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Stories | Recipes | Events | People | Places | Things | Local News April 2016



Randy Owen

A conversation with beloved Alabama musician

Gospel of greens

Vitamin-rich and cooked slow, these veggies are Southern staple

The gospel of greens

Whether cooked or raw, fresh greens add vitamins and taste to your kitchen table.



Manager Stan Wilson Co-Op Editor Rick Norris 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. AREA cooperative member subscriptions are $3 a year; non-member subscriptions, $6. Alabama Living (USPS 029920) is published monthly by the Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives. Periodicals postage paid at Montgomery, Alabama, and at additional mailing office.


VOL. 69 NO. 4 n April 2016


POSTMASTER send forms 3579 to: Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, Alabama 36124-4014.

Keeping your house sealed will be the key to energy savings this summer.


AREA President Fred Braswell Editor Lenore Vickrey Managing Editor Allison Griffin Creative Director Mark Stephenson Art Director Michael Cornelison Advertising Director Jacob Johnson Graphic Designer/Advertising Coordinator Brooke Echols Communications Coordinator Laura Stewart



National Country Market 611 South Congress Ave., Suite 504 Austin, Texas 78704 1-800-626-1181 USPS 029-920 • ISSN 1047-0311

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Five years later


BBQ hickory-style

Co-op employees, members recall the spirit that helped them recover and rebuild after the devastating April 2011 tornadoes. A wood fire of green hickory and only the freshest pork are what’s been giving Top Hat BBQ its distinctive flavor for more than six decades.



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Keep out heat and humidity


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9 Spotlight 29 Around Alabama 30 Gardens 46 Outdoors 47 Fish & Game Forecast 40 Cook of the Month 54 Snapshots ONLINE: Stories | Recipes | Events | People | Places | Things | Local News April 2016

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Randy Owen

A conversation with beloved Alabama musician

Gospel of greens

Vitamin-rich and cooked slow, these veggies are Southern staple

ON THE COVER: Randy Owen, frontman for the group Alabama, is grateful for the way he grew up, learning the value of hard work on the family farm. The hardscrabble way of life is woven through some of the band’s most successful songs. PHOTO: Courtesy Conway Entertainment Group APRIL 2016 3

Spring, flowers, butterflies and weather OFFICE LOCATIONS Jackson Office 1307 College Avenue P.O. Box 398 Jackson, AL 36545 251-246-9081 Chatom Office P.O. Box 143 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) Pay your bill online at Payment Methods Payments can be made at our Chatom and Jackson offices with cash, checks, debit or credit cards

Stan Wilson Manager of Clarke-Washington EMC

4  APRIL 2016

Spring is here once again. Cold weather, for the most part, is gone and warmth takes its place. I always enjoy watching the flowers and shrubs coming up. I especially enjoy watching my granddaughter, Bailey Ann Wilson, pick flowers (the yellow ones are her favorite) and chase butterflies. She also likes to pick up rocks from around the yard and walk down to the little stream near our house and toss them in. God’s creation is truly beautiful. With the beauty of spring, however, comes the threat of severe weather as cold and warm air mix to produce those afternoon thunderstorms (and sometimes tornadoes) we are so familiar with. There is nothing we can do to stop the storms, but we can be prepared for them. Several years ago, we partnered with the National Weather Service and donated space for a weather transmitter on our radio tower in the Antioch community just north of Jackson. This transmitter is for broadcasting forecasts and severe weather alerts that can be received by weather radios within a 50 mile radius (see adjacent article). CWEMC has donated weather radios to our local schools and nursing homes. For a list of local retailers that sell weather radios, go to our website, www. Another step we take to be prepared for severe weather is to maintain our rightof-way. We do this to keep the electricity flowing safely and reliably to your home. Right-of-way (ROW) maintenance keeps tree limbs and other obstacles away from our power lines. It’s an important part of the service we provide to you, our members, for three reasons: safety, reliability and cost. Our primary concern is the safety of our workers, members and of course, our children. Properly maintained ROW

keeps our crews safe when they are restoring service and maintaining our system. Keeping trees clear of power lines also keeps your family safe. From making sure your child’s tree house doesn’t hit power lines to creating a safe environment while doing yard work, a well-maintained ROW helps avoid tragedy. Power lines are a constant part of our everyday surroundings; it’s easy to forget they are around. We work hard to keep the area around our lines clear, but we need your help. Be alert this spring. Don’t plant trees or tall vegetation under power lines, and keep an eye out for power lines when working in your yard. I am often told that we get some of the worst weather in Alabama crossing our system. Actually, I have folks associated with other electric cooperatives thank me for taking the brunt of the storm. So, when severe spring weather blows through, a well-maintained ROW will lead to fewer outages and faster response time. Trees are less of a threat. When trees do fall, crews are able to restore service more quickly than they could with poorly maintained areas. As a not-for-profit company, CWEMC strives to keep costs affordable for you, our members. Maintaining our ROW is an important part of controlling costs. Fewer and shorter outages save money for everyone. When crews work in well-maintained areas, we can reduce risks for employees and equipment too—another way to keep costs lower. I am looking forward to a pleasant spring with plenty of yellow flowers and butterflies. Thank you.

| Clarke Washington EMC |

CWEMC and National Weather Service working together The spring storms that tore through the southeastern US were a reminder that Clarke-Washington EMC and the National Weather Service (NWS), formed a partnership 20 years ago that would make severe weather warnings more accurate for this area of the state. In 1996 CWEMC donated space to the NWS to place a weather radio transmitter on its radio tower located near the Antioch community in Clarke County. The station went on air Friday, August 9, 1996 operating on a frequency of 162,500 megahertz. The station identifier is WWF-55, which beams a continuous broadcast of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts which can be picked up on home weather radios. This transmitter sends a signal to residents in Clarke and Washington counties, covering a 50-mile radius, providing weather forecasts every three to six minutes. (Portions of Monroe, Wilcox, Choctaw and Baldwin counties are also included in this area). This is especially important during times of severe weather, as it provides continuous information to reflect changes in the current weather conditions. They system also is designed to provide special watches, warnings and statements. A NOAA weather-radio operating on a high band FM frequency between 162.40 and 162.550 megahertz can receive the broadcasts from the radio tower. The NWS provides 24-hour local weather information including five-day forecasts, agricultural forecasts, radar reports and current conditions throughout the area. The NWS office in Mobile recognized CWEMC for its effort to keep the area informed of severe weather warnings. For its support, CWEMC received a NOAA Mark Trail Award in 2002. This award is named for the nationally syndicated comic strip character that serves as the campaign symbol for the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards Program for severe weather safety. The award is given to a person or organizaAlabama Living

tion that uses or provides NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards receivers or transmitters in an effort to save lives and protect property. Although there is no way to prevent the effects of severe weather on your home or property, having a weather radio can inform residents on up-to-date weather conditions in their local area.

NOAA weather radios with the Specific Area Message Encoding or SAME cost about $40 and can be purchased where most electronics are sold. It is a small price to pay to be aware of potential weather danger to your business or family. CWEMC has donated weather radios to local schools, day cares, nursing homes and nutrition centers in the area over the years. APRIL 2016  5

Keep out heat and humidity W

hy does a 95°F day in one of the Gulf Coast states feel hotter than the same temperature in the Southwest? Why do dry heat and humid heat feel so different, and how does this affect your strategy for home energy efficiency? While there are many common ways to achieve energy efficiency across all warmer climates, there are some important differences that vary by geography. Heat and humidity vs dry heat Generally speaking, when there is more moisture in the air, the temperature feels hotter than it actually is because moist air is closer to saturation than dry air. On a humid day, when the air is saturated with water, evaporation is much slower. Simply put, high humidity will make the air feel hotter while low humidity will make the temperature feel cooler. Heat reduction is priority one In warm climates, the majority of energy used to make the home feel comfortable is spent on home air conditioning and cooling. The first priority is heat reduction. However, in humid areas, moisture reduction is nearly as important as lowering the 6  APRIL 2016

indoor air temperature. If a home has too much moisture, indoor air quality can be comprised and mold and mildew problems can develop. Energy efficiency for hot and humid climates The first line of energy defense is to ensure that your home is properly insulated and sealed in order to keep the heat and humidity that surround the house from getting inside. Leaky ducts, windows and doors can cause energy loss, making the HVAC system work much harder to wring the moisture out of the air and exacerbate potential indoor air quality issues. Homes that are “sealed tight” are easier to keep cool and dry. Foam insulation (like in the above picture) can be very beneficial to your power bill as well as to your level of comfort. It creates a tight seal in the attic that keeps moisture and heat out in the summertime. Next, make sure your HVAC system is the right size. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that most current residential systems are oversized. If your unit is too big, you will pay higher energy bills, and you won’t get the efficiency level or

comfort you want and expect. It is also likely that the unit is “short cycling,” constantly turning off and on, never achieving optimum efficiency. When the unit runs in short bursts, it will not operate long enough to eliminate all of the humidity in your home. Damp, cool indoor air creates a muggy atmosphere that can lead to the growth of mold and mildew. This can be a particular concern for those who suffer from allergies, as many allergens thrive in damp conditions. If you are considering a new HVAC system, consult CWEMC’s Member Services Department to help you choose equipment that is the correct size for the capacity requirement. Also, we are currently paying cash rebates for heat pumps that have a SEER of 15 or higher. DIY humidity reduction There are some basic steps you can take to lower the humidity in your home to help make it feel cooler and more comfortable. Start by reducing the humidity you are already producing. The kitchen and bathrooms are the biggest contributors to higher humidity levels. Check to ensure that your range hood is ducted to

| Clarke-washington EMC | the outside, as recirculating range hoods are not effective in controlling moisture (or odors). When cooking, and especially when boiling water, run the vent fan. In the bathroom, run the vent fan when bathing or showering. Keep the fan on up to 30 minutes after you have finished in order to eliminate the residual moisture in the air. If you can reduce the indoor humidity level, you may be able to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature with a higher thermostat setting and ceiling fans. The air movement from the ceiling fan will create a “wind chill” effect, lowering the temperature and increasing comfort. Finally, check gutters and downspouts for leaks or blockage. If rainwater leaks out and saturates the ground surrounding your home, some of the moisture can eventually migrate into your house. If you would like more information about how to save energy, contact us at 251-246-9081.

Check the caulk on the exterior of your window and door casings. If it is cracked or missing, replace it. A $3 tube of caulk will go a long way toward sealing out those drafts

Using spray foam in a can to seal around where pipes leave the house helps to keep out unconditioned air and pests too! Expandable foam is good to use where the space is tight and hard to get to. Be sure to allow for expansion of the foam.

If the weatherstripping around your doors is damaged or missing, you should replace it immediately. A leaky door allows hot, humid air to get in. That costs you comfort and money!

Alabama Living

APRIL 2016  7

8  APRIL 2016

APRIL | Spotlight There’s an app for that

Readers, authors share love of literature at Alabama Book Festival

The annual Alabama Book Festival, now in its 11th year, brings together more than 40 writers, poets, scholars and industry professionals to read and discuss their works and talk about the publishing industry on the grounds of Old Alabama Town in downtown Montgomery. This year’s event will be April 23; learn more about it at In addition to readings and book signings, there are writing workshops, events specifically for children and fun literary distractions, like the “help write a poem” display and a giant book-related crossword and cryptoquote puzzles. Among the authors and speakers set to appear are Rick Bragg, Steve Flowers, Homer Hickam, Rheta Grimsley Johnson, Lynn Cullen, Kendra Norman and Vanessa Davis Griggs.

Smartphone users are well acquainted with apps – specialty software programs that are specifically designed to be used on mobile devices. The Alabama Tourism Department lists several apps that were created with travelers in mind, so before you head out for spring and summer vacations, check out your device’s distribution platform (Google Play for Androids, or the App Store for iOS) for planning help and destination ideas. Search for these Alabama travel apps, among others: 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die; Alabama Road Trips; Civil Rights Trail; Alabama State Parks; Alabama BBQ Trail; North Alabama Road Trips; Birding AL; and Coastal Byway. Cities and counties are getting in on the app action too! Dothan, Birmingham, Alexander City Chamber, Calhoun County, Gulf Beaches and Gadsden each have apps that promote their areas.

Whereville, AL In our new feature, readers are asked to identify and place an Alabama landmark or scene. The winner is chosen at random from all the correct guesses and will receive $25. Multiple entries from the same

person will be disqualified.

If you know where this landmark is, send your answer by April 8 with your name, address and the name of your electric cooperative. The winner and the answer will be announced in the May issue. 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 used in the magazine will also win $25. Submit: By email: By mail: Whereville, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124 (no phone calls please)

Guess where this is and you might win $25! See past Whereville photos!

MARCH’S ANSWER • The federal government purchased the land of what is now Chewacla State Park, just outside Auburn, and established a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) work camp there in 1935. The CCC built trails, cottages and the concrete and stone dam to create Chewacla Lake. Congratulations to Larry White of Tallapoosa River EC, who sent us the photo, and to Susan Turner of Opelika, the correct guess winner. Alabama Living

Previous photos are archived at whereville-al Chewacla State Park APRIL 2016 9



Spring into a stress-free retirement


pril has arrived, and spring is here! As we say “goodbye” to winter weather hardships and “hello” to gardens budding with vibrant color, we welcome the season by celebrating Stress Awareness Month. Did you know that stress, also called the “silent killer,” can cause heart disease and high blood pressure? Recognizing the sources of stress is the best way to understand how you can start eliminating factors in your life that put unnecessary strain on your body and mind. Social Security wants to make your retirement planning as stress-free as possible, which is why we have a number of online tools available for you. You can create your own secure, personal my Social Security account from the comfort of your living room and avoid unpleasant traffic and a possible long wait in one of our field offices. Once you have a my Social Security account, you can view your Social Security Statement, verify your earnings record, and find out what to expect in monthly benefits if you retire at

ages 62, 67, or 70. Once you begin receiving Social Security benefits, you can use my Social Security to check your benefit information, change your address and phone number, change your electronic payment method, and obtain an instant benefit verification letter and replacement SSA-1099/1042S. You can easily sign up for my Social Security at If you’re thinking about retiring at an age not shown on your statement, reduce the stress of the unknown by using our Retirement Estimator. The Retirement Estimator allows you to calculate your potential future Social Security benefits by changing variables such as retirement dates and future earnings. You may discover that you’d rather wait another year or two before you retire to earn a higher benefit. Or, you might see that this is the season for you to kiss that work stress goodbye and retire right now. To get instant, personalized estimates of your fu-

ture benefits, go to www.socialsecurity. gov/estimator. When you decide it’s time to start receiving your retirement benefits, the application process is far less stressful now that you’re prepared. You can securely apply online without picking up the phone or leaving your house. Simply go to, and, in as little as 15 minutes, you can breeze through our online retirement application. Our website and online tools are always available. You can enjoy Social Security’s stress-free retirement planning tools any time of the year, giving you more time to enjoy these warmer months. Doesn’t that put a spring in your step?

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

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach launch clean beach initiative


lean, safe beaches. That’s the message behind the Leave Only Footprints campaign that is a joint effort by the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Initial response to the program has been positive, according to tourism officials. “Our loyal visitors love our beaches. It’s the main reason they come back again and again,” says Herb Malone, president/CEO of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, the organization tasked with promoting the destination to those visitors. “With the help of our local industry partners and residents, we’ve begun to get the word out about the new program.” The Leave Only Footprints initiative requires beachgoers to take their belongings with them each night. Removing beach toys, tents, umbrellas and chairs keeps beach gear out of the way of endangered species such as the nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings, and out of the Gulf of Mexico. It also clears the way for emergency and maintenance crews who must navigate the beach. Similar initiatives are already in place along coastal communities in the Florida Panhandle. In 2015 both cities piloted similar programs, stepping up education efforts with representatives on beach, educating beachgoers about best practices while enjoying the natural resources. Still, thousands of cubic yards of abandoned debris, including tent frames, umbrellas and chairs, were collected last year. Malone says the requirement to remove all items from the 10 APRIL 2016

beach daily will take some education on the part of the tourism industry. “We also know the reasons behind the changes are good ones and are confident our visitors will appreciate the long range goals and long term positive results,” he adds. “Every guest spends weeks and months planning their trip to the beach and they all have visions of that first glimpse of the pristine beach in the morning,” says Michelle Nelson, chief operating officer of one of the largest rental management companies on the island. “They deserve to have that. Whether they are the first set of footprints on the beach at the beginning of the season or the last set later in the year. I know our guests will appreciate and will benefit from this effort.” The updated ordinances in each city require that any equipment and personal items be removed from the beach after sunset each day. Any items not removed will be collected and discarded. Keeping the beach clean for future visitors is an upshot of the Leave Only Footprints policy, which includes other safety and sustainability elements as well. Glass containers and excessive digging are also prohibited and holes dug should be refilled before leaving the beach. In addition, loud music is prohibited on the beach, all in the hope of preserving the safety, peace and beauty of the Alabama Gulf Coast. Follow the Leave Only Footprints initiative on Facebook and get more information at


Daffodils and memories


ifferent folks favor different harbingers of spring – robins, forsythia, pollen covering the car -- I watch for daffodils. Now sometimes daffodils will fool you. When the weather starts to warm they will pop out. But weather can turn and many a time daffodils have found themselves peeking through the snow. Yet they come back, a little droopy but still pretty. I like daffodils because they contain memories. You see, daffodils don’t appear by accident. Birds don’t drop the bulbs like they do seeds. Someone plants them. And years later, when that someone is gone, the daffodils return to remind us of them. On back roads, away from town, you can see them in fields, marking where a shack had been and where a sharecropper’s wife, trying to bring a bit of beauty to her life, had clumped them along the walk. Or maybe it was her husband’s idea, for they say that when daffodils bloom-out, it won’t be long before the soil is warm enough to plow and plant. That was something the farmer needed to know. Or maybe they were put down to mark a spot folks wanted to remember, like the ones that bloomed in the woods on a ridge behind the house where I grew up – an odd place for daffodils, I thought, until my Aunt Maggie told me that they marked the grave of a tenant family’s child, a grave now lost, except when the daffodils bloom. Daffodils also remind me of why I live in the South. Let me explain. Years ago my buddy Jim was teaching up at the University of Northern Iowa. Jim, a Georgia boy, was (and is) about as southern as you can get. And there he was, not just in Iowa, but in Northern Iowa. It was February, but down in Dixie, where I was, spring was early that year. The air was fresh. Robins were bobbing. Forsythia was flouncing. You could write your name in the pollen on the hood. But not in Iowa. Up there it was winter. So I felt it was my Christian duty to give Jim a call. Surely he would want a report on things down here. Friendship required it. He needed to know about the daffodils. Yes, I have a mean streak. So I called him up. And his wife came on the phone. “Lemme speak to Jim.” “He’ll have to call you back,” she told me with a note of sadness in her voice. “He is outside, up on a ladder. The gutters froze and one came down.” Now I knew nothing about frozen gutters, but I knew that a guy coming in from weather that would freeze a gutter would not want a guy in shorts and flip-flops telling him about daffodils. So I told the wife, “That’s OK, I’ll call later. I just wanted to let him know that we are expecting an ice storm here, so it ain’t the time to come home.” O.K., I lied. But sometime that’s what friends do, even about daffodils. (PS. A couple of years later Jim returned to his beloved South, a move the wisdom of which, he told me, was confirmed when “feeling returned to my fingers and toes.” He never intends to leave and neither do I.)

Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at

Alabama Living

Columnist honored for non-fiction writing


he University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences presented Alabama Living columnist Hardy Jackson with its 2016 Clarence Cason Award in nonfiction writing. Each year, UA bestows the award to a recipient with a strong connection to Alabama and whose writings have made a critical contribution to the journalism and literature of the South. Jackson is the author or co-author of 15 books on Southern history. Congratulating Jackson, second from left, are Dr. Mark Nelson, dean of the College of Communication & Information Sciences; Dr. Wilson Lowrey, professor and chair of the Department of Journalism; and Dr. Don Noble, Professor Emeritus and chairman of the Award Committee.

Alabama student wows NRECA crowd


ollin Craig, Alabama and National Youth Leadership Council representative, brought more than 9,000 persons to their feet with a stirring speech at the NRECA Annual Meeting New Orleans last month. Craig addressed the crowd about the “big picture” in his life, the “bigger picture” that the NRECA Youth Tour gave him, and the “biggest picture” of all of our goals, hopes, dreams and ideas. “The Washington Youth Tour has initiated my part in the bigger picture,” he said. “I am no longer a small town kid focused on small town dreams… I am one of 46 determined young adults seeking a positive change for the future of our generation, our cooperatives and our nation.” Craig, a resident of Slocumb, represented Wiregrass Electric Cooperative at the Montgomery and Washington Youth Tours in 2015. He was elected by his peers to be the national Youth Tour spokesperson. Watch his speech online at APRIL 2016 11

‘Mountain Music’ man Alabama frontman talks about old music, new music and a life well lived

By Allison Griffin


12 APRIL 2016


ust after noon on a chilly Friday, Eager for distraction, he takes time to Randy Owen strides into Beverly’s show three out-of-towners who just hapCountry Cafe, a gas station/eatery/ pened to stop for lunch at Beverly’s (one gathering place in tiny Adamsburg, an a former state legislator, all of them awed unincorporated area not far from picto meet the superstar singer in such an turesque Little River Canyon. The lunch unexpected place) a series of newspaper crowd today is pleased to see Owen and clippings taped to the walls. The yellowed greets him accordingly, but not because pages from the DeKalb Advertiser are full he’s the frontman of Alabama, one of the of photos that document an Owen family most successful groups in country music reunion from years ago. Owen points out history: The folks hadn’t seen him in sevcousins Joanne and Bennie, Uncle Johnny eral days, and wanted to know what he and Paw Paw, clearly proud that so many was up to. of his kinfolk call He fills them northeast Alabama in: He spent a few home. days as one of sevAlong with the eral country music clippings, memoperformers on a rabilia from AlaCaribbean cruise, bama’s 1980s heywhere he got to day cover the walls: catch up with old handheld fans that musician buddies cooled the crowds like Bobby Bare Neighbors and fans alike sometimes find Owen at the band’s legand Johnny Lee. and his family at Beverly’s Country Cafe, not far endary June Jam A lifelong cattle from his home. festivals of long PHOTO BY MICHAEL CORNELISON farmer, he also ago, along with the traveled to Texas to see hereford and anband’s classic album covers and posters of gus cattle shows. And while out in Texas, Owen and bandmates Teddy Gentry and he and his wife of 40 years, Kelly, attended Jeff Cook smiling, having fun and living the funeral of a very close friend, whose it up. death was unexpected. “There’s been a lot of great moments in Grief hangs over him like a dark cloud, my life,” Owen says at the office of his catthe pain compounded by a difficult plane tle ranch, Tennessee River Music, which trip home that has left him emotionally sits just behind his home at his Lookout spent. Still, he is polite and gracious to his Mountain boyhood family farm. “I didn’t neighbors and visitors who approach him; realize it then. I probably don’t realize it he’s always been approachable and kind to now. After this weekend, it’s kind of like, fans, Kelly says. everything’s a plus, just being alive.”


Being grateful

Those great moments in his life include those closest to his heart – his and Kelly’s three children, Alison, Heath and Randa, and four grandchildren. And there are all those awards that Alabama won over the years, among them eight country music “Entertainer of the Year” honors, two Grammys, two People’s Choice Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Pretty good for three cousins who grew up poor, working on their family’s farms, and who cut their teeth working for tips as a bar band in South Carolina. But those years were crucial to the band’s later success, Owen says. “You learn to entertain people, which is the hardest part,” he says. “A lot of people can sing. Not a lot of people learn how to work their way through a hostile crowd.” Those were the lean years, before the band signed a contract with RCA Records in 1980, which launched a career that includes 21 gold, platinum and multiplatinum albums and 43 No. 1 singles. “When you get through it, you learn to be very grateful,” Owen says of the band’s success and how it affected them. “That’s the big part about it. You’re very grateful about what’s been accomplished, and what you’ve been blessed with.”

Growing up country

Owen is also grateful for the way he grew up, learning the value of hard work on the family farm. The hardscrabble way of life the cousins shared, coupled with an appreciation for the working man and the love of a family, is woven through some of the band’s most successful songs. Owen grew up in a musical family; his dad taught him to play his first few chords, and his mother played piano (of his mom today, he says, “she still can really play”). His family also put a priority on education, and Owen could read and write by the time he went to school. But the students at the high school in Fort Payne looked down on the kids from the country, so most of the mountain children didn’t attend high school. But Owen was encouraged by some kind teachers who saw potential (he calls them “heroes”). He eventually graduated from Fort Payne High School and went on to graduate from Jacksonville State University, where he is now a trustee. A teacher at Jax State asked him to write a song for a school play, which Alabama Living

took him about 30 minutes; the teacher expected him to need an entire semester. But he was already well into writing songs by then. In fact, by that time he’d already written a song that hadn’t yet been recorded. He laughs at the memory of his college adviser when Owen told her he wanted to write songs as a career. “She was like, ‘uh huh.’ She said, ‘why don’t you sing me one of the songs you wrote?’ So I sang her ‘Feels So Right.’ When I left, she said she thought, ‘he’ll never amount to anything.’ She became a really close friend later on.”

New music

Owen seems eager to resume touring this year in support of Alabama’s new music. “Southern Drawl,” released in September 2015, is the band’s first all-new studio album since 2001. It has a familiar Alabama mix, though its sound has a more modern twist: An almost rock ’n’ roll title track about how “life sounds better with a Southern drawl;” a bit of humor with “Hillbilly Wins the Lotto Money;” an ode to the hard-working “American Farmer;” and tender, sweet ballads, including “Come Find Me,” featuring Alison Krauss, and the touching final track, “I Wanna Be There,” about a father who looks forward to seeing his little girl grow up. It debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top Country Album charts. The fellows have played a few concerts since its release, but will kick up the touring in 2016, including a date at Dothan’s Toadlick Music Festival on June 4. And Owen is ready to see the fans. In fact, touring is his favorite part of the music business. “I like to make people feel,” he says, recalling a moment from a recent concert when he sang the hit song “Lady Down on Love.” As he sang the lyrics he penned decades ago about a woman who would gladly trade freedom to have the love of her man, he looked out about 30 feet into the crowd to see a fan with tears in her eyes. That connection took him back to the early 1980s when the band was just getting going. Making the rounds of a bar where the group was playing that evening, Owen asked a table of women what brought them out. They said they were celebrating the divorce of their friend, who was clearly not happy about the breakup. Owen asked the woman about it, and she said, “I’d rather be at home with my husband and be in love.”

Funny stories, famous friends After nearly 40 years in the music business, Randy Owen could fill a book with the stories of celebrities he’s known. He recounted a few of those stories to the delight of some Alabama Living staffers during a recent interview. “One of the things I treasure is getting to meet (R&B singer and Alabama native) Percy Sledge before he passed away, and he recorded a couple of songs that I wrote. … He was one of the kindest people. I still have his message recorded when he wasn’t feeling well.” (During Alabama’s heyday,) “I’d heard Bob Seger had the best sound system there was, so I flew to Memphis to see him. And it was, it was rockin’. So I told our management, ‘I want that sound system.’ So the next show we did, we had that sound system. I hope Bob’s not mad about it. I’ve seen him several times since then, and he’s OK.” In years past, the band would hold an annual Christmas party at the Alabama museum in Fort Payne. “The guy that promoted most of our first concerts was the late Keith Fowler, a wonderful friend. He had close friends (connected) with NASCAR. (One year, NASCAR legend) Dale Earnhardt drove a bus down to the Christmas party! I asked Keith, where is his CDL? He said, ‘Earnhardt don’t need no CDL.’ I said to myself, you know, he’s probably right.”

June Jam memories

The band’s annual June Jam drew tens of thousands of fans to northeast Alabama to hear some of country music’s hottest acts from the 1980s into the early 1990s. Several of Alabama’s celebrity friends would come for the music and the parade and softball game associated with it. “I remember (former Chicago Bears linebacker) Dick Butkus practicing chip shots in the sand. Everybody would whisper when they went by, like they were at the golf course.” “Then we had (legendary NASCAR driver and car owner) Bobby Allison come for a parade we had. He was driving one of his antique Buicks, I believe. He exits (the main highway) and the car stops, so a kindly neighbor pulls over and is like, ‘Sir, can I help you?’ He says, ‘Well, my car quit.’ (The neighbor says,) ‘Damn, you look like Bobby Allison. You are Bobby Allison! You can’t fix your car?’” APRIL 2016 13

“So then she said the line that got me started, ‘This is the first time I’ve been out since I was 18.’ So I wrote that baby down. I went back to my room and wrote that sucker that night.” Owen has written his share of hits over the years – “Lady Down on Love,” “Mountain Music,” “My Home’s in Alabama” – but he’s been a collaborative writer on

many more Alabama songs. He enjoys both processes, but says writing solo allows him freedom to let a song mature. “I prefer to have the time when you can just lay your heart out, when it just rips it apart, whether it’s a love song, or a sad song, or a happy song,” he says. “You just lay it out there, and nobody can say it exactly the way you feel it.”

TOP TO BOTTOM, LEFT TO RIGHT Kelly and Randy Owen at their Lookout Mountain home. PHOTO BY PHIL PYLE Owen shows some of the newspaper clippings about his family to some fans during a chance encounter at Beverly’s. PHOTO BY MICHAEL CORNELISON Owen raises cattle at his farm, called Tennessee River Music. PHOTO BY MICHAEL CORNELISON Kelly and Randy have been married for 40 years. PHOTO BY PHIL PYLE

14 APRIL 2016

Alabama Living

APRIL 2016 15

The melody will always live on Museums document Alabama’s music history By Marilyn Jones


usic evokes mood and memory. It is a form of celebration; the cadence of life. It is found in every culture, varying only by its creators, the times and its delivery. It helps us express ourselves. In Alabama, several museums showcase the talents of our citizens — past and present — who brought music to life from radio pioneers, singers, songwriters, musicians and others collaborating for the art and the listener. The Alabama Historical Radio Museum operated by the Alabama Historical Radio Society offers the history of Alabama Historic photos are on display at the Birmingham Black Radio Museum. Power Company’s radio station. WSY began broadcasting in This photo from 1954 is of Andrew Dawkins, a disc jockey for WBCO. 1920 and was the 127th station in the nation approved for PHOTO COURTESY BIRMINGHAM BLACK RADIO MUSEUM broadcasting. Radios from this era are displayed and visitors Clarence “Pinetop” Smith to the jazz space journeys of Sun Ra learn that many listeners built their own radios from instrucand his Intergalactic Space Arkestra. tions in Birmingham Age Herald newspaper articles. The Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia highlights The historic timeline continues into the 1930s, when even music-makers from all genres with exhibits illustrating how Alathe Great Depression couldn’t stop the radio’s popularity, and bamians contributed to make the music industry what it is today. into the 1950s when television began to take over some proTours start in the Hall of Fame Gallery that features portraits gramming, but never overtook music. of inductees painted by Tuskegee artist Ronald McDowell. The Birmingham Black Radio Museum traces the history In the Popular Music section there is recording equipment of black radio in the city since the mid -1930s and has successused in Alabama-born Sam Phillips’ Memphis Music Service fully gathered memorabilia, pictures, news clippings, oral hisand the contract between Phillips and RCA representing soontories and personal testimonies “that help depict Birmingham to-be superstar Elvis Presley. More disblack radio’s evolution and its symbiotic plays feature apparel and instruments relationship to the black Birmingham area from Tommy Shaw of Styx fame, Ransom community and the community at large,” Wilson’s flute, Jim Nabors’ Gomer Pyle according to museum literature. costume, and memorabilia donated by The project, founded in 1992 by Bob Emmylou Harris, Donna Godchaux, Bobby Friedman with support from Gary RichGoldsboro, Lionel Richie and The Commoardson, owner of WJLD Radio, also prodores. duced the film “A Radio Hero.” The film The tour continues in the Country Mufeatures Paul White. Dubbed “Tall Paul” in sic area and features the personal memo1962, White was the most significant BirRadios, many dating back nearly 100 years, rabilia of Sonny James, Tammy Wynette, mingham radio announcer of the 1963 are on display at the Alabama Historical Vern Gosdin, Jeanne Pruett, Freddie Hart movement years. He was the only BirRadio Museum in Birmingham. and Rose Maddox. The highlight is the mingham announcer mentioned specifiCOURTESY ALABAMA HISTORICAL RADIO MUSEUM Southern Star tour bus of superstar group cally by the Rev. Martin Luther King in his – and Hall of Fame inductees – Alabama, giving visitors a firstreference to the Children’s Campaign of 1963. Friedman preshand understanding of life on the road. ents the film to public groups upon request. A classic jazz club facade frames the Rhythm and Blues area. The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, also in Birmingham, honErskine Hawkins’ trumpet, Martha Reeves’ and Eddie Kendors jazz artists with ties to the state. Exhibits in the art-deco ricks’ stage outfits, gold records by Wilson Pickett and Percy museum showcase musicians, band leaders and singing artists Sledge and other artifacts are displayed. including Nat “King” Cole, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, ErThe Gospel Showcase memorializes gospel greats Jake Hess, skine Hawkins and Harry Bellefonte. Gold City, The Speer Family and The Sullivan Family. Visitors travel from the beginnings of boogie woogie with

16 APRIL 2016

Alabama Living

APRIL 2016 17

The Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery houses the most complete collection of memorabilia with more than 35 showcases filled with personal artifacts, clothing, the 1947 Gibson guitar and the microphone and stand he used during his last performance, to list a few. The museum also houses Williams’ 1952 Cadillac in which he made his final journey. Born in Mount Olive, Hank and his family moved to Georgiana and later Montgomery. The Hank Williams Boyhood Home and Museum in Georgiana is housed in the structure where the country singer lived from age 7 to 11. It was there that it is said he learned to play guitar from street singer Rufus “Tee Tot” Payne and sang on the streets for tips. Items on display include a Hank and Hezzy’s original Drifting Cowboys hat, Hank & Audrey’s dishes and custom-made curtains and valance from

his Nashville home. Williams’ career began in 1937 when he won a talent show at the Empire Theater in Montgomery with his original tune, “WPA Blues.” He went on to become one of America’s first country music superstars, with hits like “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Hey, Good Lookin’” and “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” before his death at 29. Other museums honoring some of Alabama’s great performers include The Alabama Fan Club and Museum in Fort Payne; W. C. Handy Home & Museum in Florence; and an exhibit at Isabel Anderson Comer Museum in Sylacauga celebrating native Jim Nabors’ success for his beautiful voice as well as his portrayal of Gomer Pyle on “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”

Hank Williams’ 1952 Cadillac on display at the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery. COURTESY OF THE ALABAMA TOURISM DEPARTMENT

If you go: Alabama Historical Radio Museum: 600 N. 18th St., Birmingham; (205) 9677000; Museum.htm Birmingham Black Radio Museum: Carver Theater, 1631 Fourth Ave. N., Birmingham; (205) 902-9487 Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame: 1631 Fourth Ave. N., Birmingham; (205) 327-9424;

Alabama Music Hall of Fame: 617 U.S. Highway 72 W., Tuscumbia; (800) 2392643;

The Alabama Fan Club and Museum: 101 Glenn Blvd. SW, Fort Payne; (256) 845-1646;

Hank Williams Museum: 118 Commerce St., Montgomery; (334) 262-3600;

W.C. Handy Home & Museum: 620 West College St., Florence; (256) 760-6434;

Hank Williams Boyhood Home and Museum: 127 Rose St., Georgiana; (334) 376-2396,

Isabel Anderson Comer Museum: 711 N. Broadway, Sylacauga; (256) 245-4016;

For a listing of music festivals in Alabama and surrounding states, visit 18 APRIL 2016

Alabama Living

APRIL 2016 19

A tornado looms on the horizon in Sand Mountain territory.

The cooperative spirit at work Co-ops pulled together to recover from April 2011 tornadoes By Allison Griffin

The tornado outbreak of April 27, 2011 was unlike any in Alabama’s history.

The statistics are jarring: 351 tornadoes swept through the Southeastern U.S. in just three days. The deadliest day was April 27, when a record 62 tornadoes, including eight EF-4 and three EF-5 tornadoes, struck Alabama. There were a total of 247 fatalities, more than 2,000 injuries and $4.2 billion in property damage. The storms affected 35 counties, and caused deaths in 19 of those counties. It was the third deadliest event in recent U.S. history. The destruction was immediate and devastating. Landmarks, churches, businesses, farms and family homes were damaged or obliterated. First responders and emergency personnel found roads, and in some cases entire areas, impassable. Communities struggled to cope with the damage to infrastructure. Survivors sifted through the rubble of their possessions and their lives. For employees of rural electric cooperatives, there was little time to grieve. Residents in north and central Alabama were only just beginning to comprehend the breadth of the destruction when their co-ops were already mobilizing crews to rebuild power lines. The task was formidable. The TVA transmission sys-

tem, which supplies power to the north Alabama distribution cooperatives, had suffered the worst damage in its history. Three hundred and fifty-three TVA transmission stations were damaged, and 108 transmission lines were out of service. More than 850,000 customers throughout the TVA service area were without power, including 450,000 customers in north Alabama. Electric co-op crews across north Alabama started working on restoration as early as mid-morning, after the first wave of tornadoes. Most also called for help from the Alabama Rural Electric Association (AREA), which coordinates line crews to help in the aftermath of storms. Seven tornadoes touched down in the Sand Mountain EC service area in northeast Alabama. As more storms formed, General Manager Mike Simpson and his employees felt they were continually losing ground. There was massive damage to one of their substations, but the crews couldn’t start making repairs because they were helping clear roads.

‘The worst storm I’ve ever had to deal with’ “That was without a doubt the most helpless feeling in my 35-plus years of being in the power business, and my 20 years as a manager,” Simpson says. “That’s the worst storm I’ve ever had to deal with.” Black Warrior EMC in west Alabama was still reeling from an April 15 tornado that had affected Choctaw County at the far southern end of its system. Then, two weeks later, the tornadoes cut a swath through the area near Greensboro, in the northern part of its system. More than half its customers were without power.

An EF-4 tornado passes over downtown Cullman on April 27, 2011. PHOTO BY BRIAN LACY

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APRIL 2016 21

Because Black Warrior’s territory is very rural, there wasn’t the Co-op employees across the northern part of the state were eiconcentration of damage that the cities of Tuscaloosa and Birther directly or indirectly affected; some lost homes, friends and mingham suffered. Black Warrior Operations Superintendent family, Saunders says. But they told stories of what they did to help Robbie Rose, who was a lineman in 2011, went with crews to without hesitation, all while continuing to rebuild their system. Perhaps the takeaway is Tuscaloosa a few days later. the sense of community that “It was devastating. enabled neighbors to work Houses everywhere. Conthrough their grief and to crete power poles lying help one another. Every coacross the road. It was just op has stories about co-ops total devastation. It’s hard to from Alabama and neighget ready for something like boring states that sent line that,” he says. crews to set poles and hang The folks at Cullman EC wire and right-of-way crews watched from the co-op to clear debris and cut trees. as an EF-4 tornado passed Countless office staff anthrough the city of Cullswered calls and arranged man. Jason Saunders, who for meals, and warehouse at the time worked on the employees helped with conAREA safety staff, was at stant delivery of new matethe Cullman co-op that day, rials and supplies. and on April 28 traveled And there are the restauthrough the Coosa Valley rants, businesses and EC and Cherokee EC areas, which also suffered damage Memorial in Rainsville outside the DeKalb County Schools Coliseum is a tribute to churches that stepped in to feed all these working folks and deaths. He finally made those killed by an EF5 tornado April 27, 2011. and to help with housing. it to Sand Mountain EC to Such outpourings of help, offer help there. even in the worst of circumstances, are at the core of the cooper“Little did I know that this event was not about just rebuildative spirit. ing cooperative lines,” Saunders says. “This was about rebuilding “Sometimes,” Saunders says, “It is when we are at our weakest communities. As I peered out across the parking lot, the county point that we find our strength in God, friends, and our extended EMA had set up a makeshift morgue sitting literally outside the cooperative families.” fence of the cooperative.” Crews work to restore power in Cullman area devastated by 2011 tornadoes.

22 APRIL 2016

Alabama Living

APRIL 2016 23

Grand Prix of Alabama roars into

Barber Motorsports Park By David Haynes


ome of the best drivers and fastest race cars in the world are heading to Alabama for the seventh running of the Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday, April 24, at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham. The racetrack, located near Leeds east of Birmingham, has 17 turns and 80 feet in elevation changes over its 2.38-mile length. Its tight turns through uphill and downhill sections, as well as the track’s relatively narrow 45-foot-wide ribbon of asphalt, guarantee fans exciting racing action as drivers must take full advantage of their race cars’ extreme power as well as their passing skills to be successful here. The weekend at Barber will host a slate of 11 races over three days, beginning Friday, April 22, and concluding with the Sunday, April 24, Grand Prix of Alabama, a 90-lap race that is the first major event for Barber’s 2016 racing season. The Barber race will be the fourth stop in a 16-race season for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series, which is anchored by the historic 100th running of its namesake Indianapolis 500 May 29, renowned as one of the premiere events in all of motorsports.

A full weekend of racing The IndyCar Series showcases the fastest cars and the most versatile drivers in the world. The series began March 13 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and wraps up Sept. 18 at Sonoma Raceway in California, where the Series Champion points leader will be awarded the Astor Cup Trophy. Races in this unique series are held on a variety of tracks, including closed circuits like the Barber track, oval speedways, permanent road and temporary street courses. These race car engines output up to 700 horsepower, rev up to an ear-piercing 12,000 RPM and are among the fastest race cars in the world, capable of speeds up to 250 mph. In addition to Sunday’s main event IndyCar Series race at Barber, the weekend of racing will also include Indy Lights, USF2000 and World Challenge Sports Car Series races on Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s racing will begin with the Legacy IndyLights race just before the IndyCar Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. In between watching the world-class auto racing, fans at-

Indy car competitors make the turn in the 2015 race. PHOTOS BY ALBERT HICKS

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Alabama Living

APRIL 2016 25

Victory Lane is a festive area for winners and their teams.

tending the Grand Prix of Alabama weekend can take advantage of a variety of other entertainment in the “Fan Zone” area, including a wine festival, ferris wheel, IndyCar autograph sessions, “Kid Zone” inflatable slides and other family-oriented activities. There will also be a wide array of food and souvenir vendors all weekend. The Grand Prix of Alabama weekend has historically drawn the most fans each year of any event at Barber Motorsports Park, which is also home to the largest motorcycle collection in the world at the adjacent Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. Last year’s Grand Prix of Alabama weekend attendance was approximately 80,000 and generated an estimated $33 million for the Birmingham economy, making it one of the area’s premiere events in terms of economic impact. The entire Barber Motorsports Park campus covers 830 acres of landscaped and groomed grounds and is recognized internationally as an iconic, state-of- Crowds enjoy the Fan Zone. the-art motorsports destination. Other major events this year include the Barber Historics (vintage sports cars) in May; SuperBike Challenge (motorcycle racing) in June; and the Barber Vintage Festival (vintage motorcycles) in October. The facility also plays host to more than 100 smaller private events each year, and its track facilities are used by manufacturers to test new motorcycles and high-performance cars. It is also home to a Porsche Sport Driving School. Last year a new pedestrian bridge opened that allows spectators to walk from the 4-story-high museum across to the racetrack infield. The unique bridge has a glass bottom floor, allowing users to view the racetrack beneath their feet (though typically 26 APRIL 2016

not during a race). The museum itself – which displays vintage motorcycles and sports cars – had 144,000 square feet of display space when it opened in spring 2003. A major new addition now under construction will add another 77,000 square feet. The Barber motorcycle collection includes more than 1,400 vintage motorcycles, each of which is in running/operating condition, and of these approximately 700 are on display at any one time. For the upcoming Grand Prix of Alabama events, ticket prices range from a $15 general admission ticket for Friday only to $69 for a general admission ticket to all three days’ events. Sunday general admission ticket is $39. Children 15 years old or younger may attend for free if accompanied by a ticketed adult. On-site parking is free Friday and Saturday, but parking within the motorsports park campus on Sunday requires a $25 premium parking pass ($10 for motorcycles). Spectators who choose to park for free off-site Sunday can access free shuttle rides to the race sites. Other ticketing options include VIP packages that allow access to restricted areas and museum passes, and garage access passes for prices ranging from $50 to $175. Children accompanied by a ticketed adult will have free access to the garage area, where they are encouraged to bring their autograph pens. Camping, food and drink service passes are also available in various other packages priced up to $435. For additional information, race schedules or to purchase tickets, visit the Barber Motorsports website at

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28 APRIL 2016

April | Around Alabama Retarded Citizens of Baldwin County (ARCBC). 9 a.m.-5 p.m.,


U.S. Highway 80, Join in the Historic U.S. 80 Hi-Way Sale along Highway 80 in Alabama. Alabama will be participating with four other states. For tips and more information, visit


Guntersville, Marshall County Master Gardeners Annual Plant Sale will feature annuals, perennials, shrubbery, trees, grasses, groundcovers and much more, all grown by master gardeners. Free soil testing also available. Come early for best selection. 8 a.m.-12 p.m., Lurleen Wallace Pavilion. Proceeds support scholarships and other charitable causes. Purchases are tax deductible.

Photo courtesy Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports.


Arts and crafts vendors will spread out along Government Plaza in Tuscaloosa for the Druid City Arts Festival.

Weekends in April Twenty-two towns across the state will offer free, guided tours through their historic districts or courthouse squares of their hometowns. Each tour begins at 10 a.m. each Saturday in April. For a list of towns and for more information, visit


Prattville, The 11th Annual Fountain City Arts Festival will feature an Artist Village, children’s creative pavilion, entertainment, arts demonstrations and food. Free. 334-595-0854


Moulton, The historic Jackson House in Moulton will hold its annual spring event beginning at 10 a.m. with brunch. After brunch there will be a silent auction, bingo and live entertainment throughout the afternoon. The 116-year-old house will be decorated by community organizations. The evening kicks off with a fish fry, low country shrimp boil and all the trimmings followed by live entertainment. Tickets are $25 for each meal (brunch or fish fry), $40 for all events and

meals. All proceeds go toward materials and maintenance for the home. For more information, visit the Jackson House Foundation on Facebook.


Tuscaloosa, The Regional Art Festival, located at the Government Plaza, presented by Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports showcases the amazing art, music, and food of the people of West Alabama, and surrounding areas. Free and family and pet-friendly.

Clayhatchee, Old Providence Foundation will host its annual Bell Ringing, beginning with a covered dish lunch and ending with a gospel music program in the chapel. Free and open to the public. Guests are asked to bring a side dish or dessert to share. 88 Providence Lane,


Cullman, The Bloomin’ Festival is a two-day juried arts festival attracting thousands of visitors to the campus of St. Bernard Abbey and Prep School. More than 140 booths are filled with artists demonstrating and exhibiting their work. The festival is the largest fundraiser annually for the operation and maintenance of the school. Admission is $5, children 5 and under free.


Guntersville, 55th annual Art on the Lake fine arts and crafts event alongside beautiful Lake Guntersville. Over 125 exhibitors with


Fairhope, The 7th annual fundraiser for the Weeks Bay Foundation will be at the waterfront Tonsmeire Weeks Bay Resource Center at the Fish River Bridge on U.S. Highway 98 in Fairhope. Enjoy “a taste of Weeks Bay” featuring fresh Gulf shrimp prepared by top local restaurants with live music by The Mulligan Brothers. Tickets are $40 in advance or $45 at the gate. Entry is free for children 10 and under. Beverages are included in the price of admission, and free parking is available at the Weeks Bay Reserve Safe Harbor site, with BRATS shuttles providing transportation to the event. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to or call (251) 990-5004.


Thomaston, The Annual Pepper Jelly Festival will be held on the grounds of the Alabama Rural Heritage Center, 133 6th Ave., 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Arts and crafts, food and entertainment.

28-May 1

Union Springs, “Doublewide, Texas” is a hilarious comedy about the inhabitants of one of the smallest trailer parks in Texas. They are thrown for a loop when they realize the nearby town is determined to annex them. So grab your Stetson and come on over to Doublewide, Texas at the Red Door Theatre. Dinner begins at 6 p.m. and the show at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Sunday is play only at 2:30 p.m.


Loxley, The Baldwin County Strawberry Festival is a much-anticipated local tradition held annually in April at Loxley Municipal Park. Begun in 1987, it has grown to host more than 180 arts and craft exhibitors, a dozen different food vendors, an exciting carnival, fun children’s games, an antique auto show, exhibits and live music. Each year, the festival raises more than $48,000 for its two beneficiaries: Loxley Elementary School and the Association of

The Baldwin County Strawberry Festival will be April 9-10 at the Loxley Municipal Park.

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.

Alabama Living

food, fun and entertainment for the whole family. Rain or shine with vendors both indoors and outdoors. $2 Admission (children 12 and under free when accompanied by an adult). Proceeds benefit local scholarships.

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APRIL 2016 29


| Gardens |

Now’s the time to start seeding for the season


pril heralds the start of the “serious” gardening season, which means it’s time to get serious about planting those late spring and summer annuals (and some perennials) that will grace our tables with food and flowers. But should we be planting seeds or seedlings? The answer is some of both, but starting from seed offers a number of advantages. Seedling transplants, also called “starts,” are in abundant supply at local garden centers these days and are often the easiest, most sure-fired way to get many plants, both edible and ornamental, to succeed. However, if you want to grow less mainstream varieties, such as heirloom plants, or want to save a little money, planting from seed is a great option. The key to seed success is getting those seeds started off right. By now, soil and air temperatures are warm enough to plant many vegetables and flowers directly in the garden, a practice called direct seeding, which is often ideal for large-seeded plants such as squash, peas and melons as well as such flowers as sunflowers and marigolds. Certainly, even small-seeded plants like tomatoes, peppers and a number of other herbs and flowers can be sown directly into well-prepared beds. But giving many plants a leg up by starting them in containers often helps.

Start with the correct growing container

Start your own seedling nursery by choosing some appropriate growing containers such as peat pots or reusable seed-starting trays or even repurposed items like paper cups, slated wooden boxes, small pots or yogurt, milk and egg cartons. Any container that is at least a couple of inches deep and has drainage holes in

Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at katielamarjackson@

30 APRIL 2016

The most important ingredient for successful seeding is high-quality growing media. PHOTOS BY KATIE JACKSON

the bottom will do, though repurposed containers should be thoroughly washed and disinfected in a diluted bleach solution (nine parts water to one part bleach) before they are used. Aside from the seeds, the most important ingredient for seed-starting success is a high-quality growing media. Do not use yard or garden soil as it may contain pathogens or pests that can harm sprouting plants. Instead, use a sterile media such as prepackaged seed-starting mixes or a homemade media of equal parts peat moss, vermiculite and perlite. Fill each container at least three-fourths full with the growing media (it often helps to wet the media before you put it in the containers, though make sure it is moist, not soggy). Press it in firmly into the containers to eliminate any air pockets then follow the recommended planting instructions found on each seed packet. Typically larger seeds are buried about two times deeper than their width while smaller seeds are sprinkled on top of the growing media then lightly covered with another thin layer of media.

Place the seed containers in a sunny spot (this time of year that can be indoors or out) that has good air circulation but is protected from harsh winds or hard rains. Water the containers lightly about once a week or when the top of the growing media is dry to the touch, but be careful not to overwater — soggy growing media can promote diseases or rot the seed. Once the seedlings emerge, apply a small dose of balanced liquid fertilizer to give them a little extra boost as they grow. Most seedlings are ready to transplant when they have produced two to three “true” leaves (the first leaves that emerge are cotyledons or “seed leaves”; the second set and all thereafter are “true” leaves). Try to plant the seedlings in the garden late in the afternoon on a calm, overcast or cloudy day so they won’t be stressed by sun, heat or wind as they acclimate to their new surroundings. If you direct-seed into the garden, make sure your beds are fully prepared and pre-moisten the soil before planting or water gently just after planting, then keep the soil moist (again, not too wet) until the

Alabama Living

APRIL 2016 31

If you want to save a little money, planting from seed is a great option new plants emerge. Applying a thin layer of mulch will help retain moisture around the seeds, though once seedlings begin to pop their heads up, make sure the mulch does not hinder their growth. Whichever method you use, you may have to thin the new plants once they come

up so they won’t be overcrowded, but you can move the extra seedlings to pots or to other spots in the garden if you can’t bring yourself to toss them out. And once those little darlings are up and thriving, you can take great pleasure in seeing your handraised garden grow.

April Tips

 Plant peas, Irish potatoes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.  Sow seeds for beans, corn, squash, melons and other summer vegetable crops.  Begin planting tomatoes, peppers and eggplants once the threat of a hard freeze is past.  Weed garden beds.  Fertilize warm-season lawns and plant new lawns.  Plant summer annual flowers and summer-blooming bulbs.  Prune spring-flowering shrubs such as spirea, flowering quince, azalea, jasmine and forsythia after they have bloomed.  Clean dust from the leaves of indoor plants.  Plant container-grown roses and keep an eye out for insect and disease problems on all roses.  Start a new compost pile and turn the contents of existing ones.

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| Worth the drive |

Hickory-cooked barbecue alive and well at the Top Hat


Top Hat owner Dale Pettit tends the fire pit where 40 pork shoulders cook.

rivers on U.S. Highway 31 through Blount Springs always know when Dale Pettit is cooking pork at the Top Hat BBQ. The blue-grey smoke that billows from his high chimneys hangs like a hickory-infused fog in this deep valley at the southernmost terminus of the Appalachian Mountains. Depending on wind and weather conditions, the tempting aroma of slow-cooked pork can permeate the air for a mile or more in either direction, fairly begging travelers to stop at the renowned barbecue restaurant. An iconic dining stop in North Alabama since first opening in 1952, the Top Hat has been in Pettit’s family since his father, Wilber, purchased it nearly a half century ago in 1967. And over those many years Pettit has learned a thing or two about cooking barbecue pork. “If you ever find any fat on our barbecue, somebody’s going to be in trouble!” On a recent morning, Pettit shared some of his methods as he tended a massive fire pit loaded with 40 pork shoulders of fresh pork. As we talk, Pettit is busy monitoring his fire by alternating between squirting spritzes of water from a plastic bottle and shoveling ashes from a 5-gallon bucket as required to regulate the fire’s temperature and to put down flare-ups. Pettit is very particular about cooking in his traditional way – using a wood fire of select green hickory and insisting on fresh pork from his suppliers. “These piggies were squealing just a few days ago,” he adds.

34 APRIL 2016

Story and photos by David Haynes When I asked if he could share some of his techniques without giving away any proprietary secrets, he says he’s not worried because the way he cooks “would be too much work” for most people today.

Cooking with wood is key to flavor

He explains that each of his two fire pits can hold up to about 800 pounds of meat at a time. On the days he cooks he’s usually there by 4 a.m., waiting for the truck to deliver his meat at 5. He’s purchased his hickory wood from the same supplier for years, noting the importance of the wood being consistently green from one batch to the next. It’s key to obtaining the trademark smoked flavor of Top Hat barbecue. Pettit says he goes through about a cord of wood every three weeks on average. The hickory arrives in whole two-foot-long cuts, so Pettit spends his early morning hours splitting it into uniform 8-inch-diameter pieces with a large maul. To cook a batch of 40 pork shoulders takes about nine hours, after the fire is going properly. Add to this the time to build and start the fire, and the time to extinguish the fire and clean up afterwards, and the total for a cooking session goes to around 12 hours. Each of his two fire pits is the same size and is used to cook on alternating days. Pettit designed and built the pits himself. He points out that the way these draw keeps the meat constantly surrounded by the swirls of smoke from the green hickory wood. Unlike many other barbecue chefs who use a rub to add seasoning and

flavor to their meat before cooking, Pettit does not. “The hickory smoke is my rub,” he adds. He’s given permission to use his fire pit design to just two other BBQ places – one in Kentucky and another in California – but says those will be the last ones. He says most barbecue chefs have gotten away from the wood-fired pits that must be constantly watched to regulate temperature. Today it would be easy to use an electrically-rotating rotisserie for the meat and an easily-regulated gas flame heat source, but Pettit believes those methods can’t match the flavor he gets with the traditional wood fire method. Pettit is proud that the Top Hat was one of only two restaurants in Alabama to be recognized recently as the still serving traditional wood-cooked barbecue. The Top Hat was also recently featured on The Cooking Channel’s Man Fire Food series, in an episode entitled “Pigging out on Pork.” Pettit says he was surprised to receive a call from a producer for the show from New York, who told him that the Top Hat’s name kept popping up from their viewers and they wanted to feature his restaurant. “They filmed for eight or nine hours and used about 20 minutes.” Archived episodes of that show were still airing in early 2016. These days Pettit only cooks about three days per week. “I’ve been trying to retire for years, but haven’t had any luck yet.”

Alabama Living

APRIL 2016 35

Lunch crowd at the Top Hat, which has been in business since 1952.

Fresh catfish another favorite

After more than six decades in the same location, the Top Hat isn’t just renowned for its barbecue pork. Longtime diners will also point out that their catfish platters are famous throughout the region for both flavor and portion size. Pettit says that the freshness of the catfish is key, adding that they never buy frozen fish. A large

Christine Spinks grills up lunch orders.

catfish platter contains two, full, 13-to-15ounce fish. Other unique offerings are the Thousand Island salad dressing, the recipe for which his father had to purchase separately from the previous owner. It originated in New York, Pettit says, at the Waldorf Astoria, but several years ago they changed the recipe to improve it. The Top

Hat makes its own style of Ranch dressing using cooking buttermilk that yields a more buttery flavor. And, of course, they make their own distinctive barbecue sauce. Even though the main dining area has undergone several remodels over the years, the cozy, dark-wood paneling and tree-trunk columns familiar to generations of diners there have been retained. The Top Hat is located at Mile Marker 307 on U.S. 31. From Interstate 65 North, take the Blount Springs/Garden City Exit (287) and turn right at the ramp on U.S. 31. The Top Hat is approximately 4 miles on the left. From Interstate 65 South, take the Empire/Blount Springs Exit (289) and turn left on County Road 5 until it terminates at U.S. 31 and turn left. The Top Hat is about one-half mile on the left on U.S. 31.ď Ž

Top Hat Barbecue 8725 U.S. 31 Hayden, AL 35079 256-352-9919 Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Saturday

36 APRIL 2016


Alabama Living

APRIL 2016 37

| Consumer Wise |

What you can learn from a home energy audit

By Patrick Keegan

Q: A:

I keep hearing about home energy audits. How do they work, and will they save me money?

You are smart to be thinking about a home energy audit. Spending a few hundred dollars now can save you thousands of dollars over time. A home energy audit is a detailed assessment of your home that can give you a roadmap for future energy-related investments. An energy audit can meet different needs: What efficiency investments will be most effective in reducing your energy bills? Are areas of your home sometimes too hot or too cold? An energy audit can identify problem areas and solutions.

Patrick 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-forprofit electric cooperatives. Write to energytips@ for more information.

38 APRIL 2016

During the audit, accompany the auditor and ask lots of questions. PHOTO COURTESY PIEDMONT ELECTRIC MEMBERSHIP CORPORATION

Are you considering a new furnace, air conditioner or rooftop solar system? An energy audit will help you “right-size” these systems and identify complementary measures that will help these large investments work most efficiently. Are you considering selling your home? An energy audit can document your home’s efficiency to help improve its resale value. Online audit tools can give you a basic understanding of how your home compares to similar ones. However, a qualified and professional home energy auditor can use his experience and high-tech tools to provide a thorough report of your home’s challenges and opportunities. A professional energy audit can range from a quick, visual walk-through of the home to a more comprehensive, more informative – but more expensive assessment. Energy audits require an examination of the building envelope (attic, floor, and exterior walls) and the energy systems in the home, such as the water heater, air conditioner and furnace. Follow the auditor during the inspection, and ask questions so you can understand where the problems are, what you can address yourself and where you may need further professional help. The auditor may analyze your recent energy bills to determine what your energy is used for and if use has recently changed. Finally,

the auditor will ask about the energy use behaviors for those who live in the home. For example, is someone home all day, or does everyone leave for work and school? Ford Tupper, an energy auditor with The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, noted, “The residents’ habits can make a big impact on the energy bill and can also be the hardest to change. If you go from being a household with two working adults to one with a new baby and an adult home most of the day, your energy use is going to go up.”

insulation is needed. Infrared images show “cold” spots in a home’s envelope. Health and safety testing: Energy auditors are also trained to spot safety problems, such as a missing smoke detector or an appliance that could cause carbon monoxide issues. Some auditors can also test your home for radon.

Following the assessment of your home, the auditor will analyze the information and make recommendations on what systems could be upgraded or behavior changes you can make An auditor may do some or all of the to reduce energy use and improve comfort. If following tests: you take action based on your auditor’s recomBlower door test: Windows are often the mendations, you could lower your energy bill suspected cause for air leaks in the home, but five to thirty percent, and perhaps even more! there are usually larger and less obvious sourcYour electric co-op may be able to help you es; a blower door test measures how airtight get started with your energy audit. Some coyour home is and identifies where the air leaks A blower door test during a home energy ops even offer discounted audits or a list of audit can help identify sources of air are. qualified energy auditors in the area. Be sure Duct blaster: Ducts move the warm and leakage. whoever you hire is willing to answer quesPHOTO COURTESY TÕNU MAURING cool air around your home; duct testing can tions, and plan to be home during the audit— measure whether your ducts are leaking. it is a great opportunity to learn what makes your home tick and Thermographic imaging: Seth Rosser, an energy advisor at how you can make it even better. United Cooperative Services in Texas shared, “Identifying where This column was written by Pat Keegan and Amy Wheeless more insulation is needed is a key component in our energy auof Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on ensuring dits—too little insulation will make a member use more energy quality energy efficiency work, please visit: www.collaborativeefthan needed. Adding more can provide a quick return on or email Pat Keegan at energytips@colment.” Thermographic imaging is one way to identify where more

Alabama Living

APRIL 2016 39

| Alabama Recipes |

Shopping Tips

• Look for deep green color without yellow spots or brown edges. • Make sure stems are sturdy and leaves aren’t wilting or have major tears.

Getting greens from your local farmers market or roadside stand means they’ll be fresher, tastier, and might even be cheaper than what you’d find at the grocery store.

See page 43 for tips on how to clean your fresh greens.


40 APRIL 2016

the gospel of



y grandmother was always cooking up a “mess of greens” (and homemade chow chow to go with them), and while I greedily gobbled up pretty much everything else that came out of her kitchen, whenever I heard the word “collards,” I made myself scarce. Everyone else in the house would be lined up at the stove, fingers impatiently tapping their plates as they waited to get their serving of greens. I was as uninterested as they were excited. As far as I was concerned, cooked collards looked (and smelled) like the slimy stuff floating around the edges of my granddad’s catfish ponds. No, thanks. Today, correctly cooked collard greens are near the top of my list of favorite things to eat, and I’ll sing their praises to anyone who’ll listen and try my best to convert non-greens eaters. My evangelism includes rattling off the positives that outweigh the one negative even I can’t ignore: the pungent, not-so-appetizing aroma they release during cooking. I point to their place in Southern food culture; their unique mineral, earthy flavor; the rich, fatty goodness they absorb and deliver so well; and their softness that’s not mushy but instead almost meaty, still holding up to a good chew or two. But they don’t start out this way. While they look like lettuce, collard greens are not for salads. When raw, the veins branching out into the leaves are tough and sinewy. And non-cooked collards taste like bitter dirt (at least to me).


rowing up with a mom who freely admitted she didn’t like cooking, Sandy didn’t really know her way around a kitchen until she was an adult. Being diagnosed with Celiac disease (an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to react to ingested gluten) forced her to remove all gluten from her diet and forced her hand on cooking. “I realized I had to learn and now I really enjoy it,” she said. She’s been making the winning recipe, her crustless quiche, for about four years, much to the delight of several family members. “My mom and my grandson love it,” she said. She modified a traditional spinach quiche recipe to suit her tastes and her health needs. “It’s crustless due to the gluten in flour, and I replaced the spinach in the original recipe one day when I had some leftover collards,” she said. “I figured I’d give them a try, and I liked the collards version better, so I’ve made it with greens ever since.”

They have their own distinct flavors, but the same can be said for other “braising greens” like kale, turnip and mustard greens too, and they all benefit from the same cooking techniques, accompaniments and condiments, namely a low and slow method; some sort of fat and salt; and a dash of heat, sweet and/or tart. All braising greens share something else: more than their fair share of valuable vitamins. Greens are low in calories, but high in vitamins A and C. Turnip greens are loaded with vitamin K. But the faithful greens cooker’s (and eater’s) ultimate reward is potlikker, a liquid version of heaven. In case you’ve somehow escaped knowing what this is, potlikker is the vitamin-rich broth left over after slow-cooking greens (usually collards or turnip greens). The odd name is Southern-speak for pot liquor. You’ll also see it spelled as two words: Pot likker. The next time you cook greens, don’t throw out the potlikker; use it as the base for comforting Potlikker Soup. If you’ve got leftover greens in their broth, start there. If you’ve just got the broth, add some fresh greens. If you don’t have either, you can cheat and create the potlikker at the same time you’re making the soup. (See the instructions for this at Just remember to save the broth next time you make greens, and you can put the soup together a little faster. (You won’t have to cook it as long to achieve its hallmark flavor.) - Jennifer Kornegay

Cook of the Month Sandy Adams Marshall-DeKalb EC

Crustless Collard Greens Quiche recipe on page 42.

Alabama Living

APRIL 2016 41

Crustless Collard Greens Quiche

Beans and Greens Under Cornbread

4 large eggs, at room temperature 1 cup half-and-half OR milk (unsweetened plain almond milk is a good non-dairy choice)** ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)* ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 /8 teaspoon ground oregano OR ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning 1 /3 cup finely chopped onion OR ¼ teaspoon onion powder 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided (vegan cheese may be used, as long as it will melt) 2 cups chopped, cooked fresh or frozen collard greens, squeezed dry (great use for leftover collard greens) ½ cup chopped fresh mushrooms OR 1 8-ounce can sliced mushrooms ¼ cup chopped bell pepper (optional, but recommended; the jar variety is fine)

Filling: 1 tablespoon oil 1 large onion, cut into thin wedges 2 15.5-ounce cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped turnip greens, kale or collards, thawed and drained (you can also use 1 can greens) ½ cup chopped cooked country ham

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a deep-dish pie plate or a large baking dish and set aside. (If using a glass dish, lower oven temperature to 325.) Squeeze as much of the liquid out of the collards as you can. If they’re in large pieces, rough-chop to bite size. In bottom of prepared dish, place greens, mushrooms, peppers and half of the cheese. In large bowl, lightly beat eggs, milk, salt, black pepper, cayenne, oregano and onion or onion powder. Pour egg mixture over greens mixture; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted near center comes clean. Let stand approximately 10 minutes before cutting. Serves 8. Cook’s Note: * Optional: omit salt and cayenne; substitute ½ teaspoon Sriracha salt (or to taste). ** You can use half-and-half, cream, milk or a combination. Please send us your original recipes, developed by you or family members, and not ones copied from a book or magazine. You may adapt a recipe from another source by changing as little as the amount of one ingredient. Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year.

42 APRIL 2016

Topping: 1 cup self-rising corn meal mix ½ cup milk ¼ cup oil 1 egg, beaten

Grits and Greens 1 cup whipping cream 4 cups chicken broth 1 cup stone ground grits ½ to ¼ cup milk 1 pound fresh greens, chopped ¼ cup butter 1 to 1 ½ cups Parmesan cheese ½ to ¼ teaspoon pepper Put whipping cream and 3 cups of chicken broth in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Gradually stir in grits and cover and simmer 25-30 minutes. Cook greens in 1 cup chicken broth until done. Put greens and all other ingredients into grits and continue to cook until blended. Cile Sledge Black Warrior EMC

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Heat oil in a large (10-inch) cast iron skillet or ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion; cook 3-5 minutes or until onion is crisp tender, stirring occasionally. Add all remaining filling ingredients; mix well. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. In medium bowl, combine all topping ingredients; stir until smooth. Spoon batter around edge of hot mixture in a baking dish. Bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Yields 6 servings.

Savory Kale

Cook’s note: This recipe brings together the best of Southern cooking – crispy cornbread, greens, white beans and ham. A friend of mine brought this to a church supper. It is always the first to go. My family prefers turnip greens, but collards are equally as tasty. This is so simple to make and is a complete meal in one dish.

In a large pot over medium heat, sauté onions and garlic until slightly softened. Then add bell peppers and tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Add 3 cups of water. Add Kale greens. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes. Add chicken seasoning and soy sauce. Cook for 5 minutes. Serve hot immediately, later as leftovers, or freeze for future use. Yields 6-8 servings.

Peggy Key North Alabama EC

4 tablespoons olive oil 1 large onion, chopped 2 cups bell peppers, red and green, diced 2 tablespoons garlic, minced 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped 1 pound kale greens, fresh, chopped (if frozen greens are used, adjust cooking time) 1 ½ tablespoons chicken seasoning (McKay’s or your favorite) 2 teaspoons soy sauce

DeAnna Holton Cullman EC Share a story about your recipe! Whether it’s your grandmother’s best cake or your uncle’s camp stew, every recipe has a story behind it. We’ll pay $50 for the best recipe-related story each month.

Recipe Themes and Deadlines: June Picnic Dishes April 8

July August

Peaches Canning

May 8 June 8

Submit: Online: Email: Mail: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

Grandmama’s Collards ½ pound smoked pork shank or a ½ pound piece of smoked slab bacon Water Large dishpan full of collards Pinch of baking soda 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons sugar ½ to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste) Place smoked pork shank or slab of smoked bacon in a large cast iron pot or Dutch oven with 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered while you prepare the greens. Wash the greens thoroughly, leaf by leaf. Strip out large ribs and discard; twist the greens into smaller pieces. Drop the greens into the boiling water and smoked pork. Keep punching down until all the greens are added. When they boil up well, add a pinch of baking soda about the size of a pea, and stir well. Add the sugar. Cook slowly, uncovered, at least an hour, stirring and tasting often. (Don’t end with too much water.) After cooking an hour, and when greens are tender, add salt. Continue simmering and stirring, uncovered, a few more minutes until the taste is even throughout. (Adding salt too early may result in poorly flavored greens. You need time to see how much salt the smoked meat adds to the greens. The hard work of growing and cleaning the vegetable could be wasted, and what a disappointment that would be to hungry families!) To serve, lift tender greens out of the pot liquor into a serving bowl. Slice through greens to chop evenly. Slice the boiled pork and place on top of the greens. Serve with fresh-baked cornbread and homemade pepper sauce on the side. Patricia DuBose Clarke-Washington EMC

Grandmama’s Collards

Turnip Green Casserole 10 ounces turnip greens, cooked and squeezed dry 4 ounces cream cheese, softened ½ cup sour cream 3 slices bacon, fried and crumbled 1 teaspoon butter 1 tablespoon lemon juice ½ sleeve Ritz crackers, crumbled Combine first six ingredients and pour into casserole dish. Top with cracker crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and crumbs are lightly browned. Caitlin Tebben Cullman E

How To: Clean and Prep Your Greens 1.

Separate each leaf and stem from the root.


Give them all a good rinse individually to remove dirt and grit and pat dry.


Stack four or five similar-sized leaves on top of each other on a cutting board with the stems facing away from you. Cut all of the main stems out at once with a knife, cutting in a narrow “V” shape, with the point of the “V” being the top of stem in the leaf.


Roll the de-stemmed leaves in a tight roll and chop cross wise, each cut about ½ inch apart.


If you want the pieces smaller, pile them up and run your knife through them again in several directions.

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Alabama Living

If you’d like to learn more about the special place that collard greens occupy in Southern history and culture, check out the book Collards, A Southern Tradition from Seed to Table, published by the University of Alabama Press last spring. It’s an engrossing and entertaining look at what collards are, how they grow, why we love them and how we cook them all over the South. It includes recipes but is far more than a cookbook.

APRIL 2016 43

| Classifieds | How To Place a Line Ad in Marketplace Closing Deadlines (in our office):

April 2016 – Feb. 25 May 2016 – March 25 June 2016 – April 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 hdutton@; or call (800)4102737 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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Musical Notes


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Alabama Living

APRIL 2016 45

| Outdoors | One of the dogs in the competition displaying her excitement after retrieving a quail.

Best of the Best Alabama hosts ‘Super Bowl’ for bird dogs and handlers

John N. Felsher is a freelance writer and photographer who writes from Semmes, Ala. Contact him through his website at

46 APRIL 2016



he small northeastern Alabama town of Section, population 800, nearly doubled in size as the best bird dogs in the nation and their handlers competed in the National Field Trials, held Feb. 13-20 on the Northeast Alabama Hunting Preserve. Dubbed the “Super Bowl of bird dog handling,” the National Field Trials pitted nearly 600 dogs and their handlers in events simulating bird hunting. Each team needed to find three birds in a designated field measuring about 10 to 12 acres in less than 15 minutes. Each time the shooter missed a bird, the judge deducted points. “We designed the events to simulate actual hunting as much as possible,” says Frank Arnau, former president of the ruling United Field Trialer’s Association. “The dog and handler must work as a team. The dog has to find and point the bird. The person has to shoot it.” Teams competed in such categories as flushing or pointing. Each team competes twice in an event. Judges total the times and scores for each run. “Scoring is based upon how the competitors and their dogs perform, not on a judge’s opinion,” says Clay Moose, UFTA president and a three-time national champion dog handler. “Pointing dogs have to maintain a point for three seconds before they can act on the bird. In the flushing division, the dog makes the bird fly, the handler harvests it and then gets the retrieve.” Before each scoring “run,” event staffers released three penraised bobwhite quail into a field marked off with boundary flags. To keep everything honest, competitors sat in windowless sheds until the bird handler left the field. Then, the human-dog team waited for the signal to begin. As they began, the judge followed the action on an all-terrain vehicle, staying safely out of the way while scoring the run. For the first run of the day, the bird handler released four quail instead of three. Throughout the day, some birds fly or run out of bounds. A few birds elude the dogs. Competitors sometimes miss birds. Therefore, a field may contain more than three quail at any given time. “A good run is anything between four and seven minutes,” Moose says. “The best pointing dog had a total time of six minutes and 47 seconds after two runs. Moose hopes to encourage more interest in the sport, especially among young people and women. “It’s a great sport and we need to get some more youths involved. We want to encourage people to come out to our events

Got an outdoor/hunting product or offer a service that people need to know about? If so, this space is where you should be advertising.

Tables indicate peak fish and game feeding and migration times. Major periods can bracket the peak by an hour before and an hour after. Minor peaks, half-hour before and after. Adjusted for daylight savings time.

a.m. p.m. Minor Major Minor Major

APR. 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 MAY 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

09:46 10:16 04:16 04:31 05:01 -12:01 12:31 01:01 01:31 02:16 03:01 04:46 09:46 08:01 09:37 10:07 04:22 04:52 --01:22 01:52 02:37 03:22 04:37 09:52 11:52 09:37 10:07 03:37 04:07 04:37 04:52 --01:07 01:37 02:22 03:07 04:07 05:22 06:52 08:07 08:52 02:52

Alabama Living

03:31 04:01 10:46 11:01 11:31 05:16 05:31 06:01 06:16 06:31 07:01 07:31 08:16 12:46 01:46 03:22 03:52 10:52 11:37 05:37 06:07 06:37 07:07 07:52 08:22 08:52 12:52 02:07 02:52 03:22 10:37 11:07 11:22 11:52 05:22 05:37 06:07 06:37 07:07 07:37 08:22 09:22 10:52 01:22 02:07 09:52

03:01 04:01 04:46 05:16 11:31 06:31 07:16 07:46 08:31 09:16 10:16 11:31 --12:16 03:07 04:07 11:07 11:52 06:52 07:52 08:37 09:37 10:37 11:37 ---02:22 03:52 04:52 10:37 11:22 11:52 07:22 08:07 08:37 09:22 10:07 10:52 11:37 12:37 -01:07 02:52 09:37

09:16 10:01 10:31 11:01 06:01 12:01 12:16 12:46 01:16 01:46 02:31 03:16 04:16 05:46 07:16 09:07 10:07 05:07 06:07 12:07 12:52 01:37 02:22 03:07 03:52 04:52 05:52 07:07 08:07 09:07 09:52 05:37 06:07 06:52 12:22 12:52 01:22 01:52 02:22 03:07 03:52 04:37 05:52 07:07 08:37 04:07

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48% of our readers own a garden 85% of those garden owners purchased maintenance items last year 41% own more than 3 acres of land Contact Jacob Johnson 800.410.2737 APRIL 2016 47

to observe and get involved. This year, 36 women and 20 youths competed in events.” For the competition, event staffers released about 6,500 birds. Jeff Ferguson, owner of the Northeast Alabama Hunting Preserve, released another 3,500 so competitors could practice before the competition began. Some birds survived. People spotted a few quail walking through underbrush bordering the competition fields the day after the event ended. The rest went to good causes. “We donated the birds that the competitors shot to several charities,” Ferguson says. “Some of them held wild game dinners as fundraisers. We also gave a lot of birds to any local people who wanted to eat them.”

Competitors came from across the country

To earn a place at the Nationals, every dog and competitor needed to qualify through a series of events held throughout the year. At each event, teams accumulated points based upon how well they and their dog did. The UFTA totals the highest points of the best 10 events for each person to determine the yearly points champion. The AFTA held the Nationals in Alabama for nine years in a row, the last two at the Northeast Alabama Hunting Preserve. Before that, they spent seven years at the Doublehead Resort in Town Creek. “It’s a great honor for our preserve to be picked for the second year in a row,” Ferguson says. “We have a great facility here to put

on such an event. The fields are close. We have lodging and a great conference center where people can gather. I really appreciate the help we received from Snead Agricultural Equipment in Fort Payne and Boykin Tractor in Rainsville. Sand Mountain Electric Cooperative also provided a lot of support for two years straight. I especially want to thank Mayor Nick Jones of Rainsville for all his support during the last two years.” At the 2016 event, people came from all across the nation to compete. Some came from as far away as Colorado, Minnesota and Canada. Although the actual trials lasted one week, many people stayed for two weeks. Many came early to acclimate themselves and their dogs to Alabama weather and get in some practice. “Jeff has been phenomenal in accommodating us,” Moose said. “We love it down here. The people are great. Everyone here welcomed us. Many local people came out to watch the competition.” When such a large group visits a small town like Section, they make a considerable economic impact. Although some visitors brought their own recreational vehicles for sleeping, others needed lodging. They all needed fuel, supplies and food for themselves and their animals. Many whole families came. “It’s a lot of extra work to keep the fields in shape and hold such an event, but it was all worth it,” Ferguson said. For more information on the UFTA, see For more information on the Northeast Alabama Hunting Preserve, call Ferguson at 256-638-7014 or see northeastalhuntingpreserve. com. A competitor watches for a quail to flush during the 2016 United Field Trialers Association National Field Trials, held on his property near Section.

The national champions from the 2016 United Field Trialers Association National Field Trials show off their trophies. From left to right, Marlene Sipes of Esmont, Va., Randy Brown of Pelham, N.C., Nick Scheutzow of Wadsworth, Ohio, Eddie Karban of Valley City, Ohio, Lauren Tarquinio of Coal Center, Pa., Matt Behe of Reidsville, N.C. and Ryan Miller of Wakeman, Ohio.

48 APRIL 2016




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Alabama Living

APRIL 2016 49

ATTENTION HVAC, PLUMBING, ROOFING, LANDSCAPING, CONSTRUCTION, AUTOMOTIVE, HEALTHCARE, INSURANCE, FINANCIAL SERVICES, IT & TELECOM, MANUFACTURING, ETC. As a local business, you may not need to advertise to the entire state. But what about the 15,000+ consumers in the Clarke-Washington EMC market? Alabama Living, the state’s largest publication, is offering this page to the first local business that wants to stand out from the competition and put its product/service in front of Clarke-Washington’s members.

This page will be gone fast. It’s efficient and effective marketing. Call 800.410.2737 or email:

50 APRIL 2016

Storm safety: When thunderstorms, tornadoes strike Beware. Spring can usher in more than April showers. Now through the summer months, thunderstorms can quickly roll in and tornadoes can touch down, often during the afternoon and evening hours, according to researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Severe Storms Laboratory. Follow these tips from NOAA and the American Red Cross to keep you and your home safe when tornadoes and severe thunderstorms come your way. • Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged tree limbs. • Listen to local news or National Weather Service broadcasts to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings.

Alabama Living

• If in a mobile home, immediately head to a sturdy shelter or vehicle. Mobile homes, especially hallways and bathrooms, are not safe places to take shelter during tornadoes or other severe winds. • Designate a family meeting place for shelter during and after a storm. If possible, go to your home’s basement, a small interior room, or under stairs on the lowest level. Also, have a battery-operated weather radio handy along with emergency supplies. • Unplug your electronics. Avoid using electrical equipment and corded telephones. • Remember that there is no safe place outside during a severe storm. If you are caught in a storm while on the road, the American Red Cross urges drivers to turn their headlights on, try to safely exit the

roadway, and park. Stay in the vehicle with your seat belt on and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. If thunder and lightning is occurring, avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle. • Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile. • Stay safe after a storm. Remain indoors at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder. Also, stay away from downed power lines and avoid flooded areas, power lines could be submerged and still live with electricity. Report them to Clarke Washington EMC at 1-800-3239081 immediately.

APRIL 2016  51

| Our Sources Say |

One Life How the death of a Supreme Court justice could affect the cost of your electricity


he “butterfly effect” describes how small causes can have large effects. It’s a concept named by mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz that refers to how a butterfly in Africa might circulate air that ends up as a hurricane in the U.S. If the beat of a butterfly’s wings can cause a hurricane, how might one person’s life change the world? The easy response is that with so many people on the planet, no one life could affect us all. But sometimes it’s clear that one life can have widespread and long-lasting effects. This idea comes to mind with the death of Antonin Gregory Scalia.

Politics, the courts, and the EPA

Scalia was a United States Supreme Court Justice who passed away on Feb. 13. He served on the Court for 30 years after his appointment by President Ronald Reagan. He was known as an outspoken judge who used humor and satire in arguing issues. He was referred to as a “textualist” because he held to the plain meaning of the text of the Constitution. He was the principal voice for conservative values on the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia’s absence will certainly lead to more liberal decisions in several significant cases now before the Court. Those include abortion rights, affirmative action plans, voting rights and rules, the power of labor unions, contraception dissemination under Obamacare, and immigration policy. Justice Scalia’s death will even affect issues not before the Court. His replacement must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Republican Senate leadership has said a Supreme Court nominee will not be considered until after a new president is elected. That political strategy could affect the presidential and Senate elections this fall. Those elections will set the path for U.S. leadership for years to come. Justice Scalia’s death increases the odds that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will prevail in litigation to determine the applicability of the Clean Power Plan released last summer. Twenty-four states and hundreds of businesses

and individuals sued the EPA, arguing against the agency’s authority to impose the plan. The Clean Power Plan litigation is currently being considered by the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court. But just four days before Justice Scalia’s death, the Supreme Court issued an unprecedented stay in the case, precluding the EPA from enforcing the rule until all litigation has been resolved. The grounds for the stay were based on whether the rule would result in irreparable damage and the likelihood it would ultimately be upheld by the Court. Therefore, the logical conclusion was that five Supreme Court justices (including Justice Scalia) thought there was a considerable likelihood the rule would not withstand the lawsuit.

The future of fuel prices

However, with Justice Scalia’s death, the Supreme Court will operate with eight justices until the president nominates and the Senate confirms a replacement. A 4-4 split by the Supreme Court would affirm the lower court’s decision. It seems likely that lower court will affirm the EPA plan, because two of its three judges are Democratic appointees. Without a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, a tie vote is likely, affirming the D.C. Circuit. Furthermore, if Justice Scalia’s replacement is appointed by a Democratic president, it is even more likely the Clean Power Plan will stand. The Clean Power Plan would virtually eliminate coal as a fuel to produce electricity. While coal has traditionally been a low-cost fuel, lower-cost natural gas has recently replaced coal as the more economical fuel. But looking to the future, increasing demand for natural gas means its price is likely to increase. Also, a favorable ruling for the EPA on the Clean Power Plan will likely spark an EPA attack on natural gas fracking. It’s likely that the convergence of those two factors will lead to much higher natural gas prices and higher electric costs for you. With Justice Scalia’s support, it appeared we were in a favorable position on the Clean Power Plan to maintain coal as a viable fuel to produce electricity. With his death, it appears we are not. Just like the beat of a butterfly’s wing, one life can make a difference. I hope you have a good month.

Gary Smith is President and CEO of PowerSouth Energy Cooperative

52 APRIL 2016

Alabama Living

APRIL 2016  53

| Alabama Snapshots | We realize Easter Sunday was March 27, but we wanted to continue celebrating this month with photos of our readers in their “Easter best” outfits. Some photos are timeless!

Easter Best

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.

Kirklinn Marie Twitty, age 2 ½, with her two rabbits at Paw Paw Carden’s farm. SUBMITTED BY Ann Carden, Cullman. The Lewis family. SUBMITTED BY Cindy Lewis Shaw, Sterrett.

Claire, J.T. and Abby Kate Williams, Easter 2013. SUBMITTED BY Amanda Williams, Centre.

Natalee Wilson, age 4. SUBMITTED BY Debbie Smith, Flomaton.

Isabella, Leslie and Adella Stone, Easter 2015. SUBMITTED BY Leslie Stone, Stevenson.

Submit Your Images! June Theme: “Take me out to the ballgame” Deadline for June: April 30 SUBMIT PHOTOS ONLINE: or send color photos with a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Photos, Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

54  APRIL 2016

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