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Hurricane season

“Squalls out on the gulf stream

Big storm’s comin’ soon”

Jimmy Buffett

“Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season”

Some start as tropical waves off the coast of Africa.

Others just spring up from a depression down in the Caribbean.

They grow and grow and move until something makes them stop – usually land. This is their season. Here come the hurricanes.

Though many of you are far from the coast, you need to keep in mind that those storms can have an enormous, tragic impact inland.

Well, if you get one, I hope you can find someone to call, someone like “Doll Baby.”

Let me explain.

First, don’t let the name fool you. “Doll” (as friends call him) is much a man. Well over 6 feet tall, with bulk to go with it, he lives in South Alabama with his wife Wanda. Like so many folks down there, Doll has made his living in the woods, and as they say, “he ain’t afraid of work.”

Back in 1990 Doll and Wanda were driving through South Carolina’s Francis Marion National Forest, a few months after Hurricane Hugo. Trees were still scattered every-which-a-way. Trucks couldn’t get in to clean up without tearing up what was left. Seeing the mess, the Alabama couple stopped at the Ranger Station and told the attendant, in so many words, “what you need is mules.” And since Doll had some, a deal was struck.

So, he went back home, rounded up a crew, loaded up the mules — Linda and Lisa, Mutt and Jeff, Maude and Rock — and headed to Carolina where they snaked logs until the weather got too hot for man and beast. In the process, Doll and his mules became celebrities — newspapers wrote about them, students from a nearby college “studied” them, and a kindergarten class visited them. The local TV station sent out a cute young female reporter to interview Doll, who took time from his work to show her the ropes — a little too much time, Wanda said.

Personally, I figure he was just being nice.

Of course, folks down Doll’s way know about hurricanes. Living some 80 miles above Mobile, they count on getting the backwash from storms through the summer and into the fall.

September gales, old folks called them.

But at times they were more than gales.

Back in 1969, Category 5 Camille tore into the Mississippi Gulf Coast and its counterclockwise winds caused damage deep into Alabama.

As the storm approached, coastal folks, the smart ones, began heading north. The roads were jammed and motels full. So upcountry churches began setting up shelters and sending out the word to their members that if they had an extra bedroom the refugees sure could use it.

My folks had one, so for a few days they hosted a fine family from Baldwin County. Then it was over, and the guests headed home to survey the damage.

For years after that, as hurricane season approached, my parents got a package from those folks.  In it was a ham, and card asking them to reserve a room, just in case.

They always did.

Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus at Jacksonville State University and a regular contributor to Alabama Living.  He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.