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Member Showcase: August 2014



Brent (BN) Heard

Author of 

Ms. Fannie Lou Cranks My Tractor

(and so does Vernon, Florida)




Tune in to XTRA 99.1FM to hear the Author interviewed by Neal Steele on CBW's Second Monday monthly broadcast, August 11th at about 8:05AM. If you missed the live broadcast, play the podcast now:


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 magical teapot.

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 Parade.

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 stage.


About the Author

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 business.

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 Jennifer Grey.

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.

E-Mail Brent <----> Visit his Website <---> Buy the Kindle <--> Visit Facebook Page

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