Today on the blog we are featuring one of our very own, Darlene “Shorty” King. If you don’t know her personally, you may recognize her from our “Shorty Shares” segments on social media. If you’ve been in our store or know her personally, you know she has a reputation for being able to make the most beautiful masterpieces with wreaths, table settings and any other home décor item. We are so grateful to have Shorty on the Rubies team, and we are proud to share the story of her home.
Darlene and Ricky King purchased land outside of Laurel with the plan to build one day. They had no intention of rushing into anything, purchasing a mobile home with hopes for a thought-out build in the future. In 1987, the infamous Glade tornado came through Jones County, injuring hundreds and taking the lives of six people. One of the most rare storms of its time, this F-4 tornado had a 34 mile path length and was 1,200 yards wide, destroying everything in its path.
The King’s mobile home was damaged in the storm, which left them with a decision to make. While not fully prepared, they decided to start on their home earlier than originally planned. Ricky’s experience as a brick mason led them to choose brick for the exterior of their home. They had always dreamed of building the home with Laurel brick, that was an obvious first choice. However, construction supplies in Jones County were sparse after the storm, so they had to settle for a different brick. But, they planned to eventually replace with Laurel brick when they had saved enough to do so.
Year after year, Ricky and Darlene collected brick every chance they could get. When an old produce building was being torn down, they were able to get some Laurel brick from there. Ricky would salvage the brick from home renovations in town, purchasing it from the home owners or builders when he had the chance and having someone clean and prepare it for their home.
It took about four years to acquire the brick needed to replace what was on their home. So, after a total of about ten years in the home, the Kings replaced the brick on their house, adding a wraparound porch, columns and outdoor fireplace.
Life at the Kings
With 39 acres, it’s no surprise that the Kings home serves as a hub for their family. With two children and seven grandchildren (with one on the way), they love that their home can be a place for four-wheeler riding, fishing and adventuring for their family. “I never know how many kids I have spending the night at my house,” Darlene said. “Our house is always full, so I just plan meals to feed everybody each week, assuming I will have a lot of people eating.”
If you visit the King home, you’ll notice the dining table is a focal point. The original dining table was built by Ricky, using a Singer sewing table as the base. “When my girls were little, I had an idea for a dining table on a sewing machine, and it has become a staple in our home,” Darlene said. After she had the table a few years, the Kings were driving and noticed a sewing base with the name King on it rather than Singer. “I had never heard of a King sewing machine, so I knew it must have been a rare brand with a story behind it , and I had to have it.” Ricky and Darlene pulled up into the driveway and asked the woman who lived there if they could buy the base from her. She explained that it, with the ply wood on top, served as their watermelon-eating table, and it was irreplaceable. After discussing and negotiating, Ricky offered to build her a new top for her table if she would be willing to use the Singer base. She agreed, and the rest is history.
With the addition of several grandchildren, the family seemed to outgrow the custom kitchen table. “I bought a big one that suited our family better size-wise, but it didn’t last long,” Darlene said. “Even though it was bigger, it just wasn’t the same. I brought my sewing machine table back out.” The top is scratched and worn, and that’s just how she likes it – unique and with lots of character.
As the youngest of nine children, Darlene was given the name “Shorty” because she was significantly younger and, naturally, shorter than all of her siblings. Born here locally, she has lived all over the country, starting in Ellisville then going to Picayune, Slidell and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and even to North Carolina and West Virginia. But of all the places she has lived, she loves to call Jones County her home. “I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for the view I have from my front porch,” she said.