By CAROLE DAVIS
Starkville began with 25 acres deeded from Robert A. Lampkin and William B. Cushman in February of 1835. It was established as the county seat of Oktibbeha County. It was first known as Boardtown, because of the clapboard houses made of locally cut and hand-hewn timber. Starkville was later named for General John Stark, a Revolutionary War hero. This was enacted by the state legislature of Mississippi on May 11, 1837. Starkville became an incorporated town commissioned to hold election for justice of the peace, constable and board of seven selectmen. The first election was slated to be held the first Monday in June 1837. An election was scheduled for that day every second year thereafter.
The Reynolds Home at 404 Greensboro St. was built in 1869. It is a handsome, charming, lovely old landmark where four generations of the Reynolds’ have lived here all of these 143 years.
We sing “Happy Birthday” to the greatest country on the face of this earth, July 4, and this year 2012. Out tiny town grew up to become a strong-willed southern lady. The old home is celebrating a delightful existence with Reynolds’ family’s tender loving care.
Generations before me paved the way and made sacrifices so that I as well as each one you could do and be who we are today. To celebrate our past shows us all who we are today and where we are going tomorrow. I have treasured my past of my own family and their strong beliefs that everyone is someone, and each one of us has a gift to give to society. My gift was an artistic gift to share and give back to this thing called everyday mundane living. I wanted to add sparkle and dazzle to the ordinary things in life, and hoping to then add a zip of life as well as a skip in a step to everyone’s life that I personally might have a golden opportunity to touch their lives with something I had painted.
It was June 4, 2003 that I left my home, on 501 Louisville St. down the street from Greensboro Street. Our home alongside the two homes adjoining ours are all listed on the National Historical Homes Of America. My maiden name is McReynolds, but I am also kin to the Reynolds family through my lineage of my maternal ancestors Dean/Pearson family. I am a cousin of Betsy Stark who lives right next door to the Reynolds Home, and we are all kin to the Reynolds’ family.
Every painting begins first with one word, inspiration. Every time I would pass by the old Reynolds home I would notice the American flag dangling from its flag wall stand and the big yellow ribbon tied on the post on the side front porch. I would whisper to myself, “It’s getting to be hot summer time and oh, that sweltering heat is just around corner, just like this old house with the flag and ribbon, you must take time to stop and capture this feeling of county, town, and home on your canvas.”
On that early summer’s morning at day light I went with my heart. This would be the day I would paint my dream and satisfy my deep inspiring drive to create this very special painting. I phoned the night before asking permission to stand in their yard, and paint all day long an end piece of their front porch. Sam and Anita Reynolds graciously agreed, and I was slowly making my way up the street with my car fully packed with all of my art supplies. It was very early, and the sun had not risen, so I did not tap on their front door because they were probably fast asleep, but I quickly began to set up my outside art studio so I could beat the hot day ahead.
The builder of the Reynolds home was William Henry Reynolds, and he was married to a lady with the last name of Buntin. This clapboard Victorian style home was made of locally cut and hand-hewn timber from the Sturgis area. I am sure that virgin hardwood and pine timber was cut down to be used for construction of this home.
This entire year we celebrate Starkville’s 175 years of our history. This old home has made her home right here in Starkville, and she like the town they were both was conceived, born, and both have withstood time, and aged with a sweet grace surviving the test of time. Starkville and The Reynolds home have lived through their past, and are still enjoying their present, and with great hope they are looking forward to their bright future.
I invite you to pretend with me not as if you are a bright yellow bumble bee flying around me all day long as we together sketch and then paint this painting once again. It is going to be a difficult painting because of all the details that we suddenly see of our landscape/still-life subjects right before our very eyes. It is a large painting on a 20-by-30 inch canvas, and the medium I am using is acrylic paint. It will take hours just to sketch the scene before I dip into my palette of many colors with my brushes. Sketching is in a way my own way of studying carefully what I am about to paint. I will work sometimes 17 hours without stopping blocking out the whole world around me when I am outside painting. I don’t hear the motors in the cars passing by or any sounds around me. I am then only concentrating on my subject right in front of me. I am in my own bubble world cause I am inside of a great big red inflatable bubble.
I remember the early morning, noon time, and into the late afternoon was delightfully enjoyable. Lots of traffic passed right by me, often honking, greeting me with “Hey, Carole, have fun today,” and at the end of the day when I was just about finished folks stopped by to chat with me. The corner of Greensboro, and Louisville Street is a very high traffic area getting to and from our public schools and back and forth into the Main Street area. This home is right across from our Greensboro Center with the main office of our superintendent and administration. Our huge Armstrong Middle School is right across the street adjoining The Greensboro Center.
I finally completed the painting late in the afternoon completely exhausted, but with a feeling of great satisfaction that I had caught forever just a mere sliver, a tiny piece of the essence of our deep south here in my native home town. It is a runner’s high when the work is completed. Suddenly I have had so much fun now I ask myself, “Where do I want to go and begin sketching and painting all over again tomorrow?” This is what I do best, and what I was born to do. There is always a tomorrow to begin all over again, and give it my best shot once again before the sun rises.
Let’s see and read this painting as we read a book starting from the top left hand side the first sentence of the page. There is a large magnolia tree filled with sweet smelling blossoms. Look the intricate wooden Victorian architecture of this home. I painted a hint of the dark almost black Magnolia leaves, and captured only one Magnolia flower in full bloom. I painted only the corner of the home with touches of purple and blue of wood colors. I think that these soft colors give you a sentimental feeling of age and character to the old hand-cut wood so many years ago. Look at the fluffy yellow ribbon tied on the old post instead of (tied on the old oak tree) ... the popular song, “Tie A Yellow Ribbon On The Old Oak Tree.” The year 2003 found the USA at war in Iraq on foreign soil, and since Sam Reynolds served in the US Navy, I am sure he wanted to support the troops across the sea. Now see the top of the old screened in window, it’s it lovely? I did not sketch or paint the old front door which was further to side in the middle of this home, but I just bet they use to have a screen door leading into the elegant wooden front door. I can just hear that certain slamming of this old wooden door years ago. To a native Mississippian this is sweet music to our ears.
Let’s read with our eyes the second sentence of this painting. The American flag slightly blowing in this early summer day of June. There she is, Old Glory of red, white and blue see how proudly she is positioned in the flag holder itself with the straight slightly angled view of the flag.Our flag is a symbol of our freedom as free people. I hope that this flag draws you into the painting with a sigh of gratefulness for those generations who fought on foreign land to allow our freedoms. I love the ends of the yellow ribbon blowing in the middle of the larger post in this 143-year-old-home. The ribbon is tied so graceful and looks so pretty too. I loved the flag and the ribbon.
The third sentence takes us to the middle of the page. Just feel the old aging brick. How many storms, and how many sunshiny days have come and gone and washed this brick off during rains, and how many days has the bright sunshine dried these old bricks? Look at all the colors within colors of the almost sagging bricks, but see they are still holding on and almost in place where a brick layer so of the past placed brick each one by one. I had to paint each one separately too, as if I laid brick on my canvas.
This third sentence takes us to the smack middle of the painting. Look at all the brick colors of orange, blue, purple, brown, gray, maroon and red. Look at the white Victorian almost prissy Curly Qs of the cut out wood designs of the posts.I love the Victorian lacy feelings of these post and tops of the post as if we are looking at lace that southern women adore so much.
Let your eyes see the two white wooden bannisters and the emerald green porch metal chairs of probably the late ‘30s , ‘40s and ‘50s porch and yard furniture. I only saw the back of one of the green chairs and a top of another chair by the railing. I wished I could have turned it facing the street, but left it as it was turned with its back toward Greensboro Street. Find the darker Emerald Green big pot which is the “home” for a tall green plant fitting on top of table on the porch itself. We can only see the top of the pot with a hint of the plant inside. Now before we leave this area look and find a reddish piece of another part of the magnolia flower itself. See all the dark hooker’s green mixed in with the lime green and bright green colors of the huge magnolia tree itself.
The fourth sentence is the old gray wooden porch which when the bright sun comes into this porch it looked more like a bright blue and purple porch. What gorgeous colors that this old porch suddenly became to my eyes.
The fifth sentence is the one brick stoop that leads you right into the porch knowing that you will soon be right up and on the front porch ready to ring the door bell in the middle of the home that is not painted.
Can you not visualize the old Reynolds Home back in 1869 as the tiny town, Starkville had just celebrates her beginning on May 11, 1837. We had celebration this year on May 11, blocking off Lafayette Street for our grand beginning celebration. This autumn we will have a big 175 parade leaving from the First United Methodist Church ending at Fire Station No. 1 around Russell Street. Everyone is cordially invited. Can you not visualize and see my multicolored umbrella and all my art supplies around me as I sit in a tall red director’s canvas art chair, floppy hat on my head with a magnolia flower picked from the tree pinned on the side capturing this scene right now?
You have shared these moments with me today and we have together re-created a painting. Our thoughts drift back to July 4, 1776. On Wednesday, July 4, 2012 we celebrate the anniversary, the birthday of the signing of our Declaration of Independence. Our town, now a city, chartered in 1835 as Starkville will celebrate July 4 too with fireworks down at the Sportsplex in the park when night falls as we talk, chat and greet each other. We cherish our beloved homes that we all inhabit, we and love so dearly. The old Reynolds home 1869 has stood and is still standing straight and tall as the American flag blows and sways oh so gently in the summer breeze will celebrate July 4 this year as well.
What made this 2003 painting so extra special and so wonderful is knowing deep within our hearts that this is the greatest country on the face of this place we call earth. Our people, homes, schools, universities, hospitals, churches, progressive, tiny, medium-sized and large cities make up states within the United States of America. We join hands with each other as people who are all just citizens of one country. We are like a puzzle, and each piece fits perfectly together striving to make this a country respecting, honoring, and taking care of the poor, middle, and rich classes of all of its citizens. We are Americans.
Carole McReynolds Davis is a local artist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .