About the Book
Growing up in Alabama, the author visited his
grandparents in rural Randolph County, Alabama, on the weekends. His
Papa (grandfather) was a wanderer, ham radio operator and lover of
dogs he could tote with one arm.
When he felt like hitting the road for an adventure or running away
for a day, he always said one thing, “Let’s go to Vernon.” He meant
Vernon, Florida. Vernon was a dried up little town on the Florida
Panhandle just across the border from Alabama with not much to see
other than a couple of stores and some trees.
So the author, his grandfather and a little dog would go to Vernon,
Florida. The beauty of it all was the trip – the boiled peanuts,
hoop cheese and all the soda waters a little boy could drink.
In the book, the author goes back to Vernon, Florida to rekindle
those sweet memories. In the process, he meets wonderful people and
comes to understand why his grandfather really wanted to go there.
After asking folks who knew the most about the town’s history,
everyone told him the same thing – Ms. Fannie Lou. The author is
greeted by “Ms. Fannie Lou,” who invites him in for the day to tell
him a little about Vernon’s history, her miracle eggs and her
The author not only develops a relationship with Ms. Fannie Lou, but
with many of the other town’s residents and ends up becoming
Vernon’s first and only “Honorary Citizen.” He also was the
unanimous choice for Grand Marshal of the 2012 Vernon Christmas
The book tells the story of the author going "Home to Vernon."
The author now claims Vernon as his honorary home, wearing the
Vernon zip code on his hat when he performs as a storyteller on
Brent Needham (BN) Heard grew up in
the newspaper business in Alabama serving as the
janitor, lawn boy, and part time sports writer. In
the years that followed, he owned a weekly
newspaper, batting cages, and a mail order toy
He has worked in the NASA world for more than 25
years and taught mathematics at the college level
for about 20. In his spare time, he loves writing
and making people smile.
His degrees are all in mathematics, thus he does not
consider himself the typical journalist type. He
also notes that rather than a columnist or blogger,
he considers himself more of a storyteller.
Brent worked at the Anniston Star in Anniston,
Alabama, from 1974 (12 years old) to 1987 when he
was finishing a graduate degree in mathematics at
Jacksonville State University in nearby
Jacksonville, AL. While at the Star, he cut the
grass, cleaned the toilets, unloaded paper, and for
a number of years got a byline for writing high
school football stories in the fall.
Brent notes, “I covered the games and came back to
the newspaper on Friday nights to have one of the
sports staff help me put together the story for the
Saturday morning edition. One of those writers who
helped me on Friday nights was Rick Bragg who went
on to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. I only
remember Rick as a friend and a pretty good pitcher
for our softball team.”
He has worked in the aerospace world since finishing
his graduate degree in 1987. He moved from Marshall
Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to
Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Brent
lives in Williamsburg with his wife, three children
(one at the University of Alabama and one at Clemson
University), and two poodles.
What does he write about in his weekly column? The
name says it all – He writes about what “Cranks My
Tractor.” Good people, places & things.....
People like his godmother, Phyllis, from Gary,
Indiana (watch Video), who originally called him by
mistake and kept calling him every day. Ms. Fannie
Lou, the lady from Vernon, Florida, who invited me
into her house without knowing me from Adam's house
cat. He has found out that famous people are
sometimes really nice to talk to and write about
also. He has has had to opportunity to talk to and
write about two time Super Bowl MVP Bart Starr,
Kenny "the Snake" Stabler and Dirty Dancing's
Places like Vernon, Florida; Georgiana, Alabama;
Juliette, Georgia; South Pittsburg, Tennessee,
Denver, Colorado and Wedowee, Alabama.
Things like butterfly tattoos, big poodles,
licorice, stray dogs, the shaky thing, being an
usher at church and the little blue pill.
In addition to writing his weekly “Cranks My
Tractor” column, Brent performs on stage in Virginia
and Washington DC as a storyteller and speaks to
various groups about writing and storytelling in
general. Originally from Alabama, he now lives in
Virginia’s Historic Triangle amongst Yankees who
think they are living in The South.
Visit his Website
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