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When the horizon is the finish line: Ultramarathoners on going the distance, and then some. 88 ON THE ROAD AGAIN BY EMILY WEATHERS KENNEDY PHOTOS BY TERA WAGES AND HEATHER MITCHELL

Two families take us on their Airstream restoration journeys, as they return a couple of venerable motor homes to their original glory.

© Abraham Rowe

ON THE COVER: Samantha Strickland channels Tippi Hedren in our tribute to movie monsters and big screen scream queens.

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Novelist and master storyteller Debra Glass introduces us to some of the Shoals’ most dearly (un)departed residents. 56 SILVER SCREAM BY TARA BULLINGTON  PHOTOS BY TERA WAGES


The dirt-cheap, wicked-cute lowdown on how to recreate your favorite movie monsters this Halloween, using thrift store finds, a little imagination, and a lot of ingenuity. 64 A FLIGHT OF FANCY BY ALLEN TOMLINSON  PHOTOS BY PATRICK HOOD

Nearly a century ago, aviation legend Charles Lindbergh waved at the people of Florence as he flew over the Kilby School. Mason Ingram tells us what it was like to wave back. 68 POKÉMON ON THE GO BY MICHELLE RUPE EUBANKS  PHOTOS BY TERA WAGES

The smartphone app phenomenon whose call of the wild encourages community exploration and conversation, as well as competitiveness.




Vegetarian chef, YouTube sensation, and healthy-eating advocate Jac St. John practices what he preaches, with an inside look at how to eat healthy without sacrificing flavor and adventure. 98 GOLF, WITH A TWIST BY ROY HALL  PHOTOS BY ABRAHAM ROWE

A little known, much misunderstood sport, with strong historical ties to the Shoals, finally begins to get its due.















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editor’s letter « Roy Hall

Revealing your favorite season can get you in almost as much trouble as proclaiming your pick for president. In the interest of diplomacy, let’s just say that not a lot of tears fall around here when the calendar flips from August to September. Those Freon bursts that greet us when we open the No’Ala office door, beginning in June, keep us inside until September when the first hint of crisp draws us back to the great outdoors.

no’ala advisory board Dr. Terrance Brown Dr. Tiffany Bostic-Brown Maggie Crisler Michelle Rupe Eubanks Guy McClure, Jr. Abraham Rowe Susan Rowe

Regardless of the season, outside is where you’ll find long-distance runners Steven Davis, Lanier Greenhaw, and Breanna Cornell. They’re some of the happiest folks we’ve ever run across, and they all credit their rosy dispositions to something called an ultramarathon. Ultras, for those who don’t know, are what you run when a 26-mile marathon just isn’t long enough. Disc golf gets your blood moving, too, albeit with a bit less velocity. The golf/Frisbee hybrid has strong Shoals roots, although that’s mostly a well-kept secret. Disc Golf Club president Kasey Butler has made it his mission to change all that. If you’re looking for an increase in heart rate, but strenuous exercise isn’t your thing, how about a good, old-fashioned fright? Novelist Debra Glass brings her “Ghost Tour of Florence” to the pages of No’Ala, reminding you that the next time a cold chill runs up your spine, it might not be that open window. And painter Tara Bullington and chef Sarah Gaede, bona fide artists both, cross over from the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous, to help us celebrate Halloween. They’ve created homemade, thrift store kiddie costumes that’ll scare and charm the pants off you and some of the yuckiest, yummiest Halloween treats a goblin ever gobbled. And since a well-balanced diet includes plenty of veggies to balance out those peanut butter eyeballs and Jell-O worms, popular YouTube chef Jac St. John gives us a cooking lesson in healthy eating that’s good and good for you. (Even Pikachu agrees!)

LuEllen Redding Andy Thigpen Mary-Marshall VanSant Carolyn Waterman

“Versatility.” If you look it up in the dictionary, you’ll find a photo of Tera Wages. Her work elevates any issue she’s a part of. For this issue, we asked Tera to photograph five kids in all their terrifying glory, a renovated Airstream, a vegetarian chef, an outdoor “glamping” scene, and a crosswalk full of gamers. They’re all beautiful; everything Tera does is beautiful. Summer’s end may not have brought tears to our eyes, but no such luck with Patrick Hood’s transition to assignment photographer. Since our first issue, Patrick Hood’s photography has brought the pages of No’Ala to startling, Technicolor life, with his compelling, inviting, stunning work. He is a master. And like any master or ultramarathoner, after eight years, 72 issues, and thousands of photographs, Patrick needs to catch his breath. Patrick will pop up from time to time on assignment. Until then, we bid him a fond farewell as we welcome Abraham Rowe to the No’Ala family. If you’re a regular reader of No’Ala—or The New York Times Magazine, Elle, or Elle Décor—you’ll be as thrilled as we are to have him along for the ride, beginning in November. In the meantime, have a safe and happy Halloween, y’all.

September/October 2016 VOLUME 9: ISSUE 5

Allen Tomlinson PUBLISHER


Matthew Liles PRESIDENT






Carole Maynard PROOFREADER

Kathleen Bobo DISTRIBUTION CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Michelle Rupe Eubanks, Sarah Gaede, Debra Glass, Roy Hall, Emily Weathers Kennedy, Chris Paysinger, Allen Tomlinson CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Patrick Hood, Heather Mitchell, Chris Paysinger, Robert Rausch, Abraham Rowe, Tera Wages CONTRIBUTING ILLUSTRATORS Rowan Finnegan, Chelsea O’Mara Holeman No’Ala is published six times annually by No’Ala Studios PO Box 2530, Florence, AL 35630 Phone: (256) 766-4222 » (800) 779-4222 Standard postage paid at Florence, AL. A one-year subscription is $19.95 for delivery in the United States. Signed articles reflect only the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors. Advertisers are solely responsible for the content of their advertisements. © 2008-2016 No’Ala Studios, All rights reserved. Send all correspondence to Roy Hall, Editor, at the postal address above, or by email to To advertise, contact us at (256) 766-4222 or The editor will provide writer’s guidelines upon request. Prospective authors should not submit unsolicited manuscripts; please query the editor first. No’Ala is printed with vegetable-based inks. Please recycle.

Connect with us on Facebook: No’Ala Studios, Instagram: noalastudios, Pinterest: NoAlaStudios, and Twitter: @NoAla_Magazine

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Tera Wages is as talented as she is versatile. For September/October, we called on the lead photographer for Armosa Studios to capture five costumed tykes in all their terrifyingly adorable glory, one jazzed-up Airstream trailer, an outdoor glamping extravaganza, a vegetarian chef, and a virtual phenomenon you may have heard a little something about called Pokémon Go.

Abraham Rowe documents two very different outdoor adventures for the fall issue of No’Ala. For our ultramarathon feature, Abraham trails two intrepid trail runners, then captures the essence of the sometimesmisunderstood sport of disc golf.

When our marketing clients need their messages translated visually, No’Ala Studios turns to graphic designer Rowan Finnegan. Rowan’s design for Florence-Lauderdale Tourism’s Visitor Guide is currently enticing tourists to the Shoals, and her spectacular mural design for the SunTrust building’s Gold Record Room depicts the Shoals’ musical history to stunning effect. In this issue, Rowan once again manages to locate the essence of River City’s black widow, Eleanor.

Michelle Rupe Eubanks takes us into the kitchen of vegetarian chef Jac St. John, whose blog and YouTube series have earned the chef a legion of health-conscious fans. To document another internet phenom, the Pokémon Go craze, former newspaper writer Eubanks dusts off her journalist credentials and wades into the latest social media craze that’s got us all once again minding the gap between the generations.

When Moulton-based photographer Heather Mitchell isn’t busy bringing out the best in her clients, she’s busy bringing out the best in her camper. Like Emily Kennedy, Mitchell and her clan heeded the call of the open road in their restored Airstream.

® Sandi Pettus

Debra Glass knows where Florence’s skeletons are hidden, and she’s talking. The prolific novelist’s canon—nearly 30 titles long—primarily consists of historical romance, but she knows how to spin a good ghost yarn, as she proves here with her Ghost Tour of Florence.

For our 2016 Wedding issue, we asked Chelsea O’Mara Holeman to visualize the importance of a well-tailored suit. Here, we turn to the expert illustrator to bring (back) to life some lingering former residents of Florence.

Freelance writer and stylist Emily Weathers Kennedy set out on a quest to restore a vintage Airstream trailer last year. Kennedy documents her family’s restoration process and shares some of the tools of the trade she discovered during their journey, just in case the open road beckons you and yours.

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Friday, September 2 and Friday, October 7 Florence First Fridays The exciting monthly event gathers artists of all kinds—musicians, painters, sculptors, photographers, hand-crafted jewelry creators, and more—for a community-wide celebration. 5:00pm-8:00pm; Free; Downtown Florence; Monday, September 5 Coon Dog Cemetery Labor Day Celebration The annual Coon Dog Cemetery Labor Day celebration features live bluegrass, buck dancing, a liar’s contest, BBQ, and drinks. 10:00am-4:00pm; Free; 4945 Coon Dog Cemetery Road, Cherokee; Saturday, October 1 Downtown Florence Unlimited Presents Movies in the Park: Zootopia Bring your friends, family, chairs, blankets, and snacks, and sit back and enjoy the show! 6:15pm; Free; Wilson Park; Sunday, October 2 Shoals Symphony at UNA: Act of Congress Act of Congress, a Birmingham based singer-songwriter group, will perform in concert with the Shoals Symphony. The concert will include well-known chart-topping songs by the group, who play acoustic instruments, accompanied by the orchestra. Admission charged; Muscle Shoals High School Auditorium, 1900 Avalon Ave; for show time and ticket prices visit Thursday, October 6 – Sunday, October 9 A Southern Belle Primer (or Why Princess Margaret will never be a Kappa Kappa Gamma) The Southern belle lives on in a world of proprieties and protocols even the Royal Family would find daunting. An uproarious guide to the manners, mores, and mystique of the legendary ladies of the South. Admission charged; Shoals Community Theatre, 123 N Seminary St; for show times, visit Thursday, October 6 – Sunday, October 9 Agnes of God Sister Agnes retains no memory of having given birth inside the convent. The investigation that follows pits a secretive Mother Superior against the psychiatrist determined to help Agnes gain a stronger grasp on reality and uncover any wrongdoers. Thurs-Sat 7:35pm and Sun 2:05pm; Admission charged; Ritz Theatre, 111 West 3rd St, Sheffield; (256) 383-0533; Thursday, October 13 Shoals Symphony at UNA presents Our Town The UMKC Conservatory Dance Department will collaborate with the Shoals Symphony at UNA to perform Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning depression-era play Our Town. The concert will feature masterworks by Copland as well as stand-alone works by Bach and Vaughan Williams Saturday, October 22 – Sunday, October 23 The 30th Annual Alabama Renaissance Faire Named one of the top-20 events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourist Society, the Alabama Renaissance Faire features musical programs, public lectures, dramatic performances, art exhibits, and dance programs. Sat 10:00am-6:00pm, Sun Noon-6:00pm; Free; Wilson Park;

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It’s Your Big Day

Tell your love story in your own special way

No’Ala’s wedding issue is our most-anticipated, most-read, most-visited online issue of the year. And starting with the January 2017 edition—for the first time ever— you can tell your unique love story your own way. Introducing No’Ala Weddings Any time between September 5 and November 15, visit 1. Select the engagement or wedding package you love. 2. Upload your favorite high-resolution photos. 3. Tell us your love story. Then, in January, join other happy couples from across North Alabama for the unveiling of No’Ala Weddings. A keepsake. A bride-to-be inspiration board. And a beautiful way to introduce yourself and your new family to the world.

Choose from these packages:

Includes one feature photo, and text highlighting your favorite details from your upcoming wedding!

One-Page Wedding Feature

Two-Page Wedding Feature

Four-Page Wedding Feature

Includes 4 photos, the names of your wedding party, favorite vendors, and more!

Includes 9 photos and up to 250 words describing your beautiful wedding!

Includes 12 photos and up to 700 words describing your beautiful wedding!






* Expanded features and cover selection will be chosen by the editors from all submitted weddings.

These are representative samples only. Visit to view more details.

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Sarah Himber, Debra Dombrowski, and Rachel Hackworth Bonnie Bowman, Tom Whatley, Alma Bomprezzi, Rosalyn Whatley, and Susan Campbell Deborah Bell Paseur Nelda Cambron McCabe and Beth Keyse

Nancy Gonce Jacque Anderson, Rick Sharp, Carlos Nelson, Allison McWilliams, and Alicia Belvin

Marchia Oates and Brittany Jones

Kathy Norman and Michael Curtis

© Xx

Above: Safeplace 7th Annual Liberty Luncheon

Below: Shoals Gold Record Room Grand Opening

june ,  · marriott shoals conference center

may ,  · suntrust building, florence

Gary Nichols Lynn Robinson, Steve Trash, Susan Goode, and Marty Abroms Marty Abroms, Judy Hood, and Bill Lyons, Jr.

Susan Goode and Norbert Putnam

Steve Price, Donnie Fritts, and Spooner Oldham Marty Abroms and Lauren Abroms

* Names for photos are provided by the organization or business featured.

Steve Price and Gary Nichols Janet McFarlane, Susan Goode, and Suzie Shoemaker © Xx

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If you want to share some good news about a friend, neighbor, or colleague—or even toot your own horn—send your kudos to

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by roy hall

Tennessee State. She and her husband, Bill, a Florence native, have four children. Redding is thrilled about the potential growth for Shoals Habitat. “For many years, Habitat has thrived quietly here. Habitat for Humanity’s goal is to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities, and hope. The Board of Directors and I are excited about making more of that happen for us here in the Shoals.” Habitat for Humanity has more than 1,400 affiliates and has helped 6.8 million people improve their living conditions since their founding in 1976.

The Florence 12 and Under Baseball Team © Courtesy of Julie Cochran

Above: Coaches, left to right: Billy Reid, Parke Cochran, Ty Watson; Players standing, left to right: Caleb Mahan, Charlie Cochran, Joshua Bowerman, Noah Toney, Brantley Crawford, Aaron Skipworth, Preston Junkin; Players kneeling, left to right: Banks Langston, Walton Reid, Cody Watson, Will Musgrove, Jesse Johnston

Singing Their Praises

Hometown Pride

Gary Nichols

“We are the first team from our town to win the 12U regional and, of course, the first one to get the opportunity to come to the World Series,” said Coach Billy Reid. “Everyone has been so supportive, and we can’t wait to follow the rest of the journey.”

© Patrick Hood

For the first time ever, Florence’s 12U baseball team represented Alabama in the Cal Ripken World Series in Aberdeen, Maryland, in August!

Earlier this year, Grammy voters chose The Muscle Shoals Recordings, which reached the top spot on Billboard’s Bluegrass Chart, as Best Bluegrass Album.

The Florence team advanced to the Series after defeating Matthews Park and Phenix City in the Alabama State Tournament.

Building a Future Edsel Holden

Seeing Stars

For his decades of service as arts champion, philanthropist, and fundraiser, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame honored Edsel Holden with a Bronze Star in August. © Goode Dethero

LuEllen Redding

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© Patrick Hood

Shoals Habitat for Humanity has named LuEllen Redding as its first Executive Director. Redding is a 1991 graduate of UNA with a degree in Public Relations and postgraduate work in Mass Communication at Middle

Florence Academy of Fine Arts songwriter instructor Gary Nichols and his band, The SteelDrivers, were honored by the International Bluegrass Music Association with nominations for Album of the Year (The Muscle Shoals Recordings) and Song of the Year (Long Way Down) in July.

Holden is No’Ala’s Renaissance Man of the Year for 2016.

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GLAMP OUT By Tara Bullington » Photos by Tera Wages


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“ I believe in strong support for students, teachers, and staff. School board decisions should be student centered and data driven. I will work for a school system where all students can learn and all teachers can teach.”

Lauderdale County Board of Education

News, classical music and more 88.7 FM Muscle Shoals • 100.7 FM Huntsville september/october  | |  Paid for by the Carolyn Waterman for Lauderdale County Board of Education Committee





© Robert Rausch

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“You go through highs and lows. The farther in you get, the higher the highs and the lower the lows. But if you persist, the rewards are momentous.” breanna cornell

© Robert Rausch

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Thought experiment: Imagine waking up to an already-stifling, pre-dawn August morning to find the mercuryy racing past 90 on its way to a record-breaking finish linee somewhere well north of 100 degrees. The National Weath-er Service suggests that you hunker down in the Freon to-day, but you decide to ignore their advice and embark on a road trip across the Tennessee Valley—from the Shoals too Huntsville and back home again. Picture the hazy landmarks along the way: the polo field in Killen, the Second d Creek bridge, and Downtown Rogersville; then on to Athens, over I-65, through h Decatur, and finally, to the Saturn V rocket, which you circle before heading backk in the opposite direction, all the way home. Now, imagine that same distance on foot. But replace the soft grass with scorchingg sand and “Tennessee” with “Death,” and you’re approaching the experience of some-thing called the Death Valley Ultramarathon, a 135-mile trail run across terrain n Wikipedia starkly describes as the “lowest, hottest, driest area in North America.” Sound impossible? Not for former Shoals resident Breanna Cornell, who becamee the youngest woman in history to complete Death Valley’s Badwater Ultra, in n 2015, at the age of 22. Cornell and her fellow Valley-based ultramarathoners Steven Davis and Lanierr Greenhaw have pushed themselves past every manner of physical and mental lim-itations while covering distances that to the uninitiated sound, frankly, impossible.. For each of them, the ultramarathon experience has been as exhilarating as it hass been punishing, as harrowing as it has been transformative. Before we tread further into this blistering experience, a couple of definitions aree in order. For the sake of comparison, let’s start with the marathon. If you haven’tt actually run a marathon, you’ve seen them on television or driven past a holiday-themed one on your way to a cookout. Since 1921, every marathon in the world d has covered a standardized distance of 26.2 miles.

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An ultramarathon, simply put, is anything longer than that. There are 31-mile ultramarathons— one of those is in Tennessee. It’s called the Upchuck, for reasons that don’t need explaining. But ultras can stretch for even greater distances—much greater. They can go for 100 miles, 200 miles, and more, covering some of the most treacherous terrain on earth. And they can last for days with little or no breaks for sleep. “You start at night,” Cornell says of her trek across Death Valley. “By the second night, you’re basically sleep walking.” That level of endurance represents a triumph of the will as much as an expression of athletic prowess. For Stevven Davis, the experience provided something more profound than cardiovvascular endurance or an improvement in his BMI; it altered his definition of the possible. “I was an I can’t person for so long,” Davis says of a pre-ultra mindset that kept him perpetually stuck. “Ultramarathons changed something in me. They made me an I can.” Whatever held Davis back before he put on his first pair of running shoes is nowhere to be found in the spirited guy whose enthusiasm for trail running is as impressive as his commitment to the sport.

“There are five people who show up at an ultra who think, ‘I can win.’ Everybody else is there as part of a personal struggle against their own limitations.”STEVEN DAVIS

To keep himself in shape, rain or shine, workday or weekend, Davis runs distances most of us would scoff at commuting in our air-conditioned cars, with a goal of covering 40-75 miles per week. Athens resident Greenhaw begins his days as early as 3:30 a.m. with the aim of running 60 miles per week, minimum. And Cornell, who now lives in Flagstaff, relates her ultramarathon experi | alast | september/october 

© Abraham Rowe

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“I like the peacefulness of it. You can go into some deep thoughts, good and bad. It can even be meditative.” lanier greenhaw

© Abraham Rowe

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ULTRA SWAG: BELT BUCKLE SOUVENIRS REPRESENTING LANIER GREENHAW’S LONGEST TRAIL RUNS LEAN HORSE 100 LOCATION: Black Hills of South Dakota, George S. Mickelson Trail LENGTHS: 100-mile, 50-mile, 50km, and 30km SURFACE: Crushed limestone AVERAGE AUGUST TEMPERATURE: High of 79; Low of 53 Race organizers describe South Dakota’s Lean Horse ultra as “among the easiest hundred-mile races in the country.” A particularly relative term in this context, “easiest” refers to the ultra’s gravel path—a former rail line—that gives runners a uniform surface, compared to other trails.

TUNNEL HILL 100 LOCATION: Southern Illinois’ Tunnel Hill State Trail LENGTHS: 100 miles and 50 miles WOMEN’S RECORD: 14 hours and 45 minutes MEN’S RECORD: 16 hours and 8 minutes SURFACE: Old limestone-covered railroad bed © Abraham Rowe

ence over the phone, one hour into a six-hour training run. She is barely winded. Given the grueling nature of the sport, Greenhaw’s estimation of no more than 70,000 ultramarathoners in 2014, compared to over a million marathoners, seems little wonder. But the relative newness of the sport is another factor in the popularity gap. After all, the marathon has been building a following since the fifth century B.C., giving it a 2,500-year head start over its long-haul cousin. “The very first ultra, the Western States 100, was in 1976 or so,” according to Greenhaw. He refers to it as the “Super Bowl of ultras.” Qualifying for the Western States was a cinch back in the early days; everyone willing was welcome to run. These days, increased demand means that runners have to submit their names to a lottery. “I’ve entered twice, and I still haven’t gotten in,” Greenhaw says.

Race organizers take a bit of an exception to Lean Horse’s “easiest” claim-to-fame. The November ultra boasts a stumble-proof limestone trail, a humidityminimizing November race date, and a manageable gradient to entice first-time 100-milers. Fastest completion of the Tunnel Hill 100 is just under 13 hours— an average of 8 miles per hour. That’s the equivalent of running from downtown Florence to downtown Sheffield and back, once an hour, every hour, from noon until one in the morning.

PINHOTI 100 LENGTH: 100-mile point-to-point MAXIMUM ELEVATION: Mt. Cheaha, Alabama’s highest point This 100-mile Alabama ultra is definitely not in competition for the title of easiest. The point-to-point trail begins and ends in Heflin, crossing Mt. Cheaha, Alabama’s highest point, along the way.

MISSISSIPPI 50-MILER LOCATION: Mississippi’s DeSoto National Forest TIME OF YEAR: Rainy March Laurel, Mississippi’s Longleaf Horse Trail ultra features two races in March, the 50-miler represented by Greenhaw’s belt buckle and a 20k. The shorter version begins at a “civilized 8:00 am,” allowing runners to finish in time for “an early lunch.”

Ultras may have gained in popularity in the four decades since that first 100-miler, but they’re still mostly an unguarded but well-kept secret, unknown to all but the most avid runners. Shoals resident Davis discovered ultras shortly after

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his 28th birthday, when a resolution to lose weight led him to the bible of trail running, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner.

mountain lake, and nobody is around. And a huge bald eagle sweeps by. “Who else got to see that day?” Davis asks.

Athens-based Greenhaw traded one obsession for another himself, giving up nicotine for ultra’s endorphins. “I quit smoking, then I took up running,” the third-generation owner of Athens’ Dubs Burgers says of his introduction to the sport. A dozen years later and itching for a new challenge, Greenhaw had an epiphany. “I remembered that a guy who used to deliver Cokes mentioned doing a 100-miler.” Greenhaw was off and running.

The experience of connecting to the natural world is a byproduct of trail running, and so are human connections. “Not counting newbies, it’s the same 25 people at every ultra,” Davis says of his fellow trail runners. With such a small population, you start to recognize familiar faces after a few ultras. One of those faces belonged to Cornell.

Davis describes his early days as a runner as “all about completion, not speed.” For many ultramarathoners, whom Greenhaw describes as a “more laid-back group” compared to their marathoner cousins, crossing the finish line first remains secondary to the experience of long-distance running.

Movie night at a running club in her native Michigan introduced Cornell to ultras via the documentary Running the Sahara. “I walked away feeling stupid,” she says of her exposure to ultras. “I thought a marathon was the longest distance.” Cornell resolved that night to conquer the extraordinary distances depicted in the film. She was 16.

Ultras wind through some of the world’s most extraordinary landscapes. The experience of traversing them, often for hours on end with no-one else around, can be a spiritual quest as much as a physical one. “There are five people who show up at an ultra who think, ‘I can win,’” Davis estimates. “Everybody else is there as part of a personal struggle against their own limitations.”

Cornell emailed the documentarians, who replied to the ambitious teenager with an invitation to join a youth marathon later in the year in the Amazon. Her parents nixed that offer, but other equally exotic opportunities waited in the wings. “While I was a junior at Michigan Tech, I went to Botswana,” Cornell says of a 50km per day trail run that took her across Africa’s Kalahari Desert.

For marathoners, on the other hand, the ultimate goal tends to be the destination—the finish line and the time it takes to reach it—more so than the journey along city streets.

Cornell already had two 100-mile races and one 200-mile, five-day race under her belt, in addition to her trans-Kalahari run, by the time work brought her to the Shoals.

“They concentrate on winning,” Davis says. And that’s not a bad thing, he adds. It’s also not a blanket rule. For every marathoner whose primary motivation is the view and the adrenaline, regardless of outcome, there’s an ultramarathoner who races to win. “But my thing is being out on the trails, having fun,” Davis says.

“I was waiting for a friend at the Pinhoti,” Davis says of his informal introduction to Cornell during a 100-mile ultra through Talladega National Forest. Davis had come to Pinhoti to provide back-up to a friend, a service ultra runners refer to as “pacing.” While waiting for his friend at a checkpoint, Cornell dashed by. “I said to my wife, ‘I saw that girl on the dam the other day.’” Not long afterward, Cornell’s and Davis’s paths crossed again, this time on the Wilson Dam bridge. Davis introduced himself to the already-seasoned runner.

Greenhaw isn’t necessarily in it to win it, either. “I’m not pacing myself to win,” he says, though he acknowledges that some are. “I take my phone with me sometimes and stop and take pictures.” “Heck, yeah, I smell the roses,” Davis says with an emphatic laugh. “What’s the point of being out in the woods without looking at stuff?” It’s a rhetorical question, but just in case there are doubters, Davis makes his point. “I was just coming out of the evergreens in Colorado, at 10,000 feet. There’s a

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“It’s nice to have someone who’s down for the adventure,” Davis says of his former training partner. Davis provides some perspective about exactly what this “adventure” entails. “If you put all the hills together,” Davis says, calculating the agglomerated altitude of Upchuck’s multiple elevations, “you get 8,000 feet over the course of 31 miles.”

© Abraham Rowe

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Eight thousand feet sounds rather steep, and it is. In fact, it’s roughly the distance from base camp to the summit of Everest. Another Tennessee ultra, Stump Jump, is a comparative breeze, with cumulative hills reaching only half of Everest’s height, at 4,400 feet. And that’s to say nothing of the distances, which can be mind-boggling. Davis’s longest so far is a 50-miler in Colorado. For Greenhaw, it’s 100 miles. He’s done five of those. “My worst time was 29 hours; 21.8 was my best.” If you’re wondering where and when he slept, the answers are “nowhere” and “he didn’t.” “I was up 36 hours by the time it ended,” Greenhaw says. The digital dashboard of most treadmills tally calories burned. If you’ve run a few miles in the climate-controlled comfort of your favorite fitness club, you’ve probably watched as two miles translated into that cupcake you had for dessert. But what if you went to the gym on a Tuesday and didn’t leave until Thursday? “On a 50-mile day, you burn 7-8,000 calories,” Davis estimates. The net effect is that “you end the race weighing less than when you started.” Davis has finished a race eight pounds lighter than when he began. Davis cautions, this is not a crash diet on steroids.

The extraordinary physical demands of an ultra require continuous calorie consumption during the race. Basically, it’s an excuse to eat and run, without having to apologize to your host. “You come out of the woods, and there’s a tent with tables and food,” Davis says, comparing it to the Gatorade stations that hydrate marathon runners. Some of those calories come from foods you’d expect to find at a kid’s birthday party, like chips, M&Ms, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and pretzels. To fuel runners to their next stop, 100- to 150-calorie gel packs are available to-go. And the stretches between those energy stations can be considerable. “You might go three hours in some trail races without seeing anyone,” Davis says. Combine exhaustion with uneven terrain and the potential for injury becomes a very real consideration, not to mention ebbs in morale that have to be overcome. Fleet Feet Huntsville supplies running gear and racing mentorship to local runners; they also man an aid station at the Pinhoti Run. Greenhaw volunteered to man the 85-mile marker post last year, when the weather took a turn for the worse. “It wasn’t supposed to rain, but it did,” he says of soggy conditions that led to some “low spots mentally.” “Runners have been out there for 16 to 22 hours,” Greenhaw says. “It’s three in the morning, it’s dark, and it’s raining.” It’s enough to tempt even the most intrepid trail runner to quit.

“You drink water, and it all comes back.” Of the training process that gets an athlete to these far-away finish lines, Davis waxes first practical, then philosophical. “You can kinda train yourself for 50 miles. But there’s no way to plan for what you’ll need to accommodate 100 miles,” he says. “You just have to accept, ‘This is my day. This is what I’m going to do.’ If you’re full of dread from the get-go, you’ll be miserable.”

Greenhaw knows the feeling well. He ran a 100-mile ultra in Wyoming a few years ago: “48 miles out. 52 miles back.” The altitude did a number on his stomach, and by the time he arrived at the mile-38 aid station—still ten miles from the halfway point—he had reached his breaking point. “I wanted to drop.” The aid station worker told him quitting was an option, albeit not a particularly attractive one. “I was


© Steven Davis

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told I’d have to wait for the sun to come up.” At morning light, either on foot or horseback, he’d still have to make his way to the half-way point ten miles farther down the trail, where a bus could collect him the next day. “We’ll get you out…eventually,” Greenhaw was reassured. He opted to tough it out. Davis, a utility worker with a high tolerance for the possibility of injury, doesn’t dwell on the chances of getting injured or stranded. “I climb trees for a living,” he says. Even so, Davis admits, “ultras can be a little scary until you’ve done them a few times.” Davis reckons that’s a good thing. “You need to do something every day that scares you a little bit.” Ultimately, ultramarathoners are athletes, not daredevils, and “my goal is not to hurt myself,” Greenhaw insists. Injury prevention is important to race organizers, too, many of whom include medical checkpoints along the trails. “If you lose three percent of body weight, you get a warning to drink more. Five percent, they make you drink more,” according to Greenhaw. “At seven percent, they pull you from the race, to avoid kidney failure.” And yes, Greenhaw says, that has happened. Given that fact and all the other daunting facts and statistics that describe ultramarathons, one question presents itself: why? It isn’t unreasonable or uncommon to wonder. For every mountain climbed, channel crossed, or ultra run, there is someone in the valley, on the shore, or watching from the finish line who questions why it was worth it. “You go through highs and lows,” Cornell explains. “The farther in you get, the higher the highs and the lower the lows.” But if you persist, the rewards are momentous. “Pure joy,” in Cornell’s estimation. “I like the peacefulness of it,” Greenhaw says about an experience that might sound anything but peaceful. “You can go into some deep thoughts, good and bad. It can even be meditative. “But you gotta watch your step.”

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photo essay by abraham rowe » intro by roy hall

Facing page: My brother and I started this mural with a few other




local artists in the summer of 2012. I think we begged Eli at Pegasus Records

Everybody has a story.

for over a year. We wanted to

Each issue, Abraham Rowe sets out, camera in hand, to document the stores behind the folks we see every day. In this issue, we meet a street artist and musician; a skateboarding masseur; and a music lover who’s none-too-happy about losing Pegasus.

use brush as well as spray to see what visuals we could create. Hip Hop is my culture,

For more stories like these, visit Rowe’s photo-documentary archive

my lifestyle. My twin brother and

on Facebook at Folks of Florence. I have spent a lot of our time here Very special thanks to Abraham Rowe for sharing his work, and to his subjects for sharing their stories.

trying to make the hip hop scene of the Shoals a big deal. We wanted to make graffiti a respectable art form in this city, and I think it is becoming more so. I’m seeing it everywhere.

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FOLKS OF FLORENCE I’m not free too often. Fulltime school for massage and fulltime work.

How’d you get started in massage?

My mom has fibromyalgia and scoliosis, and she works fulltime. She really needed help. I started giving her massages when I was six or seven. I do it intuitively; the same way I play music—just by ear.

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FOLKS OF FLORENCE A $25 gift certificate to Pegasus is my traditional birthday present.

What do you think about Pegasus closing?

I think it’s garbage and heartbreaking. [laughter] We’ve got to enjoy it while we can.

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A SPINE-TINGLING TOUR OF FLORENCE’S MOST HAUNTED HAUNTS text by debra glass » illustrations by chelsea o’mara holeman


, GHOST STORIES ABOUND LIKE LIGHTNING BUGS ON A HOT SUMMER NIGHT. So it’s no wonder I grew up rapt by tales of visitors from beyond the pale. An avid fan of Kathryn Tucker Windham’s 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffery, I especially loved the stories steeped in history and mystery. I wanted to learn the truth behind the legends, to know the who and why of what happened in places that seemed but ghosts themselves. The Forks of Cypress. Smithsonia Mansion. O’Neal Hall, and others. Although I collected such stories throughout my tenure at Underwood Elementary, Wilson and Bradshaw High Schools, and later, as a history major at the University of North Alabama, I never encountered a ghost. Well…until I bought Ryan Piano Company in 2001, from Robert and Noel Beck. Shortly after taking over the business, I learned that the store’s founder, Jeddy Ryan, had passed away of a heart attack in the then eightyyear-old building. Footsteps echoed on the upstairs. Inexplicable cold drafts wafted past the desk. But it wasn’t until I heard a resounding “hello” that I became convinced Mr. Ryan was still overseeing the running of his beloved store. All doubts were dispelled when the door at the top of the stairs swung open, and my toddler waved and exclaimed, “Hi, Uncle Jeddy!” We weren’t on a first name basis with Mr. Ryan at that time, so I still don’t know for certain how my two-year-old knew. My otherworldly encounter with the friendly spirit inspired me to compile all the tales I’d heard over the years into a book of regional ghost stories and folklore. I realized that many of the accounts had happened in the downtown area and after going on walking tours in Charleston, I decided to start a ghost walk tour in Florence. The 2016 Halloween season will mark my fourteenth year hosting the Haunted History of the Shoals Ghost Walk. Though the route has evolved over time, several stories remain perennial favorites.

will float wherever honor and danger shall demand it wave. If honor and victory are not inscribed upon its fold, this flag will never return to Florence.” It was not long before he saw action at the Battle of Manassas. As the head of the Lauderdale Volunteers, Company H, 4th Alabama Infantry, Stewart was in the direct line of cannon and rifle fire. He was soon seriously wounded, but kept his promise to keep the flag from touching the ground, struggling to hold it aloft until another soldier could relieve him of his duties.

TROWBRIDGE’S Nearly everyone in the Shoals Area has eaten in Trowbridge’s. But before the tour, many were surprised to learn the 1916 diner is home to at least one Civil War era ghost. Prior to the construction of the businesses on the north end of Court Street, an Antebellum home belonging to the Stewart family occupied the site. At the advent of the Civil War, young Charles Daniel Stewart was appointed color guard of the Lauderdale Volunteers. Upon receipt of the banner made by his mother and other women of the community, Stewart made a vow. “This flag

The boy was brought home, where he languished for a month before he died on August 16, 1861. He was buried in Florence Cemetery with only a small handmade grave marker that didn’t even bear his name. To this day, employees at Trowbridge’s often encounter the apparition of a young man. Some have heard their names called by a disembodied voice while others have witnessed dishes flying off the shelves in the kitchen. It was believed when a proper stone was erected in the cemetery that the activity would cease. But that hasn’t been the case.


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O’NEAL HOUSE Just down Court Street stands a quaint, 1856 cottage-style home which belonged to Alabama Governor Edward Asbury O’Neal and his wife, Olivia. While her husband and sons were away fighting the war, Olivia O’Neal remained in Florence, where she ministered to sick and wounded soldiers at Pope’s Tavern, which had been converted for use as a Civil War hospital. She also nursed injured relatives in her home. The O’Neals recovered quickly in the Reconstruction era. Edward was elected governor of Alabama and served two terms in the 1880s. His son, Emmet, would later follow in his footsteps, making Edward and Emmet the first father and son governors in the history of the state.

WAKEFIELD On the tour, I affectionately refer to Court Street as Ghost Row. Nearly every house in the Sannoner Historic District boasts a ghost story. My personal favorite is the tale of Parthenia McVay Sample. The daughter of prominent Alabama politician, half Cherokee, half Scots-Irish, Hugh McVay, Parthenia was renowned as one of the most beautiful women in Florence. When wealthy merchant James Sample married her, he moved her into the first brick residence in the city of Florence—Wakefield, on North Court Street. Parthenia’s happiness was short-lived. A mere six years later, she died from complications during childbirth in the lovely Federal style home. James Sample wasted no time in finding a new mother for his six children. Parthenia was hardly cold in her grave when James married her sister, Susan McVay. Susan became so convinced Parthenia was angry at her for marrying James, she refused to live in the house any longer, and the newlyweds moved to a plantation in Mississippi. The Glenn family, who both lived in and ran a photography business out of the historic home, attributed footsteps, creaks and groans, and glimpses of wispy apparitions to Parthenia. The current resident, who has restored the house to its original splendor, has reported cold drafts, doors opening and closing of their own accord, mysterious rapping, silverware laid out across the dining room floor, and other unexplainable phenomena. One visitor even heard a baby’s cries coming from the room in which Parthenia took her last breath.

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Governor Edward O’Neal died of a stroke on November 7, 1890, and Olivia passed away November 2, 1909, after suffering a heart attack. The house was passed down to the O’Neals’ daughter, who in turn passed it to her daughter, who died in the late 1970s, leaving the house vacant until temporary tenants moved in. One young man heard footsteps traverse the second floor and the stairs on a nightly basis. His mother heard an unnerving rasping on the floorboards upstairs. When she investigated, she discovered a chest of drawers had been pushed up against the door— from the inside of the room. Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, when the house was occupied by various businesses, employees have reported seeing the apparition of a woman in a long, gray dress gliding about the rooms and up and down the stairs. Even now, the woman in the gray dress can sometimes be seen gazing out the upstairs window.

UNA BOOKSTORE Directly next door to the O’Neal Home is the UNA Off Campus Bookstore. The seemingly innocuous 1920s dwelling-turned-shop lays claim to one of the most active spirits in Florence. Her name is Molly, and her tragic story is a favorite among tour-goers. Legend purports that young Molly, whose family boarded in the house, was bitten by a rabid dog. Not long after she passed away of the dread disease in her upstairs bedroom, people began seeing a little blonde girl, clad in a lavender gingham dress, playing both outside and inside the house. She has been known to manifest to those shopping in the bookstore, has been heard running upstairs, and has approached passersby with the question, “Have you seen my dog?” When the house belonged to the Kappa Sig Fraternity, Molly made several unexpected appearances, frightening some of the frat brothers so badly they refused to ever enter the building again. Every tour season, I ask for a show of hands of those who will admit they’ve seen Molly. There’s at least one or two on every tour. Many others capture pink-hued orbs when taking photos of the bookstore, always near the window of the room where Molly allegedly died.


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JACKSON FORD BRIDGE Jackson Ford Bridge (or Ghost Bridge) on Lauderdale County Road 282 was built in 1912. The Pratt through truss structure, demolished in 2013, was a little over 300 feet long and only 11 feet wide. No one is certain when the Jackson Ford Bridge became known as Ghost Bridge, or why. Some believe the nickname was derived from the ghostly mist that rises from Cypress Creek. Others attribute stories of hangings from the bridge’s steel rafters, despite a lack of evidence that anyone was ever hanged there. The true story stems from the Civil War. In October 1864, long before the bridge was built, Confederate Colonel C. R. Barteau and his men were driven from Factory Hill, a cotton mill village on Waterloo Road. Fearing for the safety of the undefended Jackson family, Lieutenant Colonel George H. Morton dispatched the second Tennessee Army, who were cut off by Union General Rousseau’s cavalry brigade. With bugles sounding, Morton led his men on a courageous charge head on into the Federal brigade. The hand-to-hand combat attack would later be considered one of the bloodiest skirmishes of the Civil War. The Forks of Cypress and other homes in the area were saved. Perhaps the lonely spirit who carries a lantern through the secluded wooded area is the ghost of one of the casualties of this skirmish, still searching for his dead or wounded compatriots.

FORKS OF CYPRESS The ghostly history of Florence would not be complete without the tale of one of the town’s founding fathers, James Jackson, who built the Forks of Cypress. Regions Bank, which was built as a close replica of the Forks, serves as the last tour stop. Probably because fire from a lightning strike destroyed the house, sparing only its stately brick columns, on June 6, 1966, the Forks of Cypress mansion, situated some six miles north of Florence, has inspired more outrageous yarns than any other location. The Antebellum home, one of the grandest in the area, was built in the 1820s by James Jackson, who’d immigrated to America from Ireland in 1799. In researching the much-touted tall tales of ghosts at the Forks, I debunked nearly every one, with the exception of a story told by historian Faye Axford, who visited the Forks in the early 1960s to study the home and property. The house was vacant at the time, with the caretaker, Mr. Dowdy, living across the road. Dowdy took Axford’s overnight bag up the stairs to the bedroom on the south side of the house and told her that she if she needed anything to call. She assured him she was quite comfortable in the then century-and-a-half-old structure. After he left, she closed her bedroom door and went to bed. During the night the door creaked open before closing once more.


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The next morning, Axford, assuming no one would be in the house, returned to Athens for work, leaving her bed unmade and her clothes scattered about the room. Upon arriving back at the Forks, she discovered a tidy room, with a made bed, clothes put away, and other items arranged neatly on a dresser in the room. James Jackson was an avid horse breeder, and his famed Glencoe and Peytona are the ancestors of

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A life-long resident of Florence, Debra lives with her family, two smart alec ghosts (one of whom you might encounter on the tour!), and a pair of diabolical black cats.


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26% 41%

(Those who have seen or been in the presence of a ghost)


Debra Glass is the author of more than 35 books, including the True Ghost Stories of the Shoals series. Since childhood she has been fascinated by things that go bump in the night.


These are just a few of the stories you’ll hear on the Haunted History of the Shoals Ghost Walk. Both haunted house enthusiasts and skeptics alike enjoy the historical details woven into homegrown folklore on the tour, which has earned a reputation as a seasonal favorite. Several schools have made it their annual field trip. For me, it’s most rewarding when people tell me they’ve learned something about the area they never knew beforehand. I’m especially honored by those who come back year after year to enjoy exploring legend, folklore, and truth as twilight creeps over the homes and hidden courtyards of historic Downtown Florence.

(Those who felt in touch with someone who has died)

almost every Kentucky Derby winner to date. Some who live in the area maintain that when the fog rises over Cypress Creek, the sound of men cheering and horse hooves pounding can be heard where the old practice race track once was. For the most part, the Forks is a very peaceful place. Florence/Lauderdale Tourism sponsors a historical, guided tour of the grounds and cemetery every year, which is not to be missed.


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To hear Debra Glass’ haunted history in the spine-tingling flesh, visit for tour dates, times, and prices, or call (256) 810-5618


Her books can be found at Ye Ole General Store in Florence, Florence/ Lauderdale Tourism Visitors Center, Cold Water Books, and, of course, on the ghost walk.

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(866) 745-CARE


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Hallowee i fo Th Bird The crows are from No’Ala’s prop closet, but you can find your own stuffed birds at any craft store, in the $4-$5 range. Secure to clothing with florist wire. Tweed girl’s jacket ($5) Salvation Army (256) 767-4561 Model: Samantha Strickland

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FI V E H O L LY WOO D - I N S PI R ED COSTUME IDEAS photos by tera wages » makeup, costumes, and styling by tara bullington text by roy hall » treats by sarah gaede

For our first-ever Halloween-themed costume guide, we asked No’Ala stylist, fine artist, and improvisational wizard Tara Bullington to scour thrift stores, drug stores, dollar stores, and her own hall closet in search of locally-sourced, inexpensive trick-or-treater garb. And since monsters get hungry, too, No’Ala food expert, Sarah Gaede, happily slummed it for this feature, preparing five utterly horrid looking, totally yummy treats. (Note: The looks in the following pages are intended as suggestions only. As in all things, we encourage everyone to use the common sense the good Lord gave ya and don’t send your kids out of the house with gauze over their eyes!)


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A Fac Onl  Mumm Coul Lov Tara’s tips: $8-worth of cheap, cotton fabric ripped into strips. Secure pin-free by tucking. Model: Tai Do

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Her Come th Bid o Fankenstei Tara’s tips: Pile hair over a cube of floral foam and secure with bobby pins, then spray with black hair paint. Cost for hair and spray-on paint: $7. Women’s satin blouse ($3) Salvation Army (256) 767-4561 Expression: Priceless Model: Makenzie Noles

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Beetlejuic, Beetlejuic, Beetlejuic Tara’s tips: Find a cheap, white, boy’s jacket. Using painters tape, spray paint strips black. Using hair paint, spray green; augment with inexpensive horsehair from any beauty supply store. Diaper rash cream dusted with cornstarch for the pallid look. Model: Toan Do

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Intervie wit th Glampir Any Victorian- or bridesmaid-looking dress and choker from a thrift store will do. We used a dress from our young model’s own toy chest. Tara Bullington provided the choker. Fangs: $29.99/month for Adobe Photoshop monthly subscription (Apparently “Fixodent and forget it” doesn’t apply to white press-on nails and baby teeth. But we tried!) Model: Mia Noles

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You could win $5,000 on November 17th! Do you have an idea for a new business? You could win some money at the Shoals Idea Audition. Part Shark Tank, part The Voice, this contest allows you to present your idea in front of a panel of business leaders and experts — and if your presentation is the best, you win! We’ll even teach you how to pitch your idea. We promise it will be fun, and it could be very profitable! The Idea Audition is a joint venture of the Shoals Chamber of Commerce and the University of North Alabama. Even if you don’t win, you’ll be presenting to a group of business mentors and supporters who might be able to help you get your business started. You have nothing to lose — and you could win: FIRST PLACE: $5,000 | SECOND PLACE: $2,500 | THIRD PLACE: $1,000 Want more information? Contact Mary Marshall VanSant at Rules and schedule can also be found at Reserve your spot today!


PLATINUM: Bank Independent, University of North Alabama, Shoals Chamber of Commerce GOLD: Lyons HR, United Parcel Service SILVER: FreightCar America, Armosa Studios, City of Florence, NO’ALA, BBVA Compass Bank, ES Robbins Corporation BRONZE: ArkLabs, CB&S Bank, North Alabama Gas, Progress Bank, Regions Bank, Yates & Spry Law Firm, Alabama Technology Network, Shoals Entrepreneurial Center, Shiloh Holdings september/october  | | 

A Flight of Fancy Mason Ingram Recalls the Day Charles Lindbergh Soared over the Shoals text by allen tomlinson » photos by patrick hood

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“I swear, I think Charles Lindbergh leaned out of that plane and was waving at me!” Mason Ingram is a Shoals institution. A businessman who started and successfully ran the B.M. Ingram Company, now simply called “Ingram’s,” Mason is well known as the father of Tricia (Gist) and Becky (Mauldin), or as the man who used to go on television and promise that he would trade with you “on Eeeee-zeeee Terms!” Even though he is well into his nineties, Mason shows no signs of slowing down, and still goes to the office most weekdays and almost never misses a weekly Exchange Club meeting. When Mason was a child, he attended Kilby School in Florence, and one day something very exciting happened: Charles Lindbergh flew over the school on his national tour.

© Library of Congress

Charles Lindbergh, wearing helmet with goggles up, in open cockpit of airplane at Lambert Field, St. Louis, Missouri

Facing page: Mason Ingram, in his Florence, Alabama, office. september/october  | | 

A Flight of Fancy

Kilby School circa 1929, University Photo Collection, University Architecture, University of North Alabama Archives and Special Collections, Florence, Alabama

“I shall fly over Muscle Shoals, Athens, and Pulaski en route Memphis to Nashville on October 4th. I am afraid my limited time on that day will prevent circling the other cities.” CHARLES LINDBERGH Some context is required. Today, we get on an airplane like it’s no big deal. Five hours later, we’re two thousand miles away on the West Coast; eight hours, and we’re in London or South America. Flying is so much a part of our small world that it’s hard to remember that the very first flight ever took place only 114 years ago, on December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

could make the 3,600 mile transatlantic trip if he had the right airplane, and he persuaded nine St. Louis businessmen to finance the construction of one. The plane, which he named “The Spirit of St. Louis,” was tested with a flight from San Diego to New York, with an overnight stop in St. Louis. That test flight took 20 hours and 20 minutes, a transcontinental record for the day. (Today, United Airlines routinely makes the trip nonstop in five hours and ten minutes.)

By 1919, airplanes were a bit more common, but the airline industry as we know it today was not. A New York City hotel owner named Raymond Orteig issued a challenge: he would pay the enormous sum of $25,000 to the first pilot who could fly from New York to Paris, nonstop.

On May 20, 1927, Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field, near New York, and 33 and a half hours later, he landed in Paris. Not only was he the winner of the Orteig prize, he became an instant celebrity.

By 1927, several pilots had died trying to win the Orteig prize, which in today’s dollars is equivalent to $346,318.97. Charles A. Lindbergh, 25 years old at the time, believed he

Millionaire David Guggenheim had an interest in aviation, and convinced Lindbergh to embark upon a three-month nationwide tour. During that tour, Lindbergh touched down

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in 49 states, visited 92 cities, gave 147 speeches, and rode 1,290 miles in parades. In September of 1927, Congressman Edward B. Almon of Tuscumbia wrote to Lindbergh to request that he fly over several cities in his district. Lindbergh was scheduled to fly from Memphis to Nashville on October 4 to meet with Tennessee Governor Austin Peay, and then fly to Chattanooga on his way to Birmingham and a banquet with Alabama Governor Bibb Graves. Lindbergh wrote Congressman Almon, “I shall fly over Muscle Shoals, Athens, and Pulaski en route Memphis to Nashville on October 4th. I am afraid my limited time on that day will prevent circling the other cities.” The morning of October 5th was “a beautiful morning,” said Mason. “All of the children at Kilby gathered outside and waited to see Lindbergh and The Spirit of St. Louis. And when the plane flew over, he was very close to the ground, close enough that we could see him very clearly. We were waving and cheering, and he was leaning out of the cockpit and waving at us. I swear, I think he was waving at me.” The local paper, the Florence Times-News, reported that Lindbergh circled Florence State Normal College (now UNA) and then flew over downtown Florence about 100 feet off the ground. As he buzzed over Court Street, Lindbergh dropped a letter from the plane that was caught by Walter Higgins, who worked at the Yellow Cab Company; the letter said, in part: Greetings: Because of the limited time and extensive itinerary of the tour of the United States now in progress to encourage popular interest in aeronautics, it is impossible for the ‘Spirit of St. Louis’ to land in your city. This message from the air, however, is sent to you to express our sincere appreciation of your interest in the tour and in the promotion and expansion of commercial aeronautics in the United States.

Lindbergh continued his Shoals flight by flying over Wilson Dam and then flying over Tuscumbia and Sheffield, dropping letters of greeting over those downtowns as well. Alerted by the newspaper days earlier, thousands of people lined the streets and waved, blew their horns, and waved American flags to show Lindbergh that he had arrived in the Shoals area.

In his nine-plus decades, Mason Ingram has seen a lot of change in this part of the world. His business grew from a building on South Seminary Street to a modern, beautiful building on Highway 72 near the entrance of Indian Springs. Our cities have expanded, the property in the country where he raised his children has become the site of beautiful residential developments, and his family has grown and thrived. Commercial aviation is now a billion dollar industry and is the transportation mode of choice for those who want to see the world. Mason has also seen an American set foot on the moon. Things have changed, mostly for the better, and Mason has some pretty incredible memories. But there is one in particular that Mason will always treasure: the day Charles Lindbergh leaned out of the cockpit of The Spirit of St. Louis and waved at him on the schoolyard.

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text by michelle rupe eubanks » photos by tera a wages wag ages es

THOSE FOLKS YOU’VE SEEN STARING AT THEIR SMARTPHONES WHILE WANDERING THE STREETS OF THE SHOALS THE LAST FEW MONTHS AREN’T TEXTING THEIR BFFS OR SHAZAMING THEIR FAVORITE SONGS. NOT EVEN CLOSE. They’re searching for Pokémons—little virtual beings who must be captured and placed inside digital folders called Pokedex. And their conversations are transforming the sounds of summer from the ring of cicadas and the pop of fireworks, to something a little more like this: “I need an Eevee!” “Ugh. It’s just a Psyduck.” “The servers are down, y’all. My game just froze!” “Oh, no! Not while my egg is hatching!” If this sounds a little—or a lot—like a foreign language, you’re not alone. Pokémon GO, launched by parent company Nintendo in mid-July, has created in a very short time a cultural phenomenon, something akin to a zeitgeist. Gamers of all ages, from Kindergartners to their grandparents, downloaded the application on their smartphones and quickly got to work. And by work, I’m being quite literal. In order to play the game, users must get up and get out. No more sunny afternoons holed up in basements littered with empty soda bottles and pizza crusts. If you’re going to play Pokémon GO, you’re going to go out and find them as part of your daily routine. In the Shoals, that means some areas have become exceedingly popular, including the Harrison Fountain on the University of North Alabama campus or Wilson Park in downtown Florence, where Pokémon are known to virtually congregate.


Facing page: Laura Senecal, Isaac Norris, Maeve Eubanks, and Jacob Letson on the search in downtown Florence.

Gamers are represented onscreen by an avatar superimposed on an interactive map. As players move through the real world, they encounter different beings from the Pokémon GO realm, like the aforementioned Eevee or the popular, but rare, Pikachu. Players must then “capture” these beings by throwing Pokeballs, red and white spheres familiar to children of 1990s, when Pokémon burst onto the scene the first time around. At a certain level in the game, players can battle for gyms and join teams composed of other local gamers. It’s all rather competitive yet surreal as the world in which they do battle doesn’t quite exist.

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Kevin Johnson, who has owned Top End Gaming in Muscle Shoals for the past five years, says Pokémon GO offers infinite possibilities for the future of what games can do and how they can bring people together.


“I’ve probably met 100, 150 people just by playing. They’re coming in the store or I’ve been out playing the game myself,” he says. “It renews my faith in humanity. Still, if you had told me even as little as three years ago that something like this would launch in 2016, I don’t know that I would have believed it. This tells me that the possibilities are limitless. What Nintendo has done with Pokémon GO is create this other reality, and it’s where the future of gaming is headed.”

Sheffield resident Hailey Sandlin found herself in this Pokémon GO world one recent night. Admittedly, she’s not a gamer and has never been a Pokémon player, even when it first landed on the scene 20 years ago in 1996. This time around, however, the twentysomething business owner decided it is a fun way to learn about the area while spending time with her boyfriend.

Johnson’s vision of the future relies heavily on virtual reality—or VR, as it’s known in the gaming world. In a nutshell, VR is an artificial environment that allows the user to suspend disbelief through the immersive experience of being placed within the game.

“What became clear to me as I began playing is that this is not the typical game,” she says. “This brings people out and about, and it creates a community where the gyms are. I’ve learned so many things about where I live thanks to the places the game takes me. I’m paying more attention to the details and the historical markers that, when you’re looking for them, are kind of everywhere.”

Chandler Ross, a junior at Mars Hill Bible School in Florence, and Zach Denton, a sophomore at Muscle Shoals High School, say cost is the only reason VR hasn’t become more popular. Ross and Denton spent a sweltering Saturday in July wandering through the UNA campus in search of high-level Pokémons.

For a person of Sandlin’s age—old enough to have a college degree and a mortgage—Pokémon GO represents the culmination of the digital age, in which she and millions of others grew up, by incorporating virtual reality with real-world exercise and learning. “It’s bringing all of my senses and perception into the game with the community and my surroundings,” she says. “If you happen to be playing while you’re in a car, it makes you get out and walk to take notice. It’s really kind of nuts because I’m meeting all walks of life just while playing the game.” Without question, the game has transformed gaming culture in a revolution experts say began with the advent of another Nintendo phenomenon, Wii.

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Some younger gamers are ready for that event horizon.

“People want to be able to see things in real time, but, right now, it’s so expensive,” Denton says. “I want to use it, badly, but I haven’t because I can’t afford it.” For now, Pokémon GO will have to suffice, and both seemed content with the game, even if its initial stages were buggy and inconsistent. “You know, yeah, we’re out of the house,” Ross said. “We’re here and with our friends, and I’m already on level nine.” Pokémon GO was created to get players away from their gaming consoles and into their communities, attracting a notoriously nocturnal and less active segment of the population to the pleasures of the outdoors. What the game creators never could have anticipated are the safety and privacy concerns that have come along with that experience.

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF GAMING 1889 Pokemon’s parent company is founded in Japan as a playing card manufacturer. Nintendo (whose name roughly translated means “leave luck to Heaven”) switches gears in the ’60s to vacuum and instant rice production, then to a chain of “shortstay” hotels (ahem), before settling on video games in the 1970s.

1952 “Naughts and crosses” (Brit-speak for tic-tac-toe), the brainchild of a Cambridge PhD candidate, becomes the world’s first computer-based game.

NOT ALL FUN AND GAMES More often than not, the nightly news has featured other, less positive examples of how Pokémon GO is affecting the population. Hospitals and other health care facilities have had to post warnings against the use of the game on campuses as Pokémon GO’s smartphone camera function has the unintended consequence of compromising patient privacy. Further, some of the game features, including what’s known as a “lure module,” have been used by unsavory types to attract players to dark corners where they’re robbed, beaten, or worse. Such cases have been treated seriously by police departments in order to maintain the safety of players. Fortunately, in the Shoals, the worst problems seem to be players tripping over uneven sidewalks, skinned knees, and twisted ankles.

FROM THE OUTSIDE, IN Christi Britten, program coordinator for Florence Arts and Museums, says she’s seen some Pokémon GO players stumble a bit around the grounds of the Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts in Florence. “I’ll look out my window, and there they’ll be,” she reports. “When they notice me, I wave, and they might sheepishly wave back, but they almost always blush. It’s fun.” Britten says the museum is using the increased foot traffic to attract gamers into the building to see the free exhibits. This kind of positive, real-world lure module is being used by downtown businesses and restaurants, who want to capitalize on this new audience.

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1955 “Let’s play global thermonuclear war.” Hutspiel, the DOD’s war simulation game, anticipates nuclear war and ’80s movies. It’s red (USSR) and blue (USA) players fight make-believe battles in search of a winning nuclear strategy. A real-life War Games!

1962 Spacewars, the first video game by modern standards, never makes it off the campus of MIT, as the software proves too expensive for mass production.

1972 First generation video game-maker Atari rolls out Pong, a bare-bones tennis game consisting of two perpendicular “rackets” and a bouncing, pixelated ball.

1977 Atari 2600 fever sweeps the nation as Americans flock to buy the first multi-game console with joysticks, multiple difficulty levels, and color.

1989 Nintendo anticipates the popularity and portability of smartphone apps with its Game Boy, which to date has sold more than 400 million units.

1993 Nintendo, Sega, and Electronics Arts form the Entertainment Software Ratings Board in response to mounting concern over videogame violence.

2006 Nintendo’s Wii gets users up off their couches with motion-responsive games.

2015 Four out of five households, representing 155 million Americans and an average age of 35, spend $22.41 billion on games.


Britten, who also plays the game with her husband, Jeremy, and their four children, says her favorite aspect of Pokémon GO involves the GPS and the algorithms used by the game developers to determine the stops they believe to be important in the Shoals. “These are computer-generated spots, and there are technicians and designers who have worked on the game for at least a year before its release,” she says. “So it’s fascinating to see the spots they believe to be highlights of our community, such as the historic markers. There are so many that don’t get read because people are speeding by them in their cars. On foot, there’s a much greater incentive to stop and read them.” Britten says it’s unlikely that the museums would change or alter any of its programming to suit the game and its players,

“but I do see us now staying more alert to trends like Pokémon. We always want to find ways to draw people in to learn more about their hobbies and interests.” As for finishing the game, everyone has their own idea about how that should be accomplished. Some, like highschooler Ross, expect to eventually tire of the game and stop playing. Others, including Sandlin and Johnson, say they might try to complete their Pokedex. Denton, however, offers the most staying power. “You know the Pokémon slogan, right?” he asks. “‘How you gotta catch them all?’ Yeah, well, I think that will be me. I want to catch them all.”

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JAC BAKES Jac St. John takes vegan and vegetarian recipes to delicious new heights text by michelle rupe eubanks » photos by tera wages

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I’ll be the first to admit that I was skeptical. The ingredients for the Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie for One are perfectly portioned into their clear glass bowls; the stage is set for the mixing and baking. And, for the most part, these items—the brown sugar and chocolate chips, the salt and butter—look exactly like what any home cook would use to make traditional chocolate chip cookies. The one item that catches my eye, however, is the eggs. Why? Because they aren’t exactly eggs. They’re a flax or chia seed version, and these aren’t good for scrambling or boiling or much of anything besides baking. I’m sitting beside Jac (pronounced “Jake”) St. John, the 24-year-old Florence resident and creator of The Vegetarian Baker, as he preps his recipe in front of his live web-based audience. He’s taking a special interest in these non-eggs— the consistency of which matches that classic ’90s toy Gak— because this recipe is new, and, while there’s a baked cookie in front of him, he’s not taste-tested it quite yet, either. As a vegan, St. John has bid adieu to items that involve animals and animal products. It’s a journey that began when he was 16, after an unexpected diagnosis. “I was diagnosed with pancreatitis when I was just ten years old,” St. John says. “I was at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham and then flown to Indiana for surgery because of the pediatric endocrinologist there. Between the ages of 10 and 18, I had 12 bouts of pancreatitis, so it was a chronic condition for me.” Pancreatitis is not uncommon in adults, but it is a less common diagnosis in children. For St. John, the pain coming from his inflamed pancreas was severe and seemed to come out of nowhere. Soon, however, St. John and his family learned it was the result of a gene mutation, and the fix would be fairly simple.

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“I’m a triplet, and my brother is bald, so I still think I came out better,” St. John says. “But I was told that I needed to have a lower fat diet, and that’s when I became a vegetarian. And I started to feel better gradually.” St. John’s meat, shellfish, and iodine allergies made the switch that much simpler.

“I encourage people to give the process time—when you have a diet like this, you really do have to plan your meals. I don’t go out to eat every day, and I don’t just eat salads. I’ve learned when I can go and have options.”

“So I’m lying in this hospital bed as a 10-year-old, and I discovered the Food Network,” he says. “I was able to eat the food by watching it.”

School, where his love of cooking was born, he matriculated to the Charlotte, North Carolina, campus of Johnson and Wales, one of the country’s premier culinary institutes.

But just watching the television chefs take their star turn in front of the camera wasn’t enough for St. John. He needed to be the one creating the recipes and executing them in front of his own audience. After graduating from Florence High

Since graduating, he’s worked at Walt Disney World as a pastry chef as well as with a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit that empowers women through the making of couscous.

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JAC BAKES ingredients, he says, “most of which are the healthier version of the non-vegan option. I mean, the cookie is still a cookie.” Sourcing ingredients in the Shoals has become easier and easier. Often, too, St. John says he’ll make the items from scratch to help his viewers and followers understand that something as simple as vegan butter isn’t out of reach and not having it readily available in the market shouldn’t hinder trying out a new recipe. “Gradually, the products are coming to market,” he says. “And I’ve done shows comparing vegan and the non-vegan versions of ingredients, and plenty of the vegan recipes are delicious if not better than the non-vegan option. I’ll make my own butter and Parmesan cheese because I’m also trying not to use processed foods, either.” Of course, in the essence of full disclosure, St. John says he’s had his share of recipes fail, too. “It’s for that reason that I encourage people to give the process time,” he says. “When you have a diet like this, you really do have to plan your meals. I don’t go out to eat every day, and I don’t just eat salads. I’ve learned when I can go and have options.”

It was while in Portland that St. John took the dietary step from vegetarian to vegan. “I asked myself, ‘Can I do it?’ Portland would be the benchmark because it would be easier to do, simpler,” he says. “But I knew when I moved back home to Florence that it could be more difficult. I could have quit many times, but I set a one-year goal, which will end in September. You know, it is easier to be vegan in a larger metropolitan area, but I quickly learned that it’s easier to cheat a little on being vegan than it is to go back to eating meat.” To make accomplishing that goal easier, St. John created The Vegetarian Baker, the moniker he uses on his site of the same name as well as on Facebook, YouTube, and his other social media avenues. Thanks to his background as a pastry chef, St. John is able to create recipes using vegan, and, on occasion, vegetarian,

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In addition to the need for menu planning, vegetarian and vegan diets also have a reputation for being expensive. And, without question, there are some options that are pricier, especially if those options are also organic. St. John contends, however, that an individual will pay much more in medical bills in the years to come than he ever would had his diet been more vegan or vegetarian friendly. “I’m not in the hospital nearly as much as I used to be, so, for me, it’s the only way I can eat good food and be healthier,” he says. St. John tells me—and his viewers—all of this as he mixes and stirs the ingredients into a wet dough. He’s taking turns chatting with commenters about where they source products and blushing a bit when his friend Olivia writes, “Also, you’re a babe.” “I have lots of friends who are so supportive,” St. John says, his delightful combination of youthful energy and personality coming out.


Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie for One • • • • • • • •

2 tablespoons vegan salted butter 3 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar 1 pinch salt 1 tablespoon whisked vegan egg 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 1/8 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in microwave, making sure it’s not so hot that it cooks the egg. To the melted butter, add brown sugar, salt, egg, vanilla, flour, and baking soda. Stir with a spoon until well-combined, or about 20 to 30 seconds. Mix in the chocolate chips. Shape dough into a cookie shape on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes or until cookie is golden. Serve warm or allow to cool on a wire rack then store in an airtight container.

How to Make Cold-Brew Coffee • 1 cup coarsely ground coffee • 4 cups water Begin by coarsely grinding coffee. I like to use freshly ground coffee because I think it produces a better flavor. Place your coffee into a bowl or container, and top off with the water. Give it a stir and cover with plastic wrap or a lid. Place coffee in the refrigerator for 18 to 24 hours. After that, remove the cold brew from the fridge, and strain with a coffee filter, nut bag, or cheese cloth. You’ll want to remove all of the solid coffee pieces from your cold brew. To enjoy, serve your coffee over ice with a splash of nut milk and sweetener.

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The demands of his online life are stringent. He posts recipes multiple times a week on his Facebook page as well as on his page on, a site dedicated to foodie culture that launched in March of this year. Further, he works with his bigger sponsors—Kitchen Aid and Vitamix—on ways to use their products in his recipes and in his videos, the audience for which is rapidly expanding. He’s also planted a garden this summer, his first, and is hopeful that the watermelon and pumpkins and herbs will translate into recipe inspiration. “There are times I get a little stuck and need a push to think of something new or different.” And when he thinks beyond the next live show or the recipe in development, St. John says he sees a future in which he’s working in a large space that includes a studio kitchen, which is something of an upgrade from his current location. “My parents’ kitchen is great, and the lighting is good, but I want to be able to expand and use that space for classes and to rent it to other folks who are filming their web shows,” he says. “You know, I’m making a living at it, and I still love to

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travel, so I can see this being something I can do from anywhere. I kind of already have.” By this point in his show, the cookie—that delightful concoction of sugar and chocolate—is baked to perfection, and the aroma fills the kitchen. St. John pulls it from the oven and allows it just enough time to cool. Sliding it from the pan and onto a plate, he slices it into fourths, while it’s still gooey and warm. The Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie for One is big enough to feed a few, and, on this day, it satisfies even the skeptical sweet tooth. “I need milk,” St. John says after downing a couple of bites on camera. And, of course, he needs almond, soy, or coconut milk. “Cow milk kind of grosses me out.”

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82 »

old school » Text and Photos by Chris Paysinger

Maybe we got caught up in the location. Or, perhaps, it was the expansive backyard, with large shade trees and rolling topography. Likely, we moved fast on it because we were trapped in a “smallish” 1945 bungalow with a precocious, and busy, four-year-old. Regardless of the reason, we jumped at the opportunity to buy the new house six years ago. “New,” however, was a relative term. During that blisteringly cold winter in 2010, we purchased the circa 1825 Mason-Looney home in downtown Athens, Alabama. And we did so before we sold the little bungalow. It seemed an inauspicious start. The mercury hovered around a high of 20 degrees on moving day. That first night all three of us piled into the only bed ready and froze. My wife and I lay awake all night listening to the central unit work ineffectually to keep the rambling old house (and us) warm. Later in the week friends trickled by to check out the new place. As they left, they bragged on the house, saying it was a great space, fantastic backyard, super location. They later admitted that they got in their cars and gloomily noted to one another the house would likely cause us to get divorced, that it was a renovation disaster. All of that was true…except for the divorce. (Six years here and a mostly full interior and exterior renovation under our belts, with much done by us, it is now a lovely home.) But one friend cut to the chase. He stuck his head into the giant walk-in attic, with finished floors and ample storage, and asked, “Is it haunted?” Well, damn, we never thought that an almost 200-year-old house could be. He took one more look at the freezing cold attic, with boxes stacked in corners left from previous owners, and declared the space full of “haints” as he retreated in full sprint to his car. We laughed off his concern and resumed the miserable task of unpacking, which at the time was far more terrifying than the prospects of a haunted house. But the reality of the fact remained, that people had lived, and very likely died, in that house. Previous to that, I had never put much stock in ghosts. I grew up in a new brick rancher my grandfather built for my parents. There was no history, no energy, no defunct graveyard of rattling and anxious bones. It was just the edge of an old cotton field, set hard against a bucolic pine thicket in Elkmont. The only thing to fear there was an ambush by renegade cousins or an “invitation” to shell peas on my grandparents’ front porch in the afternoons.


And for another thing, dead people have never freaked me out. As a good Southerner, with a ridiculous number of extended family, I spent my formative years ushered in and out of north Alabama and south Tennessee funeral homes. Morbidly, I actually looked forward to funerals. They were the closest thing we had to family reunions. Other relatives would bring by buckets of fried chicken, homemade banana pudding, and sugary drinks. I never remember funerals being sad affairs. The only difference was the hushed whispers from loud-as-hell, freshly scrubbed kin in ill-fitting clothes. So I managed to grow up without a fear of ghouls under beds or nocturnal murderous flying monkey-goats. But avoiding the menace of spirits wasn’t for my lack of trying to channel them.

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Old School: Channeling Ghosts

At an early age, I loved anything old. I prowled through closets and barns at my great-grandparents’ house. I collected arrowheads found in my grandfather’s fields and dreamed of the people who left them behind. I discovered Kathryn Tucker Windam’s 13 Alabama Ghosts in elementary school and delighted at the antics of Jeffrey. High school and the freedom of a car resulted in trips to allegedly haunted local places. Primarily these trips were ways to get away from the oversight of parents and to stretch our independence a bit. A late night trip to “Dead Children’s

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Playground” was a common haunt. Boys and girls would stand awkwardly in clusters and flirt, ignorant of the stories behind the little limestone slabs in the weeds. The ghost that most held my attention early in life revolved around a rusty hulk of a steel-truss bridge just across the Tennessee line near my home. The Hannah Ward Bridge had already achieved legendary status by the early 1990s. Erected in 1902 and sitting high over the swirling, muddy waters of the Elk, it connected the top of the big bend in the river to the fertile bottoms to the south. Legend held that

was a forlorn landscape, strewn with the detritus of many decades of partying. It is closed to the public now, and I hope nature has retaken the rolling hills around the bridge. And, I also wish that Hannah can, at last, find some peace without Van Halen blaring all night. My only real scare from the beyond occurred on a lonely hillside just across the Tennessee state line soon after college. I have always been obsessed with the Civil War, much of that interest cultivated by my former high school history teacher, Joe Thompson. We got permission to explore an old Civil War fort and ancient cemetery perched atop a remote Tennessee hill. The burying ground was removed from the summit during the war to make way for the fort. We headed north on a crisp fall Saturday to climb over ramparts and imagine Union soldiers watching Alabama for Rebel activity. Mr. Thompson’s son tagged along for the adventure, and we loaded a backpack full of Little Debbie’s and Cokes to sustain us.

Hannah Ward, an early settler, fled an Indian attack with her infant child, plunging off the forbidding clay cliffs into the murkiness below. The tale endured that a nocturnal visit to the lonely stretch of the river would be punctuated by Hannah’s screams, frozen in time and space, echoing off the river’s silence. By the time I got to Hannah Ward Bridge, the only spirits I was really chasing were 90 proof. It turned into a teen hangout, a thrill that involved conjugal implications more than conjuring ghosts. The last time I was there, 20 years ago, it

We scampered over the fort’s walls, found ancient brick, and soaked in the beautiful view of undulating hills. As I walked back toward the fort, something crashed through the trees and hurtled inches from my head. I immediately looked for Mr. Thompson, who loved to play tricks. I finally found him, a couple of ridges over, and nowhere near from whence the object came. Further past him was his son, toeing a brick out of the earth, oblivious of us. I walked back to investigate the object that nearly decapitated me. There I found a dove, headless, with only one wing, and dripping with blood. I don’t know what I did or said, but Mr. Thompson was soon standing over my shoulder agreeing that yes, we should get the hell out of there. And we did. But I still wonder at, and hope, for an explanation for that event, though I

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Old School: Channeling Ghosts

usually try not to think of it on return trips to Civil War battlefields. Now I live in one of the oldest homes in Athens, with a sprawling cemetery across the street. Resting there are quite a few people who previously lived in our house. One family, the Looneys, owned the house prior to us for almost 100 years. The joke isn’t lost on us that in town the place is commonly referred to as “the Looney” Home. Also, during cool nights in October, crowds of people track up and down the street in front of us, chasing ghost stories led by a local attorney, Shane Black, who donates his time to the town’s tourism group. He’s a great lawyer, and he can spin a terrific yarn. His ghost tours sell out quickly as eager kids and adults clamor to hear supernatural tales of restless spirits in Athens’s historic buildings and places. And though Shane is a great friend of mine, I have told him that if I peer out my front windows on one of those fall nights and see him in front of my house weaving a tale of ghosts and goblins, I will throw things at him. If there are any ghosts in our house, I can only hope they have delighted in us trying to breathe some life back into those old walls. As a historian, I see my little family as just another part of the story of that home. One day, when I am dead, and my bones are moldering in some grave, I hope another family moves in and makes it their own. And if they are awoken during the night to the sound of otherworldly beating and banging, it is probably just my ghost, trying to finish another project.

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ho hasn’t done a double take when driving along the highway and an aluminum-skinned Airstream glided past? The feeling evoked might be nostalgia: Airstreams are a symbol of American ingenuity and style, harkening back to the glory days when the family car was stout enough to pull a travel trailer on vacations. The retro allure of this iconic image doesn’t escape the younger set, the so-called Millennials, who tend to embrace real things and love the idea of restoration and reclamation. No matter the age, most everyone takes notice. I’m not sure when when my husband and I developed a passion for Airstreams. While raising our three girls, we didn’t quite see the appeal of traveling around with the family packed into a small space. But as our children one by one flew the Kennedy nest, we realized that a travel trailer would be the perfect getaway for the two of us and could double as a guesthouse right here on our Tennessee farm. And, for a designer and an engineer, a travel trailer or motorhome or bus only meant one thing: Airstream. The search, one that was to take several years, was on. We were looking for a vintage model, something affordable but not too gutted for novices.


Brent and Heather Mitchell, of Moulton, Alabama, were looking for the same kind of Airstream, something in good enough shape on the inside and no structural issues to prevent a not-too-time-consuming redo. Heather says she wanted one from the first time she saw a remodel for Dierks Bentley on Junk Gypsies. Her husband had grown up camping and wanted to take Heather who had never camped and always said no. She pointed to the television and told him, “You get something like that, and I’ll go!”

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text by emily weathers kennedy photos by tera wages and heather mitchell

© Tera Wages

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morphed into “What do you want to do with your life now that you are retired?” To which our friends, replied, “Travel around and camp.” “Oh,” I sighed. “We’re not even retired, but we want to do the same thing! We’ve been looking for an Airstream for a long time. We just can’t find one.”

Left: Emily and Kerry Kennedy relax next to Cella, their renovated Airstream trailer; Facing page: Heather and Brent Mitchell’s 1971 Airstream is a study in clean whites and rustic, antique finishes.

“As a matter of fact,” Sharon Johnson said in her perky voice, “we have one for sale. We just bought a motorhome.” And that was that. After texted photos and a quick look-see in Waynesboro, Tennessee, we were the proud owners of a 1989 Airstream Excella, just in time for my January birthday. I was giddy. Kerry was pleased because the hard work he had anticipated from online forums would not prove to be so tough after all. Sharon’s husband, Ray, was an electrical engineer like Kerry. He knew the ins and outs of every switch, battery, tank, and system on the trailer we christened Cella. Most everything worked, and, even better, every piece of her was intact, save the original carpet that Ray began replacing with laminate flooring. He explained that Airstreams hold moisture and must be dehumidified often, so hardwood floors are not advised. Heather and Brent also used laminate when they replaced the floor, saying that they knew the floor had to be able to shift over time. © Tera Wages

Brent, a retired touring-gospel-singer-turned-insuranceagent and Heather, a professional photographer, started with a vintage Serro Scotty that they remodeled and added their touches to, like a portable toilet adapted into a small closet. But with two young girls and one bunk on each end, the twelve-foot trailer they named Georgia became too cramped, even for Heather, who enjoys smaller spaces. “We put the Scotty up for sale on a Saturday and could’ve sold it 12 times by Saturday night!” Heather laughed. “That’s how in demand vintage trailers are.” Our timing with the Mitchells, whom we have never met, was uncanny. In January of 2016, Brent and Heather, like us, found their dream Airstream. They located their 1971 International in Hanceville, Alabama, on Craigslist. Ours was one of those luck stories—the right place at the right time sort of thing. A chance meeting of friends after exercise class

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Our Cella was in a time capsule, albeit a very dated ’80s one. But she was ours, and we loved her. She had more potential than Eliza Doolittle, more charm than any new model of travel trailer we had ever seen. We couldn’t wait to begin work on her. Heather describes their Pearl (named after Heather’s grandmother) as decked out in camo but perfect to adapt to her vision of light, bright, and clean. Kerry’s and my first step was research and lots of it. We were newbies to the Airstream world. We found the best information online at We discovered that folks were proud of the work they had done on their Airstreams and were eager to share most all aspects of their renovations, including videos and pictures. Night after night we sat sideby-side on the sofa with laptops. Kerry delved into mechanical research, looking up parts and instructions for practical things like ceiling ventilation fans and batteries. I dove into Pinterest to gather interior design ideas.


© Heather Mitchell

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© Heather Mitchell

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Our next tasks were to decide what jobs we would tackle ourselves and which of my ideas could be adapted for Cella’s interior. Because we did not have to remove cabinetry or walls, we were mostly faced with freshening up. We could both paint, I had experience making window treatments, and Kerry was handy with carpentry. But, in the end, we chose to hire local folks who happen to be experts in their areas over muddling through the work ourselves, possibly making mistakes. Most importantly, we were able to bring friends with talents into our labor of love! Facing page: The Mitchells’ Airstream featured repurposed furniture and relied on Heather’s eye for styling, incorporating subtle pastels and textures, salvaged pieces, and props from her photography business.

Heather and Brent weren’t newbies like we were with one test project under their belts. They didn’t research much but dove in and started pulling things out that didn’t work for them, like the camo kitchen cabinets. With a professional photography business and lots of props in their garage, the Mitchells repurposed a Craigslist buffet into a kitchen counter/cabinet area and a table out of butcher block and odd pieces lying around. Heather’s clean white color scheme and whitewashed shiplap reflect her vision of simplicity and removing excess while fitting everything into one place. My vision was quite different. I, too, saw white as the unifying color scheme, modernizing the space. But my vision involved more texture and color with walls, window treatments, furniture, and accessories. The Mitchells were able to use real wood on the vertical interior walls, but we were limited to a 3/8” depth in order to keep our built-in furniture in place. So, we settled for a wood product resembling barn wood. Planing our own barn wood down to the wall allowance was not feasible. Using recycled wood was. I asked Heather if they pulled out the Krylon spray paint for plastic recommended by the forums to cover the vinyl wallcovering. She laughed as I described to her our vision of the two of us in Hazmat suits spraying Cella. She said she and Brent brushed on probably four coats of white paint. Kerry and I, on the other hand, chose to hire a professional auto body painter (See resources). We tried removing the vinyl and getting back to the aluminum shell, but the process was chemically a mess and way too laborious. While Cella was getting her white beauty treatment, her sofa was being recovered by a professional upholsterer (See resources), and curtains were being fashioned by a window

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© Tera Wages

treatment designer who painstakingly snipped each track clip from the old draperies and sewed them onto the new ones. (This would not have been possible had previous owners not saved window treatments and their tracks.)

In contrast to the Mitchell’s clean, bright white design, the Kennedys’ Airstream is rich with color and pattern. Deep fall colors and personal mementoes fill the compact, but functional space. And, just like a tiny home, most items in this space serve multiple purposes.

Once Cella was spruced up, we didn’t have the heart to leave the laminate countertops, so I began researching pre-finished wooden ones online. A night of brainstorming on our front porch resulted in the perfect solution: using our own walnut salvaged from felled trees and hiring our skilled woodworking friend who had made gorgeous pieces of furniture from fallen trees on his property to design countertops (See resources). This would be the crowning touch for Cella. I asked Heather what their dreams were for Pearl once she is ready for the road. She laughed when she told me she had four white dishes, four white cups, and four white bowls. Easy. Clutter-free. She said her dream was to downsize their 3,000+ square foot home down to 1,500 and travel more. She likes the idea of the family being together with close trips for a while and exploring farther across the country when their

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© Tera Wages

© Tera Wages



Tips from Emily: Use bits and pieces of the things you love in your décor. Many people stock their homes-awayfrom-home with discarded items, saying “It’s just a camper after all.” Heather and I used favorite pieces that reflect us and our tastes throughout our Airstreams. Don’t hesitate to hire experts if time constraints and particular skills are lacking. (See Source List for experts in this area who participated in these projects.) Use what you can before discarding. The spice rack in Cella’s kitchen was oak and decorated with ’80s spindles. Removing the spindles and giving the rack a fresh coat of paint allowed us to keep an original and useful item.

© Tera Wages

girls, Ivy (13) and Paislee (5), are older. And unlike us, she doesn’t mind being on top of each other. In fact, she loves it! People ask us all the time when we will start touring the good old US of A. Sure, Kerry and I would love to see the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, but we are in no hurry to travel to such majestic sites just yet. For now, we just want to be together in our little home, visiting state parks and campgrounds nearby, entertaining friends wherever we go. And, even when we are not camping, or “glamping” as the trend is now, we can leave our house and retreat alone right on the farm in Tennessee. In fact, we did this already during the last of the renovations. We came out to work leaving the visiting kids, the kitties, and the eight combined family dogs at the house. We ended up snoozing peacefully in Cella as rain pitter-pattered on the roof. Empty nesting doesn’t get much better than this. (As a footnote, by the time you read our story we will have taken Cella out on her maiden voyage to Destin, Florida, which, coincidentally, is also Heather and Brent’s favorite vacation spot. We will be able to step down from her front doorway directly onto the powdery white sandy beach, and nothing will stand in between Cella and the crashing, sparkling waves of the Gulf of Mexico. You can read all about this and future adventures at

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Don’t remove things attached to walls unless you absolutely must! People around the country search for such items as Airstream window treatment tracks. Left alone they are in keeping with the aluminum design whether or not they are used. Honor the integrity of the Airstream design if you can. Cella’s ’80s oak is integrated with other wood varieties, giving her an “Americana meets modern design” feel. The base cabinets are painted to showcase the beauty of the walnut countertops while allowing the upper oak cabinets to carry the design scheme throughout. Shop locally when you can. Heather and I like to give locals our business whenever we can, and we feel pretty strongly about sourcing them. (See Source Lists for Cella and Pearl.) Think practicality with Airstream furniture. Not only are Cella’s director’s chairs (a wedding gift to us from 31 years ago) perfect for the décor, but they fold up for easy access inside and out. Pearl’s sofa makes a bed for Heather and Brent much like Cella’s still-intact and recovered sofa. Modify and recycle cool things. As with Pearl’s recycled photo props and buffet, and crate used as a large caddy, Cella features repurposed old wooden boxes for shelves and remote caddy in the bedroom, and a tidy holder for medicine bottles found on the farm and used as little vases in the bathroom. Take a journal and record your adventures. Kerry and I have matching ones to jot down our thoughts when we travel. See page  for a list of resources.

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Three-hundred feet of hushed, immaculate fairway— the only sounds, the hum of a distant cart and the metallic whoosh of a club pulled from a bag. A flag marks the target. With a check of the wind, and feet securely planted, eyes squinting into the sun, you swing. That’s golf. Alternatively, stand on a 5’ x 12’ tee pad centered on a naturalistic fairway. Using a hand-drawn map staked into the ground as your guide, locate a chain metal basket a few hundred feet away. Select a disc from your satchel—course layout, wind speed and direction determine the circumference, weight, and beveled edge of the one you choose. Throw the disc in the direction of the basket. Repeat three to four times a week, for a decade or two. That’s disc golf. And the “decade or two” part is optional. But for Kasey Butler, president of the Shoals Disc Golf Association, and Kyle Boatwright, past president and founding member of the 33-yearold club, that level of dedication is not at all uncommon. Disc golf—essentially golf, but with a Frisbee instead of a ball and a net in place of a hole—tends to inspire an uncommon level of devotion among its players. And despite its ubiquity— there are three courses in the Shoals area alone: in Florence’s

McFarland Park and on Veterans Drive, and in Muscle Shoals’ Gatlin Park—it remains a bit of a secret. But that’s changing. “Disc golf appeals to all generations, all sizes,” Butler says of the sport he champions on the course, in the community, and at local high schools. A quick look up and down a disc golf course bears out Butler’s assertion. On any given day of the week, athletic young people, middle-aged moms and dads, kids, even a few AARP-eligible disc-throwers populate courses. Butler says that’s because “you don’t need a certain skillset to play.” In fact, to get started in disc golf all you really need to know is how to throw a Frisbee. You also don’t have to look far and wide for pointers, if you want some. “Someone is playing just about every day, and they’re all friendly,” Butler says. “If you have a question, ask anybody.” If one of those players happens to be Kyle Boatwright, and there’s an excellent chance it will be, here’s what he’ll tell you about the sport that captured his imagination nearly four decades back and never let go. “Disc golf evolved pretty much simultaneously throughout the 1970s,” Boatwright says of the sport’s history. Frisbee throwers nationwide grew tired of tossing discs at one another and started throwing them at objects. The game that resulted mimicked golf so closely, early game designers copied golf ’s course designs and scoring methods almost to a T.

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But where golf requires a fair degree of mastery before a player feels at home on a course, disc golf is fun, to mix a sports metaphor, right off the bat. “It took me a year or two playing every other day before I was good at it,” Butler admits. “But it was absolutely fun in the meantime.” That stands to reason. After all, who keeps at something for a year and a half if it isn’t fun. Even if the sport looks a little odd at first glance. “I ran cross country in high school,” Butler says of his introduction to disc golf. “Sometimes we’d run past these baskets. We thought they were birdcages. Maybe grills.” Butler asked a buddy, who explained that the birdcages were baskets and that, for fun, people threw Frisbees into them from fairly long distances. “I thought it was the most idiotic sounding thing in the world,” Butler says, laughing. Until he tried it. “I was hooked from day one.” Butler isn’t alone. Disc golf appeals to an impressively diverse demographic. Kathy Johnson, whom Butler refers to as the Shoals’ “queen of disc golf,” has been playing since she and

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her husband moved to Florence in 1992. “I’ll be 69 years old next month,” Johnson says. “If I can play, anybody can.” Anybody can, regardless of age or income, because disc golf, when played at beginner’s level, is relatively easy and inexpensive to pick up—Butler estimates the cost of a few starter discs at 30 to 40 bucks, max. And you can do it for much less than that. Players’ motivations for playing are as diverse as their ages and athleticism. An afternoon on a disc golf course can be a great excuse to spend time outside with the family, in a laidback, pressure-free leisure activity. But for the group right behind you on the fairway, disc golf can be serious business. “People think of us as hippies,” Butler laughs, “but this sport is competitive.” Crowded tournaments attest to Butler’s assertion. So does ESPN Sports Center, which is finally starting to take not of disc golf. For Boatwright, that newfound recognition has been a long time coming.


Boatwright moved to the Shoals in the mid ’70s, when he was 12 or 13. The brother of a best friend worked for Frisbee maker Wham-O. “He’d send us these boxes of misprinted discs, and we’d throw them against light poles all summer long,” he says. After a while, the boys painted lines on the poles and aimed for those. At roughly the same time, on the other side of the continent, the patent-holder of the Frisbee, a gentleman by the name of Ed Headrick, designed the first disc golf course in southern California, earning himself the moniker “father of disc golf.” Somewhere around 1983, Headrick found himself in Florence, Alabama. Boatwright can’t recall the exact circumstances that brought Headrick to the Shoals—a tournament, probably. The Shoals Disc Golf Association has been hosting tournaments here since the dawn of the sport. Regardless of the circumstances, Headrick arrived to find a disc golf course complete with chain mesh baskets. The sport was young then, and nobody besides Headrick and his customers had—or were supposed to have—chain mesh baskets without approval from and payment to Headrick.

He threatened to sue. No one from the all-volunteer Shoals Frisbee Club had done anything wrong, they insisted. They’d needed baskets, so they built baskets. Specifically, “Mr. Randall Roberson and his sons, Randy, Ricky, and Doug, built those baskets in their basement with help from the Frisbee Club,” Boatwright reports. The City of Florence barked back at Headrick, then-president and founding member #0001 of the Professional Disc Golf Association. The courses were non-profit, the City informed Headrick—not exactly prime lawsuit potential. He demurred, and the baskets remained. They remain to this day, the oldest, double-chain baskets anywhere in the United States. Those baskets, along with the fairway and all the other equipment and infrastructure of our local disc golf courses, are maintained by the all-volunteer Shoals Disc Golf Association, which Butler estimates to include an active membership of between 50 and 75 disc golfers.

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But where golf requires a fair degree of mastery before a player feels at home on a course, disc golf is fun, right off the bat.

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“We have work days,” Butler says, of planned, course-maintenance. “And we do it all for free, with no money from the City.” What they lack in civic investment, they make up for in a love of the game that’s proving contagious. “There’s a tournament every weekend, from spring to fall, within 200 miles of the Shoals,” Boatwright estimates. Young people are increasingly responsible for disc golf ’s increased popularity, in no small part due to Butler. “I’ve done clinics at Lauderdale County Schools for kids who aren’t necessarily athletically inclined,” Butler says. A disc golf course at Central High School is not far away. “If you try it, you’ll get hooked,” Butler insists. Johnson has her own tactic for attracting potential players. “When friends or family come to visit, I tell them, ‘If I feed you, you have to play.’” Whatever works. For more information, visit Shoals Disc Golfers on Facebook, or join Shoals Disc Golfers every Sunday, weather permitting, for Doubles. The folks are friendly, and best of all, it’s free!

Left: Shoals Disc Golf Association president Kasey Butler (far left), and former president Kyle Boatright.

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In the grand tradition of The Pickwick Papers and Tales of the City, each issue, No’Ala presents a new chapter in an ongoing, original work. A Favor for Eleanor tells the unfolding story of the citizens of fictional River City and the libertine murderess at the center of their small town web. In July, we eavesdropped as Eleanor’s daughter-in-law, Hope, reflected on a lifetime of Eleanorisms, while visiting her sedated monster-in-law bedside in a mental hospital. This issue, Hope’s husband and Eleanor’s only child, Billy, sheds some black light on an apple that didn’t fall far from the tree. If you haven’t had the pleasure of making Eleanor’s acquaintance, or if you’ve missed a few chapters along the way, we invite you to catch up anytime at The series began in our July/August 2015 issue.

a Favor for Eleanor Chapter Eight: William Hagen Foster IV V by roy hall » illustrations by rowan finnegan

As far as Mrs. William Hagen Foster III (“Eleanor” to her alibis, future late husbands, and court-appointed psychiatrists) was concerned, William Hagen Foster IV did not exist until she gave birth to him. The Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records begged to differ, in yet another instance of the kind of petty thinking Eleanor considered epidemic. Eleanor frequently lamented this narrow-mindedness to her nine-year-old son, Billy, while watching Love, American Style. (“Repression, American Style is more like it.”) Or between chapters of The Feminine Mystique. (“You’ll never in a million years believe this, darling, but it was news at one point that housewifery and motherhood leave some women unfulfilled.”) Or as an aside, while reading a certified letter from the State of Alabama. “Dear Mrs. Foster,” Eleanor read aloud to Billy, mimicking the clipped officiousness of a busybody bureaucrat, “It has come to the attention of this office that your recently-deceased husband, William Hagen Foster III, and his previous wife are the parents-of-record of one William Hagen Foster IV, born April 19, 1938…” “But that’s my name, Mommy!” a territorial Billy piped up. “I’m William Hagen Foster IV, and I was born September 3, 1958.” “Yes, darling, we’ve been over this before,” Eleanor said, with a wave of her hand, “Mommy knows when you were born.” Mommy most certainly did not know. Or rather, unlike other mothers, the date of her only child’s birth did not stand perched on the springboard of Eleanor’s

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A Favor for Eleanor Chapter Eight: William Hagen Foster IV V

tongue. Throughout her son’s childhood, whenever teachers, parents, or doctors asked Billy’s birthdate, Eleanor, perpetually at a loss, would smile, lay a hand on her inquisitor’s forearm, and say something along the lines of “Oh, mercy me! My mind and dates are like the Hatfields and the McCoys—they have never gotten along! But I’ll never forget. It was a Wednesday at 4:30 in the afternoon.” Eleanor would then gaze wistfully into the distance for a calculated beat, overtaken by the beatific recollection of her only child’s entrance into the world. Eleanor found those moments useful for menu planning, mostly. That she never forgot the day and time of Billy’s birth solely because his inconvenient arrival had forced her, for the first and only time in her life, to cancel her long-standing hair appointment at The Mane Event was a detail Eleanor learned to omit after more than one horrified parent looked at her askance. The information was, however, accessible to her in a pinch. Eleanor had written Billy’s birthdate along with other pertinent life details in her journal, which was hidden inside a Kotex box beneath a skirted table at the side of her bed. Billy shushed, Eleanor carried on reading the letter she had decided to disregard before she ever opened it. “Another male, also named William Hagen Foster IV, with the same paternity as the above named William Hagen Foster IV, and with you listed as his mother, was born alive (‘No disputing that, darling,’ she stage-whispered in Billy’s direction) on September 3, 1958. We are confident this duplication was made in error.” “Narrow minds,” Eleanor declared, as she laid the letter atop a pile of Christmas cards and William Foster III’s condolence letters for Lucille to toss. The roman numeral redundancy was not made in error. Eleanor’s marriage to the recently deceased William Foster III, as well as the product of that marriage, currently sitting beside her on the floor, making God-knows-what out of his Christmas erector set, were both unplanned detours in Eleanor’s life. But she had let her guard down and gotten married and pregnant following an Iron Bowl victory party. Eleanor had been vaguely aware at the time, she supposed, that her new husband’s son, the quarterback, was already named William Hagen Foster IV. But “Junior” just seemed so much more fitting a suffix for a football player. In fact, the name was so demeaning to Eleanor’s thinking, it had the effect of

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obliterating the person it referenced from her mind. Which was perfectly fine by her. Of Eleanor’s birth certificate subterfuge, young Billy’s father was never the wiser. It was a secret shared strictly between mother and son. “Darling,” as Eleanor explained before Billy’s first day of elementary school, three years previous, “insecure people, like school administrators and your father, need to believe that you are the fifth William Hagen Foster. It isn’t so. You are the fourth—unless the state of Alabama catches on, and, really, what are the odds of that happening?” In response to Billy’s furrowed brow, Eleanor offered clarification. “Pathological truth-telling, darling, is a tell-tale sign of a lack of cleverness. Honesty requires absolutely no imagination. Remember that.” Billy did remember it. Whether or not he needed to be told in the first place was another matter entirely. As the next few years would prove, Billy had borrowed liberally from his mother’s gene pool. While he would grow tall, like his father and step-brother, reaching six feet by the age of 16, Billy’s frame was lithe, like his mother’s, not sturdy and muscular, like the men in his family. The athleticism that ran throughout Billy’s paternal side was a recessive trait as well, quashed by his mother’s style-conscious Epicureanism, which manifested in Billy as precocious pedantry: Eleanor was sassy; Billy was smarmy. “Mother, I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong,” Billy once said to Eleanor’s reflection as she prepared for his middle school valedictory, “but I don’t recall you ever mentioning a single academic honor of your own. You shouldn’t be so modest.” While applying her lipstick and without meeting Billy’s gaze, Eleanor replied, “Oh, darling, I always felt that the intellect should be an interior pleasure, the laurels of which ought not to be bandied about like…oh, I don’t know…a trophy after a ping pong match. “Which certainly shouldn’t imply that I’m not proud of you,” she amended, looking him square in the eye. They went on like this, tit for tat, until Eleanor married her third husband, Archie Dauterive, when Billy was 14. Billy’s hopes were not just low for Archie; they were non-existent. Billy had no interest in a father figure. He’d barely had any interest in his actual father. Billy’s most prominent memory of William Foster III was the windfall Christmas produced by his Thanksgiving night death.

Lily Herbert Peach: pride goeth before the pimento cheese, Lilly. Billy One’s secretary: Ellie Mae—a bird dog owner or a home wrecker. Pick one. Much of the rest of the journal was consumed with lists of ideal men, edited over the years in different colors of ink, as new men appeared and old ones fell from favor. Astronaut Neil Armstrong occupied the number one spot with the most consistency as far as Billy could tell. (“Neil,” Eleanor wrote, “has the intestinal fortitude to get to the moon, but the restraint to let Buzz Aldrin appear in all the photos. Perfect husband material.”)

This new dad, Archie, was the quiet sort—an attorney and a bookworm—far preferable to some shoulder-socking good ol’ boy who’d want to bond over baseball or hunting. Aside from that, Billy could find nothing whatsoever to recommend the father/son experience. And then, somewhere during his 15th year, it was brought to Billy’s hormonal attention that dads might serve some practical purpose after all. They were, or so he had been told, often in top-secret possession of certain illicit periodicals, which could sometimes be found tucked inside the pockets of winter coats or hidden beneath bedside tables. Billy’s search turned up a paper clip, a Cert, the back to a tie tack, 17 cents, and an argyle sock. A total bust. But something about violating Archie’s Fourth Amendment rights so thrilled Billy, he crossed to the other side of the room and lifted the skirt around his mother’s bedside table so he could violate hers, too. His warrantless search tipped over a box of feminine hygiene supplies. The flat thud the box made when it fell was not, Billy instinctively knew, the sound of a tampon hitting the floor. Something much more substantial was inside. A journal, it turned out. “Smart, Mother. Very smart,” Billy said aloud, as he proceeded to flip through the pages of a book hidden in a place no man would ever dare look. The lined pages were filled with lists, mostly. There were women his mother despised and the reasons she despised them.

In the back of the journal, beneath a list of important dates, Billy spotted another list—or, more accurately, the numbers one through ten, with names occupying the top three positions only. This list began with his mother’s first husband, Billy Darby, which was struck through, with a note in the margin beside it: “bird dogs.” Billy’s father, William Foster III, also crossed out, occupied the second slot. Beside his name, Eleanor had parenthesized, “cleat.” And in the third position, Archie Dauterive. A question mark accompanied Archie’s name. As he stared at the crossed-through names, a thought, inchoate and formless, like the earth before creation, began to take shape in the void of Billy’s mind. Before the thought could coalesce into words, the back door opened, and Lucille called for help with the groceries. Billy closed the book and returned it to its hiding place. The search had proven fruitless. Archie had shown himself to be a thoroughly useless addition to the household. But as the first year of Archie’s marriage to Billy’s mother wound to a close, Billy realized that his step-father’s presence was less benign than Billy had thought. Archie actually had a negative effect on Billy’s life: Archie made Eleanor happy. This unfortunate condition would prove temporary, but for the time being, his mother seemed sated by her new husband’s affection such that Billy’s verbal jabs went unreturned. Without a sparring partner, Billy could see no use in remaining in the house, and so he was pleased when his mother announced her plan to ship “her handsome young scholar” off to Tuscaloosa, where she had relatives, and where Billy could finish high school while taking classes at the University in “gadgets or electricity or spelling, or whatever it is you like these days.”

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A Favor for Eleanor Chapter Eight: William Hagen Foster IV V

“Being an only child is such a burden, Billy,” Hope declared while removing and disposing of a dirty diaper in one single, stomach-churning motion. “Just look at what it’s done to you.”

On the night he left, Eleanor presented Billy with one final going-away gift: a fake ID, for introduction to bartenders as William Hagen Foster IV, aged 19. (“You simply cannot socialize without drinking, dear. That’s just a fact.”) At 16, Billy had a garage apartment behind his cousin’s house, a car, a fake ID, and his mother’s credit card. He enrolled in a summer class at UA, History, and by the time he returned from poor, clumsy, curiously naked Archie’s funeral in midJuly, he also had a girlfriend. Hope was an open book: unassuming, honest, emotionally available, and insecure—everything Eleanor was not. “Finance, Mother,” Billy said, while reading Wolfe’s The New Journalism and balancing a docksider on his toe. “I’m going to build a fortune so I can take care of you in your old age. And you’re right,” he said, placing his finger on the page before giving Eleanor the once over, “I should probably get started on that right away.” Eleanor wanted Billy’s going-away experience to be as pleasurable as possible so he wouldn’t feel the need to come home. To that end, she bought him the kind of fancy sports car she imagined someone popular might drive. She then called her personal shopper at Neiman Marcus in Dallas to arrange for a wardrobe of trendy clothes for her son, who cared not a whit for fashion. “They will be tricky on Billy, God knows. Fortunately earth tones are in, so there’s at least the fleeting chance the clothes won’t wear him.”

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“Everything Mother despises,” Billy schemed. Boys marry their mothers, he reasoned, and if Billy’s mother thought for one second that shy, gentle Hope reflected her son’s image of her, Eleanor might just crack. Her fault lines were already showing. In her most recent letter to her son, Eleanor had expressed the theory that motherhood was to blame for her loosening screws. Ultimately, she’d settled on Q-Tips as the cause for her gradual undoing. Whatever the culprit, Billy felt himself for the first time solidly ahead in their ongoing war of attrition. Hope, indeed. “Mother will love you,” not-19-year-old Billy told 18-year-old Hope, “although she can come off a bit gruff. But that’s not the real her. It’s just that she comes from money, and her inner aristocrat sometimes triumphs over the tender heart that beats inside her chest.”

Hope hailed from Something-Or-Other Holler, Alabama, some non-place Billy had never heard of and could not be bothered to remember. Despite her family’s modest circumstances, she’d managed to get into a sorority, but Billy knew, because Hope had confided in him, that she was rife with insecurity. Billy also knew that insecure Hope would overcompensate, and if there was one thing Eleanor simply would not abide, it was effort. Hope did not disappoint. To meet Eleanor over a casual lunch of crab cake sandwiches, Hope wore a “Guh-vinchee” dress, pearls, pumps, and a Louis Vuitton purse that still had its new car smell. But if Hope didn’t disappoint, Eleanor did. She was every bit as cutting and dismissive as Billy knew she would be; infuriatingly, though, she was not in the least bit wounded. Hope was to have been a funhouse mirror reflecting a mangled image of Eleanor, and Eleanor had seen right through it. Billy was only 16, but he quickly arrived at the same conclusion his mother reached after each of her doomed marriages: people disappoint. Billy decided to cut his losses and marry this first disappointment as soon as he graduated—from college and high school. Besides, Hope worshiped him. The more Billy withdrew to his interior world of books or, later, to their basement, to work on his elaborate, miniature battle scenes, the more Hope advanced. The adoration flattered Billy. It didn’t hurt that Hope was hot and that she thought Billy was hot, too. “Mother,” Billy reported during a phone call home, “Hope has done the most unusual thing.” “That doesn’t sound like our Hope, darling,” Eleanor sniffed while arranging Lily Peach’s roses. “She’s forever flicking the hair from my brow, but the other day she called me ‘Hubble’ while she did it. She said, ‘See ya, Hubble.’ Then she just sort of giggled and scampered off. What does it mean when a woman calls you Hubble, then runs away?” “It means she thinks you look like Robert Redford. I don’t see it myself, darling, but I’m your mother, and I love you, so I’ll give Hope the benefit of the doubt.” Married Billy dared to dream that between work and making pretend war in the basement, he could avoid the subject

of children at least until Hope entered menopause. Heaven knows, his name didn’t need perpetuating. Sadly, mid-way through his wife’s 23rd year, Hope developed the singularity of purpose ordinarily associated with lasers and Germans and would not have it any other way than to be a mommy. Billy resigned himself to fatherhood, hoping that one child, Michael Clay Foster, would suffice. “Being an only child is such a burden, Billy,” Hope declared while removing and disposing of a dirty diaper in one single, stomach-churning motion. “Just look at what it’s done to you.” Billy thought he detected more accusation than sympathy in his wife’s voice, and instantly an image appeared in his mind’s eye of a ledger with Hope’s name written in it, struck through with a line. Billy dismissed the thought from his mind, for the time being, and himself to the basement for the remainder of the evening. Fine. If Hope wanted two children, she would have two. It was not, Billy conceded, necessarily the worst idea in the world. If Michael inherited his grandfather’s sportsmanship, as Billy feared, the child would surely demand a playmate. Another son might exempt Billy from touch football the way he had counted on his nearsightedness to spare him from Vietnam. The arrival of Penelope Constance Foster (“‘Penny,’ darling? Really?” Eleanor said when Billy called her from the hospital. “We’re setting the opening bid on her dowry a bit low, aren’t we?”) proved the worst of all possible worlds. Both she and her brother inherited Billy’s father’s athleticism, only Penny and Michael played different sports, requiring Billy to excuse himself from tournaments, series, meets, challenges, races, championships, opens, and matches (and one fraudulently named inner tube “regalia”) year round. But what’s done is done, and Billy made the best of the years ahead. His wife and children tended to themselves, for the most part, leaving Billy free to indulge in his battle scenes and to amass and tuck away the fortune he would enjoy after Hope went first. Billy and his family saw very little of Eleanor over those years. She settled quietly into her fourth marriage, and any needs Michael and Penelope had for a maternal grandparent were met by Lucille, whom Billy was content to let his family believe had served as a substitute mother to him. Billy did like Lucille’s gumbo, if that counted.

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A Favor for Eleanor Chapter Eight: William Hagen Foster IV V

Married Billy dared to dream that between work and making pretend war in the basement, he could avoid the subject of children at least until Hope entered menopause. Heaven knows, his name didn’t need perpetuating.

Then, right out of the clear blue sky, Eleanor called Billy after her fifth husband, some silk-tied, eight-buttoned, tassle-loafered embarrassment named Jimmy, left her. Billy had skipped the wedding, sending his regards in the form of a toaster. He hadn’t heard his mother’s voice more than three times in a decade before his phone rang, but there was something in it changed, something aging alone could not account for, a kind of tremulousness. A quiver. Eleanor sounded scared. “Come for dinner, darling. Please,” she’d said, “I have something for you.” Billy was piqued. Billy’s 37th birthday/Big-Four-Oh was coming up, and he was due the updated fake driver’s license his mother had been gifting him every four years since he went away to college. Normally the fraudulent instrument arrived in the mail from her attorneys, who were instructed by Eleanor’s will to continue the practice after her death and until Billy’s, or his 100th birthday, whichever came first. Billy arrived to find no dinner and no birthday cake—only sweet potato pie and a distracted Eleanor. She bit her fingernails, played with her wedding ring, folded and refolded her napkin, and asked him three times if he wanted coffee. Throughout, she shifted her gaze back-and-forth between her son and the rear of the house, ignoring the dessert in front of her. Billy grew bored. “You could have mailed my driver’s license to the office, Mother, if that was the sole purpose for this little reunion. Or skipped it altogether, as far as I’m concerned.” “Driver’s license?” Eleanor asked, her eyes darting among the dates of an invisible calendar suspended somewhere be-

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tween the top of Billy’s head and the chandelier. “Is it your birthday again already?” “Yes, mother. September 3. The same as every year since 1958. What’s the matter?” Billy queried, “Misplace your journal?” Eleanor, suddenly and fully present, replied. “Oh, darling, you mustn’t take it personally. You know I never could recall dates,” she said, finally slicing into her dessert. Billy was perturbed. “You said you have something for me. If it isn’t a driver’s license, what is it?” “Have for you? No, darling, you misheard. I said I had something for you to do. Some poor creature has gone on to his eternal reward beneath the house and left its earthly coil behind to smell up my bedroom. I thought you might be a dear and remove it for me.” “If you’d told me I’d be crawling under the house, Mother, I would have worn something cheap,” an exasperated Billy replied. “Although I suppose I could borrow one of Jimmy’s suits.” “That won’t be necessary. I’ve reconsidered,” Eleanor said, giving her son the once over a final time. “I’m persuaded to think that a task like that is best left to professionals.” Billy scoffed. “How would you even know where to find that sort of professional service, Mother?” “As a matter of fact, darling, I have an appointment with two this very Wednesday at 4:30.”

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food for thought » Sarah Gaede

According to NPR, there’s an apple renaissance underway, an ever-expanding array of colors and tastes in the apple section of grocery stores and farmers markets.

HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES? If Snow White had been a modern girl, she would have known not to let that poisoned red apple past her lips. Sarah Yager of The Atlantic calls it the paradox of the Red Delicious: “Alluring yet undesirable, the most produced and arguably the least popular apple in the United States. It lurks in desolation. Bumped around the bottom of lunch bags as schoolchildren rummage for chips or shrink-wrapped Rice Krispies treats. Waiting by the last bruised banana in a roadside gas station, the only produce for miles. Left untouched on hospital trays, forlorn in the fruit bowl at hotel breakfast buffets, bereft in nests of gift-basket raffia.” We may eat with our eyes first, but in terms of actual consumption, there is no need ever to consider biting into a Red Delicious apple again. According to NPR, there’s an apple renaissance underway, an ever-expanding array of colors and tastes in the apple section of grocery stores and farmers markets. The craze began with Honeycrisp, the “explosively crisp” variety patented in 1988 and released in 1991 by the University of Minnesota. Honeycrisp took the world by storm, and growers clamored for trees, happily paying the $1.30 per tree royalty. The current generation of apple varieties, such as Ambrosia and Envy, are known as “club apples.” They are both patented and trademarked. The rights to grow these apples are much more tightly controlled, which limits production and makes them even more expensive than Honeycrisps. Considering the boutique price, most of the new varieties are eaten out of hand. But there are still many tasty old-fashioned apples available for baking at a reasonable cost. The original Golden Delicious tree was found on the Mullins’ family farm in Clay County, West Virginia. Anderson Mullins sold the tree and propagation rights to Stark Brothers Nurseries, which first marketed it as a companion of their Red Delicious in 1914. Golden Delicious is prone to bruising and shriveling, so it needs careful handling and storage. It’s a great apple to keep on hand for baking—one of Julia Child’s favorites. One of the oldest varieties still cultivated on a large scale is the Winesap. Although the origin of the Winesap is not clear, the apple was known during the Colonial period, and is thought to have come from New Jersey. Winesaps are sweet with a tangy finish. They can be used for eating, cooking, or making juice or cider. If you are thinking of planting an orchard, Winesaps grow well in most southern soil.

The Rome apple (also known as Red Rome and Rome Beauty) is a cooking apple that originated near Rome Township, Ohio, in the early 19th century. It is primarily used for baking, as its flavor develops when cooked, and it holds its shape well. It is considered less desirable as an eating apple because of its subtle flavor, not as sweet or tart as some other varieties. The green Granny Smith originated in Australia in 1868. It is named after Maria Ann Smith, who propagated the cultivar from a chance seedling. Its worldwide fame grew from the fact that it could be picked from March and stored until November. Braeburn apples have a combination of sweet and tart flavor. They are available October through April in the northern hemisphere and are medium to large in size. They are a popular fruit for growers because of their ability to store well when chilled. Braeburn apples are useful in cooking because they hold their shape and do not release a great deal of liquid, which makes them ideal for pies and tarts. The first Gala apple tree was one of many seedlings resulting from a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Kidd’s Orange Red, planted in New Zealand in the 1930s by orchardist J.H. Kidd. Gala apples are sweet, fine textured, and aromatic, and can be added to salads or cooked. Other readily available apples good both for eating out of hand and cooking are Pink Lady (Crippen’s Pink), Ambrosia, and Jazz /Envy (same apple, different name, a cross between Royal Gala and Braeburn). Marie-Helène’s French Apple Cake, popularized by Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table and found all over the Internet, is simple to make and yummy, and can double as a coffee cake. It’s a perfect way to experiment with different apple tastes. I make the apple pancake at least once a month, usually with white whole wheat flour, to counteract for the sausage or bacon I serve with it. The recipe doubles easily, baked in two pie pans. It’s also good made with pears.

Marie-Helène’s French Apple Cake • • • • • • • • •

3/4 cup all-purpose flour 3/4 teaspoon baking powder Pinch of salt 4 large apples (if you can, use 4 different kinds) 2 large eggs 3/4 cup sugar 3 tablespoons dark rum or bourbon 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Center a rack in the oven and heat it to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan. Line a baking sheet with

parchment paper and put the springform on it. It won’t hurt to line the bottom of the pan with parchment before buttering, just in case. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl. Peel the apples, cut them in quarters, and remove the cores. Cut the quarters into 1- to 2-inch chunks. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum (or bourbon) and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour and, when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter. Scrape the mixture into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it’s evenish. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes. Carefully run a blunt knife around the edge of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly and, before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren’t any apples stuck to it.) Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish. The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, with or without a little softly whipped, barely sweetened heavy cream, crème fraiche, or a spoonful of ice cream.

Apple Pancake • • • • • • • •

2 tablespoons butter 2 eggs 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract 6 tablespoons all-purpose or white wheat flour 6 tablespoons milk 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 medium baking apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While oven is heating, put butter in a 9-inch pie plate and heat in the oven to melt. When butter is melted, remove from oven and rotate to spread butter on bottom and sides. In a medium bowl or 4-cup glass measuring cup, vigorously whisk eggs, vanilla extract, flour, milk, and salt for 1 minute. Toss the sliced apples with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon sugar. Arrange the apple slices in the pan so they cover the bottom in a more or less single layer. Pour the egg mixture over the apple slices. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon sugar on top. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately, while still hot and puff y, with warm maple syrup. Serves 2. You can easily double this. Divide all ingredients between two pie plates.

Cinnamon Sugar • 1/2 cup sugar • 2 tablespoons cinnamon Mix well and store in an air-tight container

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(RECIPES—from page 57) stirring frequently. Swirl in several drops each of red and blue food coloring, add cereal, and stir until evenly coated. While mixture is still warm, and working quickly, spray palms and fingers with non-stick spray and form mixture into egg-shaped ovals—size is up to you. If you are lazy, make 2 or 3 giant ones. Place on sheet and flatten a bit. When all the mixture is formed into ovals, spray-coat a table knife and press an indentation down the middle of each brain to divide it into “hemispheres.” Store in an air-tight container.

Bloodshot Eyeball Cookies • • • • • •

1 cup powdered sugar 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 8 ounces white candy coating 24 blue M&M candies Red decorating gel

Sift sugar into a small bowl, or whisk well to get out lumps. Add peanut butter and butter; beat with a hand mixer to combine. Line a baking sheet with parchment and shape dough into 1-inch balls. Chill for 30 minutes or until firm.

Silver Scream Halloween Recipes These are listed from ridiculously easy to tear-out-your-hair difficult.

Bloody Band-Aid Cookies • • • •

Graham crackers Canned white frosting Red decorating icing or gel 1 clove garlic

Carefully break crackers in half. Smear a rectangle of white frosting in the middle to represent the padding. Add a blob of decorating icing or gel for blood.

Chocolate Spiders • 6 ounces (1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips • 1 (3 oz.) can chow mein noodles, or measure 3 ounces from a large bag • Red candy pearls or cinnamon redhots for eyes (or you can use red decorator icing in a tube) Line a baking sheet with parchment. Microwave chocolate until just melted, checking every 30 seconds. Stir chocolate until smooth. Pour over noodles and, using two forks, toss eyeballs to coat well. Drop in 1 1/2 inch clusters. Immediately add pearl eye balls. (If using icing, wait until candy is set.) Refrigerate on sheet until set, then store between wax paper in an airtight container. Makes 18-24 spiders.

Melt candy coating per package instructions—it microwaves well. Stir until smooth. Dip one cookie ball at a time into coating, allow excess to drip off, and return to parchment-lined sheet. Immediately place one M&M in the center, logo side down. After all the cookies have been coated, let stand for 30 minutes or until set. Pipe veins onto the eyeballs. (It’s easier to pick them up to pipe them, which I only figured out at the end of the process.)

Jell-O Worms • • • • •

6 ounces flavored gelatin or Jello-O 3/4 ounce unflavored gelatin 3 cups boiling water 3/4 cups whipping cream (optional) Food coloring (optional)

Supplies • Flexible drinking straws • Plastic bag (the bag the straws came in will work perfectly if it has no holes) • Rubber bands • A large, plastic drinking cup (like a souvenir drinking cup) • Tea kettle or sauce pan • Large mixing bowl For a complete list of supplies and directions, watch the how-to video on YouTube by Sea Lemon, as I wish I had done before I started this nightmare project. She encounters every problem I did, and has all sorts of great tips. I used raspberry Jell-O with a big blob of green food coloring. (RESOURCES—from page 88)

Rice Krispies Brains • • • •

3 tablespoons butter 1 10-ounce bag mini marshmallows Red and blue food coloring 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add marshmallows and heat until melted,

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Airstream Makeovers Cella Source List Living Room • Paint: Ford White; Josh Morton; Sheffield, AL; (931) 242-8061 • Tweed sofa fabric: Fabric House; Nashville, TN; (615) 837-0000 • Sofa upholstery: Debbie Englet Upholstery; Lawrenceburg, TN; (931) 242-2246

• Tennessee pillows: The Shoppes on Main; Franklin, TN; (615) 591-8433 • Turkish kilim pillows: • Ikat window treatment fabric: Sir’s Fabrics; Fayetteville, AL; (931) 433-2487; • Table, countertops throughout Airstream, wooden bowl on credenza: Eric Lewis of AmERICan Woodwork; Loretto, TN; (931) 629-1661 • Cabinet paint: Sherwin Williams Amazing Gray • Reclaimed barn wood on walls in living room and bedroom: MURdesign 468 in color Rustik; • Teapot and teacups: • Tea towel: TJ Maxx Kitchen • Spice jars, chef’s knives, wall magnet, Alabama cutting board: Bed Bath & Beyond • Skillet & measuring spoons: Target • Drawer pulls (used on wall to hang items): Bathroom • Sink (Kiernan Petite Vessel Sink) and faucet (Rotunda Straight Spout Single-hole vessel Faucet): • “I don’t care” painting: Miss Millie’s; Lawrenceburg, TN; (931) 762-9577 • Wooden box: Old School Antiques; St. Joseph, TN; (931) 845-4385 Bedroom • Wool blankets, messenger bag: Ye Ole General Store; Florence, AL; (256) 764-0601 • Turkish kilim pillows: • Ralph Lauren sheets (Dunham sateen) and journals: TJ Maxx • Woven blankets: Bed Bath & Beyond • Wooden boxes used as shelves: The Spotted Cow; Lawrenceburg, TN; (931) 762-3366

Pearl Source List • Love grows sign: • Butcher block & whitewashed stools: Southeastern Salvage; Chattanooga, TN; (423) 892-5766 • Record player: • Hello Lovely pillow, unicorn, floral curtains in bunkroom, and girls’ bedding: Target • Vintage buffet: • Distressed mirror and blue mantel: Gillespie’s Flea Market; Moulton, AL; (256) 560-8081 • Church painting: Harvest and Perch; • Doll:

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118 »

parting shot » Abraham Rowe

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No’Ala September/October 2016  

Ultramarathoners, Airstream renos, haunted Florence, Pokémon Go, disc golf, profile of Jac St. John, kids in costumes, A Favor for Eleanor,...

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