Connection May/June 2013
Memorial Day Market
Thousands plan to hunt for deals
Huntsville FD using Ardmore fiber
PErsonal Security offers safety for seniors
Telco groups unify to bring stronger voice and new opportunities to rural subscribers By Stephen V. Smith, Editor
Editor’s Note: In February, America’s leading telecommunications trade groups voted to become one association. The unification of NTCA (National Telecommunications Cooperative Association) and OPASTCO (Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies) created a single group representing the concerns of rural telcos and their customers across the nation. As of March 1, the organization became known as “NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association.” In an interview following the vote, we asked Shirley Bloomfield, the CEO of NTCA, about the impact a unified group will have on rural subscribers. Smith: NTCA and OPASTCO were both 50-year-old trade associations comprised of rural telecommunications providers. How were the two groups different? Bloomfield: NTCA had a very strong basis in the cooperative movement, and actually originated as an arm of the NRECA (National Rural Electric Cooperation Association). The organization itself was established as a cooperative entity, with control being held by telephone cooperatives. OPASTCO was formed as a home for those companies that were traditionally family-owned. When rural telephone systems were first established, people either got together and created member-owned cooperatives, or a family said “we see a void, let’s fill it,” and they built a telephone company. Smith: What was the driving force behind unifying the two organizations? Bloomfield: Over the past several years, we have found that in this industry the issues are all the same. It doesn’t matter whether you are a cooperative or a family-owned company, the issues facing this industry impact all the carriers. Things that are taking place on the regulatory front, with state utility commission deci2 | May/June 2013
sions, with technology transforming at a daily rate and changing people’s business models ... these things created an opportunity for the two organizations to work more closely together. We all began to realize that if we bring these forces together there is more that we can do as one, as opposed to trying to do the same thing with two separate organizations. Smith: What benefit will rural telcos, and the industry as a whole, gain from the unification? Bloomfield: The first area I would highlight is advocacy. Because there is so much dissension and politicking in Washington, it has become imperative that the message of the rural telecommunications industry find a voice, that we speak a little bit louder. When you have two entities saying the same thing, they diffuse each other. When you put all carriers together, speaking in a definitive voice for the entire industry, it cuts through the clutter. It allows us to move faster and be more powerful, in a day and age where, frankly, this industry is still very heavily dominated by the large carriers. Another area is the business opportunity front. We now have more than 800 companies at the table, and that will give us the ability to go to wireless carriers,
Shirley Bloomfield NTCA CEO go to middle-mile institutions such as hospitals and educational institutions, and form partnerships to offer different kinds of services. Smith: How do these benefits translate to the consumer at the end of the line? Bloomfield: It will give rural telcos the ability to create some scope and scale in order to offer new services. Rural providers have been terrifically innovative, but what could they do if they could get a nationwide presence? What kind of things could they offer their customers? Also, so much of the revenue of these carriers is tied up in the regulatory arena. If we can be successful speaking with one voice, we hope to keep local costs low, to minimize rate increases and to continue universal service support, which makes things like advanced broadband affordable in these rural communities where you don’t have the customer base to offset the costs.
Our interview with Bloomfield continues in the July/August issue, as she talks about how the uncertainty surrounding FCC regulations is threatening the level of service and investment in rural communities.
The truth behind what’s driving up TV subscription costs nationwide Your Telco (Content Providers/Networks)
As a provider of TV service, we are caught in the middle of a tug-of-war. On one side, content providers and networks are demanding more money every year from companies like ours who carry their programming. On the other side, consumers demand quality content but are growing weary of package prices that continue to rise.
hy does my bill keep going up?” It’s a common question consumers nationwide are asking, as they watch the steady climb of TV programming costs. There are two main factors driving these increases.
1) Cable channels charge us a fee to deliver their programming to you — and those fees keep rising.
We work to include as many channels as possible in our lineup. But most channels add an expense to our cost of providing you TV service. According to estimates from analysts SNL Kagan and Barclays Capital, sports programming accounts for four of the top ten channels as ranked by their monthly subscriber fees. ESPN/ESPN HD leads their list at $5.06 per subscriber. The NFL Network comes in at 84¢. Compare that to Nickelodeon’s 52¢, MTV’s 39¢ and Discovery Channel’s 37¢ and you get a clear picture of the dominant driver behind programming price hikes. (Note: These estimates are based on fees paid by the large, nationwide providers, and do not reflect the exact cost we pay for these channels.)
2) Local network affiliates now charge us a fee to deliver their programming to you — and those fees keep rising. There was a time when your “local stations” charged nothing for a carrier to rebroadcast their signals. Not anymore. In order for you to enjoy channels such as ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX, we must pay them a fee based on our number of subscribers —
and these fees continue to rise each time we renegotiate what is known as the retransmission consent agreements with them. SNL Kagan reported in November that the revenue TV station owners receive from these fees could reach $5.5 billion by 2017 — an even higher number than was previously projected. Why? “The increased projections are due to the success of a wider range of TV station owners in securing sequentially higher (retransmission) fees from multichannel operators over the last year of negotiated deals,” says the report.
Will this trend continue?
Unfortunately, there is no end in sight. Content providers know that consumers want their channels, and they continue to build fee increases into their contracts with providers like us. Furthermore, sports channels are negotiating huge deals with teams and leagues that are driving up their production costs (for example, in late 2011 ESPN agreed to pay the NFL some 70 percent more to carry Monday Night Football through 2021). They are passing these costs on to providers like us nationwide, who have no choice but to pass the increases on to consumers. The bottom line is that we are committed to providing all our subscribers with the channels they want. And as your local telecommunications company, we are doing everything we can to control our operating costs and keep our prices as low as possible. In the end, however, the reality is that TV rates will continue to move upward as long as content providers keep increasing the fees we must pay and the number of channels we must carry. May/June 2013 | 3
From the CEO
Investing in a stronger future For those who put money in the U.S. stock market, the past few years have been like a long ride down a rough road. The same can be said for the real estate market. But as your telco, we are making investments that have guaranteed returns. We are investing in our communities. We are committed to doing more than just providing a basic service to the communities in our area. We understand that quality of life is about more than the basics; it’s about having access to services that create greater opportunities for our families, businesses, schools and other institutions. We are investing the time and resources into making sure you have access to those advanced services. We are investing in technology. Technology is the key that makes those advanced services possible. Just like electricity in the 1930s and 1940s, and reliable telephone service in the 1950s, broadband is the new infrastructure that is driving our community development. We are investing in the equipment and people to deliver broadband technology to everyone in our service area. We are investing in education. Today, children in rural America can have the same opportunities to pursue a top-notch education as their urban counterparts. To take advantage of those opportunities, the systems and the technology must be in place — from Wi-Fi tablets to distance learning. We are partnering with our schools by investing in the broadband network that makes advanced education happen. We are investing in health care. Technology is changing health care faster than perhaps any sector. From electronic medical records to telemedicine, technology is helping people receive better care while helping providers control costs. We are partnering with health care providers by investing in the broadband network that powers these advances. We are investing in business. Local businesses are no longer competing with just the shop next door or in the next town. Now they are competing with companies in other states, and even other countries, thanks to the Internet. We are partnering with our businesses by investing in the broadband network that helps them offer the best local service while competing on a much larger stage. We are investing in the future of this industry. The progress of rural America is directly tied to the success of the rural telecommunications industry. On Page 2 of this issue, you will read how two national rural telco associations have come together to form one voice in order to be more effective in representing your concerns in Washington, D.C. In April, leaders from rural telcos across the country met in our nation’s capital to discuss policy concerns and remind our elected officials that any reforms to this industry must be fair and workable for rural communities. For every proposed law or regulation that comes along, we are there to work on your behalf to protect the progress we have all made together. These are the kinds of investments we are making — and will continue to make. And they are guaranteed to yield a return, because ultimately what we are investing in is a stronger future for you and your family. Trevor Bonnstetter Chief Executive Officer 4 | May/June 2013
is a hometown service provider delivering advanced telecommunications technology to the people of Giles and Lincoln counties in Tennessee and Limestone and Madison counties in Alabama. The company is managed by Telecom Management Services and owned by Synergy Technology Partners.
Ardmore Office: 30190 Ardmore Ave. Ardmore, AL 35739 Mon. - Fri. 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. New Market Office: 1720 New Market Road New Market, AL 35761 Tues. and Thurs. 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visit our blog: www.ardmoreconnection.com
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Vol. 1, NO. 3 May/June 2013
Connection is a bimonthly newsletter published by Ardmore Telephone Company, © 2013. It is distributed without charge to all customers of the company. Ardmore Telephone Company P.O. Box 549 Ardmore, TN 38449 Telephone: 256-423-2131 or 800-830-9946 www.ardmore.net Produced for Ardmore Telephone by: www.WordSouth.com On the Cover: Walker Myrick, 5, of Lexington, Ala., shops for a chicken at the Dog Day Flea Market in Ardmore. See story Page 12.
What’s on the website? Most customers know that Ardmore.net is a great place to go to find deals, new offerings and other information about Ardmore Telephone Company’s services. But the website is much more than just a place for pricing lists and announcements. Here are several other features on Ardmore.net that you may not know about.
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Webmail Click here to log in to your Ardmore.net email account. All Internet customers get one free email address from Ardmore Telephone.
Usage Find out exactly how many long distance minutes you’ve used this month.
Bill Pay Log in and pay your bill from the convenience of your computer.
Speed Test Check the speed of your Internet connection.
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Ardmore Telephone Company
Contact Us Find the closest office and the best way to reach us.
Newsletters Read current and past issues of the Ardmore Connection magazine.
Promotions Learn more about the latest money-saving offers and new services from Ardmore Telephone.
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Lions Club Tractor Pull and the Minor Hill Rodeo
The rodeo is scheduled for June 28 and 29 at the Rodeo Arena in Minor Hill, Tenn.
Watch live sports. Internet customers have access to ESPN3.com, where the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” streams live football, baseball and other sports.
Ardmore Telephone is proud to sponsor the
The tractor pull will be May 3 and 4 at the City Park in Ardmore, Tenn. The competition starts at 7 p.m. on Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The Ardmore Telephone Facebook page is full of relevant information for our customers. Find us, “Like” us and stay up to date on the latest happenings from your local telephone and Internet provider.
Directory reminder If you need to make any changes to your Ardmore Telephone directory listing, please contact customer service by June 30 to have it updated in the upcoming directory. May/June 2013 | 5
Keeping students off the summer slide By Brian Lazenby
eading, writing and arithmetic are the last things on kids’ minds during summer vacation. Most are focused on sports, video games and playing with their friends. This educational downtime contributes to what is known as the “summer slide,” when students lose much of the skill, knowledge and motivation acquired during the previous school year. In fact, a 2011 study conducted by the RAND Corporation shows that most students lose a month’s worth of learning by the time school resumes the following year. This phenomenon affects children of all ages and from all economic backgrounds, but it is most harmful to those students already struggling to keep up. However, it can be avoided. Broadband technology provides access to numerous websites and applications that transform computers and Wi-Fi-enabled tablets into tools that make learning fun and will help avoid the summer slide. Let's take a look at a few of the best sites for your kids to visit this summer. FunBrain.com, for example, is a site geared toward children in grades K-8 that offers online activities to boost learning in math, grammar, science, spelling and history.
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E-learningforkids.org is another site that specializes in providing fun, educational activities for children. Others include thekidzpage.com and pbs.org. According to many educators, one of the most valuable things students can do during the summer to avoid the slide is to continue reading. “Just because school is out doesn’t mean students should take a break from reading,” says Dennis Van Roekel, National Education Association president, on the group's website at www.nea.org. “When students return to their classrooms in the fall, we want reading to top the list of what they did this summer.” There are thousands of books available on just about any reading level that can be downloaded to an e-reader or wireless tablet. Farfarfia is an app for your smart tablet that gets kids excited about reading. It includes more than 100 stories in e-book form for kids ages 2 to 9, and new titles are added every week. This app will make reading fun for your child, and will make it easy to carry a whole load of books to the pool, the park or the beach — without lugging a heavy bookbag.
There are many other apps designed to keep your kids entertained all summer (they may not even realize they are learning!). For example: • PBS character apps are for children 6 and under who will love reviewing science and math skills with favorite characters from PBS shows. • Ruckus Reader, another educational app for children, offers a unique series of digital storybooks designed to help your child practice important reading skills. • Motion Math Games is one of the many apps that offers a variety of games focused on fundamental math skills. It provides fun with numbers for students ranging in age from 4 to 14, and studies show children who played the game improved their scores on a fractions test by 15 percent. • iLearnWith is an app that offers a suite of games to encourage children ages 3 to 6 to have fun while learning key developmental skills such as adding, counting, spelling, phonics and meteorology.
Summer vacation doesn’t mean your kids have to take a break from learning. By exploring these tools and the many others that are available, your child can still have fun while staying off the summer slide.
Nationwide, consumers are reporting failed connections and poor call quality when dialing into rural areas By Stephen V. Smith, Editor
called you earlier today, but I couldn’t get through; it never even rang.” If you have heard this or similar complaints from friends, family or business associates, there’s a good chance the problem is not with your local telephone company. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), telephone subscribers in rural areas “are reporting significant problems receiving long distance or wireless calls on their landline phones.” The problem appears to lie in the fact that some long distance and wireless carriers, in an effort to cut costs, are contracting with third-party service providers to route phone calls into rural areas. The FCC in February announced that it plans to adopt rules requiring these carriers to keep records on call attempts to determine and track the rural call failure rate. “Our nation’s telephone network is a valuable asset in part because everyone has access to it,” says Trevor Bonnstetter, CEO of Ben Lomand Connect, WK&T Telecommunications and Ardmore Telephone, serving portions of Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama. “These call completion issues are weakening that network, making it less useful to consumers.” Fred Johnson, executive vice president and general manager of Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative in Alabama, agrees. “I’m proud to see the FCC stepping up its efforts to address this issue,” he
says. “Substandard service into America’s rural areas threatens commerce, public safety and consumer convenience. This is an issue that must be resolved.”
WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS?
On its website (www.fcc.gov), the FCC outlines two problems that are being reported by rural consumers and people who call them: Failure to Complete »» Long distance or wireless callers tell you they repeatedly hear nothing or “dead air” for 10 seconds or more after they dial your number. If they stay on the line, the call may seem to be dropped or they may eventually hear a busy signal. »» Long distance or wireless callers tell you they repeatedly hear prolonged ringing on their end after they dial your number (e.g., the callers wait 10-20 rings before they finally hang up). »» Long distance or wireless callers tell you they repeatedly hear a recording such as “The number you have dialed is not in service” or “Your call cannot be completed as dialed” when they know they’ve correctly dialed your number. Poor Call Quality »» Long distance or wireless callers tell you they repeatedly hear nothing or
“dead air” for 10 seconds or more before hearing ringing and you answer your phone. »» Long distance or wireless callers tell you they repeatedly hear prolonged ringing (e.g., 10-20 times or more) before you answer the phone — when you are sure the phone actually rang only a couple of times before you answered. »» Consistently after you answer a call, the voice quality is unacceptable. For example, one person cannot hear the other, the sound is choppy, there are awkward transmission delays after speaking, or there is an echo. »» Fax machines fail to interoperate.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If someone has trouble completing a call to you from a long distance or wireless telephone service provider, the FCC recommends that you encourage them to report the issue to their provider. They will need the following information: • the date and time the call was attempted • the calling and called telephone numbers • the name of the caller’s long distance or wireless telephone service provider Next, call your local phone company and provide the same information so it may work with the caller’s provider to isolate the problem. May/June 2013 | 7
Fighting fire with fiber W
hen you’re a firefighter, minutes matter. If there’s an emergency, you can’t afford to wait on a slow network to access storm shelter maps, protocols for hazardous materials or other information. That’s why two of Huntsville’s fire stations count on fiber optic lines from Ardmore Telephone. “Fiber is more reliable, especially the type of fiber that Ardmore put in,” says Huntsville Fire Department data manager Walter McGehee. “We don’t have near the problems with fiber that we have with other lines.” Reliability is important, because the department is moving more and more of its work online. McGehee and others are testing ways to send and receive things like storm shelter registration data, fire hydrant testing records, investigation reports and pre-fire plans online. Already, firefighters file reports on computers at the station, but new software will allow them to also access information remotely. “We haven’t done paper reports in years,” McGehee says. Ardmore Telephone CEO Trevor Bonnstetter says most people are surprised to find that a small company like Ardmore Telephone is providing top-notch technology to a big-city fire department. But this is characteristic, he says, of the company’s focus on community development. “We are always looking for opportunities to use our technology to support organizations like the Huntsville Fire Department,” says Bonnstetter. “This network we are building is having a very real impact on the communities we serve.”
Saving tax dollars
In addition to being able to access data quickly and reliably, the department’s high-speed network — including the connections from Ardmore Telephone — saves money. “We’re looking at it in fuel savings,” McGehee says. Every morning, assistant chiefs and other officers gather online for a video conference. “We use that everyday,” McGehee says. “They just have what they call a virtual meeting. They stay at their stations and we just send them a link.” Video conferencing also allows firefighters to attend conferences without having to leave the station. And when you calculate that fire trucks get about four miles per gallon of diesel fuel, which costs $4 per gallon, there are real savings in staying home. If video conferences save two trips from one station to another each month, with stations 15 to 20 miles apart, the savings add 8 | May/June 2013
Capt. Wylie Johnson with (left to right) Ryan Jones, Shannon Drake and Clay Heater.
Capt. Wylie Johnson and Station 16 rely on Ardmore Telephone’s fiber optic lines. up. “If you can keep that truck from coming, that’s $80 a month you save,” McGehee says. “It more than paid for the video conferencing system.” And if you cut out bigger trips, like in February when firefighters video-conferenced into a training session in Tuscaloosa rather than driving, the department saves even more. “That worked extremely well,” McGehee says. “We’re looking to expand that program.” Bonnstetter says he’s glad to see the company’s broadband technology is being put to good use. “The fiber line is only a connection,” he says. “What’s exciting is to see the ways that groups like the Huntsville Fire Department are using our connection to make North Alabama a better, safer place to live.” Ardmore Telephone Company
gives peace of mind to seniors and families
Ardmore Telephone Company
Photos by David Brewer
rdmore resident J.B. Shumate is an independent man. At 93 years old, he’s handled everything life could throw at him, including a stint in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. But this winter, a routine trip to the trash can made him realize that a little help never hurts. Shumate lost his balance and fell while taking out the trash. “It bruised me up a little bit, but nothing serious,” he says. Even though he wasn’t injured, he still couldn’t get back to his feet. “I was alone,” he says. “I was so fortunate that one of my friends was coming by.” The friend dropped by in a few minutes and after finding Shumate on the ground, helped him up. “I don’t know what I would have done if they hadn’t come by,” Shumate says. “I probably would have just laid there until someone came. They helped me in the house — and I decided I needed one of those buttons.” Very soon after the fall, Shumate signed up for one of Ardmore Telephone Company’s Personal Home Safety Systems. The system includes a pendant or wristband, a base and 24-hour monitoring so that if Shumate were to fall again, he could summon help by pressing the button on the device. The pendant or wristband is connected wirelessly to the base station in the home and will connect to nearby family members or emergency personnel when it’s activated. Now Shumate, who had considered the system when he had fallen three previous times, is an outspoken supporter of the security system. “It feels good to have it there in case I need it,” he says. He’s even tried to convince his 72-year-old daughter to get one. “I think everybody should have them,” he says. “Young people fall, too.” Statistics back up his opinion. According to the Center for Dis-
When J.B. Shumate fell while taking out the trash, he decided to get a personal security system. ease Control, one in three adults 65 or older will fall in a given year, and falls are the leading cause of injury and death among seniors. People like Shumate who are older than 75 are four to five times more likely to fall than younger seniors. The CDC says even the fear of falling can cause some seniors to limit their activities, which can lead to reduced mobility and poor physical condition. “As loved ones get older, they want to keep their independence, and who can blame them?” says Ray Widner, operations manager for Ardmore Telephone. “The Personal Home Safety System allows them to keep that freedom, but gives them and their families the peace of mind to know that if they get in trouble, the system is there for them.” May/June 2013 | 9
The Southeastern U.S. is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Whether you're looking for a rugged multi-day hike or an afternoon paddle along a quiet creek, the region has something for everyone. But before packing up, spend some time exploring the Internet to ensure you get the most from your adventure. Congaree National Park
Six outdoor destinations and the technology that can enhance the nature experience By Andy Johns
Canoeists at Congaree National Park
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knife ✔ Pocket tection ✔ Sun pro
Dotted with waterfalls, unusual rock formations and lush gorges, the trails at Savage Gulf State Natural Area in Tennessee have been ranked among the nation’s best by Backpacker magazine. Not all of the park’s 50 miles of trails are as savage as the name states, but there is a good mix of routes from short walks to multi-night backpacking adventures. The area is also popular with rock climbers for features like the Stone Door, a 10-foot wide, 100-foot deep crack in the rock. Located on the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau, Savage Gulf offers fantastic views during leaf season in the fall. www.tn.gov/environment/na/natareas/savage
The Duck River
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Located southeast of Columbia, S.C., the Congaree National Park claims to preserve the biggest section of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the region. What that means is visitors should be prepared to see trees like they’ve never seen before. In fact, to find a “taller” forest you have to travel out west to the famous redwoods and sequoias. One of the nation’s newest national parks, Congaree offers everything from a 2.4-mile boardwalk to the ominously-named, 11-mile King Snake Trail. Rangers say the best way to see the park, however, is by water. Canoes and kayaks can be rented from outfitters in Columbia, or you can register for one of the park’s guided canoe tours. www.nps.gov/cong
The 270-mile Duck River has more species of fish than all of Europe, according to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. A 37-mile section of the river has been designated a State Scenic River and is a perfect spot for beginning paddlers. The river is mostly moving flat water with only a few easy rapids that can be easily portaged. Paddlers will enjoy a variety of wildlife, along with forested banks, rocky cliffs and even a cave or two. At least three outfitters offer canoe or kayak rentals from Columbia and Chapel Hill, so not having a boat is no excuse to stay on the banks. www.tn.gov/environment/tn_consv/archive/duckriver.htm
Upper Greeter Falls in Savage Gulf
A great blue heron at Congaree National Park
Web-based technology can add to your hiking experience before, during and after your hike. Here are three ways technology can help you on the trails.
Photos courtesy of Tennessee State Natural Areas and Congaree National Park.
A green anole lizard at Congaree National Park
Lower Greeter Falls in Savage Gulf
Zebra swallowtail butterfly at Congaree National Park
Hiker at the Walls of Jericho
The Sheltowee Trace
Running for about 300 miles through East Tennessee and Kentucky, the Sheltowee Trace offers hikers a multi-night long-distance trail experience or a collection of shorter day trips. Some of the highlights along the route include Cumberland Falls, Natural Bridge State Resort Park and Cave Run Lake. For some variety, sections of the trail are open to mountain bikes, horses and some off-road vehicles. www.sheltoweetrace.org
While many trails will wear you out climbing mountains, the North/South Trail at Kentucky's Land Between the Lakes (LBL) National Recreation Area is wide and relatively flat, making it easy on hikers. Like other long distance trails, the North/South offers appealing segments for single day hikes or the full 60-mile distance for multi-day trips. The trail offers a few views of nearby Kentucky Lake, but the big attraction to hikers here is the solitude and wildlife. Deer and turkey roam the LBL, and there are even bison in one designated area off the trail. Mountain bikes and horses are allowed, but motor vehicles are prohibited. www.lbl.org/Hiking.html
Walls of Jericho
The Walls of Jericho is a great example of two states working together. Tennessee and Alabama (with the help of private groups) have teamed up to protect 21,000 acres on their border that feature 200-foot cliffs, endangered species and unusually shaped rocks. Getting to the Walls is a 7-mile round-trip hike with several small stream crossings. Hikers need to be sure to wear good boots, bring plenty of water and pay attention to the weather. www.tn.gov/environment/na/natareas/jericho
Websites like backpacker.com/ destinations and gorp.com (which stands for "Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts," a popular trail snack) offer countless maps, images and user reviews for hikes in your area. Research ahead of time so you don’t miss spectacular side trails — and so you'll be aware of hazards in the area.
During: The Audubon Society and other groups have developed apps for smartphones that can enhance your nature experience. Apps like Audubon Birds give you access to thousands of bird call sound files and photos to help identify species you may run across.
After: Mobile apps like RunKeeper allow you to map your route as you go. Most of them have features that allow you to review your pace, elevation gain and distance covered so you can analyze your trip. Many also allow you to share your route with friends so they can see where you’ve been and try it themselves.
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Vendor Sue Miller bags owl statues for customer Carlos Albaran.
a g e M t e k r Ma I
If you can’t find it down here, you don’t need it.
–Sue Miller, vendor 12 | May/June 2013
Thousands search for deals at Dog Day Flea Market
f you have a shopping list that includes a goat, an antique lamp, gently used slippers, a crepe myrtle and a hunting dog, you would expect to have to make a few stops to get it all. But the Dog Day Flea Market in Ardmore is a one-stop shop for all of that, and more. “People sell dogs, rabbits, goats — whatever they can sell,” says vendor Sue Miller. “If you can’t find it down here, you don’t need it.” Miller sells a mix of clothes, household knickknacks and books. Next door to her, a vendor sells sheets, jeans and belts. A few tents down, a man sells guns. Across the yard, another is selling live chickens. “We’ve got everything,” says Alex James, who bought the market and, land it sits on in 2000. James says the market goes back to the 1940s or early 1950s. At the beginning, men would buy, sell and trade hunting
By Andy Johns dogs on Mondays. “The dog traders are the ones that started it,” he says. Hence the name, Dog Day Flea Market. From those first days, it was about 25 years before it turned into a general flea market and women started to attend. And though it’s expanded to Sundays and has many female shoppers and vendors, the clientele still has more masculine tastes. “The guns seem like they sell faster than the glassware,” James explains. “It’s still kind of a men’s market.” It’s also remained true to its roots with animals being a big part. When asked what kinds of animals have come through the market, James rattles off a list that includes rabbits, goats, pigs, kittens, cattle, hogs, ducks, geese, emus, ostriches, donkeys and quail. “I’ve seen every kind of animal,” James says. “Maybe not an elephant or anything, but a lot of animals.” Ardmore Telephone Company
Summertime tradition The items for sale at Dog Day range from dogs to dogwoods. By the time you go through the entire market and visit with the vendors, you’re likely to be dog-tired. “I come about every Monday if it’s nice,” says Carl Shedd, a World War II veteran from Lawrence County, Tenn. He likes to check out the gun selection, and enjoys trading items as much as buying or selling. But like many folks, a big reason Shedd goes to the market is the social interaction. “I come here to visit,” says David Richardson, of Limestone County, Ala., who sells knives. That’s a big part of why James purchased the market and works to keep it going strong. “I love to talk to people,” he says. “I just enjoy the people.” On a holiday weekend like Memorial Day or Labor Day, there are plenty of people to talk to. On those weekends, the market is open Friday through Monday and James estimates nearly 50,000 people pass through the gates. “It looks like the world’s fair down here,” he says. “You just catch yourself wondering, how does this happen?” James says the proximity to Interstate 65 and the low rental fees bring the vendors. He charges $6 per space most weekends and $40 on holidays, which is significantly lower than many of the markets and antique shows where he sold his wares back when he was an antique dealer. He keeps it low because good vendors bring good crowds, he explains. The market can accommodate 1,200 to 1,500 vendors, but in 2012, for the first time it filled up so he had to turn some away. “It was simply amazing,” he says.
Walker Myrick, 5, and his sister Jolie, 4, both of Lexington, Ala., look for a pet chicken at the Dog Day Flea Market.
Regulars at the Dog Day Flea Market have had years of practice, but James says there are plenty of fresh faces each time the gates open. “There’s a lot of the vendors that are here every week, but there are new vendors each weekend who have never been here,” James says. And for those new vendors and shoppers, James says there are a few things to keep in mind. The first is to be prepared to get up with the sun — if not sooner. “It’s an early market,” he says. “There’s some of them who come in at midnight and take a nap until it opens.” Additionally, he says, most all of the sticker prices are only suggestions. “Both sides are braced for haggling and negotiating,” he explains. Miller adds one more tip: be ready to make some friends. “You see a lot of people down here,” she explains. “They’re like family to us.”
Dogs aren’t the only animals at the market. Chickens, rabbits, goats, ducks, cattle, donkeys and even emus have gone up for sale.
“Like” the market on Facebook
Go to Facebook.com and search for Dog Day Flea Market.
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Carl Shedd (left), of Lawrence County, Tenn., swaps stories with vendor Orland Jackson, who lives south of Ardmore. May/June 2013 | 13
Southern Kitchens An art fired by passion My dad was never too fond of barbecue. As a result, I really never experienced smoked foods until well beyond my youth. In fact, it wasn’t until I was well into my third decade of life that I not only learned to love barbecue, but also learned there was more to it than I ever knew — all because of an invitation to judge one of the most esteemed of all barbecue competitions, the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational. In accepting the invitation, I also took classes to become a certified judge. I went back several years to judge this event and came to discover that barbecue is an art. It’s a sixth sense in many barbecuers who are born to the flame, it seems. As years go on, they become adept at putting on the heat to produce just the right amount of smoke to marry with the juices flowing through the meats. These sons — and daughters — of the South have smoke in their veins. It’s an all-consuming passion, and one shared by many now that it’s gone beyond the back yard to become a global cuisine. Just take a look at Eric Stephenson’s recipes in the adjoining story and see if you don’t become addicted to his fiery passion… if you’re not already.
Smoke runs in his blood
ric Stephenson was just 16 years old when he learned that a little bit of flame, a smoker filled with wood and a careful eye produces incredibly good meat. It was then that his dad, James, opened a barbecue restaurant in Geraldine, Ala., and employed his son to work after school and during his summers off. Soon, Eric became a master of the flame under his father’s watchful eye. Now 32, Eric owns his own barbecue restaurant, Stephenson’s Bar-B-Que in Stephenson Rainsville, Ala. It has a take-out drive learned the art through, as well as a covered front porch of barbecue with a handful of picnic tables where from his father. folks can “eat-in.” “I loved working with my dad growing up,” Eric says. "I was able to see first-hand the pride he took in his work. Before his death, he laid out a blueprint for me through multiple conversations. That’s where the idea for Stephenson’s Bar-B-Que began. It’s in my blood.” His first barbecue hut was a Saturday-only business located next to his house. When that building was destroyed by a tornado in April of 2011, he reopened in a new location along Highway 35 in downtown Rainsville. Now folks can smell the smoke from the hickory pit five days a week. From pork sandwiches to rib plates, Stephenson’s Bar-B-Que reigns in Rainsville. Eric took time out from smoking to answer a few barbecue questions: Q: Do you prefer using gas or charcoal? A: Neither. The best method is to use all wood when smoking meat. It gives it a whole lot better flavor. Q: What are the best woods to use? A: Most all hardwoods are good — pecan, hickory, oak, cherry. Q: How do you get juicy meat? A: Don’t pierce the meat; it creates holes that let the juices escape. Brining the meat is a better option. I brine all of mine, from the chickens and turkeys to pork butts and ribs. Q: What is the biggest mistake people make when smoking meat? A: Allowing the flame to touch the meat or cooking it at too high a temperature. That scorches the meat, and the smoke won’t have time to penetrate the inside of the meat. Q: How do you know when the meat is done? A: I can tell just by touch. But people who are new to smoking meats should use a meat thermometer. I cook my pork butts to at least 175° F. Makes them more tender, too.
FOLLOW THE SMOKE TO... Anne P. Braly Food Editor Email Anne Braly at email@example.com. 14 | May/June 2013
Stephenson’s Bar-B-Que H 832 Main St. East H Rainsville, Ala. Hours: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. H Tuesday – Saturday Phone: 256-717-4080 House special: Pulled pork barbecue plate with coleslaw and baked beans ($6.25-$7.75)
BBQ: A mouth-watering Southern tradition Sweet ’n Savory Rub This rub adds a zesty flair to whatever meat you put on the grill. 1/2 1 2 1 1 1 1
cup brown sugar tablespoon black pepper tablespoons paprika tablespoon salt tablespoon onion powder tablespoon garlic powder tablespoon chili powder
Mix together all ingredients and store in airtight container. May be used as a rub for chicken, beef or pork. Makes about 1 cup rub for 2-3 pounds meat. When ready to use, sprinkle rub onto meat and allow to rest for 5 minutes before grilling. Or, rub onto meat, wrap meat in foil and refrigerate overnight to grill the next day.
Bourbon Smoked Pork Tenderloin
Makes an elegant entree or one that can be served with baked beans and coleslaw for tasty picnic fare. 2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey 2 tablespoons molasses or strong honey 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes 3 cloves garlic, crushed 2 bay leaves, crushed 5 teaspoons dried thyme 5 teaspoons dried sage 3/4 cup oil 1 teaspoon salt Combine the bourbon and molasses. Add the remaining ingredients and roll the pork in the marinade. Refrigerate 8 hours, or overnight, turning occasionally. Remove the pork from the marinade, season with salt, and smoke, basting with marinade for 15-20 minutes. The pork may then continue to cook on a smoker, be finished on a grill, or be roasted in a
Using nothing but wood will give your ribs that distinct smoke flavor that barbecue lovers crave. 350° F oven until reaching an internal temperature of 145-150° F. Remove pork from heating source and let rest 15 minutes before serving.
Stephenson's ribs with spicy barbecue sauce
Ribs with Spicy Barbecue Sauce The sauce tickles these ribs with lots of flavor.
1 3-pound rack of ribs
SAUCE: 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar 1/2 cup ketchup 1/3 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce 2 cloves garlic, crushed 2 teaspoons prepared mustard 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Place ribs in pan. Combine all sauce ingredients and pour over ribs. Cover ribs and refrigerate for 2 hours, turning ribs frequently. Drain sauce from ribs, reserving sauce. Place ribs over medium coals and grill over direct heat for 1 hour, turning ribs and basting often with sauce. May/June 2013 | 15
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