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Game wardens have long been a part of Alabama’s law enforcement

With hunting seasons in progress or starting soon, hundreds of thousands of sportsmen will take to the fields, forests and wetlands all across Alabama to pursue everything from doves to deer. Most of them will obey all the laws and participate in a tradition as old as mankind.

But not everyone judiciously obeys every game law. Some make honest mistakes, while others just don’t care or think the laws don’t apply to them. For those people, heed this warning: Someone highly trained and armed may be watching.

By the late 19th century, many conservationists became alarmed by disappearing wildlife populations. For instance, fewer than 500,000 whitetail deer roamed the entire United States around 1900. Few game laws existed in the nation. Where laws existed, states did little enforcement.

About 110 years ago, in November 1907, Rep. Henry Steagall of Dale County introduced legislation to create a professional conservation department named the Alabama Department of Game and Fisheries. In 1971, it was renamed the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“Steagall authored legislation to create a government agency with authority to protect the dwindling wildlife and fisheries resources of Alabama,” says Kevin Dodd, the executive director of the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association. “The timing of his actions might seem radical to us, as they occurred when much of the Alabama population lived in rural settings near poverty standards where any game, bird or fish was pursued mainly to supplement the table or family income.”

Officer Vance Wood demonstrates the ease of the game check app on his smart phone to a group of hunters..
Photo by Billy Pope

According to Dodd, who spent 32 years as a conservation enforcement officer and retired earlier this year as the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries chief of law enforcement, Steagall didn’t invent the idea of passing laws to protect wildlife. But he believed many previous laws failed because individual legislators could exempt their districts from the laws – or the local sheriff simply refused to enforce them.

“The legislation introduced by Steagall and supported by many others had been encouraged by outgoing Gov. William Jelks,” Dodd says. “By forming a new government agency to oversee the wise use of wildlife resources, the entire state would be affected rather than selected regions. The bill was a comprehensive package that addressed landowner rights and the use of public waters, established seasons and limits, defined game birds and animals, restricted several activities and mandated penalties for violations.”

The new governor, Braxton Comer, signed the bill into law and appointed Rep. John Wallace of Madison County to serve as the first Department of Game and Fisheries commissioner. Wallace promoted the concept of  “conservation through education” to teach people about the laws and why they existed. He also appointed H.M. Henderson and W.F. Sirmon as the first conservation law enforcement officers, or game wardens. More appointments soon followed.

Wallace charged the wardens with enforcing all state game and fish laws. As incentive, the officers could keep a small portion of any fines collected from violators they caught.

“The logic of a state law enforcement officer, who answered to the commissioner rather than local voters, would prove to be the cornerstone that made the legislation successful,” Dodd says. “Turnover in warden ranks was frequent for the first few decades as the law and its enforcers were slow to gain public acceptance. Some of the 1908 convictions for violations of the new game law included a state senator, a sheriff and a county solicitor. Such prosecution would likely never have occurred when local sheriffs were solely responsible for enforcement.”

The new laws and the enforcement of them gradually became accepted as animal populations began to recover. During the Great Depression, the governor at the time decided to cut the game warden program to save money. Sportsmen across the state vociferously objected to that idea. The governor backed down and the game wardens stayed on the job.

Who would have known that guy in camo wasn’t just another hunter?

“These citizens recognized that any progress gained over decades would be quickly lost if the enforcement arm of the game and fish program were diminished or removed, a fact that remains especially relevant today,” Dodd says. “The idea of a state law enforcement officer pledged to enforce laws protecting public wildlife resources was an idea born in North America and since copied around the world.”

Today, sportsmen contribute more than $2 billion annually to the Alabama economy and the populations of many game and fish species flourish. Twice as many whitetail deer live in Alabama now than existed in the entire nation a century ago. Sportsmen enjoy long seasons and liberal limits that allow everyone to participate in the great outdoors all year long if they wish.

However, new generations of highly trained professional “Wallace’s Wardens” are still watching. They continue to make sure everyone obeys the rules or suffers the consequences.

 

John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. He’s a professional freelance writer and photographer with more than 2,500 articles published in more than 150 different magazines. Contact him through Facebook.

Recipes: Grab your piece of the pie

Enjoying any of our reader-submitted pie recipes is as easy as, well, you know.

Pie occupies a prominent place in Southern food culture. Almost any occasion that brings people together probably has pie on the menu: family reunions, Sunday dinners and Fourth of July celebrations. What’s a Southern Thanksgiving without some kind of hearty pie? No matter what else you eat (or how much you eat), you know you’ve got to save room for at least a sliver of your grandma’s, mother’s, aunt’s (or uncle’s!) “insert family specialty here” pie.

And while apple pie is one of the quintessential symbols of America, perhaps pecan or peach should take that role for our region. Paying homage to and highlighting distinctly Southern ingredients, they both offer a slice of our area’s authentic, homey charm in every bite.

But that’s just an opinion. Perhaps you’d pick blueberry or buttermilk. Or maybe you prefer savory pies, stuffed with veggies, cheeses and even meat. Whatever slice selection sounds the most satisfying to you, you’ll probably find something similar among the bevy of reader-submitted recipes we got for this issue.


Cook of the Month:

Debbie Holder, Baldwin EMC

Debbie Holder grew up loving figs, thanks to the heavy harvest she helped her daddy bring in from an aunt’s fig trees each year. When she moved to Foley, Ala., in 2004, she ended up with a neighbor who has fig trees and who happens to be generous with them. “I would make fig preserves and muffins out of them,” Debbie said, “but I wanted to try something different, so I thought I’d put them in a pie.” The first time she made the pie, she didn’t have quite enough fruit, so she augmented her filling with pecans. “It turned out great. The two really go together,” she said. And since her favorite part of any pie is the crust, she made her new creation a double-crust pie.

 

Fig-Pecan Pie

  • 3 cups peeled figs
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • Butter
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Deep-dish pie crust
  • 1 ready-to-bake pie crust (for top)

Combine figs, pecans, lemon juice, brown sugar and flour, refrigerate for 30 minutes. Bake deep-dish pie shell for 12 minutes or until just starting to brown. Pour fig mixture in pie shell and cover with pats of cold butter. Place ready-to-bake pie crust on top and crimp edges with fork. Trim excess pie dough around edges and place dough designs on top. Cut four diagonal slits in top crust. Beat egg, and using pastry brush, cover top of pie. Sprinkle granulated sugar on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. (If top is not golden brown, turn oven to broil for two minutes.)


Fudge Pies

  • 2pie shells, unbaked
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • ½ cup self-rising flour
  • 2 sticks margarine, melted
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Mix all ingredients and pour into unbaked pie shells. Bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Opal Frost, Joe Wheeler EMC


Coconut Pineapple Pie

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust
  • ½ stick butter, melted

In a bowl, combine sugar and flour. Add syrup, coconut, pineapple, eggs and vanilla and mix well. Pour into pastry shell. Drizzle with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until knife inserted into middle of pie comes out clean. Cover loosely with foil if the top browns too quickly. Cool on a wire rack and chill before cutting. Store in the refrigerator.

Trudy Nelson, Central Alabama EC


Cranberry-Orange Pie

  • 1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
  • ½cup brown sugar
  • Zest of one orange
  • 13-ounce package orange gelatin
  • 1cup heavy cream
  • 19-inch, ready-made crumb crust

In a small saucepan, bring cranberry sauce, brown sugar and orange zest to a boil. Remove from heat; stir in gelatin until dissolved. Transfer to a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes or until partially set. In a small bowl, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the cream mixture into the gelatin mixture. Spread into pie crust. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Garnish with whipped topping. Serves 8.

Mary Donaldson, Covington EC


Chicken Salad Pie

  • 1unbaked 9-inch pie shell
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheese, divided
  • 1cup sour cream
  • ²⁄3cup mayonnaise
  • 1½ cups chopped, cooked chicken
  • 1small can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans, divided
  • ½cup celery

Prick the bottom and sides of pie shell several times with fork. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-16 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile, combine sour cream and mayonnaise in a bowl. Stir in the chicken, pineapple, 1 cup walnuts and celery. Pour into cooled crust. Top with remaining cheese and walnuts. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer before cutting. Yields 6 servings.

Peggy Key, North Alabama EC


Butternut Squash Pie

  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1½ cups cooked and mashed squash
  • 1 unbaked pie shell
  • ¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Combine eggs, sugar, salt, spices and milk. Add butter to squash and blend with other ingredients. Pour the filling into the pie shell. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake 30 to 40 minutes or until set. Add shredded cheese to hot pie.

Peggy Lunsford, Pea River EC


Farmhouse Peanut Butter Pie

  • 2 9-inch graham cracker pie crusts
  • 1 stick salted butter, room temperature
  • 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1½ cups creamy peanut butter
  • 3cups whipped topping
  • 4cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Combine all ingredients with mixer until smooth and creamy.  Spread into pie crusts.  Add chocolate topping.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chocolate topping:

  • 1cup milk chocolate chips
  • 2/3cup of half and half

Combine chips and half and half in a microwavable bowl.  Microwave for 5 minutes, pausing to stir often.  When chips are melted and mixture is slightly thickened, spread on pies.

Dianne Herring, Wiregrass EC


Walnut Raisin Pie

  • 1cup dark corn syrup
  • 3eggs
  • 1cup sugar
  • 2tablespoons melted butter
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1teaspoon rum extract
  • 1½ cups (6 ounces) walnuts
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie crust

Stir first six ingredients together thoroughly using a spoon. Mix in walnuts and raisins. Pour into pie crust. Bake on center rack of oven for 60-70 minutes. Cool for two hours. Store pie in the refrigerator. Top slices with whipped topping if desired.

Patricia Harrison, Pioneer EC


Pecan Pie

  • 1cup white corn syrup
  • 1cup light brown sugar
  • ½teaspoon salt
  • 1stick melted butter
  • 2teaspoons vanilla
  • 3whole eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1heaping cup pecans
  • 1unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Mix syrup, sugar, salt, butter and vanilla. Mix in eggs. Prick the pie shell with a fork, and pour mixture into pie shell. You can either sprinkle the pecans over the filling, or mix in with the other ingredients. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Check oven as it bakes.

Sherry Tew, Pea River EC


Blueberry Sour Cream Pie

  • 3cups fresh blueberries (may use frozen but thawed)
  • 2regular unbaked pie shells or 1 deep dish pie shell
  • 1cup sugar
  • 1/3cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2beaten eggs
  • ½cup sour cream

Crumble:

  • 1cup sugar
  • 1cup self-rising flour
  • ½cup cold butter

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse blueberries and remove all stems. (Hint: If blueberries are not sweet enough, sprinkle with sugar and set aside.) Place berries in bottom of pie shells. Combine sugar, flour and salt. Add eggs and sour cream to flour mixture. Spoon over berries.

To make the crumble, combine sugar, flour and cold butter with fork or pastry cutter and sprinkle on top or over pie. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown for 50 minutes .

Donna Gilliam, Tombigbee EC


Recipe Themes and Deadlines:

Dec. Edible gifts October – 8

Jan. Crock Pot November – 8

Feb. Spicy foods – December 8

Please send us your original recipes, developed by you or family members, and not ones copied from a book or magazine. You may adapt a recipe from another source by changing as little as the amount of one ingredient. Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year.

Online: alabamaliving.coop

Email: recipes@alabamaliving.coop

Mail:  Recipes, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

Please include a phone number and co-op name with submissions!

Editor’s Note: Alabama Living’s recipes are submitted by our readers. They are not kitchen-tested by a professional cook or registered dietician. If you have special dietary needs, please check with your doctor or nutritionist before preparing any recipe. Alabama Living reserves the right to reprint recipes in our other publications.

Alabama Snapshots: Halloween Costumes

Cooper, dressed as a mummy, is a 2-year old British Labrador. SUBMITTED BY Alison Collins, Hollywood.
Beau Barnes said he wanted to be a cheeseburger because it would be funny. SUBMITTED BY Ashley Barnes, Sulligent.
My grandson, 2-year-old Cooper Hayes, dressed as a sock monkey last year for Halloween. SUBMITTED BY Debby Boyd, Addison.
Ave Henley as Frankenstein and Wes Henley as Spiderman (bottom left). SUBMITTED BY Jackie Henley, Prattville.
Mother and daughter having an “udderly” great time at their church’s fall festival. SUBMITTED BY Laura Tucker, Decatur.
Erin Alford and Celia Blanchard, best friends dressed up as Mickey and Minnie Mouse.SUBMITTED BY Leah Blanchard, Rockford.
Angelina Cowart dressed as Dorothy. SUBMITTED BY Mary Ann Stockman, Mt. Vernon.

Hardy Jackson’s Alabama

Why we will defeat breast cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I became particularly aware of this when I lost an old and dear friend to the disease.

On a more positive note, several other friends who are breast cancer survivors continue to thrive.

Losses are hard to take. But the survivors show us that the fight continues and there are victories to celebrate.

And when I think of the victorious, I think of Aunt Roscoe.

Aunt Roscoe was a breast cancer survivor.

It was a long time ago – late 1940s or early 1950s, dates get fuzzy – before radiation or chemo and all that. Back then, when you had breast cancer you either died or got it cut off. Roscoe went the cut-off route. Radical mastectomy. Which left her breastless on one side.

So she made herself a replacement, a “falsie,” padded in the shape of the real thing.

You see, Aunt Roscoe was a seamstress. A good one.

When she resumed sewing, Aunt Roscoe found that her “falsie” was an excellent place to stick pins when there were too many for her to hold in her mouth, which is where seamstresses hold extra pins, in case you didn’t know.

Always with her, always within easy reach, her falsie was a novel and convenient pin cushion.

However, the true value of this innovation did not come clear until a year or so later, well after its use became second nature to the user.

One day Aunt Roscoe was hard at work pinning a pattern when there came a knock on the door. Pins in her mouth, she answered it and found a salesman, sample case in hand, ready to show her something that he knew she could not live without.

He began making his pitch.

She could not tell him “no” because of the pins in her mouth.

So while he talked, she absentmindedly began taking the pins, one by one, from between her lips and sticking them in the pin cushion.

Yep, that pin cushion.

Which the salesman thought was real.

(Work on it. Visuals are important here.)

With each pin moving from mouth to cushion, mouth to cushion, the salesman’s concentration slipped and he kept losing his place in the spiel. He began stammering. And sweating.

Meanwhile Aunt Roscoe, unaware of what she was doing and the effect it was having on the salesman, continued to take pins from her mouth and poke them firmly into “it.”

Finally, after the fourth or fifth pin, the salesman gave up.

“Please lady,” he said. “You can stop. I’m leaving. If you are tough enough to do that, there is no way I can sell you anything.”

And he left.

And apparently he told other folks in his profession.

For according to family lore, that salesman was the last salesman ever to darken her door.

Aunt Roscoe lived to a ripe old age and died – not from the cancer, but from one of the other things that gets us all in the end.

But were she alive today, I’m sure that she would have celebrated Breast Cancer Awareness Month with the survivors, wearing her pink T-shirt and doing her part so that one day in the not too distant future, innovations like her personal pin cushion would be a thing of the past.

With women like her leading the way, breast cancer’s days are surely numbered.

Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.

Social Security

In this issue, I would like to continue sharing with you some common Social Security questions I receive on a variety of topics and my answers.

Question: Is it illegal to laminate your Social Security card?

Answer: No, it is not illegal, but we discourage it. It’s best not to laminate your card. Laminated cards make it difficult — sometimes even impossible — to detect important security features and an employer may refuse to accept them. The Social Security Act requires the Commissioner of Social Security to issue cards that cannot be counterfeited. We incorporate many features that protect the card’s integrity. They include highly specialized paper and printing techniques, some of which are invisible to the naked eye. Keep your Social Security card in a safe place with your other important papers. Do not carry it with you. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Question: My spouse died recently and my neighbor said my children and I might be eligible for survivors benefits. Don’t I have to be retirement age to receive benefits?

Answer: No. As a survivor, you can receive benefits at any age if you are caring for a child who is receiving Social Security benefits and who is under age 16. Your children are eligible for survivors benefits through Social Security up to age 19 if they are unmarried and attending elementary or secondary school full time. Keep in mind that you are still subject to the annual earnings limit if you are working. If you are not caring for minor children, you would need to wait until age 60 (age 50 if disabled) to collect survivors benefits. For more information about survivors benefits, read our publication Survivors Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

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

Alabama’s Health

Alabama: heart of the ‘Stroke Belt’

Stroke (or cerebrovascular diseases) is Alabama’s fourth leading cause of death, exceeded only by heart diseases, cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases. Alabama is a prominent member of “The Stroke Belt,” an 11-state region where the risk of experiencing a stroke is 34 percent higher than it is in other areas.

Stroke is required to be reported in Alabama; however, analyzing stroke mortality data reveals many interesting facts about this disease. In 2000, Alabama lost nearly 3,200 residents to strokes and was tied for having the 7th highest age-adjusted stroke mortality (or death) rate among all 50 states, at 71.5 deaths per 100,000 standard population. In 2015, this rate had decreased by nearly 27 percent to 52.2. Alabama lost more than 2,900 residents to strokes in 2015.

Significant progress in stroke survival has been seen nationally and in Alabama. Unfortunately, in spite of this progress, Alabama had the 2nd highest stroke mortality rate in 2015 and the highest rate among all states in 2013.

Stroke mortality varies significantly by race and gender. African Alabamian males had the highest rate in 2015 at 72.2 followed by African Alabamian females at 58.0, white males at 49.0, and white females at 47.9. While all four of these components of Alabama’s population had healthy and significant decreases in stroke mortality since 2000, all four remained significantly higher when compared to the same population components nationally.

Alabama’s rural counties had a higher stroke mortality rate than the urban counties. While these rates did not vary greatly, (53.6 in rural counties and 51.0 in urban counties) the 20 counties with the highest rates were all rural.

Risk factor modifications, such as increased use of cholesterol reducing medications, improved and faster stroke diagnosis, and improved stroke treatment are credited with most of the healthy decrease that has been seen in stroke mortality. Alabama continues to rank among the leading states in stroke mortality because of the greater presence of major risk factors such as diabetes, obesity, and tobacco use.

The expansion of stroke diagnosis and treatment through the use of telemedicine provides considerable promise for improvement in stroke mortality and quality of life. The Southeast Alabama Medical Center (SAMC) in Dothan was an Alabama pioneer in providing this service through its Stroke Care Network.

Through this network, neurologists affiliated with the SAMC conduct real-time video examinations of patients presenting in emergency departments at the Medical Center Barbour in Eufaula, Mizell Memorial Hospital in Opp, Dale Medical Center in Ozark, and Troy Regional Medical Center who may have experienced a stroke. Through this timely evaluation, drugs may be prescribed quickly, resulting in less permanent damage or even the saving of life.

Remembering the stroke acronym “FAST” is another way that we can all possibly prevent death and decrease permanent damage.

F Does one side of the face tend to droop?

A Ask the victim to raise both arms. Does one arm tend to drift downward?

S Is speech being slurred?

T Time! If any of these symptoms are present, seek emergency attention.

Dale Quinney is executive director of the Alabama Rural Health Association, 1414 Elba Highway, Troy, 36081.

Magazine wins 3 awards

Magazine wins three awards

Alabama Living magazine recently received three Awards of Merit in the 2017 National Electric Cooperative Statewide Editors Association Willies Awards.

The awards were given for:

Best Illustration for “Cotton Pickin’ Time” by Dennis Auth (October 2016)


Best Cover for “Raising the Steaks” by Michael Cornelison (August 2016)

This cover, featuring an Alabama Wagyu beef cow, had previously won an award in the Cooperative Communicators Association contest.


Best Entertaining Feature for “Alabama in the Movies” by Emmett Burnett (June 2016)


There were nearly 300 entries from 23 magazines in the contest, named for Willie Wiredhand, mascot of the rural electric cooperative program.

OWA is open for business

The Twister, one of 21 park rides

OWA entertainment complex offers another option for Baldwin County visitors

OWA, the 520-acre entertainment complex in Foley, minutes from Gulf Shores, is appropriately named. Pronounced “oh-wah,” the word inspired from the Muscogee Creek language means “big water.” But OWA could also also mean oh-wow, as today’s visitors are about to find out.

It is a late summer’s day in the 14-acre amusement ride midway, known as The Park of OWA. Giddy thrill seekers scurry for seating in a roller coaster with more twists and turns than a water moccasin on a pancake griddle. Riders are about to discover the winding-weaving tracks of what OWA employees call “The Big One.” Like the park, Rollin’ Thunder is also well named.

Alabama’s newest tourist mecca is coming in phases. Phase 1 premiered with much fanfare and a packed park on July 21. Early features include the amusement park, 150-room Marriott TownePlace Suites, a 14-acre man-made lake complete with a 1.5-acre man-made island, and a 44,000-square-foot shopping district set to start a few weeks later.

Nine months earlier, OWA was little more than a good idea on paper.

But the park’s history dates back many years before a spade of dirt was turned and ice cream scooped. Originally, OWA was “Oh No.”

The 10113 Foley Beach Express address was to have been the Blue Collar Country Entertainment Complex, which never took off.  After numerous setbacks – including the pullout of investor Jeff Foxworthy – Blue Collar met Blue Monday.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians acquired total control of the property in April 2015. OWA’s construction began in November 2016, at the speed of Rollin’ Thunder.

“It was something to see,” says Kristin Hellmich, OWA’s director of marketing and public relations, describing the early days. During the fast-track construction, up to 1,000 workers were on site, daily, almost around the clock. And Baldwin EMC, the electrical utility serving the site, started its planning as well (see related story on Page 14).

Six contractors and dozens of subcontractors turned fields into a tourist attraction, building everything from the ground up. The Foley site received 21 amusement park rides – some assembly required.

“Prior to purchasing decisions, we got to try the rides out in different parks across the U.S.,” Hellmich says, acknowledging just how cool product research can be. “Specialists and designers built the rides onsite.”

Larsen Lien knows the midway’s features well. “I’ve ridden every one of them,” OWA’s digital marketing specialist says while giving an impromptu tour. “I think it is cool how we can stand under Rollin’ Thunder as it zips over us,” she says, pointing at the roller coaster racing through gravity defying loops. It sounds like rolling thunder, hence the name.

Larsen critiques other attractions: “My favorite – and I love them all – is the Wave Runner,” the ocean-like ride simulating wave motion. “It is so dynamic, personal. There is nothing like it.”

Park rides are not just for thrill seekers. Family-friendly features abound. Employees say a favorite for youngsters is the Southern Express, a roller coaster but smaller, for little people. It’s also a saving grace for fraidy-cat parents, who may be too chicken to ride Rollin’ Thunder.

Other adventures include the Flying Carousel, like a typical carousel, except not necessarily confined to earth. There is AeroZoom, a simulated hang gliding experience; Rockin’ Raft, a whitewater gauntlet without getting wet; and Sky Balloons, adrift over the park for a pelican’s-eye view.

‘Think of OWA as many parks’

OWA on opening day.

More rides await and more are planned. By design, the amusement park is surrounded by additional land for expansion. It has space to double in size. OWA is already researching new ride possibilities.

“Think of OWA as many parks,” Hellmich says. “It has components, the park has rides from kiddie to thriller. But in addition, there are the Downtown and Warehouse Districts, with shopping, restaurants and other venues.” At press time, most Downtown District restaurants and shops were set to open in late September. Additional phases will follow, in a 5-year plan budgeted at $500 million.

Future phases call for a luxury RV resort, four hotels, a resort level condominium and outdoor waterpark. OWA is in active negotiations for leasing agreements and estimates 50 businesses will populate the Downtown and Warehouse Districts of the complex. About 60 percent will be restaurants.

Announced tenants include Wahlburgers (a restaurant featuring customized crafted hamburgers), Sunglass World, Fairhope Soap Company, Hershey’s Ice Cream Shop, and the Groovy Goat, a sports bar with 80 TV monitors set to open Sept. 30. Eatery cuisine will range from fine dining to “did I hear that right?” There are rumors of fried chicken donuts.

“We strive to appeal to all ages and interests,” Hellmich says. Older guests may not want to ride a white-knuckle thriller with their children or grandchildren. But they can opt for a good meal and time with family and friends in the Downtown District.

Only the amusement park ride section requires an admission fee. You can shop till you drop in Downtown OWA or eat in its restaurant row with no ticket required. The amusement park has same day re-entry too. Go and come back as you please. And parking is free for everything. Try that at Disney World.

OWA works in conjunction with the City of Foley’s $45 million Sports Tourism Complex, which offers 16 state-of-the-art sports fields and an indoor event center. “We coordinate to extend hospitality here at OWA,” Hellmich says. “We want Foley – OWA to be a complete destination experience. Visiting sports teams can conduct their games, stay in our hotel, and play in OWA in the evenings and nights.”

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians has holdings across the U.S., including hotels, gaming, and entertainment venues. OWA does not have gambling or gaming facilities. Park officials say they have no plans for gaming at OWA.

‘No destination like it in the U.S.’

OWA entrance.

The Baldwin County entertainment complex is one of the latest of the Poarch Creek tribal holdings. “There is no destination quite like it in the U.S.,” Hellmich says. “We have all of the amenities in one property – sports fields, hotels, shopping, dining, and amusement park, all in one place.” And OWA just won a big accolade – it was named the Alabama Attraction of the Year at the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism in August.

As of press time, ticket prices are $34.99 for adults and $27.99 for juniors (under 42 inches tall), seniors over age 60, and military members. Children under age of 3 are free. An annual pass may be purchased for $89.99. The park also works with groups for special packages and group discounts.

OWA is open year-round but hours may vary. Check its website, http://visitowa.com/, for current information.

Before OWA, visiting Gulf Shores meant driving to the beach, driving for something to eat, driving to shopping, and driving back to the hotel. Not now.

Though OWA doesn’t have Gulf beaches, it is 30 minutes away. A saltwater plunge is within a half-hour. Then use your re-entry pass for that OWA ride you missed. Rollin’ Thunder is waiting.


Baldwin EMC added a new substation to meet OWA’s power needs.

Meeting OWA’s power needs started early for co-op

Although the OWA amusement park officially opened to the public in July 2017, planning for the attraction’s electricity needs began as far back as 2013.

Four years ago, Baldwin EMC knew an entertainment venue of some type was possibly coming to Foley, Ala., and it would likely be larger than any other attraction the cooperative had ever served.

In order to meet the needs of the up-and-coming site, which covers 500 acres on the Foley Beach Express, Baldwin EMC began evaluating the existing demand for electricity in the south Foley area and how it might increase with the new development.

After an initial analysis, Baldwin EMC determined that adding a new substation to the area was the best plan. The co-op developed a presentation for PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, Baldwin EMC’s power supplier, explaining the need.

“Our justification for the new substation was based on reliability in south Foley along with the needs of the potential amusement park and any other future developments in the area,” says Brian Seals, Baldwin EMC’s manager of engineering.

PowerSouth’s board of trustees approved the new substation in the fall of 2014. As PowerSouth finished its construction toward the end of 2016, Baldwin EMC began the process of raising poles and running lines to tie the new substation into the co-op’s existing infrastructure.

In the meantime, the city of Foley and the state of Alabama began a project that would improve County Road 20, now called Pride Drive, in order to accommodate traffic flow to the new attraction site. “That project affected our system as well,” says Seals. “We worked with the city of Foley to enhance the area by shifting our power lines to accommodate the widening of the road.”

In February 2016, Baldwin EMC’s engineering department had its first meeting with project managers for OWA. “As they gave us the layouts of their roads, buildings and amusement park rides, we started putting together a design for an electrical infrastructure that would best serve their needs,” Seals says.

Baldwin EMC’s crews worked simultaneously with OWA’s construction crews, installing lines and electrical equipment as the site’s development moved forward.

OWA officially opened its doors on July 21, 2017. However, additions to the attraction are still in progress, and meeting their electricity needs is an ongoing process for Baldwin EMC.

“It’s a new type of load for us,” Seals says. “We’ve never served an amusement park of this size. So as OWA was testing rides, we put equipment in place to monitor the electrical load and we changed out equipment when necessary.”

Seals says Baldwin EMC will continue to maintain contact with OWA’s developers and monitor their power use. “We all know the impact of this project on our area and we all want it to be successful.” – Michelle Geans

Keeping the bees

What do Aristotle, Sylvia Plath, Jon Bon Jovi, Morgan Freeman, “Sherlock Holmes” and Thomas Jefferson have in common with one another?

They are just a few of the many people (and a few fictional characters) from across the world and centuries who have nurtured and harnessed the sweet, essential power of one of nature’s busiest and most useful creatures, the honey bee. They are apiculturists — more commonly known as beekeepers.

Humankind has been harvesting honey and other honey bee byproducts, such as royal jelly, beeswax and propolis (bee glue), for possibly tens of thousands of years, first from the wild, then later from bees “kept” in hollowed-out trees, baskets and mud and pottery containers. Through the millennia, humans found better ways to keep bees (the current style of hives used in beekeeping has been around since the mid 1800s) and also discovered that bees offer us much more than the riches of their hives. They are critical to our lives.

Geoff Williams’ research aims to look into the threats to honeybees and to the bee industry in Alabama.
Auburn University photo

That’s because honeybees are members of a vital group of insects (and other animals such as hummingbirds and bats) that pollinate the plants that we and other animal species rely on for survival. Pollinators are the primary reasons that we humans have many fruits and vegetables on our plates, clothing on our backs and clovers and other forages in our pastures and fields. They also ensure that other animals have seeds, berries and other plant-derived sources of food in the wild.

According to 2010 statistics, these diverse pollinators are responsible for the production of $19 billion or more worth of agricultural crops in the United States, or about one-third of our nation’s food supply. Honeybees alone are essential in the production of at least eight commercial crops in the U.S. and they also help boost yields for a variety of other crops.

In Alabama, we rely on honeybees to pollinate melons, cotton and kiwifruit and to contribute to the pollination of many other agronomically important plants. In fact, they are so important to our state’s agricultural well-being that the Alabama Legislature passed a bill in 2015 designating the queen honey bee as Alabama’s official agricultural insect (the Monarch butterfly is the state’s official insect).

Though beekeeping has been around for millennia, it has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years thanks in part to an increased interest among consumers in eating healthy, local foods. Perhaps a growing appreciation for the many flavors that derive from various pollen sources and the opportunity to help protect this vital little pollinator have driven that, too. For whatever reason, more and more part-time “hobbyist” beekeepers, as well as a growing number of commercial beekeepers, are taking up their smokers (those cans that produce bee-calming vapors) and are tending to the bees.

Geoff Williams is working with several beekeeping groups in Alabama to study pollinator issues that are important to Alabama’s bee industry.
Auburn University photo

Help from an expert

It is that trend that helped bring Geoff Williams to Alabama. Williams is an assistant professor in Auburn University’s Department Entomology and Plant Pathology who studies honeybee and pollinator health issues. Though Auburn has had faculty in the past whose work focused part-time on honeybees, Williams is the first-ever faculty member to give honeybees this kind of full-time attention, and he has been as busy as, yes, a bee, since he arrived here in November 2016.

A native of Canada who came to Alabama by way of a position in Switzerland, Williams has been setting up his research and teaching program on the Auburn campus, including a bee yard at his laboratory, with a focus on a variety of pollinator issues important to Alabama, but also to help Alabama’s bees and beekeeping industry.

To accomplish this, Williams is working closely with the Alabama Beekeepers Association and other local beekeeping groups throughout the state, the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Bee and Honey Producers Division, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industry’s Apiary Health Unit and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

While the number of people interested in beekeeping is large and growing, the number of bees in the state is unknowable — honeybees are not domesticated, so beekeepers don’t directly control them or their populations. Instead, apiculturists try to provide bees with clean, safe artificial shelters where the bees can set up colonies and then go about their business.

Going about their business, however, has become harder for honeybees in the last decade because of a variety of threats, which Williams is addressing through his research.

Eddie Strickland was in high school when he and his father started Eddie BeeS Honey from their farm in south Montgomery County. Alabama Farmers Federation photo

Probably the single greatest threat to honeybees, Williams says, is the Varroa destructor, a parasitic mite that feeds off the body fluids of honeybees, weakening them and also transmitting viruses to them. This mite is found virtually worldwide (except in Australia and a few other isolated islands across the globe), and while control measures have been developed to lessen its impact, much work still needs to be done to protect honeybees from the Varroa mite and other possibly emerging pests.

Another significant threat to honeybees (and other pollinators), and an important facet of Williams’ research, is how human activity, including land and chemical use and loss of habitat, affects honey bees and other pollinators. Through his research program, Williams will examine a range of issues while also taking into account the delicate balancing act needed to support both bees and society.

More interest in beekeeping

Though human activity contributes to honey bee threats, it is also a source of exceptional support for honeybees, something Williams is seeing over and over again as he gets to know Alabama’s beekeeping community.

There are currently more than 600 registered beekeepers and an estimated 7,000 honey-producing colonies in Alabama, a number that has increased in the last ten years and is expected to continue to grow as more and more people become interested in beekeeping and in consuming honey and other bee products.

Research associates collect data from a hive in Auburn University’s new bee yard. The results will help Alabama’s beekeepers and other agriculturalists in the state who rely on honeybees and other pollinators to produce their crops. The bees may also soon be the source of some Auburn-branded honey. Photo by Katie Jackson

“There is a huge interest in bees here in Alabama,” said Williams, noting that last year’s Alabama Beekeeping Symposium, held annually each February for more than 20 years, drew more than 700 participants, the single largest such event ever.  A similar turnout is expected for the 2018 symposium, to be held Feb. 9-10 at the Clanton, Ala., Performing Arts Center.

“And the people interested in bees are so diverse. They come from all walks of life,” he continued, noting that one of his lab volunteers at Auburn, an accomplished beekeeper, is also a 911 call center operator.

Another example is Melissa Heigl of Salem, Ala., a member of the east-central Alabama area Saugahatchee Beekeepers Association, a stay-at-home mother of five (a sixth one is on the way) who owns a home-based soap making business.

“This is my first year keeping bees and I do it for lots of reasons,” she says. “Sure, I love honey. I love helping save the bees. I love raising my own food. In addition to those reasons, I have to have an outlet for learning or I get really grumpy. I love to be challenged and bees certainly provide that!”

Yet another member of the Saugahatchee Beekeepers Association, Mary Ann Taylor-Simms, started keeping bees seven years ago for health reasons.

“I became a beekeeper primarily because I wanted to ‘grow’ my own honey for medicinal purposes,” says Taylor-Simms, a student support professional at Auburn University. “I suffered from seasonal allergies and would get a severe sinus infection about twice a year. I read that eating local honey may help with the allergy problem.”

Since she began consuming her “homegrown” honey, Taylor-Simms said her allergy problem has “virtually disappeared,” and she has also gained a greater appreciation for bees.

A beekeeper uses a smoker to help calm bees before checking their hives for honey. Alabama Farmers Federation photo

“As I got more involved in beekeeping, I began to learn about the importance of bees as pollinators and how vital they are to our food supply,” she says. “After a brief hiatus from beekeeping, I’m back to learning from the bees — they teach me something each time I open their hives for inspection. I still take my daily dose of ‘nectar from the gods,’ but now I also have a great respect for them, knowing how important they are to my own survival.”

Among the products that honey bees make is bee bread, a fermented mixture of pollen, nectar and bee saliva that is created in the comb. Worker bees use it to feed larvae and young bees use to produce royal jelly. Humans have also learned to use bee bread, which is high in nutritional value, as a dietary supplement. Auburn University photo

Regardless of their reasons for keeping bees, apiculturists seem to have one thing in common — a deep commitment to working together to keep bees safe — and Williams is looking forward to connecting with more and more of those beekeepers as his program matures. He also hopes to help new beekeepers get involved.

“We are working with Extension and other groups in the state to set up an extensive network for bee information so that there will be a base of knowledge about beekeeping in each part of the state,” he says.

Until that network is fully functional, however, anyone interested in learning more about bees and beekeeping — and possibly joining the ranks of famous apiculturists — can contact the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, state and local beekeeper associations and other bee and honey organizations (see list in below).


Want to learn more about bees and beekeeping in Alabama?  Check out one or all of the following resources.

The Alabama Beekeepers Association, an organization of beekeepers and bee enthusiasts from Alabama and surrounding states, offers information for advanced beekeepers and for those just starting out. Contact them at www.alabamabeekeepers.com.

There are also 27 known beekeeping organizations in the state to help local beekeepers. Find a list of them at bit.ly/2x4SjAc.

Alabama Cooperative Extension System offices throughout the state can provide a wealth of information on beekeeping and protecting pollinator populations in the state. They also offer a publication, Backyard Beekeeping www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0135/ANR-0135.pdf that will soon be turned into an interactive iBook. For more information on Extension resources contact your county Extension office or www.aces.edu.


Honeybees are amazing social creatures who produce a variety of products and provide a number of services. 

Here are a few bee facts.

Alabama Honey: this comes in a variety of flavors and colors depending on the plants that bees have visited. Alabama cotton honey is lightly colored and delicately flavored.

Beeswax: this bee byproduct has many well-known uses, candles and cosmetics to name a couple, and has also been used to create art and help clean up oil spills.

Propolis: bees produce this resinous substance, sometimes called “bee glue,” from the plant saps and resins they pick up in their foraging and use it to seal small gaps in the hive structure; it is used by humans as a nutritional and medical supplement.

Royal Jelly: this bee byproduct is the gelatinous, opaque substance that worker bees secrete and feed to the queen and her larvae and is also used as a nutritional and health supplement by humans.

Pollen: pollen residues that collect in hives as bees come and go can be collected and used to research the foraging activities of bees or can be stored and fed to “kept” bees when other sources of pollen are depleted.

Colonies: a bee colony contains a queen, hundreds of male drones, 20,000 to 80,000 female worker bees and the eggs, larvae and pupae of the queen’s offspring.

Establishing a hive: though fall is a good time to plan, the best time to establish a new colony (hive) is in the spring, preferably late March and early April when fruit trees and other plants begin to bloom.


Alabama People: Jason Wilson

When the “Free the Hops” bill passed the Alabama Legislature in 2009, it removed some of the major hurdles restricting beer production and ushered in a new era of Alabama brewing.

Fast forward to 2017, and there are currently almost 30 craft breweries here, and they’ve all tapped into the energy and interest created by industry trailblazers like Back Forty Beer and its founder, Jason Wilson.

Started in 2009 and based in Gadsden, Ala., Back Forty has been a major player in Alabama’s beer boom from the beginning and is now the state’s largest craft brewery in terms of production volume, turning out the equivalent of approximately 350,000 bottles of beer about every two weeks.

Wilson shares his company’s story and stresses why even non-beer drinkers should be excited by the fact that for Alabama breweries, business is hopping. – Jennifer Kornegay

What does “craft beer” mean?

It means a commitment to quality and process over profits and efficiency. Craft beers – and the rise of their popularity – prove that there is so much more to experience in beer than just the classic American light lager. That beer has its time and place, but I really encourage people to branch out.

When did you discover “craft beer”?

I had just turned 21. (laughs) No, I promise. I’m not saying I’d never had a beer before that, but I was visiting my brother in Colorado in 2001, and we went to this small, local brewery and started sampling their stuff. I had this great beer and said, “Man, this is amazing!” A guy popped up from behind the bar and said, “Thanks.” He was the brewer. I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning talking to him; we were sitting on kegs, and he was telling me all about the beer he made.

How did Back Forty get started?

When I left Colorado, I came back to Alabama, went back to college at Auburn, graduated and ended up working in logistics for Georgia Pacific, which meant I traveled a lot. Everywhere I went I sought out the local craft brewery. In 2005, I met Jamie Ray, the brewer behind The Montgomery Brew Pub, and we became friends.

By 2008, I had developed a full-fledged passion for craft beer, and my boss at GP could tell. He actually encouraged me to pursue it. Breweries were uncharted territory in Alabama at that time, and I didn’t think a bank would loan me money for a facility, but I raised money from friends and family, and reached out to Lazy Magnolia brewery in Mississippi. The timing was right; they had just expanded and had room to brew and package my beer, so we did a contract brewing arrangement. With Jamie’s help, I got my recipe down, and in 2009, we put out our first beer and Back Forty was born. We operated that way for 18 months. In 2011, we started brewing in our own place in downtown Gadsden.

Where does the name come from?

Back Forty is an old agriculture term. The “back forty” acres on a farm are the furthest from the barn, the hardest to irrigate and work. They’re under appreciated. But if you ever take the time to clear that land and nurture it, you get a great yield. It’s virgin ground. That’s how I saw the brewing industry in Alabama. I felt like the phrase just fit what I hoped we were going to do.

Why base Back Forty Beer in Gadsden instead of a larger city?

I’m a fifth-generation Gadsden native. But, like most kids, when I left for college, I said I was never coming back. When the steel plant shut down in the city, it hit the area hard, and there just wasn’t much to come back to. But by 2007, I sensed a renewed energy in my hometown. I saw other young people coming back.

Downtown was revitalizing, with new businesses opening up down there. I realized that from a logistics standpoint, with a major interstate (I-59) right beside it, it made plenty of sense. And I saw an opportunity to make a positive difference there, to be a part of the change that was needed.

Why should people who don’t even drink beer care about the craft beer boom in our state?

Jobs and tax revenue. Craft breweries generate both. We now have more than 350 people directly working in the industry in the state, and Alabama breweries have an annual economic impact in the billions of dollars. Plus, we bump up the state’s image to visitors, and tourism is crucial in the state.