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Sharks live among us, but don’t be afraid to go in the water

By John N. Felsher

Many shark species swim Alabama waters, including some genuine maneaters. However, attacks rarely happen. “People would be surprised at how many species and the numbers of sharks off the Alabama coast,” says Dr. Sean P. Powers, a professor of marine sciences with the University of South Alabama and a scientist with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. “Most sharks in Alabama waters are small and non-threatening to humans. Unprovoked shark attacks are very rare in Alabama, but in the past 20 years, we’ve seen an increase in attacks because more humans are going to the coast and we have more sharks now.”

Tiger sharks can grow to 20 feet long and weigh more than 1,700 pounds.
Photo by David Hay Jones

People most commonly encounter Atlantic sharpnose sharks, which average about 2½ to 3 feet long. Anglers might also tangle with spinner sharks that habitually make spinning leaps from the water, or blacktips.

“In late spring and summer, we see so many blacktip and spinner sharks around the Gulf State Park Pier that people can hardly reel in a big fish without a shark biting it,” says Ritchie Russell, of Russell’s Coastal Fishing in Orange Beach. “People commonly catch 6- to 7-foot blacktips while surf fishing the beaches at night.”

Anglers could also catch scalloped hammerheads. These fish resemble larger great hammerheads and can grow to more than 10 feet long. Great hammerheads can grow more than 14 feet long and weigh more than 1,200 pounds.

“Hammerheads have huge dorsal fins, which make them very popular with commercial fishermen,” Powers says. “Great hammerheads are recovering from overfishing because of the value of their fins for shark fin soup. Great hammerheads look very fierce, but because of the position of their mouths, they rarely bite anyone. They mostly feed upon stingrays and use their hammer to hold rays down.”

Any toothy shark could give a human a nasty bite. According to www.sharkattackdata.com, the last fatal attack in Alabama happened in 1894. Most attacks occur because a shark thinks a foot or hand in the water looks like a fish or because humans do something to provoke the fish.

“Humans make horrible food for sharks,” Powers says. “Sharks want food with high fat content, like mackerel or tuna. They need that energy. Humans just don’t have that fatty acid content that sharks need. Usually, a shark takes a bite out of someone because it thinks it sees prey. Usually, when a shark bites a person, it retreats.”

Species in Alabama

Three large shark species – great whites, tigers and bull sharks – account for most attacks worldwide and all of them swim in Alabama waters at times. Great white sharks, the toothy predator that gave the movie “Jaws” its menacing moniker, do occur in the Gulf of Mexico. The largest predatory shark in the world, a great white can exceed 22 feet in length and weigh more than 4,000 pounds. But people rarely encounter a great white off Alabama coasts.

Most sharks that live off Alabama’s coasts are small and non-threatening, but there are bull and tiger sharks that are responsible for some attacks.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Sean Powers

However, other monster maneaters do frequently visit state waters. Some prowl close to the beach or even venture north of it. The second largest predatory shark in the world and a proven maneater, tiger sharks can grow to 20 feet long and weigh more than 1,700 pounds. Larry G. Eberly holds not only the state record for the species, but bragging rights for landing the largest fish ever caught in Alabama, a 988-pound tiger he caught near Gulf Shores in June 1990.

“Routinely, we see 600-pound tigers in the Gulf of Mexico,” Powers says. “Tiger sharks were overfished for a long time but are now recovering. Large tigers very rarely enter Mobile Bay, but juvenile tiger sharks go far up into Mobile Bay to use it as a nursery area. Young tigers go into areas with low salinities where other sharks cannot follow. They stay in the estuary until they grow big enough to defend themselves.”

Stocky and powerful, bull sharks can top 11 feet in length and weigh more than 600 pounds. Unlike other sharks, adult bull sharks readily enter freshwater systems. Very common in Alabama, bulls regularly hunt in the tidal rivers of the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta. They sometimes appear well up the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers.

Low odds of attack

Bull sharks account for most attacks in Alabama waters. In fact, a bull shark, not a great white, probably inspired the novel and movie “Jaws.” From July 1-12, 1916, a shark or multiple sharks killed five people along the New Jersey coast. One attack occurred in a freshwater creek 15 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.

“Shark attacks do happen, but the odds of being attacked by a shark are lower than getting hit by lightning,” Powers says. “Jellyfish pose a much more serious problem to people swimming on the beaches than sharks. People shouldn’t be afraid to go to the water. Sharks are not out to get people. They are looking for something to eat. Most sharks are not interested in eating people.”

People who engage in risky behavior would more likely suffer a shark bite. When anglers who wade along the beaches catch fish, they often put them on a stringer attached to their belts. Bleeding fish can attract sharks. Sharks can detect minute blood particles from long distances. Generally, the shark goes for the fish, and not the human. If a large shark wants the fish, let him have it and get out of the water.

Sharks typically feed at dusk and dawn. Don’t swim or wade during those hours, especially alone. Sharks generally avoid groups of noisy people. Also, never go in the water with a bleeding wound, no matter how small. Obey shark warnings and stay out of the water when big predators feed. If attacked, fight back. Tear at the shark’s gills or poke its eyes. Punch it in the snout. Sharks respect power. Resistance could cause a shark to look for easier prey.

Sharks have been part of the natural environment for eons. Leave them alone to go about their lives.ν

Snapshots: My Motorcycle

Taking a friend for a ride in a 1948 Goulding sidecar on my 1995 Harley Davidson FLHTP. SUBMITTED BY Nancy Mcloda, Henagar.
Heath Dunn. SUBMITTED BY Nicole Dunn, Clayton.
John Skinner and his 1974 Bultaco Astro. Still hot off the race track from the weekend.SUBMITTED BY John Skinner, Auburn.
Esker Jay Johnson, my brother who has retired and gotten a motorcycle to run and enjoy himself. SUBMITTED BY Rammie Johnson, Sulligent.
Jimmy Pullen. SUBMITTED BY Susie Pullen, Wetumpka.
My dad Elmer Brant, Korean War veteran, on his 2004 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail headed to Rolling Thunder Memorial Day Ride. SUBMITTED BY Jaret Brant, Jemison.

 

Submit Your Images! October Theme: “Scary Photos!” Deadline for October: August 31

Submit photos online: www.alabamaliving.coop/submit-photo/ or send color photos with a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Photos, Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

Rules: Alabama Living will pay $10 for photos that best match our theme of the month. Photos may also be published on our website at www.alabamaliving.coop and on our Facebook page. Alabama Living is not responsible for lost or damaged photos.

Social Security provides multiple ways to change your direct deposit information

With our busy lives, it’s easy to fall into that cycle of postponing some tasks because of other priorities. This may be true for you when it comes to changing your payment method for Social Security benefits. Unfortunately, forgetting to change your payment method can lead to delayed payments.

The most convenient way to change your direct deposit information with Social Security is by creating a my Social Security account online at socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Once you create your account, you can update your bank information without leaving the comfort of your home. Another way to change your direct deposit is by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to make the change over the phone. If you prefer to speak to someone in-person, you can visit your local Social Security office with the necessary information.

Because we are committed to protecting your personal information, we need some form of identification to verify who you are. If you are online, we verified your identity when you initially created your my Social Security account. All you need to do is log in at socialsecurity.gov/myaccount with your secure username and password to gain access to your information.

If you call Social Security, we will ask identifying questions to ensure we are speaking to the right person. If you visit the office, you will need to bring a driver’s license or some form of ID with you. Once we have identified that you are the correct person and are authorized to make changes on the Social Security record, all we need is the routing number, account number, and type of account established. We don’t ask for a voided check, nor do we obtain verification from the bank. Therefore, you should be sure you are providing accurate information to us.

Because you may be unsure if your direct deposit change will affect your next payment, we highly recommend that you do not close the old bank account until you have seen your first Social Security deposit in the new bank account. That way, you can feel secure you will receive your benefits on time, regardless of when the change was reported to Social Security.

When you have to report changes to your direct deposit, be sure to visit us online at socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Social Security always strives to put you in control by providing the best experience and service no matter where, when, or how you decide to do business with us.

 

Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by email at kylle.mckinney@ssa.gov.

This month in Alabama history

August 15, 1841

Education and prison reformer Julia Tutwiler was born in Tuscaloosa. Known as the “Angel of the Stockade,” Tutwiler worked tirelessly to improve Alabama’s prison system. Her efforts convinced the state to appoint a state prison inspector, fund teachers for Sunday and night schools in prison, create separate prisons for women, and establish the South’s first juvenile reform school for white boys. She also worked closely with the state to innovate women’s education and helped found the University of West Alabama and the University of Montevallo. Tutwiler was inducted into the Alabama Hall of Fame and the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame, and her poem “Alabama” is immortalized as the official state song.

encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1112

Massive yellow jacket nests appearing in Alabama; don’t disturb!

Imagine a colony of yellow jackets the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, filled with 15,000 of the stinging insects. Now, imagine more than 90 of these super nests in Alabama. It happened in 2006, and Charles Ray, an entomologist working with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said that 2019 may be shaping up to mirror that year.

It’s called a perennial yellow jacket nest. Entomologists believe that milder winters combined with an abundant food supply allow some colonies to survive and enter spring with much larger numbers. Additionally, the normal cues that would cause queens to disperse may not happen. Researchers have documented that these massive colonies often have multiple queens.

A normal yellow jacket nest is usually located in the ground or a cavity. It may peak at 4,000 to 5,000 workers that do not survive cold weather, leaving queens to disperse and form new colonies in the spring.

The perennial yellow jacket nests that concern Ray bear little resemblance to normal colonies.

“These perennial nests may be several feet wide and have many thousands of workers, far more than an average nest,” Ray says. “We have found them attached to home exteriors and other places you might not expect to find yellow jackets.”

Ray offers important tips for people who think they may have a giant yellow jacket colony on their property.

“First and foremost, do not disturb the nest,” Ray says. “While these giant nests often appear less aggressive than smaller colonies, it is important that people do not disturb the nests.”

Next, Ray wants people to contact him so he can document the nest and collect insect specimens. People should contact him by email at raychah@auburn.edu.

Finally, if people need to have nests removed, Ray says it is a task only for licensed commercial pest control operators. He warns that even some commercial operators will not tackle these giant perennial yellow jacket nests.

Alabama Living 2019 photo contest

Capturing Alabama’s people and places.

Seeing our state through the eyes – and camera lenses – of others offers a glimpse into the worlds of those around us. From picturesque landscapes to funny animals to Alabama landmarks, there’s no shortage of photo opportunities for anyone with a camera, a curious eye and a little patience.

Alabama Living wanted to see some of these great photos taken by our readers, so again this year, we sponsored a photo contest. We accepted photos through our website from May 1-31 in four categories: This is Alabama, Capture the Seasons, Cute Critters and Fun and Laughter. We had 228 submissions that met the eligibility requirements.

Our judge was Phil Scarsbrook, a professional photographer with more than 40 years of experience who has judged our two previous photo contests. Scarsbrook did not know the identities of the photographers as he judged the entries.

We had submissions from every part of the state, and we’re proud to present the judge’s choices for you to enjoy. And start thinking about what you’ll enter next year!

— Allison Law

Capture the Seasons

First place: Anjana Henry, Joe Wheeler EMC
“I took this at Green Mountain in Huntsville in fall 2015. The reflection off the fall foliage in the water was so beautiful.”
Judge’s comment: With soft tonality and hues, reminiscent of a Renaissance painting. Excellent capture.

 

Honorable mention:
Grace Knetter, Cullman EC
“This sweet girl has a huge heart, joyous personality and helps spread happiness all around her! She is a senior this year, getting ready to take on the world.”

Cute Critters

First place: Jennifer Newby, Baldwin EMC
“While in Orange Beach with friends for Labor Day in 2014, we took a dolphin cruise. They used two boats to create a wake that had the dolphins jumping and playing. We were amazed.”
Judge’s comment: Fun photo! Beautifully rendered. Leaving space for the dolphin to jump into makes the composition of this image spot-on.

Honorable mention:
Audrey Barnett, Baldwin EMC
“I’ve raised chickens my whole life. I took this picture after it had rained and my chickens were on my picnic table, preening themselves to try and dry off. When I went to snap a picture, they sorta gave me a dirty look.”

Fun and Laughter

Honorable mention:
Marla Monk, Coosa Valley EC
“Children usually like the wrapping paper the best at Christmas. Here are my grandchildren opening presents at my house in Birmingham, Christmas 2018.”
First place: Jenna Adaway, Wiregrass EC
“Taken in Hartford, Ala., on May 1, 2019. It’s special because she was getting ready to spit water on her brother. Hahaha!”
Judge’s comment: Fun image! Full of energy and emotion. Reminds me of days past of drinking water straight from the faucet.

This is Alabama

First place: Debra Jones, Baldwin EMC
“This photo was taken east of Gulf State Park last September. I have started a new tradition every September to go to the pier to take sunrise photos. Each day is a new beginning, especially when it involves fishing.”
Judge’s comment: Simply beautiful! Excellent, colorful silhouette. From the sinking sun to the lone bird in the foreground, there are plenty of visual elements to treat the eye.
Honorable mention:
Sandy Kiplinger, Arab EC
“Sipsey Wilderness, 2018. The Sipsey has many beautiful secrets.”

Will it be Bama vs Clemson? Chapter 5

By Brad Bradford

Some Vegas casinos have the most unusual and first-time betting option for the 2019 football season: You can take Alabama and Clemson together against the field (other 128 teams) to win the national championship. Where would you put your money? This goes to show how far these two teams have separated themselves from all the others.

Football fans forget that last year, as the season progressed, these questions came up: Is this the best Alabama team ever? Can anyone come near them? Could they beat a poor NFL team? All ridiculous questions.

Yes, Alabama breezed through the regular season but had to face Auburn, Georgia, Oklahoma and, of course, Clemson for the national championship. On these same weeks, Clemson played South Carolina, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. This is not an excuse. Bama got taken behind the woodshed and gave Nick Saban the worst beating in his tenure at Alabama. There was no excuse for this. On Jan. 7, Clemson was the better team, better coached, better prepared and dominated.

Auburn’s 2018 season was riddled with uncertainty, injuries, inexplicable losses and incredible wins. The Tigers beat the PAC 12 champion Washington Huskies in Atlanta to open the season and totally steamrolled a Purdue team that had dominated Ohio State by 29 points in the Music City Bowl. Their signature win was defeating Texas A&M at home. They beat the other SEC bottom feeders but lost head scratchers to Mississippi State and a bad Tennessee team. The LSU game was basically taken from them with a couple of questionable interference calls and some Bayou luck. This early loss seemed to start some finger pointing and blame. A win over LSU would have given them a 5-0 start and momentum.

All schedules are not created equal. This year, Auburn faces the equivalent of the old Yankee’s Murderers Row in order: No. 10 Oregon; No. 13 Texas A&M; No. 6 Florida; No. 8 LSU; No. 3 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama. The media has made a big deal about Clemson playing Texas A&M. Guess what? Auburn and Alabama play them every year.

Here are Clemson’s six highest ranked opponents: No. 13 Texas A&M; No. 32 Syracuse; No. 40 South Carolina; No. 51 N.C. State; No. 65 Wake Forest; and No. 70 Boston College.

Which team do you think gets to rest their starters earlier, which leads to more depth, fewer injuries, and a larger margin for error? Nothing can be done about the SEC crossover games, but Bama gets Tennessee and South Carolina while Auburn drew Florida and Georgia.

Replace “The Process” with “The Alabama Factor.” It is hard to believe that Nick Saban is entering his 13th year with the Tide. He has recently talked more about the Alabama Factor than the Process: “Last year, we got away from the Alabama Factor which includes effort, discipline, commitment, pride and toughness.” Bama plays best with a chip on its shoulder and when not ranked No. 1. Both boxes are checked this year. Can he indoctrinate seven new assistants into the Alabama Factor? His track record says yes.

Is Gus Malzahn on the hot seat? As the head football coach at a major university, the two people that you want on your side are the president of the university and the athletics director. President Steven Leath (who gave Malzahn the $49 million contract) was recently let go and Athletics Director Allen Greene did not hire Gus. Auburn fans are not satisfied with a 28-20 SEC record and losing at least five games in four of his six years. When the gap in confidence and talent chasm gets wider with the team on the other side of the state, it heats up. See Avery Johnson, former Alabama basketball coach, as an example of this.

Alabama Prediction: After going 14-1 last year, you would think that the wheels have come off the Nick bus. Unfortunately, Bama is judged vs. perfection. Nothing less. Since quarterback Tua Tagovailoa made it look so easy last year, he was taken for granted. His passing efficiency rating of 199.4 barely beat out Kyler Murray of Oklahoma to lead the nation. Najee Harris takes over as the alpha running back after learning from now-NFL backs Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs.

The depth at wide receiver is a version of “pick your poison”: All-American Jerry Jeudy along with Henry Ruggs III, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle can go the distance, quickly. The defense will be led by the best linebacking group in the country: Dylan Moses, Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis. Alabama could have an All-American in every position unit on the team.

Trap games: at Texas A&M, LSU at home (even though Bama has won eight in a row) and Auburn, since it is in Jordan-Hare this year. The over/under is 11. Take the over. Prediction: 12-0. SEC champion. College football playoff again.

Auburn Prediction: One of the Tigers’ best recruiting jobs was having All-American Derrick Brown return at defensive tackle for his senior year instead of opting for the NFL. The Tigers’ defensive line is ranked No. 1 in the country. Senior Marlon Davidson, Nick Coe and Big Kat Brown should be able to shut down their opponents’ running game. As long as Kevin Steele is the defensive coordinator, Auburn will be in games.

The biggest question on offense is the one that you don’t want to have in the killer SEC West: Who is going to be the starter at quarterback? Redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood has the talent, but my money is on true freshman Bo Nix. He comes from good Auburn stock. Every starter on the offensive line is a senior (almost never heard of). The schedule does not give Auburn much room for error. Possible losses: Oregon, Texas A&M, Florida, LSU, Georgia and Alabama. The over/under is 8. Will be a push. Prediction: 8-4.

SEC WEST: 1. Alabama 2. Texas A&M 3. LSU 4. Auburn 5. Mississippi State 6. Arkansas 7. Ole Miss

SEC EAST: 1. Georgia 2. Florida 3. Missouri 4. Kentucky 5. South Carolina 6. Tennessee 7. Vandy

POSSIBLE PLAYOFF TEAMS: Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, LSU, Clemson, Ohio State, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas and Oregon.

PLAYOFF PAIRINGS: Peach: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Georgia. Fiesta: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Oklahoma.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Clemson vs. Alabama. This year, there will be 15 days between the semifinals and the championship game. Bama will have an easier time with Oklahoma than Clemson will have with Georgia in Atlanta. No one utilizes this extra time better than Nick Saban and his band of analysts. It should be a slight lean toward Clemson, BUT for the last 3 years, the loser of the Clemson-Alabama game has come back to win the National Championship the next year. How can you go against this stat? Alabama 38-Clemson 35.ν

Brad Bradford is a former football staff member at Alabama and Louisville. His daily blog about growing up in the South can be found at hairinabiscuit.com. Email him at brad@coachbradfinancial.com

Alabama People: Don Noble

Talking about books

Don Noble, longtime professor emeritus of English at the University of Alabama, has been hosting the Emmy-nominated “Bookmark” show for 30 years on Alabama Public Television. His weekly book reviews have been broadcast on Alabama Public Radio since 2002. He is a widely published writer and editor who has served on many statewide boards, including the Alabama Humanities Foundation, Alabama Writers’ Forum and the Alabama School for the Fine Arts. He is the recipient of several prestigious literary and academic awards. We caught up with him between books to get more acquainted with this busy man. – Lenore Vickrey

You’re not a native of Alabama, but you’ve lived here 50 years.  Have any of your preconceptions about the South been changed or reinforced in the 50 years you’ve lived here?

I had been a New Yorker (state) for my first 23 years and went to Chapel Hill on purpose to study Southern lit. As I was finishing there, I was offered a job here (UA) and thought, wrongly, that I had been living in the South and Alabama would be more or less like Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill was NOT the South. It was and is an oasis. I had all the preconceptions you might imagine. I watched Alabama on television in the ’60s just like everyone else in America. But more importantly, I wanted to be a part of something that was changing, getting better.  In this respect, I was correct. Alabama, Tuscaloosa and the University are better than ever. There was always a rich literary tradition, which I admired, but race relations, the economy, restaurants, and culture in all its forms are better and keep improving (with some dramatic setbacks from time to time).

You’ve been doing “Bookmark” for 30 years on APTV and interviewed more than 400 authors. How do you choose which authors to interview?

As with my radio book reviews, I try to give a little attention to Alabama writers. On the more practical level, we rarely have the funds to go to where a writer is living. William Styron was the great exception. We interviewed him in his living room in Connecticut. The producers and I keep a sharp eye out for writers on tour or who are appearing at the Monroeville conference or the Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery. We used to get lots of writers at the Birmingham-Southern Writing Today Conference, but it closed. Big catches such as Toni Morrison or Ray Bradbury were writers who had come to Alabama for one reason or another.

Who were your most memorable interviews?

Although I have interviewed many writers with the Pulitzer or the National Book Award, only Toni Morrison had the Nobel. So she is the most important and memorable. In many cases, the interview led to friendships. Eugene Walter and I met regularly for dinner and drinks until his death, and writers such as Rick Bragg, Daniel Wallace, Michelle Richmond, Sena Jeter Naslund and many others are friends I am happy to be connected to. Daniel and I did a little show in Tuscumbia at the library last Friday night.

Who was the most difficult to interview?

Some writers are difficult. Some may be having a bad day, or are just not very nice people, ever. As has been written many times, it is not always a good thing to meet your heroes. More than one writer has insisted on correcting any little error I might make. However, the old and savvy writers, Richard Wilbur and James Dickey, to name two, know how to steer the interview so that everybody looks good. In each case, when my question was weak or faulty, the poet said, “Yes, let me rephrase that a little” or “Good question. I understood you to mean…” and they rephrased my awkward question so it was more elegant and they looked kind and I looked bright.

Who would you like to talk to again?

I have interviewed many, many writers several times. If it were possible, I would like to talk to Toni Morrison again, and of course, the deceased, but that is not likely!

And how do you find/make the time to read all the books you want to read?

I do NOT read faster than other people. But one must be relentless. It is important to read every day. If you read 50 pages a day for six days, you have done a 300-page book. No magic there.

Which medium do you prefer – print, Kindle, e-book, audio?

I much prefer a book in hand, a hard copy. I read on a device only in an emergency.

What books are on your nightstand right now?

My nightstand is for books I am not reviewing. I just read a biography of Lawrence Durrell. I read a lot of biography for relaxation. I also just read David Sedaris’ Calypso, and I love the essays of Adam Gopnik.

Balancing the dark and light sides of outdoor lighting

By Katie Jackson

On the bright side, outdoor lighting makes nighttime yards and gardens safer and more beautiful. On the dark side, outdoor lighting contributes to light pollution and can cause all kinds of problems for all kinds of creatures. Luckily, we can balance the dark and light sides of outdoor illumination by using conscientious, judicious lighting strategies.

Light pollution is a modern-day problem caused by the overuse and misuse of artificial lights, particularly those that produce bright white or blue light. Yes, good outdoor lighting is often necessary for our safety and security, but if used excessively or inappropriately, it can eclipse the natural luminosity of the moon and stars, which in turn affects the circadian rhythms of the natural world.

For example, light pollution not only limits our ability to really see a night sky, it can also disrupt plant growth and flowering, cause migrating birds to fly into buildings, lure newly hatched sea turtles away from the safety of the sea and disturb the sleep cycles of us humans.

The good news is, we humans can mitigate the damage (and save energy) by following a few basic principles suggested by the International Dark-Sky Association, a nonprofit on a mission to “preserve and protect nighttime environments and the heritage dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.”

According to IDA, light pollution worldwide can be drastically reduced simply by using artificial lights judiciously — only when and where they are truly needed — and using light pollution-limiting bulbs that reduce brightness and disruptive blue light emissions.

Sure, the greatest impact would be made if these steps are adopted in major metropolitan areas, but you can make a small

dent in your own backyard, and it all starts with a garden stroll. Take a walk around your landscape in both daytime and nighttime conditions to determine the effects created by both the sun and moon on your home and yard. While you’re out there for the night stroll, cut on your current outdoor lights as well as any indoor lights that shine into the yard and see how they affect the nighttime landscape.

Once you know your current lighting situation and future lighting needs, you can focus better on where lights are truly necessary and what changes are needed to maximize their use.

During your stroll, take time to identify focal points or main elements in your landscape where lighting would be most beneficial. You may want to focus light on specific elements of the landscape, such as large trees, the main entrance, a front walk or a garden sculpture or fountain. Also identify areas that need extra light for safety and security, such as dark corners and potential hazards such as steps and curbs. With this information in hand, you can design your own nature-friendly lighting plan or take your nature-friendly ideas to a professional landscape designer.

And as you create and implement a plan, or simply make small changes to your current lighting, keep these IDA tips in mind:

• Whenever possible, use only fully shielded, downward-pointing light fixtures.

• Replace bulbs with “warm-white” or filtered LED (light-emitting diode) lights.

• Install dimmers, timers and motion sensors to reduce light use.

• Dim or turn off all lights overnight.

To learn more about light pollution and strategies to dim that pollution, visit IDA’s website at www.darksky.org. And make sure you take time to enjoy your nighttime landscape. Whether you wander in the garden or simply sit on the porch or patio in the dark, you’ll see and hear a whole new world.

Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at katielamarjackson@gmail.com.

Worth The Drive: Coach’s Steakhouse

Scoring touchdowns with a winning menu.

By Todd Thompson

When patrons first step inside Coach’s Steakhouse in historic downtown Tuscumbia, they are immediately taken back to days past – classic exposed brick walls, beautiful wood staircases and a historic feel.

But they won’t find walls filled with tributes to athletes and teams from the area.

“I like history and I don’t want the restaurant cluttered,” says owner Rickey Johnson, who spent 36 years in coaching with stops at Mount Hope, Hazlewood, Hatton and Muscle Shoals. “I wanted it to look good. I don’t want anything to take away from the history of this building.”

The only sports memorabilia in the restaurant currently is a large photo of Detroit Tigers’ legend Heinie Manush, a native of Tuscumbia who became the first Alabamian to be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

“This is a very historic building. The architect that did the remodel said it was built around 1805,” Johnson says. “There aren’t many restaurants in the state of Alabama that can say their building is that old. Helen Keller’s parents had a place here at one time, so she walked through those doors – doors that are original to the building. It has a lot of big-time plusses for people that like history. It has a little bit of everything.”

Johnson, who opened his first Coach’s restaurant in the Hatton community in Lawrence County, saw an opportunity when a previous restaurant at the location closed. He wanted to be a part of the town’s downtown thriving historic district.

Coach’s is dedicated to grilling “one steak at a time” and offers a wide selection of hand-cut meats, including filet mignon, top sirloin and ribeyes. Diners can also take Johnson’s recommendations for the Championship (New York) Strip or a Coach’s Choice sirloin.

Steak may be the top choice, but the full menu offers chicken, seafood, burgers and appetizers, including barbecue nachos and bacon cheese fries. It is one of the few restaurants in the area to offer a full salad bar stocked daily with fresh items.

A coach’s tradition

For Johnson, the menu is all about giving guests the best dining experience possible. And he knows plenty about being the best. A member of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame, Johnson won state football championships in 1990, 1991, 1992 and in 2000. He wrapped up his coaching career as a middle school coach in Muscle Shoals, where he coached the children of several of his former Hazlewood players.

The idea to name the restaurant came from students in Barry Rinks’ class at Muscle Shoals High School. But it took Johnson a few weeks to grow comfortable with the name.

“I always felt like it took me about 20 years of being a coach before I felt I earned the right to be addressed as ‘Coach,’” Johnson says.

Johnson didn’t just step into the food service industry after retirement without any experience. He operated a convenience store in Hatton for 25 years while teaching and coaching. He made the move to the restaurant business several years ago and never looked back.

“My goal is to meet every customer one on one,” Johnson says. “We do it one steak at a time and one customer at a time. I’ll come to the table and introduce myself. They come for eating, though. They appreciate a personal handshake. If I stay too long, it’s just a part of being young and dumb in the business.”

Johnson brings the same type of focus, dedication and preparation that he taught his football teams to the restaurant business. And the longtime football coach stresses teamwork every day when the doors open.

“Every night, I talked to the staff about doing our best, giving our best effort,” Johnson says. “It was kind of like a pep talk. I got energy off of them and I think they got energy off me. The restaurant business is real fast and I was used to the fast pace in coaching. It was kind of tailor-made for me.”

And when it’s game time, Coach Johnson is ready to serve up one delicious steak at a time.

“When you have a crowd in here, you’ve got to be pumped up,” Johnson said. “It’s just like it is a football game. It’s time to step up and show out. When it’s time to go, you have to be ready to go. That’s our job, to make sure people can trust us to give them a great meal in a great atmosphere.”

Coach’s Steakhouse

200 S. Main St., Tuscumbia, AL 35674

256-314-0606

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Hours: Closed Monday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday