The Roads Less Traveled

It was a particularly bucolic stretches of country road, gently curved over and around rolling hills, dappled by afternoon sun through tall pine trees. Coming up was one of those diamond shaped yellow road signs, the kind that typically warn of an intersection ahead or a school bus stop. But instead, this one warned me to be on the lookout for slow moving horse-drawn carriages.

Huh?

I grew up in rural Iowa near a large Amish community, so I’m actually quite familiar with these signs. I was however, not expecting to encounter one in southern Mississippi.

A few miles beyond I turn at the sign for Roger’s Basketry where I’m greeted by a pretty young woman dressed much like the Amish near where I grew up. Her sister the basketmaker was away, she tells me, but she’s happy to show me around the shop filled with beautiful baskets and homemade preserves, and explains that her community of German Baptists has somewhat different religious roots than the Amish, but practices a very similar lifestyle-they dress similarly, don’t use electricity and travel about in horse drawn buggies.

This was one of many memorable moments to come when, during several days in May I allowed myself to savor the joys of random exploration, driving Mississippi roads I hadn’t traversed before, without a pre-existing destination. Along the way I’d ask folks to point me towards the things they found most interesting about their hometowns. And as usually happens, one such discovery leads to another.

It all started earlier that day at the welcome center in Hattiesburg, where I’d stopped in for the free wi-fi and walked out with a complimentary cup of coffee, a cookie and my first tip. I was headed north on Highway 49 to Shady Acres.

Can a divided four-lane highway be a country road? I would posit that it can, when it’s populated all along its length with farms, fruit stands and charming small towns. It was a ten-foot long giant watermelon that first made me hit the brakes along this stretch. The Watermelon Patch is mostly an oddly located shoe store these days, but it still pays homage to its fruit stand roots by offering fresh made peach cobbler in the back. A bit further down the road was Shady Acres, which lived up to its billing, boasting bins filled with fruit and vegetables, along with bedding plants out back, not to mention a bakery offering up fresh apple cakes, and hot plate lunches served in a screened porch or under outdoor tables set amidst a forest of ferns.

“Have you been to KA pottery?” someone responds as I ask again for guidance in my exploration.

I hadn’t. So it was on to Seminary, one of a string of pretty towns, sandwiched between Highway 49 and beautiful Okatoma Creek. A quick stop at the drugstore for a scoop of ice cream from the soda fountain and directions (over the tracks, five miles out of town, second turn past the faded white fence by the barn on the hill-the teenagers tore down the sign) and shortly I was pulling down a long gravel drive, up to a newly built home nestled on the side of a deep wooded ravine. A home I was soon to learn that Troy and Claudia Ka Cartee designed and built themselves. Along with the pottery studio and a soon to open gallery space.

They moved to this land owned by her family from southern California, in search of a place where Ka could fully immerse herself in her passion for pottery. Since then she has established a national following for her work, including her exceptionally popular dinnerware. She’s also a noted gourmet vegetarian chef, growing her own herbs in one the windows that overlooks the forest beyond their home, and teaching cooking classes in nearby Hattiesburg.

You can’t help but linger in such company, but lunch time has come and gone by now, so Ka calls ahead to see if the Deli Diner is still serving in Collins, the county seat and next town over. There I meet Rob and Jenn Walters, a young couple who are slowly transforming an old Sonic into their own space for fresh salads and sandwiches. As part of the transformation the walls are now covered with an eclectic mix of clocks, photographs, and original art. A spin through Collins reveals a pretty courthouse and a bustling downtown in an era when many are struggling.

Which sadly is somewhat the case at my next stop in nearby Mendenhall, which despite having perhaps Mississippi’s most beautiful courthouse, has a struggling courthouse square. But it also has one of the state’s most passionate local advocates on a mission to remedy that. Pam Jones has already taken over the old Mendenhall Grocery and Grain, and made the shelves that once held farm supplies and bins that once held seeds, into display cases for a striking collection of work by local artisans. Her friend Melinda Hart owns a deli in the back, with fare that goes way beyond the typical small town plate lunch, with offerings like turkey, gouda cheese, and Granny Smith apple slices on warmed raisin bread.

Jones has also founded a group working to repurpose another historic downtown structure into the future home of the Simpson County Museum and Art Gallery.

A few miles outside of town is beautiful D’Lo Waterpark on Strong River, at falls once considered sacred for the harp-like musical sound they make. The sound comes from trapped air bubbles in the submerged fissures and scour-pockets of the stream bed, made as the river flows over the falls. Or maybe, just perhaps there’s a less scientific explanation. In any case it is a spot beautiful enough to have served as a locale for the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

By this time I’m almost to Jackson where I’ll spend the night, but not before passing by Mississippi’s Petrified Forest and a stop for terrific fried catfish in the giant igloo that is Jerry’s Catfish house.

The next day I’m headed south again, following another lead. I had a picture from a friend to confirm its existence. But when I asked several folks I encountered on this journey about “the Grand Canyon of Mississippi” I got blank stares… until I got to Columbia. Here the question prompted a quick smile and careful directions to a spot about ten miles northwest of the city. “Red Bluff” is what the small signs pointing the way actually call it. I wondered if I’d made a wrong turn when I came to a sign that said road closed ahead. I eased on down the road anyway and soon discovered WHY the road was closed.

A few hundred yards more is a permanent barricade, because beyond, the roadway has fallen away. Standing as close as I dared to that spot, I looked over the edge. The erosion that had put an end to the usefulness of this stretch of highway had produced a gorge perhaps a hundred or more feet deep, exposing layer after layer of brilliantly hued soil in the process. The stunning view through the gorge and to the timber-lined hills beyond is the sort of thing you expect to see in Utah or New Mexico… not this part of Mississippi.

Back in Columbia, just a few blocks from yet another pretty courthouse, was my last one-of-a-kind discovery for this trip: The Southern Fried Rabbit Restaurant. Could there be anywhere else in the world where you can get barbecued rabbit on a bun to go at a drive up window? Not to mention fried rabbit, or rabbit and gravy over rice.

Dallas Holiday Home Decorations

The Holiday Season is a beautiful time of year in the Dallas Metroplex, even though the ground isn’t always blanketed in snow. The unpredictable Texas winter weather brings good tidings displayed in the season’s jubilant decorations adorning the homes new and old from north Dallas to Fort Worth; and from Sunnyvale to to Corsicana. The lackluster economy can’t stop the Christmas sparkle. If you’re looking to see Christmas lights in the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex, you can still find holiday decor from the festive to funky, from traditional to the avante-guarde in neighborhoods throughout DFW.

Dallas, Texas Holiday Lights

Few places offer the nostalgia of Highland Park in the wintertime, especially during the Christmas Season. Homes in this area compete for attention with twinkling lights, classy wreaths and sneak peaks into living rooms adorned with every Christmas decoration imaginable. The area is brimming with old-timey homes built in the early 1900s, harkening to the simplicity of days long past. Stop off at Highland Park Village for a Mocha Latte to enjoy as you drive through the gorgeous neighborhoods in University Park, Highland Park and the Park Cities.

Kessler Park Christmas Lights Display

The Kessler Park neighborhood in north Oak Cliff overlooking the Downtown Dallas skyline and in the shadows of Methodist Central Hospital, will once again be displaying thousands of lights on the traffic islands of this beautiful community and complimented with dozens of homes being decorated in colorful displays. Details about this historical neighborhood and location can be found at kesslerpark.org/holidaylights.htm

Arlington, Texas Holiday Lights

One Arlington neighborhood, Interlochen, offers a spectacular neighborhood lighting display that attracts tourists from nearby cities. The homes of Interlochen are older, and set upon the largest hills in DFW, and make for a brilliant display. The area is so packed that roads are closed and residents receive entry-passes to get past the throngs of those seeking to partake in the area’s holiday spirit.

Fair Park Holiday Lights Display in Dallas, Texas

With free admission and free parking, the family-friendly event anticipates more than 60,000 visitors. Fair Park Holiday Lights will offer holiday foods, entertainment, music, lights, horse-drawn carriages, hay rides, a Yule log, kids crafts, games and activities … and more – including a first-time pajama holiday movie party outdoors in The Cotton Bowl!

Farmers Branch Holiday Lights

Farmers Branch brings in the yuletide cheer with a tree light display of over 300,000 lights during the Farmers Branch Holiday Tour of Lights. The Holiday Tour now continues each night, from 6:30 until 9:30 p.m. through New Year’s Eve. Admission to the Historical Park portion is free with donations accepted by the non-profit organizations assisting with the display. The Historical Park portion is closed on Mondays and on Christmas Day. For more information, call (972) 919-2620 or visit ci.farmers-branch.tx.us

Frisco, Texas Holiday Lights

If you’re coming to the Frisco area for Christmas, don’t miss “Frisco in the Square” which is the a spectacular holiday light display across Main Street that’s synchronized to music. It’s the largest light display of it’s kind. While you’re here, visit some of the awesome neighborhood light displays.

Over 90% of the homes in Frisco are brand-spanking new, and many are adorned with delightful rows of twinkling lights. Street vendors on Preston Road are hawking flat wooden Christmas characters, as well as “Happy Holidays” signs strung with white lights. At least one such displays can be seen on every street in the city. Another popular item for Frisco residents are the new blow-up yard decorations that stay afloat with hot-air. And nothing says Christmas like a house with candles and wreaths on every window. If the new homes of Frisco were beautiful before, now they’re striking.

Richardson Texas Christmas Light Displays

Some Richardson residents call it Lollipop Lane. It looks more like Gumdrop Gardens. You’ll find colorful squares of light resembling giant gumdrops dotting the landscape of several homes on Opal and Kirby lanes in Richardson, Texas. Giant lollipops and candy canes get your tummy ready for Christmas sweets. Several other streets in the neighborhood, to the south and east of the intersection of Floyd and West Arapaho roads, have some fun displays. Light display is on Opal Lane is off Floyd Road, one block south of West Arapaho Road.

Plano Texas Holiday Lights

Not to be outdone, Plano has a very splashy display of Christmas lights at its very own Deerfield Neighborhood, sponsored by the Deerfield Neighborhood Association. Drive by slowly and make this wonderful holiday light display part of your family tradition. Learn more at Deerfieldplano.org

Waxahachie Texas Christmas Lights

Waxahachie’s Downtown Victorian Christmas starts Dec. 5 and runs through the end of the month. Events include a Victorian Christmas Festival from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 and noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 7 and Dec. 14 at the Ellis County Courthouse Square. Central Presbyterian Church, at 402 N. College St., presents Bethlehem Revisited from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 5-7 and Dec. 12-14. A candlelight Christmas Home Tour will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Dec. 6-7 and Dec. 12-14. Enchanted Pines, an outdoor ice-skating rink at South Rogers and Madison streets, opens Dec. 5 and will be open Fridays to Sundays through Dec. 28. Details: WaxahachieChamber.com.

Pennsylvania Public Records – 2 Main Search Options

Pennsylvania public records is the archive that you should access if you want to get your own personal files like birth certificate, marriage certificate, and divorce certificate among many others; it also contain other pertinent documents like death certificates, court cases, criminal files, felony reports, and much more. Because of the importance of these documents, numerous individuals from all walks of life are searching for methods of access to this database due to various reasons.

Some people want to access this archive because they need to get copies of one of the documents as attachment to their loan and insurance applications, employment requirements, insurance claims, claims for health benefits, updating of social security files, and so on. Other individuals are also searching through Pennsylvania public records in order to perform background check on a person; or verify the credentials of loan and job applicants.

Whatever reasons you have in mind for wanting to access this database, you have two main options of search. One method necessitates you to make personal appearance at the respective local government agency in charge of maintaining the archive; while the other method offers the convenience of getting your desired data online without exerting much efforts from your end. Each of these methods has its own unique advantages; as well as disadvantages.

The first option is time consuming, costly in terms of transportation expenses, and requires a lot of efforts from you; however, this is the best way of getting the certified copies of these personal certificates which may cost you around $10 per copy. The second method offers the convenience of instant online access within just minutes of doing your search at any time you want, and at the comfort of your home without leaving your house; however, this is only good if you do not need to procure the certified papers.

For the option of getting the certified papers, you can either visit or mail your requests to the following:

For Birth Certificates and Death Records:
Division of Vital Records 101 South Mercer Street, Room 401 PO Box 1528 New Castle, PA 16101.

For Marriage Records & Divorce Records
Just visit the County courthouse where it was filed; some of them are located in the following Counties:

Adams
111-17 Baltimore St.
Gettysburg, PA 17325-2313

Allegheny
414 Grant St., 1st Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-2403

Beaver
810 3rd St.
Beaver, PA 15009

Delaware
201 W. Front St.
Media, PA 19063-2708

Franklin
157 Lincoln Way E
Chambersburg, PA 17201

Westmoreland
301 Courthouse Square
Greensburg, PA 15601

Nevertheless, just check your local directory for the details of the address if they are not one among the aforementioned locations. The second method offers more convenience because all you have to do is input the name of the person and the place; the results will give you excellent details of the individual, including the aforesaid documents. Your choice on which option is best lies on the purpose of your search for Pennsylvania public records.