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Catfish Noodling • Local Honey • Savory Summer Produce Rooted in St. Clair • Traveling the Backroads • Mountain Home

Aug. 2011

Climbing Capital of the South Horse Pens 40 and Steele drawing bouldering and climbing enthusiasts from across the nation

we have made it our mission to provide the absolute highest quality medical care to our community. Since our inception in the year 2001, we have invested heavily in recruiting the most talented physicians and staff, and procuring state of the art cutting edge technologies such as Electronic Health Records, Digital Xray, Digital Neuromuscular testing, Pill Camera Endoscopy, and Advanced Ultrasound / Doppler Sonography to meet the needs of our growing diverse community.

accessible. comprehensive. reliable healthcare providers. after care clinic open weeknights until 10 p.m. and saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

front row: Partners: michael Dupre, mD, Carl frosina, mD, Rock Helms, mD second row: Lea Clayton, mD, beverly brown CRNP,


Hours: 7:30am - 10:00pm Monday - Friday 9:00am - 4:00pm - Saturdays 70 Plaza Drive • Pell City, AL 35125

Tel: 205.814.9284

w w w. n o r t h s i d e m e d . c o m

barry Collins, mD back row: Sara Thompson, CRNP, Joy St. John, CRNP, Tim Crump, CRNP, William mcClanahan mD, Emily bernstein, CRNP, Rick Jotani, mD.

practicing cutting edge medicine. delivering comprehensive health care.

+ fAmiLy mEDiCiNE

patient portal


Ability for our patients to schedule


appointments, request medication refills


or medical records electronically, and

+ ob-gyN

receive appointment reminders via email

come grow with us!


as well as clinic updates and health

The growth of our community and medical staff has

+ oPTHALmoLogy

information via email.

enabled us to bring top notch Specialists to you.

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Leaders in Cardiology, Dermatology, orthopedic

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full Laboratory services including

and general Surgery, Neurology, gynecology,


Chemistry, immunoassay and

otolaryngology and ophthalmology are now com-


Hematology testing on site.

ing to Northside medical to meet your needs.

Features and Articles D iscover The Essence of St. Clair

August 2011

St. Clair Rocks

Some of the country’s best rock climbing exists within the boundaries of St. Clair County. The cliffs of Steele, the boulder field of Shoal Creek Valley and Horse Pens 40 are all venues that are rocking the sport.

Page 24 Cover photo by Mike Callahan

Profiles in St. Clair Spirit Lovejoy’s life’s work helping build a county

Business Briefing

Page 42 Page 46

St. Clair communities rebuild after deadly tornados

Alabama Gold

Honey production is sweet business for Odenville bee farm

• Cooking with Honey

• Before the Storms Life in the Valley

Page 9

Pell City storm followed path of 1975 tornado

Page 16

A family tradition helps its descendants hold on to their history Page 20

North by Northeast

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St. Clair’s Savory Summer

Nothing says South like fresh produce Page 60

Rooted in St. Clair Two key conservation players hail from county

Page 34

Page 52

• We’ve Been Here Before

Coming Home to the Cove

At Chandler Falls Farm, it’s all about the view

Rising from the Rubble

Noodling Page 48

The other way to catch catfish

online @

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YOU CAN’T ALWAYS BE THERE FOR A LOVED ONE. ALWAYS THERE CAN. Always There offers everything from basic care— like bathing, grooming and dressing—to skilled nursing care. Not to mention the comfort of trusted companionship. Always There means dependable support for you: We take care of all the administrative hassles— from managing and scheduling care providers to payroll and W2s. Nobody can care for your loved ones like family, but we come surprisingly close. Always There does more than thoroughly screen care providers’ backgrounds. We look for the kind of positive, compassionate attitude that comes with a caring nature. We know we’re caring for someone who’s an important part of your family. We’ll make them feel like part of ours. Call us, and we’ll handle it all. Including your worries.


Christy Baynes, MSHA, MBA, CMC Vice President, Client Care and Education

Dee Harrell, RN President and Founder

COMPREHENSIVE, C O M PA S S I O N AT E C A R E A passion for working with seniors and a vision for what they needed to retain their independence drove a registered nurse in the health care industry to become a company president in the corporate world and provide those services to seniors and their families across the state. Dee Harrell, RN, founded Always There In-Home Care, Inc. 12 years ago to meet a need for elderly and disabled, helping them retain independence and live at home for as long as possible. “After working in hospitals with patients of all ages, I found caring for seniors to be where my heart was most satisfied,” she said. “I enjoyed listening to the life stories about their families, jobs, trials and tribulations.” She was serving as nurse manager for an adult day care center, when she realized “a real need for a quality, private-duty home care service for seniors.” She opened the first office in Birmingham in 1999, one in Huntsville four years ago, and another in Pell City in 2010. The company now has 350 employees, serving 15 counties in Alabama, and there are aggressive plans for expanding throughout the state. Always There provides medical and nonmedical services. “Our caregivers take care of all basic needs to help our clients remain independent. Our nurses are available when our clients need skilled care and advice,” Harrell said. “Some of our clients just need assistance for appointments or errands, while others need 24-hour supervision.” Always There is a comprehensive model of care -- providing a scope of services seniors need when they need it. “The Baby Boom Generation has changed the course of

813 A Franklin Street

how care is delivered in America,” she said. Families do not always live nearby, seniors’ children work, and the health system can be hard to navigate alone. Knowing those all-too-familiar situations led her to expand the company this past year to include professional geriatric care management. “We were thrilled to introduce care management to our company through the leadership of Christy Baynes,” Harrell said. Baynes, MSHA, MBA, CMC, has been a geriatric care professional for more than 12 years with experience in living administration, community councils on aging, Alzheimer’s and aging research, long-term care insurance, elder care coordination, geriatric health education and caregiver support groups. She is certified in geriatric care management from the National Academy of Certified Care Managers. Care management is a holistic approach to addressing the needs of seniors and their families, and what sets Always There apart from other services is that it can provide care management as well as in-home care. “Our comprehensive approach and consultative services are so valuable to families. Our goal is to become a member of the family’s team. We have an opportunity to address every aspect of our clients’ lives. From open communication with their physician to finding social activities for our seniors, we can provide continuity of care and make a difference in the quality of their lives while bringing peace of mind to their families,” Baynes said. That is a critical component of senior care as the Baby Boom Generation -- 77 million people -- began retiring this year. The number will only grow as America ages, and Always There is ready with experience, compassion and a guiding principle that defines this company on the move: “We care…For You. And For Them.”

l Huntsville, AL 35801 l 256-539-1400

3021 Lorna Rd Suite 100

l Birmingham, AL 35216 l 205-824-0224

931 Martin St South Unit #6

l Pell City, AL 35128 l 205-824-0224

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 5

Writers AND Photographers

Carol Pappas • editor & publisher

David Story

Carol Pappas is editor and publisher of Discover The Essence of St. Clair Magazine. A newspaper veteran, she retired as editor and publisher of The Daily Home, St. Clair Times and Lakeside Magazine to start her own multimedia company. She has been published in various newspapers and magazines, won dozens of writing awards in features, news and commentary and was named Distinguished Alabama Community Journalist at Auburn University for 2011.

David Story, an Alabama native, has been an educator for the past 10 years. He teaches speech and English at Southern Union State Community College and is author of America on the Rerun: TV Shows that Never Die. He has contributed to Lake Martin Living, Montgomery Living, East Alabama Living, Arts in Alabama, Auburn Villager and Auburn magazine.

Amanda Pritchard Beginning her writing career by auditioning to be a VJ on MTV, Amanda E.H. Pritchard has been writing for the past 10 years. Throughout her career Pritchard has been featured in national, regional and local publications. She lives in Leeds.

GiGi Hood GiGi Hood, a Samford University graduate, lives in Birmingham. A Nashville Tenn., native and avid sports enthusiast, she was the first woman sportswriter for The Nashville Tennessean. She has also written for The Birmingham News as well as contributed to numerous publications as a freelance writer. Currently she is working on U-Turn, a non-fiction book.

Loyd McIntosh Loyd McIntosh is a freelance writer and former news reporter and sports writer for several newspapers throughout the Southeast, including The Daily Home. In over 10 years as a freelance writer, he has published work in a variety of magazines. He is native of Trussville and now lives in Pell City with his wife, Elizabeth, and daughters Emily Grace and Lily. Loyd is currently the marketing manager for the Birmingham YMCA.

Carolyn Stern Carolyn Stern is retired after a career in publishing. Her work has appeared in Progressive Farmer, Birmingham Home and Garden, Birmingham Parent, Birmingham Post-Herald and St. Clair News Aegis. She is author of Ponds: Building, Maintaining, Enjoying and has earned writing awards on a state and national scale. She lives in Beason Cove and is owner of Cove Cottage Bed and Breakfast.

Jerry Martin Jerry Martin is chief freelance photographer for Partners by Design, a multimedia group based in Pell City. He is a veteran newspaper photographer, whose work earned numerous state awards. His photographs have appeared in many magazines, publications and online.

Mike Callahan Mike Callahan is a freelance photographer who resides on Logan Martin Lake in Pell City. He specializes in commercial, nature and family photography. Mike’s work has been published in Outdoor Alabama Magazine, Alabama Trucking Association and Alabama Concrete Industries magazines. Publishing his work to the internet frequently, he has won many honors for pictures of the day and week.

Discover The Essence of St. Clair August 2011 • Vol. 1 •

Carol Pappas • Editor and Publisher Graham Hadley • Managing Editor and Designer Brandon Wynn • Director of Online Services Arthur Phillips • Advertising Jerry Martin • Photography 6 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

A product of Partners by Design 6204 Skippers Cove Pell City, AL 35128 205-335-0281

Printed at Russell Printing, Alexander City, AL.

Back to the beginning From the Editor It’s funny how things come full circle. My journalism career began in St. Clair County in 1977, working as a cub reporter for the old St. Clair Observer with the late Bob Cornett and the late Anne Milam at the helm. And after 30 years in the newspaper industry, I retired to start a new venture, one that has led me right back to St. Clair County. This is the inaugural edition of Discover, The Essence of St. Clair, an idea you might say was born in 1977 when I first came here. As I would soon discover myself, St. Clair County was a melting pot of old and newcomers, pick-up trucks and Mercedes, busy highways and country backroads, mountains and valleys. It still is. And in the pages of this magazine, we hope to capture that diversity, that unmistakable essence of St. Clair that make it both a destination point and a place we call home. Every other month, we invite you to come discover its essence right along with us. The magazine is distributed throughout St. Clair County and is online at, giving you ‘extras’ beyond the pages of the printed edition. Discover, The Essence of St. Clair, is a total, multimedia experience, giving you opportunities to see still photographs from the magazine come to life in video online or to learn what is coming next through ezines delivered right to your email’s inbox. You can even follow us on Facebook or learn about upcoming issues on Twitter. What we want to create is a conversation with you, our readers, the kind you might hear over a neighbor’s fence post. We are, after all, neighbors in the fastest growing county in the state. And just like neighbors, we have a story or two to tell about what makes St. Clair County tick. Turn the pages and discover them with us.

— Carol Pappas Editor and Publisher

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 7

Jimmy Carmack, ‘the bee doctor’

Alabama Gold Honey production is sweet business for Odenville bee farm By David Story Photos by Jerry Martin Without flowering plants, there would be no honey. It’s all about the nectar, says beekeeper and self-proclaimed “bee doctor” Jimmy Carmack, who’s appeared on numerous local TV shows and radio shows promoting honeybee issues. Owner of Carmack Farms in Odenville along with others in the state, he has become quite the expert. Many myths have surrounded honey over the centuries: unfiltered honey can be good medicine for allergies, that the body metabolizes honey differently from other sweets or that honey’s as good as gold. State Apiarist Dennis Barclift with Alabama’s Plant Protection section is quick to point out the pros and cons for people with allergies, “The pollen in the honey can make some people with allergies sicker. Others may claim to want honey because of its antibodies, which gives resistance allergies, but all this is speculation and folklore.” Barclift adds, “However, we do know honey’s good for you; we know it tastes good and is a ready energy source since it’s simple sugar. The sugar’s broken down by the bees, so the human body can use it immediately. That’s why many athletes drink a solution of honey and water.”

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 9

Alabama Gold And, honey’s indeed much in demand. “I get a lot of calls in the spring looking for local, unfiltered honey,” says Carmack, who’s participated in workshops and continuing education courses at Auburn University. So, myths aside, two facts about honey are indisputable. Whether an entrepreneur like Carmack or a hobbyist, honey production’s fun and challenging. And, whether a chef or a homemaker, cooking with honey’s nutritional. Man’s fascination with honey began 10,000 years ago. According to retired home economics instructor Lee Cannon, author of the Southern Living Quick & Easy Cookbook, honey extraction, and not solicitation, is the world’s oldest profession. Since the dawn of time, she says, man has craved honey, coveted honey and consumed honey. “Honey’s the world’s oldest sweetener,” she adds “There’s evidence of honey gathering on mesolithic cave paintings in Valencia, Spain. In Ancient Greece honey was the primary sweetener. And in ancient Egypt, honey was used to sweeten cakes and biscuits; Middle Eastern people used honey for embalming’ and in the Americas, the Maya used honey from bees for culinary purposes. Honey was a 16th century sweetener popular before slavery in the West Indies made sugar cane plantations a reality. Then, sugar changed the game and took the place of honey.” People still clamor for honey today, and in order to meet the growing demand, Carmack excises honey from hives at his apiaries, keeping bees in three or four counties. “We have colonies of bees all the way up to Huntsville,” says Carmack,

10 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

Carmack on his Odenville bee farm

Alabama Gold who has set up exhibits at fairs, Earth Day events and Farm Day for Kids at statewide schools. “We primarily produce wildflower honey, cotton honey and occasionally kudzu honey,” continues Carmack, who has worked with the apiary at Jones Valley Urban Farm in downtown Birmingham. “Our honeys have won numerous local, state and national ribbons.” Other popular flavors indigenous to Alabama are “clover/ spring flower (peach apple, and blackberry mixtures) and tulip poplar,” Barclift says. And Cannon goes on to say some of the honeys with which she’s most familiar are alfalfa, buckwheat and basswood, the latter of which is an ornamental shade tree producing creamcolored flowers known for their nectar. Buddy Adamson, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Bee and Honey Producers Commodity Division, says the most common honeys in Alabama are wildflower, clover, cotton, soybean and privet, an invasive plant that’s nonetheless a “fruity” source of nectar. Lighter honeys are more prevalent and come with a milder flavor. “Honey can be as clear as water,” explains Carmack, or almost as black as coal. It can vary from practically tasteless to bold and robust. The nectar source determines the color and flavor. For example, cotton honey is very sweet but prone to crystallization. He says that when honey granulates, it hasn’t gone bad. It can be re-liquefied by heating in a pan of water, but cautions that honey should never be refrigerated. Folklore has it, he adds, crystallized honey found in the pyramids of Egypt was still edible. Once his honey’s extracted and packaged, Carmack sells jars of Pure Alabama Honey to retailers on US 280 at Cowboys’ gas station and Whole Foods, also on US 280, which in 2007 became the first national grocery chain to open its anchor store in Alabama with an exclusive supply of Pure Alabama Honey. Carmack, who’s described by Barclift as “knowledgeable about bees and a good beekeeper,” also sells at other venues, such as Valleydale Farmers Market on Saturdays in the summer and Pell City Farmers’ market on Wednesday afternoons. Pure Alabama Honey’s available in five sizes: 8 ounces, 12 ounces, 16 ounces, 32 ounces, and 64 ounces, but individual retailers may not carry every size. “You’d be surprised at how big a seller our 64 ounces is,” Carmack says. “There are people who really go through a lot of honey.” Adamson explains Carmack is the exception to the rule as there are practically no commercial-sized apiaries left in the state today, as opposed to almost 70 about eight years ago. According to Adamson, costs vary from $1 per lb. on up. He says one pint of honey is about 3 lbs. and may sell for around $4 to $5. Barclift concurs, “Honey can go up to $2 to $5 a pound.” An early fascination for bees “Bees always interested me as a child,” explains Carmack. “Then, as an adult I was working with a guy who was a beekeeper, and he showed me what to buy along with the book, First Lessons in Beekeeping. We went to the old Sears store in Birmingham. It had a big garden center and sold beekeeping supplies. In 1973, I ordered my first bees there from York Bee in Jessup, Ga. I was hooked. I’ve been keeping bees ever since.” Carmack, a certified master beekeeper through the Univer-

12 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

The market for honey is a good one.

sity of Georgia’s Honey Bee Program, has served as president of the Jefferson County Beekeepers Association and president of the Alabama Beekeepers Association. “I was involved with the Alabama Farmers Federation in creating a bee and honey commodity with their organization,” he says, “and served on the Bee and Honey State Committee for nine years.” One thing Carmack says he learned during his tenure with the committee was people often don’t realize the benefits of bees and the role they play in agriculture: “The pollination bees provide is essential to many of our state’s most valued crops.” Adamson agrees, “Beekeeping’s indeed important from the standpoint of pollination; honey’s important secondly to pollination.” The nectar source for Carmack’s Pure Alabama Honey bees comes from wildflowers, which include a cross section of blooms: dandelion, clover, tulip poplar, holly, blackberry, mimosas and sumac. “Pure Alabama Honey’s raw and strained as opposed to microscopically filtered, which means it still maintains the pollen granules that are so beneficial.” When pasteurized, honey is heated to a high temperature, breaking down the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Barclift notes that “pasteurized” is a bad term: “Honey’s filtered but not ‘pasteurized’, and it’s often highly filtered or strained. Straining and filtering are cleaning processes, getting bits of wax, a purification, if you will, to get out bits of pollen

Cash Crop

Alabama’s bee industry brings in millions of dollars to state HONEY Production - 780,800 pounds Value of production - $1,109,400 Produced by - 11,200 colonies (hives) Health benefits: Research has shown that, unlike some other sweeteners, honey contains small amounts of a wide array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants Provides quick source of energy Effective anti-microbial agent, useful in treating minor burns and scrapes and for aiding the treatment of sore throats and other bacterial infections Primary honey plants in Alabama - sourwood, gallberry, clovers, tulip poplar, soybeans, cotton. Clovers and other legumes yield an amber-colored mild-flavored honey. Soybeans and cotton yield a light honey with good flavor. BEEKEEPERS More than 2,500 in all 67 counties

from the comb.” As for the nutritional benefits of honey, Cannon explains what’s in it: “It’s about a third fructose, a third glucose, and less than a fourth water. Higher sugars and sucrose make for less than a tenth of honey’s make-up.” With an Italian-American background, Cannon’s traditional cuisine wasn’t steeped in honey – her mother, Philomena Ferrara, didn’t really cook a lot with it, so Cannon’s first culinary experience with honey was in the form of a pancake or ableskiver from a recipe prepared by her husband Bob’s Mormon mother, Winifred Morrell Cannon. “For every Sunday supper we ate ableskiver, prepared in a special ableskiver pan, topped with homemade honey butter.” This family tradition has been carried on by Cannon’s sister-in-law, Winnifred Cannon Jardine, a home economics graduate of Iowa State University and author of the Mormon Country Cooking (She for many years was a food critic with The Desert News in Salt Lake City.). “Today honey has become more expensive than sugar,” says Cannon, “but I still like to put honey on toast and squash – don’t peel the squash – it’s better than butter.”

POLLINATION Valued from $45-$90 million One-third of human diet pollinated by insects, 80 percent of which are honeybees. Without honeybees’ pollination, the quantity and quality of many crops would be reduced and some would not yield at all. According to a 2000 Cornell University study, the increased yield and quality of agricultural crops in the U.S. as a result of honeybee pollination is valued at more than $14.6 billion per year. Examples of Alabama-produced crops totally or mostly dependent on honeybees for pollination: watermelons, apples, blueberries, cantaloupes, peaches, pumpkins, blackberries, grapes, persimmons, strawberries, cucumbers, honeydew, pears, plums, sunflowers and vegetable seed. Honeybees are a critical component of agricultural production. “The value of honeybees cannot be measured by their ability to produce honey alone, rather, it must include the work bees do for agricultural crops, home gardens, and wildlife habitat.” - Nicholas Calderone, Ph. D., Cornell University As agricultural land, wildlife, and natural areas are reduced, so is the foraging area for bees. • From the Alabama Bee and Honey Producers

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 13

Alabama Gold

Extracting Honey: From the bees to the bottle

“Honey extraction is the central process in beekeeping of removing honey from the honeycomb,” explains local beekeeper Jimmy Carmack. “This is how we isolate it in a pure liquid form.”

Step One: Honey is stored by the bees on a regular honeycomb they build on a frame. The frames, located in stacked boxes called “supers” are typically harvested late summer, when they are honey-filled. On a completely filled frame (10 frames per box), the cells are capped with wax by the bees for storage. He says you can either make or buy a fume board or top cover to place over the honey super. A chemical, described as both repulsive and pungent, is sprinkled on the cloth inside the fume board. Then, the beekeeper removes the hive cover and inner cover and positions the fume board by placing it in the beehive.

Step Two: Carmack says next, get the honey from the plastic foundation after the bees have capped the cells of honey on it. Get the super and remove a frame to begin the process. The beekeeper breaks or removes all of the caps using an automated “uncapper” or a manually operated knife, which may be heated to facilitate cutting. For the manual method, scrape the honey from the foundation; both wax comb and honey come off easily. Take each frame and with the hive tool, lace the tool at the edge of the frame’s end-bar and press the tool into the wax. With a pushing motion, the wax and honey will curl right off the plastic mid-rib and fall into a straining cloth, which should have previously been draped over the container. The removed bits of wax or “uncappings” are rich in honey and can be slowly drained off by adding a little heat. In large commercial operations, automated uncapping machines abrade the surface of the wax with moving chains or bristles. This is less messy than manual uncapping. Note: Plastic frames can be re-waxed (The wooden frames are replaceable.).

Step Three: The uncapped frames are then placed in a honey extractor, which resembles a barrel with a reel and holds the frame in place, while the spinning motion slings out the honey by centrifugal force. The resulting honey contains bits of wax and must be passed through a screen so clean liquid honey is produced.

Step Four: Any honey that can’t be harvested, which includes thin films left on the frames after extraction, is then placed outside, so that it will be reclaimed by the bees. Do this early morning or late evening, as the bees will aggressively harvest the leftovers. Bees from differing colonies have been known to fight over this residual honey. Note: The extraction process is done inside a specialized room, mildly heated for better flow. The room should be well sealed, as bees and other insects may forcefully try to enter and gather the honey. l 14 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

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August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 15

COOKING With Honey It’s healthy and sweet

Lee Cannon was first introduced to the idea of honey and nutrition by her mentor and former college teacher Dr. Helen Tracy Parson of the University of Wisconsin, who had a passion for science. Parson was a pioneer of nutrition and spent more than four decades making home economics into an accepted discipline. A Yale graduate, Parson’s research on vitamins impacted nutrition globally. Cannon’s first teaching job after leaving Parson and the University of Wisconsin was at Auburn University, where for several decades she hosted a long-running home show on Alabama Public Television. “Twenty-five years ago I did my first show for APTV on honey,” she recalls. “Carl Dennis of the Auburn extension service was my guest that day.” On that show, some of the things Cannon taught her viewers were that in the olden days, people thought sweetness indicated a high degree of safeness, that a spoonful of honey contains about 25 percent more calories than a spoonful of sugar, and a good cook can use less sugar when it’s blended with honey. Pastry Chef Beverly Tease, a graduate of the Culinary Arts Institute of Virginia College in Birmingham, underscores Cannon’s point about a good cook and honey with her recipe for Golden Honey Pound Cake. “It’s a great pound cake recipe featuring honey, calling for a half-cup honey and a half-cup sugar (rather than a whole cup of sugar),” she says. “And I hope Discover magazine’s readers can use it!” To help better understand the benefits of honey, Cannon offers up a quote by St. Ambrose: “The fruit of bees is desired by all and is equally sweet to kings and beggars …” So, why’s honey so valued? In a world where there are constant reminders daily of how almost everything that tastes good is bad for you, honey is the exception, says Cannon. “Honey tastes good, and it’s good for you!”

Noted chefs share their honey recipes:

Pastry Chef Beverly Tease’s Golden Honey Pound Cake 1 cup butter or margarine 3 eggs ½ cup honey ½ cup sugar 1 tbs vanilla

16 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

From Lee Cannon’s personal photo collection; reproduced with permission

1 tbs lemon zest 2 cups AP flour 1 tsp baking powder ¼ tsp baking soda ¼ tsp salt 1 cup chopped and drained maraschino cherries ½ cup chopped pecans Beat margarine for about 1 minute. Add honey and sugar and beat for 5-7 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl frequently. Add vanilla and lemon zest, mixing well. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Combine flour, baking powder, soda, and salt and add to egg mixture until blended. Stir in cherries and pecans. Pour into greased and floured tube or loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 40-50 minutes. (Used with the chef’s permission.).

Cookbook author Winnifred C. Jardine’s Old-Fashioned Honey Wheat Bread

1 package active dry yeast 1/3 cup warm water 1 tbs cooking oil 1 tbs salt 1 tbs honey 1 tbs molasses 3 cups milk, scalded and cooled 6 cups (about) whole wheat flour Soften yeast in warm water. Add oil, salt, honey, molasses and cooled milk, and blend. Add enough flour to make soft dough that leaves sides of pan (may be a little sticky). Turn on to floured board and knead 5-10 minutes or until smooth, using extra flour as needed. Allow dough to rest 10 minutes; then shape into two loaves and place in greased loaf pans. Allow to rise not quite double in bulk (1½-2 hours) and bake in 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Makes 2 loaves. (From Famous Mormon Recipes (1967), used with author’s permission.).

APTV home show hostess Lee F. Cannon’s Honey Drop Cookies

¼ cup corn-oil margarine ¼ cup honey 1 egg 2 tbs skim milk 2 cups all-purpose flour 2 tsp baking powder ¼ tsp salt ½ cup chopped pecans 1/3 cup chopped raisins ½ cup chopped candied pineapple butter-flavor vegetable cooking spray Cream margarine by beating until smooth and fluffy. In small bowl, beat egg and add honey and milk. Stir until blended and in another bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, and then stir. Add pecans, raisins and pineapple. Stir until nuts and fruits are coated with flour. Gradually add flour mixture to creamed mixture, continuing to mix well after each addition. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Drop dough by teaspoon onto baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from pan with a spatula and cool on wire rack. (From Lee Cannon’s personal recipe files; used with her permission.). NOTE: Cook-

ies may be dipped in white chocolate for a “Wedding Cookie” effect. White Chocolate Sauce 6 ounces good-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Baker’s), chopped 1 1/2 cups whipping cream Preparation Place chocolate in small bowl. Bring cream to boil in small heavy saucepan. Pour cream over chocolate; whisk until smooth. Dip in cookies. Cool and serve. If any left over, then chill and before re-using, warm back up in saucepan over low heat, stirring often.

APTV home show hostess Lee F. Cannon’s Honey Whole Wheat Cookies

1/3 cup corn-oil margarine ½ cup sugar ½ cup honey 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour 1 tbs baking powder ¼ tsp salt ½ cup nonfat dry milk powder 1 cup raisins 2 eggs ½ dry-roasted unsalted peanuts butter-flavor vegetable cooking spray Cream margarine and sugar by beating margarine until smooth and fluffy and then gradually add sugar, beating thoroughly. Continue beating until light and fluffy. Gradually add honey, beating thoroughly after each addition. Continue beating until light and fluffy. Beat eggs in small bowl and add to mixture. Beat until light and fluffy. Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and milk powder; stir until evenly mixed. Gradually add flour mixture to creamed mixture. Mix well after each addition. Add raisins and peanuts and stir until evenly distributed. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Drop dough by teaspoon onto baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack. (From Lee Cannon’s personal recipe files; used with her permission.).

APTV home show hostess Lee F. Cannon’s Honey Fruit Dressing

¼ cup honey 1/3 cup sugar ¼ tsp dry mustard ½ tsp paprika 1/4 tsp salt ½ tsp celery seed 1/4 cup lemon juice 1 tsp lemon rind 1 cup applesauce Mix all ingredients and beat with electric mixer until blended. Cover & chill. Beat well before serving and serve with fruit salad or as a sauce for pork. (From Lee Cannon’s personal recipe files; used with her permission.).

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 17

COOKING With Honey

APTV home show hostess Lee F. Cannon’s Honey Cake

Nonstick vegetable cooking spray 4 cups all-purpose flour 2 tsp baking soda ¼ tsp salt 2 eggs 1 tsp ground ginger 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 cup corn-oil margarine 2 cups honey 1 cup nonfat buttermilk Coat two, 9-inch square baking pans with cooking spray. Combine flour, soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon in a bowl and stir until blended. In a large bowl, cream margarine by beating until soft and smooth. Gradually add honey, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until light and fluffy. Crack eggs into small bowl and beat well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to creamed mixture by adding a third of the flour and a third of the milk at a time, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir after each addition until well blended. Divide batter evenly in pans. Bake at 275 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool in pans on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pans and finish cooling on rack. Top each layer with cream cheese frosting. (From Cannon’s personal recipe

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files; used with her permission.). Cannon’s Cream Cheese Frosting 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened ½ cup butter, softened 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, and then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use. (From Lee Cannon’s personal recipe files; used with her permission.).

APTV home show hostess Lee F. Cannon’s Honey Sauce

½ cup honey ¼ cup grated orange peel 1 cup orange juice 1/8 tsp salt Mix ingredients in top of double boiler. Let stand over hot water without cooking for 30 minutes to blend flavors. Use to glaze ham or fresh pork. (From Lee Cannon’s personal recipe files; used with her permission.)

• By David Story

Giving Back Partners by Design, publisher of Discover Magazine, knows the value in giving back to the communities we serve. That’s why in every issue of this magazine we will donate a full page ad to worthy causes throughout St. Clair County. This month, we highlight the Pell City Civitans’ Float Yer Boat Regatta, a race of cardboard box boats set to launch Aug. 27 from Lakeside Park on Logan Martin Lake. (See page 41)

Catfish Noodling • Local Honey • Savory Summer Produce Rooted in St. Clair • Traveling the Backroads • Mountain Home

Aug. 2011

Climbing Capital of the South Horse Pens 40 and Steele drawing bouldering and climbing enthusiasts from across the nation

It is a boat load of fun for the whole family, and it raises much needed funds for Toys for Children and local projects for citizens with developmental disabilities. We hope you’ll join us in support of this event.

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 19

Traveling the


Coming Home to the Cove

By Carolyn Stern Photos by Jerry Martin

Traveling from Pell City or Ashville to Oneonta on US 231 North, you might easily miss a road sign on the right, just after mile marker 242. It reads “Beason Cove Road.” However, if it catches your eye, and you turn, following the narrow road down a hill and across Muckelroy Creek, you enter a valley that holds an enduring history of a family and of the area. Beason Cove Road runs along the base of Chandler Mountain, parallel to US 11 North. A number of genealogies based on recorded documents shows that a son of the original St. Clair County settler brought his family to what became known as Beason’s Cove. Today, almost two centuries later, a family reunion is held annually on the second Sunday in June (even in 95-degree temperature). These are folks who know who their “people” were and are. The meeting place for these reunions is a small white-painted, steepled church with an adjoining cemetery where many family members are buried. The church was, and still is, known as Union Church or Beason’s Union Church. The first structure was made of logs. It was torn down in the late 1800s and replaced with a wooden building that was destroyed by fire on the second Saturday in June 1919. The present building was constructed in 1921. But let’s back up a bit. How and when did the Beeson/Beason family happen to settle in St. Clair County, and who first came to the Cove? Capt. Edward Beeson, who was born in Guilford, N.C., joined the army of the Revolution in the spring of 1778. He was commissioned captain of a company of foot soldiers. In 1814, after Gen. Andrew Jackson negotiated a treaty to end the war with the Creeks, more than 20 million acres of Creek land became available

A family tradition helps its descendants hold on to their history

Dr. Edward Beason of Winston-Salem, N.C., president, Beason/Union Cemetery Association, stands beside the Capt. Edward Beeson Memorial Marker with his son, Edward Winston Beason, and grandson, Edward Alexander Beason.

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Tom Beason of Hayden, Ala., president, Beason Family Reunion, is also the father of State Sen. Scott Beason.

Traveling the

More than 50 Beasons turned up at this year’s reunion, braving the near-record temperature to share memories and a meal at the Beason/ Union church.


to settlers. Much of it was in the area that became known as Alabama. Beeson was one of the many people who moved their families further south to take advantage of the open land and settled in St. Clair County, between what is now Ashville and Steele. Records show he was married three times and had nine children. He later moved to Etowah County, where he was buried in Carleton Cemetery in the Aurora community. In 1925, his grave site was moved to the Beeson/Union cemetery. His military marker is located there, as is a large memorial marker installed in recent years by his descendants. One of his sons, Curtis Grubb Beason, who was 12 years old when he came to St. Clair County, was the one responsible for the settling of the Cove area and spreading the ownership among his children. Curtis married Martha Clark, who was part Creek Indian. Her parents were Henry and Margaret (Lightfoot) Clark. The couple had 10 children, five girls and five boys. Eight of them eventually owned farms in Beason Cove. Curtis Grubb was an influential man of the time. He held the office of county tax assessor and collector in 1843-1844. He was state senator from St. Clair County in 1863 and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1865. Around 1840, Curtis built the two-story Beason plantation home that you can see by taking the first left turn after entering the Cove. The last of the Beasons to live in the plantation home were Miss Allie Beason and Curtis Hinton, son of Laura Beason Hinton. When both died, the house passed out of the family. The once narrow, dusty road is now known as Curt Hinton Drive (an alternate route to the Horse Pens 40 access road). Trees flanking both sides of the sparsely populated roadway produce brilliant autumn color and thoughts of days gone by.

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Curtis gave the land on which the church stands to his son William Spruell Beason. William Beason and his wife, the former Juliann Dearman, gave the property to the Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States on Oct. 10, 1880. Later, the property reverted to the family. William and Juliann were the grandparents of the Doctors W.D. and R.C. Partlow, who were connected with Brice Hospital and Partlow School for a number of years. In the past few years, Beesons have given their support to Samford University, the Birmingham Museum of Art and other causes. Alabama State Sen. Scott Beason is a descendant, and his father, Tom, is president of the Beason Family Association, which maintains the church property today. Other family members make vital contributions to education, medicine, government, agriculture, the military, religion and business. Edith Bowlin Tucker is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Curtis Grubb Beason, and many of those who come to the reunions are “cousins” of hers. She writes in a summary of the family’s history, “William S. Beason’s home was a big log house located just beyond the church.” Her nephew, Jerry Payne, and his wife, Janice, built a log house on the corner of Beason Cove Road and US 231 in 2001. Jerry and Janice are the only Beasons who live in the Cove now. Their home is just a short distance from the church and cemetery. Throughout the year, Jerry takes care of the church grounds. “I feel like that’s what my mother would want me to do,” he says. “Living here gives me a real connection to our family’s story.” But wherever the parents, grandparents and, of course, the cousins live, they are sure to continue the proud history of the Beesons/Beasons, no matter how their names are spelled. l



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August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 23

St. Clair Rocks

Horse Pens 40 and Steele drawing bouldering and climbing enthusiasts from across the nation By GiGi Hood Photos by Michael Callahan

Climbers navigate Horse Pens 40.

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Outstretched fingers and toes of wellworn climbing shoes find their way into tiny cracks and ledges barely big enough to hold a thimble in some places. Yet they slide a toe here, a few fingers there to steady their climb and make their way up gigantic boulders that have become the pinnacle of a sport rocking the country. Its history dates back to the 19th century, and it is thriving in modern-day St. Clair County. Stop for a second and just visualize the mountainous area of the county, thinking about the rock formations, the crags and crevices, areas where the sun casts shadows, places where no sun shines at all. Think about the pinnacle and imagine standing at the bottom, looking up and in your mind, “mapping” the best way to make a successful ascension to that pinnacle. With three sites scattered along the county’s ridges and even in an open field, rock climbers from all over are descending on St. Clair County, climbing boulders that define this sport of strength, power, agility and determination as sheer as the rocks they climb. Anticipation, fear, exuberance, sense of accomplishment, agony, ecstasy, are all words used by avid climbers when describing the fete of attempting to conquer an immovable and, possibly, an insurmountable object. As one climber simply put it, “if you can’t move it, then master it!” Some of the country’s best rock climbing exists within the boundaries of St. Clair County. The cliffs of Steele, the boulder field of Shoal Creek Valley and Horse Pens 40 are all venues that are rocking the sport. St. Clair County, with its centuries-old rock outcroppings, is considered a “must visit, must-do” place among climbers. Located

North Carolinian Conner Love begins Horse Pens ascent. August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 25

St. Clair Rocks in the northeast corner of St. Clair County, near the city of Steele, the area is considered to be a premier place within the Southeastern United States and commands great respect and recognition within the sphere of climbing circles. Boulderers travel from all over the United States to the Shoal Creek Boulder Field and Horse Pens 40 to challenge themselves by climbing awe-inspiring rock formations with names like Turtle Rock, Buzzard Rock, Mushroom Rock and Stone Fort. The rock composition, which is best described as a cross between “Fontainebleua” and English Grit Stone, has created a fine sandstone texture that is conducive to a great climbing experience. Add the multiple challenging toe and hand holds that exist along the route a climber plans, coupled with great platform landings among an overlay of trees and beautiful surrounding, and you have the perfect recipe for a sport called bouldering. Conner Love, a 19-year-old from Rocky Mount, N.C., couldn’t resist the allure and challenges of Horse Pens 40. On his way to start a new job with a rock climbing equipment business in Tempe, Arizona, he made Horse Pens one of his last stops before heading west. “I just couldn’t imagine leaving the eastern coast area without personally engaging in a climbing experience here at Horse Pens,” he said. “Anyone who really knows the sport will tell you Horse Pens is the premiere venue for bouldering, as well as one leg of the Triple Crown, the most coveted championship event in the sport.” Referring to it as just one of the three parts of The Triple Crown is an understatement. The event is recognized as the largest bouldering competition in the U.S. Participant numbers are always larger than usual and hundreds of spectators from all over the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe flock to the Horse Pens 40 outing. Conner points out that bouldering is much less complicated and less cumbersome than some of the climbing alternatives. “It’s just so simple,” he said. “There’s not a lot of cost because there’s not a lot of equipment. It’s just you, your shoes, some chalk and maybe a crash pad if you’re learning or practicing,” he pointed out. With all of its “no-strings-attached” simplicity, bouldering is an artistic experience. The rocks, themselves a molded work of art, are the canvas. The climbing experience with its toe holds, grabs, crimps and a carefully chosen path from bottom to top, sets the stage. The climber, a gifted artist, graces that stage with a brilliant display of core strength, physical, mental and

26 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

Conquering the Challenge


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August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 27

Birmingham climber David Hemphill likes Steele’s challenge.

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St. Clair Rocks Hemphill chats with Steele Mayor John McHugh before his climb.

technical prowess, coupled with agility and grace as the ballet of the ascent is performed. The legend of Horse Pens Horse Pens, with its wonder-of-the-world serenity and jagged outcroppings, has been in existence for more years than most can imagine. Throughout time, its usage has been diverse as well as multi-cultural. It has corralled wild horses, provided the backdrop for Indian peace treaty signings, hidden Civil War soldiers and their wagons laden with supplies and munitions for the troops, provided refuge to fugitives on the lam, and played host to many arts and music festivals. During the 1970s, while under the ownership of Warren Musgrove, the property was the site of many large bluegrass festivals, camping and great times. The irony was that the only drawback to his successful business venture was the beautiful rocks that beckoned adventuresome visitors to scale them. Deemed a huge liability, insurance would only be provided to the owner as long as no one was permitted to climb on the magnificent outcroppings. So, Musgrove hired young men to sit atop the boulder platforms and keep the climbers at bay during Horse Pens 40 events. Now mayor of Steele, John Wesley McHugh remembers being hired by Musgrove to be a rock

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 29

St. Clair Rocks The sheerness of the Steele climb requires added equipment.

sitter and then having his title changed by one of the festival goers. “We would sit on the rocks, watch for people attempting to climb (much like a lifeguard) and then holler for them to get down,” he explained. “Sitting atop my perch on Buzzard Rock, I was so intent on looking out and around, I didn’t see a fellow climbing up the boulder right behind me. When he reached the platform where I was sitting, we were both shocked to see each other. And then as soon as he got himself together he shouted down to his buddy and told him not to try to ascend because there was a rock cop sitting up there. After that time, the name stuck, and we were always referred to as the Rock Cops.” Mayor McHugh is also quick to point out that while Horse Pens 40 is an awesome bouldering spot, the crags of Steele are second to none with regard to the free-climbing aspect of the sport. It was a climbing hotspot from the mid 1970s until 1987. “It had become so popular that the landowners and farmers were having their tomato crops trampled as well as their peace and quiet compromised. The climbers had to park on the road and then walk through the farmers fields to the walls. Tired of the situation, the locals petitioned to deny the climbers private access and they won,” he explained. With no public access to the climbing walls, the

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thrill of attempting to master the cliffs while enjoying gorgeous vistas became nothing but a memory of days gone by. While the cliffs of Steele were off limits, stories of the adventures were never forgotten and the memories were passed down to the newer generations of climbers. As time passed the shared memories motivated climbers, and new dreams emerged about once again climbing those walls. Those dreams and determination, coupled with good fortune led to the birth of new days of climbing at Steele. When a local landowner decided to sell 25 acres that adjoined the cliffs, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition raised the money and purchased the site. And, by so doing, climbing the crags of Steele was no longer a fond memory. Once again, it had become reality, and the glory days for climbers at Steele had returned. Climber shares love for sport David Hemphill, a Birmingham native and part of that new generation of climbers, grew up with a love of backpacking, hiking and fishing. In 1994, he found the next level in the progression of his love for outdoor experiences while working at Alabama Outdoors. “One day, construction began on an indoor climbing wall at Alabama Outdoors. Once it was completed, they gave the employ-

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 31

St. Clair Rocks

Over the top

Safely down

ees climbing lessons. Talk about love at first sight, I was hooked from the get-go,” he fondly explained. “Later I began teaching climbing classes, and from that point on, my enchantment with the sport has never stopped growing. It involves such a complexity of body, mind and soul. There’s always a spirit of inner challenge and a feeling of competitiveness. But there is also such a peaceful side — the side that provides camaraderie, wandering, exploring and just being in such a beautiful surrounding. It allows you to do so much on so many different levels of enjoyment,” he explained. “Not unlike the game of chess, it gives you the opportunity to think, to plan, to meditate, to find solace and finally, there’s always a sense of achievement and a sense of personal growth. I’m 46 years young, and I hope I can climb forever.” Hemphill has combined his love of the sport with an educational aspect. He has completed Wilderness Emergency Medical Training at SOLO, which he pointed out is probably the best school in the country for such instruction. “I want to be able to help when the time is needed,” he said. “As careful as we all try to be, there is always an element of danger, a chance that medical training may be needed. I just wanted to be equipped with the necessary tools should that challenge ever arise — either for myself or someone else.” Thanks to the Southeastern Climbing Coalition’s endeavors of raising the money and purchasing the property just north of Horse Pens, more and more people take advantage of having a place to hike, climb and commune with nature, he said. “There’s a road up to a parking area, with a trailer and a path that leads to the cliff walls.” There is an easy hike from the parking lot and trailer to the Nardo Wall, which is the closest. Only about 800 feet from point to point, with an easy ascension, there is better accessibility for climbers carrying their gear or for people who just want to watch and perhaps participate vicariously. “The acquisition of the property has been a great success story and a wonderful achievement by a committed group of people,” he explained. “It has returned a wonderful sport to the crags where innumerable pleasures can be derived and at the same time, the locals can enjoy their peace and solitude and not fear that their livelihoods will be compromised. “It has also provided this generation with a second chance to prove that we as climbers, while enjoying our sport, can be good respectful neighbors to the surrounding community,” Summing it up, much like a tour guide, Hemphill said, “St. Clair County is full of recreational areas and natural beauty. Whether hiking, fishing, riding through one of the picturesque back roads, bouldering at Horse Pens 40 or the Shoals, or climbing at Steele, it really is a place that has something for everyone.” l For more photos and video on the web, go to:

32 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011



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August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 33

North by


At Chandler Falls Farm, it’s all about the view By David Story Photos by Jerry Martin

John Ard takes in his scenic view.

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Northeast of Birmingham, on the precipice of Chandler Mountain near Steele, sits an American classic: a rustic family home perched on the edge of a cliff like something out of a Hitchcock film. The driveway to Chandler Falls Farm crosses a branch eerily named for a man better known for mayhem than family. There is a sign reading “Manson Branch” that according to homeowner John Ard, a surgical nurse at UAB, was a $3 thrift store find. After crossing Manson Branch onto Chandler Falls Farm, visitors feel immediate relief at the sight of a bronze Foo dog on the porch of Ard’s family home and the hand-hewn logs flanking the front entrance and continuing into the interior living space.

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 35


Chandler Northeast Falls Farm Ard, who’s also known for officiating at tennis tournaments, says the logs were dismantled from a cabin in Andalusia, the front door’s an interior cathedral door from England, and the exterior lanterns are reproductions. Ard directs visitors’ attention to the porch’s resident gargoyle, which was salvaged from a long-gone Brooklyn brownstone. Railings were custom-designed. No detail’s too small to overlook. At the house’s foundation are ornate vents found at an area estate sale. Ard is almost apologetic in saying, “I wanted to do an all-brick exterior but went with cedarshake vinyl siding.” But, he’s obviously proud of the porch’s support beams, the largest of which weighs 100 pounds, is a non-laminated beam cut in Louisiana and brought to Chandler Mountain. The living room floors are from the same cabin from which the wallboards were reclaimed. Two leather armchairs and a matching dark-green love seat and sofa give off a masculine vibe. The rustic base of a glass-topped coffee table is an antique Alaskan sled, and flanking the flat-screen TV are two sets of stacked cabinets. Large-scale accessories include a taxidermist’s stuffed raptor and fox. Ard explains the alcove between the cabinets: “I had to cut some corners as the budget excluded some things, such as a stacked-rock fireplace, although we poured the foundation so a fireplace can be easily added later.” The large framed photograph over the sofa is Mad Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, and French sculptor Pierre-Jules Mene, born in Paris in 1810, was the originator of the sofa table’s reproduction bronze of a hunt scene. Directionally contrasting rafters make for the transition from the living area to the kitchen, which is overseen by a large-scale angel carving. The custom-made kitchen countertops are Mozambique or “White Diamonds,” and the wooden hood above the stove is supported by ornate corbels. A likewise angelic image of Julia Roberts, signed by the actress, is placed strategically on the kitchen counter. The cabinetry includes a built-in hutch with leaded glass doors, and the sunroom — with adequate space for dining — flows off of the kitchen. It goes without saying the magnificent view of Chandler Mountain is the focal point of the sunroom. Expansive three-sectioned insets of windows, each about 50 feet wide, create a spectacular 150-foot-wide view that is panoramic in scope.

36 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

Abundant windows give views galore of the beautiful natural scenery.

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 37


Chandler Northeast Falls Farm

“What I think about when it comes to the view,” says Ard, “is the fog between the ridges, reminiscent of the Smokey Mountains, as it comes up and floats past the house. I love the view on winter mornings and when it’s sunny the rest of year. The property was previously used like a state park and has that same quality. Actually, a boy scout troop was once found camping out here, thinking they were at a nearby state park.” The light of which Ard speaks is exquisitely filtered through stained-glass windows, circa 1871, from one of New York’s long-gone Catholic churches, both of which were made in memory of William S. and Elizabeth E. Corbett. The windows, jarringly juxtaposed with an authentic Ruby Tuesday’s door (a flea market find), depict St. Anthony turning toward the sea and speaking to the fish, who for their part, raise up their bodies and perch, as it seems, on top of the water. According to the homily upon which the stained images were based, St. Anthony then blessed the fish, which returned to the sea. In keeping with the sunroom’s theological theme, there are a smattering of crucifixes about. A kitschy coat rack, circa 1970s, sports a vintage West Point cadet’s jacket. A bobcat, perfectly preserved by an adept taxidermist, pops in one corner. The sunroom’s vintage 1895 solid walnut library table was refitted with a glass top and serves as a dining table. Across

38 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

from the table hangs a black and white photo, titled “Flatiron No. 3”, which brilliantly depicts the legendary triangular Flatiron building in New York City, or the Fuller Building, as it was originally called, which is located at 175 Fifth Avenue. The ornate staircase was salvaged by Burgin Construction from Selma’s pre-Civil War Albert Hotel (a replica of the Doge’s Palace in Venice), which was torn down in 1969. The staircase was later acquired and sold to Ard by Fritz Whaley of The Garages in Birmingham. As visitors exit the sunroom, their attention is drawn to a print by Mexican American rock guitarist Carlos Augusto Selva Santana encased in an alcove of three windowed glass walls. The Santana graphic leads the way to a spiral staircase, meandering upwards to the guest rooms above. The view through the glass windows from the spiral stairs is dizzying. “When you walk down, you feel as if you might go over the edge, a la Hitchcock’s Vertigo, ” says Ard. The second floor hallway leading to the guest rooms features a striking nude, painted by Agnes B. Taugner in 1952. “Agnes Taugner, who taught at Auburn,” says Ard, “is a sweet lady and was a neighbor in Auburn, where I grew up after we moved there in the 1960s for my mom to go to grad school. Agnes was part of a group of family friends who regularly gathered around our kitchen table to discuss art and drama.”

The smaller upstairs guest room features twin beds and is called “the grandchildren’s room” for its coziness and intimacy. There’s an antique Eastlake chair, circa 1910, and an unruly bobcat throw complete with feline fur. This overall monochromatic beige room’s accented with floral prints on the walls and floral spreads on the half beds. An antique white-washed French commode hides in the corner. The guest bath is illuminated by a Pella transom-style window with a clerestory effect. Ard’s most treasured possession in this bath is a signed photo of Sting. A reslivered antique mirror rests on top of an antique vanity refitted as a countertop for the sink. Gold-plated swanshaped faucets and blue and white decorative, handpainted tiles add bursts of sheen and color. The most prominent of the second-floor guest rooms features another Taugner painting. In this larger room, an armoire from the 1930s proportionately offsets the mirrored double doors. Over the bed hangs the other Taugner from 1996, with its hues of red and blue, depicting the Mexican El Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead, a festival honoring the remembrance of deceased loved ones. The most private of the guest rooms is Ard’s older daughter’s room. “This white guest room has a canopy bed from Henredon,” he says. “Her desk is Toscana from the Philippines and is hand-carved mahogany. There are family photos throughout the bedroom, and the side panel door was salvaged from a college campus. It was actually shown on the cover of a student brochure at Columbus’ Mississippi University for Women, in Columbus, Miss., where my daughter Angie went one summer when she was a junior in high school to participate in a special program for secondary students.” At the very top of the house is a loft, which doubles as billiard room and sleeping quarters for Ard’s youngest child, and is chock full of pop culture memorabilia. Music-related artifacts include signed poster-sized images of Motley Crue and Aerosmith. In homage to Manson Branch, which borders the property, a likeness of Charles Manson can be found taking a time-out in the billiard room’s closet. Scattered about is more signed memorabilia from Rod Stewart, Dolly Patron, the Pointer Sisters, Whitney Houston and Bob Dylan, the bulk of which is numbered and comprised of Charlie Hall personal Arista record label collection. As to the origins of the memorabilia, Ard says, “The provenance is through The Magic Platter, and the pieces were collected from the artists by one of the business’s partners. The collection’s a conversation piece and contributes to the ambience. People said I wouldn’t be able to use a collection of pop memorabilia, but it works, just as the state-of-the-art kitchen works juxtaposed with the vintage, log cabin-inspired living area.” On a more traditional note, next to the pool table, which is the loft’s centerpiece, aptly hangs a hobnailed and faux leather-matted reproduction of Ron Henry O’Neil’s The Billiards. Back downstairs, Ard’s penchant for unusual art pieces is reflected in the Donald Grant hand-signed and numbered limited-edition prints, Big Cats and Tigers, which hang against a sage-green wall over a grouping of two 1920s walnut and cane chairs.

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 39


Chandler Northeast Falls Farm

40 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

A focal point is a piece by artist Iris Margagaliotti hanging over the fireplace, the surround of which is from the 1920s and original to an old Mountain Brook home. Next to the hearth resides a regal lioness. The wall treatments, which frame yet another stupendous view, and matching bed linens are in a pattern of bright plum and muted-green floral with a touch of beige. The carpet’s a white Berber. The pediment over the bed came from an old wardrobe and, in a utilitarian sense, gracefully supports the bed hangings, and aesthetically, it perfectly crowns the mound of tapestry pillows on the bed. Adjacent is the master bath, which immediately draws the eye to a stained-glass window over the tub. The most unexpected find is a signed photo of the 1960s pops group The Monkees. The bath’s theme is a cherub motif, as shown by the vanity’s pot metal or “monkey metal” candelabra, angelic sconces, and cherubic statuettes flanking the tub from windowsill to floor. Also of note is a crystal and stained bronzed chandelier hung from an authentic horsehair and plaster medallion, a detail which Ard is quick to point out. “When you design a building, structure and function are the easy part, but the artistry lies in the details,” concludes Ard, citing an old German proverb often attributed to Mies van der Rohe. As it turned out, the cliffside house in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest was a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Hollywood set, designed by Henry Grace and Frank McKelvey, but by contrast Ard’s mountaintop retreat, designed by himself, is the real deal and a true American classic, down to the last detail. l

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CLASS II-$30 Business & Industry Church

Each entry receives one official “Float Yer Boat’ Cardboard Boat Regatta” Tee Shirt and additional tee shirts are available for $10

Awards Captains Award: Team Dress • Team Involvement and Crowd Response Team spirit during competition and at the finish line Pride of the Fleet: Creativity, Innovativeness and uniqueness • Floatability and movement in the water. Titanic Award: Most Dramatic Sinking (must make best effort not to sink and must recover all parts of the boat) 1st and 2nd place awards in all categories. Your boat must cross the finish line to win There will also be open challenge races at the end between contestants.

You may pick up applications at the Pell City Civic Center, visit, or call Randy Mason 205-405-4781 or Matt Mitcham 205-338-3534 A fundraiser sponsored by the Pell City Civitan Club • 100 percent of proceeds benefit Toys for Children and local projects for developmentally disabled citizens of Pell City

There will be food, beverages and tee shirts available for sale at the event.

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 41

Profiles in St. Clair Spirit

42 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

Lovejoy’s life’s work helping build a county

Lovejoy surveys Edgewater development.

By Carol Pappas Photos by Jerry Martin

They call him “the land man,” a fitting moniker for one who sold more than 5,000 acres of land in St. Clair County just this past year. Over a career, Lyman Lovejoy and Lovejoy Realty have sold tens of thousands of acres — some of the tracts more than once as generations of St. Clair Countians come and go. There is no argument that he loves the land and seems to know every inch of it. He stops quite frequently as he walks, pointing to species of trees, plants and birds, impressing a newcomer with his knowledge of their history. He rattles off their names and origin as easily as he would a family living just down the road in Odenville or Moody. His wit and unassuming charm captivate audiences — large and small — and unarguably are key to his success. “It’s all a people business,” Lovejoy said, his uncanny way of getting to the heart of it all with a simple pronouncement. He started his business career as a Dictaphone salesman, traveling the country and talking to people about the wonders of this new technology. He credits Dictaphone with helping him learn how to talk to a wide range of people with varying backgrounds. His wife, Catherine, who died of cancer 20 years ago, was already in real estate at the time, and Lovejoy decided to change careers and join her. He showed up at (Trent) Gamble Real Estate one day “with an armload of books and said I want to get in the real estate business,” and he asked him to sponsor him. A year and “several nice sales” later, Gamble decided to go it alone again and helped Lovejoy get his broker license so he, too, could go into business on his own. “We started across the road (US 411) in an old service station,” he said. “Catherine had a baby under one arm and was pregnant with another.” The Lovejoys put $500 down and financed the rest and staked their claim on the fledgling real estate industry in the county. “I didn’t know a deed from a mortgage, and Moody Crossroads still had cattle crossing the road,”

The Lovejoy team

Lovejoy sells view on Neely Henry. August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 43

Profiles in St. Clair Spirit Lovejoy, Chad Camp and Brian Camp

but those humble beginnings didn’t deter him from a career and a family business that has spanned 40 years and made him a leader in real estate. It’s still a family business. His son-in-law, Brian Camp, and Brian’s brother, Chad, work right alongside him, learning from him and building on the strong foundation he laid years before. Lovejoy and his wife, Teresa, have five grandchildren, and it is not unusual to see some of them in the office, adding to the family atmosphere found there. Real estate was a natural fit for Lovejoy. “I loved the outdoors,” he said. It was one of the legacies given him by his father, Sim, a colorful character known throughout the region for his music, his personality and his homemade “flips,” similar to a slingshot, that delighted many a children. Nursing homes, senior citizen centers and family reunions would find father and son entertaining the crowds with their music — Sim on guitar; Lyman on piano. Although his dad passed away in 1996, Lyman still plays every month at the senior citizen center — “old style music,” he likes to call it, like Amazing Grace and gospel hymns. His talents as an auctioneer have helped many a good cause, like the Children’s Place, a child advocacy center in the county. Weaving a little humor into his calls for a bid and helping up the ante for the cause, he might pretend a lawyer who never raised his hand had actually bid. “It would embarrass them, and they would have to buy it,” he said.

44 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

These days, Lovejoy spends much of his professional time building the county he loves. He serves on the St. Clair County Economic Development Council, which has seen great success over the past several years in a unified, countywide approach to economic development. “I am honored and humbled to play a role in that,” Lovejoy said. And, of course, he continues to sell the land. Developments like Edgewater between Moody and Odenville are a Lovejoy creation, providing upscale living on three lakes — a peaceful, country-like setting only minutes from larger city amenities. He touts the huge farm for sale at Shoal Creek Valley that rivals any Smokey Mountain scenery or the estate-sized retreat on Lake Neely Henry with a priceless panoramic view as two more reasons to make St. Clair County home. When he talks, it’s like sharing the enthusiasm and the love of the land with friends and strangers alike for Lovejoy, although it is doubtful he has ever met a stranger. “Most people in the county know us, and we know them,” Chad Camp said. It’s about trust, Lovejoy said. “They seem to have a bond with us. They trust us.” Brian Camp agreed, but added that one of the most important ingredients in Lovejoy’s success has been his “people skills,” the kind that turn a stranger into an immediate, trusting friend. And it’s the kind of down-home sincerity that turned this people person into St. Clair County’s famous “land man.” l



RESPONSE ABILITY While St. Clair County is on the road to recovery following the events of April 27, 2011, we must still BE PREPARED – at ALL times, in ALL ways! 1. Have an Emergency Preparedness Plan. 2. Have a Disaster Supply Kit. 3. Be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for at least 72 hours following a disaster. For more information about how to be prepared for different types of emergencies, contact the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency. 205-884-6800

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205-338-1322 August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 45

Business Briefing Quality health care on rise

St. Vincent’s St. Clair

Prosperity, expansion and growth are quickly developing throughout St. Clair County. New businesses, health care facilities and popular eateries have broken ground, catapulting St. Clair County to the top of the list for residential and commercial growth in Alabama. St. Vincent’s St. Clair slated to open in December of 2011 plans to incorporate cutting-edge technology to the health care services it provides. Working together with the St. Clair County Health Care Authority, St. Clair County Economic Development Council, St. Clair County Commission, the City of Pell City and St. Vincent’s Health System, this two-story hospital with 40 beds and 79,000 square feet will provide top-notch care to the community. Teaming up to bring St. Vincent’s St. Clair to fruition are the architects at Birchfield Penuel and Associates, with construction provided by Goodgame Company Inc. and Hoar Construction LLC. Sitting on a 16-acre site at the Jefferson State Community College’s Pell City campus, the new St. Vincent’s St. Clair is visible from I-20. Raising more than $3 million with its capital campaign, St. Vincent’s Health System looks forward to opening day.

Veterans Home going up

Veterans Home

On schedule to open before the end of 2012 is the new Veterans Home, also in Pell City. “The home will be one of the nation’s premiere long-term health care facilities that will serve our veterans over the next 50-plus years. In addition to St. Clair, Jefferson and Shelby counties comprise one of our largest veterans populations in the state and is one of the most underserved areas for veterans’ long-term care. Building the home in St. Clair County will bridge that gap and meet this important need for Alabama’s growing population of veterans who require long-term care,” noted Robert M. Horton Jr., public information officer with the Alabama Department of Veteran Affairs. Housing 254 private rooms (174 of them are skilled-care beds) and 80 domiciliary living units, this will be one of the nation’s first “green” state veterans homes. “This state-of-the-art facility will not only provide quality long-term care for veterans, but it will also have a tremendous economic impact on the community,” Horton said. This $50 million veterans home will take an estimated 18 months, with around 400 construction workers dedicated to the project. Once its doors are open, the new veterans home will welcome an estimated 275 employees to its staff.

EDC gives thumbs-up to projects

Of the growth illustrated by these two major additions to the county’s economic landscape, the St. Clair County Economic Development Council released a collective statement saying, “St. Vincent’s St. Clair and Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home are both on schedule. Both constructions teams are progressing quickly, and we are ready to see the repercussions from both the construction and job growth for the entire county.” By the numbers, that’s $100 million in new investments and more than 600 jobs.

Pell City readies for Publix

Just weeks away is another boon to Pell City’s economy as the city prepares for the opening of the new Publix on US 231 South. Scouting locations, Publix works in conjunction with a team of real estate experts who survey sites on an ongoing basis. “This site was selected because it gives us an opportunity to serve new customers. The development of the shopping center provides a new shopping destination in the neighborhood, and we know that customers prefer to shop close to home,” said Publix’s Brenda Reid,

46 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair

By Amanda Pritchard Photos by Jerry Martin media and community relations manager for Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama. Keeping folks on the edge of their seats as the opening approaches, a red letter day occurred July 22 when the grocery store chain’s signature sign finally went up — a sign that opening is that much closer. Reid said tentative plans call for opening on Aug. 31. “There will be 100 associates working in the new store,” she said. Publix is one of several projects slated for the new South Park Center.

Chicken anyone?

Celebrating its ground breaking on June 15, chicken lovers countywide now have a second St. Clair County location to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner at Chick-Fil-A. “Chick-fil-A is a wonderful community partner in St. Clair County, and we are excited about the opening of their new location in Pell City. The company is very careful about site selection, and it is a step forward for Pell City to be able to add this brand name to their list of corporate citizens,” noted Candice Hill with the St. Clair County Economic Development Council. It will be located just off Interstate 20 on US 231 North near Walgreens. To the south on US 231, Bojangles opened its doors in May on an outlying parcel of the Publix property.

West St. Clair booming

Business is booming in St. Clair County, and Leeds and Moody are becoming economic hotspots. Moody is seeing significant growth with the addition of Fred’s Super Store, Jack’s and Logan’s Roadhouse. “Having the caliber of stores and restaurants such as Fred’s, Jack’s and Logan’s means more revenue for our city and of course, convenience for our residents,” Moody Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Andrea Machen said. Bass Pro Shops and The Shops of Grand River lead the economic momentum in Leeds. While located just across the line in Jefferson County, the impact is felt in the region, officials say. “The outlet shops have been a great addition to the area and is one of many projects planned around this interchange,” said Chris McDuff, senior vice president of operations with Daniel Corporation, the developer of Shops of Grand River. He noted that the area currently attracts more than 3 million visitors annually. He called the project with an initial capital investment of $127 million “a significant contributor to the local economy, which has created more than 650 jobs to date.” Describing the diversity of The Shops of Grand River development, McDuff added that Grand River is a joint development between Daniel Corporation and USS Real Estate and is the first community in Alabama to become a registered member of the Audubon International Gold Signature Program. “Audubon International works with communities and developers to encourage and promote the principles of sustainable development. The Outlet Shops of Grand River is a living example of this approach and has incorporated a variety of measures designed to protect and sustain the land, water, wildlife and other natural resources surrounding the project.” Across I-20, Bass Pro Shops is luring plenty of visitors and shoppers. In its enormity, the inside of this retailer houses a waterfall, life-size aquarium and a café. This hunter’s paradise also has a target practice area for bows and arrows as well as a carnival-style shooting game. Creating a one-of-a-kind shopping experience, Bass Pro Shops is two stories of non-stop fun. Officials say the impact Bass Pro Shops continues to have on Leeds and St. Clair County since its opening a few years ago has enabled the region to grow jobs. Bass Pro Shops employs 100 people.

DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 47

Rooted in St. Clair Two key conservation players hail from county

By Carol Pappas Photos by Jerry Martin

Today, she serves as the executive director of the Alabama Freshwater Land Trust. He just completed two terms on the governor’s cabinet as commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources.

For Wendy Jackson and Barnett Lawley, their burning passion is land conservation, a fire sparked long ago in St. Clair County. Jackson and Lawley’s roots run deep in St. Clair, the home they still return to when the day’s work is done — Jackson on the family farm where she grew up in Cool Springs; Lawley on Logan Martin Lake, just minutes from his childhood home in Pell City. They continue to be major players in conservation and preservation efforts in Alabama, standing up for principles they learned growing up in St. Clair County. And in separate interviews, they both quoted the same Native American proverb as reason for their work: “We don’t inherit the land from our ancestors. … We borrow it from our children.”

Jackson learns love of land at early age

Wendy Jackson was a second-grader when her family moved to a farm in a tiny community known as Cool Springs. “I tell people I belong to all of St. Clair County,” she said, because the farm is located equidistantly from three of its cities — Ashville, Springville and Odenville. “We raised everything growing up. I was big in 4-H,” she said, noting with apparent pride that she won the state cookoff — the first ever state winner in this category — with her “Ricey Spicy Meatloaf” and reminiscing about the impact of those days under the leadership of County Agent Louise Littlejohn. As an adult, her first career path took her to real estate, selling for Kell Realty in Ashville. Then a friend who knew how much she loved the outdoors, told her of a job opening at the Nature Conservancy. “I was a tomboy, growing up with three brothers,” and when she wasn’t outside, she was dreaming about explorer and

48 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

Jackson outlines Land Trust area. ecologist Jacque Cousteau’s adventures under water or letting television’s Wild Kingdom take her to far away places to learn about animals in their natural habitats. “The Nature Conservancy needed someone who knew real estate and could work with all walks of life. By the grace of God, I applied and got the job. It was a dream job,” she said. In 2001, she moved to the executive director’s post of the Freshwater Land Trust, a nonprofit group that acquires, conserves and connects open spaces critical to protecting rivers, streams and recreation for communities. Its mission is to acquire and act as good stewards of lands that enhance water quality and preserve open space. That work focuses on projects in Jefferson, Shelby, Blount, Chilton, Bibb, St. Clair, Tuscaloosa and Walker counties. Her work has helped make the Freshwater Land Trust the largest owner of private nature preserves in the Greater Bir-

Lawley and Jackson talk conservation.

mingham area, which to date, has protected or helped to protect more than 10,000 acres. It was the first organization of its kind to be accredited by the Land Trust Accrediation Commission — a distinction held by only 130 nationwide. The Land Trust’s protective hand can be seen in pristine places like Turkey Creek in Pinson, Locust Fork River, the Cahaba River, Red Mountain Park and Five Mile Creek. “We work to preserve places that matter,” she said. Prior to the Freshwater Land Trust, Jackson’s tenure at the Nature Conservancy had her working on projects throughout Alabama, including the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Bibb County glades, Bon Secour national wildlife, Paint Rock River and Mountain Longleaf Pine Refuge. Guiding these projects are water quality, recreational value, biology and wildlife. “It’s what people want. We preserve places people want.” The Freshwater Land Trust’s work includes St. Clair County, where community stakeholders’ input combined with science identified Big Canoe Creek as a conservation area that could include supporting the preservation of family farms as well as fishing and hunt-

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 49

Rooted in St. Clair ing opportunities. “We’re doing some of the best conservation work in the country,” Jackson said. “I am proud of that.” She credits the good works to a “fantastic board,” which is dedicated to conservation efforts. The Land Trust does receive funding from private foundations as well as individual and corporate donors. The bulk of its capital — 85 to 90 percent — comes from private sources. “And more than 80 percent of the dollars that come through the door are spent directly on the ground for conservation,” she said. “We are a lean, green conservation machine.” Simply put, “it’s wise use of natural resources.” That’s a lesson she learned early on from her parents. Her father used to tell her, “If you take care of the land, it will take care of you.” She described her family as a pioneering clan. “The only thing we bought from the store was coffee, sugar and flour.” They raised hogs and chickens and as a child, she was milking cows and churning butter. To this day, she said, “We still run cattle.” Her mother’s legacy was a love for the woods. She would take her out and ask, “Can you smell that sweet shrub?” She would name the plants on the land, calling an oak leaf hydrangea 7-bark or 9-bark. Those early years on the farm, the public speaking and leadership programs of 4-H and the wise words and deeds of her parents molded her into one of the leading conservationists in the state. Times have changed, but the lessons derived have not, she said. “Conservation matters.”

Lawley innovations put state conservation on the map

Barnett Lawley has been involved in conservation efforts for more than 20 years. “I believe in the importance of public land for public recreation,” he said. He believes in that principle so much that he personally leased 10,000 St. Clair County acres to the Alabama Wildlife Management Department for $1 to create a publicaccess hunting preserve. “I never got my dollar,” he jokes, but he is proud of the end result — preservation of the land and an opportunity for the public to have access to it. When they can take responsibility, use it and enjoy it, he said, “they see how important it is.” It was the same land from where his family operated a sawmill, a heading mill, he called it, where tops and bottoms of barrels were made, the main method of shipping at the time. He thought it was important for the people of St. Clair County and Alabama to be able to enjoy the outdoors just as he had as a child. “You need to get out and enjoy God’s creations,” Lawley said. “Appreciate it and pass it on. It’s all we can do — pass it on in better shape than we found it.” As a member of Gov. Bob Riley’s cabinet, Commissioner Lawley found ways to make the state’s conservation efforts better. While much of his eight years was dominated by tragedies and devastation along the Gulf Coast brought on by multiple hurricanes and a massive oil spill, Lawley found time to introduce innovations that brought Alabama to the

50 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

View from atop Lawley’s land between Ashville and Pell City preserved for public access hunting.

forefront in conservation and preservation of natural resources. From his eighth-grade Biology class with the late John Slovensky, he recalled how mussels and snails were nature’s filter. He thought, “Why can’t we raise them on a big scale?” and stock Alabama’s rivers and streams? He found a scientist doing it on a small scale, and he hired him, giving birth to the Aquatic Biodiversity Center in Marion. “It keeps growing and growing,” he said, and is getting worldwide attention. “It’s the largest natural freshwater initiative in the world, and I’ve done interviews from Germany to Vermont.” In state parks across Alabama, he pushed for improvements and renovations that made the park system viable for Alabamians and for tourists, yet another opportunity for people to enjoy the outdoors. The fishing pier at Gulf Shores, where anglers have caught a sailfish, was the longest on the Gulf when it was rebuilt under Lawley’s leadership after Hurricane Ivan. Gulf cabin renovations have made it possible for the public to have greater access to the state’s beaches. “They’re as nice as any beach house you’ll find.” From Guntersville to Cheaha to Eufaula, the wonders of Alabama are showcased in parks improved during his tenure. The work Lawley has done focuses not only on improvements but also on creating recreational opportunities for future generations of families. He cited the hunts organized by his department for children as one such example. He designed a card to get feedback from the kids about what they enjoyed most on the hunts. “More than 90 percent said spending time with their father, their uncle or whoever their mentor was on the hunt. That’s a message that needs to be sent. It’s not money, it’s time that helps create the values kids will have.”

Working together on preservation

Lawley and Jackson have worked together on Forever Wild, which protects thousands of acres across Alabama through a purchase program that keeps them in their natural state. Jackson works with water quality and trying to put different

partners together from different groups to ensure that the areas are preserved. “She’s really good at this,” Lawley said. “Forever Wild is the best run program in state government,” he said at the close of a legislative session in June that saw him back in Montgomery after his retirement as commissioner, lobbying for an extension of the program for another 20 years. The renewal approval goes to the people in the November 2012 general election, and he stressed its importance: “Natural resources belong to the people, not the state.” While opponents try to say it is locking up land, he takes the opportunity to set the record straight — “It puts it to the use and enjoyment of everybody in perpetuity. People can enjoy it because they own it.” And the money gained from the Alabama Trust Fund is only a small percentage compared to what other states dedicate to similar efforts. While Alabama gets up to a maximum of $15 million a year to protect land, Florida, for instance, allocates $500 million to such efforts. Jackson echoed Lawley’s support for renewal of the program. “Forever Wild has been one of the most successful programs ever approved by the state Legislature and the people of Alabama,” she said. “It provides public lands for all Alabamians to enjoy our great outdoors at no cost while also benefiting local economies through tourism. “Forever Wild protects the lands where we vacation and picnic, where some of us got married, where some spend their anniversaries,” Jackson said. “It helps provide the places where we taught our children to fish or we watched as our grandchild bagged his or her first deer.” It adds lands to state parks, wildlife management areas, boat launches and recreational areas. “And it does all of this through a small percentage of the interest earned from the production of offshore oil and gas royalties. How fitting that the depletion of one natural resource is used to protect another,” she said. “It is absolutely a quality-of-life issue,” Lawley stressed. And quality of life is an issue Lawley and Jackson know plenty about. It’s a lesson handed down to them, a lesson they learned long ago in a place they still call home. l

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 51

Rising from

St. Clair communities rebuild after deadly tornados 52 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

the Rubble

By Loyd McIntosh Photos by Jerry Martin and Loyd McIntosh

On a blazing hot Saturday in mid-June, Gary Liverett drives his white pickup truck onto the property of Alpha Ranch, the ministry for young adult boys he founded more than 20 years ago. Fresh from picking up his son, Chris, a real estate agent in Colorado, from the airport in Birmingham, Liverett takes a seat under a tent that serves as a meeting place, a work space and a welcome respite from the heat of the summer sun. It’s been almost six weeks since the deadly tornadoes of April 27 tore through this remote section of St. Clair County. In just a three-mile stretch along County Highway 22, 15 people lost their lives; none, however, at Alpha Ranch. In fact, 37 people survived the storm in one of two homes on the property, despite the loss of the entire ranch to the storm. There are signs of progress on the ranch. For instance, the wood frame for a new shop has been erected and most of the debris has been removed, but there are still tons of reminders all around. Liverett is still in the process of making sense of all that transpired. As fate would have it, Liverett was recuperating from a heart attack at UAB Hospital on that devastating day in April. Helplessly, Liverett could do nothing but watch the television coverage as the storm moved from Tuscaloosa County into Jefferson and, finally, into St. Clair. “The first news we saw that pinpointed the area was Channel 6, I guess, I’m not sure, but they said it was dead on Highway 22, and I knew that was us,” Liverett recalls. “My wife called and got word that nobody was injured, but that we had lost everything.” Three days later, Liverett finally got a first-hand look at the destruction caused by the tornado. His son, Chris, and other family members had tried to prepare him with photos and news of all that had transpired. He knew, for instance, that 13 people had lost their lives in a three-mile stretch. He knew that both houses at the ranch, the barns, the shop and three cows were lost in the storm.

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 53

Rising from the Rubble

St. Clair Rebuilds

Rebuilding continues on Neely Henry end of Shoal Creek.

Path of tornado still evident along tree line

54 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

“I wept. I drove in …,” he pauses, unable to complete his sentence. Almost a full minute passes before he fully regains his composure and continues. “I still get emotional. As good as things are, it’s still hard to take.” An independent and deeply spiritual man, Liverett is not one to say “why me” even when facing the prospect of starting over. While saddened at seeing everything he had worked to build over the 23 years, he believes that God is in control, and it is through his faith that he remains confident about what the future holds. “When we heard we had lost everything but I knew that everybody was safe, I was OK. I think God just really works in ways that we can’t explain,” Liverett says. “I really felt at peace. I was just blessed because I think God allowed us to see what things are really important to us. “I guess God gives us the ability to process things in small segments at a time. If you had to process losing it all at one time, I don’t think you could take it,” he adds. The good news is people like Liverett and others who lost everything — including loved ones — are already beginning the process of rebuilding. The events of April 27 revealed an ample supply of generosity, independence and strength of character of people throughout the community and beyond. St. Clair County is already bouncing back.

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Rising from the Rubble A house stands among downed trees

Somber reminders from ground at Shoal Creek 56 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

St. Clair Rebuilds A COMMUNITY’S RESPONSE Within hours of the storm, volunteers from the community sprang into action looking for survivors, assisting the injured, and helping in any way they can. As the hours turned into days, more help arrived from familiar organizations, such as the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). And, according to Liverett and others on the scene, these agencies also brought with them top-heavy bureaucracies that sometimes made applying for and receiving help difficult. What really made the difference was the response of the local religious community. “I know FEMA and Red Cross and all have their place, but nothing, and I can speak for a lot of people, nothing met the needs like local individuals, churches and other ministries that were just right there with volunteers,” he said. “You don’t have to fill out papers, you don’t have to wait days and days, and they had no strings attached,” says Liverett. “I’m not putting down any of these agencies, but most of them have only certain things they can do, whereas individual groups like Extreme Ministries, just right off the bat, committed to building several houses and structures in this area, and they’ve done all they can.” Extreme Ministries, based in Pell City and founded by the Rev. Jeff Huey, specializes in mobilizing volunteers for construction-related projects. By the time mid-June rolled around, Huey had volunteers working at as many as eight sites around the county, including Ragland, where a group of adults and teenagers are working to rebuild a house for an uninsured man. In the triple-digit temperatures, high humidity and intense thunderstorms arriving out of the clear blue, the mood on the construction site is serious but upbeat. “One thing you see is a mighty good attitude,” says John O. Sims, a retired builder from Pell City. At this site, there are people from churches near and far – Pell City, Moody, Trussville, even Dallas, Texas. While there is a definite spirit of community and desire to help their fellow man, most volunteers throughout the community are working primarily to serve God. “Everybody’s doing this because they love the Lord, and they’re doing it because they feel it’s a way of serving Him. It gives you a good feeling knowing that you’re helping somebody out in trouble and doing it in God’s name,” says Sims. “Everybody’s just willing to do whatever has got to be done and it’s all in the spirit of God. It’s just a wonderful experience,” adds Mike Caldwell, a Pell City resident and employee at the Honda plant in Lincoln. “The attitude of everybody is just ‘whatever I can do to help. We’ll get it done.’” Fifteen-year-old resident Austin Hamer is one of dozens of young people form Moody Baptist Church spending the week doing what they can to help. A normal teenager for whom a typical summer day would be playing his guitar at home, Hamer says he’s proud to be a part of the volunteer effort. “We’re here to help build Shoal Creek back and Ragland back. I’ve heard people who were just doubting and sounded like they were giving up,” says Hamer. “I think it’s really good that so many people have come to help out because a lot of people down here don’t have insurance, and the churches are, pretty much, the only ones doing anything around here.” The aftermath of the storm was felt not only by the community’s people, but the animals as well. Family pets, horses, cows and other livestock that helped the rural communities devas-

Before the storms

Gary Liverett, left, is thankful for volunteers.

Life in the Valley By Loyd McIntosh

A Moody UMC youth helps rebuild

Even in a county blessed with as much natural beauty as St. Clair, Shoal Creek Valley was, and still is, a special place. Tucked in a valley between two mountains smack in between Ashville and Pell City, Shoal Creek Valley in the spring and early summer is bursting with vibrant green everywhere you point your eyes. The community’s relative isolation and rural traditions have helped develop a strong, rugged individuality and work ethic as people do their best to, as Liverett put it, “live off the grid” as much as possible. Large families are also common in the community, and parents take education as a personal responsibility. “My daughter and son-in-law have nine children, the Boyds over here have 11 children, the Lees had 13, so there’s a strong network of homeschoolers out here,” says Liverett. The patriarch of the Lee family, Thomas Carl Lee, was one the 15 lives lost in Shoal Creek, killed protecting his family from falling debris as the April 27 tornado roared through the community. “Mr. Lee was a fine upstanding man. You just couldn’t find a better man than he was,” says Liverett. Liverett remembers Lee as one of the hardest working men he has ever known — a trait that rubbed off on his children and the community as a whole. “They raise all of their vegetables, and we had all gotten into milking Jersey cows, making our own butter and raising our own eggs — that sort of thing.” The Lees even planted sugar cane on their property, then enlisted Liverett to help with an interesting summer project. “I had an old sorghum syrup mill, and I got it out and fixed it up. Jordon, their oldest son, brought two big horses, and we made 80 gallons of syrup,” Liverett adds. “Those kids of Tom’s planted all that cane by hand. They worked it by hand, cut it by hand, and harvested it. It’s kind of unusual.” The Alpha Ranch, Liverett’s ministry for young men, was symbolic of that hardy individualism. Prior to the storm, the ranch was home to a horse-riding arena, several Jersey cows – three of which perished in the storm – and a shop where boys under his care learned skills such as auto repair, carpentry and electrical wiring. The shop was destroyed, including a one-ton, industrial saw which simply vanished in the storm. Liverett is now rebuilding the shop and adding a meat processing section in order to expand the organic farming capabilities in the area and to teach another skill to the young men at the ranch. Liverett says that even in the face of unimaginable catastrophe, self-reliance is a welcome and necessary virtue. “I don’t like to use examples like this but I’ve seen the Hank Williams Jr. song ‘A Country Boy Can Survive’ out here,” Liverett says. “I’ve seen some people dig down and come up with some ingenuity in order to make the best of it.”

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 57

Rising from the Rubble

St. Clair Rebuilds

tated by the tornadoes earn a living were significantly disrupted. Not wanting to leave any life, human or animal, without help it needs, the community sprang into action. Rhonda Johnson-Bowles, account manager and equine and wildlife specialist for Land-O-Lakes Purina, helped organize an effort to care for the area’s animals after counting her own blessings following the storm. Having lived in the Shoal Creek area for more than 25 years, she felt the need to help and volunteered her time and skills to the community. “I was blessed to be the dealer and not the one being done for,” Bowles says. “We started out just helping farmers and then on Friday, my boss sent me a truckload of feed. “I just went door-to-door and started in Shoal Creek and if anyone that was affected had an animal I gave them a month’s worth of feed,” Bowles adds. Before long, donations of food and supplies were arriving on her doorstep from as far away as Michigan and Wisconsin. To date Land-O-Lakes Purina and other individual benefactors have donated over 58 tons of premium feed in the effort. GIVING AND RECEIVING, AND GIVING AGAIN Back at Alpha Ranch, Liverett is taking stock of this turn of events. For 23 years, he has been a giver. He’s given young men with nowhere to go a place to stay, given them a place to learn a trade and to take care of themselves, and given them hope. Most of all, he and his family have given them love, support and a chance to turn their lives around. Now he finds himself in an unfamiliar position but hopes to be back changing lives sooner rather than later. “We learned a lot. I don’t like to be on the receiving end. I’d much rather be on the giving end, but I think, probably, had people not rallied behind us so much, I don’t know if I’d have the heart to start back or not,” says Liverett. “We’d worked so hard to establish the place. I’m 61 and to start over, I don’t know if I would have had it in me, but God has used those people, and I feel stronger now than I’ve ever felt.” Even after a heart attack and the loss of his ranch, Liverett is working every day not only to rebuild Alpha Ranch but to help his neighbors that suffered so much in April. He’s donated the use of heavy equipment to others and the use of his land for meetings and even a few fundraising events. And as soon as construction on the new shop is complete, he’ll let anyone who needs to saw some wood or hammer a nail be able to use it. “I hope my heart has gotten bigger toward helping people. Giving is not just giving when it’s comfortable or when it’s notable, but when it hurts or gives what you need,” Liverett says. “I’ve seen people do that here, and that’s really been a lesson to me.” “We’re blessed,” Liverett adds. “We’ve had people reach out and help us, and I’m grateful for that. I really am.” l For more photos, go to

58 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

Volunteers have been key to rebuilding.

Destroyed home behind City Hall

Been here before

Pell City storm followed path of 1975 tornado By Loyd McIntosh Photos by Jerry Martin While most people throughout Alabama will remember where they were on the evening of April 27, the morning began with an auspicious start as well. Early morning storms brought heavy rain and wind damage throughout the greater Birmingham area, spawning at least one small tornado in Pell City. By the time school buses were ready to roll and citizens were heading out to work, a small tornado zipped through downtown Pell City. The storm tore the roof off one home, toppled a tree in the front portion of another, partially ripped the roof off of the Pell City Public Library and blew out the storefront window of David Tims Antiques on Cogswell Avenue. One resident, Precious Necale Fegans-Hartley, lost her life while protecting her children from the storm. As home and business owners poured onto the streets to survey the damage, clear debris and remove fallen trees, a common conversation pattern began to emerge. Over the racket of chain saws you might hear someone say, “The same thing happened back in ’75,” or “I remember back in the mid-‘70s when a tornado came right through downtown.” The reference point is a tornado that slammed Pell City on January 10, 1975, part of a tornado outbreak that dropped 13 tornadoes across the state. The similarities to the early morning storm of April 27 are eerie. “It basically took the same path back then that it took in April,” says longtime Pell City resident David Mullins. “It took down huge trees all over downtown, including two big oak trees in front of the courthouse.” The two storms, according to Mullins, even damaged the same house near his office on 20th Street North. “The ’75 storm caused some damage to Edwina Holladay’s house across

Historic home on 3rd Avenue the street from where my office sits,” Mullins says. “Of course her house lost its roof in the April storm.” According to National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office archives, an EF2 or EF3 tornado barreled northeast through the center of downtown Pell City in 1975, stopping the clock at Union State Bank at 4:11, before moving out of town. The tornado eventually caused significant damage to Ragland High School as well as several additional homes and buildings. In Pell City, approximately 54 homes were destroyed, and another 307 were damaged, 15 trailers were destroyed and 27 businesses were destroyed or damaged. One person was killed at a service station, and one person killed in Ragland. l

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 59

St. Clair’s Savory Summer The Gillilands sort tomatoes for market. 60 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

By Carol Pappas Photos by Jerry Martin

Nothing says South like fresh produce The sign is like a portal to the South from spring and into the fall, beckoning one and all to come have a taste: FRESH PRODUCE, it says. In the sweltering heat of a Southern summer, roadside stands and farmers’ markets peddle palate-pleasing delights straight from the garden. It’s certainly no different in St. Clair County, where farms and backyard gardens — large and small — stretch from atop Chandler Mountain to the shores of the Coosa River below. Around these parts, cucumbers, okra, peas and beans with unsavory names like Rattlesnake are regular table fare, just like Silver Queen corn, eggplant, purple hull peas and yellow and zucchini squash. Don’t forget the peppers — sweet and hot banana, green bells and even an Italian named Marconi. Tomatoes? By far, they’re still the king. St. Clair County is home to one of the top five largest tomato crops in the country, perhaps the largest in the region. “We’re the tomato capital of the South,” said Judy Gilliland, who along with husband Hershel, raise five acres of vegetables and fruit on their Chandler Mountain Farm fit for the finest tables around. And for dessert, Crimson Sweet watermelons are a farm favorite. Up on Chandler Mountain is a treasure of thousands of acres of scores of varieties of tomatoes from traditional to heirloom. But there is plenty more to see along the countryside. The Gillilands are third generation farmers on Three Oaks Farm, named for the trio of the more than century-old oaks that stand watch over their family home. Children and grandchildren, who lend a hand during planting and harvest, have become fourth and fifth generations of this branch of St. Clair County farmers. “We grow as much as we ever need,” said Gilliland. They grow enough to sell all summer long at farmer’s markets in Trussville, Pell City, Sylacauga, Leeds and Ross Bridge, where city folks line up for their own taste of summer from early June to September. Gilliland, a retired engineer from the state, and Mrs. Gilliland, who retired from a law firm, returned to their roots when they got the chance, moving back in 1990 from big-city life to the family farm in Steele. Now they spend 14-hour days harvesting the fruits — and vegetables — of their labor. If you close your eyes and imagine the birth of a buffet of fresh-picked paradise, that would be the fields of Three Oaks. The Gillilands are locally famous for their heirloom tomatoes, and Mrs. Gilliland explains the different varieties they grow as deftly as a seasoned teacher giving a history lesson. “They’re the ugly face with the great taste. That’s what you call an heirloom,” she said, noting a series of deep ridges of these oversized tomatoes with an unmistakably sweet taste. There are Yellow Blush, a variegated variety; Brandywine, which is pink; Yellow, a milder type; and Cherokee Purple. They share a common benefit. “All heirlooms are low in acid,” she said. Just down the road a piece, young Jake Owen lures pass-

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August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 61

St. Clair’s Savory Summer

Kemp checks his peach crop. ersby to his produce stand with a fresh cut watermelon perched atop a sign listing his family’s vegetables du jour. The flesh of the watermelon is the deepest of reds, arousing taste buds of no telling how many motorists happening by. His family owns six acres flanking the fruit and vegetable stand — “five more across the road,” he said. He and his father handle the chores of growing and harvesting from the farm that produces enough “to feed all of us,” he said, referring to his family. Owen has been selling the farm’s produce for two years but plans to go to work on the commercial tomato farms of Chandler Mountain next year, he said of his future. Then, he turned a moment to the past, talking about his farming lineage. “Daddy’s been growing stuff as long as he’s been living.” His grandfather grew cotton, and his “kinfolks” in Oneonta in the next county farm as well. For Andy Kemp, who along with wife, Paula, started A&P Farms five years ago, it was the lure of land that helped them find their way to St. Clair County. Andy, who managed a parts distributorship in Memphis, Tenn., and Paula, who worked as a software developer for BellSouth, “dreamed of having our own property — acreage,” he said. “We found this, not knowing we’d farm,” pointing to field after field of fruits and vegetables nearing picking time. They own 75 acres “to the peak of the mountain,” he said, and they began growing and providing their bounty to one farmers market five years ago. Today, they sell at seven farmer’s markets a week and supply a grocery store in Birmingham as well as Community Supported Agriculture — an outreach of East Lake United Methodist Church — to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to buyers and for charitable purposes. “It’s a lot of work, but we enjoy it,” Kemp said. While there are plenty of vegetables readying for harvesting across his acreage, his favorite is growing fruit — 15,000 strawberry plants, 160 peach trees and four 200-foot trellises of blackberries. “We pick 150 watermelons every two to three days and 150 to 200 cantaloupes every couple of days. Then it’s on to market in East Lake, Birmingham’s noted Pepper Place, Valleydale, Trussville, Pell City, Adamsville and Gardendale. Between growing, picking and marketing, “It’s daylight to dark seven days a week.”

62 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

Owen readies his family’s roadside stand.

Heirlooms are A&P’s specialty, but he has plenty of the main ingredient to a good old fashioned tomato sandwich. His crop these days is helped by a pair of high tunnels, similar to hot houses but strictly solar. The sides are rolled up during the day and let down at night, allowing Kemp to extend his growing season by four months. Planting season can begin March 1 in the tunnel instead of the traditional midApril dates. “I had 50 boxes (of tomatoes) in May. By May 15, we’re picking red tomatoes. I hope to have them into November.” And there’s no waste for any of Kemp’s crop. They freeze what’s left, and over the winter, they produce jams, jellies and relish. Perhaps the T-shirt he donned said it best: “We grow it. You eat it.” l For more photos, go to


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/nood-l-ing/, noun

1. Fishing for catfish using only bare hands, practiced primarily in the southern United States. The noodler places his hand inside a discovered catfish hole. — Wikipedia 2. A form of fishing in which someone runs into a lake and searches for holes on the bottom with his foot. Then he inserts his finger into the hole and lets something bite it. Hopefully, it’s a catfish. — Urban Dictionary By Loyd McIntosh Photos by Jerry Martin

Brothers Stephan (left) and Morgan Goin

64 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

The following activities are illegal or prohibited in the State of Alabama: Bear wrestling matches, to chain an alligator to a fire hydrant, to wear a fake moustache that causes laughter in church, and to be blindfolded while operating a vehicle. Those illustrations may be a bit far-fetched, but the overall point is adventure, and real endorphin-creating, adrenalinepumping adventure can be hard to find — at least the kind of fun that doesn’t land you in the Graybar Hotel or get your face plastered on one of those mugshot magazines you see on convenience store counters. For those looking for a good time that will get the blood flowing and, literally, get you in touch with nature, look no further than noodling, an outdoor water sport gaining in popularity among young men throughout the area. Noodling, sometimes referred to as grabbling, is a type of fishing that eschews rod, reel and worms in favor of the bare hands. From late-May through early-July, noodlers make their way to lakes, ponds and streams around St. Clair County. Mostly young men, these gonzo outdoorsmen look for holes near or in the banks, preferably under a dock or a boat ramp, where large catfish may be hiding. Once an appropriate spot is found, a noodler will leap over the side of their boat and into the murky water. After a couple of tense minutes as God only knows what takes place under the water’s surface, the noodler emerges, one arm wrapped around the flapping catfish, the other inside the mouth of the catfish. And thus you have an emerging adventure sport that is growing in popularity on lakes like Logan Martin and Neely Henry. “I’ve been dong this every summer since I was 14 or 15 years old and I love it,” says 19-year-old Cropwell native, Stephan Goin. “There is a just a rush you get when you catch that fish that I can’t explain. It’s just a lot of fun.” Goin, an aspiring competitive angler, was introduced to noodling by a friend while out fishing on a hot summer day, one of those days when the high temperatures makes sitting in a boat with no shade unbearable. “We had been out there for a while

Goin (left) and Brandon Roe nab a big one

and he said to me, ‘Have you ever been noodling?’ I said ‘noodling? What’s that?’ He went through the process and taught me how to land a fish, everything I needed to know,” Goin says. After identifying a smaller hole and learning the basics, it was time for his initiation. Goin jumped in the water and noodled for his first catfish. The first few moments were tense and alarming, but, before long he was hooked. “I felt something brush my hand then it hit me and scared me a little. It hit me so hard with this blunt force. I thought ‘I’ve go to do this’ and I pulled him out eventually,” Goin says. “I remember telling my mom and dad about it and if they had ever heard of noodling. It was like telling your parents you were going to buy a motorcycle.” His first catch was a 15-pound catfish, a dwarf compared to the monsters he and other noodlers catch now. Goin says he caught a 50-pounder while noodling in Logan Martin Lake and knows of a 70-pounder caught by some others, also in Logan Martin. With monsters like these and other creatures lurking in

August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 65

Noodling: The other way to catch catfish

Goin and Roe with prized catch

the water, not to mention the drowning dangers inherent in the sport, noodling can be a wee bit hazardous. “It can be kind of dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ve heard of people drowning because they’ve followed a catfish into a hole that’s too small to get it out of and can’t get back to the surface,” Goin says. “Really what you have to watch out for are snakes, beavers and snapping turtles.” Noodlers also need to look for angry homeowners who may not want them digging around their boat ramps or those who think they’re up to no good. Goin says it’s also not uncommon to encounter a marine policeman or a game and fish warden while chasing catfish on the banks of Logan Martin. “I’ve never gotten in trouble. I always have my fishing license on me and that’s always seemed to answer any questions when we get stopped,” Goin says. “I remember one old guy just started cussing up a storm at us one day and called the Riverside Police on us,” Goin says. “They handled it, and after it was all over he said ‘God bless y’all.’ How do you like that? He cussed me up and down and then asked God to bless me.” For many, noodling is still a mystery and, of course, controversial. Young men get the police called on them for far less than going underwater and emerging with a 35-pound catfish in their arms. And, at the moment, noodling isn’t legal everywhere in the United States. Texas only legalized noodling in May of this year. So, the big question is what does the law in Alabama say? “It’s completely legal but you must have a game permit, and you’re limited to one fish over 34 inches long per person,” says Jerry Fincher, a conservation enforcement officer with the

66 • DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair | August 2011

Alabama Department of Conservation Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries and, himself a fellow noodler. Fincher says noodlers who get crossways with the law haven’t sought the blessings of the homeowner before jumping in the water. “You have to get permission from the homeowner before you can noodle around their docks or boat ramps. We ask for permission and if he says ‘no,’ then we’ll go on to someplace else,” Fincher says. Fincher says many homeowners believe that noodlers cause problems to the foundations supporting boat ramps and docks and, therefore, don’t want them around. However, he says noodlers actually eliminate the problem actually caused by the fish which burrow holes on the bank to lay their eggs. Still, he says, if and when permission is granted, remember to be respectful and help give this budding sport a good name. “Don’t use any profanity, clean up after yourself and just be a responsible citizen,” he says. “It’s a growing sport and a lot of fun. It’s a lot more popular now than it used to be.” Goin would like to make the sport even more popular in the future. He has introduced the sport to professional B.A.S.S. anglers, football players and local adventure seekers and envisions a day where noodling tournaments and organized events are regular occurrences. “I’ll take anyone out who wants to learn about it,” Goin says. “I don’t charge anyone. It’s just for the fun of it.” l



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August 2011 | DISCOVER The Essence of St. Clair • 67

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