebach Hotel, then hurried over the Municipal Auditorium to set up our exhibit.  For the next ten days, I extolled the merits of Cherokee Village and invited those who stopped by to register for a “free lot,” the drawing for which would be held on the last day of the show.

            On Friday, Ralph learned that Burl Ives, the folk singer, was playing at Eddy’s, one of Kansas City’s most popular night spots at the time.  Having known Mr. Ives when he and Mary lived in Hollywood, he decided to close the booth early on Saturday night so we could catch his eleven o’clock show.

            In spite of the cold, we decided to walk the short distance to Eddy’s.  Ralph, Mary, Princess Sky Eyes, a Native American lecturer, singer and dancer, who was entertaining at the Sport Show, and I arrived at ten-forty-five, ordered drinks and settled in.  After the show, Ralph went back stage and invited Burl to join us for a drink.

            It was a festive reunion; the two old friends toasted each other and we all laughed uproariously as they exchanged stories about mutual acquaintances, experiences and life in Hollywood.

            It was almost closing time when we trekked back to the Muehlebach and into the coffee shop for breakfast.

            The conversation remained lively and, after consuming a huge, double Spanish omelet, smothered in a hot, spicy red sauce, Burl took out his guitar.

            The staff had locked the doors to prepare for the morning shift so we had the coffee shop to ourselves.

            On being told that I was a former Kansan, Burl insisted I sing the Kansas version of “Home On the Range.”  He wanted to be sure he had all the words right.  That done, Princess Sky Eyes performed an authentic Indian dance to Burl’s strumming; Ralph, puffing on a cigar, sang his favorite party song, “Cigareets and Whiskey and Wild Wild Women!” while an amused crowd which had gathered on the sidewalk outside, peered over the café curtains watching our impromptu show.

            We disbanded at four a.m. and the next day, Burl visited our exhibit at the sport show and registered to win a “free lot” which Ralph presented on the spot.

            He would leave that evening for New York, he said, to begin rehearsal at the Morosco Theater on the Tennessee Williams play, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof.”  He later played the same role, (Big Daddy) in the movie version of the play.

            Although he never built on the lot, which had been upgraded to a much larger lot on Hiawatha, one of Cherokee Village’s most beautiful streets, Burl Ives held title until his death in 1995.



SMILEY BURNETTE

 

            Remember “Frog”?  Frog Milhouse?  Some of you will.  A lot of you won’t.

“Ole Frog” was Gene Autry’s sidekick in over 80 early western movies.  Born Lester Alvin Burnett, he later changed his name to Smiley Burnette.

His career, beginning in 1934, spanned four decades.  In addition to playing Gene Autry’s sidekick, he also played in other movies, was the sidekick to Charles Starrett in the Durango Kid series and, in the 1960s, was a regular on the TV shows, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres.

Widely recognized as a country music performer, Smiley could play as many as 100 musical instruments, some simultaneously, and is credited with writing over 400 songs.  He sang a number of them on screen and some have been recorded by popular singers such as Willie Nelson, Riders in the Sky and Johnnie Lee Wills.

By 1940, he ranked second only to Autry in a poll of Western stars—the lone “sidekick” among the top ten.

In the 1950’s, Smiley was a frequent guest of Ralph Johnson, developer of Cherokee Village and other a retirement communities near Hardy, in Sharp County, Arkansas.

Johnson—who also hailed from Hollywood—and his wife Mary, were living in Hidden Valley at the time.  Smiley stopped by often when he was enroute from Springfield, where he appeared regularly on the “Ozark Jubilee,” to Nashville, Tennessee and other points south for appearances on radio and television as well as before live audiences.

During one visit, Smiley, entertained a packed auditorium at the Hardy High School with his wit, his music and his songs.  The show was the talk of the town for weeks after.

Smiley loved to fish and Spring River and the lakes in Sharp County were among his favorite places to cast his lines.  I have a photo of him with a string of bass and jack salmon, caught in Spring River, I’ll try to get posted one of these days.

Though Smiley Burnette spent his life being a comedic and funny guy, I’ll always remember him as I last saw him.

I’d been Johnson’s promotion and publicity director for his various enterprises from the time he started work on Cherokee Village.  On this particular morning I entered the sunroom and was surprised to see Smiley sitting there, staring morosely out the window, a sad look on his face.  It certainly wasn’t the face fans the world over was accustomed to seeing.

“Good morning, Smiley!” I said, cheerfully.

He merely grunted.

I’ve thought about Smiley often through the years.  He spent his life bring laughter and pleasure to others but, recalling his expression the last time I saw him, I’ve often wondered if he was the happy man he portrayed to his public.

More about Smiley Burnette:
Smiley Burnette was born in 1911 and died February 16, 1967, a month before his 56th birthday.  He grew up in Ravenwood, Missouri.
In his lifetime, he wrote more than 400 songs and sang a significant number of them on screen. His Western classic, "Ridin' Down the Canyon (To Watch the Sun Go Down)," was later recorded by Willie Nelson, Riders in the Sky, and Johnnie Lee Wills.

Burnette was also an inventor.  He built some unusual musical instruments including in his "Jassackaphone," which he played in the film The Singing Cowboy.  The instrument resembled an organ with pipes, levers, and pull mechanisms.  In the 1940s, he invented and patented a home audiovisual system called "Cinevision Talkies."

He enjoyed cooking and, in the 1950s, opened a restaurant chain called The Checkered Shirt, the first of the A Frame drive-ins.[



THE VOICE OF JOHNNY REESE

            We watched the Country Music Awards together, Mel and I.  He didn’t want to be alone.  By the second hour he was stoned out of his scull.  That isn’t unusual these days.

            When the Johnny Reese award was presented, the producers had arranged to have a Johnny Reese song played in the background.  It was very effective—a nice touch.

            Only Mel and Johnny’s wife—and maybe two or three others—recognized the song as one recorded for Johnny by Mel Young.  For many years, Mel was a closely guarded secret.

            What happens to a man whose music has been his life?  And whose only identity lies in another man’s name—another man’s fame?

            This is the story Mel told:

            Johnny’s voice was good, no doubt about that.  And he was at the height of his popularity when he was killed.  However, his voice could not reach the low ranges and he’d never mastered the technique of crooning the words as Mel did.  Mel added a new dimension to Johnny’s career.  While Johnny lip-synced the words, the velvet tones of Mel’s voice, delivered the song to the world from an obscure microphone to Johnny’s left and rear.  When the song ended, Mel glowed with pride when, amid thundering applause, Johnny saluted his band, ending with a special bow in Mel’s direction.

            He loved that man.  They all did.  Even now, if anyone has the gall to say Mel sold himself out, he bristles with indignation.

            I often ask myself if Mel Young’s story is true.

            Is this gaunt, soul-starved man who exists mostly on music, cigarettes and drugs really the voice of Johnny Reese?

            The crooning voice—with the same slight lisp of some of the words, though weak at times from the lack of use—sounds like the voice on the record.  But then—

            Somewhere, somebody knows.


KCMO: PAUL HARVEY, RED FOLEY AND PAT BOONE



Notes from my stint at KWTO (KEEP WATCHING THE OZARKS), Springfield, Missouri:
I was assistant to the news director at KWTO (Keep watching the Ozarks) when Paul Harvey breezed into the station one morning.  It fell to me to get together a collection of stories, local, regional, national, etc. for him to use for his broadcast which he would do from this station.  Forty-five minutes later, I presented him with a sheaf of papers—stories off the wire and a few locally produced (some I’d written myself).
The man was amazing!  Need a script?  Don’t bother.  No writing.  No editing.  He broadcast his show “The Rest Of the Story” off the cuff without a stutter or a stammer.  If I wasn’t already a fan, I was forever after.
Stay tuned for “the rest of the story.”

RED FOLEY and PAT BOONE:
Anyone old enough will remember Red Foley.  Red was a country western singer, very popular in the 50’s and 60’s.  He moved to Springfield, Missouri in July 1954 to host Ozark Jubilee on ABC-TV and radio
Pat Boone was Red’s son in law.  Rumor was that he didn’t fancy Pat all that much.  Pat fancied himself a singer and Red didn’t think so.
One morning, I reported for work at ten o’clock as usual and entered the station only to find it empty—not a soul around except for the engineer.  Someone had to keep the station on the air.
“Where is everyone?” I ask, entering his booth.
“Out looking for Red,” he replied.
“Something happen to Red?” I asked, concerned.
“Nah, I don’t think so.  Probably layin’ out drunk in a motel somewhere. “He’s got a gig in Miami, Florida tonight but nobody can find him.”
Red had a fondness for his booze; particularly Jack Daniels.
An hour or so later, people started showing up and the station buzzed happily as everyone got on with their jobs.
As Mike had predicted, Red was found passed out, but safe, in a local motel.
By mid-afternoon, he was sobered up and on his flight to Miami.  I heard the show was a sell-out.
Pat Boone?  Well, as you all know, Pat went on to make a pretty decent career for himself  - as a singer.



THE KITTY KAT STORY

 

          Kitty Kat came to me in the exact same way White Kat went to Vicki in the mini romance posted on the Fiction page on my website (www.bell-pearson.com); with one exception.  Kitty didn’t take refuge under the table as White Kat did but walked calmly into the kitchen and made herself at home.

          Which was interesting because I didn’t think she liked me.  She was a familiar sight in the neighborhood and more than once, seeing she had caught a bird I had taken it away from her and set it free.

When my neighbor came the next day to take her home, to Beverly’s astonishment, Kitty Kat reacted in the exact same way White Kat did—she hissed and spat at her.  So Kitty Kat stayed on.

          One afternoon, a month or so later, when Beverly called to ask me over for coffee, she said:  “Bring Kitty Kat along.  I miss her and I’d like to see her.”

          So I took Kitty Kat in my arms and headed next door.  I had almost reached the end of the board fence which separated our properties when she realized where we were headed for.  She did a somersault, clawing and digging her claws sharply into my arm.  I slapped her and continued on.  When we arrived, Beverly dressed my wounds while Kitty Kat crouched on the counter and growled.  She continued to growl as we had our coffee and quieted down only when we were back home.

          Kitty Kat lived with me for seven years before her death.

          My being a inveterate traveler, Kitty Kat always went along, traveling with me throughout the United States and into Canada and Mexico (Illegally).  But that’s another story.


AMTRAK 

Taking advantage of a special rate a few years ago, I took an Amtrak trip “around the perimeter of the United States.”

I boarded the train at Dodge City, Kansas, bound for Chicago.  From there to Spokane, Washington, where I spent a couple of weeks, visiting with friends.  Then it was on to Seattle and down the west coast to Los Angeles, across the southern border for an overnight stay in New Orleans.  From there we went to Tampa, Florida, then up to Washington D.C for a visit to the capitol and a sight-see of the city. From there to Miami.  Not enough time to see much of Miami before the train left for New York City, then Boston.

Amtrak did not provide service to Maine, so I disembarked at Boston, was directed to a bed and breakfast where I spent the night.  The next morning, I rented a car and drove up the coast to Portland.  Would have gone it further had it not been for a snow storm approaching blizzard-like conditions.  I returned to Boston on snow-covered roads and the next day boarded Amtrak for Chicago and home.

While waiting for the train in Boston, I met a lady who was waiting for the homeless shelters to open.  Although she and her two sons had jobs, she said, they did not earn enough between the three of them to maintain a home and provide food.  They met at the station after work, taking refuge there until the homeless shelter opened.  There they would have dinner and spend the night.

I met a lot of fascinating people along the way including a gentleman with whom I spent the night in New Orleans, exploring the city, and delightful girl named “Bright.”  Another seat partner was a young soldier—a mere boy, actually, returning home from the war.  He was literally jumping up and down in his seat for joy as we neared his home town.

A lovely couple I met in Chicago, while waiting for the train to Dodge City on the return trip, were from Romania.  They were doctors, and had both found positions, in the same hospital, in New York.  The lady spoke English well and we had an interesting conversation while waiting for our trains.

These are notes from one of my many works in progress, a memoir entitled “Highways and Byways” which I plan to complete when time permits.



When we were Living Off the Land (http://www.grit.com/property/farm/#living-off-the-land.aspx),  we lived up the hill from Spring River, across from Many Island.    If you were watching for it, our house could be seen for a split second from Hiway 63.

Back then, the bridge over Spring River, just north of Hardy, was a low water bridge.  That was the route I took when going home at the end of a workday.  On the other side of the bridge, a right turn on a trail running parallel to the river led to Myrtle Gibbs place. 


THE GOAT WOMAN


Myrtle Gibbs was an older lady—probably in her mid-sixties—a writer, who moved to the Ozarks from Chicago, bought a tract of undeveloped land on the Spring River, and a herd of goats.

FYI: In heavily wooded areas goats, though slow, are economical and effective for clearing out underbrush and new growth thus making the land available for pasture, orchards, gardens, etc.  I don't know that they are as popular as they once were, but folks down here used to keep goats around for that very purpose.

Hearing about Myrtle from the natives, who referred to her as "The Goat Woman," my curiosity got the best of me.  I decided to visit.  She was working in her garden when I arrived.   An attractive lady, vivacious for her age, she greeted me enthusiastically made a pot of tea and we talked.

She had worked with a Chicago newspaper, she said, and had long dreamed of moving to the Ozarks and spend the rest of her life writing.  Myrtle had a fabulous collection of books, was well educated and interesting to talk to.  She generously loaned me a book to read from time to time.

We had a lot in common.  I visited The Goat Woman as often as I could find the time and we spent many pleasant hours discussing books, authors and writing.

Myrtle was still living on her little plot in the Ozarks, writing and tending her goats, when I left the area but by the time I returned, she had passed away.

I think of her often and wonder if she ever gained the success as a writer she’d dreamed of. 


30,000 PING PONG BALLS

Bill Allred was tall, well-built and good looking, a big man with big ideas.  A touch of premature grey at the temples and horn-rimmed spectacles gave him a distinguished look, somewhat at odds with his whimsical personality.

Bill was station manager for KBEA, Kansas City’s “Beautiful Music Station.”  I was continuity and promotion director.  We had just moved our offices from Tenth and Grand to downtown Mission.

“With my ideas and your ability to carry them out, we’ll build up our ratings in no time,” Bill said.  “Before you know it, we’ll be right up there with WHB.”

At the time, Mr. Neilson was rating us 4.3 compared to WHB’s 37.5.  We had a long way to go.

Bill was sure that beautiful music was the coming thing and that we had the format to carry it off.  Though his mind was obviously closed to the fact that it would be impossible to compete with a station that plays top forty music, Bill made it sound feasible.  The secret, he said, was promotion–lots of promotion.

“Before long, everyone will want to listen to a radio station that plays really good music,” he said.

He thought for a moment.

 “We’ll launch the Christmas season with a “Ping Pong Ball Brigade!” he said then.  “That’ll make people sit up and take notice.”

The plan was to drop ping pong balls over the city from an airplane.  Some would be marked and hundreds—maybe thousands—of people would turn out to search for the marked balls for which they would receive a prize, determined by the identification mark on the ball.

Bill was convinced that by the time the promotion was over, everybody in the city would be listening to KBEA.

Costs would be covered through advertising, and participating merchants would donate the gifts to be given away.  We would buy the biggest Christmas tree we could find, set it up in the lobby and surround it with the gifts as they came in.

The staff was enthusiastic and after the meeting, Bill and Jerry—the program director—went out and purchased 30,000 ping pong balls.

  As plans for the project progressed, I visualized mounds of gifts around a beautifully decorated tree, thousands of white ping pong balls raining down on the city and people swarming through the doors of the radio station holding out their little ping pong balls.

We launched the promotion the middle of November, planning to drop the ping pong balls the Friday after Thanksgiving—the day retail merchants launched Christmas advertising promotions.  For the next week, I wrote advertising, promos and news releases and placed newspaper ads.

On Saturday night we all met at the station and decorated the Christmas tree.  Monday, the gifts started coming in.

Then we hit a snag.

No one had thought to ask before we started the promotion but it seemed there was an ordinance prohibiting the dropping of “heavier-than-air” objects from an airplane.

What a let-down!  This was our major—our only—Christmas promotion and we had already wasted a week on the project.

Bill sat in his office all day and brooded.

“What can we come up with to top that?” he said.  “And what in blazes are we going to do with 30,000 ping pong balls?”

The next morning, he and Jerry hauled them out to his house and stored them in the garage.  That afternoon we had a meeting.  Someone came up with another idea for a Christmas promotion and we all went to work trying to salvage what we could from the ping pong ball disaster.

For a while, we tried to figure out what to do with 30,000 ping pong balls so Bill could get his car into the garage before it snowed.  With everyone working hard to launch the new promotion, however, the problem got shoved to the back burner.

We all cheered when our ratings actually went up a point or two.

Since we had invested in—and decorated—a ceiling-high tree, we decided to hold a Christmas party for the staff at the station.  We drew names for gifts, then got our heads together and decided that Bill deserved a special gift—from the staff.

I volunteered to wrap it.  I bought the prettiest paper I could find and tied the package with a big red bow—chuckling as I anticipated the look on Bill’s face when he opened it to find—a box of eight pretty little white ping pong balls.


CROSBY KEMPER, JR.

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Crosby Kemper, Jr.  He impressed me in more ways than one—mainly because of his love for his city, its history and its future—which stirred up an enthusiasm and a dedication in others.

Although UMB was my bank, that wasn’t how I came to know Crosby.  In fact we met only once and the topic of conversation was not about banking.  It was about an entirely different matter.

When a friend asked if I would edit a new Johnson County publication, I readily agreed.  After asking a few questions, including the type of paper we intended to publish, frequency of publication, each of our specific duties and of course, cost, Crosby Kemper, Jr. agreed to finance the paper.

So it was that I became editor of the tabloid formatted newspaper “The Shawnee Mission Signal,” which debuted December 17, 1964.  Headlines included: “Plans for Sewer Rebuilding Now Under Way in Mission Hills,” “New Public Works Director in Mission (Keith Hubbard)” and “K U Downs K-State in Regional Debate Tourney.”  A smaller headline tells us: “Radar Nabs 26 in Mission Hills.”  In the lower, right hand corner is a photo and the announcement that the new El Dorado Club, “for the convenience of Braniff passengers at Municipal Airport” had been opened.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was forced to resign the position soon after the second issue came out.  I left Kansas City, so I don’t know how much longer the paper continued publication but I’ve always appreciated Crosby Kemper, Jr. who, at least, gave it a chance.



IRISH McCALLA

SHEENA, QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE

 

When WWII ended, my husband Carl—a former B-24 pilot instructor and B-29 pilot—and I decided to go into business and, considering the strides that had been made in aviation during the war, what could be more appropriate than the flying business?  It seemed like an ideal time to start a flying service.

We leased an alfalfa strip east of Marysville, Kansas, Carl’s home town, and began building a hanger for our plane—a war surplus liaison plane, a Taylorcraft DCO65—and began taking people for rides.  Not many people had been up in an airplane back then and we took a lot of rides those first few months.  On Sundays cars lined the road in both directions and the airport swarmed with people.

We began signing up students to take flying lessons and, in addition to flight training, we also did a lot of charter flying.  Charter clients consisted mostly of area farmers and business men.

However, one of our occasional charter customers was a girl by the name of Nellie McCalla.  Nellie had just graduated from high school and was spending the summer with her aunt in Marysville.  She came out to the airport often on her daily walk—she had to watch her weight, she said.  She and her girl friends would hang around, watching the planes take off and land, listening to the students do a little “hanger flying.”  A couple of times she asked Carl fly her to Pawnee City, Nebraska to visit her parents.  It was only 45 miles by road, less than an hour’s drive, but I think Nellie liked flying; and she liked to try things new.

When they returned from the second trip, I heard her bragging to her girl friends.

"Mr. Ungerer let me fly the plane back."

Amid "Oh's" and "Ah's" and "Was it hard to fly?" she replied:

"Nothing to it! Pretty much like driving a car."  (Taking into consideration that the air was calm with no wind and nothing needed doing once the plane was pointed in the right direction).

"I'm seriously thinking of working toward my private pilot license," she added.

It was along about this time that Nellie started insisting her friends call her “Irish” instead of Nellie.

When Nellie stopped showing up at the airport, we figured she’d gone back home.  Later, we learned she’d gone to California.

I’m sure you have heard of “Irish” McCalla; she wound up in Hollywood, was discovered by a producer and became the star of “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.”

Since she had always been an active girl, she was able to do her own stunts until near the end of the series, when she broke her wrist leaping to catch the branch of a tree.

After the series ended, she starred in several movies.

When she retired Nellie/Irish devoted her life to painting.  She had always considered herself an artist.  Even while living in Marysville, her aunt often scolded her for neglecting her work around the house to sit staring at some object, pondering how she would paint it on canvas


TESS HARPER

 

            My husband, Carl, and I were Living—very well, thank you—“Off the Land” on a ranch we’d purchased near Mammoth Spring, Arkansas.  (See article with that title on the EDoc page).  One thing a farmer/rancher needs often is hardware supplies, and so it was that almost every time we went into town, our shopping list entailed a stop at Washam’s Hardware Store.

            Like most Ozarkians, Ed and Rosemary Washam were friendly folk so we always lingered a while to visit.  The first time I saw Tessie Jean, their daughter, she was a blue eyed, blond haired toddler sitting on her father’s knee, one finger in the corner of her mouth.

Time passed and Tessie started to school.  She sometimes came in, carrying an armload of books, while I was in the store.  Or, if it happened to be a weekend, she might be sitting at the back of the store, reading or doing her homework.  She was a lovely child.  Her complexion very pale, she wore bangs and her blond hair hung straight to her shoulders.  She had wide blue eyes that bore a thoughtful look and her gaze was searching, as if looking for answers to questions only she was aware of.

            Tess knew early on what she wanted.  In college, she appeared in numerous plays and played leading roles in productions such as the musical "Little Mary Sunshine" and "Arsenic and Old Lace."  After college, she began acting in theater and theme park productions. She married Ken Harper in 1971.  They were divorced in 1976.

Tess’s big break came while she was living in Dallas, Texas. A casting representative, who happened to see her in a TV commercial, was impressed.  She called Robert Duvall who arranged for an audition which resulted in the lead role in Tender Mercies, Tess Harper’s feature film debut.  She was awarded a Golden Globe award for her role in the film.

Since then, she has appeared in well over 100 movies and TV shows.  She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Crimes Of the Heart.

            A few years ago, I ran into Rosemary, Tess’s mother, at the drugstore in Mammoth Spring,

            “You should have come a couple of days sooner,” she said, “Tessie was home on vacation.  You just missed her!”