March 2020 Clarke-Washington

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Stories | Recipes | Events | People | Places | Things | Local News March 2020



Magic in stone

Sylacauga festival celebrates marble industry

2020 census: Be counted!



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Dream homes for pollinators

Many of us work hard to make pollinators feel at home in our landscapes, but there’s always more we can do for these and other beneficial insects, such as providing them with dream homes.

Manager Steve Sheffield Co-op Editor Sarah Hansen

ALABAMA LIVING is delivered to some 420,000 Alabama families and businesses, which are members of 22 not-for-profit, consumer-owned, locally directed and taxpaying electric cooperatives. Subscriptions are $12 a year for individuals not subscribing through participating Alabama electric cooperatives. Alabama Living (USPS 029-920) is published monthly by the Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives. Periodicals postage paid at Montgomery, Alabama, and at additional mailing office. POSTMASTER send forms 3579 to: Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, Alabama 36124-4014.

34 F E A T U R E S in the rain 9 Playing March showers often give us a great

excuse to play in the puddles, as our readers’ photos show us this month.


AREA President Fred Braswell Editor Lenore Vickrey Managing Editor Allison Law Creative Director Mark Stephenson Art Director Danny Weston Advertising Director Jacob Johnson Graphic Designer/Ad Coordinator Brooke Echols Graphic Designer Chyna Miller

VOL. 73 NO. 3  March 2020


Be counted!

The 2020 census may be the most important in our lifetimes. Find out why it’s important that we all be counted.

Peanut butter treats 44 Peanut butter is way more versatile than as one half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Check out our reader recipes!



340 TechnaCenter Drive Montgomery, Alabama 36117-6031 1-800-410-2737 For advertising, email: For editorial inquiries, email: NATIONAL ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVE:

American MainStreet Publications 611 South Congress Ave., Suite 504 Austin, Texas 78704 1-800-626-1181 USPS 029-920 • ISSN 1047-0311


D E P A R T M E N T S 11 Spotlight 29 Around Alabama 44 Cook of the Month 42 Outdoors 43 Fish & Game Forecast 54 Hardy Jackson’s Alabama ONLINE: ON THE COVER

Look for this logo to see more content online!

Sculptor Craigger Browne carved “Sylacauga Emerging” to symbolize the re-emergence of the city’s marble industry. Stories, Page 12 - 17. PHOTO: JIM PLOTT


ONLINE: EMAIL: MAIL: Alabama Living 340 Technacenter Drive Montgomery, AL 36117

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OFFICE LOCATIONS Jackson Office 9000 Highway 43 P.O. Box 398 Jackson, AL 36545 251-246-9081 Chatom Office 19120 Jordan Street P.O. Box 453 Chatom, AL 36518 251-847-2302 Toll Free Number 1-800-323-9081. Office Hours 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday - Friday (Drive-thru Hours)

PAYMENT OPTIONS Mail P.O. Box 398 Jackson, AL 36545

2020 Youth Tour Winners Selected Trends and fads come and go but ClarkeWashington EMC’s commitment to our youth remains strong. We held our annual search to select our Washington and Montgomery Youth Tour participants this past month. The process involves writing an essay on an assigned topic and then participating in an interview process. The judges selected Shelby Baggett, Macy Jordan, Haas Flowers and Lindsey Bolen to represent Clarke-Washington EMC for the Montgomery Youth Tour which will be held March 10-12. The students selected to attend the Washington Youth Tour in June will be announced after the Montgomery Youth Tour. All four students will receive a $500 scholarship and those selected to attend the Washington Youth Tour will receive an additional $500 scholarship. Congratulations to each student selected to participate in the 2020 Clarke-Washington EMC Youth Tour. The students who interviewed for the Youth Tour are pictured on the next page.

P.O. Box 143 Chatom, AL 36518 Office During normal office hours at our Chatom and Jackson offices.

Steve Sheffield General Manager


Phone 855-870-0403 Online Night Deposit 24/7 at Jackson & Chatom CWEMC App Available from the App Store and Google Play Bank Draft




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| Youth Tour 2020 |

Morgan Craig Fruitdale High School

Shelby Baggett Fruitdale High School

Juliana Hayes Millry High School

Macy Jordan Millry High School

Kada Duncan McIntosh High School

Aaliyah Hollis Thomsville High School

Kaelyn Dailey Thomasville High School

Morgan Brunson Clarke Prep

Sway Barnett Jackson Academy

Haas Flowers Leroy High School Alabama Living

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Kathyrn Raybon Jackson High School

Lindsey Bolen Jackson High School MARCH 2020  5

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| Clarke-Washington EMC |

Three ways to electrify your lawn care By Abby Berry

Spring is just around the corner, and you can practically smell the freshly-cut grass. If you’re in the market to upgrade your lawn care equipment, you may want to consider electric (or battery-powered) options. Gas-powered lawn mowers and trimmers may be your go-to, but times they are a changin’. Electric lawn care equipment options are becoming more popular than ever, offering consumers faster charging times, longer battery life and quieter, greener products compared to their gas-powered counterparts. Here are three ways you can electrify your lawn care this spring.

Electric lawn mowers

research, you’ll be well on your way to Lawn of the Month – with less maintenance, hassle and noise (and your neighbors will thank you!). Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

Electric lawn mowers have come a long way over the last few years. Early models required corded connections, which were tricky to manage––but the cord has been cut. Newer cordless electric mowers are certainly more expensive than gas-powered mowers, but much of the upfront cost can be recovered since electricity is a less expensive fuel than gas, and electric engines generally require less maintenance than gas engines. Cordless electric mowers typically range from $200 to $500. Electric mowers are suitable for most lawn care needs, with batteries that typically require about one to two hours to fully charge, and most batteries can run for a full hour. That said, if you have a large yard (half an acre or larger), a gas-powered option may be best to suit your needs.

Electric trimmers

Cordless electric string trimmers are a great option for most lawns. Traditionally, like lawn mowers, string trimmers have typically been powered by gas. But new versions of electric trimmers are improving and are now considered worthy competitors of gas-powered models. Cordless electric trimmers are much quieter and easier to use, but most batteries last about 30 to 45 minutes. So, if you have a lot of space to trim, you may want to consider a back-up battery or plan to work in short bursts. If you’re interested in purchasing an electric trimmer, the main factors to consider are the battery’s life, charge time and power. Costs can vary depending on your needs, but you can find a quality version for about $100.

Electric Leaf Blowers

After cutting and trimming your lawn, you’ll need to clear off those walkways and patios for the finishing touch. If you don’t want to deal with the maintenance of a gas-powered blower or the restraints of a corded blower, a cordless electric version is a great option. Cordless electric leaf blowers are lightweight and easy to maneuver, but they don’t offer quite as much power as gas-powered and corded blowers. If your leaf blowing and clearing needs are minimal, a cordless electric leaf blower can get the job done. Costs for a cordless electric blower vary depending on power and battery quality, but you can purchase a dependable model for about $150 and up. If you’re looking to electrify your lawn care equipment, be sure to do your homework. Search online for the latest reviews, and check trusted websites like With a little

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When purchasing an electric trimmer, the main factors to consider are the battery’s life, charge time and power.

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| Clarke-Washington EMC |

The group killed a wildcat, two eight-point bucks, 39 hogs and a few ducks during their fellowship time in Washington County.

Wounded Warriors in Action By Jason Boothe

Several landowners in Washington County are committed to helping veterans reconnect to the great outdoors through Wounded Warriors in Action. The honor of giving back to veterans has been a 10-year commitment and privilege for landowners who share their land and resources toward the aim of fellowship with those who gave so much of themselves to defend the nation. Individuals in Washington, D.C., have invited Wounded Warriors to the Washington County hunt. It began with Ritchie Russell and Ira Everett, who made contact with Wounded Warriors in Action which sends four to five hunters to the county each year for a few days of hunting, fellowship and relaxation.

Bucky Richardson said it was a successful hunt and the Wounded Warriors enjoyed their time of fellowship. He added there was also some one-on-one time for the Wounded Warriors to talk and sit around the camp fire, but it was great way to honor them for the sacrifices they made as they protected us and fought for our freedom. The group plans to host hunts every year and is planning its annual fishing trip this year as well.

Making the event possible requires resources supplied by area landowners including Ritchie Russell, Jamie and Gene Harrell, Milton Schell and Mark Clark. On Jan. 16-20, Russell hosted Wounded Warriors in Action at his home and land in Hawthorn. Wounded Warriors in Action included Mitchell Underwood, Lance Cpl. USMC (retired), Marjah, Afghanistan; Eric Reed, Lance Cpl., USMC (retired), Fallujah, Iraq 2004-05; Dillon Miller, Lance Cpl., USMC, Upper Gereshk Valley, Afghanistan ; and Asa Barrett, E4-specialist, Army National Guard, Paktiya ProvenceJaji District, Afghanistan, 2011-12.

Alabama Living

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| Clarke-Washington EMC |

ALABAMA GARDENER’S CALENDAR Information provided by The Alabama Cooperative Extension Service. Find more at

March Fruits and Nuts • Continue strawberry and grape plantings.

Lawns • Plant bermuda, zoysia, and centipede in south Alabama.

• Bud apples and peaches.

• Seed bluegrass and grass mixtures in northAlabama.

• Start planting blackberries. Remember, if weather conditions prevent prompt planting, heel the plants in by placing the root system in a trench and covering the soil. Shrubs • Fertilize shrubs (except azaleas and camellias) according to a soil test. • Late plantings may be made, particularly if they are container-grown. • Watch shrubs for harmful insects.

• Fertilize established lawns. Roses • Watch new growth for aphids. • Begin a spray or dust program. • Begin fertilizing. Annuals and Perennials • Tender annuals may be planted in south Alabama. • Check garden centers for bedding plants.

Bulbs • Plant gladiolus every 2 or 3 weeks if a long blooming season is desired. • Plant tuberous begonias in pots. Plant dahlias. Miscellaneous • Check and repair sprayers, dusters, and lawn mowers.

February. • After danger of frost is past, plant tender vegetables. Vegetable Plants • Plant cabbage, onions, lettuce, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts in north Alabama; plant tomatoes and peppers in lower South Alabama.

• Control lawn weeds with chemicals. • Delay pruning of fruiting shrubs such as cotoneasters, pyracanthas, and hollies until after flowering. Vegetable Seed • Plant hardy crops recommended for January and

April Fruits and Nuts • Season for strawberry planting continues. • Start spray program for all fruits. • Plant raspberries and blackberries and continue budding apples and peaches. Shrubs • Prune spring flowering shrubs after flowering. • Fertilize azaleas and camellias. • When new growth is half completed, spray all shrubs with a fungicide.

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Lawns • Planting continues. • New lawns may need supplementary watering. • Also, fertilize at 3- to 6-week intervals. • Keep ryegrass cut low, particularly if overplanted in bermuda lawns. Rose • Watch for insects and diseases. • Keep old flower heads removed. • Plant container-grown plants from nurseries or garden centers.

Annuals and Perennials • Plant early started annuals or bedding plants from nurseries or garden centers. • Divide mums or root cuttings. Dig and divide dahlias. Bulbs

• Plant gladiolus, fancy-leaved caladiums, milk and wine lilies, and ginger and gloriosa lilies. • Feed bearded iris with superphosphate and spray for borers. • Avoid cutting foliage of narcissus or other bulbs until it has turned brown naturally.

Miscellaneous • Spray camellias, hollies, etc., for scale insects. • Carefully water new plantings of shrubs and trees. • Pinching out tips of new shoots promotes more compact shrubs. Vegetable Seed • Plant tender vegetables such as beans, corn, squash, melons, and cucumbers. • Plant heat-loving vegetables in lower south Alabama. Vegetable Plants • Plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes, and parsley

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| Alabama Snapshots |

Playing in the rain

Grandsons Landon and Reagan McLain having fun in the mud. SUBMITTED BY Pam Sexton, Greenville. Luke showing his little sister, Lydia, how to enjoy a mud puddle! SUBMITTED BY Jacquelyn Peterson, Robertsdale.

My daughter, Emma, enjoying all of her rain gear gifts on a rainy day. SUBMITTED BY Bessie Ryan, Cullman.

My niece Nova Laikyn Bradley, age 3, playing in the rain. SUBMITTED BY Debra Sellers, Seale. My great-grandson, Cloud Asher Gibson, having a blast in a mud hole. SUBMITTED BY Judy Elam, Addison.

Alabama is home to many spectacular waterfalls and we want to see photos of your favorites! Submit “Waterfalls” photos by March 31. Winning photos will run in the May issue. Alabama Living

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SUBMIT and WIN $10! Online: Mail: Snapshots P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

RULES: Alabama Living will pay $10 for photos that best match our theme of the month. Photos may also be published on our website at and on our Facebook page. Alabama Living is not responsible for lost or damaged photos. Send a self-addressed stamped envelope to have photos returned.

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Spotlight | March

Whereville, AL Identify and place this Alabama landmark and you could win $25! Winner is chosen at random from all correct entries. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified. Send your answer by March 9 with your name, address and the name of your rural electric cooperative. The winner and answer will be announced in the April issue. Submit by email:, or by mail: Whereville, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124. Contribute your own photo for an upcoming issue! Send a photo of an interesting or unusual landmark in Alabama, which must be accessible to the public. A reader whose photo is chosen will also win $25.


This rock, located at the Little River Canyon National Preserve near Fort Payne, has also been known as the Needle Eye Rock due to the slot in its base. The preserve’s National Park Service website offers an unverified story about its history: Several decades ago, a road crew constructing the original scenic drive refused to blast away the rock formation, despite plans that called for its removal. The crew built the road around it instead. (Photo by Carolyn Garrison) The randomly drawn correct guess winner is Martha Kirby of Sand Mountain EC.

Need help starting (or sticking to) a new exercise routine?

Archives announces Food for Thought schedule

If you’ve struggled in the new year to create an exercise or workout routine for yourself or your family, try these ideas from HealthMed Inc.: Find something you can stick with. If you dread trying to run, try something else. There are countless ways to exercise, including: weight training, at-home workouts, swimming, walking groups, bicycling and group classes (such as Zumba or spin cycle). Local gyms and YMCAs often give free or discounted trials. Schedule it and plan it out. Starting to exercise requires intentional planning, so take your workout clothes with you to work each day or carve out time on the family’s calendar each week for exercise. Start small. Know that establishing a new routine is more important than the amount of time you can exercise, or the weight you can lift. Give your body time to adjust to the new demands you’re asking of it.

The Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) has announced the 2020 schedule for its popular Alabama history lunchtime lecture series, Food for Thought. The free lectures are held the third Thursday of every month at 12 p.m. in the Archives’ auditorium in Montgomery. This year’s lineup, in part: Paul M. Pruitt Jr., “Julia Tutwiler’s Life of Service,” March 19; Erin Stewart Mauldin, “Gone with the Land: The Environmental History of the Civil War in Alabama,” April 16; Andrew Frank, “Food in the Native South and the Curious Case of Coontie,” May 21; and James R. Hansen, “Dear Neil Armstrong”: Alabamians’ Letters to the First Man on the Moon, June 18. For the full schedule and more information, visit archives. or call 334-242-4364.

Take us along! Thanks to those who’ve sent photos of their travels with a copy of Alabama Living! Send us a photo of yourself with a copy of your favorite magazine on your travels and you might win $25 if your photo is published! We’ll draw one winner each month. Send your photo and information to: mytravels@alabamaliving. coop.

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Barbara P. Rugg of Daleville submitted this photo while vacationing in Budapest, Hungary. She’s outside the Danubius Hotel Astoria City Center. Barbara is a member of Pea River Electric Cooperative.

Jay Goodwin of Wetumpka, a member of Central Alabama Electric Cooperative, took his copy to Little Cayman Beach Resort on Little Cayman Island.

Meredith and James Dixon of Dothan, members of Wiregrass Electric Cooperative, took their magazine aboard a 7-day Caribbean cruise aboard the Regal Princess.

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March | Spotlight

Find the hidden dingbat! Last month’s hidden heart dingbat must have been easy to find, as more than 1,000 readers sent in correct guesses. The red heart adorned the sweater of the girl in the “streaker” illustration for Hardy Jackson’s column on streakers on Page 50. Several readers pointed out that the girl was holding a drink in her hand, and Jewel McCormick of Pioneer EC noted, “I’m surprised she did not drop it.” Poet Eleanor Madigan, 85, of Dothan gave us a chuckle: Enjoying the sudden pleasant weather, She wore the heart on her white sweater. When suddenly appeared a streaker Sporting nothing but his sneaker, Acting like a blimey fool By showing off the family jewel. Nancy Barrentine of Wiregrass EC said she didn’t find the dingbat, but her 9-year-old granddaughter, Katie Adams, found it in one pass. Rheba Chaney of Valley Head always looks for the dingbat from back to front, which made this month’s heart easy to find. At least one reader (we’ll just give her first name, Sue, to protect her privacy) said she definitely remembered the days of streaking because “I was one of them who just had to try it. I always believed you should try things while you can, so you can laugh about it when you can’t.” Several readers incorrectly guessed the heart was in an advertisement for license plates, but remember: It will never be hidden in an ad. It also won’t be on Pages 1-8. Congratulations to Diane Melton of Montgomery, a member of Dixie EC, our March winner. This month we’re hiding a pair of garden shears. Good luck! Deadline for submitting your answer is March 9. By email:

By mail: Find the Dingbat Alabama Living PO Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

New website has resources for safer schools A new website,, provides one-stop access to federal school safety resources, programs and recommendations to help create a safe and supportive learning environment for students. The website is for K-12 administrators, educators, parents and law enforcement to prepare for and address various threats related to safety, security and support in schools. The site is one of the key recommendations from the Federal Commission on School Safety, which was established after the school shootings in Parkland, Fla., in March 2018. The site has access to free information, guidance, best practices and tools that make school safety initiatives more actionable in schools. Topics covered include bullying, mental health, threat assessment and reporting, emergency planning and more. Alabama Living

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Letters to the editor

E-mail us at: or write us at: Letters to the editor P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

Streakers and Ray Stevens Let’s all go streaking! This month’s red “heart” is located on page 50 of the February 2020 Alabama Living on the front of the lady’s sweater in Hardy Jackson’s article about the streakers! Hardy should have made mention of Ray Stevens’ “streaking” song (“Oh yes, they call him the streak!”) I was 9 years old in 1974 and vividly remember having a T-shirt (as did several of my friends) that said “Keep On Streaking.” And I also vividly remember a police officer commenting about my shirt that if anyone actually tried it, they’d receive a hefty $500 fine! Ha! Enjoyed the article and thanks for the memories! Amy & Jason Winningham Decatur

No regrets I am indeed one of the “boys and girls of February ’74” at AU. Along with many of my friends who also participated in that harmless frolicking, I believe we have all lived up to your description of responsible, caring, and devoted adults for the many years that have passed since that period of unexplainable frivolity. My BSME ’78 has always been utilized and shared with the best of intentions, as with friends I’ve followed through the years. Thank you so much for taking me back to those memories and for doing so in a such a light, inquisitive, and understanding way! I might not have made the same decisions in the following days, weeks, or months but neither do I regret those choices in the environment that prevailed those few “special” days. Instead I believe those days to be one of the important events of my transition as a professional. Write on! Mike McBride Silverhill

Brag about your hometown! Tell us why your hometown is special or unique. We’re looking for stories, no more than 200 words, about Alabama’s towns and small cities (no urban or suburban areas). Email your story to Allison Law,, or mail it to her attention, Alabama Living magazine, 340 Technacenter Drive, Montgomery, AL 36117. Please include your name and contact information. Deadline is March 13, 2020. MARCH 2020  11

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The stone that built a city Sylacauga prepares to celebrate its famous marble By Jim Plott

From the quarries where the marble White as that of Paros gleams Waiting till thy sculptor’s chisel, Wake to like thy poet’s dream. ­—Julia Tutwiler, “Alabama” state song


t may be Sylacauga’s second most famous rock, but considering the city’s most famous rock came from outer space, being number two isn’t too shabby. Sylacauga marble, the city’s second most famous rock, has been on the scene a lot longer than the 8.5-pound meteorite that fell out of sky on Nov. 30, 1954. That rock punctured the roof of a house and landed on 31-year Ann Hodges while she was dozing on her couch, leaving her with bruises. And, Sylacauga marble also has a festival in its honor. For more than a decade, the Sylacauga Magic of Marble Festival has been attracting artisans from primarily the U.S., Europe and Asia who spend two weeks crafting Sylacauga marble into pieces of art. “We provide the marble, the tools and the work area and it is their job to bring a design that they can complete,” says Dr. Ted Spears, festival founder and chairman. 12  MARCH 2020

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Sylacauga is home to three marble quarries.

“It is truly amazing the things they can produce in two weeks.” While not your typical arts and crafts festival, visitors can visit the tents at Blue Bell Park while the sculptors work. Tours are conducted at the three area marble

Ruth Beaumont Cook, standing beside a marble bust of Mercury, devoted nine years of research and writing to produce her book, “Magic in Stone: The Sylacauga Marble Story.” PHOTO BY JIM PLOTT

quarries (Imerys, Omya and Sylacauga Marble) and the B.B. Comer Memorial Library, which houses a collection of marble sculptures. Some marble pieces are also sold at the library. (As a side trip, visitors can take a free self-guided tour of the Blue Bell Creameries plant which is adjacent to the festival. Tours are best done between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon, Monday through Friday. The plant also has a country store.) The festival arose out of a cultural exchange with Pietrasanta, Italy, which is near the Carrara quarries where Michelangelo obtained marble for his masterpiece of the Virgin Mary holding the body of Christ, or “Pieta.” “We invited the mayor of Pietrasantra to Sylacauga and he brought along a dance troupe and a soprano opera singer to perform,” Spears says. “It was so successful that we, along with the support of the state

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Arts Council, decided to do something on an annual basis.”

Chronicling the marble industry

To coincide with this year’s festival, which is March 31 through April 11, NewSouth Books of Montgomery in December released “Magic in Stone: The Sylacauga Marble Story.” Written by historical author Ruth Beaumont Cook, the book chronicles the multiple ebbs and flows of the city’s marble industry and weaves in tales of the people whose lives were influenced by Sylacauga marble, or “Sylacauga white” as some people call it. Native Americans first discovered the marble, but it was Edward Gantt, a surgeon in the army of Gen. Andrew Jackson, who commercialized it. Cook said Gantt most likely encountered the marble while troops were garrisoned at Ft. Williams near Sylacauga in preparation Alabama Living

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for the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. When the area was opened for settlement in the 1830s, Gantt returned and founded Gantt’s Quarry. Others established quarries along the 33-mile-long, 2-mile-wide and 400foot deep marble vein that extends just

Dr. Ted Spears, the founder and chairman of the Sylacauga Magic of Marble Festival, stands with a rotating sculpture depicting Ulysses on one side and Penelope on the other. The sculpture was carved by Italian sculptor Reno Maggi during a previous festival. PHOTO BY JIM PLOTT

southwest of Sylacauga nearly to the city of Talladega. Cook says that in the early 1900s, Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, who created Birmingham’s Vulcan statue, reportedly discovered Sylacauga marble when he saw a Bible crafted from it in the Birmingham office of Republic Steel executive John H. Adams. He had Adams take him to Sylacauga and a love affair between Moretti and Sylacauga marble was born. His carving, “The Head of Christ,” was one of his first pieces carved from Sylacauga marble and it accompanied him along with the Vulcan to the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 where both were put on display. “It is said that he carried that piece with him wherever he went,” Cook said of the carving, which is now on display at the state Archives and History in Montgomery. MARCH 2020  13

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Moretti established a quarry in the area where he ran a commercial operation and continued to sculpt. However, a series of consequences resulted in Moretti leaving the quarry and Alabama in the 1920s. Sylacauga marble can be found all over the world. In Washington D.C. alone, it has been used in some form in the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and U.S. Supreme Court building, in addition to the state Capitol and the state Archives in Montgomery. Cook said the translucence and strength are what have made Sylacauga marble popular through the ages. “Moretti and others have said there are only two other places in the world that have this pure crystalline marble like Sylacauga, and that is the Island of Paros off the coast of Greece and the other is Carrara (in Italy),” Cook says. Cook says that long before Moretti, Alabama educator Julia Tutwiler made that same comparison and thought enough of the stone to pen a verse to it in what is now the state song, “Alabama.” Spears said the face of Sylacauga marble began changing in the 1960s when it became more valued crushed rather than in solid form. Although that didn’t go over well at first with many locals, it became a saving grace when the city’s top private employer, Avondale Mills, shut down in the early 2000s. “Marble has been a boon to us,” Spears says. “Five out of the last six industries that have located in Sylacauga have come here because of the marble. It has saved us.” And if you doubt that you have ever been exposed to Sylacauga marble, you might want to recalculate that thought. “Crushed marble is used in everything,” Spears said. “It’s calcium carbonate and it’s used in fertilizers, fiberglass, medicines, toothpaste, chewing gum and even that loaf of bread you buy at the store.” If the marble festival runs its course, the marble won’t be to blame. Geologists estimate that at the current rate of extraction, there is still enough marble around Sylacauga to last 200 to 250 years. As to the city’s most famous rock, the Hodge meteorite, it is not totally ignored. In fact, on the grounds of the Sylacauga municipal complex, there is a monument to it – sculpted from marble.n The festival offers tours for visitors and school groups at the B.B. Comer Memorial Library where many marble sculptures and busts are housed. PHOTO COURTESY OF SYLACAUGA MAGIC OF MARBLE FESTIVAL

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Moretti’s “The Head of Christ” was one of his first and favorite sculptures from Sylacauga marble. It is on display at the state Department of Archives and History in Montgomery. PHOTO BY JIM PLOTT

Dorothea Moretti, wife of noted Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, and Geneva Mercer, Moretti’s assistant, in a bucket ride high above the Sylacauga marble.

Giovannie Balderi’s “The Mask,” carved during the 2010 Magic of Marble Festival. A tall, obelisk shaped monument PHOTO COURTESY OF NEWSOUTH BOOKS signed “E. Gantt” in Pine Hill Cemetery in Auburn. Dr. Edward Gantt was one of the first to recognize the potential of Sylacauga marble in the 19th century. PHOTO COURTESY OF NEWSOUTH BOOKS

Part of the massive columns for the U.S. Supreme Court building, which were quarried at Moretti-Hannah Marble Company in Sylacauga. PHOTO COURTESY OF NEWSOUTH BOOKS

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Alabama Living

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In December, Craigger Browne began work on a statue honoring Mortimer Jordan, a commander in Alabama’s storied Rainbow Division and who lost his life in World War I. PHOTO BY JIM PLOTT

‘Destruction before creation’ Gifted sculptor transforms world-famous marble in his home state

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By Jim Plott


raigger Browne’s search for quality marble took him a continent away. Little did he know at the time that it was waiting for him almost in his own backyard. The Alabama sculptor, whose carving resume is spread all over the state, took up sculpting while in art school in France. He continued it near Carrara, Italy, home to both the oldest stone studios and marble quarries in the world. Even when returning home to Birmingham, Carrara was his marble of choice. “I sort of laugh that I spent almost four years working there in Italy, and then going back and forth from Birmingham to Italy to get marble,” Browne says. “All that time I had no idea that I grew up 45 minutes north and went to college (at Montevallo) just west of the only other source of this beautiful pure white marble.” Since his introduction to Sylacauga marble, Browne, 52, has become a mainstay in Sylacauga, and maintains an outdoor studio just a block from the city’s main thoroughfare. His presence is evident. Just up the street at the city Municipal Complex is his “Sylacauga Emerging” monument, a tribute to the city’s storied marble industry which through new uses helped keep the city from ruin once a major industry closed. And across the street at the B.B. Comer Memorial Library is his “Once Upon a Time” statue series, which depicts former Mayor Curtis Liles, an education advocate, reading to children. His statue at Helen Keller’s childhood home, Ivy Green in Tuscumbia, pays tribute to Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan, while he also did a piece to commemorate Monroeville native Nell Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Currently, Browne is metamorphosizing a 24,000-pound block of marble into a tribute to Alabama physician and war hero Mortimer Jordan. “I tell people that the sculpting process is destruction before creation,” Browne says. “As opposed to starting with nothing and building up, what you are doing is already there and you are just uncovering it.” The Jordan statue is being done as part of Alabama’s Bicentennial celebration, for which Browne has done several projects. Jordan’s statue will be placed at Mortimer Jordan High School in Morris. Jordan was a commander of Alabama’s distinguished Rainbow Division in World War I and was killed in combat. Among other projects, Browne also produced out of marble 21 Alabama Bicentennial Schools of Excellence awards.

“As opposed to starting with nothing and building up, what you are doing is already there and you are just uncovering it.” “Craigger has been an important part of the Bicentennial in several ways,” says Jay Lamar, executive director of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission. “The fact that so gifted an artist from Alabama could play so important a role in several aspects of the celebration speaks to his talents, of course, and also the state’s pride in its makers.”

A new place to call home

Browne grew up in Vestavia and attended the University of Montevallo on a baseball scholarship and where he received a degree in graphic arts. Alabama Living

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“When I finished school, computers were taking over everything, and I didn’t want to spend my life in front of a computer,” Browne said. He was able to get into the art school in Lacoste, France where he was introduced to stone carving.

Browne’s sculpture of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan was created in 2017 for Ivy Green, Keller’s birthplace in Tuscumbia. PHOTO BY LENORE VICKREY

“I started carving limestone, and I just fell in love with the process. It was so different from anything I had ever done,” Browne says. Later as an assistant professor, he was able to study in Italy where he began carving “on what I thought was the best marble in world” at Carrara. Browne was exposed to Sylacauga marble after returning to the states but didn’t think much of it. “Someone had given me a couple of pieces of the marble that had been scrapped,” he says. “It really didn’t work. There must have been a reason they were scrap pieces.” A magazine article about Sylacauga marble, shown to him by a friend, reignited his interest and he decided to give it another try. “I haven’t stopped since in terms of carving with Sylacauga stone,” Browne says. Browne said comparing Sylacauga marble and Carrara marble is like comparing “a Ferrari with a Lamborghini.” “They are both top of line and you are going to be happy with either one. I believe the marble here (in Sylacauga) is a little more translucent and really holds the light,” he says. “Either way you are always looking for the perfect stone, but this is natural material and perfect doesn’t exist.” Whatever his future holds, Browne is comfortable with his station in life and the place he now calls home. “Sylacauga marble brought me here. It’s the people that make me stay,” Browne says.n MARCH 2020  17

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Census 2020: Make sure you’re counted Packets will arrive in mid-March

Director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and Alabama Counts chairman Kenneth Boswell talks about Alabama’s 2020 Census effort at a kick-off event in January. ADECA serves as liaison between the state of Alabama and the Census Bureau. PHOTOS BY HAL YEAGER/GOVERNOR’S OFFICE


t happens every 10 years, but state officials say this year’s census is the most important one in which Alabamians have participated. The results will determine if our state will lose billions in federal dollars for children, schools, health care, rural development programs and community programs important to rural areas, all of which are tied to census data. “In my lifetime, this is the most important census year ever,” Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell told a pep rally at the State Capitol in January that kicked off the state’s 2020 Census. Gov. Kay Ivey joined Boswell at the rally to encourage participation, reminding the audience of the stakes for 2020 – including $13 billion in federal funding, economic development and job opportunities and Congressional representation. Because of projected slow growth, Alabama could lose one of its seven seats in Congress, meaning one less voice for the state. Beginning March 12, every Alabama household should receive a notification in the mail that it’s time to complete the 2020 Census. The form contains 10 simple questions about basic household information and will take about six minutes to complete. The Census Bureau will never ask for Social Security numbers, bank or credit card account numbers, money or donations or anything on behalf of a political party. The information is private and will not be shared for any other purpose or with any other agency. Alabamians may complete the form in one of three ways: • Online via computer or smart phone, or • Calling a toll-free number and talking with a U.S. Census Bureau employee, or • Calling a toll-free number and requesting a traditional paper form.

Gov. Kay Ivey welcomed guests to the kick-off event and said much is at stake in the 2020 Census, including $13 billion in federal funding for Alabama.

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All households across the country will receive information about how to respond in 12 non-English languages online and by phone. The state is working with community colleges, businesses, schools, churches, and other community groups to educate as many Alabamians as possible about the importance of the census. A number of resources to help you get the word out are available at If you are interested in applying for a temporary job to help with the census, go to

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Alabama Living

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‘Sweet Grown Alabama’ new slogan for state foods By M.J. Ellington



he request that came to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries in early 2019 seemed like such a simple one. A large supermarket chain wanted to feature Alabama-grown and produced foods in its stores. The company asked for the state’s marketing slogan and copies of its logo and branding tools used for promoting Alabama agricultural products. The problem was Alabama had no coordinated program to promote its agricultural products, no logo and no slogan. Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate had been in his job only a few weeks when a colleague broke the news about the exciting request and the challenge it presented. “He said, we’ve got a problem,” Pate says. During Pate’s campaign for the commissioner’s job, people kept telling him they want to know where their food comes from, so he could see the potential of such a program. “It is such a simple thing, grown local,” Pate says. “Farmers want to grow; consumers want to know where their food comes from. How can we get them together? My role was to start the process.” He sought help from Jimmy Parnell of Alabama Farmer’s Federation and Horace Horn of PowerSouth Energy Cooperative. About 10 years ago, Alabama attempted to develop a coordinated branding program as several states nearby have. Pate said the effort was a casualty of turf questions, but not this time. “Once they realized this is not going to be an issue on the campaign trail, they bought in. This thing will have a million fathers,” Pate says. Other states that have adopted such a branding program have had good results, another motivation to develop the branding tools here. By late summer 2019, the framework for Sweet Grown Alabama, a 501 C-6 nonprofit organization, was in place, dedicated to developing and operating the program. Pate, Horn and Parnell are its board of directors. Pate said he budgeted enough Agriculture Department funding to start the program with a goal to make the program self-sufficient and not dependent on future political tides.

Beth Hornsby owns and operates Hornsby Farms outside Auburn, which features 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables and a farm cannery. She feels the Sweet Grown Alabama program is long overdue and will be a help for the state’s farmers.

Dream job for a farm-raised girl

Ellie Watson, an Auburn University agricultural communications graduate who grew up on a family farm in Colbert County, was hired as the director for Sweet Grown Alabama. She said the position is a dream job that had not yet been created when she finished college. The past busy months, Watson has talked to farmers, to grocers, restaurateurs and other businesses that buy their goods and to the growing number of farmers markets. The SweetGrownAlabama. org website gives information about membership categories. Wat20  MARCH 2020

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Alabama Living

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son said billboards and social and print media will also help tell branding program is critical to the future of Alabama agriculture. the program’s story. “Alabama has a beautiful history as a leader in the production “We will ask consumers to buy Alabama-grown food,” Watson of many agricultural products and goods but what we have lacked says. She called the increased interest by consumer and grocer is a unified system of branding and marketing those goods to interest in locally grown food encouraging. proudly display that they are produced in Alabama and/or made This spring, Watson expects to have from products produced in Alabama,” a searchable website operating where Hatchett says. consumers can find out where to buy As consumers learn more about food “locally sourced” food. safety, environmental impact and local “Consumers want to buy things economic development, Hatchett said grown here. It is fresher. It tastes bettheir desire for food grown and proter,” Watson says. There is also a local duced locally increases. “Consumers economy angle that affects consumers want access to their farmers, producers and farmers. and artisans. They want to know more “Of every dollar spent in your comabout the products they are eating and munity, 60 cents stays in your comusing and just how and where those munity,” Watson says, pointing to the products are produced. They want a goods and services that farmers and connection to the hands responsible other farm goods producers buy when for growing and making the items they with the revenue they earn. consume and use daily.” Pate and Watson both said one funcOn family land just outside Auburn, tion of Sweet Grown Alabama will be Beth Hornsby and her husband, Josh, to encourage farmers to grow more established Hornsby Farms in 2013. produce, to broaden the number of What began as a family garden in 2008 crops that consumers will buy here. is now a full-time working farm, and a Another will be to help farmers get member of Dixie EC, with 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables and a farm good prices for their goods in the con- Taylor Hatchett of Boozer Farms in Thorsby takes a sweet, juicy bite of one of the farm’s prized peaches. sumer market. cannery. “What better way to show the citA hope for the future for young farmers izens of Alabama exactly where their food is grown and made,” The people who operate family farms in Alabama are an aging Hornsby says. “For us, this means being able to connect visually population, something that Watson and Pate believe could change with consumers by having the Sweet Grown Alabama logo on our with the help of Sweet Grown Alabama. produce packaging, as well as our sweet jams, jellies, pickles and “We could solve the aging-out problem if farmers could get a honey.” decent price and have sources to sell to,” Pate says. The branding program “will enable us to continue telling the Two young women who operate family farms in Alabama and story of Alabama agriculture and allow us to build on a great network of Alabama farms we work with every day,” Hornsby said. enthusiastically became grower members of Sweet Grown Alabama think the initiative can help state farmers and consumers. “When our customers purchase our products, they know they can Taylor Hatchett, president of Boozer Farms in Thorsby, a memask us important questions about how we grow and harvest our ber of Central Alabama EC, got into farming in 2003 by growing produce and create our canned goods. They can come to us with and selling peaches as a way to help pay her tuition costs at Auburn questions about how to prepare them, find other locally grown or University. She owns and operates the vegetable, fruit and sod made items and even how to start their own gardens.” farm with her father, Bobby Boozer, a retired Auburn University “At the end of the day, Sweet Grown Alabama is long overdue,” extension fruit specialist. Hatchett believes that a state agricultural Hornsby says.n From left, Horace Horn, Jimmy Parnell and Rick Pate, Sweet Grown Alabama board members, look on as program director Ellie Watson introduces the branding program at a Birmingham farmers’ market.

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Alabama Living

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| Alabama People |

Herb Malone

Champion of Alabama’s beaches For more than 20 years, Herb Malone has been arguably the state’s most enthusiastic cheerleader for Alabama’s Gulf Coast. With good reason, as he’s been promoting the coastal area for much of his life. A college football player who was a member of the Livingston University (now the University of West Alabama) 1971 NAIA national championship team, Malone was president/ CEO of the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce from 1988 to 1993, working to recruit both businesses and guests to the area. He played a key role in the establishment of the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), now known as Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. He has led this organization as president/CEO since 1993, presiding over a nearly $5 billion local tourism industry. His work was honored in 2000 when he was inducted into the Alabama Hospitality Hall of Fame. In 2001, he was named

Alabama’s Tourism Promoter of the Year and in 2005, he was honored as Alabama’s Tourism Executive of the Year. Malone led the coastal tourism industry through two major disasters – the recovery from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest marine oil spill in history that battered the economy of the Gulf Coast. Ten years later, Alabama Living talked to Malone about his life and career on the coast. – Lenore Vickrey What do you like best about your job? People! The people that choose to visit Gulf Shores and Orange Beach for their vacation, as well as the people I have the golden opportunity to work with. What is it about Alabama’s Gulf Coast that makes people return year after year? The natural beauty of our beaches as well as the genuine Southern hospitality they experience while here. Has our coastline fully recovered from the effects of the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill? Yes, several years ago. The seafood in the Gulf is the greatest barometer of the coastal environment. Testing of the waters ever since the oil spill was cleaned up has determined there are no side effects. What’s your favorite place to relax on Alabama’s Gulf Coast? Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge. My wife and I live within walking distance of the Refuge, and even on crowded summer weekends, we can find solitude just a short walk away. What do you tell visitors is a “can’t miss” attraction on Alabama’s beaches? Get out on the water and explore! There are many options to achieve this even if you do not own a boat. You can rent a boat, take a Dolphin-watching cruise, charter a boat for a wide variety of fishing trips from inshore to offshore, ride the ferry to Dauphin Island and back along with many more options to visit these God-given waters.n


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Alabama Living

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‘Alabama Story’ comes to Alabama Shakespeare Festival stage State librarian’s courageous stance is focus of play

Greta Lambert and Seth Andrew Bridges played librarian Emily Reed and her assistant, Thomas, in the 2015 world premiere of “Alabama Story” at Utah’s Pioneer Theatre Company. Lambert reprises the role at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival March 5-22. ALEX WEISMAN/WOLF PHOTOGRAPHY

By Alec Harvey


hen playwright Kenneth Jones read about Emily Wheelock Reed’s death, he knew the story of the Alabama librarian who became a civil rights activist should come to the stage. “I was reading The New York Times one day in 2000, 20 years ago, and I read the obituary of this librarian I had never heard of and had been largely lost to history,” he recalls. “The moment I read it, I thought the story – a librarian personally attacked for protecting books – was a play.” Jones’ “Alabama Story” received its first reading as part of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s Southern Writers’ Project Festival of New Plays in 2013. Seven years later, ASF will present a full production of the play March 5-22. The play tells the story of Reed, who, as the director of the Alabama Public Library Service Division during the civil rights movement, decided which books to buy for Alabama’s libraries. One of those books was Garth Williams’ children’s book The Rabbits’ Wedding, about animals attending the wedding of a white rabbit to a black rabbit. Segregationist Sen. E.O. Eddins (changed to E.W. Higgins in the play) wanted Williams’ book and others banned, and Reed refused. Among other things, he demanded Reed’s resignation, but she remained in her job and kept the book in Alabama libraries. “I fell in love with this story,” Jones says. “This was a real passion project for me.” While writing “Alabama Story,” Jones visited the state to do research. He visited Montgomery landmarks, including the State Department of Archives and History building, the State Capitol, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and Oak Park, which figure into his play. He also visited Demopolis, the hometown of Sen. Eddins/Higgins and two fictional characters in “Alabama Story,” a white woman named Lily and a black man named Joshua. Their story ends up connecting to Reed’s in surprising and subtle ways. “They are the perfume and poetry and heart of a play that is often concerned with issues and politics and ideas,” Jones says. Though she was not part of ASF’s original reading in 2013, Greta 26  MARCH 2020

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Lambert, a veteran of more than 100 productions at ASF, starred as Reed in 2015’s world premiere of “Alabama Story” at Utah’s Pioneer Theatre. She’ll also star in ASF’s upcoming production, which is directed by ASF Artistic Director Rick Dildine. “It’s very exciting because in a way I sort of start ahead of the game because I’ve already discovered so much,” says Lambert, ASF’s associate artistic director. “Because of that, it might be richer and have more depth. I’ll also find different nuances and a different take on lines and ideas.” Lambert says the role of Reed is a juicy one for an actress. “I admire her strength so much,” the actress says. “She’s on the right side of a fight. She wholeheartedly believes in what she believes in and pursues it doggedly. … There are so many things against her, and this fight just became so important. How often are we called upon to really test our own integrity and fight for what we know is right?” Jones is excited to see Lambert in the role again. “Greta was a dream come true,” he says. “She was really formidable, really tough. It was just a Herculean performance. It was absolutely everything I wanted it to be, and I’m over the moon that she gets to recreate it on her own turf.” “Alabama Story” will play out on the intimate Octagon stage at ASF, Lambert’s “favorite space on Earth to be in a play,” and Jones says audiences will find it informative, emotional and, at times, humorous. “I think people are surprised by how funny it is, but there’s something almost ridiculous about looking at a children’s book and wanting to hold a match to it and burn it,” he says. Lambert agrees, and she looks to a daily reminder of “Alabama Story” and the story that spawned it. “I’ve had the book The Rabbits’ Wedding as kind of a talisman on my bookshelf facing out like a picture,” she says. “It has been there for months, and it’s a great symbol for the play. It’s always amazing to me that all of this happened over a little children’s book.”n For ticket information, visit or call the ASF Box Office at 334271-5353.

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Alabama Living

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Whom do I contact? Social Security or Medicare?


ocial Security offers retirement, disability, and survivors benefits. Medicare provides health insurance. Because these services are often related, you may not know which agency to contact for help. The list below can help you quickly figure out where to go. Please share this list with family and friends.

You can do much of your Medicare business with Social Security online.

• How do I report a death? Contact your local Social Security office or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) • How can I check Medicare eligibility? benefits/medicare • How do I sign up for Hospital Insurance? (Part A) • How do I sign up for Medical Insurance? (Part B) • How do I apply for Extra Help with Medicare Prescription drug coverage? (Part D) medicare/prescriptionhelp • How to appeal an income-related monthly adjustment amount decision? (For people who pay a higher Part B or D premium, if their income is over a certain amount.) benefits/disability/appeal.html

Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by email at

March Across 1 There’s a famous museum in Montgomery in honor of this courageous civil rights activist, 2 words 6 Thanksgiving side dish 9 Chapter in history 10 Series of links 11 Basketball great born in Alabama, ____ Barkley 12 Legendary Alabama bass player, Bob ___ 13 Southern cuisine staple 14 Alabama-born Tim Cook is one 15 Unit of electrical resistance 16 One of the two Heisman winners from the Crimson Tide 18 Towel monogram 20 Enthusiasm 22 Spiral feature of the Alabama State Capitol building 25 Helen Keller, Coretta Scott King and Harper Lee, all great ___ of Alabama 26 Heavyweight champion born in Alabama, first name 27 Observed 28 Wall ___ (abbrev.) 30 First name of a home run great, born in Alabama 32 Stately tree 34 Printer brand 36 Blood type 38 One of the Auburn Tigers’ Heisman winners 39 Exercise facility 28  MARCH 2020

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• How can I request a replacement Medicare card online? • If I already get benefits or have Medicare, how do I report a change of address or phone number? myaccount • Where do I find publications about Medicare? pubs/?topic=Medicare or

Medicare also offers many online services where you can find out:

• What does Medicare cover? • How can I check the status of Medicare Part A or B claims? • Where do I find forms for filing a Medicare appeal or let someone speak with Medicare on my behalf? claims-appeals/how-do-i-file-an-appeal • What do Medicare health and prescription drug plans in my area cost, and what services do they offer? plan-compare • Which doctors, health care providers, and suppliers participate in Medicare? • Where can I find out more about a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D) and enroll? • Where can I find a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policy in my area?


by Myles Mellor

40 “____ myself and I” Beyonce song Down 1 Caverns near Warrior, Alabama 2 They can be seen in the Cathedral Caverns 3 The color of some azaleas 4 Masked mammal, common in Alabama 5 In the 16th century, explorers from this nation sailed into Mobile Bay 6 Alabama’s state bird 7 “. . . but few ___ chosen” 8 High degree 13 Just-OK grade 14 Pitmaster at the Big Bob Bar-B-Q in Decatur, ____ Lilly 17 Fine-grained wood 19 Ending letters for salt and serpent 21 Goes with behold 22 Therefore 23 Cheerleader cheer 24 White bird 26 Elton of England 29 “I tawt I taw a puddy ___” Answers on Page 53

31 33 35 37

Critical ___ Jemison, Alabama astronaut and physicist Exercise class, for short Little ____ -peep

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March | Around



O p e l i k a , second Opelika Songwriters Festival. Enjoy live musical performances by local, regional and national songwriters in historic downtown. Event is a co-production of The Sound Wall and the Arts Association of East Alabama. More than nine venues will host events.

28 Songwriters from across the U.S. and Canada will offer more than 70 performances during the Opelika Songwriters Festival, March 27-29. (Photo courtesy of The Sound Wall recording studio)



Florence, 23rd annual George Lindsey UNA Film Festival, on the University of North Alabama campus and around the Shoals area. In addition to free screenings, there are workshops, panels and networking opportunities among filmmakers and guests. For a complete schedule, visit

Pike Road, Pike Road Arts Council’s 9th annual Art Market, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Pike Road Town Hall, 9575 Vaughn Road. Artists and artisans will have handmade goods, ranging from traditional paintings to turned wood wares, jams and jellies, candles and more. Local British car club will have a car show, weather permitting. Free. 334-272-9883.



Mobile, Mobile Boat Show, Mobile Convention Center. See the latest model boats, motors, personal watercraft, trailers, tackle and boating and fishing accessories. Adults $10, children 15 and under free; $2 military discount.


Guntersville, 50th edition of the Bassmaster Classic. Takeoffs from Civitan Park at 7 a.m. Fifty-three bass anglers will compete for a purse of over $1 million. Weigh-ins will be at the Legacy Arena, part of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center. Also at the BJCC is the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo, with close to 200 exhibitors selling outdoor merchandise. Bassmaster. com.


Evergreen, 4th annual Collard Green Festival, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Evergreen Regional Airport (Middleton Field) just off Interstate 65 at exit 93. Collard green and steak cook-off competitions, car show, arts and crafts vendors, kids zone and Big Foot calling contest. 251578-1707.

Hamilton, 18th annual Jerry Brown Arts Festival, Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, exit 14 on Interstate 22. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. This indoor, juried arts festival is named in honor of Smithsonian potter and Hamilton resident Jerry Brown.


Gulf Shores, Ballyhoo Festival, Gulf State Park. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. This event is a juried fine arts festival and cultural exchange, with local seafood and live music, including a fiddle and banjo competition. Children’s hands-on art activities and on-site art demonstrations.


Enterprise, Country music band Diamond Rio in concert, presented by Coffee County Arts Alliance, 7 p.m., Enterprise High School Performering Arts Center. 334-406-2787 or


Winfield, Birminghambased contemporary jazz guitarist Eric Essix will perform at the Pastime Theatre, 1052 U.S. Highway 43. 205-487-3002.


Hanceville, third annual Hanceville Irish Festival in historic downtown. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Irish music, dance, arts and crafts, food and drink and Irish swag for purchase. Kids play area with games and bouncy houses. Search Hanceville Irish Fest on Facebook.


Foley, BBQ and Blues Cookoff. Heritage Park in downtown, 11 a.m. This Alabama Barbecue Association Trail and Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned event attracts corporate and individual teams competing in several categories. Guests enjoy great food, popular blues bands, children’s activities and a raffle. Proceeds support the South Baldwin Chamber Foundation.


Fairhope, 68th annual Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in downtown. Free. More than 200 exhibitors from all over the country will bring their best works. Juried show includes many artists from the Southeast. Live entertainment and food court. Fairhopeartsandcraftsfestival. com .


Mobile, Festival of Flowers, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Providence Hospital. $14 at the door; $13 seniors; $12 in advance; children under 12 free. or 251266-2050.

To place an event, e-mail or visit You can also mail to Events Calendar, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124; Each submission must include a contact name and phone number. Deadline is two months prior to issue date. We regret that we cannot publish every event due to space limitations.

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Daviston, anniversary of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Horseshoe Bend National Military Park will host the 206th anniversary of the Battle of the Horseshoe, which recreates traditional Creek Indian life, frontier life in the year 1814, and emphasizes the importance of the battle in U.S. history through special demonstrations and interpretive programs. Refreshments courtesy of the New Site Volunteer Fire Department. Free. or 256-234-7111.


Opp, 60th annual Rattlesnake Rodeo, Channel-Lee Stadium. Gates open at 8 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday. Saturday’s entertainment includes Shane Owens, Confederate Railroad and Jordan Davis; the Oak Ridge Boys perform Sunday. Snake shows, racing and snake safety demonstrations, buck dancing contest, food vendors, children’s rides and activities and clogging performances. Advance tickets are $10 per day (6 and under free); tickets at the gate are $15 per day. opprattlesnakerodeo.


Greenville, A l a b a m a Medieval Fantasy Festival, 4776 Fort Dale Road. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine. Entertainment, education and pageantry prevail as history lives through costumed characters and craftsmen, who re-create a ninthcentury marketplace. Merchants, cottages and stages filled with activities, music, comedy and theater, food and drink, handmade arts and crafts and more for the whole family. $15 adults, $7 children, 5 and under free.

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| Worth the drive |

Feel-good food that’s good for you, too

Chef Leo Rodriguez holds a customer favorite – Crab Cake Burger with Avocado Fries.

Story and photos by Allison Law


n a culinary landscape of all-you-can-eat buffets, wing joints Caribbean roots and fat-laden fried foods, it can be hard for a restaurant featurLeo Rodriguez was born in the Dominican Republic and spent ing healthy foods and controlled portions to find an audience. his childhood there, learning about cooking and flavor profiles But Leo and Lauren Rodriguez seem to have found a niche. from his grandmother, aunts and other family members who Their restaurant, Bella Vista by the Creek in downtown Prattloved cooking. Life in the island country meant easy access to ville, is what they call a “healthy bistro,” serving up artisan wraps fresh tropical fruits, like mango and plantains, and an early expoand sandwiches, salads and south of the border specialties; many sure to seasonings and flavors. are gluten free or Keto-friendly, and most entrees are in the His parents moved the family to New York when he was an 500-calorie range. older child, but he contin“It took a while for people ued to cook and bake. “I was to adapt to our food, but we always there, making little have a wonderful clientele,” biscuits. Is that what you Leo says. “I feel we’ve set the call it, biscuits? Little cakes. bar for things that haven’t They called me ‘little baker’ been done.” at a young age.” Chef Leo came to AlaHe was able to attend a bama from South Florida, a high school that had a cumecca for glamorous looks linary certificate program, and svelte physiques. He which put him ahead when was surprised at the rates of he studied culinary arts at obesity and nutritional habSullivan Community Colits he encountered when he lege in Liberty, N.Y. From came to Alabama. there came a three-month “There was a calling for program at the Culinary Inme to do something differ- The entrees at Bella Vista by the Creek are healthy, but some fried cheesecake stitute of America and work ent,” Leo says. at several restaurants, inbites topped with sliced strawberries provide a just-right bite to end a meal. While most of the restaucluding those at The Breakrant’s offerings include meat, the couple plan to introduce more ers, the historic luxury resort in Palm Beach, Fla. vegetarian and possibly vegan entrees. “There’s a lot of ways you Working at The Breakers was “another school,” Leo says. He can enjoy a great meal without having a piece of steak or chicken worked at several of the resort’s restaurants, which exposed him or salmon,” Leo says. He sees room for trends seen elsewhere in to a variety of cuisines and styles – everything from fine dining to the restaurant industry – dishes that rely less on dairy, are gluItalian to seafood. And South Florida is a confluence of culinary ten-free and include more vegetables. culture; he learned about other Caribbean flavors from the PuerBut even more important to the couple is customer satisfacto Ricans and Cubans in the restaurant industry there. tion. “The quote is, ‘You’re just as good as the last plate of food Years later, looking for a career change, family members conyou put in the window.’ That’s what I live by,” Leo says. “You’re vinced him to come to central Alabama. Then, a cousin who owned here to be served and taken care of.” Maria’s Cantina in Prattville asked for help, so he went to work there 30  MARCH 2020

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From the top: The Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Bites, front, are a twist on the traditional meatball, made with mozzarella cheese, flaxseed and Buffalo sauce. At right is the Crab Cake Burger; Bella Vista by the Creek is in historic downtown Prattville, in a building that dates back at least a century. The restaurant retains much of the area’s historic character; Lauren and Leo Rodriguez, owners of Bella Vista by the Creek in Prattville, with their sons, Koi and 1-year-old Davino. The family is expecting another baby boy this summer.

– though he knew he didn’t want to do Mexican food long-term. He met Lauren at the restaurant, and the two decided to venture out to open What’s For Lunch, a prepared meal delivery service, in Millbrook in 2016. They delivered hot, fresh meals in insulated lunch boxes to lunchtime customers in Prattville and Montgomery. Later, they bought the Healthy Me meal delivery company; customers order individually packaged meals a few days in advance, and Healthy Me delivers them to pre-appointed drop-off sites (mainly health clubs) for customer pickup. Customers heat the meals at home. What’s For Lunch eventually gave way to Bella Vista by the Creek, the couple’s dream healthy bistro, which opened in April 2019. (They still operate Healthy Me and prepare the meals in Bella Vista’s kitchen.) Doing the prepared meals encouraged them to focus on portion control at the restaurant. Entrees at Bella Vista are filling, but plates aren’t piled high. “It’s what your body needs,” Lauren says. A customer favorite at Bella Vista is the crab cake burger – a simple recipe for a Maryland crab cake but with cilantro and fresh garlic – served with avocado fries. The “pop-up specials,” as Lauren calls them, change daily, and allow chef Leo to get creative. One day might offer a Fried Plantain Pulled Pork Stacker, drizzled with signature “bang bang” sauce served with Asian slaw; another day, a Surf and Turf Quesadilla, made with top sirloin and wild-caught Gulf shrimp. Or Bella’s Crunchy Fish Tacos, made with gluten-free fried catfish on whole wheat tortillas. “Our food is made in a way that’s helping your body,” Leo says. “I never want to give you something that’s going to make your body feel bad.”

Looking ahead

The couple have several goals in mind; with the coming warmer weather, they hope to take advantage of Creekwalk, just behind the historic downtown building, and include patio seating. They also hope to get a beer and wine license and change up the dinner menu, to distinguish it from the lunch menu. Lauren handles most of the marketing and HR for the restaurant. But she’s also a yoga instructor; she has also created a face wash and works with essential oils. She says she’s always had an entrepreneurial mindset and hopes to find a way to fuse these different health-minded ideas together to create a wellness brand. She’d like to extend that healthy lifestyle concept to help moms, both before and after a baby. (She and Leo have two sons, Koi and Davino and will welcome another boy this summer.) And Leo hopes to return to the Dominican Republic this year – Lauren’s never been – and perhaps pay homage to the tropical roots that laid the foundation for his culinary career.n

Bella Vista by the Creek 153 W. Main St., Prattville, AL 36067 334-356-6863 Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 10:30 to 3 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday Find them on Facebook @BellaVista19 32  MARCH 2020

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| Gardens |

Dream homes for pollinators:

Welcome beneficial insects to your neighborhood PHOTO BY BOB FARLEY


any of us work hard to make pollinators feel at home in our landscapes, but there’s always more we can do for these and other beneficial insects, such as providing them with dream homes. Though a number of animal species, including birds, bats, small mammals and reptiles, assist in pollination services, insects do the yeoman’s work, and it’s bees that provide the most bang for the buzz by pollinating 80 percent of the world’s plants and at least 90 percent of the world’s food crops. While honey and bumblebees are the best-known pollinators, lesser-known native solitary bees such as orchard mason, leafcutter, blueberry and squash bees are also vital. In fact, solitary bees, which make up 90 percent of the almost 4,000 bee species in the United States, don’t just help with pollination. They are fundamental links in the food chain and essential to ecosystem balance and biodiversity. Despite their importance to us, these solitary bees and their solitary wasp cousins are often overlooked and underappreciated. That may be because, unlike their very social honey and bumblebee relatives (bees and wasps both belong to the order Hymenoptera), solitary bees and wasps live independent of one another rather than in hives and colonies. Since they usually nest in out-of-the-way places, such as tunnels beneath the soil, crevices between rocks and inside hollow plant stems, we may never know they’re around—until they aren’t. Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at

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Ensuring they come around is relatively easy if we provide reliable sources of food and water, access to lots of native plants and protection from chemical pesticides. To keep them around, however, we need to offer suitable housing. When it comes to housing, solitary bees and many other beneficial insects are perfectly content with humble abodes such as brush piles, piles of rocks or bricks, bundles of stems and, in the case of ground-dwelling insects, areas of bare, loose soil. In other words, leave areas of the landscape naturalized—maybe even a little messy—and they’ll be happy homemakers. However, some also enjoy something a little more upscale, such the exquisite pollinator houses (also called pollinator or bee hotels) that you may have noticed popping up in public and private landscapes. These houses offer a variety of room designs (nesting cavities) that appeal to solitary bees. Lucky for us, this collection of rooms involves a blend of shapes, sizes and materials that become appealing works of art, and they can be created using a range of found, recycled and upcycled items. Though pollinator houses should meet a few basic building and maintenance codes (see list below) to be effective, they offer us a chance to be creative, as proved by a group of University of Alabama Birmingham art students who, in 2017, designed and built amazing insect houses for the Ruffner Mountain Reserve in Birmingham. These houses and others like them are not only stunning, they are exceptional educational tools and can be great DIY projects for families or for community groups. If you want to learn more about insect dream homes, check out expert sources such as the Xerces Society (https:// or at local public gardens,

garden stores and community gardening organizations.

Pollinator House Building Codes:

Use the following basic guidelines to make a home for solitary bees and wasps as well as other beneficial insects. House plans and additional details are available from many sources including in an article written by Ruffner Mountain’s native habitat director Michelle Reynolds ( • Provide a diverse selection of nesting cavities and materials. • Frame and roof the house to protect residents from the elements. • Locate the house on an open site, preferably south- to southeast-facing, where no vegetation obscures the cavity entrances. • Erect the house three to four feet off the ground and anchor it securely against winds. • Clean the house annually and replace nesting materials every two years.n

MARCH TIPS • Celebrate the first day of spring (March 19) by doing something in the garden.

• Get gardening tools and equipment ready for the year.

• Add compost, manure and other organic materials to garden beds.

• Begin planting spring crops such as snow

peas, cauliflower, celery, onions and radishes. • Plant strawberries, blueberries, grapes and fruit trees. • Begin fertilizing houseplants. • Remove weeds from garden beds as soon as they emerge.

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| Consumer Wise |

Energy efficient landscaping tips By Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen


A friend told us that if our landscaping is done right, it can help lower our home’s monthly energy bill. What choices can we make that will reduce our home energy use?


Your friend is right. The decisions you make about your home’s landscaping can help you stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. With summer just around the corner, let’s start by looking at how strategic planting can help cool your home. Direct sunlight hitting windows is a major contributor to overheating your home during summer months. By planting trees that block sunlight, you can improve comPatrick Keegan writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives. Write to energytips@collaborativeefficiency. com for more information.

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fort and reduce your air conditioning energy use. If the trees eventually grow tall enough to shield your roof, that’s even better. The most important windows to shade are the ones facing west, followed by windows that face east. Morning and evening sunlight hits the home more directly than mid-day sunlight. Also, an eave on the south side of your home can help shade your windows during mid-day sun. If you live in a colder climate, planting deciduous trees that lose their leaves in fall will shield your windows in summer and allow sunlight in during winter to help warm your home. A simple approach that can deliver some shade the first year is to plant a “living wall” of vines grown on a trellis next to your home. One cooling strategy is to make sure your air conditioning compressor has some plants near it. Just make sure the plants aren’t too close. The compressor should have a five-foot space above it and a two- to three-foot gap all the way around

so that it gets enough air movement to do its job. There are two other factors to consider that are important in some areas of the country: Water is becoming more precious and more expensive. When you pay your water bill, much of that cost is for the energy required to pump water to your home, or perhaps you have your own well. Either way, reducing water use saves you money and reduces energy use. If you live in an area that has wildfires, you should definitely take that into consideration as you develop a landscaping plan. What and where you plant on your property can either increase or decrease the risk of fire reaching your home. Now let’s talk about how landscaping impacts your home’s energy use and comfort in the winter. If you live in a colder climate, a solid wind break can cut harsh winter winds. The best solution for this is a solid row of trees (preferably evergreen) on the

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Above: Deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your home can deflect hot summer sun. PHOTO COURTESY ALAN DAVEY

Left: This is an example of a landscaping plan that can reduce energy use for summer cooling and for winter heating.

ward side of the home, with shrubs underneath the trees to keep the wind from sneaking through. If you live in a warmer climate, you would not want a wind barrier as wind flow will help cool your home. If you live in a cooler climate that isn’t too humid, planting a row of shrubs a foot from your home can provide more efficiency. By stopping air movement, it can form a dead air space around the home that acts as “bonus” insulation. While you’re at it, you could add some foundation insulation if you have a home with a basement or if it’s built on a slab. In a humid climate, however, leave several feet of space between landscaping and the home Alabama Living

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as air flow is necessary to avoid moisture-related home damage. These are just a few ideas to help you get started. I should also note that as with any landscaping projects that require digging, remember to dial 8-1-1 to ensure all underground utility lines are properly marked and flagged before you start the work. Happy planting!n This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on creating an energy efficiency upgrade checklist, please visit: www.collaborativeefficiency. com/energytips. MARCH 2020  37

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How batteries are changing your electricity

This 250kW/735kWh battery storage system is owned by North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, in partnership with South River EMC. PHOTO COURTESY NORTH CAROLINA’S ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES

By Paul Wesslund


usiness is betting big on batteries around the world in a roundabout way that could streamline the electricity service in your home. Over the past eight years, industry sources say battery production capacity has grown eight times, mostly to supply demand for the rapidly expanding market for electric vehicles. Companies believe that expansion will continue, so they’re planning to build new manufacturing plants in the United States, Europe and Asia that will increase capacity another five times in the next eight years. As with other technologies, more production means improved performance and lower prices, says Jan Ahlen, the director of energy solutions for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). “Batteries are becoming better, faster and cheaper,” says Ahlen.

“As more and more of these new manufacturing plants get built, there are economies of scale that are bringing down the prices and the electric vehicle market is the main driver for all this.” What “all this” has to do with your electric cooperative is that a better and cheaper battery can be a huge new tool for an electric utility. The batteries being developed to make electric vehicles run better are being connected to make large “utility-scale” batteries.

Batteries are becoming better, faster and cheaper

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Making wind and solar more useful

Utility-scale battery use has been growing along with the increase in battery manufacturing. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration reports that utility battery capacity has quadrupled in the past five years. Over the next three years, the agency predicts the battery capacity of utilities will

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Consumers at the forefront

ple to the point where they could supply enough electricity for 2.5 million homes. Although that number is a small share of the electricity market, the effects of utility battery use can be huge. Ahlen calls these batteries “the Swiss army knife” of the utility industry because they can be used for a number of different applications and a number of different reasons. Here are some of those uses: Timing for the best price: The cost of the electricity to a utility can vary during the time of year and even the time of day as demand for that electricity changes depending on things like how much heating or air conditioning is going on. If a utility could buy electricity and store it in a battery when the price is lowest, then draw from the battery when market prices are highest, it could amount to cost savings that could be passed on to the consumer. Helping renewable energy: One factor preventing more use of renewable energy is there’s no solar power at night or wind energy in calm weather. Batteries could change that, storing electricity during peak production, making renewable energy more useful. Construction management: Batteries could defer the need to upgrade or replace existing utility infrastructure, such as substations, allowing a utility to save money on otherwise expensive infrastructure upgrades.

Government policies are also driving the use and development of utility-scale batteries. Several states are directing utilities to consider batteries as part of power restoration plans, or to meet renewable energy goals. For decades, one of the fundamental truths of the electric power industry has been that “electricity can’t be stored.” A coal, nuclear or hydroelectric power plant generated electricity that had to be delivered immediately to homes and businesses through a precise network of wires, transformers and other equipment. Even a few strategically-placed batteries can change that longstanding structure. In addition to opening up options for utility operations, it gives consumers more choices. The high-end electric vehicle maker Tesla took one of its vehicle batteries and redesigned it to look appealing hanging on the wall of your living room. The company called it the Powerwall and promoted it as backup power in case of an outage, or to store some of the energy from your rooftop solar panels for evening use. Batteries, says Ahlen, “are opening up many new opportunities for utilities to help provide more affordable and reliable power for their consumers. The other implication is it’s really part of a larger trend of putting the consumer at the forefront now more than ever and giving them more choices.”n

Batteries are also being used as a part of a new utility outage management idea called microgrids. Microgrids designate high-priority parts of the larger electric grid, like hospitals or gas stations, to help a community manage during a power outage. Those areas might have extra wiring or power sources, like small generators or large utility-scale batteries.

Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric coops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

(Batteries) are opening up many new opportunities for utilities to help provide more affordable and reliable power for their consumers.

This 13-megawatt Tesla solar field, which is coupled with a 52-megawatt hour battery storage system, is owned by Kaua’i Island Utility Co-op and allows the cooperative to store solar power during the day and dispatch it over a four-hour period during the evening when energy demand is high. PHOTO COURTESY NRECA

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Kidnap, ransom and rescue, part 1


ecently, I wrote a series of serious articles talking about various pet diseases. I think it’s story time again. The story is long-winded and true, but it ends well! Years ago, my wife and I had a mobile veterinary practice in Oregon spanning about a 45-mile radius. That meant many hours on the road. We had an indoor Lab-Akita cross named Delila, who could not hold her bladder for long. We had to plan our appointments so that we could stop to take her outside. It was difficult, but you do difficult things for the ones you love. After our first year in Oregon, Delila started feeling down. X-rays showed that she had cancer in her abdomen. We tried to surgically remove it, but it had spread too far and we made the agonizing decision to spare her the suffering and not to wake her up. Life sure changed for us! We were free to stay out as long as we wanted, but when we came home, the house and the place she occupied in our hearts was still empty! The burden of an empty and “tidy” house is hard to bear for anyone who has loved and lived with a dog. As time went on, we started looking for a pup; but the two of us could never agree. At last the time came. We were treating six rescue pit bull puppies for severe respiraGoutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He works at his home as a holistic veterinarian and is a member of North Alabama Electric Cooperative. Send pet-related questions to

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tory distress. The foster mom was a seasoned pet nurse and had them in a makeshift oxygen tent. With very hard work on her part and little help from us, the puppies started to get better. After our third visit, Julie said that she liked one of the puppies, and I jumped at the opportunity. She was a little girl with tuxedo marking we named Anandi. We got her home and made a bed for her in the bedroom on Delila’s old bed. The chaos of raising a puppy began. She would not go to sleep, so we would sing to her an old Bollywood song – “You are my sun, you are my moon!” Over the top? Yes, but we loved it. Raising her was exhausting. She chewed up numerous shoes and four pairs of prescription eyeglasses. We also were seriously doubting that she would ever be potty trained! Around the same time, four other friends got new puppies, and we would talk on the phone about our overall misery and what new destruction these creatures had wrought. Needless to say, we were all fantastically devoted to these pups! It was challenging to raise a puppy when we were constantly on the road. But we were determined to not let her be left alone, so our new pup had to come with us. Southern Oregon gets hot in the summer. We set up an additional deep cycle battery in the van with a fan and mister for the cabin. We also installed a remote temperature sensor and window shading. We carried extra water with us and soaked her before we went into a client’s house. Anyway, with this backdrop the drama began, and will end in the next article in the May issue.n

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| Outdoors |

Airboats allow up-close look at the Lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta


econd in size only to the Mississippi River Delta, the Mopelicans and other birds or waterfowl. Passengers might also see bile-Tensaw Delta spreads across 250,000 acres north of Moferal pigs, raccoons, snakes, otters, turtles, fish and other creatures bile Bay. Congress declared this wet wilderness a National that call the delta home. The captain stops the boat regularly to Natural Landmark in 1974. point out various plants or animals and provide information about Many thousands of people glimpse these marshes every day as them, often sprinkled with a few tall tales and good-natured jokes. they drive along Interstate 10 or U.S. 98, better known as Battle“All kinds of animals live out there,” Geoff says. “One of our ship Parkway or the Mobile Causeway, between Mobile and Spanmost unusual sightings was a bobcat swimming in the water. Evish Fort. But most people never venture into these wetlands. With ery now and then we see a deer, but they usually hear the airboat an airboat, people can easily tour this special wilderness sitting and run off. I think the people enjoy how we stop to talk to them. almost in the shadIt’s not just a ride. ow of downtown It’s an adventure. Mobile. If someone wants From February to take a picture, through mid-Nowe stop so they can vember, Geoff and take it.” Brittany Woodliff Of course, most leave daily from the people want to see Causeway to take alligators. Many people on airboat riders come from tours. Also called a places where they fan boat, an airboat cannot see tidal uses the power of marshes or wild an aircraft engine alligators. During and propeller safewarmer months, ly enclosed in a guests frequently wire cage to push see alligators, including some really a boat over weeds, big ones. through extremely “I really enjoyed shallow waters or An airboat ride allows visitors to experience the natural beauty of the largest river delta and looking at the allieven over wet mud. wetland in Alabama. PHOTO BY JOHN FELSHER gators almost eye “I saw my first to eye in the water,” says Marie Wines, who with her husband, airboat when I was about 10 and I’ve been interested ever since,” Jeff, now lives in Spanish Fort. “The captain gave us an education Geoff says. “We use two 18-foot Diamondback airboats, each with on the alligators and about how the temperature of the nest deterbig block Chevrolet 496 engine that creates about 460 horsepower. These boats are very versatile with shallow drafts. They can go mines the sex of the alligators in the eggs. That was very interesting. Whenever someone comes to visit us, we take them out here where other boats cannot go. We have mufflers on them to be as because it’s an education and it’s fun. We don’t see this kind of ecofriendly and noise-friendly as possible.” terrain in Ohio.” Geoff is from northern Alabama and Brittany is from Florida; “Captain Geoff always does a great job,” echoes Jeff. “He knows both fell in love with the delta and each other. Married since 2008, what he’s doing. He’s entertaining too. He tells us a lot of interestthe two U.S. Coast Guard certified captains began their airboat ing facts about the alligators and the birds. We learn something business about 15 years ago. Now they run tours seven days a new every time we go out with Geoff. He tells a different story and week, weather permitting. takes a little different route every time.” “We never do a tour exactly the same way,” Geoff says. “It just Marie and Jeff grew up in Canton, Ohio. On this occasion, they depends on what we see and what the people in the boat want to brought Jeff ’s father, Ernest Wines. A Korean War veteran who do. Every tour is customized for them. Sometimes people don’t still lives in Ohio, Ernest had never ridden in an airboat before. care about the plants, trees and flowers. They just want to go fast “I thought it was really great,” Ernest says. “The captain knows and have fun. That’s fine. Some people want to shoot a lot of photos. We tailor it to the people on the boat.” how to drive that boat. I’ve never been in a marsh before. We saw On each tour, passengers might see numerous herons, egrets, some things I’ve never seen before. There’s a lot of fish out there. My favorite part was when we were going through the reeds. It was quite a sensation.”n John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. Contact him through Facebook.

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To book a tour, call the Woodliffs at 251-370-7089 in Spanish Fort or visit

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12:57 - 2:27 1:45 - 3:15 2:33 - 4:03 3:21 - 4:51 4:09 - 5:39 4:57 - 6:27 5:45 - 7:15 6:33 - 8:03 7:21 - 8:51 8:09 - 9:39 8:57 - 10:27 9:45 - 11:15 10:33 - 12:03 11:21 - 12:51 12:09 - 1:39 12:57 - 2:27 1:45 - 3:15 2:33 - 4:03 3:21 - 4:51 4:09 - 5:39 4:57 - 6:27 5:45 - 7:15 6:33 - 8:03 7:21 - 8:51 8:09 - 9:39 8:57 - 10:27 9:45 - 11:15 10:33 - 12:03 11:21 - 12:51 12:09 - 1:39

The Moon Clock and resulting Moon Times were developed 36 years ago by Doug Hannon, one of America’s most trusted wildlife experts and a tireless inventor. The Moon Clock is produced by DataSport, Inc. of Atlanta, GA (, a company specializing in wildlife activity time prediction. Alabama Living

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| Alabama Recipes | Peanut Butter Granola, page 47.


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Peanut Butter Bars are a peanut butter lover’s dream. Peanut butter cake-like bars enhanced with a decadent peanut butter frosting. There’s perfect peanut butter sweetness in every bite. Brooke Burks Simple and delicious, these Peanut Butter Bars are easy to make and even easier to eat! A not-too-sweet cake-like base gives a great foundation to this frosting that is a treat right by itself. For more great recipes like this one, visit us at

Peanut Butter Bars Peanut Butter Bars


Nutty Peanut Butter for

Peanut butter was originally made for people with no teeth. Every year Americans eat enough peanut butter to coat the floor of the Grand Canyon.

What makes the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich? 36% strawberry jam 54% white bread

31% grape 80% crust intact

Source: The Huffington Post (Sept. 2014)

According to Little Brownie Bakers, cookie bakers use about 230,000 pounds of peanut butter per week to bake Girl Scout's Do-si-dos and Tagalongs.

Former President Bill Clinton says one of his favorite sandwiches is peanut butter and banana; it’s also reported to have been the favorite of Elvis “the King” Presley, who is said to have liked his sandwich fried.

Most men opt for chunky peanut butter. Women and children prefer creamy.

It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.

1/4 1 1/2 1 1 2 1 2 1/2 1

cup creamy peanut butter cup water cup butter cup sugar cup brown sugar cups cake flour teaspoon salt eggs cup buttermilk teaspoon vanilla

Frosting: 3/4 cup butter 1/4 cup buttermilk 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter 3 cups powdered sugar 1 tablespoon vanilla Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, bring peanut butter, water and butter to a soft boil. Just until combined. Remove from the heat. Cool 5 minutes. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients - flour, sugars and salt - with a whisk to sift. Slowly add in peanut butter mixture and stir to mix. Add eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix well. Pour into a lightly greased glass 9 x 13 casserole dish. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until set. Will not rise very much. Cool. Frosting: In a saucepan, mix all ingredients EXCEPT powdered sugar and vanilla. Bring to a soft boil and remove from heat. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Pour over cooled cake and allow to set. Can refrigerate to speed up this process.

Source: The National Peanut Board Alabama Living

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Peanut Butter Fudge ½ 1 ½ ¾ 1 1

cup butter or margarine pound light brown sugar cup milk cup peanut butter teaspoon vanilla extract pound confectioner’s sugar

Melt butter in a medium saucepan, stir in brown sugar and milk. Bring to a boil, stirring for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in peanut butter and vanilla. Mix in confectioner’s sugar; beat until smooth. Spread into buttered 9-inch square baking pan. Chill until firm. Cut into squares. Makes 3½ pounds. Peanut Butter Chocolate Trifle

Wanda Monk Cullman EC

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie

Cook of the Month Annie Fossett North Alabama EC Peanut Butter Chocolate Trifle 1 3.9-ounce package Jello chocolate instant pudding mix 1 3.4-ounce package Jello vanilla instant pudding mix 3 cups cold milk, divided ¼ cup creamy peanut butter 1 8-ounce tub Cool Whip, thawed and divided 30 Chips Ahoy! Cookies, chopped 3 tablespoons chocolate syrup Empty dry pudding mixes into separate medium bowls. Add 1½ cups milk to each, beat with whisk for 2 minutes. Add peanut butter to vanilla pudding, beating well until blended. Stir ½ cup Cool Whip into pudding in each bowl. Spoon chocolate pudding mixture into 2-quart serving bowl. Cover with layers of half each of the remaining Cool Whip and chopped cookies. Repeat layers, using vanilla pudding mixture. Drizzle with syrup. Makes 12 servings; 2/3 cup each.

1 chocolate cookie pie crust 1¼ cups nonfat plain Greek yogurt 2 tablespoons coffee creamer, peanut butter or vanilla flavor ¾ cup creamy peanut butter ¾ cup peanut butter morsels, melted 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Cake 1 box yellow cake mix 1 16-ounce jar creamy peanut butter ½ stick butter 1½ cups whole milk 1½ cups white granulated sugar

Put all the ingredients, except crust, in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into the pie crust and spread it out evenly with a spatula. Decorate with additional peanut butter morsels, if desired. Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight until firm.

Mix and bake cake according to box directions. You may use 9x13-inch pan or two 9-inch round pans. Cool cake completely. In saucepan, mix milk, sugar and butter. Cook on low until butter melts. Add peanut butter. Cook until soft stage. Spread over cake. Cool and cut into squares to serve.

Robin O'Sullivan Wiregrass EC

Pauline Lowery Pioneer EC

Peanut Butter Reese Squares

K’s Peanut Butter Pancakes

1 1 1 1 1

1 3 2 ½ ¼

cup butter cup peanut butter cup graham cracker crumbs bag milk chocolate chips box powdered sugar

In microwave, melt butter, then melt peanut butter, mix all together and spread into a 9x13-inch pan. Melt chocolate chips in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until melted. Spread melted chocolate over the first layer. Let cool before cutting into squares.

cup self-rising flour teaspoons butter, melted tablespoons honey cup buttermilk cup creamy peanut butter

Mix all ingredients until well combined. Cook in lightly oiled skillet until set; flip over. Cook until set. Top with butter and syrup. Kay Harrison South Alabama EC

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Peanut Butter Granola 2 2 1 1 1

tablespoons smooth peanut butter tablespoons honey teaspoon cinnamon teaspoon vanilla extract cup oats

prize and title of

Combine peanut butter and honey and microwave until melted. About 15-20 seconds. Stir in cinnamon and vanilla. Add oats and stir till well coated. Spread out on a cookie sheet sprayed well with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes until slightly brown. Let cool until dry and crunchy. Angela Bradley Clarke-Washington EC

of the


Themes and Deadlines: June: Potluck | March 13 July: Squash | April 3 Aug.: Pound Cake | May 8

Easy Peanut Butter Cookies 1 1 1 1


cup granulated sugar teaspoon vanilla egg cup dry, off-brand peanut butter

3 ways to submit:

Gently mix all ingredients by hand. Drop by spoon onto a non-greased baking sheet. Bake for 13 minutes at 300 degrees. They will not look cooked through, but they are. Cool and serve. Cook’s note: the popular name brands don't work as well. Becky Chappelle Cullman EC

Online: Email: Mail: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124 Please send us your original recipes (developed or adapted by you or family members.) Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year.

the best of

Mail order form and payment to: Best of Alabama Living Cookbook P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124-4014 COOKBOOKS @ $19.95 EACH:



(Shipping included)

Name: Address: City:



Phone Number:

Alabama Living

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ALABAMA BOOKSHELF In this periodic feature, we highlight books either about Alabama people or events, or written by Alabama authors. Summaries are not reviews or endorsements. We also occasionally highlight book-related events. Email submissions to Due to the volume of submissions, we are unable to feature all the books we receive. 100 Things to Do in Alabama Before You Die, by Mary Johns Wilson, Reedy Press, $18 (travel) This guidebook provides a bucket list that celebrates the top ways to connect with the entire state. From the state’s natural scenic wonders to its favorite eateries and dishes, the book notes many of the historic sites and interesting attractions that make Alabama unique.

The Slave Who Went to Congress, by Frye Gaillard and Marti Rosner, NewSouth Books, $18.95 (young readers) In 1870 Benjamin Turner, who spent the first 40 years of his life as a slave, was elected to the U.S. Congress, the first African American from Alabama to earn that distinction. The authors use Turner’s own words to craft the story of a man who was on a lifetime quest for education and freedom.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: A Memoir of Learning to Believe You’re Gonna Be Okay, by Sean Dietrich, Zondervan Books, $24.99 (Southern memoir) The “Sean of the South” author remembers his father, who was his childhood hero yet took his own life when Dietrich was only 12. The book is the story of what happens after the unthinkable, and the journey we all must make in finding the courage to stop the cycles of the past.

Sweet Mystery: A Book of Remembering, by Judith Hillman Paterson, first published in 1996 and reissued by The University of Alabama Press, $24.95 (Southern memoir) Paterson was just 9 in 1946 when her mother died of alcoholism and mental illness at the age of 31. Set largely in Montgomery, the author shares the memories of her mother, set against a backdrop of relatives troubled almost as much by Southern conflicts over race and class as by the fallout from a family history of drinking, denial and mental illness.

Roy, ‘Rocky’ and Red Ryder; Hoppy, Durango and Mo(o)re, by Dr. Jim Vickrey, Dorrance Publishing, $26 (film history) A movie-based memoir about the waning days of the B-Western movie era from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s, and the lessons learned by the author and his peers as they rode together on Saturdays with their cinematic cowboy heroes. The author grew up and lives in Montgomery.

The Founding of Alabama: Background and Formative Period in the Great Bend and Madison County, by Frances Cabaniss Roberts, The University of Alabama Press, $49.95 (Alabama history) The 1956 dissertation by the author, the first woman to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Alabama’s history department, is a classic text that continues to be cited by Southern historians. This text, edited and introduced by Thomas Reidy, offers one of the earliest accountings of the antebellum Southern middle class.

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| Market Place |

Alabama Living

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| Our Sources Say |

Doing what we can A

few months ago, I wrote about comments I receive on my articles. I quote another reader this month. He said, “I read with interest Gary Smith’s CEO column in Alabama Living about climate change and current debates. Although I also do not see the practicality of the drastic and radical changes that some of the candidates are proposing, it is interesting that the CEO of a power company is undermining the need to plan for a future where renewable energy will play a significant role. Whether Mr. Smith will live to see it or not, fossil fuels will eventually run out. It is in the interest of America to look far into the future and be at the forefront of developing technology and energy sources of the future. Please don’t justify your opinion by mentioning cost. Remember how computers were expensive at the time when typewriters were the mainstream; and how trains used to be dangerously fast for human beings to ride? Either we stick to our typewriters, keep riding our horses and succumb to our fate, or we keep America great and lead ahead of the Chinese and Europeans. It starts with CEOs with vision for the new economy and the world to come, and leaders who plan how we can get there.” The reader makes some interesting points. Fossil fuels may eventually run out, but I doubt if I live to see it. Most estimates indicate that proven oil and gas reserves will last over 50 years at current consumption rates. Of course, consumption rates are likely to increase as more people in the world move out of poverty and use more fossil fuels. However, more reserves are discovered every year as extraction technologies improve. The reader also lectures not to justify a position by mentioning cost. Costs cannot be ignored in any economic or industrial evaluation or activity. This is not the time to delve into the laws of energy or the laws of physics; but the energy revolution, if there is one, will not be guided by Moore’s Law, which applies to the economies of computing power, but by the scientific laws of energy and physics. Energy costs will not scale like the economies of computing power. The reader challenges leaders to adopt a vision for the new economy and the world to come. That vision should apply to everyone in the world, not just the U.S. The rest of the world is trying to get where we are, and they are doing it with fossil fuels. China and India are building coal-fired generation plants at a very rapid pace. Those plants will operate for decades. They will continue to use fossil fuels because they are energy-dense, cheaper, and more reliable than renewable resources.

Because of changes in environmental regulations, PowerSouth is improving its emission footprints and moving away slightly from fossil fuels. We will close our coal-fired generation units in October 2020 because of increased regulation of coal ash. We will replace that generation with a highly efficient natural gas combined-cycle plant. The new natural gas plant, although producing more electricity, will emit about half the carbon dioxide and will not have the ash issues associated with the coal plant. We have a Purchased Power Agreement in the Vogtle Unit 3&4 nuclear expansion near Augusta, Georgia, for 5% of the capacity (or 125 MWs) for a 20-year term. That power is carbon-free and is a pure hedge against carbon-free mandates or carbon taxes. It will be more expensive than natural gas generated power but will be more environmentally friendly. We are entering into a Purchased Power Agreement for 80 MWs of solar power below our average energy cost. We have held off on solar generation until the price dropped below our average cost of energy. We would like to have more solar generation, but we are uncertain we can reliably manage the intermittency of more than 80 MWs of solar generation and meet our responsibility as an electric utility to balance load with generation. We are looking at battery technology and waiting for the price of batteries to drop to a price comparable to our average cost of service. However, we will not have sufficient renewable energy or battery capacity to operate more than a minimal amount of our system on batteries. There is no significant wind in Alabama to support wind generation and transmission of wind generation from the west costs too much to be reasonably affordable. We don’t expect wind generation to be a material part of our generation mix. We have done about all we can do to cut carbon emissions and clean up our generation without a significant breakthrough in technology. Today, I see no real evidence of that type of advancement. We are doing about all we can reliably do to add renewable generation. Considering that, I have to take exception with my reader’s position. The world will be dependent on fossil fuels for electric generation for some time – probably multiple decades - because we have no other alternative. There is no renewable or carbon-free generation resource that will provide the reliable and affordable service we provide our members today. Anything else will be unacceptable. I hope you have a good month.n

Gary Smith is President and CEO of PowerSouth Energy Cooperative.

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| Classifieds | How To Place a Line Ad in Marketplace Closing Deadlines (in our office): May 2020 Issue by March 25 June 2020 Issue by April 25 July 2020 Issue by May 25 Ads are $1.75 per word with a 10 word minimum and are on a prepaid basis; Telephone numbers, email addresses and websites are considered 1 word each. Ads will not be taken over the phone. You may email your ad to; or call (800)410-2737 ask for Heather for pricing.; We accept checks, money orders and all major credit cards. Mail ad submission along with a check or money order made payable to ALABAMA LIVING, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124 – Attn: Classifieds.

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Land, Lots & Real Estate 2 WATERFRONT HOMES IN DALLAS CO. – 1)2BR / 1BA with basement and large deck, remodeled inside and out, new A/C and heat – 2) 3BR / 2BA, 1,500 sqft, ceramic tile & oak flooring, large storage shed - Russ (850)5827633.

Musical Notes PLAY GOSPEL SONGS BY EAR - 10 lessons $12.95. “LEARN GOSPEL MUSIC”. Chording, runs, fills - $12.95 Both $24. Davidsons, 6727AR Metcalf, Shawnee Missions, Kansas 66204 – (913)262-4982

Education WWW.2HOMESCHOOL.COM – Open year-round K-12 enrollment. Contract Dr. Cerny, (256)6532593 FREE BIBLE CORRESPONDENCE COURSE – write to P.O. Box 52, Trinity, AL, 35673

Fruits / Nuts / Berries GROW MUSCADINES AND BLACKBERRIES , half dollar size – We offer over 200 varieties of Fruit and Nut Trees plus Vines and Berry Plants . Free color catalog. 1-800-733-0324. Ison’s Nursery, P.O. Box 190, Brooks, GA 30205 Since 1934

PCB 2 CONDOS – PEACHTREE II – 2 miles West of Pier Park, 400 feet to beach – 2BR / 2BA, sleeps 6, pool, internet - (850)573-2182, Jeff. MENTONE, AL LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN COTTAGE RENTALS – Best brow views, River Front –, Call or text (504)4818666 PANAMA CITY BEACH CONDO – Owner rental – 2BR / 2BA, wireless internet, just remodeled inside and outside – (334)7900000,, www. GULF SHORES PLANTATION BEACH CONDO – 2 Bedrooms / 2 Baths. NO pets, NO smoking. Max 6 people. (205)344-3810

Answers to puzzle on Page 28

Alabama Living

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| Hardy Jackson's Alabama |

Illustration by Dennis Auth

They eat gophers, don’t they?


oing some research, I came across an article in the Aug. 5, 1950 edition of the Mobile Register that told of how folks down there “Eat Gophers, Claim They’re Delicious.” Gophers. Those big tortoises that burrow deep into the sandy soil of South Alabama. It seemed that back then gophers were fast becoming all the rage in the Port City. Demand was so great that one enterprising citizen was keeping a “backyard pen well stocked in the turtle-like creatures” and “several small eating places even stir up a batch of ‘gopher stew’ to put on the menu.” (Mobile’s “Renaissance Man,” Eugene Walter, included gopher gumbo in his much-admired book on Southern cooking.) A regular gopher industry was blossoming as boys and girls out “in the country” Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist for Alabama Living. He can be reached at

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caught them, brought them in, and sold them to local “distributors.” Now a lot can be said for gopher raising. They are cheap and easy to care for. They eat grass mostly and they love watermelon rinds. They aren’t aggressive and of course, they “taste like chicken.” “In fact,” the article reported, “if you ate some while blindfolded you wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference.” Well, from my experience, yes you would. I was just a lad when I caught the tortoise that became my first and only culinary experience with gopher. I brought it up to the house where Mr. Pugh was doing some yard work for Daddy. The conversation, as I recall, went something like this. Mr. Pugh: “What’cha gonna do with it?” Me: “I dunno.” Mr. Pugh: “Can I have it?” Me: “What’cha gonna do with it?” Mr. Pugh: “Eat it.” Then he proceeded to tell me how go-

pher had five different kinds of meat in it. Chicken, of course. Fish. Pork. Beef. And, he paused for effect, mule. Then he promised to take it home, get his wife to cook it, and bring some back the next day for me to sample. And he did. Brought me a piece about the size of a silver dollar, deep-fried and crisp. I ate it. Musta been the mule. So I am not surprised that despite all the hype the Register gave to gopher stew, gopher gumbo, gopher and dumplings, and southern fried gopher smothered in gravy, gopher eating never caught on. There was some discussion of raising gophers for their eggs, but they don’t lay many and when a local cook reportedly “tried frying one for breakfast, it blew up in the pan and stuck to the ceiling.” That put an end to that. So, if you get the urge for some gopher, chances are your local grocery won’t carry it. But if it does, it is probably in the frozen food section marked “Mule.”n

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