Hayley and son, Weston, walking in high cotton on the family farm.
Indie, Axil and Touché enjoying the sunshine.
Wyatt catching hens.
Tom Mauldin hauling hay on his John Deere.
Davis Hood giving “Moo” her daily hug.
Josh, Sam, Nate and Paul Redd on our poultry farm.
Send us your “Our First Photo” with your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, child or family!
Deadline to submit is November 30. Winning photos will run in the January issue.
Online Submissions: alabamaliving.coop
Submissions by Mail: Snapshots (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.
Many people working nowadays have more than one job. This means they have several sources of income. It’s important to keep in mind that having multiple sources of income can sometimes affect your Social Security benefits; but, it depends on the source.
Disability payments from private sources, such as private pensions or insurance benefits, don’t affect your Social Security disability benefits. Workers’ compensation and other public disability benefits, however, may reduce what you receive from Social Security. Workers’ compensation benefits are paid to a worker because of a job-related injury or illness. These benefits may be paid by federal or state workers’ compensation agencies, employers, or by insurance companies on behalf of employers.
Public disability payments that may affect your Social Security benefits are those paid from a federal, state, or local government for disabling medical conditions that are not job-related. Examples of these are civil service disability benefits, state temporary disability benefits, and state or local government retirement benefits that are based on disability.
Some public benefits don’t affect your Social Security disability benefits. If you receive Social Security disability benefits, and one of the following types of public benefits, your Social Security benefits will not be reduced:
• Veterans Administration benefits;
• State and local government benefits, if Social Security taxes were deducted from your earnings; or
• Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
You can read more about the possible ways your benefits might be reduced at socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10018.pdf.
Please be sure to report changes. If there is a change in the amount of your other disability payment, or if those benefits stop, please notify us right away. Tell us if the amount of your workers’ compensation or public disability payment increases or decreases. Any change in the amount or frequency of these benefits is likely to affect the amount of your Social Security benefits.
An unexpected change in benefits can have unintended consequences. You can be better prepared if you’re informed and have financially prepared yourself. Visit socialsecurity.gov/planners for information about your options for securing your future.
Identify and place this Alabama landmark and you could win $25! Winner is chosen at random from all correct entries. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified. Send your answer by Nov. 7 with your name, address and the name of your rural electric cooperative. The winner and answer will be announced in the December issue.
Submit by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Submit by mail: Whereville, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124.
Contribute your own photo for an upcoming issue! Send a photo of an interesting or unusual landmark in Alabama, which must be accessible to the public. A reader whose photo is chosen will also win $25.
This sculpture of Truman Capote’s hat and thick-rimmed glasses is just one of the art works in the Literary Capital Sculpture Trail project, which memorializes the many talented writers who have Monroeville roots. This sculpture, located at the southeast entrance of the Monroe County Museum, was created by Morgan Harrison. The trail was unveiled in April 2019, and all 14 sculptures were created by University of Alabama students. Learn more at monroevillemainstreet.com (Photo by Lenore Vickrey of Alabama Living)
We received a sweet note and photo from Annalee Chance from Troy, above, a member of the South Alabama EC. She says she’s visiting all the counties in Alabama for her fourth-grade project and recently visited the Monroe County Courthouse and saw the statue. Thanks for writing, Annalee!
The randomly drawn correct guess winner is Donna Carney of Black Warrior EMC.
A dramatic meteor shower filled the sky with approximately 30,000 meteors an hour in an event remembered as the night stars fell on Alabama. The shower inspired the title of Carl Carmer’s 1934 bestselling book Stars Fell on Alabama, which related Carmer’s experiences in Alabama in the 1920s through the dramatized voice of a northerner. Part memoir and part cultural analysis, the book received high praise by The New York Times and the northern press. Many Alabamians, however, believed Carmer purposefully disparaged the state by focusing on negative aspects of its culture, including Ku Klux Klan parades, foot-washings, and voodoo rituals.
Fort Rucker, Alabama’s largest military installation and home to U.S. Army Aviation, was the site of a commemorative event to celebrate the 2019 Official White House Christmas Ornament, which is in the image of a helicopter.
The ornament commemorates President Eisenhower as the first sitting president to fly in a helicopter. Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company with a facility in Troy, has built the presidential helicopter since Eisenhower’s first use in 1957.
Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association, and Gov. Kay Ivey were on hand for the official presentation of the ornament at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker recently. The original VCH-34 Army One helicopter is housed there.
Each year since 1981, the White House Historical Association has created the official ornament, which is American-made by a veteran-founded company. The ornament is $22.95 and can be purchased at whitehousehistory.org or by calling 800-555-2451.
By January, families of veterans buried at Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo will have a place to gather and reflect on the cemetery grounds while their loved one is being interred.
The Support Committee of the Alabama National Cemetery broke ground in September on a wooded overlook above Shoal Creek at the edge of the cemetery. The volunteer group, which provides programs at the cemetery and assists survivors of veterans with burial needs, undertook the project in January 2013 when it began raising private donations for the structure.
Bob Barefield, SCALNC chairman emeritus, says burial regulations don’t allow graveside services and families are limited to the time they can spend at an outdoor shelter (conducting what serves as a graveside service).
“Families are having to leave and then come back to visit the gravesite after interment,” Barefield says. “Once this is available, this will be a place where they can go and quietly reflect not only the tragic side of losing a loved one, but the better side because that overlook is so serene and so peaceful that it makes you think of better times.”
Nourished for centuries by several rivers depositing nutrient-rich black, loamy soil, the Black Belt region extends across 23 counties in central Alabama. That fertile soil created outstanding agricultural land, but also created excellent habitat for white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and other wildlife.
Although hunters and fishermen frequently visit the region, area residents wanted to do more to promote it. In 2009, they formed a non-profit group called the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association to collectively promote the special region as a destination for hunting, fishing, canoeing, camping, hiking, birding and other cultural, artistic or historic endeavors.
“About 10 years ago, a group of dedicated conservationists with a passion for hunting and fishing came together in an effort to stimulate economic growth in Alabama’s Black Belt region,” says Thomas Harris, president and founding father of the ALBBAA.
“The Black Belt hasn’t been as successful with industrial recruitment when compared to other areas in the state, so it made perfect sense to capitalize on the abundance of natural resources that are readily available here. Tourism is a strong contributor to economic development, and we set our goals to collectively promote and brand the region as an outdoor destination. The results of our recent economic impact study proved that we were right on target.”
The ALBBAA enlisted the help of noted sporting personalities Ray Scott, founder of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, and Jackie Bushman, founder of Buckmasters. Both men grew up hunting the Black Belt. Scott, Bushman and others hosted television commercials and promotional videos encouraging people to visit the region. In addition, the association and its supporters aired TV commercials in 93 major markets across 32 states. The association even published a coffee table book on area hunting and fishing heritage and traditions, which will be available for purchase this month.
“Our partnerships across the region continue to grow and strengthen,” says Pam Swanner, who has served as the ALBBAA director for nearly 10 years. “Many projects have been conducted or are in the development stages with other organizations, such as the Chambers of Commerce, tourism councils, Black Belt Treasures, Alabama Tourism Department, Alabama State Parks and many others. More than 137,000 outdoor enthusiasts nationally receive monthly newsletters sharing outdoors news about the Black Belt.”
In addition, ALBBAA cultivated relationships with major media associations to bring in writers and broadcasters from around the country to experience hunting in the Black Belt and fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, catfish and other species in area rivers and lakes. These journalists published numerous articles and aired multiple radio and television broadcasts throughout the nation. People took notice.
“Our web traffic steadily increases each year,” Swanner says. “From January to August 2019, we’ve seen a 228 percent increase in the number of inquiries over the same period last year. We also ramped up paid Google ads and social media advertising, plus facilitated our photo contests through our website. These efforts drew more traffic to the website, which resulted in more inquiries. Our Facebook followers now number almost 20,000.”
Big economic impact
When people visit the Black Belt for whatever reason, they contribute to the local, regional and state economies. According to the 2018 Economic Impact Study on Hunting and Fishing in the Black Belt, spending by sportsmen in the area increased by 18 percent since 2011. The study also shows a 29 percent increase in salaries and wages earned by people in the area, which resulted in a three percent increase in state and local tax revenues during the same period. The total economic impact by hunters and fishermen in the Black Belt increased by 13 percent since 2011.
About 1.2 million hunters and fishermen spent $3.2 billion in Alabama pursuing their favorite sports in 2018, the study revealed. This created 73,553 jobs. About 364,000 of those sportsmen spent 8.2 million man-days hunting or fishing in the Black Belt. Although the 23 Black Belt counties comprise just one-third of the state, 42 percent of all hunting expenditures in Alabama occurred in the region.
“The steady growth we see in sportsmen and women visiting the Black Belt to pursue their outdoor adventures is encouraging and reinforces our commitment to the initiative,” Swanner says. “It’s validation that we must continue building on that momentum so that we are always moving the economic needle forward to give area residents a better quality of life.”
Many people hunt or fish locally, but more than half of all sportsmen, 51.6 percent, spent at least one night away from home to hunt or fish in 2018. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of non-resident sportsmen, 78.6 percent, stayed overnight in Alabama, but so did 43.5 percent of resident hunters and fishermen. About half of the overnighters stayed on property they own or lease, but the rest had to find lodging. More than 80 percent of all hunt lodges in Alabama sit in the Black Belt.
Many visitors to Alabama bring their families and stay several days. Besides hunting or fishing, people might visit other area attractions. While away from home, these people not only pay for lodging, but also buy food, fuel, supplies and other items, not to mention non-resident hunting and fishing licenses. Non‐resident sportsmen spent nearly $108 million to hunt or fish in Alabama in 2018. Two-thirds of all non-resident hunters coming to Alabama visit the Black Belt. About 29 percent of non-resident anglers fished in those counties.
While regional lodges offer excellent hunting opportunities for deer and other game, many sportsmen prefer to do it themselves. Some better wildlife management areas include David K. Nelson near Demopolis, Lowndes near White Hall, Barbour near Clayton and Oakmulgee near Selma. People can also hunt some smaller Special Opportunity Areas. See outdooralabama.com/hunting/special-opportunity-areas.
These efforts reach more than hunters and fishermen by encouraging eco-tourism, canoeing, birding, hiking and other activities in the region. The association also worked to create a leisure market program called “Feed Your Adventure – Flavors of the Black Belt Trail” to encourage people to sample such locally made items as cheese straws, cookies, pepper jellies, rubs and sauces, savory and sweet pecans, sausages, baked goods, craft beers and spirits plus many other items.
To find out more about the Black Belt, visit alabamablackbeltadventures.org or search for “Alabama Black Belt Adventures” on Facebook.
To paraphrase a popular jelly commercial, “With a name like ‘Roadkill’ it’s got to be good.” In Elberta, Ala., it is.
The diner has a fan base from across the street to across Canada. The restaurant’s fried chicken – beloved bird of Baptists – is served daily as are delectable pork chops, country fried steaks, and a host of downhome, small town, big taste entrees.
Red beans and rice, catfish and mullet, sausages, biscuits and gravy, butterbeans and cabbage, fresh veggies, vats of banana pudding, and more are offered either daily or on designated days.
It is said that Roadkill Café’s all-you-can-eat buffet is possibly the best $11 investment in Baldwin County. But I know what you’re thinking: “Okay, the food sounds good, but what’s up with that name, ‘Roadkill?’” Fair question.
Let’s put your concerns to rest. There is no roadkill at Roadkill Café, so take your armadillo au gratin business elsewhere. Here is the story of a beloved restaurant, exemplifying hospitality, serving great food, and named for woodland creatures who left this world with tire tracks.
An accidental name
Roadkill Café’s roots trace back to the property’s 1989 purchase. Owner and Elberta resident Marvin Williams leased the building out as a restaurant. But in 1999, unhappy with the diner’s quality, Williams refused to renew the tenant’s lease. In the summer of 2000, a new restaurant opened with the Williams family in charge. But it needed a name.
Marvin’s son and current co-owner/manager, Mike Williams, recalls: “Getting the restaurant ready to open was hard. It was in terrible condition. Dad jokingly wrote on a piece of cardboard, ‘Roadkill Café’ and taped it to the front window.”
Marvin’s wife saw the makeshift sign and with alarm proclaimed, “Y’all will NEVER call this place ‘Roadkill Café!”
Never say never. Next summer Roadkill Café will be 20 years old, and so will the name.
Mike took the reins in 2005 upon his dad’s request. “He asked me to watch the place while he was in Hawaii for a week’s vacation,” the son recalls. Mike still watches it.
The day starts about 4:30 a.m. when the stoves are fired up. Everything is hot from the kitchen and ready for serving by 10:30 a.m. until closing at 12:30 pm. That’s right, on most days you have two hours dine time. Make it count.
Ironically, even though it’s about 16 miles from Gulf Shores, Roadkill is not a beach tourist attraction per se. “We are not on the ‘beach highway,’” Mike says, referencing nearby State Highway 59, the Foley – Gulf Shores connection. “Beach travelers don’t see us, so they don’t know we are here.” But everybody else does.
The dining room seats 92 and averages 70 to 100-plus visitors daily during its two-hour-per-day operation, Sunday through Friday. Sunday’s closing is a bit more lenient – around 1 p.m., to accommodate after-church seating.
Roadkill does not advertise except for word of mouth, customer testimonials, and snowbird referrals. The street-facing banner sign above the front door, “Roadkill Café,” turns heads as well. “People tell me they have driven by this place for 10 years,” Mike says. “They were curious but apprehensive about going in something called, ‘Roadkill.’” But once you’re in, you return – often.
“We have been coming here at least twice a week for years,” says frequent customer Brenda Myers of nearby Foley, about her visits with her husband John. “The country fried steak is great. Don’t miss it.”
The menu is advertised exclusively on an in-diner chalkboard. Keep your social media, for in here, chalk rules. Thursday is butterbeans and cabbage day. Fridays are set for catfish and mullet and chicken is daily. For more information either call ahead or heed the chalk.
Explaining the charm of Roadkill Café, Brenda Myers notes the restaurant’s draw is beyond good food. “Mike and the people here are just so nice,” she says. “After one visit you are family. By the second visit you and everyone working here are on a first name basis.” Brenda adds with a laugh, “All the waitresses are sweet and sassy.”
Thirty minutes after opening, the seating area is full. Happy patrons surround the buffet stations supporting the twin peaks of fried chicken and pork chop mountains and trimmings. Servers offer an insider tip: “Our chicken is delicious but so is our banana pudding. Save room!” She’s right. I did.
Shakespeare once scribed, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” In Elberta, that rosy name is Roadkill.
Singer/songwriter and guitarist Jessica Meuse always gets a reaction when she’s introduced as a native of Slapout, Ala. “People are like, ‘wait, what?’” she laughs. She’s back home in the tiny Elmore County town, continuing to write songs and perform. Meuse is best known for reaching the top four in season 13 of “American Idol,” and became the first person in the history of the show to perform her own original song during the finals. Her first full-length album, “Halfhearted,” was released in 2018, and she’s planning to record again in 2020. We asked her about her upbringing and her experience in Hollywood. – Allison Law
Talk about growing up in small town, rural Alabama. How did it shape you as a musician?
I’ll be very honest with you, I was not the most accepted kid in school. I was actually bullied quite heavily. Music was the thing that I had when I went home. When everyone else was at prom, I went home and practiced, and I ended up teaching myself guitar. … I also got into violin – that was actually my first instrument. I auditioned for the Montgomery Youth Orchestra, and I worked my way from the back to the front. … I think I was so dedicated to my craft and being better and always learning because I wasn’t accepted by my peers. It forced me to focus on something that actually made me happy.
Do you still play violin?
I do. I’m rusty, don’t get me wrong. You can tell when I play that I was once a lot better than I am now. … I know this is weird, but I play it mentally a lot, so I think about it in my head. I also taught myself piano. Anything with strings, if you hand it to me, I can figure it out.
Most folks know you were on “Idol,” but you went on “The Voice” first.
Yes. In 2012, I was on “The Voice” season 3, and nobody turned around. It was not good feedback. It was very negative toward me. … I remember getting on the plane (to Hollywood), and thinking, “I’m going to make it.” You get out there and you realize, it’s so cutthroat, it’s so hard core, and I felt for the first time, I’m not going to make it. My hopes got totally shot to the ground.
So I went back home, and I was in college full time, and I kept working on my degree and I kept singing. I just don’t have the “give up” bone in my body. I just can’t do it.
Then came “American Idol.”
It was very surreal to keep getting through and hitting my goals. I tried to take the most constructive criticism from the judges. Not opinions, those are two different things.
My favorite judge was Harry Connick Jr., because he had the most technical stuff. My violin and classical music background allowed me to understand what he was saying. So he helped me the most as an artist. Then, boom, top 4, and I was like, I didn’t see that coming.
Do you keep up with any of your fellow contestants?
One of my buddies is (fellow Alabama native) Bo Bice. I know Taylor Hicks too. We’re all buddies. Bo’s really a good dude. I love him to death. We actually did a duet on “Halfhearted,” called “Without You.” We work together with the Helena Miracle League.
What other charitable causes do you support?
I have a handful of very, very, very important causes to me. One of them is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Sometimes I work with the Children’s Cancer Association, and the LA Children’s Hospital. Just kids in general, since they’re our future, I want to do what I can to help them and show them that the world is good.
The other cause is domestic violence. I’d been looking for this cause for such a long time, because I’ve been through my own stuff, and I’ve never talked about it and I feel like it’s time to. (She recently played at a kickoff party for FavorHouse of Northwest Florida, a shelter for domestic violence victims.)
What’s next for you?
I’m always writing, because anytime there’s an experience or something I can live through, (I like to) write it out in a way that will hopefully inspire others. A lot of my music is about finding your inner strength of being tough, even when you don’t feel it. There’s always a song to write.
Follow her on her website, jessicameuse.com, and on her Facebook page. Interview edited for length.
If you’re trying to find locally sourced, distinctive and affordable gifts this holiday season, here’s an idea: “shop” your garden.
Gardens are, after all, about as local as you can get, plus they are stocked with gift ideas likely to suit everyone on your shopping list.
For example, foodies will relish fresh herbs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and edible flowers and seeds that may still be growing in your garden. Use herbs, edible flowers and fall fruits and vegetables to make batches of giftable jams, jellies, pickles, oils, vinegars, sauces, salsas and the like. You can also use them to create herbal teas, seasoning mixes and rubs, simple syrups, juices and ciders, or use them to infuse garden flavor into baked goods and liqueurs and other spirits. If fresh items are unavailable, those canned, dried, frozen or fermented vegetables and fruits you put up this summer will be equally appreciated.
Pamper someone on your gift list by using herbs, flowers and other garden crops to make soaps, scrubs, lotions and bath oils and salts. Or use them to create useful products such as sachets, potpourris, air freshening sprays and other household and cleaning supplies.
For the decorator types on your list, leaves, flowers and seeds make beautiful dried arrangements or can be pressed to create frameable botanical art. They can also be used to embellish or imprint candles, stationery, stepping-stones, clay pots, journals and much more. Vines can become wreaths, baskets and sculptures, and foliage and flowers can be used to wrap or decorate holiday gifts.
Nature lovers will likely appreciate crafts and decorations made from cones, acorns, nuts, leaves, bark and dried produce (think okra and gourds, for instance) gathered from your garden and yard. For bird and wildlife lovers, many of those same items can be turned into wildlife feeders such as cones rolled in suet, nut butters and seeds.
For sustainability-focused folks on your list, upcycle old rakes, shovels, trowels and other garden tools into holiday decorations or year-round yard art. Gently used tomato cages can be woven with foliage, lights, ribbons, vines and other adornments to create a festive holiday tree. Silverware, dishes, chains and even plastic bottles and other household items can be repurposed into wind chimes, rain chains, plant markers, birdfeeders and more.
Use your DIY and craft skills to revive old baskets, watering cans, buckets, wheelbarrows, pots, aprons and work shirts into something fun and functional. Or go uber-DIY and build potting or park benches, plant stands, cold frames, trellises or bird houses and pollinator hotels as gifts.
Need gifts for fellow gardeners? That’s really easy! Share mature plants, rooted cuttings, seeds and bulbs from your garden, or use extra herbs, succulents, cacti and other plants to create terrariums and potted plant collections. And you can really thrill them with a bag — or truckload — of pine straw, leaves or compost.
If your garden’s giftable stock is low at the moment, no worries. Give IOUs for future harvests of flowers, herbs, produce, seeds, bulbs and cuttings as gifts. You can also make a gift of your gardening knowledge by offering to advise or mentor a novice gardener or by volunteering your muscle and time to help cleanup someone’s garden and landscape. Better yet, invite someone into your garden for a visit or a little quiet time.
Need more ideas or inspiration? Look for local workshops, or find ideas and instruction online, in magazines and in books such as The Crafty Gardener: Inspired Ideas and DIY Crafts from Your Own Backyard by Becca Anderson or Gifts from the Garden:100 Gorgeous Homegrown Presents by Debora Robertson.