Greg Patton grew up on a cotton farm on Dear Creek near Leland, what he calls “the heart of the Mississippi Delta.” Around 1975, he was introduced to the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien by his stepfather, Jody Stovall. Patton was struck by the description of the valley of the elves, which “was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Evil things did not come into that valley. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.” Tolkien called the place Rivendell.
“What better name could there be for a home?” asked Patton, who carried the question with him for over twenty years. Time saw the lanky kid who loved canoeing, riding horses, and building treehouses leave Leland for an education that would eventually land him in Houston, Texas, where he attended the Baylor College of Medicine. 
“After living in that sprawling metropolis, I realized my preference for living in a smaller town, preferably with a university,” recalls Patton, who in 1989 chose to relocate to Oxford and begin his medical practice as an obstetrician and gynecologist. While Oxford satisfied his longing for a small town’s sense of community, hospitality, and charm, his dream of a farm would have to wait eleven years while he lived in a condominium near the Square. The decision was practical and gave Patton time to scout the surrounding rural areas for a permanent home. 
“I spent two years rambling around the county in a beat-up 1979 Dodge Adventure 100 pickup looking at the land and talking to its various owners. In time I was fortunate to come upon Bobby and Juanita Carnell, a pleasant, elderly couple, who were interested in downsizing their property. After several conversations and a handshake, I became the lucky owner of 130 acres of Lafayette county’s beautifully rolling green countryside.”
While Patton now had the land of his dreams, he still needed to build a home, and his plans were ambitious. “In ten years, I wanted it to look as though it had been here one-hundred.” He was inspired by the Carpenter Gothic architectural style that was common in North Mississippi at the turn of the 20th century. One such structure was on Fifth Street and belonged to Vasser Bishop. “I have always admired its look, especially the gabled windows of the second floor.” Patton asked for and received Vasser’s blessing in duplicating the windows into his new home’s white, wood frame design, which he sketched himself. He then consulted architect, Tom Howorth, “who was invaluable in articulating the final result,” which was constructed by contractor Ken Ash. ​​​​​​​
The success of that vision is apparent to anyone standing inside the dwelling, for the large windows that face every direction allow rich light into the interior space and frame the gardens and fields that surround the house like art. As for the décor itself Patton received advice from his maternal grandmother, Mimi, who “was a bit of a great dame from the post-Victorian era of Lexington, Mississippi.” 
“You’ve got big walls. You need big art!” surmised Mimi, who recommended hanging medieval tapestries and installing a Roman-styled fountain in the front yard. Several weeks later, Patton received “wiser counsel” from Phyllis Ann, another dear relative, who suggested, “Grow into your new space over time.”        
“In the past two decades, that is indeed what we have done,” affirms Patton, who dressed his big walls with landscape paintings by Mississippi artists like William Dunlap, Gerald Deloach, and Carlyle Wolfe Lee. There are also a trio of family portraits painted by friend and acclaimed portrait artist Jason Bouldin. His son Spencer’s portrait lives in the library and was painted when the boy was two years old. Above the piano hangs a large portrait of his daughter, Kathleen, who, six-years old at the time, is surrounded by gold and holds a red zinnia cut from the yard. Across the hallway and centered above a Vatican Bible is a “beautifully incomplete” portrait of Patton’s “vertical face.” It was unfinished because Bouldin sought to test his skill at high speed with a self-imposed time limit of three sittings.  
I was young, fairly new in my career, and in need of “guinea pigs” on which to practice,” explains Bouldin, who “made a deal with Greg that, if I liked the canvas and thought it captured something of his likeness, then he could have the painting. However, if I thought it missed the mark, we’d destroy it.” Fortunately, Bouldin was pleased by the representation, as was Patton, who adds that the canvas is destined to become an heirloom. “My now adult kids continue to fight over who will inherit it.”  ​​​​​​​
Bouldin also gifted Patton with several plants over the years, including “pass-along” roses and magnolias from his grandmother’s home in Coahoma County and a “Wisteria that he had raised from a seed he had gotten from William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak. To commemorate Kathleen’s birth Jason gave us a gallon pot of Kerria which has grown to now dominate two different beds in the yard.” Patton marked that same occasion by planting a beech sapling and considers “the two days our children were born were the most extraordinary days of my life. I was compelled to plant a long-lived hardwood in celebration of each of them. My parents dug an Oak sapling from my grandmother’s woods in the Delta and brought it as a gift for Spencer. That Oak now towers some forty feet tall, and even my long arms cannot wrap around its trunk.” 
The fusion of family and gardening comes naturally for Patton, whose great-grandfather Joseph Thomas Mathis’s rose garden in Leland was recognized by the Smithsonian as an American Heritage Garden. “In more recent memory my grandmother, my mother, and one aunt in particular, Mary Boteler, each cultivated extensive home gardens. I didn’t really take a personal interest in gardening until I moved to Oxford, largely due to the fact that previously I had no yard in which to garden.” Since moving to the property, he admits that “I just went a little crazy” learning everything he could about horticulture via books and by listening for hours to the “gardeners in my Delta family as we walked their respective yards. They were happy to share their passion with me and happier still to dig up a pass-along for me take back to the hills of north Mississippi.” 
That generational passion has bloomed inside Patton’s heart and become a skill that goes beyond the aesthetic of scenery. He remembers that “Marshall Bouldin, Jason’s father, maintained that every person is an artist. Jason pointed out that my particular canvas happens to be the garden. I now subscribe to that premise and enjoy plunging my hands into the rich earth and watching to see what happens. At some level each leaf and bud is miraculous. I find solace in and connectivity to God’s creation. There is also an element of stewardship,” avows Patton. “I don’t feel that I actually own this patch of rich, verdant land. Rather, it is on loan to me for a fleeting moment to cherish and sustain, but even more importantly, preserve for the next generation that will ultimately pass this way.”    ​​​​​​​
But Patton has done more than sustain and preserve the property, which at the time of the sale was a cattle farm divided into five pastures, each with its own pond. “In the first year I removed most of the cross fencing leaving two pastures and a paddock for the horse barn, which was built on top of the hill behind my house.” He has since planted over five-hundred trees around the farm, “including a four-acre pecan grove, an homage to my Delta roots. And nothing speaks of early spring better than swaths of jonquils in bloom. To that end I have planted thousands of blubs around the house and the horse barn over the years.” 
Patton has three horses, one of whom, Hank, he rides in the cooler seasons. “The other two, Scout and Willow, are largely pasture props,” which he loves to watch from one of the two “ample porches on which I pretty much live eight months of the year” alongside Ajax, his ten-year-old Jack Russell, and Roxy, a shelter Lab-Shepherd mix.” The front porch is flanked by lush magnolias and faces a swing that hangs from a tree branch atop a distant hill. ​​​​​​​
The back porch is screened and is home to sculptures by Pablo Sierra and Bill Beckwith. It overlooks deep flowerbeds, where bright colors blend with crisp fragrances and create a collage of life and memory. “Probably half of what is growing in my yard originally had its roots in another’s garden,” proclaims Patton, who capitalizes the names of plants like those of friends. Among those pass-alongs are “Blue Aster, Ginger Lily, Lolly’s Rose, Chocolate Vine, Shield Fern, Pearl Bush, and Purple Phlox. Then there is the Miss Anne Verbena, which was discovered roadside by friend Anne Wilson, whose cultivars of the vigorous, pure white flowers now officially bear her name. The farm also produces fruits and vegetables like blackberries, purple hulled peas, plums, pears, asparagus, zucchini, cucumbers, edamame, and ambrosia cantaloupe, which he calls “the sweetest on the planet.” 
The abundance is a testament to Patton’s management of time. His typical day begins at 5 A.M. when his eyes “pop open.” He then spends a couple of hours working in the yard before going to the office. There, he provides health care to women throughout their lives, which blesses him with long-term relationships with his patients. His job also provides the opportunity to give prenatal care and to deliver infants. In the thirty-six years he has be a part of the medical field Patton has delivered upwards of five-thousand babies. “For over ten years now, I have been delivering babies of babies I delivered. That’s really something.”      ​​​​​​​
Patton is inspired by this new generation of young adults, which includes his now grown children. “They are simply more tolerant and compassionate towards others,” he says. “I find a lot of hope for the future in their attitude and cannot help but believe that they will make this world a better place for all. Watching Spencer and Kathleen grow over the years into the people God created them to be has been an unspeakable privilege and delight.” He then reflects and reveals that “one of my favorite things to do when they were younger was to simply turn them loose on the farm and follow behind them to share in their discoveries.” One annual adventure was to “carefully peak” into the many bluebird houses that Patton placed along the fence and to “monitor the nest-building process, the appearance of the sky blue eggs, and then watch the chicks themselves grow and fledge.”         
Patton recognizes that living in the country placed some limits on his children’s lives growing up. “They did miss having a neighborhood, so to speak, where they could have easily walked out of the back door and played with their buddies down the block. But at some level their city friends considered the farm exotic and enjoyed its many kid-friendly attractions like a tree house with a zip line and sleepovers in the horse barn.”    ​​​​​​​
The barn is also a unique setting for adult dinner parties. Patton calls them “barn suppers” and entertains friends with live music and home-cooked food served on a long wooden table that is lighted with candles and string-lights zigzagging across the ceiling. Patton also hosts “star parties,” where adults and children gather “typically in January to take advantage of first-rate celestial treats found in the winter sky.” The evenings were conceived by Patton and Bouldin, who with the help of guests walk off a scale model of our solar system over the fields and pastures. “Walking to Pluto even at that scale takes well over a half mile,” explains Bouldin. “Glow sticks are used to mark, where each planet gets placed.  When done, it is sobering and amazing to see just how far we are from our closest neighbors in the universe.”    
The fruits of those and other quests led to the creation of a map of the property that was drawn by Bouldin, who discloses that “an aerial photograph gave us the bird’s-eye-view for the features. The names on the map came from the adventures that Greg and his children gave to the places which were dearest to them.” Some of the names, like Camp Site and Tree House are literal, while others, like Magic Pasture and The Mighty Lizard Creek harken back to the fantastical writings of Tolkien, whose own hand-drawn map of Middle Earth that appeared the in the Lord of the Rings books served as inspiration for Bouldin’s illustration. The name of the property itself is an homage to the otherworldly realm of the elves, what Bouldin renders “a place of healing and hospitality.” What better name could there be for Patton’s home than Rivendell Farm?
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