Cullman Good Life Magazine - Spring 2022

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The Coterie and Share Club mark 100 and 50 years of service

Two young men combine their love of extreme off road into Busted Knuckle SPRING 2022 | COMPLIMENTARY

Foundry Farm fills days of addicted men with hope for a new life

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Dr. Abby DiLuzio, associate Dr. Kari L. Bartlett, owner

Dental Arts is located in the new North Alabama Wellness Center on 4th Ave NE, across the street and a half block south of the Folsom Center.

205 4th Ave NE Suite 101 Cullman, AL 35055


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Make yourself face the day? Or allow yourself to embrace the day?


was talking to my dog the other morning when something occurred to me. It was after 10, and Porter was still asleep, head and front legs spilled over the sides of his dog bed where he lay sprawled beneath my office table across the hall from my bedroom. I work from our home. Porter – an 11-year-old puppy who loves everyone he meets – sleeps, eats and plays here with Diane and me. I listed “sleeps” first for a reason. “Wake up, worthless puppy dog,” I said. “Time to face the day.” Unconsciously, my brain ping-ponged to a rhyming replacement word.

“Time to embrace the day,” I blurted out. Wow, I thought, this time consciously. What a difference in those two outlooks. I consider myself a generally optimistic person in my approach to life. I don’t pretend to know how the cosmos works, but I believe a positive attitude creates better outcomes than a negative one. People define the “good life” in different ways that mostly vary in degrees of the importance they place upon intangibles (such as love and happiness) and tangibles (such as health and wealth). The trick, according to myriad poets, songwriters, pastors and philosophers (not to mention folks who have appeared on

“Oprah”) is not confusing your wants and needs. Be thankful for your daily bread. Or, as Cheryl Crow sings, “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.” Yesterday is so yesterday. Tomorrow, who knows? All each of us truly has is the now – the day before us, if you will. My dog and I can drag ourselves out of bed and force ourselves to face whatever negativities and chaos another day may hold. Or we can choose to embrace the day and make the best of what it offers. “Go back to bed,” Porter said.

Contributors 2021 is over, and for New Orleans native and food writer David Myers that puts Crescent City and Mardi Gras on the horizon. “We have no official Fat Tuesday celebration here, but partaking in a good dining experience is a fine substitute,” he says. A former pastor turned Wallace State English instructor, Seth Terrell once directed a transitional house in Albertville. So writing a story about the recovery program at Foundry Farm in Holly Pond held extra interest for him.

Someone asked about GLM’s book reviewer, Deb Laslie. A quote from Louisa May Alcott sums it up well: “She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain.” Deb was unavailable for comment as she was (you guessed it) reading.

With the spring issue going to press in January, ad director Sheila McAnear sometimes finds spring inspiration for designing ads hard to come by. But some warm, sunny days this winter were extra inspiring. You’ll see that in these pages.




Steve Maze was in business for years, published “Yesterday’s Memories” and has written nine years for GLM. Still can’t get any respect. “I’m an Atlanta Braves fan of more than 50 years, and an usher almost threw me out of a game.” Read about it. Mothering four kids under 9 and interviewing cooks for recipes keeps Jacquelyn Hall’s plate plenty full, so to speak. In her ample spare time, she’s decided to take on another project this spring: writing a children’s book.

David Moore left his column, top, up on his computer one day during production. His wife read it. “I like it,” Diane said, then hinted as to why. “Are you going to run Porter’s picture with it?” “No room,” the editor replied. “Sure there is,” she said ... David F. Moore Publisher/editor | 256-293-0888

Vol. 9 No.3 Copyright 2022 Published quarterly

Sheila T. McAnear Advertising/art director | 256-640-3973

MoMc Publishing LLC P.O. Box 28, Arab, Al 35016

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Inside 10 | Good Fun

Plan for Bloomin’ Festival, Strawberries and future cruises

14 | Good People

Five members offer perspectives on The Coterie and Share Club

20 | Good Reads

Some people tell lies, other tell stories – both make great reads

23 | Good Cooking

Brenda Rush always has good food on her table at the lake

32 | Good Eats

Urban Cookhouse fires up Green Eggs to make stomachs happy

34 | Good Getaways

With spring showers come great times to paddle the Locust Fork

38 | Making it natural At the Hayes’ home, apples just ‘naturally’ fall close to the tree

46 | Foundry Farm

Where hope grows along with vegetables and chickens

54 | Baseball fan(atic) What happens when a baseball fan really wants an autograph

56 | Busted Knuckle

Two men’s company is building some very extreme rock crawlers

65 | Travis Kress

Fifth-generation farmer sowing new fields at Wallace State

74 | Out ‘n’ About

If you don’t have a magnifying glass, the museum lends you one On the cover | Spring flowers and grasses poke through warming soil at Clarkson Covered Bridge. Photo by Liz Smith. This page | An old rugged cross across a pond offers solace and hope at Foundry Farm. Photo by David Moore

Cullman is … ... where I work “To work for a growing and developing organization that allows me to give back to the community I love, is the definition of having your cake and eating it, too. This company cares about this city and, more importantly, its people.” – Maegan Tucker, Human Resources, RE Garrison

... where I play “I’ve always had a passion for sports and physical fitness – that’s play to me. I love being here at CWAC every day and taking a break for a good workout. I not only love playing here, I love working here, too.” – Aleah DeBoer, director, Cullman Wellness and Aquatics Center

...where opportunity thrives Did you know? From 2010 to 2020, we recorded one of Alabama’s highest growth rates. According to the Census, the population of Cullman city grew 23.9 percent, while the county increased 9 percent. Find your place in Cullman





• Now-June – Fall foliage cruise reservations Register now with the Wallace State Alumni (you don’t have to be a member) for the fall foliage cruise to Canada and New England Oct. 13-21. Cost for doubles range from $2,899 each for an interior stateroom, to $3,999 for staterooms with a balcony. The seven-night Freedom Trail Tour aboard the Norwegian Pearl includes airfare, overnight Marriott room in Boston with ports of call at Prince Edward Island; Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia; Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine; meals and onboard entertainment, a $100 onboard credit per stateroom and more. For details, visit:; or call LaDonna Allen at the alumni association: 256-352-8071. Editor’s note: the photo depicts the Pearl’s sister ship, the Norwegian Gem, on the Freedom Trail cruise.

Good Fun • Now-April – ‘Exquisite Miniatures’ See this exquisite exhibit of 50 miniature paintings at the Evelyn Burrow Museum on the Wallace State campus. For details, see pages 74-75. • March 18-19 – WSCC stage performance Wallace State Theatre will present “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday on stage at the Betty Leeth Haynes Theatre on the Wallace State campus. General admission is $10; $5 for students and children 12 and under. For more info: 256-352-8277; or Jessica. 10


Spring is springing – get to it • March 19, 26, April 9 – Countywide yard sales Countywide yard sales will be held March 19 at Sportsman Lake Park and March 27 at Smith Lake Park. Cullman County Agricultural Trade Center on U.S. 31 North will hold its annual yard sale April 9. Tentative times for all sales are 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is free. Vendors can rent spots or pavilions. For registration and more info, call: Smith Lake Park 256-739-2916; Sportsman Lake Park, 256-734-3052; Ag Center, 256-739-4959; or visit Cullman County Parks & Rec on Facebook. • April – Historic walks Local historians will pick their routes and themes for this month-long event

of Saturday walks conducted by the Cullman County Museum. The free, hour-long strolls begin at 10 a.m. (rain or shine) in front of the museum. Dress comfortably for a pleasant walk back in time. As part of the walks, admission to the museum is free. The walks are part of a statewide program among participating cities and town across the state that also offer history walking tours. Museum personnel are available for discounted group walks year-round as well as local speaking engagements. The museum is open 9 a.-4 pm MondayFriday and 10 am-2 pm Saturdays. Admission is $5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 for students. For more info: Drew Green, museum director, 256-739-1258.

The Bloomin’ Festival is set to return April 23-24 to St. Bernard’s. See below for more details. File photos. April-October – Farmer’s Market Festhalle Farmer’s Market will be open 7 am-2 pm Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. You can buy fresh, locally grown produce in season, plus craft vendors are at the market, too. Please wear a mask. Produce sellers and craft people interested in booth space can contact: and 256-734-9157. Festhalle, located adjacent to the warehouse district and across the street from Depot Park and the Cullman County Museum, is also available to rent for special events. • April 7-9 – “Dazzle Me, Disney!” The performances by the Wallace State Singers will be at 7 pm at the Betty Leeth Haynes Theatre on the Wallace State campus. General admission is $10; $5 for students and children 12 and under. For more info: 256-352-8277; or Jessica.chairez@ • April 8 – Sportsman Lake Rock & Glow 5K Rock & Glow 5K event is on, rain or moon-shine. The 3.1-mile “race” usually starts at 8 pm, but it’s only a race if you want it to be. It’s more about

having a “glowing” experience and fun. Wear creative running gear – if it’s bright, blinks, shines, glows, or looks like something from another planet, it’s perfect. A DJ will pump out hits to keep you motivated. Afterwards, runners and walkers can dance the night away with local entertainment. Details were not available at press time, but updated forms should available soon at the park or register online: For more info: 256-734-3052; Cullman County Parks & Rec on Facebook. • April 15 – Big Band Dance The annual performance by the Wallace State Jazz Band starts at 7 pm in Burrow Center for the Fine and Performing Arts. Admission is $15. For more info: 256-352-8277; or Jessica. • April 16 – Sportsman Lake Park Easter Egg Hunt Bring the youngsters for a fun time at the park the day before Easter. Thousands of plastic eggs with candy will be hidden, but you better come early. The Easter Bunny is fast. Admission: free. For more info: Sportsman Lake Park, 256-734-3052;

or visit Cullman County Parks & Rec on Facebook. • April 22 – Dance Spring Showcase The Allegro Dance Theatre performance is at 7 pm at the Betty Leeth Haynes Theatre on the Wallace State campus. Admission is a recommended $10 donation. For more info: 256-352-8277; or Jessica.chairez@ • April 26 – Spring Under the Stars The Wallace State Concert Choir and Concert Band will perform on campus at 7 pm outside the Burrow Center for the Fine and Performing Arts. Bring lawn chairs, blankets, etc. Admission is free. For more info: 256-352-8277; or jessica. • April 23-24 – 38th Annual Bloomin’ Festival Start your spring off right at the Bloomin’ Festival, 9 am-4 pm both days on the campus of St. Bernard Abbey and Prep School. The event traditionally draws some 25,000 visitors, and its juried show attracts more than 150 booths of artists and artisans demonstrating and exhibiting their work. The festival is FEBRUARY | MARCH | APRIL 2022


the largest fundraiser annually for the operation and maintenance of the school. Special discounted rates are offered for the weekend to visit Ave Maria Grotto. Completing the weekend is the giveaway for some great prizes, including a fine vehicle. Admission donation is $7; children 5 and younger get in free. For more info: www.

There are nearly as many dogs at Cullman’s annual Strawberry Festival as there are strawberries. Photo by Cullman Park, Recreation and Sports Tourism.

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• May 7 – Strawberry Festival Celebrate Cullman’s agricultural history with the 83rd anniversary of the state’s oldest Strawberry Festival, featuring arts and crafts, food trucks, live music, strawberries and more. It all happens at the Festhalle and Depot Park in the Cullman Warehouse District and is presented by Cullman Parks, Recreation, & Sports Tourism Department. The fun runs 8 am-10 pm. The Miss Strawberry Festival pageant is set for April 23. For more information on the festival and pageant: visit Cullman Strawberry Festival on Facebook; or Cullman Parks and Recreation, For info on booth space contact Cullman Parks and Rec: 256-734-9157; or: info@

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Good People

5perspectives Story and photo by David Moore


amma, you might say, is celebrating her 100th anniversary. Her daughter is celebrating her 50th. And Cullman’s the better for both. The Coterie is mamma; Share Club the daughter. A group of forward-thinking, caring women who loved Cullman formed The Coterie in January 1922. First called Eclectic Study Club, they met at the home of Mrs. M.H. Killingsworth. They were forward-thinking in that if men had civic clubs, then women could, too; but it would be 2002 before the forwardthinkers quit using their husbands’ first names and initials and used their own. The first president, Mrs. Louis Vogle, and Mrs. Killingsworth were charter members along with Mrs. S.O. Kimbrough, Mrs. Fred Armstrong, Mrs. C.W. Alley, Mrs. W.W. Person, Mrs. H.G. Dowling, Mrs. Ed Gunn, Mrs. Baxter Nash, Mrs. J.A. Dunlap, Mrs. Forney Fuller and Mrs. L.D. Edwards. In 1926, they joined the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (formed in 1890, it had thrown its national weight behind women’s suffrage in 1914) and its Alabama chapter. The group also changed its name to The Coterie, defined by the old Living Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary as “… an association of villagers, cote. A set or circle of friends who meet for social, literary intercourse.” They adopted an Alexander Pope quote as their motto: There is no study or project that is not capable of delighting us after a little application. In 2002, under the presidency of Peggy Harris, the group officially quit referring to members by their husbands’ name. But in their records, they retain the courtesy title of “Mrs.”


oterie members rotated the responsibility of monthly programs 14


Coterie & Share

Clubs mark 100th and 50th milestone anniversaries of helping meet needs under one of six general GFWC topics: arts, conservation, education, home life, international outreach and public issues. Though no records or money raised and donated are readily available, Coterie initiated and supported scores of projects over the years, ranging from educational contests and sponsoring scholarships since 1955, to helping meet the needs of veterans, Victims Services, the Ronald McDonald House and Weiss Cottage. Perhaps their biggest projects, Peggy says, were establishing the county library in 1928; raising money to build the replica of Col. John Cullmann’s house in 1972 as a venue for the Cullman County Museum; and, about the same time, their Light the Night project helped fund the first street lights on US 31, coming south down the hill into town. During Coterie’s 50th anniversary, it sponsored the formation of the Share Junior Women’s Club. Susan Powell was its first president and other charter members were Connie Hardiman, Bonnie Heatherly, Johanna Johnson, Deborah McAfee and Linda Price. Like Coterie, and as a part of the GFWC, the junior women’s club was “dedicated to strengthening their community and enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.” Member Laura Ray jokingly but correctly says the club’s purpose was to make money to give away. And that they did – records show the club has raised and donated more than $311,000 since 1972. It has “shared” with scores of groups and programs over the years, with more recent recipients including Hospice of Cullman County, Cullman Caring For Kids and Good Samaritan Clinic. While it still holds to federation standards, the club dropped out of the GFWCs in 1989 to keep more of its money at home (three years ago, Coterie did likewise). It also underwent another transformation in ‘89. “We changed our name to Share

Women’s Club because we were no longer ‘juniors,’ and as we increased in wisdom, eventually shortened our name to Share Club,” Ray says. Despite recent Covid cancellations, today Share Club remains best known for its annual and highly successful Christmas Tour of Homes. Here are five perspectives on this 50-year-old club and its 100-year-old “mother.”


Peggy Harris has been in The Coterie since 1980. Retired from the Cooperative Alabama Extension Service office in Cullman, she’s the grandmother of five, mother of a son and a stepson and wife of the late Clarence Harris. I joined Coterie at the invitation of a friend and co-worker, Joyce Rowe. At that time, we met in each other’s homes, limiting membership to 12-15 women so we could fit in most living rooms. Each member signed up for a month to host the meetings, which worked out to be about once every two years. Most members were teachers, so we met after school and our club year followed the school year, September through May. Later, after most of us retired and weren’t so interested in entertaining, we moved our meetings to a restaurant for brunch, which continues today. This also allows space for additional members. We sent in annual reports on our activities to the Alabama Chapter of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, and won awards every year for outstanding programs and activities. One of my favorite programs was “Rosie the Riveter.” In 2008, Fran Carter – an 86-year-old, real-life Rosie from Homewood – spoke to us. She portrayed the icon of the working American women of World War II. She knew and played the part by heart because she was there. Another fun program was a twoact play written by Edna Earle Arnold.

Five perspective contributors

From left front, Kristi Creel, Robyn Nance; from left back, Susan Powell, Peggy Harris and Laura Ray.

Clubs still faithfully recite 116-year-old collect C

ullman’s 100-year-old Coterie and 50-year-old Share Club were founded under the umbrella of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. The GFWC itself dates to 1890 and became a hub for women’s clubs in the U.S. and even nationally that promoted civic improvements and volunteer services. At its peak in 1955, the federation boasted ties to 16,000 civic clubs which had an estimated 850,000 members. As of the 2015, GFWC records show membership at 3,000 clubs with some 70,000 members. Coterie and Share Club are no longer in the federation but still follow many

It celebrated our 75th anniversary by reenacting the first meeting of Coterie in 1922. We all dressed like the ‘20s and had our picture in The Cullman Times. Plus, each of us stitched a square of a historical building in Cullman for a crossed-stitched quilt Coterie’s Mary Bland designed for the museum. We sponsor a biennial college scholarship. More recently, we have raised money – from rummage sales, book sales, Christmas paper sales and bake sales – to support our scholarship and local charities, such as Cullman Historical Society, Cullman Caring for Kids and Pilot Light Home.


Susan Powell was the first president of Share Club and served twice again. She’s retired from public education – including librarian at West Elementary – as well as Little Lambs Preschool at St. John’s, which she helped start. She’s the grandmother of eight, mother of three and wife of the late John Powell. In 1972, my mother, Ernestine Skipper, suggested that I contact some friends and try to start a Share Junior Women’s Club. Mother was in Coterie, which sponsored us. So it began. A small group of us met at her house to discuss what it would involve. We decided we would meet once a month. 16


of the its cornerstone constructs and philosophies, including the citation of its “collect” at each meeting. Penned as a personal prayer in 1904 by Mary Stewart, it was offered for publication under the title “A Collect for Club Women,” she wrote, “because at the time I felt that women working together with wide interest for large ends was a new thing under the sun, and that perhaps they had need for special petition and mediation of their own …”

The Club Collect

Keep us, Oh God, from pettiness: let us be large in thought, in word, in deed. Let us be done with fault-finding,

The Coterie has 14 members on its roster: Melissa Betts Gayle Floyd Jane Frutiger Dot Gudger Peggy Harris

and leave off self seeking. May we put away all pretense and meet each other face to face, without self pity and without prejudice. May we never be hasty in judgment and always generous. Let us take time for all things: Make us to grow calm, serene, gentle. Teach us to put into action our better impulses, Straight-forward and unafraid. Grant that we may realize it is The little things that create differences, That in the big things of life we are at one. And may we strive to touch and to know the great common human heart of us all. And, Oh Lord God, let us forget not... to be kind!

Myrna Hermetz Tina Hermetz Essie Hollingsworth Fayellen Jones Orpha Sue McDonald Carol A. Nelson Nava Jean Parker

The first meeting was held at my house. I was elected president for that year and the following year. We established our main goal of raising money to help others – hence the name the “Share” – and we voted on a project each year. Through the years we’ve done many different things to raise money to fund community projects. During one of my terms as president, we were discussing what project we wanted to support. We had always done one or two small ones. But after several projects had been suggested, one member said, “Let’s do them all!” We were off and running – and our projects grew larger and larger. We contributed to such things as the Leukemia Society, foster care, the Pilot House for Abused and Neglected Children, the pediatric unit of Cullman Medical Center, Red Cross, Godwin Home for Girls, Cullman County Library, Adult Activity Center and the Margaret

Laura Ray Mitzi Smallwood Honorary members: Mary Ellen Goodlett Bobbie Pope Geraldine Sharpton

Jean Jones Center. These were just some projects during the early years. For 50 years Share Club has been working to help our community. We’ve come a very long way – and had fun doing it! I’ve grown old and don’t attend meetings anymore. However, I keep up with Share Club. I feel like a mother who is so proud of her children. I can’t believe it’s been 50 years. And I am hopeful it will last for many years more.


Robyn Nance will move up in May from vice president to president of Share Club. The mother of three children, she teaches at Cullman Middle School. My first memories of Share Club are from the 1990s. I remember visiting from college and hearing my aunts, Mary Barnes and Kathy Miller, discuss Share Club. I moved to Cullman in 2011 and met

Top fave countdown Did yours make the cut?

With fingers crossed on 2022, Deb Veres pauses to see what her customers most loved to eat the last week of ’21. Drum roll, please! And the winner is … the 12 oz. rib eye! Looking over her stats, Deb pulls out the following seven: #2 Hawaiian rib eye #3 coconut shrimp #4 hamburger #5 8 oz. sirloin #6 salmon #7 Hawaiian chicken #8 hamburger steak Given the hefty price hike of everything, Deb and co-owner son Josh Veres were a bit surprised. “When prices started going up, we thought we wouldn’t sell many

steaks,” she says. But the beef king grabbed first, second and fifth most ordered entrée – which translates into a hefty compliment to the chefs. Here’s the secret … well the part that’s not a top secret recipe, anyway. “We make our own liquid seasoning blend of secret spices,” Deb says. “And we baste it on while the steaks cook. The flavors cooks all the way through.” So ... changing the name to Augusta’s Steakhouse, maybe? “No,” she laughs. “But who knew how they’d sell when we opened?” Well, customers always know this when opening the door to Augusta’s – they’ll get great food for the body and good times for the soul.

Not only does Augusta’s use a secret baste while grilling their steaks, but they hand-cut each one from top quality beef, top. Augusta’s also makes its own Hawaiian sauce for its #2 and #7 most ordered entrees. The very popular coconut shrimp, above, makes a strong seafood entry into the countdown at #3. What about craft beer orders? The top two sellers during the last week of 2021 were Goat Island’s locally brewed Blood Orange Berliner-Weisse, right, and Pernicious IPA from Wicked Weed. Besides a full bar, wine and bottled beer, Augusta’s carries 16 brews on tap, including the still favorite lineup of lights and Ultra. Open Tues.-Thurs, 4-8:30 / Fri.-Sat. 11-10


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several friends who were affiliated with the club. A favorite annual event was to attend Share Club’s Christmas Tour of Homes with my friend Paula Graham, who’s also a club member. In 2017, Jennifer Shugarts extended me an invitation to join the club. I gladly accepted. Since then, I’ve participated in the tour of homes, served on committees, held the role of various offices and worked on other philanthropic endeavors. My best memory of service is the work we did in 2018 on the home for Restoring Women Outreach. Dorothy Frady, along with others in Cullman, began the outreach, and Dorothy donated several houses to the cause. We joined in the effort to clean up, repair and revitalize one of the houses. In addition to raising monetary donations, we also got physically involved, collaborating with our many diverse talents to successfully turn the old house into a wonderful home. Share Club members believe a strong sense of community is essential to human well-being. It is through service that we can build core relationships with others. Service allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. Helping with the smallest task can make a real difference to the lives of people. Service is the lens through which we decide how we will invest our time and resources. Living the value of service empowers us to make lasting community change. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” How true.


Kristi Creel is an accountant at McGriff Industries, mother of two children and wife of Clint Creel. She’s one of the newer members of Share Club. Bridgette Walker invited me to join Share Club in 2019. I was honored. I knew it was a service organization, and I had been looking to get involved with something of that nature. For years, I attended the Christmas Tour of Homes as a non-club member. It was a fun day spent with family and friends, touring beautiful homes decorated for Christmas. I admired the ladies who were members; volunteering their time for charitable causes. I’ve only been able 18


Share Club has 35 active members. They are: Jill Bradberry Beth Caviness Kristi Creel Jackie Donovan Paige Faulk Paula Graham Belinda Hagan Lindsay Harrison Loren Heatherly Sheree Hillegass Stephanie Jowers Katie Knop Alice Lindsey Jessica Lowry

Lindsay Marshall Cindy McGriff Kathy Miller Delane Milligan Mary Leah Moss Robyn Nance Karen Parker Carin Rains Amy Ray Lauren Royster Connie Sandlin Jennifer Shugarts Maria Stanford Katie Stidham T’aira Ugarkovich Katie Waldrop Mary Jane Waldrop

to be a part of one tour of homes so far. Covid interrupted, and we have been limited for the past two years. I’ve learned that faith, family and fellowship play major roles in Share Club, but volunteering and serving organizations in our community is the heart of the club. In my short time as a member, we have been able to do small service projects. Those projects, for the most part, have consisted of providing much needed supplies to several local organizations. Sometimes it’s a backpack for a child or a purse for a woman trying to make a change in her life. Whether the project is small or large is not the emphasis. A need is recognized and the first question is, “How can we help?” It is exciting for me as I look forward to being a part of those efforts in the near future. The love for community and each other that these ladies share is immeasurable. It is a joy serving in Share Club.


Laura Killen Ray is the immediate past president of Share Club and served a previous term. She is a retired teacher, grandmother of three girls, mother of one son and wife of the late Aubrey David Ray. Bonnie Heatherly invited me to join Share Club in 1981. Another friend, Johanna Johnson, further encouraged me, resulting in my involvement with

Bridgette Walker Melinda Willingham Judy Wise Shara Yerby Another 10 women have honorary status: Lee Adams Clara Kent Vicki Knight Cindy Ponder Suzanne Quick Laura Ray Cheryl Rutledge Mary Smith Derinda Weathersby Amy Wood

an outstanding group of like-minded women with the united goals to benefit our community, have social opportunities, meet monthly and make new friends. Our fundraisers, small and large, include fashion shows, making and selling Valentine baskets, selling Current stationery, holding a ‘50s dance, the Night of Chocolate silent auction, sponsoring Gardens from the Heart Spring Home Tours and now our beloved Christmas Tour of Homes. I have happy memories of Christmas parties, shared meals with other members, pleasant conversation, making new friends and working with others to complete shared goals. When Bonnie retired from teaching, she also joined Coterie, and when I retired in 2011, she invited me to join, too. That’s when I began to understand the unique relationship between Share Club and Coterie. These two mostly different groups of women have the same heart for helping and supporting others. I write this piece because I am in both clubs. But I believe Bonnie should be writing it because of her love for both groups of women; however her passing in April 2021 did not allow that to happen. My hope is that readers will gain some understanding of the mission and goals of these two long-standing clubs. I also hope you buy tickets to Share Club’s next Christmas Tour of Homes! Good Life Magazine



Good Reads

‘Lies’ – more twists and turns than a Tennessee back road

Mike Rowe delivers exactly what you want: great stories

obert Bailey has many fans in our state, after all, he’s one of us. “Legacy of Lies” is his fifth book and is the first in the Bocephus Haynes series. Courtroom drama as riveting as anything by John Grisham with a story as captivating as David Baldacci’s thrillers, Robert Bailey’s books What was it that made a will make you postpone all chores and hang the do person not quit? Was it not disturb sign. God? The human spirit? Successful litigation Or could it be the people of several high-profile who came along in your verdicts has made life and who taught you Bocephus “Bo” Haynes a to endure the pain … the force to be reckoned with both in the courtroom and obstacles … and the loss out. But the sudden death and keep going? For Bo, of his wife has his life there had been three and family spiraling out such people. of control. His late wife’s parents have custody of his children, as Bo has lost their confidence in his ability to be the father they need. And now, the district attorney general of Pulaski, Tenn., needs his help. Desperately. She’s been accused of murdering her ex-husband, with overwhelming evidence she did it. With more twists and turns than the back roads of Tennessee, you’ll be up all night and glad for it with “Legacy of Lies.” I recommend all of the Robert Bailey books. You will, too. – Deb Laslie

hatever you read, you want a great story. Mike Rowe delivers all that and more in his book “The Way I Heard It.” Part Paul Harvey’s “the rest of the story” and part personal recollections, Mr. Rowe (of TV’s “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody’s Gotta Do It”) may How many times did I be this generation’s renaissance man. He’s sit in parking lots and done about any job you driveways long after I’d can imagine – either for arrived at my intended his television career or destination, waiting for just because he needed Paul Harvey to utter the money. He’s the guy those words: “And now next door (but he returns your stuff), and, just you know the Rest of the like us, he loves a great Story.” Too many to count. story. I’ve wanted to write stories Mike is interested that can’t be turned off or in people – all people put down until the very – because we all have end. Stories that make stories. The 35 stories in this book are, in his people late. words “for the curious mind with a short attention span.” Some are hilarious, others sad beyond measure, but they all are told with great style. And, like any good storyteller, he makes us a part of the story. They become our stories, too. You’ll want to share this book and these with everyone. It’s a keeper. – Deb Laslie







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Good Cooking

Good food is always to be found at the Rushes’ table

Story by Jacquelyn Hall Photos by David Moore


renda and Richard Rush enjoy living on Smith Lake and cooking together. Despite having different approaches to recipes and preferred methods that differ, they make a great culinary team. Richard typically helps Brenda with the main courses, sometimes as her sous chef, the chopper of ingredients or however he can. Brenda prefers to follow the recipes to the letter, while Richard is more of a “measure with his heart” type of cook. They also enjoy traveling to the Chicago area to visit his son and family and experience the “real snow.” And it was on one of these trips that they were introduced to the now family favorite dish of ragu bolognese. Richard’s son and daughter-in-law made it for dinner one night, and it was a smash hit with all. A perk of the recipe is that, like most tomato-based dishes, it gets better with age and freezes well – just skip freezing the noodles. They usually round out the pasta dinner with bread and salad with Brenda’s homemade Caesar dressing. Their favorite dessert is an Italian cream cake. “It was MawMaw’s recipe,” Brenda says. “It is our favorite cake, especially at Christmas. The recipe is everywhere now, but I always say it was her original recipe.” Brenda enjoys the process of making the cake. “It’s just that easy, and the product is always delicious. It is pretty fool-proof. Anyone can make that cake.”


renda, originally from Cullman County, met Richard, originally from Marine, Illinois, through a mutual friend in 1993. They dated for six months, but it just wasn’t the right time, and life took them their separate ways.

Brenda’s Italian cream cake is beautiful, if not daunting to behold from a baking standpoint. She, however, says the recipe is fool-proof. Brenda then met her husband, Carl, who passed away from poor health after 14 years of marriage. After his death, Brenda and Richard’s mutual friend, embracing their inner Cupid, connected them again. This time the timing was right. “It’s kinda’ weird how things work out,” Brenda laughs. The Rushes married in April 2010 and relocated to Atlanta for Richard’s job. At the wedding, the preacher, knowing that Brenda is an Alabama girl through and through, lightheartedly added “you will bring her back” to Alabama during their wedding vows. And so he did. Richard had first visited Smith Lake years ago and had fallen in love with it. After a year of marriage, he and Brenda

bought their home there for weekends, summers and eventual retirement. Brenda had formerly worked in the business-office side of the medical field for 15 years, divided between Cullman’s former Woodland Hospital and a surgeon. She later worked 17 years for a commercial painting company. Richard spent some 25 years as consultant for Patterson and Dewar Engineers, traveling the U.S. and some in Canada and Mexico. After six years living in Atlanta, he retired and they moved to the lake.


long with Willow, their 18-month old mini Aussie-doodle, Brenda and Richard thoroughly enjoy the laid-back lake life. They often enjoy the cozy house and FEBRUARY | MARCH | APRIL 2022


GRILLED BALSAMIC-GARLIC CRUSTED PORK TENDERLOIN 4-5 garlic cloves finely minced 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar 2½ tsp. coarse salt ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper 2 Tbsp. olive oil 2 pork tenderloins about 1 ¼ lb. each 2 Tbsp. canola oil if preparing in oven Stir together garlic, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl.

Rub the paste all over pork. If you like or have the time, marinate overnight. If not, no worries. It will still be great! Grill preparation: Sear the tenderloins on all sides, then grill for about 20-30 minutes, rotating every 10 minutes until the internal temperature is 160. Let it rest before slicing. Oven preparation:

Preheat oven to 400. Heat canola oil in a large, oven-proof, heavy saute pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add pork, and sear all over, about 4 minutes. Transfer pan to oven. Roast pork, turning occasionally, until the internal temperature is 160, about 20 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board, and let it rest 10 minutes before slicing.

CREAMY CAESAR DRESSING 2 cloves fresh garlic 1 cup mayonnaise 2 Tbsp. coarse grain mustard ½ tsp. ground mustard 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated ¼ cup olive oil ½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper In a food processor, process the garlic until minced. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, ground mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire and Parmesan. Begin processing, then slowly add the olive oil while the machine is on. Process until the dressing reaches your desired consistency. To thin, add a little more olive oil. Add the pepper and pulse until combined.

the tasty results of Brenda’s cooking and baking with her kids and grands, all of Cullman. That would be son Kevin Loyd and his wife, Francee, and Hunter and Hagen; and daughter Andrea Barnett, her husband Zane and Maggie Beth and Zeke. “They’re here lots because they live close,” she laughs. Memorial Day weekend is usually when Richard’s son Joshua and his wife Jessica, along with their daughters Shiloh and Saylor come for a week. 24


His daughter Michelle and husband Jeffrey along with their children Kodie, Cheyenne, Hayley and Ayden visit on Labor Day. Over the holiday weekends they usually enjoy Brenda’s grilled balsamicgarlic crusted pork tenderloin, BBQ pork and steaks along with other dishes. Popular desserts are homemade ice cream and her Cowboy Cookies, loaded with “a little bit of everything in them, making them decadent and a slight departure from the ol’ standby chocolate

chip cookies, but every bit as yummy,” she says. A joint visit to bring the entire gang together has only happened once, so far – and that was at their wedding. Optimistic that such a gathering can be pulled off in the not too distant future, the Rushes enjoy imagining the good times to be had and the memories to be made. No matter the occasion, or who’s gathered around the table, delicious food will always be on their table. Good Life Magazine

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FAMILY FAVORITE RAGU BOLOGNESE 2 Tbsp. olive oil 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter 1 medium onion, diced 4 stalks celery, diced 4 carrots, diced 5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced 3/4 lb. ground veal 3/4 lb. ground pork 3/4 lb. ground beef 6-oz. can tomato paste 1 cup whole milk 1 cup dry white wine Salt 1 lb. spinach tagliatelle, cooked and drained Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated Heat the oil and butter in a 6-8-quart, heavy bottomed pot, set over medium heat, until hot. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic. Cook until the vegetables are translucent but not browned, 5-10 minutes. Add the meats. Increase the heat to high, and brown the meat stirring frequently for 25 min. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook and stir for another 20 min. Stir in the tomato paste, and cook for another 30 min. Add the milk and cook for one hour. Add the wine, increase the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil. Cook until the wine has evaporated and the alcohol has cooked off, about 5 min. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours, adding a splash of water if necessary to keep the sauce from drying out. Season the ragu with salt to taste. Remove it from the heat and let it cool. To serve with pasta add 2 cups of the ragu to the tagliatelle and toss briefly over high heat. Sprinkle to taste with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Makes 4 servings. The rest of the sauce can be frozen up to 2 months. BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE ROLLS 3 oz. cream cheese, softened ½ tsp. vanilla extract 2½ Tbsp. powdered sugar 1 8-oz. tube of crescent roll dough ²/³ cup fresh blueberries Preheat the oven to 375. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, vanilla, and powdered sugar with a hand mixer 26


or a stand mixer. Separate canned crescent rolls into 8 triangles along the perforated seams. Place a triangle of dough on a clean, flat surface, with the short, wide end facing you and the long triangle pointing away. Spread a tablespoon of cream cheese mixture across the bottom third of the dough triangle. Top the cream

cheese with two rows of blueberries. Roll the dough forward, starting with the end closest to you, all the way to the tip of the triangle. Place the finished roll onto a baking sheet and repeat with remaining ingredients to create 8 rolls. Bake for 10-13 minutes until the rolls are golden brown. Serve warm.

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MAKE AND FREEZE AHEAD EGG AND SAUSAGE BURRITOS 1 Tbsp. olive oil 1 lb. breakfast sausage (or leftover cooked ham) 1 bell pepper, chopped 1 small onion, chopped 12 eggs ½ cup milk ½ tsp. each of salt and pepper 1 Tbsp. butter 8 oz. (or more to taste) shredded cheddar or cheddar-blend cheese Salsa to taste (optional) 10-12 medium or fajita size tortillas

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and cook sausage, pepper and onion, breaking sausage into tiny pieces. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Heat a large non-stick frying pan and melt a tablespoon of butter. Add eggs and scramble. Warm tortillas per the package instructions. Layer ½ cup scrambled eggs, ½ cup cooked sausage or ham, 1-2 tablespoon cheese and a little salsa on a warmed medium-sized tortilla. Fold up into a burrito, place on a wax paper lined baking sheet. Flash freeze at

least 30 minutes, then store burritos in a freezer bag. To warm: place frozen burrito on a plate and cover with a cloth napkin or paper towel. Microwave for 30 seconds. Cut burrito in half and cover back up. Heat for 30-60 seconds or until warm all the way through. Tip for travel: Wrap a few pieces in foil to store in the freezer. Remove foil before heating through in the microwave. Re-wrap in the foil to keep the burrito warm for a short trip.

LASAGNA CHICKEN ROLL-UPS 4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (or 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded) ¼cup red bell pepper, diced 1 garlic clove, minced ¼ cup onion, diced 1 Roma tomato diced 4 cups chicken broth 12 lasagna noodles, cooked 5 Tbsp. flour 1 tsp. salt 4 Tbsp. butter ¼ cup heavy cream 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 28


In skillet add butter, onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato. Sauté over medium-low heat until very soft. Turn up heat to medium-high. Add flour and cook for a few more minutes. Slowly whisk in 4 cups of broth. Bring to a simmer. When sauce is thickened to desired consistency, turn off heat and add ¼ cup of cream. You can add up to ½ cup if you prefer it creamier. Spread about ½ cup sauce in bottom of 9x13 pan. Mix shredded chicken and about 2 cups mozzarella cheese (you can use more or less cheese as desired)

Lay out lasagna noodles then spread cheese and shredded chicken over. Roll up and place in 9x13 pan. Pour sauce over. Add more cheese if desired. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Tip: different brands of broth have more seasonings and salt. For this recipe taste test the sauce for saltiness. If you are using bullion and rotisserie chicken there will be plenty of salt. If using plain boiled chicken and a low-sodium broth you may need to add salt and/or seasoning salts for flavor.

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ITALIAN CREAM CAKE ½ cup butter, room temperature ½ cup good shortening 2 cups sugar 5 large eggs, separated 1 cup buttermilk 1 tsp. vanilla 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 tsp. baking soda 1 tsp. salt 1 cup shredded or flaked sweetened coconut 1 cup chopped pecans Frosting 1 stick butter, softened 1 8oz. package cream cheese softened 1 tsp. vanilla 1 lb. powdered sugar About 1 cup chopped pecans for garnish Preheat oven to 325. Cream butter, shortening and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each. Add buttermilk and mix well; add vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl; mix in coconut and pecans; stir in wet ingredients. Mix well, folding by hand. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold gently into cake batter, then divide batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake 20-25 minutes at 325, or until lightly browned and cake tests done when a toothpick is inserted. Cool thoroughly on wire racks in pans. While layers are cooling, prepare frosting. Cream butter and cream cheese together; add vanilla, and gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Carefully remove cakes from pans and brush off crumbs. Place bottom layer on serving plate, then alternate frosting and cake layers. Frost the cake, then sprinkle with chopped pecans as desired. Keep cake refrigerated. GREEN CHILE MEATLOAF 1.5 lbs. ground beef ½ cup corn flakes cereal, crushed ½ cup onion, diced ½ cup bell pepper, diced 1 can green chiles 1 egg 2 tsp. minced garlic ½ tsp. salt ¼ tsp. pepper ½ tsp. cumin ½ tsp. chili powder Sauce 30


2 Tbsp. tomato paste 1 chipotle pepper, diced ½ tsp. adobo sauce from can 1 Tbsp. honey ½ Tbsp. apple cider vinegar Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray a baking dish or casserole dish with nonstick spray. Combine all the ingredients for the meatloaf in a large bowl. Mix together well with hands to combine, then shape into a loaf and place in your baking dish.

In another bowl, combine all the ingredients for the sauce and stir together. Spread the sauce on top of the meatloaf. Bake in the oven at 350 for 45-55 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165. Enjoy with the vegetable of your choice! Note: I used cornflakes because I usually have extra on hand. You can try oats, breadcrumbs or crushed saltine crackers instead. If you are sensitive to spice, I recommend skipping the chipotle sauce and using ketchup instead.

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Clockwise from above: Riley Stewart, Pepper Patch Salad with steak, three-cheese chicken quesadilla, Berry Good Salad with blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, grilled chicken and citrus vinaigrette dressing served with Strawberry Lemonade, and wood-fired shrimp. Urban Cookhouse is open Monday and Wednesday-Saturday, 10:30 am-8 pm; and Sunday, 10:30 am-3 pm. Located at 914 2nd Ave. NW in the 1960s-era Jack’s Hamburgers – interestingly converted by Cullman architect Jock Leonard – the regional franchise also has restaurants in Birmingham, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa and Nashville.

Good Eats

Urban Cookhouse

Fresh from local growers, grilled on Big Green Eggs ... any questions? Story by David Myers Photos by David Moore


t has been clearly established that I love all kinds of food. Of all the foods I find irresistible, though, none rank higher than grilled meat. At home I grill in all weathers – because I like to eat in all weathers. Grilling is one of the best things about eating at home. However, recently and to my delight, I discovered that I can go out to a restaurant and still eat the grilled meat I crave. That’s exactly what Rose and I did at the Urban Cookhouse in Cullman. The beauty here is that the protein – steak, chicken, 32


turkey, pork – is cooked in a kitchen equipped with a couple of Big Green Eggs, ceramic grills known for precise temperature control. Owner Riley Stewart smokes meat for 18 hours at 200 degrees inside the mounted grills that burn hickory wood and natural charcoal. “It is,” he says, “the best way to cook meat.” I say it’s the best way to eat meat, and the best way to eat the smoked meat at Cullman’s Urban Cookhouse is spelled out on its menu – in a sandwich, a wrap or with a fork and knife. We arrived hungry and Riley promptly covered our table with food. We dove in like the kitchen was afire. I found the menu

terrific, listing sandwiches, wraps, greens, and fork-and-knife plates. The BALT is a riff on a BLT with avocado and turkey raising it to new heights. It’s a popular and trendy Cookhouse item. The White BBQ Sandwich delivers some heat with its grilled chicken and house-made white sauce layered with pepper jack cheese. The Buffalo Chicken Wrap came off the grill with a crispy and crunchy tortilla folded around cheesy chicken with a kick. The Urban Cowboy is the Cookhouse’s most popular sandwich. It saddled up and rode into our hearts with its delicious limemarinated steak, melty pepper jack cheese, caramelized onions and peppers with a spicy

aioli. It’s also available alongside a bed of rice, a garden salad and warm orange roll. We’ve found a new favorite!


e couldn’t sample everything, but we tried. Other sandwich choices include Chipotle Braised Pork, Chicken Salad, Grilled Chicken, Grilled Pineapple Ham, Turkey Crunch, El Cubano and Grilled Cheese. A popular wrap is the Cookhouse – loaded with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, smoked turkey, ham and honey mustard vinaigrette nestled in a wheat wrap. Others are the Berry Good, Pepper Patch and Local Mix which feature their namesake salads packed in a wheat wrap. All are freshmade and tasty. One constant that is prevalent in the Cookhouse protein options is the tenderness and juiciness of the meats, whether grilled or smoked. It stood out in every dish I sampled. Speaking of fresh, it’s a word Riley

uses a lot. And for good reason. The Urban Cookhouse concept of “farm to fire to table” is another constant that manifests itself in every dish. Riley and his staff not only spend time in the kitchen, dining room, storeroom or office. They also go into the fields of area farms picking corn, fruit and vegetables. Restaurant staff spend several hours each morning washing, shucking, peeling and cutting in order to assure fresh and healthy ingredients. There’s nothing processed out of house. The attention targeted to this approach can be trying, but the payoff is well worth it to diners and Riley alike. The food is delicious and healthy. The involvement of so many local providers is also a great value to the community. “We try to use as much local product as we possibly can,” says Riley, who makes good use of nearby Festhalle Farmers Market in season.


highlight of the drink menu is the Strawberry Lemonade. It’s tangy and sweet but not overly sugary. The secret is a frozen stash of pureed strawberries from last summer’s local strawberry crop. There is little that tops the taste of fresh grown strawberries, and we found that taste in the middle of winter. A dessert stand-out is the Half-Baked Cookie, baked to order and served warm in a tiny iron skillet oozing with chocolate. Wine and beer are available, including several local craft beers. The menu includes “Cool Kids” options, which could be the best list of kid selections I’ve seen. Little rascals are certainly not slighted here. The Urban Cookhouse offers “Take it to the House” options with call-in and window pickup. The restaurant is also a locally popular catering option. I understand why. Good Life Magazine FEBRUARY | MARCH | APRIL 2022


Good Getaways

The Locust Fork Canoeing a river that’s literally older than the hills it cuts through

Story and photos by David Moore


ur paddles gurgle the water against the canoe’s green hull, propelling us down the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River as leisurely as the white clouds drift against the blue sky over Blount County. My son, Hunter, captains his canoe from the stern. I paddle in the bow when I’m not photographing trees arching overhead, boulder jumbles, ancient river-carved cliffs, occasional sandy beaches and our guide/host, Stephen Guesman, up ahead in his red kayak. Against sand bottoms in the shallow flats we sometimes spot darting fish. “Red bass,” Stephen says. “Anglers love them.” Over the years, I have canoed this and other stretches of Locust Fork, and my appreciation of the river only grows today. Thanks to the Friends of the Locust Fork River (FLFR), this remains one of the few free-flowing rivers that grace Alabama. Relatively undeveloped, it meanders off the Appalachian Plateau from the southern shadows of Sand Mountain on its 158-mile course to the Black Warrior River. Nearly every bend further affirms the Locust Fork’s top-2-percent ranking among free-flowing rivers with “outstandingly remarkable values,” according to a National Park Service inventory. Interestingly, the river’s course today roughly follows that of its ancient forefather streams, which, according to state archaeologist Dr. Jim Lacefield, watered the ancestors of the dinosaurs when the Appalachians were being born some 300 million years ago. Since then, the Locust Fork has carved a path through the surrounding ridges a dozen times or more, making it, literally, older than the hills.


ive of the river’s seven sections flow through Blount County. We’re paddling the lower half of Section II, a 4-hour sojourn into the solitude of nature. The quiet flats are interrupted only by the sound of approaching shoals and small rapids where we maneuver around outcroppings and over submerged boulders. Yes ... I occasionally manage to get us hung up. It’s a gorgeous late spring day, but it hasn’t rained lately. Stephen says water depth – as gauged downstream at our takeout where Ala. 79/US 231 bridges the river – is at 1.7 feet. Unless you want to get out and push your canoe down the river, you need at least 1.5 feet of water at the bridge. Two feet is better, but at four feet some of the river’s features are under rushing water, and attempting to paddle it at that point is, Stephen adds, is like “falling down a mine shaft.” Eventually, we reach the final two big hairpin bends of 34


The Locust Fork opens out at Cornelius Falls, above. The only falls on bottom right, is evidence of a mill located below the falls in a past

Section II, it gives a sense of how the river cut through the Appalachian Plateau over the eons. More recently, a rusted bolt and clamp, century. Much of this section is a calm paddle through the woods, but a few shoals give you a taste of the white water in Section III.



Hunter Moore, left, and Stephen Guesman paddle down a quiet stretch of the Locust Fork. Hunter is a district sales manager for Gulf Distributing in Huntsville. Stephen, a retired contractor, lives off the grid with his wife on a Blount County farm and raises goats.

Section II, passing the sites of the FLFR’s annual Kids’ Day on the River and two of the three Alabama Cup Whitewater Races. (The other is near Garden City on the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior.) We take out at King’s Bend Scenic Overlook on Ala. 79 – a mighty nice project spearheaded by Blount County Commission Chairman Chris Green – and the three of us agree it’s been a great day. “Wow,” Stephen later says. “Cornelius Falls, to me, is worth the price of admission. But just the general pastoral value of getting out in nature, being on relatively pristine river, is an unparalleled experience.” Good Life Magazine

If you paddle the Locust Fork...

Hunter, left, and Stephen chat at the put-in. Stephen, who lives nearby, is a former president of the Friends of the Locust Fork. Contact him at: friends@ 36


Research your trip first. John Foshee’s “Alabama Canoe and Float Trips” is a great start. His Blount County sections can be found at: www., under the “Our River/Guide to the River” tab; get a gage reading for water depth under “Our River/USGS Conditions.” The lower Section II trip described above starts at Taylor Ford Road. Foshee’s put-in for the section, about 90 river minutes farther upstream, is at Cold Branch Hollow on Cold Branch Road. Find both locations on Google maps. For an easy, flat water trip, call Eric Nolen at River Beach Outfitters in Snead: 205-237-6989. $30 gets you a kayak and shuttle for a familyfriendly 5-mile paddle on Section I. Use your own kayak or canoe and pay only for the shuttle.


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Kelly and Jonathan's home (aka Urban Farm & Forage) Where apples generally fall close to the tree, hens have curtains hanging on their nesting boxes and healthy food is a natural first medicine


Story and photos by David Moore

ust a handful of minutes from the bustle of downtown Cullman, on a peacefully open stretch of Lessman Street, Kelly and Jonathan Hayes’ apples do not fall far from the trees in their orchard. That’s both fact and metaphor. Their two and half-acre yard is home to not only the updated farm-style house they built in 2004, but also to Kelly’s organic kitchen gardens; several bee hives; three Amishbuilt outbuildings housing two dwarf Nigerian dairy goats, 20 heritage chickens and her shop; and, at the far back of their yard, a metal barn for Jonathan’s mowers, other equipment and family of four kayaks. But the apples came first – before the chickens, before the eggs, before even the house. “The first thing I did when we bought the property was plant an apple orchard,” Kelly says. “I knew I wanted apple trees.”

Daughter of Gene and Sherry Crutchfield, Kelly played as a little girl in the field where they now live. “This was all farmland and backed up to my parents’ house. Dad was a principal. Mom was a second grade teacher at West Elementary – and so am I,” Kelly laughs. “I’m starting to see a pattern here!” Also falling in the apple pattern of the education tree, her sister, Kristi Jackson, teaches at East Elementary. In Jonathan’s family, apples tend to fall in pastoral patterns. His father, Pastor Emeritus Edwin Hayes, preached 30 years at Cullman First Baptist. Jonathan’s brother, Jody, pastors in Fort Worth, Texas. His sister Julie’s husband, Steve Brown, pastors at West Point First Baptist. For a while, Jonathan was interim youth pastor at Cullman First – but his apple actually landed closer to Kelly’s. “I felt led to teach and coach,” says Jonathan, who holds basketball records as coach of the Cullman Lady Bearcats.


elly was led to nutrition as much as she and Jonathan were led to teach. Their healthy, organic lifestyle today is reflected in their home, which they named Urban Farm and Forage. “I was into organic before organic was cool, before organic was a household word,” Kelly says. “I remember vividly in the seventh grade reading my first book on nutrition. I was always interested in sustainable living, and nutrition has always been a big drive in the food part of that. “If we take care of our bodies in the right way, we feel it’s a preventative measure,” she adds. “We’re not against antibiotics and doctors. We’re not antimedicine, but I always say kitchen medicine should be the first medicine.” Jonathan hunts, and they sometimes have turkey and deer. Every once in a while, Kelly will eat a burger, but they and half of their two kids are vegetarian at heart, primarily eating fruits and vegetables they grow organically. Asa, 16, fell right into the tofu mold. “He was always a fabulous eater,” Kelly says. “I used to take him out to the garden in his stroller. He would wiggle himself out and pick whole peppers and eat them like apples.” Their 11-year-old daughter’s apple rolled a bit from the tree. 40


“Evy,” Mom laughs, “eats veggies by force.’ “I’m like the movie ‘Elf,’” Evy says. “I like candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup.”


t was early in Jonathan and Kelly’s courtship that she first cooked for him – tofu tacos. “She was vegetarian and I couldn’t

even spell that,” says Jonathan, apparently an easy convert. “Whew! Amazing cook. She always tried new things. Some of it was a success – most of it. “She wanted to be in control of her health,” he continues. “That’s one of things that drew me to her – she knew how she wanted to take care of herself and her family with food, making our soap,

for drinking and cheese. They grow medicinal herbs and flowers for her soaps and lotions. Ditto with the beeswax from their apiaries, which also provide honey. They make more than a ton of organic compost annually. As a side note, Jonathan points out, Kelly not only earned master gardener status through the Cullman County Extension, but is in her third of the fiveyear master beekeeper program.


Featuring hickory cabinets and birch floors, the Hayes’ house has just under 3,000 square feet, with 2.5 baths and four bedrooms, including one upstairs (overlooking the gardens) that Kelly uses for yoga. A sitting room, left, off the master bedroom serves as a music room with Kelly’s cello and mandolin. She claims that decorating isn’t really her thing and credits Kitty Warren at Village Furniture for much of that. deodorants ... It’s been a process.” Early in their marriage, Kelly took her first wild stab at making soap. “She nearly blew up the kitchen,” Jonathan says. You’re supposed to add lye to your liquid, but she did it backward, creating a caustic volcano. “I get an idea in my head, and sometimes I leap before I think,” Kelly says. “How I didn’t get hurt is beyond

me. I guess God was watching out. There were angels in the kitchen.” Aspiring to be self-sustainable, Kelly considers herself a farmer. “I always say chickens were my gateway drug to farming,” she laughs. “Once I got my chickens, there was no looking back.” Their goats provide milk primarily for making soap and lotion, but also

epending on the season, and not counting the time Jonathan, Asa and Evy contribute, Kelly figures she spends some 20 hours a week farming – therapy, she calls it. Jonathan thinks it’s closer to 30 – goats and chickens before school; working until dark afterward. “If I spend 30 hours, I need to learn to relax,” she laughs. “That is relaxing for you,” he says. “That’s part of that driven personality you have. It’s a love. A passion.” So is her teaching. After graduating from Athens State University in 1999 with a degree in elementary education, she taught a year at West Elementary in Cullman, where they lived during college. Afterward, they moved to Homewood, and Kelly attended UAB for two years, diving in deep to earn a master’s degree in nutrition sciences. Meanwhile, Jonathan – with a degree in physical education from Athens in 2000 – taught PE and coached at Pizitz Middle, part of Vestavia Hills City Schools. He ended up doing that for five years, and after UAB Kelly taught four years at Vestavia East Elementary. Unlike her old home in Cullman that adjoined open fields, their small backyard in Homewood butted up to five different residential lots. “I didn’t even know that was possible,” Kelly says. “We loved the area, but it was too crowded.” They spent several years looking for property in and around Jefferson County until her parents called to say the farmland behind their old house was for sale. The Hayeses bought 10 acres in 2002, subdivided it between six families, planted apple trees and, because their house sold quickly, moved in with her parents in 2003. They started their new house in ’04 and moved the next year to their urban farm. FEBRUARY | MARCH | APRIL 2022



elly taught first grade at Cullman East Elementary until 2005, when Asa was born. She took off until 2015 – during which time Evy was born in 2010 – starting back at West Elementary. “I’m a primary teacher at heart,” Kelly says. “There is a calling for that. I like the innocence of that age. It’s exciting to see the light bulbs come on. Everything is new and exciting. It takes a lot of energy to teach the little ones, and it has a lot of rewards.” 42


“She,” Jonathan beams, “is awesome. She’s Superwoman.” Kelly’s equally proud of her husband’s now 22-year career. At Pizitz, Jonathan taught girls PE for grades six-eight and coached football, basketball, cross country and track. At Cullman East, he coached football, boys JV basketball and girls golf and taught second- through sixth-grade PE. In 2008, he went to Cullman High where he’s taught since. He spent six seasons at the helm of the girls varsity basketball team, taking the Lady Bearcats

to the playoffs five consecutive times and tallied several 20-plus winning seasons. “He still holds the record for the most wins in a season in Cullman High, boys or girls,” Kelly says. The girls that season went 28-7 before losing an overtime squeaker in the regional finals to the eventual state champ. “We had some good teams,” Jonathan says. “I was very fortunate to also have a good administration and great parents. It set us up for success.” He stepped down from basketball after the 2015 season, primarily because he

Urban Farm & Forage is a reflection of the Hayes’ lifestyle, but it’s also a delight. It’s a wonderfully unique home, from their French-style potager kitchen gardens for growing vegetables, herbs and flowers, to their dwarf Nigerian milk goats to – yes, really – curtains on the nesting boxes for their Heritage chickens and Kelly’s shop for making soap, tinctures and other natural wares. Garden and shed photos by Kelly Hayes. was needed elsewhere. Martha, his now deceased mother, had terminal cancer. Meanwhile, his father suffered a scary concussion. “With the blessing of Kelly and my family, I stepped back into basketball this year at the middle school level,” Jonathan says. “I love it. I missed it a lot.” His seventh and eighth grade teams posted a combined 39-4 record this past year.


ho would have known that Kelly

and Jonathan’s proverbial apples would fall so closely together, much less fall from the common tree of education? Spending his early years in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, Jonathan had been in fourth grade when his family moved to Cullman in 1982 and dad became pastor at First Baptist. It took some years for Jonathan to shake his beach attachment. He was three years ahead of her at Cullman High. They knew each other only in passing. After graduating in 1992 and attending Wallace State Community College a

year, he moved in with his sister back in New Smyrna for a year, dividing his time between beach bumming and beach-related jobs. Then he studied church recreation two years at Samford University. By then, Kelly had graduated Cullman and, with no clear career direction, enrolled at Samford. “For a week, I thought I would be nurse,” she laughs. “Then I discovered that involved blood.” Kelly and Jonathan saw each other on campus, but they still weren’t seeing apples to apples. FEBRUARY | MARCH | APRIL 2022


Evy, above, cuddles her pet rabbit, Rascal; Asa works on his interesting hobby of blacksmithing. Photos by Kelly Hayes. “I didn’t think she’d have anything to do with me. She was out of my league,” he says. So he returned to New Smyrna. After another year at the beach, Jonathan returned to Cullman where, he says, his parents had been “good sports” about his lack of direction. He worked at Cullman Park and Rec and served as the interim youth pastor position at First Baptist when he and Kelly finally started dating in June 1997. By now, they were eyeing teaching professions. Soon also eyeing a longterm relationship, they figured they could save a lot of money by finishing their education degrees at Athens State University, and enrolled after dating a few months.


heir life together includes a love of the outdoors. Beyond their labors at Urban Farm and Forage, they and the kids love to get outside and play. The equipment barn also stores their four kayaks. The outdoors, they contend, is another key to being healthy. So it is that Kelly is the faculty sponsor of the outdoor classroom at West Elementary. “My biggest drive is nutrition,” she 44


Help Kelly win $50K

Kelly Hayes’ Urban Farm and Forage is one of 12 top growers nationwide chosen to participate in the year-long Johnny Appleseed Organic Invitational, a partnership of JAO and Mother Earth News. You can help her win $50,000 or another top prize by voting online in two of the contest’s six areas of competition. To vote, follow Kelly Hayes on Facebook or on Instagram: kellyhayues53098.

says, “but I am extremely passionate about the outdoor classroom, teaching kids to grow their own food, to reconnect with nature. The trend of kids never going outside anymore is very alarming. It’s not easy to fight against iPads and iPhones. “If I can do anything to reconnect children with nature and get them to turn off their devices,” Kelly adds, “I will feel I have done something worthwhile.” “It’s a passion with me, too,” Jonathan says. During periods of virtual and hybrid

classes due to Covid, his “homework” assignment for his PE students has been to document at least 30 minutes a day outside doing practically anything that’s legal. “Get a friend, go to the park, walk the dog, go fishing,” he says. “I don’t care what you do. Be outside – without your phone.” During this conversation, Evy comes inside from the backyard. Where does she think her apple might fall? What might she want to be someday? “In the second grade,” she says, “I wanted to be boxer, until someone told me I’d get hit and bleed. Then I wanted to be a vet, but I’d have to watch animals die. “Now,” she continues, “I am leaning toward being a sixth grade teacher and opening a karate dojo after school.” Her parents laugh. “Evy milks goats sometimes,” Kelly says. “She helped build the fence around garden. She is not afraid of hard work. “She takes after Mom a little bit,” Mom adds. “That apple – another apple – is close to the tree.” Good Life Magazine



Story by Seth Terrell Photos by David Moore


ixteen years ago, Eddie Wilson had a realization: he was tired of fighting, tired of the chaos that had taken over in his world. He had battled cocaine and alcohol addictions and knew his life had become unmanageable. Now, as the old journey came to its unraveling point, a new journey was about to begin. Eddie committed himself to recovery and found the place that would give him a new lease on life – along with a calling to help other young men whose dead-end journeys had led them to rock bottom. The place was the Foundry, a ministry begun in Bessemer by Sam Reynolds who, in 1971, after realizing there were few resources for people living in homelessness and addiction, started reaching out to folks that needed help to recover from addiction and to rebuild their lives. When Eddie graduated from the program in 2006, he devoted himself not only to his own recovery but went in search of the deeper purpose that had led him to the Foundry farm just outside of Holly Pond where he is now the director. “The Foundry has taught me that life is about my calling,” Eddie says. He sits at his desk at the Foundry farm welcome center where, though 16 years clean and sober, he has become a jack of all trades – a mentor, a manager, a tractor driver, a gardener, a farmer and a friend to so many men who come through the Foundry doors. Eddie has served as director since 2013. Originally from Hartselle, he married his wife Ellen on his 50th birthday and has dedicated his life to serving those men in whom he often sees himself. “We do recover,” he says, emphasizing that first-person plural – we – “and it’s a process.” As Eddie is often reminded, addiction is no respecter of individuals or status. The Foundry accepts men from all walks of life: doctors, lawyers, men who’ve never had a job, and others who are barely out of high school. “I get to see men come, and a few months later they see their purpose,” he says. “And that is truly the most rewarding part of the recovery program.”



utside Eddie’s office window, the


Foundry Farm Days here are filled with recovery efforts for men, work, preparation for gainful employment and exposure to the Word

lazy morning sun illuminates the property, glancing on a tranquil pond and spanning over the green expanse of gentle sloping hills. “We can’t do anything we do without love,” he says. “I always remind the guys that they have a calling, not just a job.” The Foundry receives men in recovery, serving a population who are at highrisk for overdose, Hepatitis C, HIV and

incarceration. Their education levels vary and many have struggled or are struggling with homelessness, coming from low- and moderate-income households, lacking job skills. According to its mission, the Foundry offers such men a long-term approach to recovery and addresses each individual’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs to achieve permanent,

Spread across nearly 60 acres in Holly Pond, the Foundry Farm offers a serene setting for not-so-easy efforts of men who – usually along with their families – deal with drug and alcohol addiction. Leading the effort is Eddie Wilson, above. For participating men, the five components to the “Foundry Way” are: one-on-one counseling services through their usually year-long recovery process; employment readiness; case-management, including dental and medical care; transitional housing for those who do well in the program; and a strong curriculum that includes recovery classes and Bible study. Photo at top provided, photo above by Seth Terrell. transformational change. It fosters further transformation among the men’s families and their communities, making their relationships healthier and teaching them how to become contributing citizens, all while exploring their individual calling. Mid-January finds the Foundry at full capacity with 60 men on campus in the program. They wake up around 5:45 every morning and fill their days with

work, classes and preparation for gainful employment. Some work at the Foundry thrift store, others clean and cook for the program, and others work to take care of the nearly 60 acres of property that includes a half-acre garden and a poultry house where 571 hens are busy laying eggs. Four to six men are usually assigned to a particular job or task and rotate, often,

according to each one’s particular skill set or interests. David Ozment joins Eddie on this chilly winter morning. Dave is one of a host of volunteers who generously give their time and resources to help the men who, through the ‘Foundry Way,’ become the people, the fathers and husbands and friends that they were meant to become. “When guys realize they can’t do it FEBRUARY | MARCH | APRIL 2022


Sean, upper left, of Huntsville uses a small flashlight to grade each egg at the layer house. Derek, above, who’s from Baldwin County, says the chickens are more like pets than farm stock. David Ozment, left – with over 30 years in the business and with state poultry organizations and companies – was the key in last year’s addition of the hen house. About half of them are eaten at Foundry facilities in the state, some are given away, others sold for $3 a dozen at the Foundry Thrift Store in Cullman and Jack’s Foodland in Eva. alone,” David says, “that’s when you start to see a real difference.”


he Foundry thrives on support such as Dave’s. At least four of the full-time staff live on campus and help provide 24/7 care and accountability. Incoming members of the program arrive to a brotherhood of men who are going through the same things. “I tell these guys, ‘I have felt what you’re feeling. I know what you’re going through,’” Eddie says. Men are able to visit with their families each Sunday, a time where they 48


can fellowship and find support from those who are rooting for their success. Soon there will be a new chapel that will provide room for families to come join the men for worship. Few families in the Cullman area are untouched by the pandemic of drug and alcohol addiction. Such close connection and concern are what drive many volunteers to the Foundry. “Many of us [volunteers and donors] talk about how we know someone, often in our families, who have dealt with addiction and we want to help,” David says.

His wheelhouse here are the egg-laying chickens, having worked over 30 years in the Alabama poultry industry. Through the Foundry vision, David helped spark a plan for a laying house on the farm property. Poultry Supply, Walker Brothers, Ag Corps South and at least a dozen other businesses have helped contribute supplies, funds and materials toward the farming effort. Veterinarians from Auburn University help keep the hens healthy and productive, and county agents offer their expertise as well.


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“Volunteers do what they do,” Eddie says, “because they love to help.”


s Eddie and David leave the office and trek out into the cold day, the farm, though quiet, teems with a certain positive energy. Eddie’s easy way with men here has a distinct familial touch. He jokes and shakes hands and encourages men along the way. When we arrive at the hen house, an open-air, cage-free laying house, Derek and Sean are busy gathering eggs among a sea of happy, healthy, High-Line Brown hens. Brad, who has just begun his journey in the Foundry program, skillfully uses a flashlight to grade the eggs. Derek, who seems to be thriving in his progress, admits that having such a structure and routine has greatly aided his recovery. “The hens keep a better schedule and routine than people do,” he laughs. “They’ve taught me a lot of about structure. They are what helps me get out of bed every morning.” Through David’s insight, the men have learned how to not only gather eggs, but also how to take care of the hens. Derek holds a gentle brown hen up to the streaming sunlight, showing the markers he checks on a daily basis for egg readiness or even illness. “Caring for the birds really gives us a strong sense of responsibility,” Sean says, coddling a hen as she pecks softly at his hands. “It just makes me happy to come here and make [the hens] happy.” David agrees. “It’s a sense of satisfaction for these men, too,” he says. “Satisfaction of a job well done.” The Foundry consumes about half of the eggs and produce the hen houses and garden provide. The remaining yield is sent to local farmers markets or other Foundry programs. Eggs and produce are often donated to local ministries and

Lance, top left, who has a degree in business management, and Beau, an electrician, relax before supper in the common room in the dormitory. Aaron, who hails from the St. Louis area, keeps a Cardinals pillow at his bunk. Meanwhile, Ryley and Cayde, a returnee, soak up some serenity on the dorm’s back porch. 50


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Chris, who works in the kitchen at the Foundry comes from Birmingham, where he says there’s “too much going on” to hope for recovery. Efforts to feed the 55 participants there this day are eased by the help of donors, such as Panera restaurant in Cullman, which donates bread to the program. What hinders serving so many people is the small size of the kitchen. Funds are being raised for new cooking facilities at the Foundry, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021. food banks or sold in the thrift store, while others make their way to Foodland in Eva or restaurants such as All Steak, Urban Cookhouse (see related story on page 32) and the Holly Pond Café. The happy hens, thriving under the care of the men in the program, produced 15,448 eggs in December alone. “We pride ourselves on working with local people and buying and selling local,” Eddie says. “And all funds go back into the investment of men in the program.”


o the south of the hen house, the garden lies beneath a thin layer of January frost, sleeping for now, but in a few months it will once again sprout with life. Soon a hoop house will be erected to extend the growing season. Under the volunteer guidance of Dave and Travis Kress, an agriculture instructor 52


at Wallace State Community College (see related story on page 65), the garden, much like the hen house has proven to be a place where men reconnect with themselves and with the land. “We had the great garden we had this year because our guys took ownership,” Eddie says. Mason, another young man in the program, wanted to be assigned to the garden to honor his grandmother, who always had a garden. “The garden is a blessing,” says Mason. “It has all the blessings you need in life. You learn to care for things that will always provide for you and get a chance to have peace … I best understood this while watching the crops grow – a result of time and hard work.” Wendell Berry, the famous farmer and poet, once said, “The care of the Earth is

our most ancient and most worthy, and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility.” The connection with the land is mirrored in connection with other people. Recovery is a difficult and fulfilling journey wherein people who often feel so disconnected from themselves and from those they love, can again find themselves and their purposes. At the Foundry, the garden and the farm are more than hobbies, they are portals to new journeys, powerful metaphors for what downcast men can become. Hard work gives way to commitment; stewardship of crops and creatures teaches compassion, empathy and responsibility. And so a brotherhood is strengthened as lives are changed. One season, one early sunrise, one egg and one seed at a time. Good Life Magazine

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veryone who knows me is aware of my great love for baseball. To me and my friends who collected baseball cards back in the 1960s, the players were our idols … gods if you will. I didn’t even realize they were human until I was 45 years old. Knowing my love for the sport, Tonya, my daughter, and my granddaughters Katelin and Lauren, treat me to an annual Atlanta Braves game each year as a Father’s Day gift. That might stop, however, due to an incident I was involved in at the Braves stadium last July 3. The kerfuffle story actually began two years earlier when I was in Atlanta to watch the Miami Marlins take on the Braves. I was hoping to get Marlins manager Don Mattingly to sign his 1984 New York Yankees rookie card I had saved just for that occasion. In addition to getting the former Yankee first baseman’s signature, I wanted to meet the great who might be in the Baseball Hall of Fame someday. Unfortunately, it had rained the night before and neither team took batting practice, which is normally the only opportunity to get anything autographed. I was disappointed, to say the least. Unfortunately, the Marlins were playing the Braves last year when the girls took me to the annual game. I was determined to get Mattingly’s autograph.


hile Lauren was getting Braves players to sign her cap and baseball cards, another fan noticed someone in a Marlins uniform – he looked like Don Mattingly – hitting balls to a third baseman. With my baseball cards in a notebook carrier, I beelined it to the Marlins dugout where, surely, I could get his autograph when he left the field. Dang! I soon recognized it wasn’t Mattingly – just a coach who bore an uncanny resemblance to him. For some reason, the area beside the Marlins dugout was blocked off. But I was determined and made my way behind the dugout. If Mattingly made a pregame appearance, I’d be in prime position to catch him. No sooner had I laid my ball card 54


For an Autograph_ Fanatical fan tries for the big play ... and nearly gets ejected

The signatures Steve got from Don Mattingly were hard-won, but, at least on a personal level, the story behind them just adds to their value. carrier on top of the dugout, than an usher promptly told me to move it. Dang! OK, so I placed it in a chair. That seemed to appease her … at least for the time being. I stood there for what seemed like a week, the blazing heat melting my determination. I was about ready to give up when a familiar figure emerged from the dugout, a first baseman’s glove in hand. Mattingly!


e walked over to first base and began taking throws from the third

baseman. I patiently waited another 30 minutes, my notebook melting onto the chair behind me. Finally! Mattingly made his way back toward the visitor’s dugout. As he walked past the pitcher’s mound he looked my way and … waved! At me? I glanced around. No one was behind me. Mattingly must have spotted me standing alone next to the dugout and felt sorry for an overweight, sunburned old man melting like cheap ice cream. A gentleman holding his child walked up beside me, apparently having spotted

the Marlins manager coming off the field. To our delight, as he walked toward us, Mattingly tossed each of us one of the baseballs they’d used for warm-ups. Thrilled and on a power-roll, I pointed toward the Braves dugout as he approached. “I bypassed all of their players just to get your autograph!” I shouted. He smiled at me. Yes! Surely! Mattingly would sign something for me. I politely asked – OK, I was screaming, “Sign a couple of cards for me!” The great sport that he is, Mattingly asked for the baseballs he had thrown to me and the kid. We eagerly handed them over, and he signed them with his ballpoint pen.


ow was my chance. I crawled up on top of the dugout and pushed the cards and a blue Sharpie toward him. He reached for them, but they were still inches from his fingertips. Blindly, I sprawled out

full length on the dugout roof, pushing my cards closer to him. Almost … Big mistake. “Get off the dugout!” the usher politely asked – OK, she was screaming. “Get off that dugout!” I quickly squirmed around on top of the dugout, expecting the crack of guns from the Atlanta SWAT team, which probably had my splayed out body crisscrossed with laser sights from atop the stadium. But it was just the usher. She was down by my feet now. She had to understand my simple desire! “I’ve been waiting two years to get Don Mattingly’s autograph,” I tried not to scream. “So help me, I’ll jump inside this dugout with him if anyone grabs my ankles and tries to yank me back into the stands!” By now, I could see a squad of reinforcement ushers heading my way. I was outnumbered, my dream of card autographs dead in the water.


ctually, I was granted a reprieve. “Look,” one of the reinforcements

calmly but firmly told me, “if you just climb back off the dugout, I’ll get your cards and ask Mr. Mattingly to sign them for you.” I was suspicious but reluctantly agreed. And he did, indeed, retrieve my cards. To my amazement, not only did I get the items back with autographs, but Don Mattingly, the Yankee legend, also included the pen he used. I hugged the first usher, who actually turned out to be a very nice lady, then quickly got lost in the crowd in case anyone in a SWAT uniform was trying to follow. When I finally got to our seats, to my chagrin I learned Tonya and Katelin had shot pictures of the entire episode – albeit from half way across the stadium – while simultaneously covering their faces in embarrassment. Adding insult to injury, they politely asked me – OK, they were screaming at me to go stand at the railing near the top of our section so no one would know I was with them. At least it was in the shade. Good Life Magazine



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Matt Myrick, left, joins Jake Burkey in his Busted Knuckle crawler at the King of the Hammers races in California.

Busted Knuckle

A common love and a common ‘drive’ led two young men into a unique business

Story and photos By David Moore


hree factors bond Matt Myrick and Jake Burkey. Both love driving extreme off-road buggies and challenging ridiculously steep rocks and hills. Both love building these wild machines. And both love it that they quit “normal” jobs to make a living doing something they truly love – owning and running Busted Knuckle Off Road. They’re in their fourth year as partners in the growing company located at a shop atop the hill four miles southwest of Dodge City on Ala. 69. Jake does design and engineering. Matt handles marketing, the gear they sell and films. They fabricate and build limited-production off-road buggies (think Polaris RZRs on mega-steroids) that are basically large, precision-engineered roll cages riding on 43-inch tires driven by a 376 Corvette engine that gallops with 530 horses. Sound wild? Wait until you rip up and down outrageous mountain trails and climb ridiculously steep rocks, or race one across the desert. You can get a “roller” and finish it out yourself for around $20,000. But want a really wild ride? Matt, Jake and their team of 13 quality-driven employees will build you an extreme Busted 56


Matt Myrick and his Busted Knuckle buggy climb through a deep, muddy creek bed, showing the wide range of flexibility designed into these extreme off road machines.

Knuckle bouncer with a 427 super-charged LS engine that churns out 1,000 hp. They start at about $85,000, turn-key and ready to rock with a one-year warranty. “Most of our buggies come in about $100,000,” says Matt, referring to the addition of options such as heated seats, larger shocks, rear steering, rock lights underneath the chassis or perhaps a nightvision back-up camera. One enthusiastic customer maxed out with “the baddest of the bad,” buying a $135,000 buggy that included – because he wanted it – a $1,000 siren. “We’re the Ferrari of off road,” Jake says. “That could be a slogan for us.” Actually, a fourth factor bonds them: both are sticklers for excellence and aren’t afraid to work.


att and Jake have been off road – literally, if not figuratively – since they were kids. Matt graduated from Sparkman High in Huntsville and went to Auburn University to study construction management and business/marketing as a minor. While there, he bought a Sony Discman Handycam. “I had been off road since I was 13 or younger, riding four-wheelers and everything you could imagine,” he says. “I started filming folks while we were out riding and made a DVD just for fun. People started asking me for copies of it. That’s how my business was born.” That was in 2007, and he named the business Busted Knuckle Films. (Today, it’s the marketing arm of Busted Knuckle Off Road.) Graduating in 2008, he continued living in Auburn while working as project engineer at a major development at Fort Benning, Georgia. Weekends were his to travel to offroad events and races … so his and Jake’s paths were almost gunning to cross. Hailing from Columbia, Tenn., and driven by the drive to tinker, Jake graduated in 2008 from Tennessee Tech University, his degree in mechanical engineering. “Ever since I was a kid that’s all I ever did – tinker, build off-road buggies. That’s just kind of my thing,” Jake says. He got a job as a project manager at Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant and actually lived in a two-bay storage unit he converted into a one-bedroom apartment. That rather extreme step allowed him to immerse himself in his extreme hobby of modifying, building, riding and later racing 58


extreme rock bouncers and off-road buggies. “I bought a chassis and finished it out,” he says. “I tweaked it and learned how things should be built.” It would prove to be a great thing to know … as would knowing Matt.


ooking back, Matt and Jake realize their paths crossed at several off-road events, such as River Rock in Georgia, and Golden

Mountain Park in Tennessee. Though they didn’t know or meet each other, they later recalled common incidents. Golden Mountain stands out for what happened there in the 2011 Dixie Run. Jake, driving a Jeep he modified and reinforced, and a friend riding shotgun, made a run at Bounty Hill. The trail is a wide, slab boulder jutting up about 12 feet at a 60-degree angle; there it breaks onto

Jake Burkey, upper and lower left, vertically rolls his old Jeep crawler on an extreme climb in 2011. His now business partner, Matt Myrick recorded the stunning spectacle and posted it to Youtube, from which these screen grabs came. Above, Jake, the company’s design engineer, fine tunes the front suspension on his Busted Knuckle rock crawler at their assembly shop west of Dodge City. The crawlers, or buggies, are designed and built tough, the latter a factor of their dedicated and knowledgeable team of 13 employees. Center left, Austin Moore welds a stainless steel driveshaft. Left, Russell Meeks, stripping an axle housing, says he’s not been challenged so much by any job in ages. a narrow shelf before climbing another 12 rugged feet or more. Calling this a trail takes a lot of imagination, even for a rock crawler. At the base of the hill, Jake guns his Jeep. It lunges up the slab, landing with the front tires on the shelf. He’s still gunning it as they careen crazily left. Onlookers scatter as the Jeep bounces further left before flipping over backward, downhill, onto its rollbars. As designed, the Jeep rolls all the way over

on its side in clouds of dust before finally landing upright on all fours. Onlookers cheer and clap. Jake throws up his arms: touchdown. Amazingly, in addition to Jake, his rider and onlookers are unharmed, and Jake’s Mountain Dew bottle remains unspilt in its dashboard holder. This whole time, Matt is mere feet away, filming the entire escapade. They met and talked briefly at the time. Matt was,

seemingly, just another photographer to Jake, but that would change. A few months later, at Hooters in Augusta, Jake was fortunate that he didn’t choke on a wing or a beer when he glanced at a large-screen television on the wall – and saw himself. “I’m sitting there, and this clip comes up, and it’s me flipping over,” Jake laughs. “That was wild.” FEBRUARY | MARCH | APRIL 2022


Matt had sold the rollover and other clips from YouTube to a TV show called “Dumbest Stuff on Wheels.” “What’s crazy,” Matt laughs, “is that after he flipped, Jake went right back to try that hill again, only this time they wore helmets.” What’s not crazy is seeing how Matt’s work impressed Jake. After that, he communicated more and more with Matt.


t that time, Matt lived in a house he’d built on the Jasper side of Smith Lake. Loving the off road and filming, and fed up with clock-punching at Fort Benning, Matt quit his job in 2011. What finally led to his quitting his old job was a visit to California to shoot a huge event known as King of the Hammers. It has developed into multiple days of offroading, including a 14-hour event covering 165 miles where custom fabricated and souped-up racers fly at 100+ miles per hour across deserts and gear way down to conquer extreme rock crawling sections. The races draw 50,000 spectators and serious money machines. “I saw how big the off road sports industry is,” Matt says. “If there was a time to get into it, this was it.” So Matt quit his job and began using his four-wheeler to chase racers and rock riders, capitalizing on his knowledge of business and marketing to live off his camera craft. As for Jake, by 2013 he was off-road racing, far more costly than just wild rides and events. In addition to his “real” job near Augusta, he sold off-road parts online through Besides the states, racing took him to Puerto Rico, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Matt Myrick, top, looks over some of the steel tubing Busted Knuckle uses to construct its wild machines. Center, Brendan Trump mounts a hydraulic steering ram to a front axle. Below, Jasmine Davidson, Jake’s girlfriend who’s in charge of shipping orders, talks with Mick Walker, who fits on body pieces, does wiring and oversees some of the quality control. Each piece of the chassis and roll-cage body has to be precisely bent and welded. BK also sells many of the specialty parts it manufactures at the plant.

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a shop for rent on a big hill between He often met up with Matt who was designer Jake. “Every single part of those “working” the races. Other participants Dodge City and Stony Lonesome OHV buggies, I had to have my hands on it.” wouldn’t dare go trail-riding before a Park. At the time, Stony Lonesome still “There was no way for us to grow if race, but Jake would, and Matt would hosted off-road buggy races, so the Jake had to have his hands on every single join him in his own bouncer. location was perfect and not only had part of a build,” Matt says. “We would trail ride They decided instead until 2 am the day of to offer various options the race,” Matt says. on several limited“Jake would break production models. By something, and we’d 2021, their second year stay up and fix it so he of taking production could race.” buggy orders, Busted “Sometimes we Knuckle rolled out would fix it,” Jake 10 of the quality-built shrugs, “sometimes we extreme machines. couldn’t.” They’d also built a large Ever the engineer, extension onto the shop, Jake began tinkering and their employment with his own racer had grown to 15. designs. “Manufacturing “I took my has taken us to another knowledge from racing level,” says Matt, who and made sketches on churns out a lot of paper,” he says. “I was promotional videos actually able to make and built a following a racing buggy using of 2.5 million on a CAD (computertheir Facebook page For trial runs and test drives, Busted Knuckle incorporates trails through assisted design) alone. “People see our the woods and up and down the small but steep mountainside behind program.” vehicles. If they can’t the shop. In this photo, Matt guns his still new rock crawler up the afford the buggy, they mountain, bound for the sun and other great things. want our R-and-D-ed eanwhile, parts for their own Matt, had moved to machine.” the Cold Springs area room to stock parts but to build buggies Busted Knuckle’s gross on buggies on Cullman County’s side of Smith as well. And that was a good thing. was only 5 percent of its total gross last Lake. He delighted in teasing Jake about Right after Jake quit his job, he year, he adds. That’s because it takes having a regular job as opposed to, say, was contacted by an Italian racer who three months to produce a turnkey buggy, them starting their own business. said forget the price, just build him a and on a given day they might sell two “I’d send him a picture of me high-quality, extreme buggy. Not really $15,000 axles they fabricated in-house. wakeboarding on a Wednesday afternoon interested, Jake quoted him a price of and say, ‘Hey Jake, what’s going on? $180,000, hoping to scare off the guy. It You quit your job yet?’” y mid-January, Busted Knuckle “It took me about four years to get up didn’t work. already had six turnkey orders lined up, So, with two guys they hired, plus the courage to do it,” Jake says. “Those and demand for parts is strong. Those Jasmine Davison, Jake’s girlfriend who last two years, I hated work. I knew dream machines and parts are going moved with him from Augusta, they I was leaving. I just couldn’t take it to some of the growing number of custom fabricated the buggy in their shop. anymore.” enthusiasts who love extreme off road It took nine months to build the main So in 2017 he left the nuclear power sports. components, which they took to Italy for plant, moved to Cullman County and “We want someone to have the best final assembly. went into business with Matt. They sold time they can off-roading,” says Matt. “We their buggies for capital. want to see the sport grow. It was probably Initially, they planned to sell parts till selling parts, both their own a dream,” he adds of the business. “But online and, with Jake now known as an brand and others, the next year Busted never did I dream this would be the off-road sports guru, they’d also make Knuckle produced two custom buggies, reality.” tech videos and capitalize on his abilities one with an attention grabbing 1,600 hp “If we had full-time jobs, we’d be and status. engine. But custom builds were not what doing this for fun,” Jake grins. “Now After Matt moved to Cullman County, they needed to do. we’re doing that same thing, just making his parents, Larry and Teresa Myrick, “The R&D is very expensive for a one- money doing it.” relocated here. It was Larry who spotted time shot,” said research and development Good Life Magazine






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Nope, it’s not dirt

With a lot of experience behind him and a degree from Auburn in agronomy and soil, Travis Kress knows what he has – the foundation for life.

‘Soil’ and family form the foundations for five generations of Kress farmers 640 acres that once encompassed part of Catoma and part of the property where CRMC now grows. “Seems his wife decided at the last oil is the foundation for all life. minute to leave her family and come That’s the introductory – and with Conrad,” Travis says. fundamental – remark Conrad was impressed Travis Kress gives his with the area, in part small class of farmers/ because allergy problems wannabes this semester at that bothered him in Wallace State Community Germany vanished in the College. Cullman air. He wrote of For a visitor who the news to other suffering mentions “dirt” during a family back home, offering conversation at his family’s to sell them part of his land fifth-generation farm just if they migrated, too. north of Cullman Regional Over time, Conrad Medical Center, Travis is added onto his original log even more elemental. cabin and divided his land “Dirt is soil out of among kin, which included place,” he says, a grin sons George, Henry and softening his seriousness. John, farmers all. “Dirt is what you find in “I’ve been trying to the house. Soil is what you track everything down,” find in the field.” Travis says. “There used He confesses to Peaches, like strawberries, bring relatively good returns at the to be sharecropper houses stealing this illustrative market, however they are very labor-intensive with the pruning, on the farms. Today, my definition of dirt from a spraying and picking. “It takes 16 months of work a year,” cousin John Kress has forestry program he once Travis says. He started the orchard above about 15 years ago, cattle on part of it, and we participated in, but his rent land from other nonknowledge of soil runs but got busy with other things. His dad now farming cousins.” deeper than a minor, onehandles the peaches for the most part. Travis’s grandfather, off theft. Robert, was born on his Now 33, Travis has father George’s farm. It farmed since age 10, was Robert who later married Betty in soybeans and a 100 acres each of sweet working alongside his grandfather her pre-nanny days. potatoes and wheat. Robert Kress – killed in a 2002 farming George died when his grandson Brian Father and son tag-team the labor. accident – his uncle Kerry Kress and his was relatively young, and Robert died “Financially, we have our own father Brian. when his grandson Travis was a young independent operations,” Travis says. “They instilled in me the principles boy. A week later, Travis’s great uncle “But we work together on whatever of farming and how the business end Albert Kress, who lived next door, died. needs to get done. Whatever it takes.” works,” says Travis. But the family nucleus remained tight He, his wife Ashley and their young through good times and bad, drought and amily is as fundamental to daughters live elsewhere, on a 120-acre flood, financial hardships and years of Kress farming as the soil itself. Travis farm his parents, Brian and Pam, own in healthy markets. It’s what farmers do. and Nanny Betty – she’s too young Fairview. to be called “grandmother” – are But the 60-acre farm located behind informally digging into the Kress rian and Pam Kress bought their the hospital is the emotional heart of the 120-acre farm north of Fairview in the extended family operation. Not only does family roots branched out in the Cullman soil. 1980s. Travis and his younger sister, Robert’s wife, Betty still live there, it’s Conrad Kress migrated from Erin, grew up there. She would go on to where Travis’s great-great grandfather Germany, landing, so to speak, about marry Zak Wilson, Travis’s best friend in settled some 150 years ago. 1873 with a presidential land grant for high school. Travis raises about 40 acres of Story and photos by David Moore


soybeans here, several acres each of vegetables and fruit trees and an acre of strawberries. Meanwhile, in Fairview and on other rented land, Brian raises about 300 acres of





Travis Kress farms in the Catoma area as well as Fairview. What’s more, for the past several years he’s taught continuing ed agriculture classes at Wallace State Community College, left. He says he’s fortunate in that he loves both vocations. “What I do is what I teach,” Travis says. This semester, through a program at Wallace and Athens University, he began working on a master’s degree in education to add to his agronomy degree from Auburn. FEBRUARY | MARCH | APRIL 2022


Though closer to Fairview High, the kids were schooled in Cullman for the convenience. Brian worked a lot at the old home farm where Betty lives, and Pam was a nurse at nearby CRMC. Travis says Brian is probably his best friend, but they’ve had some back and forth over the years. “As a kid, I used to tell my dad I was going to my room,” Travis says. “He’d say, ‘You don’t have a room. You’re just a boarder.’ After I got my house here, I told him I was no longer a boarder. I was a squatter.” Father and son didn’t always operate in the same time zone, and sometimes still don’t. “He fussed at me a lot about not getting up early,” Travis laughs. “He wanted to get up at 5 in morning and be done at 5 pm. I tell him I’m a new generation farmer – I wake up at 7 or 8. But, depending on the light or the weather, I’ll be in the field at 10 or 11 at night to have trucks loaded with wheat or soybeans so he can haul it to Guntersville in the morning.” Tractors and crops and soil aren’t Travis and Brian’s only commonalities. Both have long loved dirt-track racing. “It was our vice. It was our getaway from farming sunup to sundown,” Travis says. Travis was a sixth grader when Brian and one of his summer helpers built a dirt-track car and started racing. After three years, Travis was revved up to race. His mom stipulated he had to be 16, but she capitulated the summer he was 15 and let him start practicing. And not only does he still race today, but Travis builds half a dozen cars a year for other racers.


fter graduating from Cullman in 2007, Travis attended Wallace State two years then headed off to Auburn University. “I had met a guy at Wallace (David Topping) and we got to be buddies,” he says. “I introduced him to a girl I knew from high school (Lauren Larue). They got married and I said he owed me one.” So it was that Travis met Ashley Chandler, a Vinemont graduate also at Auburn. They had their first date in August 2009. “I was going to take her to Burger King in Auburn. I had a gift card.” Travis laughs. “Everyone was giving me a hard 68


time, so I had to carry her to Buffalo Connection.” He later worried he might face some blowback from her family after taking her to dirt-track race in Phoenix City, but her grandfather turned out to be a big racing

fan and smoothed that potential bump in the road. Travis graduated in 2011 with a degree in agronomy and soil. Ashley followed suit that December with a degree in elementary education. They married May 19, 2012.

Travis and Brian prepare to rip up last year’s plastic mulch as part of the January preparations for planting this year’s large strawberry patch. There’s a lot of father-son banter between them, but Travis says they are actually good friends and talk at least a half-dozen or so times a day. Behind them is Brian’s mother, Betty’s house.

“We have a 10th anniversary coming up,” he laughs, lobbying for credit for remembering. Travis owned a mobile home in Auburn, and made a deal with the late Gene Norman, a mobile home transporter

from Garden City: he built a body for Gene’s race car in exchange for moving his mobile home to the farm in Fairview. He and Ashley “squatted” there until 2017 when they built a house on the property.

A first grade teacher at West Point, she initially helped Travis farm their two acres of vegetables then sell them. Though still helping at the Festhalle Farmers Market, she’s taken a hiatus from farming until their two girls get a little older. FEBRUARY | MARCH | APRIL 2022



Year-old photo, above, shows Ashley and Travis with their daughters, Merritt, now 4, and Makenna Massey, now 9 months. Ashley teaches first grade at West Point Elementary School. Though no one is pushing the youngsters to any career – Brian Kress tried to encourage his son to branch out from agriculture – five generations of farming did influence the girls’ names. Merritt is a variety of corn, Travis grins, and Makenna’s middle name comes from Massey Ferguson, a brand of tractor. This past winter has been a good time for Travis to work on his dirt track racer, below.

ust as Brian never pressured Travis into racing, neither did he pressure him into farming. Actually, it was just the opposite. “Dad’s deal was go try something else,” Travis says. “He got out of high school and came directly to the farm.” “Anything you want to be,” Brian told his son. “Try something else. The farm is always here.” “He was backing me to go and do other things,” Travis laughs. “And dadgum if I didn’t mess around and get a degree in farming.” When he’d finished high school, Travis had thought on and off about teaching – probably ag. But he came up with a oneword response: “Nah!” And college didn’t change his feelings. While at Auburn, he missed living on the farm. And every time he came home he enjoyed helping his dad. “A lot of people hurry to get away from home,” Travis says. “But I knew where I was going after college. I was going to stay in Cullman and live on the farm, either in Catoma or Fairview.” Still uncertain he actually wanted to be a full-time farmer, he positioned himself with studies at Auburn that could land him a job in Cullman. Extension work was a prime choice, but after graduation there was no local opening. Engaged and needing a job, Travis helped Brian farm. But financially he needed his own crop, so in 2013 he planted soybeans and – for the first time in two Kress generations – strawberries. To that, he added part-time work traveling to farms in Alabama and Tennessee conducting soil samples by GPS grids. In 2014, he jumped at the chance to work part-time as a water tech with Cullman County Soil and Water Conservation. He enjoyed the community involvement and working with SWC’s Tim Scott. When Tim left to become manager for the new Duck River reservoir, Travis moved into his old job as SWC project coordinator.


arming family soil all this time, Travis also found himself still thinking of teaching – and that door was about to open. Long-time Cullman veterinarian and agricultural champion Tom “Big Doc” Williamson wanted to make Wallace 70


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long with providing a foundation in soil, Travis wants to flatten the learning curve for his continuing ed students and teach them the importance of “pencil whipping” – for analyzing a crop’s potential yield, both from the ground and in the bank. “It can be a thin line between profit and loss,” says the teacher with five generations of hands-on experience behind him. “This is the path where I was led,” Travis says of his situation. “It allowed me to get the best of all the worlds. I like the aspect of being able to farm – but also to educate. If you had asked me what my dream job is, I don’t know that I could have come up with something as perfect as this. “What I do,” he adds, back to fundamentals, “is what I teach.” Good Life Magazine



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State a premier ag school, Travis says. And, through his SWC position, he found himself working with Big Doc, Wallace President Vicki Karolewics, Rachel Dawsey of the North Alabama Agriplex, now-retired Extension coordinator Tony Glover and others to discuss ag needs at Wallace. One decision was to hire a farm manager for the school’s six greenhouses, three nursery houses, three high tunnels (season extensions) and halfacre of fruit and vegetable production. A teaching component was added to the position – and Travis landed the job in February 2018. For their “extravagant” support, he says he appreciates not just Dr. Karolewics but also former Dean Jimmy Hodges, now president of Calhoun Community College, and his replacement, Dean Wes Rakestraw.


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If you don’t have a magnifying glass, one will be provided for you. So if you’re out and about now through April, stop by the Evelyn Burrow Museum and take in the “Exquisite Miniatures” exhibit. It comprises 50 signature paintings – by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist of Florida – that are both exquisite and miniature. Most measure 3.5x2.5 inches. The images at the top and left of this page are all actual size. The museum, located on the Wallace State campus, is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free. For more info: All images on this page copyrighted by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist, who have been referred to as “World Ambassadors for Miniature Art.”

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