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Old Claiborne Pilgrimage offers history lesson on southwest Alabama

Monroe County’s Old Claiborne Pilgrimage, set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 13 and 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 14, will provide a rare glimpse into the settlement of this Alabama ghost town, and of Monroe County.

Pioneers, planters and paddlewheelers created Claiborne on the Alabama River, a gateway to the old Southwest in the early 1800s, before Alabama was a state, says Gail Deas of Monroeville, who is spearheading the pilgrimage. But as quickly as Claiborne’s fortunes and population had risen, Yellow Fever, the Civil War and the effects of Reconstruction hastened its demise.

To help illustrate this forgotten town’s importance, the pilgrimage will feature docent tours of four rarely seen, private antebellum plantation homes; early churches; and sites of historic significance in southwest Alabama, along the Alabama River in Monroe County and in neighboring Clarke County.

Historian Tom McGehee will entertain with stories, scandals and legends of life along the river at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the courtroom of the Old Courthouse Museum in Monroeville, followed by a wine and cheese reception on the courthouse lawn.

Ticket information and sales are available through the Old Courthouse Museum in Monroeville at 251-575-7433. For more information, visit

The pilgrimage is presented by the Monroe County Museum Endowment, to generate financial support for maintenance of the historic Old Courthouse Museum in Monroeville, and by the Perdue Hill-Claiborne Foundation, Inc., which works to support and maintain sites of historic significance in Perdue Hill and the Claiborne area.

Alabama History Oct. 5, 1956

Oct. 5, 1956 — Birmingham native Charles A. Boswell shot an 81 at Highland Park Golf Course in Birmingham–a world record for a blind golfer. Permanently blinded by a tank explosion in Germany during World War II, Boswell became an international golfing icon and committed advocate for the blind. Throughout his career, he won a remarkable 16 national championships and 11 international championships. He served as the president of the United States Blind Golfers Association from 1956 to 1976 and founded the Charley Boswell Celebrity Golf Classic to raise funds for Birmingham’s Eye Foundation Hospital. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1972 and the Alabama Academy of Honor in 1983.

Alabama has its place in the Trail of Tears

The documentary “The Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy” was filmed in several states, including Georgia and Tennessee. Photo by Rich-Heape Productions

By Pamela A. Keene

Imagine being forced to leave your homeland for an unknown place 900 miles away. That’s what happened 180 years ago when more than 17,000 Cherokee men, women and children living in the Southeast walked, rode boats, and boarded trains to their new home in Oklahoma.

Along the way, nearly 25 percent of the men, women and children died of disease, cold, hunger and hardship. The remaining Cherokee recreated the Cherokee Nation, which still thrives today as a sovereign nation with more than 330,000 citizens across the United States. It is based in Oklahoma.

Marker on Hwy. 72 near Bridgeport.

“For centuries the Cherokees lived on and hunted the lands in what is now Kentucky, parts of Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina,” says Troy Wayne Poteete, executive director of the Oklahoma-based National Trail of Tears Association. “As the European settlers moved in, the Cherokees assimilated into the settlers’ way of life; their lands shrank, and they adapted to an agricultural lifestyle and left their hunting ways behind.”

By the 1790s, Revolutionary American leadership negotiated treaties with the Cherokees, each time taking more land for the white settlers. Some Cherokees voluntarily left their land to move west. Talk of relocation began and by 1830, the U.S. government had passed the Indian Removal Act. Over several years, the Supreme Court heard two cases about the removal.

Some Cherokees willingly moved west, but about 75 percent remained, split between moving to preserve their nation’s identity or remaining on their native homeland.

By this time, Cherokees living in northern Alabama had become part of the sovereign Cherokee Nation, which was then headquartered in New Echota, Ga. By 1835, a splinter group of Cherokees signed the Treaty of New Echota that, although signed by a minority of Cherokee leadership, forced the Cherokees to give up their native lands and move to 160,000 acres in Oklahoma.

Three years later the federal government began the forced removal of the Cherokees on what has now become known as the Trail of Tears. Many Cherokees were rounded up and imprisoned in forts and camps before they began the grueling journey westward to Oklahoma. Many lives were lost, but the Cherokee nation survived.

As Cherokees across the country commemorate the 180th Trail of Tears, Poteete makes it clear why it should be remembered.

“We participate in the commemoration of that sad episode because it affords us the opportunity to honor the resilience, the tenacity, and the perseverance of that generation who refused to be defeated,” Poteete says. “We certainly don’t do it because we wish to somehow appropriate their victimization to ourselves. We personally didn’t endure the Trail of Tears and no one alive today had anything to do with that tragedy.”

Cherokee John Benge led a group of American Indians out of Fort Payne in 1838 to begin their nearly 800-mile trip to Indian territory in what is now Oklahoma.

Alabama’s connections

Many sites in Alabama factored into the removal on the Trail of Tears. The Cherokees were rounded up and detained in places like Fort Payne, or across the state lines at Chattanooga. Five known routes crossed north Alabama and took the Cherokee from their homeland on foot, by boat and train through towns like Guntersville, Tuscumbia, Decatur, Huntsville and Waterloo.

Several of these towns have historic markers, memorials, visitor and interpretive centers, monuments and remnants of witness buildings, which existed when the Trail of Tears took place. State and federal parks help preserve the history.

Shannon Keith is president of the Alabama chapter of the Trail of Tears Association and a member of the Trail of Tears National Board of Directors. “Alabama factored significantly in the lives of the Cherokees and the Trail of Tears,” she says.

“And our state has been very supportive of our work to commemorate this part of our history. In fact, our annual meeting of the Trail of Tears National Association is taking place in Decatur in October. It is an official event of Alabama’ s bicentennial and the National Park Service celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System. It will be a chance to again draw attention to the Trail of Tears and the tribes that were removed.”

Commemoration events

Alabamians have recognized the story of the Trail of Tears with several events:

  • 23rd Annual Trail of Tears National Annual Conference and Symposium (, will be Oct. 26-28 in various locations in Decatur. Several events in this conference are open to the public, including guided walking tours of Decatur and significant sites related to the Trail of Tears on Friday, Oct. 26, and a concert by playwright and country-Western singer-songwriter and member of the Cherokee Nation Becky Hobbs on Saturday, Oct. 27. There will be workshops about genealogy and Cherokee history, and the group will also tour the Tuscumbia Landing preservation project
  • The Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride gives participants a chance to see the Trail of Tears, to learn about its history and legacy and to travel across the state on one of the same routes that the Cherokees walked toward their new homeland. It routinely attracts upwards of 15,000 motorcyclists. This year’s 25th anniversary one-day event was Sept. 15; it began in Bridgeport and ended in Waterloo.
  • Oka Kapassa, The Return to Cold Water Festival, took place in September in Tuscumbia’s Spring Park. A gathering of representatives of Native American Tribes, the festival celebrates the kindness shown to them by the citizens of Tuscumbia during the Indian Removal.

“The residents of Tuscumbia were the documented only people who offered assistance back then to the Native Americans on the Trail of Tears,” says Terry McGee, chairman of the Oka Kapassa Festival. “They brought food, blankets and other supplies to make sure they were well taken care of.” This year’s festival featured a school day with hands-on activities for students. Saturday offered a showcase of native music and dance, native craft artisans, storytelling and Chickasaw, Choctaw and Cherokee foods. (256) 383-0783 or visit


Places to visit in Alabama to learn more about the Trail of Tears.

A sampling of historic sites around the state that are open to the public

Decatur: Numerous historical markers dot the landscape of Decatur and mark significant events of the Trail of Tears. Located on the Tennessee River, Decatur factored heavily in the Trail of Tears. This is where many Cherokees transitioned from boat to train to journey farther west. Rhodes Ferry Park includes a wayside exhibit that tells the story of this part of the Trail of Tears. (256) 341-4930 or visit


Willstown Mission Cemetery, Fort Payne: The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions agreed to open a mission and school in Willstown in 1823. Only a few of the graves there have been identified. Two historical markers tell the story of the school, the cemetery and the importance to the Cherokee. (256) 845-6888 or

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail Waterloo Landing

Waterloo Landing: At the end of a 230-mile evacuation walk over land through North Alabama, Cherokees were transferred to the steamboat Smelter to follow a water trail to their new homeland. (256) 764-3237.

Tuscumbia Landing, Sheffield: Archeological digs since 2007 have revealed a railroad bed and other remnants of the Trail of Tears, the Civil War and bomb factories used in World War I. The site is being commercially developed with the intent of preserving history and protecting the environment. Plans are to open a Native American Visitors’ Center there in the next several years. The site is fenced, so direct access is not permitted. However, visitors can view the location. (256) 383-0250 or visit

Fort Payne Cabin: The cabin, once owned by Cherokee John Huss, was overtaken by the military that were stationed at Fort Payne to oversee the forced removal of the Cherokees in the mid-1830s. Only a chimney, the foundation and a stacked stone wall mark the site today. (256) 845-6888 or visit

At 70, Alabama Living still connecting to readers

By Allison Law

Alabama Living magazine turned 70 this year, and we think it’s better than ever.

The Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives (AREA), which publishes Alabama Living, was formed in 1947, and immediately jumped into the communications realm and began publishing the Alabama Rural Electric News in 1948 as a broadsheet-sized newspaper. Leaders undoubtedly saw a need for a publication that would communicate the cooperative message to rural electric co-op members across the state.

It’s hard to imagine in our current 24/7 news cycle world, but for many readers, the Rural Electric News was likely one of the few sources of information tailored especially for them. Those editions followed the news coming out of Washington and Montgomery that would have an impact on the rural Alabama home- and landowner, including news about the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), created by the federal government to help farmers and other rural folks receive electricity.

For the first few decades, the pages of the Alabama Rural Electric News reflected the agricultural roots of the rural electrification movement. After all, rural electric cooperatives were formed to bring electricity to the farms and rural areas that investor-owned utilities didn’t find profitable to serve. The pages were filled with stories about homesteaders who used electricity to modernize their farms; as late as the 1970s, most co-op editions featured stories about satisfied members who’d built new homes that were all-electric.

As electricity became less of a novelty in the rural areas, there was less need for us to explain how essential and convenient it was. So we broadened our focus to better reflect the more modern lifestyles of our largely rural and small-town readership.

Changing, but remaining the same

The look and style of the publication has evolved over the years; in 1968, the name changed to AREA Magazine, with a more modern magazine-style format that included more feature stories. The magazine became Alabama Living in 1989, to make the magazine feel more local and personal to readers.

Some longtime readers will remember  the late Darryl Gates, who was the editor of Alabama Living for almost 30 years before he retired in May 2012 and brought the magazine into the modern era. In his final column for the magazine, he said, “Alabama Living is not only the voice of the 22 electric cooperatives in the state, but it serves as a mirror that reflects the faces of more than 1 million electric co-op members. You folks are the backbone of our great state.”

Today, the magazine continues to be the voice of our electric cooperatives, with a monthly circulation of about 420,000 copies.

For decades, the magazine has shared the news and photos following natural disasters and chronicled the co-ops’ power restoration efforts in the wake of destructive hurricanes and tornadoes. Your co-op and its sister co-ops across the state and region participate in mutual aid, and we’ll continue to share those powerful stories.

The magazine today is politically neutral, but we do encourage our readers to stay current on the issues that affect them, and to make their rural voices heard by voting and by keeping in touch with their elected representatives. We write about topics that have a political focus, such as the push by some cooperatives for government grants to help provide high-speed broadband in unserved areas.

While we’ve abandoned the “homemakers page” of decades ago that featured clothing patterns and extolled the virtues of frost-free refrigerators, we’ve kept and enhanced the reader-submitted recipes and photos, which remain our most popular feature.

And month after month, we try to include a mix of story types: personality profiles, stories that highlight Alabama-based businesses and/or industries, features on food and cooking (which often tie in to the recipes) and monthly columns on gardening and the outdoors.

We try to provide you with stories about history, travel, home and garden and features that reflect the rural and small-town life of much of our readership. We publish a monthly feature called Worth the Drive, about a restaurant and its owner(s) in geographically diverse areas of the state. We try to cultivate stories that have a connection to a community, or feature a cultural or regional tradition. We regularly feature articles about safety and energy efficiency. And we try to provide some humor as well, with a monthly column from Alabama author Hardy Jackson.

Connections and technology

From its very first issue, each edition featured news written or selected specifically for each rural electric cooperative that was a member of AREA. We continue that tradition today – each issue of your Alabama Living contains several pages of local-focused content, in addition to the stories, columns and features of a statewide interest.

“I think people enjoy reading the magazine because its feature stories on people, places and events, the photography and even the recipes remind us of why living in rural Alabama is special to so many people,” says Brian Lacy, manager of communications and external affairs at Cullman Electric Cooperative. “We try to add to that feeling in our local pages with feature stories and other lifestyle content that is unique to our communities.

“But we also use that space to share important messages about the cooperative – events, programs and services, energy saving tips and other information that can help our members control their energy usage and save money on their power bill.”

The magazine has changed and adapted to emerging technology. Pages are designed, produced and transmitted electronically to Freeport Press, our printer in Ohio (the complexity of printing 22 different editions, with backup equipment,  makes it currently beyond the capabilities of printers in Alabama); gone are the days of manual, physical paste-up of pages.

And we’ve embraced the Internet. Our website,, has an archive of each month’s stories and videos, as well as recipe archives and a continuously updated events listing. Readers can also communicate with us through the site and submit recipes, events and participate in our monthly and annual photo contests.

Our social media channels continue to flourish. We have a robust audience on Facebook, with more than 9,000 page likes, as well as a presence on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

Today, the magazine’s challenge is to continue to be the primary source of information for the consumer-members of our electric cooperatives, while making the most of the newest technologies to communicate in ways that are relevant to future generations, says Lenore Vickrey, editor of Alabama Living.

“We want the children and grandchildren of today’s co-op consumer-members to be as loyal to Alabama Living as their grandparents are and were,” Vickrey says.


Worth the Drive: Sage

The Meza Mixer, a sample of appetizers.

Authenticity adds flavor at Fairhope’s Sage restaurant

Story and photos by Emmett Burnett

Restaurateurs Nader and Maritza Salibi take pride in hometown menus. His home is Beirut, the one in Lebanon. Hers is Cuenca, the one in Ecuador. Their restaurant is Sage Lebanese Cuisine and Cafe, the one in Fairhope.

But regardless of who is where, the food is amazing here. It is also surprising. “People visit not knowing what to expect,” says Nader, as we sip homemade lemonade over a plate of freshly baked baklava. “Customers don’t expect the flavors. They are surprised how familiar entries taste different.”

He explains that food varies between countries, regions, even cities. For example, fried chicken is common in the south. But South Alabama’s differs from South Carolina’s. The same holds true for Mediterranean – Lebanese.

“Everything here is as authentic as possible,” Nader adds. “Many recipes are based on mother and grandmother’s recipes back when I was growing up in Beirut.”

Kebab varieties of grilled prime beef, marinated chicken breasts, and spiced ground beef are examples of the aforementioned “unexpected flavors.” Other favorites include grilled savory lamb chops, beef over hummus with pita bread, and the Mousaka Plate – eggplant, yellow rice and house salad.

Sage offers 11 sandwiches including the Shawarma Mix – mammoth portions of beef and/or marinated chicken wrapped in pita bread – or the Kafta Burger – ground beef, caramelized onions, brioche and Swiss cheese.

Everything is cooked on site. Everything is oven/stovetop fresh. The only thing missing is a microwave oven.

An international love story

Sage Lebanese Cuisine and Cafe owners Maritza and Nader Salibi sample homemade lemonade and fresh baklava at their Fairhope cafe

The Salibis readily admit that Lebanese cooking in small-town, south Alabama is unique, just as unique as the couple’s story, a 3,000-mile journey spanning three countries and ending in Fairhope.

About 20 years ago, Nader at age 17 left Beirut for New York City to study business courses at Brooklyn College. While in the Big Apple he met another college student and future wife, Maritza Astudillo. Short version: They fell in love, married and moved to Ecuador to work in Maritza’s family’s business. But not for long.

“I wanted to be in business for myself. I wanted to open a restaurant,” Nader recalls. “But I did not want to return to New York. It’s crazy up there.” A friend told him about a really cool town in America.

The couple knew nothing about Alabama and neither had ever heard of Fairhope. But both agreed to research the restaurant-business venture, cautiously and slowly for 3 to 6 months. It sounded good – in theory.

In the spring of 2015, Nader left Ecuador for the “Heart of Dixie’s” Eastern Shore. He visited Fairhope, loved it, and leased a building – his first day in town.

“I called my wife and said, ‘I think we’re opening a restaurant, uh, actually, I’ve signed a lease.” And he laughs, “Her version of the story is a lot more dramatic. She expresses her feelings more.” She did.

“I was in shock,” Maritza laughs, recalling the South Alabama-Ecuador telephone conversation. She hung up the phone and Googled “Fairhope.”

“Nader said I could stay home for six months to a year as he rebuilt and prepared the vacant building for business.” But she answered, “No. My place is with you.”

And so it began. Maritza packed her bags and with three young children boarded a plane for a cross-world flight to the town she only knew from Google Maps. “We worked hard for months, refurbishing, repairing, remodeling. We did everything,” she says. “It was hard work.”

Sage opened in August 2015. It still is hard work but a labor of love. “You always have opening day jitters,” says Nader, recalling the first day of business. “But my mindset has always been about work. I have the skills to do this and so does Maritza. I believe in working hard and doing your job well. People want good products, quality, and service.”

He continues, “We serve the very best. Much of our ingredients and foods are imported. New Zealand grass fed beef isn’t easy to obtain when you’re a small town restaurant, but we get it.”

Hometown support

Customers agree. “Nader and Maritza are my friends who cook great,” says Dick Bacon of nearby Barnwell. “You come here once and you know them.”

When asked to name her favorite dish, weekly patron Mary Reiser of Daphne pondered, “I can’t. Everything is good. I order something different every week. Once you smell the aroma from the sidewalk, you’re hooked.”

As for Fairhope, “We loved it,” says Maritza. “It has excellent schools for our children, safe streets, and genuinely friendly people who have been so supportive.” Many locals refer to Maritza as ‘Sage’ –“because ‘Maritza’ is often difficult to remember,” she smiles.

As for Sage the restaurant, find it on 319 Fairhope Avenue, the original spot Nader closed the deal on the day he came to town. It seats 55 and often.

“We came here with nothing, just our bags,” recalls the lady who took a leap of faith and landed in Baldwin County. “I was supposed to return to Ecuador from college and help our family’s business. But then I met Nader in New York. Things changed,” she smiles.

Maritza flips the restaurant’s front door sign from “closed” to “open,” welcoming 11:30 a.m. diners. Watching happy customers file in, she ponders, “Sometimes things you plan do not work out. But sometimes things you do not plan, do work out. It did for us.”

Sage advice from Sage the restaurant.

Sage Lebanese Cuisine and Café

319 Fairhope Ave., Fairhope, Ala.


Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m., Monday-Friday;

11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday



Worth the Drive: Sage from AREA on Vimeo.

Alabama People: Eli Gold

Golden Voice

Eli Gold’s voice is one of the most recognizable on radio. He’s best known to Alabamians as the voice of the Alabama Crimson Tide, where he has called both football and basketball games since 1988. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he knew he wanted to be a sports broadcaster at an early age, and got a job selling peanuts at Madison Square Garden so he could be around the great sportscasters of the day. He’s announced NASCAR races and games for the Arena Football League, the NFL and the UAB Blazers. He is the author of several books, including From Peanuts to the Pressbox. He and his wife Claudette live in Birmingham, and their daughter, Elise, is a UA graduate.  We caught up with Eli at the beginning of the 2018 football season.  – Lenore Vickrey

In 2009, you said that the Alabama broadcasting job is the best in the business. After 30 years, do you still feel that way?

Oh, gosh, yes. It’s a spectacular position. This is a job that brings with it a lot of responsibility and scrutiny. I cradle this job in my hands like a rare piece of crystal. I don’t want to drop it, I don’t want to mess with it or cause it any harm or disrepair. You want to work for a program where people care, and that’s certainly true of Alabama where the fans are as passionate as you’ll find anywhere.

Do you have the same spotter who helps you?

Yes, Butch Owens has been with me for 30-some-odd years. We use a system of hand signals. Brian Roberts also does that on some occasions, and we have Jimmy Bank, who worked in Major League Baseball for 30 years. This year we have an all-new crew with former quarterback John Parker Wilson as our color man, and sideline reporter Rashad Johnson, who played for Alabama and in the NFL. Chris Stewart, who had been our sideline reporter, has been promoted to host of the show in the broadcast booth.

What’s a typical game day like for you?

It’s the same format for away games and home games. The variable is the time of the game. If it’s an early game at 11, we get to the stadium by 7 and are on the air at 8. If it’s a night game at 8, we’re on the air at 5. We get to the stadium no later than 3 or 3:30. We’ll sleep in as a crew, have lunch somewhere, get a decent meal, because that has to last us until 2 the next morning! Then we all get our routines going. After about 40 minutes on the air, I go downstairs and Coach Saban and I tape our pregame show about two hours before kickoff. That’s his deal. All the other coaches did it on Friday, but Coach Saban says this is the most important interview of the week because it’s the one that immediately precedes the game. He wants to give listeners the latest information. In Tuscaloosa, we do this in his private dressing area. On the road, I always search for a (quiet) area to do the show, not within earshot of the players.

What’s Coach Saban like to work with?

He’s all about preparing for the football game. He never stops. With other coaches, you could sit down and shoot the breeze with them for 30 or 40 minutes. He’s none of that. Now that said, if I need to talk to him I have full access. He’s a wonderful guy, he and Miss Terry. There are things he does, things for others, that he doesn’t want people to know. He doesn’t like to talk about it because that’s not why he does it.

Photo by Robert Sutton

Do you know (Auburn announcer) Rod Bramlett?

Yes, Rod and I are good friends, we talk a good bit. When he got the job, I was the first guy to call and congratulate him. His color man, Stan White, is my insurance man. Jim Fyffe (former AU announcer) and I were dear friends. We’d ride to the games together from Montgomery.

You’ve recounted your top 5 favorite calls for Your top call was the final play of the Georgia game for the national championship. That was fun to watch.

I had to eliminate some to get it down to five. I’ve heard from so many fans who agree wholeheartedly. Now will something like that happen this year? Who expected the end of the game against Georgia would be like that? That was remarkable.

You have part interest in Nino’s Restaurant in Pelham. What’s the best thing on the menu?

I personally love our seafood dishes, the Salmon Milano, the Seafood Primavera. Our pizza is to die for. Our calzones are wonderful. I like to go by and grab a chair and sit down with customers. I don’t get to go there as often this time of year because of football.

Celebrating garden myths and superstitions

By Katie Jackson

Whether you’re superstitious by nature or not, it’s hard to avoid this month’s focus on the otherworldly, and there’s no place better than the garden to focus our attention on myth and lore.

Considering how important plants and animals are to our very survival, it should come as no surprise that, over the eons of human existence, we’ve created an abundance of garden-related traditions and superstitions, many of which have become part of our vocabularies, if not our belief systems.

Knocking on or touching wood, which is supposed to help us avoid tempting fate by either warding off bad or encouraging good luck, is a case in point. The practice has been traced back to early Germanic pagans (however, many cultures and religions across the world and centuries share a similar practice), who believed that tapping or touching a tree summoned help from protective tree spirits.

Herbs, with their often aromatic and medicinal qualities, are perhaps the most superstition-laced plants. Take parsley for example. Because it can be difficult to grow from seed, gardeners of yore used to make three sowings — two for the devil and one for the gardener — and the ability to grow parsley from seed is supposed to be proof of a person’s honesty. However, bringing a parsley plant into a house is said to bring along bad luck, as does giving it away to someone, so if you want to share parsley with a friend, have them “steal” it from your yard.

While parsley may bring about some bad luck, other plants such as rosemary, ivy and snapdragons are thought to offer protection from evil spirits and curses, so they are welcome both indoors and planted near entryways to keep such problems at bay.

A superstition that I struggle with is the one that says we should never thank someone for a plant or cutting or the plant will fail to thrive or even die. It goes against my raising to not say “thank you,” but after I sent a thank you note for a lovely plant gift and then promptly killed the plant, I decided to be safe rather than sorry: These days I offer heartfelt thanks for the pot or the potting media rather than the plant, or simply say “I’ll really enjoy this.”

What we say to plants and other garden creatures is also considered important in garden lore. Cursing parsley or basil as you’re planting it is supposed to make it grow better. Peppers are said to be hotter and more prolific if you plant them when you’re angry. Talking to plants and bees is supposed to make both more productive, though bees reportedly prefer juicy gossip rather than polite conversation.

Want to protect your garden or home? Try some garden artifacts. St. Francis of Assisi and St. Fiacre statues are always nice, but so are garden gnomes, which protect gardens from pests and evil spirits. Gazing balls and windchimes ward off evil spirits, bottle trees repel and capture evil spirits and those gnarled and wizened green man faces channel ancient forest and nature spirits to watch over plants and homes.

The list of garden lore and superstitions could go on and on, including planting by the signs and other traditions still practiced today in every culture across the globe. To learn more about these intriguing and varied traditions and beliefs, a huge selection of books and articles can be found online and in bookstores and libraries, or ask your gardening friends about their practices and beliefs. Oh, and please share yours with me at!

Finally, if you want to spend time this month in a garden with otherworldly creatures, create your own superstition-influenced garden decorations or visit the Huntsville Botanical Garden’s Gardens of Myth exhibit, which features sculptures of mythical creatures — think fairies and dragons — created by artist Kendall R. Hart. (Learn more at or by calling 256-830-4447.)

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

Recipes: Pass the Pumpkin

Buffalo Pumpkin Chili and Creamy Pumpkin Soup

By Jennifer Kornegay

Food/Photography by Brooke Echols

There are so many signals of fall, the sights, sounds and sensations that tell us autumn has arrived: the slant of sunlight filtered through leaves beginning to lose their green; the beat of school bands practicing for football halftime shows; the feel of crisp cool in the evening and early morning.

     But in the last few years, a deluge of “pumpkin-spiced” dishes and drinks has dominated the seasonal shift, and as a side-effect, convinced some that the flavor of pumpkin spice — a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and clove — is synonymous with the flavor of actual pumpkin itself. It’s not. Pumpkin-spiced anything (latte, muffins, beer) has a taste akin to pumpkin pie, which includes pumpkin spice (or the afore-mentioned individual spices) on its ingredient list.

     On their own, pumpkins have a distinct profile devoid of any “spice.” Their orange flesh has a light freshness (that can even be a bit bland), close to a sweet potato, but less sugary and less starchy. This semi-blank canvas works wonderfully when pureed, mixed with stronger flavors (like pumpkin spice) and baked in a piecrust. Hence the prevalence of pumpkin pie, the fall dessert that always makes this season’s “most popular” list, and all its offshoots.

     But pumpkin is equally delicious in savory preparations. It is a species of squash after all. Chunks of pumpkin, dusted with a hint of chili powder or cumin and roasted till tender, pair nicely with all kinds of meat. Or throw them into a food processor, drizzle in some cream and make a pumpkin soup. Treat pumpkins like summer squash and shred, bread and fry them into fritters. And don’t forget those seeds. Tossed in oil, toasted and salted, they make an extremely craveable snack. Pumpkins also shine in desserts other than that ubiquitous pie.

     If these options have piqued your interest in pumpkins and have you thinking about ingesting them in some new ways, check out our reader-submitted recipes.

Cook of the Month

About five years ago, when Sheila Copenhaver was looking for a way to use up some pumpkin she had on hand, she came up with her Creamy Pumpkin Soup recipe. The idea of pumpkin in a savory dish intrigued her. “You often think of pumpkin in sweet things, but its flavor pairs really well with the garlic, onion and other ingredients in this,” she said. “And of course, the bacon on top is wonderful.” She’s not the only one who thinks so. Her husband and three young kids request this soup and then gobble it up every autumn.

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

1 medium onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons butter

2 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth

2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced

2 cups cooked pumpkin

2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

For topping:

Sour cream

Bacon, cooked and crumbled

Green onions, thinly sliced

In a large cooking pot, sauté onion and garlic in butter until tender. Add the broth, potatoes and pumpkin. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Puree with an immersion blender or puree (half of the mixture at a time) in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return all to the pot. Add the milk, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper. Heat through. Taste and season as needed. Spoon soup into bowls and top each with a dollop of sour cream, bacon crumbles and green onions.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

1 1/2 cups milk

1 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)

1 egg

2 tablespoons melted butter or oil

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon sugar, optional

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon (pinch) ground cloves

1/2 cup oats

In a medium bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in another bowl, adding oats last. Stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture just until combined. Heat a griddle or skillet over medium high heat, and lightly oil if desired. Pour 1/4 cup batter for each pancake, and cook on each side until brown. Serve with syrup. Makes 15-20 3-4-inch pancakes.

Christiane McKelvey, South Alabama EC

Buffalo Pumpkin Chili

2 pounds ground bison (or substitute beef)

1 quart tomato juice

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 large onion, chopped

1 large portobello mushroom, chopped

1 large green pepper, chopped

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

1 2.25-ounces can sliced olives

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Brown the bison (or beef) in a large pot, then add onions and mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes. Add everything else, bring to a boil then back to a simmer for 1 hour.

Jamie Petterson, Tallapoosa River EC

Pumpkin Bites

1 box yellow cake mix

1 14.5-oz can pumpkin

1 1/4 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cake mix and pumpkin on low speed of mixer until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Spray mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Spoon about 11/2 tablespoons dough into each hole. Bake for about 15-17 minutes. Makes 48 mini muffins.

Debra Adams, Black Warrior EMC

Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle

12 chocolate shortbread cookies, crushed into crumbs

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

8-ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup pure pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 large tub (12-ounces) whipped topping, thawed, divided in half

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, combine chocolate cookie crumbs and butter. Transfer into a trifle dish or large glass bowl. Gently press down crumbs to form an even layer of crust. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin, vanilla, sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Beat until well combined and creamy. Use a spatula to fold in half of the whipped topping. Gently combine ingredients until smooth. Spoon a layer of pumpkin cheesecake onto the cookie crust in trifle dish, followed by a layer of whipped topping. Repeat layers until your trifle reaches the top of your dish. Store trifle in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Garnish with mini chocolate chips.

Robin O’Sullivan, Wiregrass EC

Pumpkin Spice Sheet Cake


1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

4 large eggs

1 box spice cake mix

15-ounce can pumpkin

8-ounce package toffee bits

In a large mixing bowl, mix together: cake mix, canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and eggs. Mix well, stir in 8-ounce package of toffee bits. Pour into a greased and floured 9×13-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 28 to 33 minutes. Cool 1 hour.


8-ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

2 cups powdered sugar

Mix well and spread over cooled cake. Garnish top of cake with chopped Heath English Toffee candy bars.

Jane Kendrick, Coosa Valley EC

Pumpkin Dip

2 packages cream cheese, softened

1 15-ounce canned pumpkin

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

(Pumpkin pie spice can be used too)

Beat all ingredients together and chill one hour before serving. This dip is a crowd pleaser when served with ginger snap cookies. Graham crackers are also suitable for serving with this dip.

Joy Griswold, Dixie EC

Sticky Bun Pumpkin Muffins

2 cups pecan halves and pieces

½ cup butter, melted

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

3 cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

1 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

2/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8-10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Stir together melted butter, sugar and corn syrup. Spoon one rounded teaspoonful butter mixture into each cup of 2 lightly greased 12-cup muffin pans and top each with 1 rounded tablespoon pecans. Stir together flour and next four ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in center of mixture. Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs and 2/3 cup of water; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pans, filling ¾ full. Place an aluminum foil-lined jelly pan on lower rack to catch any overflow. Bake at 350 degrees on middle rack for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert pan immediately to remove muffins and arrange muffins on a wire rack to cool. Spoon any remaining topping over muffins. Cool 5 minutes. Yield: 2 dozen.

Tracey Estes, Pioneer EC

Pumpkin Pecan Pie

1 unbaked Pillsbury piecrust

1 15-ounce can pumpkin (not pie mix)

½ cup light or dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs, well beaten

½ cup evaporated milk


¼ cup butter, softened

½ cup light brown sugar

½ cup pecans, chopped

Line pie tin with pastry, tucking overlap inward and pinch up edges. Using electric hand mixer, blend ingredients together in order listed. Add to pie crust and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40 minutes and then sprinkle on mixture of: ¼ cup butter, ½ cup light brown sugar and ½ cup chopped pecans. Bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool and refrigerate a few hours to set well for slicing. If a ginger snap crust is preferred use 38 ginger snaps, ¼ cup finely chopped pecans mixed with ¼ cup melted butter.

Barbara Umland, Sand Mountain EC

Pumpkin Rolls

1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, active dry yeast

¼ cup warm water (110-115 degrees)

1 teaspoon sugar

2/3 cup warm milk

1/3 cup melted butter

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1½ teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons ground flax seed

1 cup canned pumpkin

2 cups white whole-wheat flour

2-2½ cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast in warm water with the teaspoon of sugar for 5 minutes. Stir in the milk, butter, brown sugar, salt, flax and pumpkin. Add whole-wheat flour and beat until well mixed, about 2 minutes. Add enough all-purpose flour to form a soft dough. Knead on a floured surface until smooth or mix in a stand mixer for about 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and turn to grease the top of the dough. Cover with a clean towel. Let rise in a warm place until double, about an hour. Punch down and return to floured surface. Roll out and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise again for about an hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 11-13 minutes until golden brown.

Carolyn Johnson, Sand Mountain EC

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Alabama hunters anticipate excellent deer season

By John N. Felsher

More than 300,000 Alabama sportsmen will take to the fields and forests this fall to hunt whitetail deer, the most popular game animal in North America.

“During the last season, hunters killed some really good deer, but the overall harvest was down,” says Chris Cook, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries deer studies leader in Northport. “Since the harvest was down in 2017-18, a lot more bucks lived to grow another year, so they should be bigger.”

When any sportsman kills a buck or a doe, that person must report it to Game Check within 48 hours. This includes people hunting on private or public lands. The data allows biologists to monitor population trends and the overall health of the deer herd. The easiest way to report a kill is to download a free app to a smart phone. New this year, sportsmen must delete the old app they used last season and download a new one. The old app won’t work this year. For details, see

“Even in places where there is no cell service, people still need to enter their information on the new app and submit it,” Cook says. “The app will automatically upload when it senses a cell signal. In addition, that harvest record is on the phone in case someone checks to see if that person reported the deer.”

Alabama whitetail caught on game camera.
Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

Another change this season: Alabama sportsmen traveling out of state to hunt deer must comply with new procedures to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease. Also called CWD, the disease affects all members of the deer family and attacks an animal’s brain like mad cow disease. So far, CWD has not been confirmed in Alabama, but a deer found in western Mississippi in February 2018 tested positive for the disease.

“Before people can bring a deer or any other animal in the deer family to Alabama, they need to completely debone the meat or have it processed,” Cook says. “They also need to remove all brain, meat and spinal tissue from any deer parts they plan to mount. Once an animal is exposed to CWD, the disease can stay dormant for up to 60 months without the animal showing any signs of it. CWD is a major problem. Fortunately, we haven’t seen CWD in Alabama yet and we want to keep it that way.”

With the purchase of an annual wildlife management area license, people can hunt more than 721,000 acres in 35 state-managed WMAs across the Cotton State. Sportsmen can also hunt several national wildlife refuges, other federal properties and some special opportunity areas. For more on applying to hunt SOAs, see

“Each county in Alabama has a healthy huntable deer population,” Cook says. “Some of the best counties are in the northwestern part of the state such as Lamar, Fayette and Marion. Deer populations are on the rise in those counties and in good shape because they have good habitat. Historically, the Black Belt in the central part of Alabama has also been good deer country and produces some quality deer.”

Cook recommends Oakmulgee and Barbour WMAs. In the Talladega National Forest, Oakmulgee spreads across 44,500 acres of Bibb, Hale, Perry and Tuscaloosa counties. The habitat consists mostly of mature pine and upland hardwood forests. People can also hunt the surrounding 392,567-acre national forest.

“Oakmulgee is usually near the top in number of deer killed every year,” Cook says. “It also has some good age structure and antler quality, but not quite as good as Barbour or Black Warrior. Barbour has some of the best habitat in the state with pretty good soils. Skyline is another area that traditionally produces good deer.”

Barbour WMA covers 28,214 acres of Barbour and Bullock counties near Clayton. The property includes a good mix of pine and hardwood forests. James D. Martin-Skyline WMA covers 60,732 acres of the Cumberland Plateau near Scottsboro. The area contains abundant oak trees that provide excellent deer food. The largest WMA in the state, Black Warrior covers 91,263 acres of the Bankhead National Forest near Moulton. People can also hunt the 181,230-acre national forest outside the management area.

“For older bucks with better antler development, I recommend Black Warrior WMA,” Cook says. “The Bankhead National Forest has a low deer density, but a lot of big bucks. It’s very rough country and a tough place to hunt. Black Warrior WMA has the earliest rutting dates in Alabama. The rut there typically peaks around Thanksgiving. During the rut, it’s easier to kill big bucks because they are moving around looking for does.”

Depending upon where one hunts and how, the Alabama deer season could last from Oct. 15 through Feb. 10, 2019. Seasons and regulations may differ on public properties, so always check before hunting anywhere.

For season dates and other information, see For information on specific WMAs, see

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

Hardy Jackson’s Alabama: The evolution of tailgating

Story by Hardy Jackson

Illustration by Dennis Auth

It began as such a simple pleasure.

Drive early to the game in a pick-up truck full of stuff to eat and drink. Get there, park, lower the tailgate, use it as your table, and there you have it — tailgating.

Only hardly anyone goes in a pick-up any more.

I do, sometimes, but I am hardly anybody, which is my point.

My first experience with tailgating was as a boy with my Daddy. We would drive over to Auburn from the home place at Slapout, stopping along the way to buy barbecue sandwiches from church folks who set stands by the side of the road. When we arrived at the stadium, we parked, ate and then went to the game.

A few years later, some college friends and I wandered down from our Birmingham-Southern hilltop campus to Legion Field to mingle with tailgaters who packed the parking lot. Things had gotten fancy. Some had set up tents and grills and such.

Then I was at the University of Alabama, living not far from Bryant-Denny Stadium. My housemates and I marked off our yard and sold slots to eager tailgaters who paid us well and let us party with them.

Then it was the University of Georgia (by this time my father had about decided that my goal was to attend every school in the SEC). There, tailgaters crowded into the lawn around the history department building and we graduate students mingled and consumed because everyone belonged to the Bulldog nation.

Finally, I taught and tailgated at Jacksonville State.

All of which is to say that I have watched the evolution of tailgating from a way to get a good parking place and a bite to eat before kickoff into a pre-game/post-game event that, for some, is more important than the game itself.

Another sign of the sophisticating of the South.

As football spread beyond its small-town Friday night roots and as more Southerners developed loyalties to college teams, tailgating became part of the weekend ritual.  Even the ticketless who could not make it inside the stadium gathered with food and friends and a radio or TV.

Today, at home or on campus, tables are loaded with food and drink appropriate for the occasion.  Like so much else that is Southern, football has become yet another excuse to eat.

Wings, fried chicken, barbecue, and a mess of other stuff that can be eaten from a paper plate with one hand. Occasionally someone will whip up something fancy, but most buy it and bring it.

For many, tailgating is a multi-family affair, so the food is kid-friendly. The vehicles also form a protective barrier that keeps the small ones in.

There they are, we are, dressed in team colors. Milling about or sprawled in lawn chairs, waiting while the Tigers, the Tide, the Trojans, the Gamecocks, get ready to take the field.

Then the band marches by, with majorettes and flag corps and cheerleaders, whipping fans into a frenzy.

Then it is off to the stadium to cheer and stomp and have a fine time.

And when it is over, everyone returns for a little more of the same.

Which is often more fun than the game.

Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist for Alabama Living.  He can be reached at