The Dart: Southern Carriage Tours owner enjoys growing tomatoes

Published 1:11 am Monday, May 21, 2012

George and Delores Vines, who have been married for 33 years, have found a happy life together through their different interests, like spending time with family, traveling and growing a garden. George is also the owner of Southern Carriage Tours. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

By Mollie Beth Wallace

NATCHEZ — When you first meet George Vines, he’ll tell you that he’s not very interesting. But beyond being the owner of Southern Carriage tours, Vines has a knack for gardening that has nourished some of the largest tomatoes in town.

“I like to be by myself.” Vines said at his house on Greenwood land, where the dart fell.

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The youngest of 16 children, Vines grew up in Fords Creek (Wilkinson County), with an appreciation for hard work.

Vines said that his family was so poor that he and his siblings had nothing but shadows to soak their biscuits in.

Vines later moved to Natchez and worked at Armstrong Tire & Rubber Plant until it closed in 1986.

At age 47 and out of work, Vines walked past the carriage horses in downtown Natchez and said he thought that was a business he could get into.

Though he no longer gives tours as much as he used to, Vines, a natural storyteller, said he has enjoyed entertaining tourists with tales of historic Natchez.

“People from up north think we’re still fighting the war down here,” Vines joked. “What they don’t realize is that we’re just trying to get our money back.”

Vines has a green thumb not only in his business, but also in his garden.

“I guess I’ve been planting here about 10 years,” Vines said as he pulled the suckers off of his tomato plants.

“I have to come out here every day and stick the vines back in the cages.” He said.

Vines said he is approximately six weeks ahead of most tomato growers, since he planted his in early March.

“You couldn’t raise no hundred acres like this,” Vine said of his well-groomed garden. He said his secret is the time and care he devotes to his plants.

He said his childhood in Wilkinson County taught him the value of hard work, which makes his garden flourish.

“We pretty much had to grow all our food,” he said.

His wife, Delores Vines, said she and her husband have been best friends since they met in 1979.

“He called me on the phone and told me he was shy,” she said. “So I asked him, ‘Well why did you just pick up the phone and call someone you don’t know?’”

The couple married in August of the same year, and made their home on Greenwood Lane, next door to Delores’ parents.

Thirty-three years later, the Vines’ home is usually bustling with their eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.”

“It’s like their home, too,” Vines said.

A large Oak tree casts shade over their backyard.

“We watched that tree grow into a giant,” Vines said.

Delores Vines retired in 2002 after 28 years as the mayor’s secretary. After retiring, she joined the Natchez chapter of the Red Hat Society, the Scarlett O’Hatters,” and of which was queen for the past five years.

She said her husband enjoys being outside in the garden, and she enjoys tasting the fruits of his labor.

Vines takes most of his tomatoes home to his family, but he said he has a long waiting lists of friends who are eager to try get their hands on some of his ripe giants.