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A healing place

An aerial view of Storybook Farm near Opelika, which recently added 26 acres of pine timber forest. The new acreage will allow the farm to expand its programming to include more time with the horses and additional agricultural outlets.
PHOTO COURTESY STORYBOOK FARM

By Lindsay Miles Penny

It all began while folding laundry.

Storybook Farm Director Dena Little was completing household chores while thumbing through Practical Horseman when she came across a story about a horse therapy farm in Virginia.

Little, who grew up caring for and competing on horses, had taken a hiatus from farm life as she ran a bakery in Atlanta and cared for her two small children. It was 2002, and she had just sold her bakery and moved her young family to a small farm in Auburn. She yearned to get back to her roots and share her love of horses with her children.

That’s when the article struck a chord.

Little immediately got in contact with the owner of the horse therapy farm in Virginia. Soon after, she gained certification for her farm to provide equine-assisted therapy for children needing support, and Storybook Farm was born.

“I really had no idea the impact that Storybook would have, or its longevity, and I didn’t realize the need for programming like this,” Little says. “When Storybook opened, we quickly had a waitlist. I felt the Lord was leading me down this path to utilize my background with horses and to translate that to helping families that are facing crises and uncertain futures. Getting to walk alongside these families has become my distinct honor.”

Children from age 2 to young adulthood who face obstacles such as autism, cerebral palsy, cognitive delays, sensory integration issues and bereavement situations come to Storybook Farm for horseback riding and weekly lesson plans, including games and activities. They learn how to care for animals and develop social skills by interacting with farm volunteers. Horseback riding also provides physical benefits such as improvements to balance, motor skills, muscle strength and coordination.

Personal attention

More than 250 Auburn University students a week volunteer at Storybook Farm — greeting children and families, securing riding helmets, leading and walking alongside riders, exploring and learning in the Secret Garden, helping with lesson plans, cleaning stables, repairing fences and other chores.

An English literature major in college, Little wanted to create a whimsical, real-life fairytale for every child. Willy Wonka, Mrs. Potts, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are just a few of the horses to come through the farm. Driving up to the farm and looking out over the lush, rolling acres immediately transports anyone into a storybook.

“We started with three children, and will have about 1,500 this year alone,” Little says. “We don’t turn anyone away. We always make it work. One of the greatest compliments a family has ever given me is a parent saying, ‘I feel like our child is the only one who rides at Storybook.’ That’s what I want it to be. I wanted it to be so personal and special for everyone who comes to the farm. Many of the children we see and serve at Storybook have ambulatory issues, and they’ve never had that mobility and that freedom to just be one of the kids. To be one of the kids and not be set apart by the condition that brought you to Storybook is so important to me.”

Not only are the children and families impacted by Storybook Farm, but the effect the farm has on volunteers is evident. With more than 300 volunteers each week from Auburn University and the community, the people at the farm are committed to carrying out the farm’s mission. 

“I started out as a volunteer not really knowing anything about children with disabilities or horses,” says Andrew Skinner, executive communications director. “I’d originally started coming out to the farm with a friend. At the time, I wasn’t doing much with my life. I remember painting a fence, and looking around seeing all the kids riding horses and smiling, and looking back at that now, I realize it was what I needed in my life at the time and that it was a little pat from God.”

Skinner quickly became part of the Storybook Farm staff, and hopes to instill an attitude of service with current and future volunteers.

“Our goal is to give these kids a chance to just be a kid,” said Skinner.

Families are referred to the farm by counselors, pediatricians and therapists, and most commonly, by word of mouth from other families.

Gardens as therapy

A newer addition to Storybook Farm is the Secret Garden. Located in the middle of the farm, the garden provides a wealth of activities to help farm goers improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills and socialization.

An aerial view of Storybook Farm near Opelika, which recently added 26 acres of pine timber forest. The new acreage will allow the farm to expand its programming to include more time with the horses and additional agricultural outlets.
PHOTO COURTESY STORYBOOK FARM

The horticultural programming the Secret Garden provides allows those with physical limitations an opportunity to strengthen muscles and improve coordination, balance and endurance. The garden also teaches children about nutrition, caring for plants and the importance of a healthy diet.

Partnerships with Auburn University and Mobile Studio, a company that specializes in creating outdoor spaces, allowed the garden to be created with maximum accessibility in mind.

The bounty harvested from the garden is given back to the community and shared with food insecure families.

The services provided at Storybook Farm, which is served by Tallapoosa River Electric Cooperative, are free to families, thanks to funding through corporate sponsors, grants and fundraisers.

“Our biggest fundraiser is our Kentucky Derby Dinner and Auction,” Little says. “It’s grown from less than 100 people to hopefully over 500 people this year. People come dressed in their Kentucky Derby best, eat and enjoy a really fun event.”

The Kentucky Derby Dinner and Auction will be May 5. Tickets are available at hopeonhorseback.org/events/derby.

For more information on Storybook Farm’s services or volunteer opportunities, call 334-444-5966 or info@HopeOnHorseback.org or visit hopeonhorseback.org.

Already a fishing legend at 23

In 2015, 23-year-old Jordan Lee of Grant became the youngest competitor on the top-tier Bass Angler Sportsman Society Elite Series. So far, he’s only fished four Bassmaster Classics, the world championship of professional fishing, but has already won two of them. In 2017, he became one of the youngest champions at 25 when he won his first Classic. In March 2018, he became only the third man in history to win back-to-back Classics in the 48-year history of the event with his victory at Lake Hartwell, S.C. – John Felsher

How does it feel to join the ranks of legendary bass anglers like Rick Clunn and Kevin VanDam to win back-to-back Bassmaster Classics at such a young age?

In my wildest dreams, I never thought I was going to win the 2018 Classic. It really is overwhelming. I’ve never won a Bassmaster Open event. I’ve never won an Elite Series event. I guess there’s just something about this tournament for me. I didn’t have a game plan for Hartwell. I didn’t have one magical spot. I knew that with the warm weather, docks were going to be a player. I saw tons of big bass suspending under every dock. It was just amazing to see that.

How did you first get interested in fishing?

I got interested in fishing through friends at small lakes and ponds. At the age of 10 was the most memorable. That’s when I caught the fishing bug, when I started fishing my grandfather’s pond in my hometown of Cullman. I remember that day vividly as I was pulling out 4- and 5-pound bass with my first rod and reel. I knew at that moment that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.

Years later, my parents saw a growing passion and bought me an aluminum boat to fish local tournaments on Lake Catoma. Fast forward 10 years and my dreams began unfolding one tournament at a time. Fishing on the Auburn University Team was a life-changing, growing experience that opened the doors to my future in fishing.

How did you get started in professional fishing and work your way up to competing in the biggest event in the sport?

I started fishing local tournaments throughout high school. Then I began fishing for the Auburn University bass fishing team. I qualified for my first Bassmaster Classic through the Carhartt College Program. After college, I fished the Bassmaster Opens for one season and then qualified for the Elite Series.

You and your older brother, Matt Jordan, compete directly against each other on the tournament trail. What’s the competition like between yourself and your brother?

I get this question a lot, There are 108 more anglers, so the competition is equal among all of us. It’s not just me against him.

As a young competitor fishing against some former champions and other legendary anglers, how do you prepare yourself to compete against all those other great, experienced anglers?

It’s just me against the fish. I don’t worry about other anglers and their experience versus mine.

How did winning your first Classic in 2017 at such a young age change your life in the months that followed?

The amount of exposure has changed. With that the workload and travel has increased. I also feel like I am well known wherever I go now.

Did you personally change in any way after winning a Classic?

No. I stay levelheaded throughout the ups and downs. Stay humble, always.

What was the strangest or most unexpected thing to happen to you as a result of your winning the Classic?

I’m amazed by the amount of people who know who I am. I’ve had people from Germany who are big fans waiting for me at the boat ramp one day after I finished fishing.

After winning two Classics back to back, what’s next on your life goals or bucket list?

I want to win the Angler of the Year title. I also want to win an Elite Series tournament and enjoy spending time with my wife-to-be and our dogs.

What advice would you give to young anglers now looking at you and your success who would like to become professional bass anglers and perhaps compete in a Bassmaster Classic in coming years?

Just focus on fishing. The sponsors will come. Stay in school! College programs are a great way to work your way up and help your skill level increase.

Besides fishing, what other things do you like to do?

I enjoy playing golf, traveling and watching professional basketball and college football.

Stacy’s is the place for fresh cooked fare

Demopolis eatery draws locals as well as visitors

Stacy’s Café is in historic downtown Demopolis.

Story and Photo by Emmett Burnett

In a park across the street from Stacy’s Café, a stone marker notes the 1919 chicken auction that funded construction of nearby Rooster Bridge. Coincidentally, today’s special at Stacy’s is fried chicken. It, too, is monumental. The entire menu is.

Occupying the ground floor of 123 W. Washington St. in Demopolis, Stacy’s Cafe seats about 115 and does so often.

“I loved this place from the first visit,” says frequent fan and Marengo County attorney Abisola A. Samuel, recalling her first encounter.

“On a friend’s recommendation, I visited, ordered something with rice and gravy, and was amazed. It tasted just like home cooking. I remember saying ‘wow, who is this lady?’”

Stacy’s steak plate is a customer favorite.

This lady is Faunsdale, Alabama’s Stacy Averette Pearson, wife, mother, U.S. Air Force veteran, and owner of the namesake café with a Demopolis and ever-expanding statewide following. Many restaurateurs start out dreaming of being in the food service field. Stacy did not.

“My experience was basically working in fast food places during college and later as a waitress at the Faunsdale Bar and Grill,” she recalls, while checking menus for today’s customers. “My intentions were to attend college and study science.”

After graduating from Demopolis High School in 1984, the future restaurateur enrolled in Livingston University. But she left college in 1987 to join the Air Force and served a three-and-a-half year hitch, working as a computer programmer.

In 1991, Stacy returned home. As a waitress at the Faunsdale Bar and Grill, she learned a lesson in projecting the daily business of running a restaurant: “You can’t,” she says. “The only one thing in the restaurant business you can predict every day is every day is unpredictable.”

Recognizing her culinary talents, family members encouraged Stacy to take a bold step, which sent life in a new direction.

Stacy Averette Pearson, seated, owner of Stacy’s Cafe, takes a break outside her restaurant. Standing behind her are servers, from left: Cailin Bamberb, Andrea Reynolds and Heather Ward.

In March 1999, the waitress bought the diner-bar that employed her, changing the name to Faunsdale Café. She still owns it, 14 miles from Demopolis. But she sought more, wanting to venture into catering from a larger restaurant. She wanted Demopolis.

On Sept. 26, 2017, she took a new culinary plunge, opening Stacy’s Café. “I knew the town would support me because many from Demopolis visited our Faunsdale location,” she recalls. “But many were apprehensive about it being off Demopolis’s main highway. We are in downtown. If you want to eat here you have to find us.” Not a problem.

“If I am in Demopolis I am at Stacy’s,” says attorney Samuel. “The food here is the best, bar none. Not sure I can pick a favorite dish, but one would be the grilled chicken Greek salad.”

In addition to the previously referenced monumental chicken, entree options include steaks (ribeye and hamburger), catfish plates, oyster platters, po’ boys, seafood gumbo, and red beans and rice. Side dishes of greens, mashed potatoes, okra, fried green tomatoes, and vegetables accentuate the menu. And may we have a serious discussion about cornbread?

Stacy’s cornbread comes in varieties – regular, Mexican, and a new entry chocked with crawfish. You heard me, crawfish. “Her crawfish cornbread and crawfish bisque are delicious,” smiles husband Eddie Pearson, offering a testimonial about his wife’s latest project, a crustacean creation.

He adds, “Everybody loves it.” Which is good because there is much to love. Cornbread is served slab size.

Such innovations are sparked by original thought. New dishes are the result of experimentation. “I come up with an idea, then do research, cook it at home, and serve to my family,” Stacy says. “After tweaking and re-testing, it may premiere at the restaurant.”

  She credits success to a simple concept: “Everything we serve is homemade, hand prepared, and cooked fresh.” It takes work.

Though open for lunch at 11, staff arrives by 8:30. There is no time to dilly-dally. “Demopolis is a 12 o’clock eating town,” Stacy says. “We don’t have one particularly busy day.” But when church lets out on Sunday, as the old saying goes, Katie bar the door. But typically every day is brisk and preparation starts early.

“Our salads are from hand cut leaf lettuce, not bagged,” Stacy says. “Burger patties are hand-patted and fries hand carved. Catfish is locally raised.” Gravy on mashed potatoes or rice has never seen a can nor spent the night in a package.

The menu changes daily with specials. Customers frequently call inquiring about shrimp and wild rice casserole or when seafood gumbo will again grace the menu. Other items are everyday fixtures, including burgers, salads, chicken fingers and salad varieties such as ham, bacon, and popcorn shrimp.


Worth The Drive: Stacey’s Cafe from AREA on Vimeo.

123 W. Washington St.
Demopolis, AL 36732
334-654-5120
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m
Sunday–Friday
Menu updates are available on the restaurant’s Facebook page – or by asking anyone in Demopolis.

 

Finding Inspiration: Spring garden tour opportunities

Among the many sights that visitors on the Lee County Master Gardener 2018 Garden Tour will see is Joel’s Orchids by the Lake, a lakeside property that features an orchid greenhouse, gracious outdoor entertainment areas and a vineyard.

By Katie Jackson

The merry, merry month of May is filled with opportunities to up our gardening game, including finding inspiration from fellow gardeners through public and private garden tours.

The thing about gardens is that they are everywhere, from little garden oases in many towns and cities to a plethora of fine public gardens and arboretums that offer year-round chances to see gardens in their glory and to learn more about gardening. In addition, the Alabama Tourism Department offers a map of Alabama’s Garden Trail (https://alabama.travel/garden-trail) that Alabamians and tourists alike can follow to their heart’s content.

But what about those private gardens tucked back in hidden places? Several organizations in the state—from Mobile to Dothan to Huntsville and parts in between—offer tours (usually in the spring and early summer) of just those kinds of garden gems and at least two of them are coming up this month on the weekend of May 19-20.

One of those is the Lee County Master Gardener’s Garden Tour, a two-day, self-guided biennial event that this year features 10 private gardens and two teaching/demonstration gardens in the Auburn/Opelika area.

The tour, which will run 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on May 19 and 1-5 p.m. on May 20, features a wide array of gardens, including the grounds of an historic Opelika home (where part of the movie “Norma Rae” was filmed), an orchid house, a small-space container garden and a 10-acre property populated with native plants as well as fruits and vegetables.

According to Sheila Allen and Ronda Hardgrave, coordinators for the Lee County event, the tour, which began in 2006, is a fund-raiser that supports LCMG’s projects, programs and scholarships but also an awareness-raiser that focuses on inspiration, motivation, education and the versatility of what “gardening” can be.

“Not all gardening is the same,” Allen says, “and the tour not only gives you great ideas for your own garden, it also shows that you can garden anywhere.”

It also offers rare glimpses of private, personal gardens. “These are gardens that we would never be able to see without the tour,” notes Hardgrave. 

This tour requires a bit of driving and, because of the large number of gardens on the tour, it typically takes visitors both days to see all of the gardens, but ticketholders can set their own pace over the two days. The price of admission also includes a picnic lunch provided on Saturday by Chicken Salad Chick, a cosponsor of the event.

Another garden tour planned for that weekend is the Historic Decatur Association Garden Tour, to be held 1-5 p.m. on May 20. This tour, which has been held annually for 30 years, encompasses two neighborhoods – the Old Decatur and Albany Historic Districts. The neighborhoods are a couple of miles apart so visitors can drive to each then park their cars for a lovely walk to see home and church gardens and neighborhood parks.

Tour chairwoman Cindy Upton said that planning for the event is still under way but she hopes to have up to eight sites on the tour, plus participants can amble past other historic homes in their prime spring garden finery.

Of course these two tours are just a taste of what’s likely to be available in communities throughout the state. To learn more about other garden tour opportunities, check with local public gardens and gardening organizations or with local and state chamber and tourism offices. You’re sure to discover many opportunities to enjoy gardens and you may even find the perfect Mother’s Day gift for the garden-loving moms in your life.


For More Information

Information on the Lee County Master Gardeners Garden Tour can be found at www.leemg.org. Advanced tickets are $30 ($28 each for groups of 10 or more) and can be purchased at several local businesses and at the Lee County Extension System or Auburn Chamber of Commerce offices. Tickets will also be available for $35 at the “gate” of any of the gardens on the days of the tour.

Information on the Historic Decatur Association Garden Tour is available at www.facebook.com/Historicgardentour/. On the day of the tour, information on the gardens and maps of the tour route will be available at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Decatur, which will also offer refreshments.

If you know of other garden tours in the state, share them with us all on the Alabama Living Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AlabamaLivingMagazine/.

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

Play it cool: Tips to help you stay comfortable this summer

Since most solar gain enters through your home’s windows, awnings and shade trees are effective in making your home cooler during summer months. Photo Credit: David Sawyer, Flickr

By Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen

Q: My energy bill was pretty high last summer. Do you have any tips for how to keep comfortable this year without breaking the bank?

A: Absolutely! There are several ways to make your home more comfortable this summer. Some of the solutions are low-cost, while others require a bigger investment. In the end, you can be more comfortable and have lower energy bills this summer.

The first step is to reduce your home’s solar gains – the heat energy it collects from the sun. Since most solar gains originate through your home’s windows, awnings are an effective solution. They can reduce solar heat gain by as much as 65 percent on south-facing windows and 77 percent on west-facing windows. You can also try less expensive solutions on the outside or inside of your windows, like reflective films and solar screens. Heavy window coverings also work and have the added benefit of reducing heat loss in winter.

Two areas that can be major sources of heat gain are skylights and attics. Reflective film or specially designed window coverings are potential solutions for skylights. Attics can become extremely hot and radiate heat through the ceiling into your living space. Abundant venting through the roof, gable or eaves is one solution, but you also need adequate attic insulation.

Another important step is to seal air leaks around windows, doors, plumbing and wiring penetrations to keep warm air out and cool air in.

Excess heat can also be generated inside your home – and at your expense. Here’s a quick list of simple steps you can take:

Make it a habit to turn off lights and TVs in rooms that aren’t in use.

Incandescent light bulbs generate a lot of heat. Replace them with LEDs.

Unplug devices you aren’t using, like chargers, computers, monitors and consumer electronics. Many of these use phantom power that keeps them on constantly (even when they’re not in use!), which generates heat.

Maintain appliances for peak efficiency. For example, clean your refrigerator coils.

Lower your water heater temperature to no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit and your refrigerator to no lower than 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Also consider insulating your hot water pipes.

Minimize use of your oven, and don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine until they are full.

Now that you’ve worked on keeping heat out of your home and minimizing the waste heat generated inside, let’s look at how to make the inside air cooler. That starts by assessing your air conditioning (AC) system.

If you have central AC, make sure it’s working efficiently. Replace the filters regularly, and check to see if your supply registers are open. AC systems need to push an adequate amount of air into the supply ductwork to function properly.

If you do not have central AC, window units can be an efficient solution if they are ENERGY STAR®-certified and only used to cool part of the home, part of the time. Make sure to seal any openings around the window unit.

The least expensive way to cool yourself is air movement. A ceiling fan or portable fan can make a room feel up to 10 degrees cooler, but keep in mind, fans cool people. Turn them off when you’re not in the room.

If you live in an area where the night air is cool and not too humid, you can exchange your hot air for cool outdoor air by opening the windows and turning on your kitchen and bath fans. Or you can place a fan in one window to exhaust the warm air and open another window at the opposite end of the house to allow the cooler night air inside. The permanent (but more expensive) option is to install a whole-house fan.

Remember, there are several ways to keep cool and increase comfort. I hope these tips will make your summer more enjoyable than the last!ν

This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on staying comfortable during summer months, visit: www.collaborativeefficiency.com/energytips.

Patrick Keegan writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives. Write to energytips@collaborativeefficiency.com for more information.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

For ideas on how to save energy through radiant head that comes in through windows and skylights, see:

energy.gov/energysaver/energy-efficient-window-treatments

energy.gov/energysaver/windows-doors-and-skylights/skylights

To look further into maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of your AC system, check out these links:

energy.gov/energysaver/room-air-conditioners

www.consumerreports.org/window-air-conditioners/energy-efficient-window-air-conditioners/

energy.gov/energysaver/central-air-conditioning

And for general weatherization tips for all seasons, visit:

www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_checklist_consumers

Toothy terrors!

Water wolverines provide outstanding sport

Cliff “J. R.” Mundinger shows off a chain pickerel he caught on a spinnerbait. Photo by John N. Felsher

By John N. Felsher

Often called jackfish, southern pike, duckbill, and other names – including a few unfit to print – chain pickerel hit extremely hard and fight with speed and ferocity, but most Alabama anglers consider them a major nuisance.

Sometimes erroneously called pike, chain pickerel resemble northern pike, but seldom exceed 30 inches long or weigh more than three pounds. The Alabama state record weighed 6 pounds, 6 ounces and came from the Perdido River system in Baldwin County. A similar species, redfin pickerel, range across southern Alabama, but rarely weigh more than a pound. The state record redfin only weighed 13 ounces.

“Chain pickerel are native to Alabama, but not many people target them,” says Chris Greene, an Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division biologist. “Chain pickerel are found throughout the state. They look similar to northern pike, but a chain pickerel gets its name from the chain-like markings on its side.”

Chain pickerel range from southern Canada to Florida and west across the Mississippi Valley to Texas. Abundant in most Alabama river and reservoir systems, pickerel thrive best in large sluggish streams and oxbows with minimal current and thick vegetation. The rivers, lakes, bayous, creeks, sloughs and backwaters of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta near Mobile probably offer the best pickerel fishing in Alabama.

“Chain pickerel tend to go more in the backwaters, but anglers can find them in main channels and secondary creeks,” Greene says. “They generally prefer more clear water and tend to orient toward aquatic vegetation. Some better Alabama waters for catching chain pickerel include the Mobile-Tensaw River drainage, the Tennessee River, Warrior River and other places.”

While small in stature, chain pickerel more than compensate with swiftness and viciousness. These voracious killers love aquatic weeds, the thicker the better. In dense grass or lily pad patches, pickerel typically hover motionless, using their splendid splotchy green camouflage to hide as they wait to ambush enticing morsels that wander into range.

When they spot something irresistible, pickerel viciously flash out with incredible speed to sink their needle-like teeth into prey – or lures!

“I’ve always caught pickerel in the backwaters and up the creeks around weeds,” says Cliff Mundinger, an angler. “They love being around thick matted grass, lily pads, hydrilla and other vegetation. Pickerel are very exciting fish to catch. When they hit a bait, you know it. A 3-pound chain pickerel will put up a great fight, especially on light tackle.”

Highly aggressive, pickerel feed primarily upon fish, including threadfin shad, sunfish, shiners, minnows and other succulent morsels, but may attack anything. These opportunistic predators occasionally eat crawfish, lizards, snakes, amphibians and even mice or small birds that venture too close to the water. Sometimes, they grab dragonflies perched on grass stems or even leap from the water to snatch low-flying insects from the air.

Caught by accident

“A pickerel will hit just about anything a bass might hit,” Greene says. “A lot of anglers consider them trash, but they can be fun to catch. They are powerful fish and hard hitters.”

In Alabama, anglers mostly catch chain pickerel by accident when fishing for bass. Crappie anglers also frequently catch pickerel when fishing weedy waters with minnows, threadfin shad, shiners or other live bait. Almost any lure or live bait that might tempt a largemouth bass or crappie could provoke a vicious strike from a chain pickerel, including spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, spoons, crankbaits and similar lures. They occasionally hit topwater baits and relentlessly pursue weedless frogs buzzed across matted grass.

When hooked, they put up a spirited fight with lightning runs and powerful lunges. They frequently jump like largemouth bass. People intentionally fishing for these water wolves should use short steel leaders to prevent them from slicing through line with their razor teeth.

“My two favorite baits to catch jackfish are spinnerbaits and jerkbaits,” Mundinger says. “Jacks absolutely love a jerkbait because they are primarily fish feeders. I also like to catch them on topwater frogs run through the lily pads. In the middle of summer, anyone throwing a frog over grass in the backwaters will most likely catch a jack.”

Big pickerel make excellent eating, but smaller versions of these long, skinny fish don’t yield much meat. Most people release them because of their numerous small bones, but the white, flaky meat tastes delicious with a mild flavor and no oily taste.

Handle pickerel with care. Sometimes called snakefish, these agile toothy beasts often bend their bodies and shake violently looking for something to bite when grabbed. If they don’t bite a person, they might drive a hook into a finger. Also pay attention to the very sharp gill plates that can slice flesh. Use pliers to remove the hooks in order to avoid those teeth.

Although pickerel don’t receive much love or attention in Alabama, they can turn a humdrum day into an exciting excursion for any light-tackle enthusiast fishing in weedy waters.

John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. Contact him through Facebook.

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.

Alabama Bookshelf

In this periodic feature, we highlight books that are either about Alabama people or events or written by Alabama authors. Summaries are not reviews or endorsements. We also occasionally highlight book-related events. Email submissions to bookshelf@alabamaliving.coop. Due to the volume of submissions, we are unable to feature all the books we receive.

Alabama’s Frontiers and the Rise of the Old South, by Daniel Dupre, Indiana University Press, $35 (history) Alabama endured warfare, slave trading, squatting, and speculating on its path to becoming America’s 22nd state. Dupre captures the riveting saga of the forgotten struggles and savagery in Alabama’s — and America’s — frontier days.

 

 

 

Medusa’s Lair: A Chic Spark Novel, by Kenneth L. Funderburk, Archway Publishing, $11.99 (crime novel) Chic Sparks is a clinical psychologist and part-time investigator who begins a reckless search for his missing friend, who is a notorious crime boss. Sparks’ actions put him in the middle of a deep criminal conspiracy, and he sets out to unveil the truth – and locate his friend. The author lives in Phenix City.

 

 

Wilson’s Raid, by Russell W. Blount Jr., Arcadia Publishing and The History Press, $21.99 (military history) In the closing months of the Civil War, Gen. James Wilson led a Union cavalry raid through Alabama and parts of Georgia. The author, an Alabama native, examines eyewitness accounts and diaries chronicling this defining moment in America’s bloodiest war.

 

 

The Tuskegee Airmen Chronology: A Detailed Timeline of the Red Tails and Other Black Pilots of World War II, by Daniel Haulman, NewSouth Books, $25.95 (military history) This chronology provides an overview of the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, embracing important events in the formation of the first military flying training for black pilots in U.S. history. Their performance proved that with opportunity and resources, black men could fly and fight every bit as well in combat as their white counterparts.

 

 

The Woman Left Behind, by Linda Howard, William Morrow, $26.99 (romantic suspense) Jina Modell is thrilled with an assignment to an elite paramilitary unit. Her team leader, Levi, doesn’t have much confidence in her, but her courage wins him over. When Jina’s position is attacked, Levi must bring back the woman he’s fallen for, dead or alive. The author lives in Gadsden.

 

 

At First Light, by Sandy Harris, Moonshine Cove Publishing, $13.99 (mystery, suspense) The sheriff’s office thinks high school senior John Bateman viciously murdered three friends while on a deer hunt. On the verge of being indicted for murder, evidence begins to surface that something strange happened in the woods that day. Could his unbelievable story be true? The author lives in Wetumpka.

Social Security: Facts you should know about enrolling in Medicare Parts A & B

Understanding Medicare isn’t as difficult as you might think. It’s a benefit most working Americans can count on. Here are some facts you might not know about the program.

Can I still get Medicare at 65?

Yes, you’re still eligible for Medicare starting at 65, no matter what year you were born.

If you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years, you’re eligible for Part A (hospital insurance) at age 65 for free. Part A helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility following a hospital stay. It also pays for some home health care and hospice care.

You’re also eligible for Part B (medical insurance) if you choose to get it and pay a monthly premium. Part B helps pay for services from doctors and other health care providers, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment, and some preventative services. If you are receiving Social Security benefits already, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B at age 65. Because you must pay a premium for Part B, you can choose to turn it down. However, if you don’t enroll in Part B when you’re first eligible for it, and choose to enroll later, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage.

If you’re not receiving Social Security benefits, you have a seven-month period (your Initial Enrollment Period) to sign up for Part B. Generally, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn age 65, and ends three months after your birth month.

If you are covered under an employer group health plan, you may have a special enrollment period for Part B.

If you are 65 or older and covered under a group health plan, either from your own or your spouse’s current employment, you may have a special enrollment period during which you can sign up for Medicare Part B. This means that you may delay enrolling in Part B without having to wait for a general enrollment period and without paying the lifetime penalty for late enrollment. If you think a special enrollment period may apply to you, read our Medicare publication at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/, and visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at Medicare.gov.

To avoid a tax penalty, you should stop contributing to your Health Savings Account (HSA) at least six months before you apply for Medicare.

You can withdraw money from your HSA after you enroll in Medicare to help pay for medical expenses like deductibles, premiums, coinsurance, or copayments. If you’d like to continue contributing to your HSA, you shouldn’t apply for Medicare or Social Security benefits.

How much does Part B coverage cost?

You are responsible for the Part B premium each month. Most people will pay the standard premium amount, which is $134 in 2018 if you sign up for Part B when you’re first eligible. This amount can change every year.

Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/medicare.

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

Pet Health: Vaccinations critically important for companion pets

“Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective health investments in history.” — Seth Berkley, CEO of the Vaccine Alliance

Many times when I go to work, there are one or two tiny puppies in the isolation room suffering from severe diarrhea and vomiting, looking miserable from the parvo virus. Some do not make it home. This does not need to happen! Timely vaccination could have prevented their sufferings.

Your veterinarian is the best person to address your situation, but here are some guidelines.

Proper protection should start with vaccinating the mother before she gets pregnant. A vaccinated mother will have an immunity that she transfers to her babies. In an ideal breeding situation, it is assumed that the puppies are protected for the first 8 to 9 weeks of their life. However, we see an inordinate number of puppies whose mothers were not vaccinated and do not fall under the “ideal” category. 

That’s why many veterinarians will recommend starting the first distemper/parvo vaccine as early as 6 weeks of age. Vaccines should be given every 2-4 weeks until the puppies are 16 weeks old. For high-risk situations, the last vaccine can be given at 19 to 20 weeks of age. So, if you start at 7 weeks, the sequence will be 7, 10, 13 and 19 weeks. If you adopt an unvaccinated older dog, you will need to give the initial vaccine and one booster three weeks later.

Now about rabies. Dog, cat and ferret owners are required by Alabama law to have their pet immunized for rabies when the animal reaches three months of age. The rabies vaccine must be given by a veterinarian, or a licensed vet tech in the presence of a veterinarian. Many communities hold annual low cost rabies vaccination clinics. I have seen rabies vaccines given in a town-sponsored event for as low as $5!

Frequently I get asked if the vaccine from the co-op is as good as ours. I don’t have an answer, as I have not come across a study comparing both. My recommendation is to go through your vet as they provide a lot more than just a “shot.”

I feel the puppy/kitty visits are THE most important vet visits of all! This is the time where early health issues are discussed and lifelong health habits are established. However, if getting to a vet is impossible for you, I have to suggest that you get your vaccines from a place that stores and handles their vaccines properly.

Last, but not least, here’s a little bit on cats. Cats also get a parvo-like disease called Feline Distemper or Panleukopenia. Vaccination should start as early as 6 weeks and be boosted every 3 weeks until they reach 16 weeks. Outdoor cats should also get Feline Leukemia vaccine.

Now, for the folks who are little leery of “over vaccination.” The issue of what constitutes “over vaccination” and related health problems is a highly contentious issue and best kept aside for a consultation with your vet.

Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He works part time at Grant Animal Clinic and is a member of North Alabama Electric Cooperative.