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Zika virus

Protecting against mosquitoes key to preventing Zika virus

By Thomas M. Miller, M.D., Alabama’s State Health Officer.

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While the Zika virus is a growing threat, the Alabama Department of Public Health is working to prepare, protect, and educate Alabamians to meet the challenges of the virus and its risks to the health of our most vulnerable citizens.

To help prevent the local transmission of the Zika virus, protect against mosquito bites:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 as directed.

Everyone needs to help reduce the sources of mosquitoes around their homes. A few infected mosquitoes can cause large outbreaks and put families at risk of Zika and other illnesses. Adult mosquitoes live both inside and outside and bite day and night.

To reduce the risk of mosquitoes breeding around your home:

  • Eliminate standing water in and around your residence. Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out items that hold water (tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, trash containers).
  • If you have a septic tank, repair cracks or gaps. Cover open vents on plumbing pipes, and use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
  • In your home, use screens on windows and doors, repair holes in screens, and use air conditioning when available.

Most Zika virus infections have no symptoms, with only about 1 in 5 people infected becoming ill. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain, and headache.

Most concerning is the potential effect that Zika virus can have on the unborn baby. While infection with the Zika virus usually causes only mild symptoms, it is the cause of birth defects and other poor outcomes associated with infection during pregnancy. Congenital microcephaly, a condition characterized by an abnormally small head, has been recognized in large numbers of newborns in Brazil since the onset of the current Zika outbreak.

Pregnant women should avoid travel to Zika-affected areas. A list of countries experiencing Zika outbreaks can be found at Any pregnant woman who has traveled to a Zika-affected area during pregnancy should be evaluated and tested. If a woman is pregnant and has a male partner who has traveled to a Zika-affected area, condoms should be used consistently and correctly or the couple should abstain for the duration of the pregnancy since the Zika virus can be sexually transmitted.

Couples considering becoming pregnant should seek counseling and also consider postponing travel to a Zika-affected area. For couples in which one or both partners traveled to a Zika-affected country and were diagnosed with Zika or had symptoms compatible with Zika, men should wait at least six months after symptoms first occur before trying to get their partner pregnant and women should wait at least eight weeks prior to trying to get pregnant. If neither the man nor woman with a travel history had symptoms or was diagnosed, then both the man and the woman should wait at least eight weeks before trying to get pregnant. Some of the recommendations for males specify a longer time frame since it is thought that the Zika virus can persist for an extended period of time in semen.

In general, any person who has traveled to a Zika-affected area and has developed any of the symptoms listed above during travel or within two weeks after return should seek medical follow-up and evaluation for possible Zika virus testing.

While much about Zika remains unknown, strides are being made in understanding how to recognize, diagnose, and manage the complications of this virus.  For further information, visit

Montgomery Youth Tour 2016


More than 150 high school juniors flooded downtown Montgomery March 15-17 for The Electric Cooperatives of Alabama Montgomery Youth Tour. Sponsored by your local cooperative and the Alabama Rural Electric Association, Montgomery Youth Tour is part of a grassroots program to educate high school juniors on electric cooperatives, cooperative ideas and various aspects of state government.

Representing 19 electric cooperatives from all over Alabama, the students had the opportunity to take part in many different activities and become more familiar with the history of their Capitol City. While in Montgomery, they had the opportunity to visit the state Capitol, the Civil Rights Memorial, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church and the Alabama Voices exhibit housed at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.


Their evenings were spent getting to know fellow representatives from other cooperatives. From cosmic bowling to a dinner dance and photo booth, students were able to spend time getting to know one another. Students also spent time doing team-building activities with other cooperatives. Speaker Cea Cohen-Elliott challenged the students to think outside of the box through various activities and encouraged them to make a difference in their communities through her inspired sessions.

The Youth Tour delegation had an opportunity to meet with state legislators during a meet and greet at the State House. Twenty-five legislators were able to attend and offered insight to the students on the political process and current issues and took time to answer questions.

Forty-seven of the Montgomery Youth Tour students will have the opportunity to attend the Washington D.C. Youth Tour June 10-16. Alabama students will join more than 1,600 students from all across the country for the Rural Electric Youth Tour, sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Students will have the opportunity to visit many of the historic and tourist destinations while in D.C.

For more information about Alabama Youth Tours, contact your local electric cooperative or Laura Stewart, Youth Tour Director at

Outdoors: Trophy trout

TR_TROUT TROPHY 2011-06-028
Steven Felsher shows off a speckled trout he caught while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Fishing for bigger trout requires more focused approach

People often hear about that novice who fishes five minutes and lands a fish of a lifetime. Sure, that happens occasionally. Anyone who fishes along the Alabama coast could land a giant speckled trout on any cast with any bait on any day, but to consistently catch trophy trout, anglers need to specifically fish for big trout.

“Fishing for trophy trout requires a lot of patience,” says Richard Rutland with Cold Blooded Fishing of Mobile. “People won’t get a thousand bites a day. If I had to pick months to catch big trout in the Mobile Bay area, I’d say December, January, April and May.”

Anglers fishing for trophy speckled trout might spend long hours casting hundreds of times while hoping for one or two bites. They must ignore nearby anglers filling ice chests with smaller school trout. Bigger trout sometimes follow schooling specks, not to eat the shrimp or baitfish that the schoolies want, but to eat other trout. They lurk beneath the school waiting to pounce on one of their unsuspecting smaller speckled cousins. Also, fish at odd hours like at night when fewer people roam the waters and avoid fishing on holidays or weekends whenever possible.

Loners, big trout often act more like redfish or largemouth bass than other trout. Trophy trout typically lurk around cover to wait for morsels to venture too close. They hang around oyster reefs, rock piles, sunken boats, jetties, gas wells or other hard, irregular structure where they can ambush prey. Humps, isolated reefs or channel drop-offs offer fish access to deep sanctuaries and shallow feeding flats, making them excellent places to look for big trout.

TR_TROUT CLOSE UP 2012-05-146
This speckled trout hit a topwater bait, always a good choice for producing big fish.

While a giant speck would slurp any shrimp that passes too close, big trout generally prefer to eat finfish. Bigger fish might not feed every day. They typically want to grab one big, slow meal that doesn’t require too much energy to catch rather than chase down a bunch of tiny morsels.

“Bait is the key for catching big trout,” says George Harrison with Harrison Inshore Charters & Guide Service. “In the summer, I look for mullets in water no deeper than six feet deep. The west end of Mobile Bay can produce some big trout. The Mobile River has produced a lot of 6- to 7-pound trout over the years.”

People can catch trophy trout on just about any jig, spoon and other temptation, but large topwater baits frequently produce the most strikes from monster specks. Topwater baits come in poppers, prop baits and walk-the-dog varieties. Some of the best topwaters zigzag across the surface, mimicking wounded baitfish. Many anglers work baits with a continuous retrieve, but big trout frequently attack when a bait slows down or pauses occasionally.

“Topwater baits are great baits for attracting big trout,” Rutland says. “The two biggest trout I ever caught came on Super Spook topwater lures. Both weighed more than eight pounds. I caught one near Sand Island and the other close to the Mobile River. I released both of them.”

When all else fails, offer fish fresh meat. Some excellent live baits include mullets, pogies, also called menhaden, pinfish and croakers. A 5-pound trout can easily swallow a 12-inch mullet. When fishing for big trout, many anglers free-line live baitfish. Others prefer to use popping corks or slip cork rigs that hold baits vertically at pre-determined depths.

“In the spring and early summer, I really like to use live croakers,” Rutland says. “If I can’t find croakers, I’ll use live pogies. I free-line them with just a hook and no weight.”

Pick a good spot with easy access to both deep and shallow water and abundant bait. When fishing with live bait, place several rods in holders. Offer the fish various live temptations at different depths. Put some baits on the shallow side of a drop or structure and some in the depths while free-lining other baits in the mid-depth ranges.

Although Alabama waters rarely produce trout exceeding 10 pounds, the state can produce many trout in the 4- to 8-pound range with some bigger fish. Wilfred A. Ducharme landed the state record, a 12.25-pounder, while fishing off Orange Beach in May 1980.

“For catching a 5- to 7-pound trout, I recommend fishing around Dauphin Island in the spring,” Rutland says. “Fishing oyster flats in April and May can be very good. The area around Dauphin Island bridge is a great area for that. I also like the western end of Dauphin Island, the grass flats on the north side and along the beach on the south side.”¢

For more information, visit: and

John N. Felsher is a freelance writer and photographer who writes from Semmes, Ala. Contact him through his website at

Traveling with grandchildren

Alabama, Birmingham, Zoo. lorikeet, feeding, woman, boy, bird,
Birmingham Zoo is a great destination for children. Photo by Jeff Greenberg

A new generation, a new experience

By Marilyn Jones

I became a grandmother Jan. 12, 2015, when Ainsley Hazel Moore arrived. One of my dreams for this sweet little girl is for her to enjoy the excitement and adventure of travel like I do and I think she has a pretty good start. She visited eight states her first year!

As a travel writer for the better part of three decades, my own children certainly saw the world; great practice for this time in my life. I also talk to other grandparents and travel experts, taking note of some of the ways I can make vacations with my granddaughter into wonderful and positive multi-generational experiences.

This is what I have learned.

Talk to the Parents

Who else knows their children better? What they like to do, their current interests, and sleeping and eating habits. Parents will also know if their child is ready to be away from home without them.

To make sure children are ready, many grandparents take their grandchildren on a close-by weekend adventure. Nancy Humphrey, a grandmother of five – ages five to 17 – started by having each child spend the night at her house followed by long weekends at attractions and hotels to see how it went. “I took them places they had never been before, making sure I stayed within 100 miles of their home,” she says. “After the test runs I knew when each child was ready for a longer trip away.”

Humphrey also says each child is different. Some are ready at a much younger age.

This “trial run” also helps grandparents find out about their own limitations. Children have seemingly endless energy. If you have trouble keeping up on a short trip – even if everything else goes well – you may want to wait until the child is older for a longer vacation.

Road trips

Your road trip experience doesn’t have to be all “are we there yet,” if you plan right. In the planning stage of a vacation, order road maps (yes they still make them), brochures and area guides. They are free and easy to order online from city convention and visitors bureaus or from state tourism boards.

Show where you’re going on the map and ask where the child might want to stop. When traveling with grandchildren it will end up being more about them than you anyway, so plan accordingly.

If you have a portable DVD player, bring it and ask your grandchildren to bring along their favorite movies. Or other activities — even the old standby coloring books and crayons are all some children need to pass the time.

Bring food that they like, but that won’t make a mess. And search on the Internet for games to play in the car. Of course, this all depends on the child’s age. Older children seem to adapt better to long trips than smaller children.

Stop often. It’s good for children and adults.

You’re the guardian. Be prepared

During a vacation, you are responsible. Always have the children’s proper identification — photocopies of birth certificates should be fine for all needs if staying in the United States, medical histories, and health insurance cards including prescription cards, dental insurance cards and secondary insurance cards. Carry contact information, recent photos and notarized authorization from their parents in case they need medical attention.

Some countries do not allow entry of minors not accompanied by both parents unless the children have written notarized permission from the absent parents. The rules vary from country to country, so it’s best to always be prepared.

Passports are essential for any international travel. And, it is always a good idea to purchase travel insurance.

So plan, prepare and have a great time.

Alabama: The Kid-Friendly State!
By Marilyn Jones
The Cat in the Hat and other Dr. Suess characters are on hand to entertain children on Carnival cruises. Photo courtesy Carnival Cruise Line
The Cat in the Hat and other Dr. Suess characters are on hand to entertain children on Carnival cruises. Photo courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Alabama has so much to offer vacationers traveling with children from the mountains in northern Alabama to the beaches on the Gulf coast. Hike, bike, fish, kayak or swim if you and your grandkids are the outdoor types.Alabama has several award-winning zoos, state parks, historic destinations, and water parks and boat tours.

Museums often underline lessons children have learned in school including natural science, art, music, folklore and world history.

Many grandparents I talked to say they like to cruise with their grandchildren because cruise lines often offer special programs for the younger set. Beginning this November, Carnival Cruise Lines will be offering four- and five-day cruises from Mobile to Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Progreso, Yucatan.

In addition to a full schedule of activities – all complimentary – catering to kids in three age groups, babysitting is an option when grandparents need some “me” time as well.

Spectacular Stephens Gap


Cave now open for exploration

Story and photos by David Haynes

The numerous limestone caverns of Jackson County in northeast Alabama make this area one of the top destinations in the world for spelunking enthusiasts. Cave explorers often endure the discomforts of wet and cold underground chambers, tight passageways and near total darkness in exchange for the thrill of experiencing the majestic and magical grottos they find below.

But Stephens Gap Cave near Woodville is the exception to that rule. This spectacular 143-foot vertical pit cavern has two entrances, one of which allows visitors to shimmy down a side opening that’s large enough to illuminate the interior without the need to carry additional lighting, allowing even novice explorers to experience a cave without the usual investment in specialized gear and training.


The Stephens Gap Callahan Cave Preserve, operated by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy (SCC), now offers an online permitting system that allows admission-free access to anyone who wants to visit.

Tom Whitehurst, one of three preserve managers for Stephens Gap, explains that the SCC acquired the 78 acres that includes the cave following almost a decade of negotiations with the property owner, Nancy Callahan, for whom the preserve is partially named. The Callahan property was purchased in the fall of 2014, but because it was landlocked, the group also purchased another 45 acres that includes the one-mile access trail and parking area.

Previously, anyone wanting to visit the cave had to obtain hit-or-miss verbal permission and the property was not accessible during hunting seasons. Now it is open year-round.

Today, those wanting to visit this unique cave can obtain a permit online by visiting the SCC website at and following the links to obtain necessary forms.

These include a clean caving questionnaire and liability release form that each visitor must fill out and sign (plus a parental consent form if any visitors are under the age of 19). Once completed, the forms can be emailed back to the SCC, which after review will issue a permit that is then emailed back to be printed out by the applicant. The printed permit is placed in the rear window of the visitor vehicle or vehicles on the scheduled day of the visit. There is no charge for the service.

During the first year of the new permitting system, February 2015 to February 2016, more than 1,100 visitors explored the cave with approximately 200 permits issued, Whitehurst says.

A pair of spelunkers from the Huntsville area first discovered Stephens Gap in the 1950s, although it was likely known to locals long before that. Beginning in the 1960s the cave saw increased visits from cavers as vertical rappelling techniques and equipment improved and its popularity grew by mostly word-of-mouth.

Today a visit begins at the parking area off Alabama Highway 35. From there, the trail leads upward to the two main openings for the cave. Once at the cave, the 20-foot-diameter vertical opening – which requires rappelling gear and expertise to descend – will likely have a waterfall careening down its face if there has been any recent rainfall. To the left and downhill from the vertical shaft is the larger side-shaft entrance. Entering this way requires climbing down a steep 200-foot incline over large boulders. The opening itself is probably 25-30 feet wide and provides ample light inside the cave to see during daylight hours.


Once inside, the visitor is at the midpoint of the vertical pit and can see a ledge extending back toward the main shaft. A large pedestal rock is situated just off this horizontal ledge that was the setting for at least one wedding ceremony in recent years. If the waterfall is running, it cascades down the far side of the vertical shaft and the entire cavern echoes with the sounds of crashing water.

Because the waterfalls often create misty or hazy conditions inside, sunbeams are transformed into magical shafts of light illuminating the interior in various directions depending on the time of year and time of day, ensuring that no two days inside this cave will look exactly the same for a visitor.

Whitehurst cautions, however, that although the cave and the trail to it are now open to the public, it remains in its “wild and natural state.” This means no guard rails or other safety provisions are present. The trail from the parking lot follows a stream bed and gets progressively steeper as visitors near the cave, with many rocky steps and ledges where footing can be treacherous, especially after a rain. A slip near the vertical shaft opening of the cave could be fatal as its depth is approximately 12 stories.

In fact, there have been fatalities at the cave. The most recent was in September 2015 when an 18-year-old man slipped off a mid-cave ledge and fell 45-50 feet to his death.

Whitehurst says the SCC is continuing to make improvements to the property with emphasis now on the parking area. He says the caving community and visitors alike have been generous with donations to help offset the $150,000 needed to properly operate and maintain the Preserve. One way that has proven popular among donors is to “buy” a piece of the cave (one-foot-wide strips of the entry portals, for example). Each donor will have his or her name shown permanently on the entrance map for the sliver of the cave they “buy.” These range from $50-$100 each. Other pricier options allow donors to “buy” a feature of the cave, having their name placed on the map adjacent that feature.

Gardens: Want more plants?

Propagating many plants can be as easy as dividing their roots, bulbs or rhizomes. This single iris clump yielded three large, healthy rhizomes that could be replanted or shared.
Propagating many plants can be as easy as dividing their roots, bulbs or rhizomes. This single iris clump yielded three large, healthy rhizomes that could be replanted or shared.

Go forth and multiply!

If you want more of the plants you love but don’t have a big plant-buying budget, just go forth and multiply the ones you have by using some tried-and-true propagation methods.

Botanical propagation — the process of making new plants from existing ones — is something plants do naturally either by spreading their seeds or spores (called sexual propagation) or by growing new offspring from their own stems, leaves, roots, bulbs, rhizomes, and the like (known as asexual or vegetative propagation).

Sexual propagation, because it relies on the DNA of two separate plants, results in offspring that are genetically different from the parents, while asexual propagation results in offspring that are genetic replicas of the parent plants — clones if you will.

Though there are myriad propagation methods to try, some require more expertise than many garden-variety gardeners (myself included) possess. However, we home gardeners still have plenty of simple and inexpensive options at our fingertips.

Among the easiest are: collecting seed (which works well for many vegetables, a number of flowers and some herbs), digging young seedlings (great for many trees and shrubs) and dividing or separating clumps of herbaceous perennials and bulb- or rhizome-producing plants (ornamental grasses, hostas, geraniums, daffodils and irises, to name a few).

Another easy method is to root new plants from stems, leaves and roots. Propagate succulents and houseplants by carefully breaking or snipping off healthy leaves and rooting them in a sterile growing medium or in water. Most other plants, however, must be propagated from either stem or root cuttings or by layering.

Layering can occur naturally

Layering, which often occurs naturally when low-lying limbs or runners stay in contact with the soil long enough to sprout new roots along the limb, is one of the best ways to propagate many shrubs, trees, vines and some herbs. The baby plants have the advantage of still being attached to the parent plant, which supports them as they mature.

A number of layering techniques can be employed, including ground and air layering. If you’re new to layering, practice by burying the tip end or a section of a young, supple, low-lying limb in a shallow hole beneath the parent plant. Secure it in place with a brick or rock. Then, when the buried site develops enough new roots to be self-sufficient, clip it away from the parent plant and transplant it elsewhere.

To propagate from cuttings, snip off young, supple root or stem sections, place them in water or a rooting medium and let them develop a healthy root system before transplanting them elsewhere. Whenever you take cuttings, be sure to use sharp, sterile knives or clippers. You may also want to treat the cut areas with a rooting hormone to promote faster growth. And if you’re growing cuttings in a soil mixture rather than in water (the choice of which may also depend on the type of plant you’re rooting) use a sterile, well-draining soil mix — not soil from your garden, as it may contain diseases or pests that can kill new plants.

Research before starting

How and when you gather seed, take cuttings or start the layering process varies among different plants, so do a little research on the type of plant you’re propagating before you get started. Typically, seeds are harvested as they start to dry on a plant; stem cuttings and layering are done in the spring, summer and sometimes into the fall; and root cuttings are usually best taken in the late fall when plants are dormant.

It may take several weeks, months or even a year or two for new plants to develop enough roots to be replanted elsewhere, but with a little patience you’ll have a whole new family of the plants you love to keep for yourself or share with others.

More detailed information on how to propagate plants is available online and through your local Alabama Cooperative Extension System office, or borrow a book on plant propagation from your local library.

May Tips

      • Plant summer annuals and perennials.
      • Plant ornamental grasses and fall-blooming perennials.
      • Seed new lawns and begin fertilizing established ones.
      • Remove emerging weeds from garden beds before they become established.
      • Plant eggplant, pepper, and tomato transplants.
      • Sow seed for sweet corn, squash, okra and lima and snap beans.
      • Fertilize houseplants that are actively growing or blooming.
      • Prune dead winter damaged limbs from shrubs, trees, and vines.
      • Keep bird feeders and baths full and clean.
      • Visit spring plant sales, garden tours, and farmers markets.

JACKSON, KATIE Gardening 2013

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

Alabama Recipes: Chicken Salad


Don’t be CHICKEN

Even if you’re already a devoted lover of chicken salad, don’t be shy about branching out beyond the basic and finding a new favorite.

My relationship with chicken salad has not always been a rosy one, and while it was me who knowingly and willingly put a formidable distance between us, it wasn’t my fault alone. It was chicken salad’s own bad behavior on several occasions that really caused the rift.

For years, I wouldn’t touch the stuff. In my mind, every scoop or plate of this Southern luncheon staple was the same: the same bland, rubbery chunks of chicken, hunks of boiled egg, inch-thick slices of soggy celery smothered in copious amounts of mayonnaise (and not even good mayo, probably some low-fat pretender). That was my first experience with chicken salad. I was dismayed. “Everyone loves it. It’s served at pretty much every bridal shower, church tea and favorite small-town restaurant in the South. I must be wrong. It has to be good.”

Those were my self-shaming thoughts, so I gave it a second chance. And a third. I won’t name the cooks and eateries that almost kept me separated from chicken salad forever with their sad renditions of the classic dish. Thank goodness, after years of intentionally being apart, I gave it one more shot and finally found some good – make that great – chicken salad.

Now, I never push a plate of chicken salad away. I’ll eat chicken salad all by itself, on crackers, in a hollowed out tomato, on top of lettuce, whatever. And despite an initial fear (based on past experience) of trying anything other than the chicken salad that finally won me over, I now enjoy any and all types: basic with just salt, black pepper and mayo; with all kinds of fruits and nuts; with little or no mayo; heck, even with jalapeno and pineapple.

When it comes to chicken salad, the only thing I won’t do ever again is eat the bad stuff, the chicken salad imitators that offer only mere shadows of the tastes and textures that make all true chicken salad delicious.

But how do I avoid them? I rely on the recommendations of trusted friends when it comes to ordering chicken salad in a restaurant, but the best way to ensure lasting chicken salad bliss is to just make it for yourself.

Here are a few chicken salad recipes from our readers, some like grandma made and some with fun, flavor-packed twists. Find one that seems like it suits you and don’t be afraid to fall fully in love with a new version of an old favorite.

– Jennifer Kornegay


Cook of the Month

Ernestine Pace, North Alabama EC

Ernestine Pace doesn’t remember how long she’s been making her Ginger Chicken Salad, but she knows what inspired her to add blueberries. “My brother grows blueberries, and they are just so good in it.” The sweetness of the ripe berries plays off the zip of the lemon and the crunch of the almonds. And it’s the title ingredient that truly sets it apart. “That ginger really makes it, I think,” Ernestine said. “It’s not too strong, and some people can’t really put their finger on what it is, but it just brings something extra that makes it really refreshing and perfect for spring and summer.”

Ginger Chicken Salad

  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
  • 1½ cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup seedless green or red grapes
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup slivered almonds


  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1 ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine chicken, blueberries, celery, grapes and almonds. In a small bowl, mix dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over chicken. This salad is good served with cantaloupes, served on a bed of lettuce or served in a Pita pocket.



Black & Blue Grilled Chicken Salad

  • 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 golden delicious apple
  • ¼ cup red seedless grapes
  • 1 celery stick
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup mayo
  • ½ cup blue cheese dressing
  • Salt and pepper

Salt and pepper the chicken. Grill on direct heat 8 minutes per side. Set aside to rest. Chop celery and walnuts; peel, core and chop the apple and chop the grapes. In a large bowl, mix mayo and blue cheese dressing. Chop the chicken and add to the bowl along with other ingredients. Mix well, add salt and pepper to taste.

Kirk Vantrease, Cullman EC


Easy Hawaiian Chicken Salad

  • 2 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 8-ounce can pineapple tidbits, drained
  • 3 5-ounce cans chunk chicken, drained
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 ½ cups seedless grapes, halved

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until creamy. Add other ingredients and mix well. Chill until ready to serve.

Robbie Vantrease, Cullman EC


Buffalo Chicken Salad

  • 4 cups shredded chicken, cooked
  • 1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup ranch dressing
  • ¾-1 cup buffalo wing sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • ¾ cup chopped celery

Mix the chicken and cream cheese together first, stirring until the cream cheese is smooth throughout the mixture. Stir in all other ingredients until evenly combined.

Rebecca Hullett, Sand Mountain EC


Picnic Perfect Chicken Salad

  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 crisp apple, diced (Fuji, Gala)
  • 1 bunch green onions, white and green parts diced
  • ½ cup chopped nuts (I used roasted sliced almonds, but pecans or walnuts are also good)
  • ¼ cup regular soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon curry powder

Mix all together and stir to make sure everything is coated. If you use low-sodium soy sauce, you may want to add salt. Taste and add additional curry powder to taste. (Start with a very small amount as curry can overwhelm the salad.)

Karen Harrison, Cullman EC


Avocado Chicken Salad

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¾ cup refrigerated salsa
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped

Combine first four ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Toss in chicken and cilantro. Right before serving, add salsa and avocado. Serve with chips, pita bread or on top of salad greens.

Pamela Martin, Arab EC

Lawson Chicken Salad

  • 4 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Add all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. It tastes best after having had time to fully chill in the refrigerator. Serve with your favorite cracker, bread, or just eat it straight from the bowl as you will be tempted!

Cassie Lawson, Joe Wheeler EMC

Hot Chicken Salad

  • 4 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 cup sliced roasted almonds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1 ½ cups mayonnaise
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
  • ¼ cup melted butter

Mix first 9 ingredients. Add just enough mayonnaise to blend. Press into a greased 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan. Mix crushed crackers and butter together, and sprinkle on top of salad. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out hot. Cut into squares to serve; serves 8 to 10.

Sarah Stephenson, Dixie EC

Chicken Salad

  • 2 cups chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 red delicious apple, chopped
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¾-1 cup red seedless grapes, chopped

Combine the chicken, celery salt, onion powder, apple and grapes in a bowl. Combine the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise in another bowl. Add this to the chicken mixture and mix well. Serve on croissant or sandwich bread of choice with lettuce, if desired.

Margaret Long, Baldwin EMC

Mimi’s Chicken Salad

  • 4 cups cooked chicken
  • 1 cup seedless grapes (chopped)
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 2 sliced bananas
  • Dressing:
  • 1 ½ cups mayonnaise
  • 1 cup mango chutney
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine first four ingredients. In a separate bowl mix mayonnaise, mango chutney and lemon juice. Pour over chicken mixture and blend together. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, best overnight. I serve with a croissant and fresh fruit salad with a dollop of peach yogurt on fruit. Enjoy!

Dora Powell, Baldwin EMC

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Worth the drive: Pikeville


Down at the Crossroads

Pikeville Store serves a warm welcome (and tasty burger) to all comers

By Drew Woolley

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There’s a spot in North Alabama the locals have long referred to as “Black Ankle” for the rich, black soil that used to cover the feet of people hoofing it through the area. These days, it serves as the intersection of three county roads: From the east, 31 dead ends into 470, bound north, while 21 joins them from the west before swerving due south.

For more than 100 years, the Pikeville Store has stood at that crossroads, and for most of that time it’s been in Dwayne Wilkerson’s family. The original store on that property, built in 1906, was torn down in the ’60s and replaced by the building people all across the state know today.

For three generations — from Dwayne’s grandfather to his mother, then to he and his wife, Connie — the Pikeville Store was your typical general store with a couple of gas pumps out front offering diesel and non-ethanol fuel. But in 1993 the Wilkersons decided they wanted to do something more.

With Connie ready to move on from her work in a local dentist’s office, the couple installed a grill, added a section in the back for additional seating and transformed the longstanding store into one of the state’s hottest burger spots.

“I really just thought it would be a good idea for the farmhands around here to have something for them, and it worked out,” says Connie. “It worked out better than we could’ve expected.”

While the venture may have started with farmers in mind, it now serves anyone and everyone from Huntsville, Birmingham and throughout the Southeast. It’s out of the way for many, especially considering that they won’t find the unofficial community of Pikeville anywhere on a map – but it’s certainly worth the trip for those lured to the crossroads by tales of great food and Southern hospitality.

Labor of love

Drop by during one of the store’s weekday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. lunch rushes and you can feel the greasy spoon buzz as locals and strangers alike come in to chat and grab a bite to eat. Dwayne works the crowd out front and manages the register, while Connie, who no longer has the time to mingle like she used to, runs the grill.

But it’s Saturdays when the community really descends on the Pikeville Store. The Wilkersons don’t keep a close head count, but since most visitors would be out of their mind to order anything but a cheeseburger, Connie can work up a close guess at their weekend business by tallying the buns she goes through in the kitchen. After some culinary mental math (15 trays of 20 large buns, plus 15 of 12 small buns), she estimates that they serve about 500 burgers on an average weekend.

“We’ve started trying to stay open later to spread it out because our normal hours just get so jammed,” Connie says. “There’s an hour wait sometimes, and I hate for people to have to do that. But it’s like they don’t mind; it’s a big party.”

That kind of success doesn’t come easy, and their hard work has earned appreciation from fans throughout the state. When asked its readers for their favorite burgers in 2014, the Pikeville Store rode a wave of support into the top 15.

But as tasty as the burgers are, the atmosphere the owners cultivate is a big part of the store’s unique character. In 2006, the Wilkersons were temporarily forced to lease the business to an out-of-town owner as they took a few years off for Dwayne to fight prostate cancer. Same location, same equipment, but the store never thrived the same as it had under its previous owners’ care.

The new owner eventually moved on, and for a short time the Pikeville Store sat in silence, until Dwayne’s health improved in 2012.

“The building was just sitting here empty, so I just said, ‘Now that you’re better, let’s go back,’” Connie recalls. “Because you miss the people. I missed the people in the community; I missed the atmosphere.”

A Melting Pot

Since that return, things haven’t slowed down for Dwayne and Connie. The fast pace of Saturdays continues to pick up as increasingly varied customers check in from all parts of the Southeast.

“I wish I had a ledger of all the people who come in here,” says Dwayne. “We serve doctors, lawyers, judges and regular people like ourselves. Of course, if they’re from out of town, we don’t know if they’re a lawyer or sleeping under a bridge.”

For some people, catering to such a diverse group might be a challenge, but for Dwayne it’s just a matter of treating strangers and regulars with the same warmth. As for the food, Connie’s only secret (that she’s willing to admit) is cooking every burger as though it’s her own.

“People come in and basically know each other, they go from table to table,” she says of the hum that pervades the store. “It’s a melting pot really. Lawyers come in and sit next to farmers. It’s just like one big, happy family.”

One photo on a back wall attests to that family bond. Many members of the Wilkerson clan have pitched in from time to time, and when she was 16, Connie’s niece would work in the kitchen. On a particularly busy Saturday, she asked her aunt to find out who one of the customers, a young man, was — but be discreet.

With no time for subtlety, Connie waltzed out and called to the boy’s father, asking how old he was and whether he was single. Her niece may have turned a shade of crimson, but she got his number, and her photo with her now husband of 6 years hangs in the store as a reminder.

“He said that’s the most expensive cheeseburger he’s ever gotten,” Connie says with a laugh. “I started telling people if you want to come work here, we’ll find you a husband.”

With the growing pace of the business, the Wilkersons figure they only have a few more years of running the store left in them. But they can rest assured that the importance of the Pikeville Store as the heart of its namesake community won’t diminish. The invisible town’s boundaries may not be set in stone, but Connie has a pretty good idea of where it begins.

“I think Pikeville starts right here,” she says with a smile. “If you sit here you’ll see all types walk in. And we love it.”


Pikeville Store N Deli
5182 County Road 21
Scottsboro, AL 35768
Tuesday-Friday 6 a.m.-3 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Decoration Day


A fading tradition: Decoration Day in Northeast Alabama

Story and photos by Robin Ford Wallace


Marcell Stiefel strolls across the grass in the May sunshine, making introductions.

“My dad and mom are over here,” he says. “That’s my aunt right yonder. Now, this old boy right here, his sister is my first cousin, but I ain’t no kin to him. His dad married my dad’s sister and she passed away and he married again.”

Stiefel’s “un-cousin,” Kenneth Black, shoots back a wisecrack about not claiming Stiefel either, but the others Stiefel mentioned say nothing, because, as Edgar Lee Masters wrote, “All, all are sleeping on the hill.”

What is this? A family reunion? Yes, but for an extended family, including representatives not just from different clans but from both sides of the grass. We are in the Old Sardis Cemetery near Section, Ala., and this is “Decoration Day,” when the community gathers to remember its dead.

Decoration Day – or just Decoration, as most say – is a tradition so prevalent in northeastern Alabama that natives toss off the name like “Christmas” or “Easter.” But people who grew up in other parts of Alabama may never have heard the term.

The internet is equally clueless. Google “Decoration Day” and you will learn it is another name for Memorial Day and that it began just after the Civil War, when veterans placed flowers on the graves of the war dead.

Today’s Decoration Days do involve putting flowers on graves, and the Old Sardis version does happen on the fourth Sunday in May, so last year it fell on Memorial Day weekend.

But some years it doesn’t, and anyway, participants of other Decorations deny any association between the two holidays.

“It’s not just the month of May,” says Hobbie Lankford, whose “home cemetery” is Fort Payne’s Lankford Cemetery. “They may start in May but different cemeteries have different Decorations at different times, on into August.”

Verenice Hawkins says Decoration Day used to be the only maintenance country graveyards ever got.  Now in her 80s, she remembers when neighbors cleaned DeKalb County cemeteries with rakes and hoes, even pitching in to dig graves.
Verenice Hawkins says Decoration Day used to be the only maintenance country graveyards ever got.  Now in her 80s, she remembers when neighbors cleaned DeKalb County cemeteries with rakes and hoes, even pitching in to dig graves.

Verenice Hawkins, who attends Decorations in two DeKalb County cemeteries (Beene and Head Springs), says the reason for the staggered dates is that people have family in more than one cemetery and Decorations used to be the annual workday for each. “The rest of the year, people might go and do whatever little cleaning they wanted to, but that was the main day,” she said.

In her girlhood, Hawkins, now in her 80s, says family members would take hoes and rakes to the cemetery – “It was not sowed in grass, it was dirt” – and spend Decoration morning clearing brush and mounding graves up to look new again.

Then came the social aspect. At midday, “dinner was spread” and the volunteers would eat and visit before going back to work. Women were known for their special picnic dishes; Hawkins remembers Aunt Belle’s dumplings, and her own broccoli-cauliflower salad is still a Decoration favorite.

“This used to be an occasion,” she says. When her daughter was in school, she’d bring her best friend home for the weekend for Decoration at Beene, then go home with her the next weekend for the one at Deerhead Cove.

A little woo might even be pitched. “That was a place that you met up with some boys, or you might sit with them and eat,” Hawkins says. “No great big courting, but some courting.”

Hobbie Lankford says the Decorations of her childhood were occasions too, almost all-day ones. There was a sunrise service at the cemetery, then the adults spent the morning raking and putting flowers on graves while the children played among the headstones. “It was a workday for them and a play day for us,” she says.

A particular food also figures in her tradition, but in a practical rather than social sense. “Daddy would fix a fire and around lunchtime Mother would scramble eggs and we would have scrambled egg sandwiches,” she says.

Carlos Bailey, who helps organize the Old Sardis Decoration, says maintenance work there was never on the day itself but in the weeks preceding. “You wanted to have the place looking pristine for Decoration Day,” he says.

As for food, though the Old Sardis Decoration is an occasion indeed – canopies and folding chairs, participants arriving from all over the Southeast, even a hired drone flying overhead taking photographs – no one so much as sips iced tea.

“It’s not hardly time for it,” says Marcell Stiefel. “They’ll start leaving out of here around 12 o’clock and maybe going somewhere else and eating.”

So traditions vary. Decoration may, for example, replace regular church service, or it may include one with special features, such as the Sacred Harp singing Hawkins remembers. Some Decorations aren’t associated with Sunday service at all – the one at Head Springs is on Saturday, changed from its original Friday as more people left farming and couldn’t take weekdays off.

But one thing all participants agree on: Decoration gets smaller every year. Young people don’t come anymore, Hawkins says. “I don’t know how much longer things will keep on.”

“My mom and her sister used to get together probably two or three months before Decoration and start making their arrangements,” Lankford says. “I don’t do what they did and I’m sure my children probably won’t do even what I do.”

Carlos Bailey says that’s why he’s so anxious to preserve Decoration at Old Sardis.

“It’s a dying tradition,” he said.


And If Thou Wilt, Remember…

Barry Pickett looks over his catalog of identified graves.
Barry Pickett looks over his catalog of identified graves.

Hobbie Lankford remembers her late mother telling her, as they walked through a section of the Lankford Cemetery where graves were marked only with rocks, about an aunt who died in childhood. “She’s in one of those unmarked graves but I couldn’t tell you which one now,” she says.

Marcell Stiefel’s mother was the part-time caretaker of, and font of knowledge about, Old Sardis Cemetery, including graves marked only by big stones since moved for mowing. “I didn’t have no interest in it then,” he says. “I wish I’d took notes.”

Barry Pickett’s grandfather told him who was buried in each of maybe 100 unmarked graves at the Cheney’s Chapel church graveyard in Jackson County. “Then a little while after that he died,” Pickett says, “and I thought, well, why didn’t I write down all of those names he told me?”

Sometimes when you hear the same story over and over, the message finally sinks in. In this case, it’s the theme that underlies Decoration Day, Memorial Day and probably the invention of recorded history: Our bittersweet struggle to remember a past that slides further toward oblivion with every passing year.

This human yearning toward permanence is demonstrated even by the plastic flowers that have now replaced the irises-in-a-quart jar or roses-in-a-tin-can that the sources for this article remember placing on graves during childhood Decorations. “They hold up so much longer,” Lankford says.

Perhaps forgetting is inevitable, but after his grandfather’s death, Barry Pickett turned remembering into his lifelong avocation. Starting with Cheney’s Chapel, he began cataloguing area graveyards, listing the graves and adding whatever information he could glean from old obituaries he finds in the Scottsboro library.

Pickett says the work of a cemetery historian is unpaid but in more or less constant demand, from cemetery trust committees as well as from individuals searching for family members’ graves. “I get calls all the time,” he says.

Bo Bikes Bama

Photo by Brian Lacy
Photo by Brian Lacy

Bo Jackson gears up for annual charity bicycle ride

By Allison Griffin

He lives now in Illinois just outside Chicago, but Alabama is never far from the mind and
memory of Bo Jackson, the Bessemer native, Auburn University standout athlete and entrepreneur
who carves out time each year to mark the anniversary of the deadly 2011 tornadoes.

A record 62 tornadoes swept through Alabama during that outbreak on April 27, 2011. More than
240 Alabamians died as a result of the tornadoes, and more than 2,000 were injured; the property
damage was calculated at more than $4 billion.

The suffering touched Jackson personally, and he knew he could use his celebrity status to
help his native state.

The bikes that Bo Jackson rides feature the names of the Alabamians who died in the April 2011 tornado outbreak. Photos courtesy Big Communications
The bikes that Bo Jackson rides feature the names of the Alabamians who died in the April 2011 tornado outbreak.
Photos courtesy Big Communications

“The reason for this ride is for state unity and to pay homage to the great Alabamians who
lost their lives on April 27th, 2011,” he says on his website. “I am my brothers’ and sisters’

He created the Bo Bikes Bama charity bicycle ride (not a race), but not for the publicity for
himself. “I wanted to do something where the rest of the country can be aware of what has
happened here,” he said on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” in 2012. So he called on some celebrity
friends to help out: Lance Armstrong, Scottie Pippin, Ken Griffey Jr. and Picabo Street, among
other athletes, have joined in previous rides.

Beyond the awareness, there’s also the money he can raise. His Bo Bikes Bama event has raised
more than $950,000 in four years, and is poised to break the $1 million mark this year. The money
goes to support the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund, which was created to help Alabamians
recover from severe weather events.

So far, funds raised by Bo Bikes Bama have provided, among other improvements, for 579 homes
to be repaired or served, 63 community safe rooms to be constructed, and eight emergency warning
sirens to be installed.

In the beginning

The first Bo Bikes Bama in 2012 was a 5-day, 300-mile trek that took the two-sport athlete
through the towns and rural areas that suffered tremendous destruction. All along the way,
grateful Alabamians came out to say hello, to cheer him on, and to say thank you.

It was an emotional journey

“On that first ride, I stopped at one neighborhood, and there were four generations of a
family sitting there on all that was left of their home: a concrete slab,” Jackson told ESPN in
2015. “The tornado picked up the grandmother’s house and took it a quarter-mile, and she fell out
of the house when it was in the air. She was 150 yards out in the field. That’s where her son and
grandson found her after the storm – in the field. They were just sitting out there. Just to see
the people and the devastation up close like that, you don’t ever forget that.”

As an ever-present reminder, Jackson’s custom-made bikes bear all the names of those who died
in the tornadoes.

After that first year, the event was pared down to a one-day event, with a 60-mile option and
a shorter 20-miler. Hundreds of cyclists continue to join him for the journey; so far, nearly
2,400 have come from 31 states and Canada. This year, a rider will come from England to

Both routes take riders through the campus of Auburn University; the 60-mile route will pass
through Tuskegee and neighboring Macon County.

The success of Bo Bikes Bama will no doubt only add to the legacy of the multi-sport athlete
and Heisman Trophy winner, who played professional baseball and football through the late 1980s
and early 1990s. He retired from professional sports in 1995, but maintains a number of
entrepreneurial and charitable endeavors.

But the annual bicycle ride is close to his heart. Asked by Outside Magazine in 2015 how long
he plans to continue the ride, he said, “As long as a bike can hold me.”

Bo gives a pep talk to the cyclists participating in the 2015 Bo Bikes Bama charity ride.
Bo gives a pep talk to the cyclists participating in the 2015 Bo Bikes Bama charity ride.


• The event is divided into two rides. The 60-mile ride begins at 8 a.m. April 30, and
the 20-mile ride begins at 10:30 a.m. that day. The start and end locations for both rides
are at the Auburn Arena. The ride goes on, rain or shine.

• A silent auction will precede the ride from 7-9 p.m. April 29 at The Hotel at Auburn
University, 241 S. College St. Tickets are $100 and include hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine
while browsing a silent auction featuring signed memorabilia from athletes and entertainers.

• For more information, visit