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Today is October 4, 2022

Grin 'n' Bare It

The Peanut Lady of Carthage

Kay Grafe
Kay Grafe

    Don't take my word for it. Ask anyone in Carthage, or ask anyone who has tasted boiled or parched peanuts from Kathy's Boiled Peanuts and they will say,"Those are the best peanuts I've ever eaten."
    She has perfected a recipe that no one can match. Kathy Johnston uses a special ingredient that gives her boiled peanuts their scrumptious flavor. I tired to trick her into telling me her secret, but she wouldn't allow herself to be hoodwinked.
    "People have tried every trick in the book to get my recipe. I got it up here," she said, pointing to her head.
    Kathy's Boiled Peanuts is located in south Carthage on Highway 35. And no Cajun flavors are allowed near her large boiling pot. "Why would anyone want to mess up the taste of my peanuts with spice?" She laughed.
    "What kind of peanuts do you use?" I asked.
    "There's not but one variety that's worth a flip," she said, grinning. “That's your old-time Spanish peanut. It's long and sometimes has five nuts in its shell. I don't sell those big suckers with thick shells, and besides their flavor can't match Spanish."
    Kathy is a slim 77-year-old lady with bright red hair and a gift for gab. She has a smile and a praise on her lips for the Lord who has blessed her. According to Kathy, He pulled her through several close calls. Sickness and otherwise.
    Her business isn't in a stationary building. She has a sturdy platform built onto a small motorhome that she moves up to Highway 35 every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m. She closes at 5:30 p.m. She has opened at 10 year-round for 23 years. The few exceptions were when she couldn't get peanuts, or was sick. Both are rarities. 
    Kathy has a chair inside her covered platform next to the boiling pot, where she sits to dish up her treasure into three size bags: pint, $3; quart, $5; and gallon, $16.
    In her early years she spent a short time working in Philadelphia and Union. Now Carthage is her home. "You couldn't drag me away from here. I have too many friends that I fellowship with. Besides, I have so many regular customers, I'd hate to leave them."
    One of those customers is Tommy McMillan, who stopped by for his usual order.
    Kathy said she sold at least 50 pounds in three days—even more on holidays. After her divorce in 1991, she made her living selling boiled and parched peanuts. "I have more money now. My ex-husband passed and I receive survivor's benefits." 
    That old saying, "If you have a good product people will beat a path to your door,"
fits feisty Kathy like a glove. Two perfect adages.
    I had a zillion questions to ask her but she talked faster than I did. However, she did answer most of my curiosities. It takes about nine hours to boil the peanuts using bottled gas. And she doesn't worry about being robbed. A policeman had once told her if she ever had a problem to use her registered gun and shoot them in the legs.
    "Kathy," I said, "tell me something you would like for people to know about you."
    Her face lit up. "That I'm a Christian and love to fellowship with everyone, especially my West Carthage Baptist Church friends."
    When you drive to Carthage on Highway 35 South, you can't miss Kathy's Boiled Peanuts. On a sunny day wear sunglasses—her dazzling red hair will be ablaze.  
    And don't forget the yearly Choctaw Basket Day, Oct. 20 at Bryan's Country Store. From Highway 35 south of Carthage, turn eastward onto Highway 488. Drive about 4 miles. You can't miss it. People travel from all over the United States to join the celebration. The Choctaws sell their baskets and show you how to make baskets, cook hominy and other Indian food. Their jewelry is handcrafted. Choctaws also tell stories about their ancient past. For more information call Rose Bryan at 601-267-9013.
    Mix it up in October with peanuts and baskets from Carthage. Trust me, it's a trip worth taking.


    Kay Grafe is the author of “Oh My Gosh, Virginia.” To order, send name, address, phone number and $16.95, plus $3.50 S&H to Kay Grafe, 2142 Fig Farm Road, Lucedale, MS 39452.

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