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Redistricting: Rural Alabama will be represented by new faces

By Sean Strickler

In Alabama it is widely accepted that the infamous 1901 Constitution, the largest state constitution, was created to protect the most influential people in the state –large landowners and agricultural interests.  However, that influence in politics wanes with the shifting of our population from the rural to the urban areas.

In 2011, the Alabama Legislature drew new district lines as mandated, ensuring that all Alabamians are represented equally.  The theory is that if lines are drawn that meet statistical requirements, all citizens will have the same voice in government.  One man, one vote, so to speak.

However, does a number decide whether or not you are represented? There are many factors that go into drawing new districts, and since the very people who are elected to represent them draw those districts, the biggest factor is inevitably incumbent protection.

Incumbent protection may sound self-serving or, in today’s cynical society, evil, but in many ways it ensures that like-minded people will be gathered into the same districts.  An incumbent legislator, in many cases, will try to bring as many people into his or her district who are like them.  They will bring together people identified by political party, socio-economic status, and even race, to name a few factors.  This method of drawing lines is good for the majority, but it can lead to a group who once had a large influence to now having less.  Such is the case with rural Alabama.

When primary elections are held in June many rural Alabamians will see new names on the ballot.  These names will be unfamiliar not because they have never been elected, but because the candidates have not represented rural areas in the past. Take for instance AREA’s 2014 Senator of the Year Dick Brewbaker.  Before the upcoming election, his district was centered in the city of Montgomery.   Now with redistricting, he represents only the eastern part of the city and sprawls into rural Elmore, Covington and Crenshaw counties.  Furthermore, if you look at the shift in Senate District 1 that currently serves Lauderdale and Colbert counties under the new maps, the district now covers from rural northwest Alabama to the suburbs of Huntsville.  With these shifts, will these senators’ voting interests shift as well?

Ultimately, there is nothing that we can do to solve the problem because the districts do have to be apportioned to represent the same amount of people, so the lines must go where the people are.  Because of this, it is imperative that residents of rural Alabama remain tireless in their political activity.  They must be the loudest voice standing up for the little old lady at the end of the line, and make sure that voice is heard from often and in an effective manner.

Sean Strickler is vice president of public affairs for the Alabama Rural Electric Association.






Gardening: Where our plants come from

By Katie Jackson

If your 2014 gardening plans include buying plants for your vegetable plot, flower beds or landscape, you’re likely to be purchasing plants grown right here in Alabama, which is home to a large number of nursery and greenhouse producers who provide not just plants for us, but are also a boost for the state’s economy.

“A multitude of landscape plants are produced right here in Alabama including annuals, perennials, cut flowers, ground covers, shrubs and trees,” says Adam Newby, an associate professor of horticulture at Auburn University.

Newby and his colleague Glenn Fain, associate professor of horticulture at Auburn, both specialize in nursery and greenhouse production issues and noted that the state’s nursery and greenhouse industry is not only very high-tech, it is remarkably diverse.

Among our Alabama plant producers are several large and nationally known growers, but there are also many smaller family-owned operations that, like their larger counterparts, are “all working to bring high quality landscape plants to the market,” says Newby.

Alabama’s Gulf Coast region, which offers ideal growing conditions as well as easy access to interstate transportation and close proximity to many major markets, is considered the “Nursery Center of the South,” according to the South Alabama Nursery Association.

That region is also known as “The Azalea Capital of the United States.” “There’s a good chance that the azaleas in your landscape were produced by a nursery in the Mobile/Baldwin County area,” says Newby. But they and the many other growers across the state produce a wide range of plants, from vegetables and herbs to bedding and houseplants to shrubs and trees, that end up in everything from large retail stores to independent garden centers located across Alabama, the Southeast and the United States.

Not only do these greenhouses and nurseries supply us with high-quality plants, they have a huge impact on the state’s economy, says James Harwell, executive director of the Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association.

According to Harwell, a 2013 economic impact study of Alabama’s agricultural sector estimated that the state’s greenhouse, nursery and floriculture industry supports nearly 7,000 jobs in the state and directly contributes more than $561 million to the state’s economy. (See the full report on the economic impact study of Alabama’s agricultural, forestry and related industries at

A previous 2007 economic analysis report ( showed that the state’s “green” industry (which includes nursery, greenhouse, turfgrass and sod producers as well as lawn and landscaping services and garden product retailers) is Alabama’s number one “cash crop,” providing $2.9 billion annually to the state’s economy.

So as you buy plants for this year’s garden, you are also likely helping support an important economic sector in our state and getting high-quality plants in the process.

As you shop, make sure to not only look for ones grown in Alabama, but also select the handsomest and healthiest of plants from any supplier. Pick plants that are bushy and have a well-branched shape and sturdy stems—avoid ones that look leggy and spindly. And if you’re buying flowering plants, purchase ones with lots of unopened buds so they will continue blooming long after you get them home.

Take time as you shop to inspect plants for signs of any problems, such as yellowing or wilted leaves, evidence of insect or disease issues, damage to stems or to the bark on woody plants, poor root development or overgrowth of roots from the bottom of the pot, weeds in the pot or an overly dry or wet dry potting mixture or root ball.

Once you’ve bought them, ensure your new plants feel at home in your garden by transplanting them into the garden, landscape or pots as soon as possible and providing them plenty of water so they can put down roots in your garden.


Then sit back and watch them grow, all the while knowing you are supporting a major sector of Alabama’s economy.


May Tips:

Plant eggplant, pepper and tomato transplants.

Sow seed for sweet corn, squash, okra and lima and snap beans.

Plant summer annuals and perennials.

Plant ornamental grasses and fall-blooming perennials.

Seed new lawns.

Keep newly planted shrubs and trees and newly seeded lawns well watered.

Fertilize houseplants that are growing or blooming.

Prune tender deciduous shrubs and vines.

Keep bird feeders and baths full and clean.



Outdoors: ‘Bass capital of the world’ still holds many lunkers

By John N. Felsher

Dating to 1962, Lake Eufaula garnered an early reputation as the “Bass Fishing Capital of the World.” Officially dubbed Walter F. George Reservoir, the impoundment covers 45,181 acres along the Chattahoochee River and spans part of the Alabama-Georgia border. The main river and numerous creek channels combine to create 640 shoreline miles.

Over the years, Lake Eufaula produced many double-digit bass. It still holds excellent numbers of 1- to 4-pound bass and plenty 5- to 8-pounders. It still produces occasional double-digit fish with some topping 12 pounds.

“The lake is well known for producing big bass and big stringers of bass,” says Jack Tibbs, mayor of Eufaula and owner of Strikezone Lures ( Sometimes, it takes more than 26 pounds with five fish to win a tournament. It produces some double-digit bass as well as good numbers of crappie. Most people come to Lake Eufaula to catch bass and crappie, but catfish are often overlooked. named Lake Eufaula the best catfish lake in the United States.”

The best lunker fishing naturally occurs in late winter and early spring as giant females swollen with roe stage on ledges before moving into the spawning flats, but Eufaula can produce big bass all year long. Spawning traditionally peaks under the full moon in March. Spawning usually ends in April, but anglers sometimes still find big fish on the beds in May, especially after a cold winter.

As grass grows thicker in late spring and summer, anglers fish matted vegetation with unweighted soft plastics. Try working frogs over the grass tops or hit the mat edges with big Texas-rigged worms. Later in the summer, target deeper creek channels, humps and ledges with Carolina rigs, deep-running crankbaits or heavy jigs.

In the fall, bass often return to the shallows. Target them with topwaters, spinnerbaits and crankbaits. In the winter, anglers need to fish slowly and deep. As hunting seasons open, many anglers may find themselves alone on the best fishing spots.

“The fall is one of the best times to fish Lake Eufaula,” says Sam Williams of Hawks Fishing Guide Service (334-687-6266/ “The weather is more pleasant and so many people are hunting instead of fishing. When the water turns cool, grass holds more heat. During warm days, the grass provides cooling cover.”

Some of the best fishing occurs in Cowikee Creek near Lakepoint State Park Resort. Some holes in the creek channel drop to more than 30 feet deep, making excellent conditions to run deep-diving crankbaits, jigs or Texas-rigged plastics. On one trip, Williams and I used his electric motor to troll shad-colored lipless crankbaits and jerkbaits next to the drop-off edges in Cowikee Creek. We not only caught largemouth bass, but crappie, hybrid stripers and a big channel catfish on the same lures just a short distance from the resort.

“Trolling is a great way to find bass,” Williams says. “When bass anglers see crappie anglers trolling, that’s a good time to fish because both the bass and the crappie are feeding on threadfin shad. When the shad are up, the bass are up. Bass also eat small crappie.”

Not far from where Cowikee Creek enters the main channel near Bird Island, water depth plunges rapidly from almost nothing to about 60 feet deep. Throw baits up into shallow cover near the shoreline and work them out toward deeper water. Let baits fall over the ledge edge.

“Bird Island is a good place to fish early in the morning,” Williams says. “Later, fish the deeper drops with a Carolina rig or deep-running crankbait. Early and late, fish the shelves near the shorelines. A north wind blows baitfish to Bird Island. During a west wind, the Bradley Unit on the wildlife refuge has good protection and can produce good fish.”

Several other creeks also hold lunker bass. Look for creeks with good access to both shallow and deep water and prime woody or weedy cover. In addition, several organizations built numerous artificial reefs throughout the lake to attract fish.

“The Old Creek Town area south of Lakepoint has a lot of ditches and stump fields,” Williams says. “Reeves Branch is another good place to fish. It has an old farm pond that flooded when the lake filled up. White Oak Creek has some good fish. It has some big stump fields near it by the main river. That’s a good place for cranking and jigging.”

About 25 miles downriver from Lakepoint, deep bluffs near the causeway or the riprap near the dam can hold fish. Also try Sandy Branch, Pataula Creek, Hardridge Creek, Thomas Mill, Barbour, Chewalla and Chenyhatchee creeks.

Because the lake straddles the Alabama-Georgia line, anglers can fish in the main waters with a license from either state. For Eufaula area information, call the Eufaula Barbour Chamber of Commerce at 800-524-7529 or visit

Tick season is here; your best defense is to avoid tick bites


By Dr. Jim McVay

Ticks aren’t just a nuisance, They carry many diseases that can have devastating effects. These spider-like insects are second only to mosquitoes in transmitting disease. Although it may be no larger than a pinpoint, a single tick can lay 3,000 eggs, and our unusually cold winter didn’t reduce their numbers.

Three species of ticks are endemic in Alabama, and they are commonly known as Deer, American Dog, and Lone Star ticks. Tick bites can cause anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, rickettsiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Southern tick-associated rash illness, and tularemia. In 2013, the Alabama Department of Public Health Epidemiology Division conducted 1,137 investigations of tick-borne diseases with 290 confirmed cases. However, the actual number may be greater because not all tick-borne diseases are reportable in Alabama.

Reducing exposure to ticks is the best defense against the diseases they carry. While you should take preventive measures against ticks throughout the year, be extra vigilant in the warmer months of April through September when ticks are most active.

People most at risk from tick-borne diseases are outdoor enthusiasts, outdoor workers, pet owners and veterinarians, rural/peripheral settlement dwellers, and anyone else who ventures into tick-infested areas.


The following are some tips to avoid tick bites:

  • Stay away from wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, and walk in the center of trails.
  • Tuck pants into socks to keep ticks off your legs and wear light-colored clothing to help you spot ticks.
  • Use insect repellants that contain 20 percent or more DEET on exposed skin and permethrin on clothing. Permethrin should not be used directly on the skin.
  • Pay special attention when applying insect repellent products to children’s skin, being sure to avoid their hands, eyes, and mouths. Repellents that contain DEET must be reapplied every few hours.
  • Use available products to help prevent tick infestations on pets.


After outdoor activity:

  • Inspect children, pets, clothing, and outdoor gear, such as backpacks, for ticks.
  • Bathe within two hours.
  • Conduct a full-body check with a mirror, including hair and scalp.


How do I remove a tick?

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure.
  • Do not twist or jerk the tick, because it may cause the mouth to break off and remain in

the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth with tweezers.

  • If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with tweezers, leave it alone, and let the

skin heal.

  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing

alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

  • Do not paint the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or use heat to make the tick

detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible.

  • Tumble dry clothing on a high heat setting for one hour to kill any missed ticks.

What are the symptoms of tickborne diseases?

  • Many tickborne diseases have similar signs and symptoms, which include fever/chills,

aches and pains, and rash.

  • Rashes may appear as circular, “bull’s eye,” skin ulcer, general rash, or non-itchy spots

depending on the disease.

  • After being bitten by a tick, symptoms may develop a few days to weeks later.
  • If you get a tick bite and develop symptoms, see a health care provider for treatment.

Your health care provider will want to know where you likely acquired the tick bite. Save the removed tick, place it in a plastic bag, and freeze it in case it is needed to diagnose a tick-borne disease.


How does tick-borne disease spread?

  • Ticks survive by eating blood from humans and animals. When the tick finds a feeding spot, it grasps the skin and cuts into the surface, and then inserts its feeding tube.
  • Many species also secrete a cement-like substance that keeps them firmly attached during the meal. The feeding tube can have barbs to keep the tick in place.
  • Ticks can secrete small amounts of saliva with anesthetic properties so that the animal or person can’t feel that the tick has attached itself.
  • A tick will suck the blood slowly for several days.
  • If a human or an animal has a blood-borne infection, the tick will ingest the bacteria or parasites while feeding.
  • At the next feeding, the tick will pass the disease to the human or animal.

Where can I find more information?

Go to and type Ticks in SEARCH box. If you suspect you may have a tick-borne infection, please contact your health care provider.



Mother’s Day celebrates American Centennial

By Marilyn Jones

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.  Washington Irving

In 1914 Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation officially establishing the second Sunday in May a day to remember mothers. A day of phone calls and cards and gifts; a day to express “our love and reverence for the mothers of our country,” said Wilson.

So, how did the tradition begin?

Surprisingly it didn’t start in America or even in recent history. In fact, Mother’s Day can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who held an annual festival to honor the goddess Isis – mythical mother of the pharaohs.

It wasn’t until the 17th century that the tradition of honoring individual mothers began when, in England, the church decreed Mothering Day.

Children living in other areas of the country came home to visit and enjoy a family feast. Mothers were presented with cakes and flowers.


Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in my field, since the payment is pure love.  Mildred B. Vermont

Americans Celebrate Mother’s Day

English settlers discontinued Mothering Day in America although the holiday continued to thrive in England. What would happen instead is that America would invent its own version of Mother’s Day centuries later.

The first North American Mother’s Day was actually conceptualized with poet Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870.  “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” author was distraught over the death and carnage of the Civil War and called on all mothers to come together to protest war and violence.

She called for an international Mother’s Day celebrating peace and motherhood and proposed converting July 4 into Mother’s Day to dedicate the nation’s anniversary to peace. Eventually, however, June 2 was designated for the celebration.

With Howe’s financial backing, the first Mother’s Day celebrations were held in 18 cities. But, when she discontinued funding the event, Mother’s Day stopped. Nonetheless, the seeds for the idea of a special day to honor mother’s had been planted.


What is a mom but the sunshine of our days and the north star of our nights. Robert Brault

And so it began…

A West Virginia women’s group led by Anna Reeves Jarvis began to celebrate an adaptation of Howe’s holiday to reunite families and neighbors who had been divided because of the Civil War.

When Jarvis passed away, her daughter Anna M. Jarvis campaigned for the creation of an official Mother’s Day in remembrance of her mother and in honor of peace. In 1908 her request was honored. On May 10 the first official Mother’s Day celebration took place at Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, W. Va., and a church in Philadelphia, Pa.

Today, Andrew’s Methodist Church is an International Mother’s Day Shrine. In 1992 it became a National Historic Landmark for its significance in the establishment of a national Mother’s Day celebration.

In 1908 Nebraska U.S. Senator Elmer Burkett proposed making Mother’s Day a national holiday at the request of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The proposal was defeated, but celebrations were still being held all over the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Anna M. Jarvis devoted herself full time to the creation of Mother’s Day, endlessly petitioning state governments, business leaders, women’s groups, churches and other institutions and organizations. In 1912 West Virginia became the first state to officially recognize Mother’s Day, and in 1914 Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.


Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.  Marion C. Garretty

Mother’s Day in the 21st Century

Although Jarvis was incensed when she realized her beloved Mother’s Day was being commercialized, today it is one of the most celebrated holidays in the United States. In fact more than 70 countries celebrate Mother’s Day in one fashion or another.

According to the National Retail Foundation, consumers spent an average of $168 on mom last year; total spending reached $20.7 billion. Hallmark reports 96 percent of all Americans shop for Mother’s Day. Other retailers state it is the second highest gift-giving day of the year behind Christmas.

For restaurants, it is the busiest day of the year and more long distance telephone calls are made on this day than any other day of the year.

Perhaps Jarvis’ ideal for Mother’s Day has been sidestepped, but I can’t imagine not remembering a loving mother or grandmother; or an aunt, sister or friend who “mothers” whether they are a biological mother or not.

To every mother and every “mothering” woman, Happy Mother’s Day!


Remembering my Mother and Grandmother

Born in 1917, the second of four girls, my mother Hazel Louise Conner Jones was a kind, gentle, soft-spoken lady. Her father passed away when she was 10, leaving her mother, Mabel Olivia Hammerlund Conner, the responsibility of raising five daughters — ages newborn to 12 — on her own.

Both women were independent and intelligent, managing their way through the depression, WW II and beyond.

Although my grandmother passed away in 1978 and my mother passed away in 2008, they are always with me. This Mother’s Day, and every Mother’s Day, I honor the memory of these strong women who taught me so many valuable life lessons, guiding me with love and assurance.




It’s swimming season; be aware of water safety issues

By Michael Kelley
Senior Manager of Safety and Loss Control

I’ve seen too many stories in the news lately on drowning deaths. As we return to swimming season, this is a good time to take note of water safety issues, especially where children are concerned. May also marks National Drowning Prevention Month so let’s all take the time to be cautious (while still having fun) around bodies of water.

The most obvious tip is to learn to swim. Children should start swim lessons as early as six months of age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that drowning is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 1 to 14. The CDC also states that drowning is the fifth leading cause of death for people of all ages, so people of all ages should take the time to learn how to swim. Many facilities offer adult swim lessons, so check your local listings for classes.

Swimmers should use the buddy system and always try to have someone along if you plan to be in the water. Children should always have an adult supervising when they are in swimming pools and natural bodies of water, and even bathtubs. Children should also wear life jackets instead of “noodles” or inner tubes as safety devices. The CDC also recommends that adults avoid distracting activities such as reading books or talking or texting on the phone. Adults should stay close enough to reach out and touch young children at all times and should avoid alcoholic beverages while supervising young people.

Adults also should get certified in CPR. To find a Red Cross-certified class, visit

Let’s do everything we can to make this a safe swim season.

Drowning Prevention & Water Safety Tips

  • Create a verbal cue for your toddler or child that must be given by you before he or she can enter the pool.
  • Never allow your baby/toddler in the pool without a swim diaper.
  • Create a process the child must go through before entering a pool such as putting on a swim diaper, a swimsuit and applying sunscreen.
  • Never use floatation devices or water wings when swimming or when teaching kids to swim.
  • Children should learn to swim without goggles.  Teach your children to open their eyes under water; if they fall in they can find the side of the pool or a step and get out safely.
  • For very young children practice having them put their entire face under water in the bathtub and blow bubbles to build their comfort with water.
  • Create a water safety plan for your family and have water emergency drills with your kids covering how to recognize the signs of someone struggling in water and what to do in this type of emergency.
  • Make sure your guests and kids’ friends know your pool rules before they go outside and get in the pool.
  • Start swim lessons at 6 months of age and continue them year-round at a US Swim School member location.
  • Always make sure your children wear life jackets on boats, personal watercraft and in open bodies of water.


Tips from Sue Mackie, executive director of the United States Swim School Association. Visit for more information.




Alabama Recipes

Party foods

‘Tis the season for parties! The month of May is the time for graduation celebrations, wedding showers, birthday parties, backyard barbecues, baby showers and friendly get-togethers. We hope you will find some recipes in this issue on pages 36 and 37 to use for your next soiree. Don’t forget Mother’s Day is May 11. As we reflect and honor our moms and those who gave us life, let us not forget the other mothers who have mothered us along the way: teachers, aunts, coaches, librarians and neighbors. I am by no means a perfect mom, but I’m blessed to have a wonderful mother who still teaches me new things every day.

Mary Tyler Spivey


Cook of the Month


Fruit salsa and cinnamon-sugar chips

Nolie Ramsey, Clarke-Washington EMC

2 kiwis, peeled and diced
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 16-ounce carton of strawberries, diced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons fruit preserves, any flavor (peach is good)

Cinnamon-sugar chips:
10 10-inch flour tortillas
melted butter

Cinnamon sugar:
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix kiwis, apples, strawberries, brown sugar and fruit preserves. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes while the oven preheats to 350 degrees. Coat one side of each flour tortilla with melted butter. Sprinkle tortillas with desired amount of cinnamon sugar, cut into wedges and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown and crispy (at least 8 minutes). Repeat with any remaining tortilla wedges.




Bacon-wrapped watermelon rind

1 jar of sweet watermelon rind pickles (drain and set juice aside)
8 ounces of hickory smoked breakfast bacon
1 package of toothpicks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain the pickled watermelon rinds, and cut into bite-size chunks. Cut bacon slices in half. Wrap one slice of bacon around each piece of pickled watermelon rind. Push toothpick through each piece to secure the bacon. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake for 25 minutes or until crispy. Drizzle the drained juice over each piece and place back in the oven for 5 more minutes. Let cool for several minutes before serving, as it will be extremely hot. This appetizer is excellent for any kind of party or served at a picnic.

Marla Caver, Central Alabama EC



Party pretzels

Large bag of mini pretzels or sticks
1 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon garlic pepper
1 tablespoon lemon pepper
1 tablespoon dill weed
1 package dry ranch dressing

Mix oil and seasonings together. Put pretzels in a large bowl and pour oil mixture over pretzels and mix well. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes at 200 degrees. Put back in the bowl and stir again well. Put back on cookie sheet and return to oven for 20 minutes.

Janice Bailey, North Alabama EC




Buffalo chicken dip

1 rotisserie chicken
8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces ranch dressing
6-8 ounces hot sauce
2 cups cheddar cheese

Spray an 8×8-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Shred the chicken. Combine the cream cheese and ranch dressing. Mix all the ingredients together and bake at 375 degrees until heated through and bubbly. Serve with tortilla chips or celery.

Ally Mills Dorrough, Baldwin EMC


Cream cheese pinwheels

1 can chopped olives, well drained
1 block of cream cheese at room temperature
4 green onions, chopped finely
1 package dry Hidden Valley Ranch mix
1 package large flour tortillas
1 small jar of pimentos, well drained
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional for a little warmth)

Mix all ingredients together in medium bowl. Lay out a flour tortilla and spread mixed ingredients thinly, completely covering each tortilla until you run out. Roll the tortilla like a jellyroll, then slice in 1-inch slices. Arrange on a plate and enjoy.

Glenda Morrow, Marshall-DeKalb EC


Confederate Motorcycles: not your grandpa’s Harley

Alabama-made machines want to be the ‘Rolls Royce’ of motorcycles

By David Haynes

Founder Matt Chambers with one of his no-compromise Confederate bikes.
Founder Matt Chambers with one of his no-compromise Confederate bikes.

Confederate motorcycles are not for the casual rider. Everything about these Alabama-built bikes screams performance. They look like they’re breaking at least one traffic law just sitting in the parking lot.

Neither are they for the rider with limited financial resources. With a price range from $55,000 to more than $100,000, Confederates are aimed at a niche market of well-to-do riders who appreciate and can afford the premium for the company’s uncompromising approach to motorcycles.

The most popular Confederate model – the X132 Hellcat – projects a unique, all business, no nonsense persona.  No plastic covers or fairings dilute the rebellious soul of a bike that appears at first glimpse to be nothing more than a gigantic engine shoe-horned between two wheels and a gas tank. The tiny solo seat looks to be an afterthought jutting out from behind the fuel tank, hovering like a porch just above the rear wheel. No passengers on this ride. When the big V-twin roars to life, windows on each side of the massive engine’s casings allow a partial view of the spinning, throbbing mechanical innards of the beast. This is not your grandpa’s Harley.

A closer inspection reveals that everything about the Hellcat is at the extreme bleeding edge of  design, performance and functionality.  Nothing is present without a reason. Clutter is kept to an absolute minimum.  Many components do double duty. For example, the front turn indicators are brilliant LEDs imbedded in the tops of the fork tubes and the tail light/rear turn indicators are condensed to a horizontal row of LEDs across the rear of the seat. Neither is visible until needed.

According to Confederate founder Matt Chambers, from the beginning the company’s philosophy has been to build the best motorcycles with no compromise whatsoever. Everything about the bikes is designed to put function and absolute performance over styling and other considerations.

“I believe we are building the Rolls Royce of American motorcycles,” Chambers told me, adding that his machines offer the “longest stroke and highest torque-to-weight ratio you can buy.”

The Hellcat engine, at 132 cubic inches of displacement, is the largest of its type available in a production motorcycle. Its output of 132 horsepower and 150 foot pounds of torque pushes a motorcycle that weighs in at a mere 500 pounds. That’s about one horsepower for every 3.8 pounds of weight or one foot pound of torque for every 3.3 pounds of motorcycle.

To achieve this amazing power to weight ratio Confederate uses the lightest and strongest materials available for each part, including wheels and other components made of carbon fiber, custom machined aircraft aluminum for many engine and structural components, state-of-the-art braking and suspension systems, and their own patented transmission and drive system evolved from motorcycle drag racing. Anchoring the gigantic engine is a very hefty flywheel that weighs 50 pounds and is unique to Confederate bikes.

In August 2012 a Confederate motorcycle set the world land speed record of 172.211 mph for unfaired, naturally aspirated, pushrod V-twins over 2000cc at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
In August 2012 a Confederate motorcycle set the world land speed record of 172.211 mph for unfaired, naturally aspirated, pushrod V-twins over 2000cc at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Tying it all together is an extremely rigid frame that’s hand fabricated and shaped like an arch that resembles a cat bowing up for mortal combat.

Describing the appeal of riding a Confederate, Chambers said his bikes are the ultimate refinement of the “American Way” of road bikes, while retaining the “rebel” mystique of freedom and thumbing your nose at the status quo.

“I can roll the throttle on in fourth gear at 1,800 rpm and there’s no hesitation, no stutter, just raw, smooth, infinite acceleration that feels like a tiger clawing at the road beneath me.”

Confederate bikes are fast, too. In August 2012 one of their motorcycles set the world land speed record of 172.211 mph for unfaired, naturally aspirated, pushrod V-twins over 2000cc at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Chambers, who had a previous career as an attorney in Baton Rouge, La., began his love affair with motorcycles as a teenager and has since ridden or owned nearly every kind of motorcycle made. He started out on British bikes, then while in law school got his first Harley Davidson, which he said gave him his first appreciation for the big American road bike. Later he sampled various Japanese high performance sport bikes and paid attention as their technological evolution surged through the 1970s.  Chambers went through a period of riding European BMWs and Moto Guzzis before returning to the big American Harley V-twins in the mid-1980s.

He started Confederate in 1991 in Baton Rouge after making enough money in his law practice to pursue what he saw as a unique business opportunity.

Chambers explained that Harley’s evolution after World War II had taken that company from being the “rebel” brand to the status quo motorcycle choice for Baby Boomers. Design and performance priorities for Harley were being driven by marketing appeal with more emphasis on the Harley brand than the nuts and bolts guts of the motorcycles.

A ride on an Alabama-made Confederate motorcycle is “like a tiger clawing the road beneath.” At left, design and assembly is made from components customfabricated to their specs.
A ride on an Alabama-made Confederate motorcycle is “like a tiger clawing the road beneath.” 

His goal was to build a “no compromise” machine in which every aspect of the bike was the best he could make it. He wanted to have the strongest, most rigid, frame; largest, most powerful engine; most robust drive train. In short, he wanted to build a bike that represented the best that current technology could produce, using the skills of the best design and engineering team he could assemble.

“I sought out the best designers of drag racing motorcycles,” he explained, and that led him to  Sandy Cosman and Martin Windmill in San Francisco, Ca., where he moved his company for 18 months. From that collaboration came the first Confederate motorcycle – the first generation Hellcat – named for the WWII Navy fighter plane.

The company returned to Baton Rouge until 1998, then briefly in Abita Springs, La., and later to New Orleans until their building was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Chambers said he chose Birmingham in 2007 as the location for Confederate mostly because of George Barber and the Barber Motorcycle Museum that’s known throughout the motorcycling world as one of the best, if not the best, collection of motorcycles and motorcycling history in the world.

He initially wanted, and still hopes to, locate his production facilities near the Barber Museum. To date, however, the right site has not become available. The company is presently located on Birmingham’s Southside in a building that Chambers says they are rapidly outgrowing. Most of the work done there is design and prototype testing and assembly of the bikes from components that are custom fabricated or machined to their specifications from suppliers around the country.

He said 60 percent of Confederate buyers are from outside the United States at present, which Chambers thinks is much too high. “I’d like to see it around 25 percent,” he said. Confederate’s dealer network has now grown to about 20 “Distribution/Service Partners” around the United States and six other countries.

To learn more about Confederate motorcycles visit




Worth the Drive: Bravo for tacos at the beach!

Every item on the menu at Bravo Tacos is made to order.
Every item on the menu at Bravo Tacos is made to order.

By Jennifer Kornegay

What tops your “must eat” list when you’re visiting Alabama’s beaches? Steamed shrimp? Blackened snapper? Briny fried oysters? Whatever it is, surely it’s some form of seafood. Why travel to the coast and not fill up on the bounty that Alabama’s hard-working fishermen are continually harvesting from the Gulf’s fertile waters?

Because Bravo Tacos exists. Because they make ahh-mazing tacos, burritos and nachos that rival those found in Tex-Mex hot spots like Austin, Texas. (Yep. I wrote that.) Because you can never have enough cheese dip, especially when it’s acting as a hot tub for spicy, smoky, crisped chorizo. Because salsa is fat-free, and you may be squeezing your way into a bathing suit in the very near future. Oh, but wait. That darn cheese dip. Forget the fat-free argument. You simply have to go to Bravo Taco to eat while at the beach because…because I said so!

Right around the corner from the entrance to the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail (another lesser-known treasure of the coast), Bravo Tacos occupies one corner of a strip mall across from a gas station and behind a McDonald’s at the corner of Canal Road. If you’ve ever been to Cosmo’s (just a little ways down Canal Road), and I hope you have, you’ve driven past Bravo Tacos.

Do not drive past it this trip. Stop in, secure a spot at one of only a few outdoor tables if you can, and then peruse the neon-yellow paper menu to see what speaks to you. Unless you’re taste-deaf, I feel sure the queso fundido will be screaming your name. Take heed and order a cup of the molten smoked gouda and jack in which chorizo sausage and caramelized onions are drowning. Add a scoop of house-made guacamole, and you could easily make a meal out of chips and dips alone.

Bravo Tacos is committed to in-season and locally sourced ingredients.
Bravo Tacos is committed to in-season and locally sourced ingredients.

But don’t. Because then you’d miss the tacos. The pork carnitas tacos. The chicken tacos. The steak tacos. The “gringo” tacos. The chorizo tacos. (Yes! A sausage taco!) And if you can’t, in good conscience, not order something that swims, go for the shrimp or fish tacos, both fine choices. Oh, and there’s a veggie taco too. You can even have a taco “your way.” Create your personal combination of meat and toppings including one of seven salsas ranging from the pleasantly piquant Tomatillo Avocado to the burning madness of Gila Sauce (which might make you cry) that are all made from scratch using local produce.

It’s the same with everything at Bravo Tacos. A commitment to in-season, locally sourced ingredients drives this eatery, as does the idea of “good things come to those who wait.” Despite counter-service and a drive-thru, Bravo Tacos emphasizes that it is not fast food. Everything is made to order, and that means toasty, but never soggy, tortillas and hot things (meats) staying hot, while cool things (lettuce, cheese, etc.) are still cool.

And speaking of cool, you must try a liquado, an impossibly refreshing beverage made fresh daily from a variety of fruits. Seriously, do not leave without one. And while you’re at it, grab a tub of guacamole to take with you. You can dip some steamed shrimp in it later.


Get yourself some grub that deserves a standing ovation (and an encore).

Bravo Tacos

4575 Orange Beach Blvd.

Orange Beach, AL


4-H: Putting Alabama youths on the right path

4-H programs still include agriculture and wildlife programs, but they have expanded with  urban and suburban programs. Young people are encouraged to take part in STEM programs,  or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
4-H programs still include agriculture and wildlife programs, but they have expanded with urban and suburban programs. Young people are encouraged to take part in STEM learning,
or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

By John N. Felsher

An old proverb states: “A man who works with his hands and back is a laborer. A man who works with his hands, back and head is a craftsman. A man who works with his hands, back, head and heart is an artist.”

That saying isn’t the official 4-H motto, but perhaps reflects what the organization tries to instill in young people. For the record, the official 4-H motto is “To make the best better,” with the official slogan as “Learn by doing.”

“The four ‘Hs’ stand for head, heart, hands and health,” explains Dr. Molly Gregg, a 4-H youth development specialist for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System based at Auburn University. “The goal of 4-H is to create places where kids can come to learn by doing while having fun. We hope to provide them with opportunities to master skills that will help them make healthier lifestyle choices in the future. Our primary focus is to ensure that kids live healthy and that they develop the skills they’ll need for the workforce.”

In 2013, more than 121,000 Alabama youths between the ages of 9 and 19 years old participated in such diverse 4-H programs as environmental studies, agriculture, wildlife education, engineering and many more topics. Each year, more than 6.5 million people in 90,000 organizations across America participate in 4-H, the youth component of cooperative extension programs.

“4-H is the largest youth organization in Alabama and the largest youth organization nationally,” explained Maggie Lawrence, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System communications specialist at Auburn University. “It’s free to be a 4-H member, but some activities may have fees. While its roots are in agriculture, 4-H has expanded into science, engineering, robotics and many other programs. There’s a 4-H program for any young person’s interest.”


One in seven adults participated in 4-H in their lives

Across America, one in seven adults participated in a 4-H activity at some point in their lives. Some notable people with 4-H experience include Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Julia Roberts, Faith Hill, Johnny Cash, Reba McEntire, Archie Manning, Vice President Al Gore and Orville Redenbacher, the popcorn king among millions of other 4-H alumni.

The 4-H Environmental Science Education Center features meeting rooms with scenic views.
The 4-H Environmental Science Education Center features meeting rooms with scenic views.

Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through land-grant institutions like Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities, 4-H began more than 100 years ago as a practical, hands-on way to educate rural youths. As the 19th century drew to a close, older generations of farmers steadfastly maintained their traditional agricultural methods, but emerging technologies could improve their lives and productivity. To teach these older farmers to accept new ideas, the U.S.D.A. came up with ways to teach rural youths who could pass this knowledge to their parents and grandparents.

In 1882, Delaware College organized a contest to see who could grow the best corn in accordance with their instructions. In 1892, groups in Wisconsin began a movement to include youths in various agriculture clubs. Similar efforts, such as tomato and corn clubs, emerged in Ohio, Minnesota and elsewhere by the early 20th century. Many of these clubs and programs formed the foundation for the 4-H experience.

Officially, 4-H came into existence on May 8, 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act. The act created the Cooperative Extension Service with the mission of “promoting agriculture, human health, the environment and well-being in communities.” The act also incorporated various programs under the 4-H umbrella. The 4-H organization pioneered the then-unlikely idea of including boys and girls in the same programs. In 1924, 4-H adapted its iconic four-leaf clover logo.

“4-H started in the agricultural South when parents weren’t willing to make the changes they needed to do to be more economically successful,” Gregg advised. “They taught youths skills so they could teach their parents. We still have agriculture and wildlife programs, but we also have urban and suburban programs. We’re very involved in STEM programs, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, plus citizenship, leadership and workforce development. One of our more popular programs is ‘Health Rocks,’ about making good decisions for lifestyle choices.”

Many young people become involved with 4-H through their local schools. In addition, an extension office in every Alabama county can help with 4-H projects. Full-time cooperative extension professionals work closely with volunteers who conduct programs to fill local needs. Regional extension agents serve two counties.

“Extension agents oversee 4-H programs in their two counties and work with volunteers who have undergone extensive training to get certified as 4-H volunteer leaders,” Lawrence said. “Young people can participate in many different disciplines. Our fastest growing program in Alabama is SAFE – Shooting Awareness Fun and Education, where young people can participate in a shooting sports curriculum.”


Volunteers are essential

At the Coosa River Science School, students get a closeup look at birds like the bald eagle.
At the Coosa River Science School, students get a closeup look at birds like the bald eagle.

Volunteers form the backbone of 4-H efforts. These volunteers come from many backgrounds with diverse experiences. Volunteers help with after-school programs, weekend events, summer camps and at other times to pass their experiences and knowledge to new generations. In 2013, nearly 2,900 volunteers in Alabama contributed more than 96,150 hours of time. If they had charged for their services, the value would have exceeded $2.1 million. Nationally, more than 540,000 volunteers donate time to 4-H activities.

“Alabama 4-H represents the face of the state,” Gregg said. “It has rural kids, urban kids, at-risk kids, kids from poor economic areas, all kinds of kids. Many kids get involved through their schools, but most counties have community-based clubs or special interest clubs. Through community service, kids learn that they can make a difference in solving a problem. If kids have an interest, we’re always looking for opportunities to hook them up with caring adults or programs to suit their needs. If young people have a need, we’ll find them.”

No matter the interest or topic, 4-H programs generally stress a sense of belonging, responsiveness, independence, safety, health, mastery of a discipline, hands-on education and generosity to others. Many 4-H alumni become extension professionals or volunteers later in life.

“4-H teaches life skills, but 4-Hers tend to be very involved young people,” Lawrence explained. “Following through on a project is one of the key elements.”

Typically, kids who become involved with 4-H programs do so because they want to learn and experience life, not just watch it on television or a computer. A study conducted by Tuffs University determined that young people involved in 4-H programs are civically active and four times more likely to contribute to their local communities than their peers. They are also twice as likely to participate in afterschool programs involving science or nature and twice as likely to make healthier lifestyle choices for themselves.

“There’s a 4-H project for just about anyone,” Lawrence said. “We have some competitive events where young people who have worked their projects all year can compete at the local and county level. Many go on to compete at the state level. Sometimes, 4-Hers compete beyond state boundaries and interact with peers from other states through national trips and conferences.”

While many young people learn about 4-H programs in school, youths interested in 4-H programs should contact their local county extension office. If they don’t see programs they like, perhaps they could start one. For more information on 4-H in Alabama or a list of county extension office contacts, see