A Sweet Prairie Shindig

Sun bonnets and six-shooters under a Prairie sky

Story Shannon Bardwell | Photographs Luisa Porter

Fashions of the day were from the 1880s-1890s. All across the lawn women swished in long skirts, with shoulders covered by shawls, while menfolk of all ages donned suspenders, arm bands, vests and cowboy hats. A few men wore low-slung gun belts with revolvers, cowboy-style.

Women chased playful children, spread quilts on the ground, or herded the family toward a horse-and-buggy ride. Arms heavily laden with casseroles and desserts, they headed toward long tables under the tent.   

Karen and Raymond Overstreet opened their Prairie Sunset Farm in western Lowndes County to a fundraising event extraordinaire this past November. Raymond announced to the crowd, “Step back in time to a simpler life. We are feeling most blessed and thankful to God, our close friends, loving family and free country.” As he lifted his hands in the air, he implored the crowd, “Enjoy the spirit of the time.”

And that the guests did. Upon arrival, cars were parked at a distance while horse and buggy, or Stan Churchill driving mule and wagon, delivered guests to the front door of the Overstreet’s country home.

Brave souls were offered horseback rides and braver souls still entered the shooting contest. It was announced, “No stoppers can be pulled from the jugs,” until after the shooting, where one needs a good eye and a steady hand.

Francis Baird, an avid “Cowboy Action” participant, dressed in a fine gold brocade vest with revolvers on each hip, demonstrated the competitive shooting sport.   

As the sun slipped below the horizon, a quieter entertainment followed with Ann Buckley on the keyboard and Barbara Calland leading the hymn singing. Voices rang out with “How Great Thou Art,” “Standing on the Promises,” “Rock of Ages” and “Shall We Gather at the River.”

The children of Brian and Christina Chisholm — Jack, Alison Grace and Emma — and the Overstreet’s grandson, Paxton, played with the baby goats brought by Paul Huther and Betty Barker, until the goats started to shiver in the night air and were moved to a cozier stall. Undaunted, the children continued to play “jail” in the goat pen, keeping what law they could among ruffians.

Amid the festivities, a silent auction of baked goods provided by the attendees was heating up under the big tent.

Ann Buckley offered her chess squares; Missy Younger brought banana bread with pineapple and pecans. Lauren Orlosky’s blackberry cobbler, Diego Velasco’s “Fabulous Pumpkin Bread” with streusel and nuts, Robbie May’s lemon rum cake, Lydia Martin’s signature “Third Generation” sour cream pound cake (the recipe for which forever shall remain secret), Kathy Baker’s symphony chocolate brownies, Jane Crawford’s coconut pound cake and Catherine Knepper’s apple cake gathered the onlookers.

Bidding wars raged for both a basket of homemade chocolate chip cookies and Judy Flowers’ infamous Sex in a Pan dessert.

The proceeds of the silent auction and the live auction that followed would go to St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic charity dedicated to serving the community’s poor.

Torch lights were lit and fire pits flashed up while guests partook in roasted pig and potluck. Standing in line, Lydia Martin received compliments on her calico frock and matching shawl. “In my earlier days, I would have come as a can-can girl,” she said.

Over dinner, Chuck, Missy and JoAnna Younger joined in admiration of the flower decorations of Prairie grasses, sage brush, swamp sunflowers, Prairie petunias, persimmons and golden cosmos.

Of a stem of dried pods, Chuck Younger said, “That’s devil weed,” pointing out a decorous weed like a true crop farmer. “You can’t kill that stuff with Roundup.”

About then the live auction began with Nick Clark as auctioneer. Nick did a fine job of regularly bringing in $100 a cake for the benefit of St. Vincent de Paul. He also gave Lowndes County Prosecutor Forrest Allgood a hard time when Forrest spoke a little too loudly, “I’m waiting … ” and Nick heard, “I bid 80.”

“Sold to Forrest Allgood, a coconut pound cake for 80 dollars!”

Forrest sadly shook his head and put his hat in his hand, “I was waiting,” he repeated.

“Not to worry,” said Nick good-naturedly. “Had it been ’lection year, it woulda cost you a whole lot more.”

The evening ended sweetly with a little dancing as the bluegrass music of Matt Butler and the No Name Band wafted late into the Prairie night.


CATHERINE KNEPPER’S APPLE CAKE

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup vegetable oil
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
½ cup orange juice
6-7 apples (any variety)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons sugar

NOTE: For best results, have all ingredients at room temperature.

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or 9-by-13-inch cake pan.
• Peel, core and slice apples and set aside. Mix cinnamon and 4 tablespoons of sugar and set aside.
• Mix sugar, oil, vanilla, eggs and orange juice.
• Combine flour and baking powder. Add gradually to blended liquid ingredients.
• Pour half the batter into pan, top with half the apples. Sprinkle with half the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Pour in rest of batter, followed by remaining apples and sugar/cinnamon.
• Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (If using tube pan, allow to rest one hour before removing from pan.)


ANN BUCKLEY’S CHESS SQUARES

1 egg
1 box yellow cake mix
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick butter, melted and cooled

• Mix above ingredients until crumbly.
• Spread in 9-by-13-inch pan. (Work from the center and make crust a little higher around the edges.)

Filling:

8 ounces cream cheese
3 eggs
1 box confectioner’s sugar

• Beat well and pour into crust.
• Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until brown.


JUDY FLOWERS’ SEX IN A PAN

1 cup flour
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecans
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup powder sugar
1 large tub of Cool Whip (use ½, reserve ½ for topping)
2 packages instant fudge pudding
3 cups milk

• Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
• Mix flour, butter and pecans.
• Press in 9-by-13-inch pan and bake 20 minutes. Let cool.
• Mix cream cheese, sugar and Cool Whip. Spread over crust.
• Mix pudding and milk. Spread on top of cream cheese mixture
• Spread remaining Cool Whip on top.
• Shave chocolate on top, if desired, and pecans, if you like.
• Refrigerate until served.