Story Jan Swoope | Photographs Matt Garner & Luisa Porter
Inching through deep gravel atop a rise by the logging site, drivers begin to think they’ve missed a turn somewhere.
Even after hanging a right at the bandanas, unfurled from sticks like festive flags, dense trees press close. Can this be the right place?
Carry on, and be rewarded by reaching Camp Mixon.
Raised eyebrows and dubious grins greeted David and Jamie Mixon’s acquisition in 1992 of the abandoned, ramshackle cabin in the backwoods of Oktibbeha County. Nobody’s laughing now, except with delight, when invited to visit the Starkville couple’s getaway.
“When we first looked at the property and peered through the windows, we saw magic. Others were more skeptical,” laughs Jamie. “For my first birthday after we got the cabin, David gave me a machete so I could hack my way through.”
When the hacking — and a lot more — was done, what emerged was a uniquely personal and rural haven.
The circa 1953 cabin with original plank floors and 6-foot doorframes is “the wild hair,” as the Mixons dub it. It’s that unrestrained place where everything doesn’t have to match, the nest you can fill with things you like, just because you can.
From snake skins and stuffed squirrels in the front room to back porch railing courtesy of the beavers down at the lake, every inch reflects Jamie’s eclectic eye and David’s Boy Scout soul.
Antique shop finds complement David’s hand-hewn posts and curtain rods fashioned from tree branches. Walls covered with ah-ha memorabilia, textured rugs and what-nots create a style Jamie calls Davy Crockett meets Pee Wee’s Playhouse. And it works.
“I’m the art director, and David’s the handyman extraordinaire,” jokes Jamie, who is a graphic designer, illustrator and professor in Mississippi State University’s Department of Art. David is manager of Infrastructure Services in MSU’s Information Technology Services.
The Mixons’ two sons, Tanner and Nash, grew up romping on the camp’s 50 acres as often as possible, usually with friends in tow. Nash’s wedding reception there a couple of years ago has been just one of the entertaining events Camp Mixon has hosted.
For the 2014 summer fête pictured, the Mixons kept it artfully casual by decorating with wood, wicker, tin, fabrics, vegetables and sunflowers. Guests soon realize what Jamie and David discovered a long time ago. This is a place for unwinding, for soaking it in, for letting go.
“You come out here and you lose the inhibitions, the stress,” David says, standing on the back porch, gazing at the lake.
The couple always knew, they say, that somehow they would one day own some land you could get lost on. And look what they found.
This is a basic 8-cup recipe — just double or triple depending on the size of your party (and dispenser). I freely substitute the fruit and have been known to throw in a bottle of Pimm’s #1 Liqueur and a few cans of frozen concentrated lemonade for added pizazz.
½ cup superfine sugar
½ cup cognac
1 mango (peeled, pitted, sliced thinly)
1 peach or nectarine (pitted, sliced thinly)
1 red apple (cored, sliced thinly)
1 Granny Smith apple (cored, sliced thinly)
1-2 plums (cored, sliced thinly)
2 bottles (750 ml) dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, chilled
Ice cubes, for serving
• In a large pitcher, stir sugar and cognac until well combined.
• Stir in fruit slices until fully coated; let stand, refrigerated, overnight.
• Before serving, add wine to pitcher and stir until well combined.
• Serve over ice and top off glass with plenty of fresh mint.
(Source: Jamie Mixon)
SCALLION & CILANTRO SAUSAGE BALLS
1 pound hot Italian sausage
8-ounce block sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups Bisquick baking mix
2 whole eggs
½ cup sliced scallions
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
1 small pinch cayenne pepper
• Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil.
• Dump sausage, cheese, baking mix, eggs, scallions, cilantro and cayenne pepper into a large bowl; mix with hands until fully combined.
• Roll mixture into 1-inch balls; place on baking sheet.
• Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool 2 minutes before peeling them away from the foil.
(Source: Jamie Mixon)
SPINACH CHEESE BALLS
1 9-ounce box frozen spinach (thawed, squeezed to drain)
1 cup Bisquick mix
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 cup tomato pasta sauce, if desired
• Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray.
• In large bowl, mix all ingredients except pasta sauce.
• Shape mixture into 1-inch balls; place on cookie sheet.
• Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan immediately.
• Serve with pasta sauce.
(Source: Jamie Mixon)