(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
"It already feels like home," she said. "Everyone has been very friendly and welcomed us."
The Bennetts have a six month old son, Gabe.
Mrs. Bennett, like her husband, has a degree in wildlife biology. She is a native of Pennsylvania, moving to Kentucky when she was 16 years old. Mr. Bennett is a native of Southeast Missouri. They met while they were attending Murray State College in Kentucky.
After summer internships with him going to Canada and her going to North Carolina, the couple became engaged when they returned. They have been married for four years and their careers have kept them on the move. They have lived and worked in Florida, Mississippi, and Searcy before relocating in Manila. Mr. Bennett was temporarily at Big Lake for four months about a year ago and was familiar with the area and the people.
Mrs. Bennett has always loved wildlife.
"My mother was very patient," she said. "I always had critters from tadpoles, lizards or turtles. The only thing she would not allow me to keep was a snake. My family was not really surprised when I wanted to seek a career in wildlife."
Mrs. Bennett worked two and a half years for the Fish and Wildlife Service as a forestry technician/wildfire fighter.
She is not a large woman and when she applied for the position, she was asked if she thought she could pass the endurance test.
"I gave it my best and made it," she said.
She was headquartered at Noxubee National Refuge in Mississippi and fought wildfires in Montana, New Mexico, Washington State, Florida and Georgia.
She worked with a crew fighting fires out of helicopters. She would be gone for two weeks to a month when sent to fight fires.
"I got to see a lot of country," she said. "There are more and more women getting into the field. I did not think about it being a dangerous job, but at times it was hard. Some days we would work 16 hours. Wildfires do their own thing. While we were at a fire, it was like being in the military. We had to follow orders. The airplane tankers were brought in but if the wind shifted, plans would have to be changed. We were sent where we were needed. We had 4,000 people and equipment in New Mexico ready to fight a wildfire when Mother Nature took care of it. We had been there a few days when a freezing rain hit. It was good for the fire but we almost froze in our tent homes."
After Gabe was born, Mrs. Bennett made the decision to be a stay at home mom for a while.
Someday, when Gabe is older, she would like to go back to work in wildlife education.
"It is important for children to learn about conservation and wildlife," she said. "Young people in this area have more exposure to wildlife than children raised in the city."
She enjoys volunteering at Big Lake. She does some office work and has plans to create a newsletter to let people know what is going on.
One thing she enjoys about working in wildlife is there is something different every day. She even has training in heavy equipment and can use a bull dozer or a bush hog.
She enjoys duck hunting, deer hunting and fishing.
She also enjoys taking care of her family, home and cooking. She said her mother is a wonderful cook and she depends on her for a lot of her recipes. She is sharing two of their favorites.
Mr. Bennett's family lives in Malden, Mo. Mrs. Bennett's parents and a sister are now back in Pennsylvania. Her other sister lives in Kentucky.Gabe has already taken his first airplane trip to visit his grandparents.
"Gabe is about to get a new cousin in the family," Mrs. Bennett said. "My sister is in China where she is adopting a ninth month old baby girl. We are all anxious for her to return with our new niece."
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. mild pork sausage
1 can (28 oz.) tomatoes
1 can (12 oz. tomato paste
2 tsp. garlic salt
1-1/2 tsp. oregano leaves
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp. basil leaves
2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 pkg. (12 oz.) lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
Cook meat until brown, drain. Add tomatoes, paste and seasonings. Heat to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered 20 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together cottage cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. Set aside one cup meat sauce and one half cup mozzarella cheese.
In ungreased baking dish alternate layers of noodles, sauce, and cheese mixture. Spread reserved meat sauce overtop. Add remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes, and then cut.
Easy Spinach Dip
1 package frozen chopped spinach, cooked
1 block cream cheese, softened
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 can Rotel, drained
Mix all ingredients. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm with taco chips.