Hayley and son, Weston, walking in high cotton on the family farm.
Indie, Axil and Touché enjoying the sunshine.
Wyatt catching hens.
Tom Mauldin hauling hay on his John Deere.
Davis Hood giving “Moo” her daily hug.
Josh, Sam, Nate and Paul Redd on our poultry farm.
Send us your “Our First Photo” with your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, child or family!
Deadline to submit is November 30. Winning photos will run in the January issue.
Online Submissions: alabamaliving.coop
Submissions by Mail: Snapshots (P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124)
RULES:Alabama Living will pay $10 for photos that best match our theme of the month. Photos may also be published on our website at www.alabamaliving.coop and on our Facebook page. Alabama Living is not responsible for lost or damaged photos.
Many people working nowadays have more than one job. This means they have several sources of income. It’s important to keep in mind that having multiple sources of income can sometimes affect your Social Security benefits; but, it depends on the source.
Disability payments from private sources, such as private pensions or insurance benefits, don’t affect your Social Security disability benefits. Workers’ compensation and other public disability benefits, however, may reduce what you receive from Social Security. Workers’ compensation benefits are paid to a worker because of a job-related injury or illness. These benefits may be paid by federal or state workers’ compensation agencies, employers, or by insurance companies on behalf of employers.
Public disability payments that may affect your Social Security benefits are those paid from a federal, state, or local government for disabling medical conditions that are not job-related. Examples of these are civil service disability benefits, state temporary disability benefits, and state or local government retirement benefits that are based on disability.
Some public benefits don’t affect your Social Security disability benefits. If you receive Social Security disability benefits, and one of the following types of public benefits, your Social Security benefits will not be reduced:
• Veterans Administration benefits;
• State and local government benefits, if Social Security taxes were deducted from your earnings; or
• Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
You can read more about the possible ways your benefits might be reduced at socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10018.pdf.
Please be sure to report changes. If there is a change in the amount of your other disability payment, or if those benefits stop, please notify us right away. Tell us if the amount of your workers’ compensation or public disability payment increases or decreases. Any change in the amount or frequency of these benefits is likely to affect the amount of your Social Security benefits.
An unexpected change in benefits can have unintended consequences. You can be better prepared if you’re informed and have financially prepared yourself. Visit socialsecurity.gov/planners for information about your options for securing your future.
Identify and place this Alabama landmark and you could win $25! Winner is chosen at random from all correct entries. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified. Send your answer by Nov. 7 with your name, address and the name of your rural electric cooperative. The winner and answer will be announced in the December issue.
Submit by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Submit by mail: Whereville, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124.
Contribute your own photo for an upcoming issue! Send a photo of an interesting or unusual landmark in Alabama, which must be accessible to the public. A reader whose photo is chosen will also win $25.
This sculpture of Truman Capote’s hat and thick-rimmed glasses is just one of the art works in the Literary Capital Sculpture Trail project, which memorializes the many talented writers who have Monroeville roots. This sculpture, located at the southeast entrance of the Monroe County Museum, was created by Morgan Harrison. The trail was unveiled in April 2019, and all 14 sculptures were created by University of Alabama students. Learn more at monroevillemainstreet.com (Photo by Lenore Vickrey of Alabama Living)
We received a sweet note and photo from Annalee Chance from Troy, above, a member of the South Alabama EC. She says she’s visiting all the counties in Alabama for her fourth-grade project and recently visited the Monroe County Courthouse and saw the statue. Thanks for writing, Annalee!
The randomly drawn correct guess winner is Donna Carney of Black Warrior EMC.
A dramatic meteor shower filled the sky with approximately 30,000 meteors an hour in an event remembered as the night stars fell on Alabama. The shower inspired the title of Carl Carmer’s 1934 bestselling book Stars Fell on Alabama, which related Carmer’s experiences in Alabama in the 1920s through the dramatized voice of a northerner. Part memoir and part cultural analysis, the book received high praise by The New York Times and the northern press. Many Alabamians, however, believed Carmer purposefully disparaged the state by focusing on negative aspects of its culture, including Ku Klux Klan parades, foot-washings, and voodoo rituals.
Fort Rucker, Alabama’s largest military installation and home to U.S. Army Aviation, was the site of a commemorative event to celebrate the 2019 Official White House Christmas Ornament, which is in the image of a helicopter.
The ornament commemorates President Eisenhower as the first sitting president to fly in a helicopter. Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company with a facility in Troy, has built the presidential helicopter since Eisenhower’s first use in 1957.
Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association, and Gov. Kay Ivey were on hand for the official presentation of the ornament at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker recently. The original VCH-34 Army One helicopter is housed there.
Each year since 1981, the White House Historical Association has created the official ornament, which is American-made by a veteran-founded company. The ornament is $22.95 and can be purchased at whitehousehistory.org or by calling 800-555-2451.
By January, families of veterans buried at Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo will have a place to gather and reflect on the cemetery grounds while their loved one is being interred.
The Support Committee of the Alabama National Cemetery broke ground in September on a wooded overlook above Shoal Creek at the edge of the cemetery. The volunteer group, which provides programs at the cemetery and assists survivors of veterans with burial needs, undertook the project in January 2013 when it began raising private donations for the structure.
Bob Barefield, SCALNC chairman emeritus, says burial regulations don’t allow graveside services and families are limited to the time they can spend at an outdoor shelter (conducting what serves as a graveside service).
“Families are having to leave and then come back to visit the gravesite after interment,” Barefield says. “Once this is available, this will be a place where they can go and quietly reflect not only the tragic side of losing a loved one, but the better side because that overlook is so serene and so peaceful that it makes you think of better times.”
Nourished for centuries by several rivers depositing nutrient-rich black, loamy soil, the Black Belt region extends across 23 counties in central Alabama. That fertile soil created outstanding agricultural land, but also created excellent habitat for white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and other wildlife.
Although hunters and fishermen frequently visit the region, area residents wanted to do more to promote it. In 2009, they formed a non-profit group called the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association to collectively promote the special region as a destination for hunting, fishing, canoeing, camping, hiking, birding and other cultural, artistic or historic endeavors.
“About 10 years ago, a group of dedicated conservationists with a passion for hunting and fishing came together in an effort to stimulate economic growth in Alabama’s Black Belt region,” says Thomas Harris, president and founding father of the ALBBAA.
“The Black Belt hasn’t been as successful with industrial recruitment when compared to other areas in the state, so it made perfect sense to capitalize on the abundance of natural resources that are readily available here. Tourism is a strong contributor to economic development, and we set our goals to collectively promote and brand the region as an outdoor destination. The results of our recent economic impact study proved that we were right on target.”
The ALBBAA enlisted the help of noted sporting personalities Ray Scott, founder of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, and Jackie Bushman, founder of Buckmasters. Both men grew up hunting the Black Belt. Scott, Bushman and others hosted television commercials and promotional videos encouraging people to visit the region. In addition, the association and its supporters aired TV commercials in 93 major markets across 32 states. The association even published a coffee table book on area hunting and fishing heritage and traditions, which will be available for purchase this month.
“Our partnerships across the region continue to grow and strengthen,” says Pam Swanner, who has served as the ALBBAA director for nearly 10 years. “Many projects have been conducted or are in the development stages with other organizations, such as the Chambers of Commerce, tourism councils, Black Belt Treasures, Alabama Tourism Department, Alabama State Parks and many others. More than 137,000 outdoor enthusiasts nationally receive monthly newsletters sharing outdoors news about the Black Belt.”
In addition, ALBBAA cultivated relationships with major media associations to bring in writers and broadcasters from around the country to experience hunting in the Black Belt and fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, catfish and other species in area rivers and lakes. These journalists published numerous articles and aired multiple radio and television broadcasts throughout the nation. People took notice.
“Our web traffic steadily increases each year,” Swanner says. “From January to August 2019, we’ve seen a 228 percent increase in the number of inquiries over the same period last year. We also ramped up paid Google ads and social media advertising, plus facilitated our photo contests through our website. These efforts drew more traffic to the website, which resulted in more inquiries. Our Facebook followers now number almost 20,000.”
Big economic impact
When people visit the Black Belt for whatever reason, they contribute to the local, regional and state economies. According to the 2018 Economic Impact Study on Hunting and Fishing in the Black Belt, spending by sportsmen in the area increased by 18 percent since 2011. The study also shows a 29 percent increase in salaries and wages earned by people in the area, which resulted in a three percent increase in state and local tax revenues during the same period. The total economic impact by hunters and fishermen in the Black Belt increased by 13 percent since 2011.
About 1.2 million hunters and fishermen spent $3.2 billion in Alabama pursuing their favorite sports in 2018, the study revealed. This created 73,553 jobs. About 364,000 of those sportsmen spent 8.2 million man-days hunting or fishing in the Black Belt. Although the 23 Black Belt counties comprise just one-third of the state, 42 percent of all hunting expenditures in Alabama occurred in the region.
“The steady growth we see in sportsmen and women visiting the Black Belt to pursue their outdoor adventures is encouraging and reinforces our commitment to the initiative,” Swanner says. “It’s validation that we must continue building on that momentum so that we are always moving the economic needle forward to give area residents a better quality of life.”
Many people hunt or fish locally, but more than half of all sportsmen, 51.6 percent, spent at least one night away from home to hunt or fish in 2018. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of non-resident sportsmen, 78.6 percent, stayed overnight in Alabama, but so did 43.5 percent of resident hunters and fishermen. About half of the overnighters stayed on property they own or lease, but the rest had to find lodging. More than 80 percent of all hunt lodges in Alabama sit in the Black Belt.
Many visitors to Alabama bring their families and stay several days. Besides hunting or fishing, people might visit other area attractions. While away from home, these people not only pay for lodging, but also buy food, fuel, supplies and other items, not to mention non-resident hunting and fishing licenses. Non‐resident sportsmen spent nearly $108 million to hunt or fish in Alabama in 2018. Two-thirds of all non-resident hunters coming to Alabama visit the Black Belt. About 29 percent of non-resident anglers fished in those counties.
While regional lodges offer excellent hunting opportunities for deer and other game, many sportsmen prefer to do it themselves. Some better wildlife management areas include David K. Nelson near Demopolis, Lowndes near White Hall, Barbour near Clayton and Oakmulgee near Selma. People can also hunt some smaller Special Opportunity Areas. See outdooralabama.com/hunting/special-opportunity-areas.
These efforts reach more than hunters and fishermen by encouraging eco-tourism, canoeing, birding, hiking and other activities in the region. The association also worked to create a leisure market program called “Feed Your Adventure – Flavors of the Black Belt Trail” to encourage people to sample such locally made items as cheese straws, cookies, pepper jellies, rubs and sauces, savory and sweet pecans, sausages, baked goods, craft beers and spirits plus many other items.
To find out more about the Black Belt, visit alabamablackbeltadventures.org or search for “Alabama Black Belt Adventures” on Facebook.
My Father landed in Europe in the fall of 1944, went into the line, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and was there when Germany surrendered.
He never talked about it, much.
So my memories of his war consists of fragments of a few stories, the V-mail he sent Mama, a little journal which he kept, and the box.
As long as I can remember, the box was on a shelf in a bedroom closet.
It was wooden, and you can tell from the finish it was military issue. It was just big enough to hold what Daddy put in it when he came home.
Once they were souvenirs.
Now they are memories that I inherited, with the box, when Daddy died.
There is a metal-cased New Testament and an English-to-German phrase book, handed out in full anticipation of invasion and victory.
A few German coins and insignia from a German uniform.
There is a German paratrooper knife, a remarkable bit of Teutonic engineering designed so that with the flip of the wrist out comes a double-edged blade for cutting the chute-lines when you hit the ground. And folded into one side is an awl-like metal rod, the size of a pencil, tapered to a sharp point, which Daddy once said could be used with lethal efficiency by the man from whom he took it.
And a Nazi banner. Bright red still after all these years, with the white circle in the center and in that a black twisted cross, the swastika. The banner was one of a hundred or more that hung from light-poles along the main street of a town Daddy “liberated.” Even today, by itself, more than half a century later, it evokes an involuntary shudder, just as it was meant to.
But of all the things in the box, the one Daddy always paused over is the Jugend knife. About the size of what I strapped on my belt when I was a Boy Scout. As decorative as practical, it was the sort of thing that might be given as a prize in some contest or competition. Like the banner, it still has its luster – the black enamel sheath and handle, and on the pommel, the same contorted symbol.
“I took it off a boy no older than you,” my Daddy told me when I was hardly in my teens. “He and some others his age had been sent out to dig fortifications. This and a shovel was all he had.” I didn’t ask if any were killed. I didn’t want to know.
And I don’t think he would have wanted to tell me.
Not the way he looked at me then.
Like a father wondering what he would have done if that boy was his boy?
But these are my memories of his memories.
I don’t know why my father kept these particular souvenirs – likely they were not chosen so much as blundered upon. He also sent home a picture, a watercolor, he found rolled up in the gutter of a shelled street. It hangs in my office today.
We owe a lot to our veterans.
We need to honor them.
And remember what they did for us.
And do what they want us to do.
Which in my father’s case, is to do what we can to keep from creating any more veterans.
Alabama’s four veterans’ cemeteries honor those who served
Story and photos by Jim Plott
Like soldiers at attention, battalions of white markers stretch out across the fields in perfect formation.
Below them are soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. They are compatriots linked by more than common soil. Some died in service; many others survived the decades before finally falling to old age. All sacrificed.
Alabama has four cemeteries dedicated to the men and women who have worn American military uniforms. They are shrines and places of reflection to the people who fought at places like Chateau-Thierry, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Incheon, Saigon, Baghdad and Kabul.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs oversees Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo and Fort Mitchell National Cemetery near Phenix City. The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs manages cemeteries under the same VA regulations in Spanish Fort and Mobile, although the one in Mobile is at capacity and open only to surviving spouses.
Burials and headstones at all the cemeteries are free for the veteran, spouse and dependent children. That includes in-ground casket or cremation burials or in a columbarium for urns containing cremated remains.
“Everything from the gate to the headstone is free. That saves a family anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000 at a minimum,” says Todd Newkirk, assistant director at Fort Mitchell and interim director at Alabama National.
Newkirk, scanning the pristine grounds of Alabama National, believes there is a more plausible explanation why service people choose to call a veterans’ cemetery their final resting place.
“You are among your brothers and sisters at arms,” Newkirk says. “You are a veteran, and this is a place that honors veterans 24-seven. And as long as there is a United States of America this place is going to be taken care of. People are going to be here every day, all day taking care of the cemetery.”
Reminders of sacrifice
Air Force Lt. Col. Kenneth Bourland was the first active-duty service person to be buried at Alabama National, which was dedicated in 2008. The Birmingham native, who flew numerous helicopter missions in Iraq, died in February 2010 when the hotel where he was staying during a humanitarian mission in Haiti collapsed during an earthquake. He was survived by a wife and two sons, then ages three and one.
“Our daughter-in-law was the one that made the decision whether he would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery (near Washington D.C.) or here,” says Bourland’s mother, Adrienne Bourland. “I am very glad she made the choice for him to come back to Alabama. It has allowed us be involved in the ceremonies and the activities.”
Adrienne Bourland and her husband live in nearby St. Clair County and remain members of a volunteer support staff that helps conduct special ceremonies at the cemetery on Veterans and Memorial holidays. Kenneth Bourland’s family has also moved back to the Birmingham area from Florida where they were living at the time of his death.
Alabama headstones, carved from Sylacauga marble, include a person’s name, rank, branch of service, date of birth and death and a symbol of religious belief.
“The last two or three spaces are for an optional inscription that the next of kin is able to select,” Newkirk says. “They can put whatever they want on those lines as long as it is appropriate.”
‘I see America here’
Fort Mitchell National was established 31 years ago at the urging of the late U.S. Rep. Bill Nichols and state Sen. Joseph Smith of Phenix City, both of whom contended that Alabama deserved a national cemetery. Their argument was fortified by the fact that Fort Benning, Ga., lies just across the Chattahoochee River.
“Mr. Joseph Smith was actually the first person buried here,” Newkirk says. “He actually died before it opened, and his wife had him disinterred (from another cemetery) and reinterred here.”
Alabama National and Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery were created in 2008 and 2012, respectively, to meet the burial needs of World War II and Korean War veterans.
All three cemeteries adjoin historical grounds. Alabama National is adjacent to American Village, an educational facility that contains replicas of historical structures. Fort Mitchell National Cemetery abuts a replica of Fort Mitchell, an early American outpost and a link to the Federal Road which opened Alabama to early settlers. The Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery is near Fort Blakely, which was the site of the largest Civil War battle fought in Alabama.
Each cemetery conducts commemorative ceremonies on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and many lay wreaths on the headstones at Christmas. Those ceremonies are generally conducted by support committees, veteran groups and Scout members.
Newkirk, however, says he can’t help but reflect on the sacrifices provided by those entombed every time he drives in the entrance.
“This is the best job I ever had in my life,” Newkirk says. “I did 21 years active duty in the Air Force and 15 years as a civilian in the Army and so it is special to me. I see America here. I see my brother and sisters. It’s just an honor to be here.”
Story and photos by David Rainer | Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division’s Hunter Education Program wants to teach old hunters new safety tricks. Actually, these are not new safety tricks, but experienced hunters seem to be failing to follow them, according to last year’s hunting accident reports.
During the 2018-2019 hunting seasons, 15 treestand accidents were reported, and more than half of those individuals were age-exempt from having to complete a hunter education course. Of the five who did take the hunter ed course, all under the age of 40, only one was wearing a full-body harness when the accident occurred.
“That full-body harness probably saved his life or saved him from serious injuries,” says Marisa Futral, Hunter Education Program Coordinator. “He fell asleep in his stand, but he lived to see another day.
“Three of the 15 accidents were fatalities. Still, a lot of these injuries could have been prevented with a full-body harness.”
Those born on or after Aug. 1, 1977, must complete the hunter education course before they can purchase a hunting license. But Futral urges everyone who plans to pursue game this fall to take the hunter ed course. For information on hunter education courses, visit outdooralabama.com/hunting/hunter-education-alabama.
“Even if you are grandfathered in, there’s always something you can learn,” she says. “I’ve noticed over the years that the hunters who don’t have to take the course are the ones having the accidents.
“I think the mentality is they’ve been hunting their whole life and get complacent. But those older hunters could learn a lot by taking the hunter education course, which is a lot more than firearms safety. The No. 1 hunting accident is falling out of trees. That is covered extensively in the hunter ed class.”
WFF Hunter Education stresses the following 11 guidelines for using a tree stand safely:
Always wear a safety harness, also known as a fall-arrest system, when you are in a treestand, as well as when climbing into or out of a treestand. Statistics show that the majority of treestand incidents occur while climbing in and out of a stand.
A safety strap should be attached to the tree to prevent you from falling more than 12 inches.
Always inspect the safety harness for signs of wear or damage before each use.
Follow all manufacturers’ instructions for use of a safety harness and stand.
Follow the three-point rule of treestand safety. Always have three points of contact to the steps or ladder before moving. This could be two arms and one leg holding and stepping on the ladder or one arm and two legs in contact with the ladder before moving. Be cautious that rain, frost, ice or snow can cause steps to become extremely slippery. Check the security of the step before placing your weight on it.
Always hunt with a plan and, if possible, a buddy. Before you leave home, let others know your exact hunting location, when you plan to return and who is with you.
Always carry emergency signal devices such as a cell phone, walkie-talkie, whistle, signal flare, PLD (personal locator device) and flashlight at all times and within reach even while you are suspended in your fall-arrest system. Watch for changing weather conditions. In the event of an incident, remain calm and seek help immediately.
Always select the proper tree for use with your treestand. Select a live, straight tree that fits within the size limits recommended in your treestand’s instructions. Do not climb or place a treestand against a leaning tree.
Never leave a treestand installed for more than two weeks since damage could result from changing weather conditions and/or from other factors not obvious with a visual inspection.
Always use a haul line to pull up your gear and unloaded firearm or bow to your treestand once you have reached your desired hunting height. Never climb with anything in your hands or on your back. Prior to descending, lower your equipment on the opposite side of the tree.
Always know your physical limitations. Don’t take chances. Do not climb when impaired by drugs, alcohol or if you’re sick or unrested. If you start thinking about how high you are, stop climbing.
Alabama hunters also had several firearms-related accidents during the 2018-2019 season with three fatalities and two non-fatal incidents.
Two of the fatalities were self-inflicted. One was in a shooting house when the accident happened. The other occurred when the hunter fell, and his handgun discharged. One fatality occurred when a hunter was mistaken for game.
One of the two non-fatal accidents happened during a dove-hunting outing. The shooter covered another hunter while swinging on a dove. Failure to check beyond the target, a deer, resulted in the second non-fatal accident.
When I write about having a safe and enjoyable hunting season, I always list the 10 commandments of firearms safety:
Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
Control the muzzle of your firearm. Keep the barrel pointed in a safe direction; never point a firearm at anything that you do not wish to shoot and insist that your shooting and hunting companions do the same.
Be sure of your target and beyond. Positively identify your target before you fire, and make sure there are no people, livestock, roads or buildings beyond the target.
Never shoot at water or a hard, flat surface. A ricocheting bullet cannot be controlled.
Don’t use a scope for target identification; use binoculars.
Never climb a tree, cross a fence or jump a ditch with a loaded firearm.
Store guns and ammunition separately. Store firearms under lock and key, and use a gun case to transport firearms.
Make sure your barrel and action are clear of all obstructions.
Unload firearms when not in use. Never take someone else’s word that a firearm is unloaded. Check yourself.
Avoid drugs and alcohol when hunting or shooting. Even some over-the-counter medicines can cause impairment.