Friday, November 30, 2012

Was another UFO spotted over Evergreen?

Bright light like this one seen over Evergreen.
If you saw something strange in the night sky over Evergreen Tuesday of last week, you weren’t alone.

As many as five witnesses claim to have seen something unusual in the sky north-northwest of Evergreen between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday of last week, according to reports received by The Courant since that night.

“I was outside burning leaves and stumps when I happened to look up, and I saw this ‘blinking star,’” one man told The Courant Wednesday of last week.

The witness, who asked that his name be withheld, went on to say that “I’ve seen stars twinkle, but this was different. It was blinking very bright and in different colors. As I watched it, I noticed it was slowly moving north.”

The man ran inside and got his wife, who came outside and saw the strange object as well.

“She got the binoculars and looked at it, and it was moving,” the man said. “It looked like it had three lights that changed from red, blue, green, yellow and bright white. I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t a star or helicopter. I don’t think it was a plane because we saw it for so long.”

While watching this strange light, the man sent text messages to his friends about it, and three of them also observed the unusual sight.

“I called my buddy and told him to look for it,” the man said. “He, his wife and a buddy of his watched it for 30 minutes.”

The man said that he first saw the object between 8:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and was able to observe it until around 9 p.m. when it passed out of sight behind trees in his yard in a southwest Evergreen neighborhood. In all, he and his wife watched the object for about 15 to 20 minutes, he said.

Through the binoculars, the object appeared circular, he said.

“And its edges were still blurry even through the binoculars,” he said. “And it never blinked completely off. It would just change from one color to another.”

The man also noted that the object moved very slowly across the sky and in a different direction than the stars.

“That’s why I don’t think it was a plane or anything,” he said. “It was moving too slow to be something like that.”

The report of this unexplained, blinking light comes just 44 days after the 39th anniversary of an Oct. 16, 1973 incident in which two Evergreen police officers and a dispatcher saw a UFO in the night sky over Cemetery Street in Evergreen. They also described what they saw as a “big, real unusual light” that was “a lot lower than the stars.” They were also able to see the unusual light for about 15 to 20 minutes, they said. Their story would garner national attention after it was reported by television stations in Montgomery.

Daily Weather Observations for Fri., Nov. 30, 2012

Temp: 47.8 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Partly cloudy; birds audible and visible; full moon visible in the west; security lights still on in the distance.

Winds: 0.0 mph (No wind)

Barometric Pressure: 29.82 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.25 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.8 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 64.15 inches

NOTES: Today is the 334th day of 2012 and the 70th day of Fall. There are 31 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE

Thursday, November 29, 2012

No finer book about early Antarctic expeditions than Turney's '1912'

This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest achievements in world exploration, the famous expeditions to the South Pole by Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott.

Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer, led the first expedition to the South Pole in December 1911, but it wasn’t announced to the world until March 7, 1912, when he finally made his was back to Tasmania.

Scott, a British explorer who was racing Amundsen to the pole, got there second on Jan. 17, 1912. On the way back to their camp on the Antarctic coast, Scott and his men succumbed to one of the harshest environments on earth, dying from the extreme cold, exhaustion and starvation.

In addition to the famous expeditions led by Amundsen and Scott, there were three lesser known expeditions to Antarctica in 1912 and no finer book has been written on the subject of these historic expeditions than “1912: The Year the World Discovered Antarctica” by Chris Turney.

Published in October by Counterpoint, this 320-page book discusses the historic expeditions made Amundsen and Scott and also describes the lesser-known expeditions to Antarctica by explorers from Japan, Germany and Australia. Wilhelm Filchner led the German expedition, and Douglas Mawson led the Australians. Nobu Shirase led the Japanese.

In 1912, Antarctica was a vast unexplored region of the world and little was known about its exact size and features. These early expeditions sought to explore this unknown spot on the globe and to collect scientific information about the continent. A lot of the information they gathered involved the weather, magnetism and animal life and was so important and valuable that scientists and researchers are still using it today.

Add to this that these early polar explorers and scientists were collecting this information in one of the harshest environments on the planet. Brutally cold temperatures, hurricane-strength winds, bottomless crevasses, poor equipment, inadequate food and other factors made their work especially dangerous and resulted in adventurous tales of amazing endurance and self-sacrifice. Many of them died.

Turney is uniquely qualified to tell this story. A gifted storyteller and writer, Turney is a geologist who lives in Sydney, Australia, where he works as a Professor of Climate Change at the University of New South Wales. He is a past recipient of the prestigious Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship, the Sir Nicholas Shackleton Medal, the Philip Leverhulme Prize and the Geological Society of London’s Bigsby Medal. He has been described as “the new David Livingstone.” Turney has also made expeditions to Antarctica. In fact, as of this writing he’s currently working on that frozen continent.

In the end, I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the history of exploration, scientific expeditions and tales of true-life adventure. If you’d like to buy a copy of the book for yourself or as a gift for someone else, you’ll find copies of it for sale online through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. For more information about the author, visit his official Web site at www.christurney.com.

Who do YOU think will be Auburn's next head football coach?

Anyone who watched Saturday’s Iron Bowl saw that there is a wide gap between the football programs at Alabama and Auburn.

Alabama won, 49-0, handing Auburn its worse Iron Bowl loss since 1948. The next day, Auburn fired head coach Gene Chizik, who led the Tigers to an 0-8 showing in conference play this season.

All of this just goes to show how fortunes swing up and down in the sports world. Just two years ago, Auburn was at the top of the college football world, having won the BCS national title with Chizik as head coach. In the “what have you done for me lately” world of college football, Auburn’s 2010 performance wasn’t enough to buy Chizik another year at the helm of Auburn’s football program.

As of Monday morning, Auburn had not announced the hiring of a new head coach, and it’ll be interesting to see who they hire to lead one of the most successful programs in the history of college football.

Lots of names have been tossed around. Will Auburn hire Bobby Petrino, who was fired at Arkansas earlier this year over what was arguably the biggest scandal in college football outside of Penn State? Will it be former Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer, who turned 62 in September? Will it be former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who, along with quarterback Cam Newton, was largely responsible for Auburn’s 2010 national title?

Only time will tell, and there’s a good chance that it will be none of the coaches mentioned above. Whoever Auburn hires, one thing is certain. Auburn needs to land a big name head coach, who’ll be able to compete with Nick Saban on the recruiting trail as well as on the playing field.

Alabama fans would also do well to take note of Saturday’s Iron Bowl and the fate of Gene Chizik. While it’s nice to be king of the mountain, it doesn’t take long for the mighty to fall. As hard as it would be to imagine, Alabama fans could be calling for Saban’s job two years from now given the right set of circumstances.

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This past Saturday wrapped up the 13th week of our local ESPN College Football Pick ‘Em Contest, and after Saturday’s slate of games, Johnny Davis remained atop the local standings. It’s close though. He’s only three points ahead of Hunter Norris and Jacob Ramer, who are tied for second place.

Sharon Peacock is in fourth place, and Jeremy Matheny is in fifth place. Aaron Albritton is in sixth place, and Travis Presley is in seventh place. I’m in eighth place, and Justin Jensen is in ninth place. Morgan Middleton cracked the Top 10 this week, finishing in the No. 10 spot.

This year’s contest is almost over. This Saturday’s slate of games will represent the final week of the contest, so by this time next week, we’ll know who has earned the title of this year’s “Mr. Football.” From the looks of things, it’ll most likely be Johnny Davis.

Sports Flashback from The Evergreen Courant for Nov. 29, 2012

13 YEARS AGO
NOV. 25, 1999

“Escaped convicts Kathy R. Jenkins of Mobile and Leslie M. Fillingim of Eight Mile pled guilty to the murder of former Evergreen resident Charles Kermit Branum Sr., Thursday, Nov. 18.
“Branum was a former basketball and football coach of Evergreen High School during 1968-1980. From there, he spent several years coaching the University of South Alabama Lady Jaguars. Branum was found dead in his home in Tillman’s Corner on Jan. 19, 1999.”

“Sparta Academy plays host to Cottage Hill: The Sparta Lady Warriors were the only team to come out on top when Cottage Hill came to Sparta Thurs., Nov. 18.
“Lady Warriors 41, Cottage Hill 29: Leading scorer for the Lady Warriors was Ashley Hammonds with 15 points. Also putting points on the board were Katie Etheridge with nine points and Mary Robinson with six points. Rounding out the scoring were Sally Hartley and Jessica Bennett with four points each. Jessica Armuelles two points and Laura Wiggins one point.
“Cottage Hill 72, Warriors 45: Scoring in double figures for the Warriors were Jake Adams and Lee Booker with 11 points each and Kyle Johnston with 10 points. Rounding out the scoring were Justin Tranum with four points, Tyler Petrey three points, Derek Faulkner, Derrick Williams and Jimmy Hyde with two points each.
“Cottage Hill 51, JV Warriors 20: Leading scorer for the JV Warriors was Chris Garner with 10 points. Also scoring for the JV Warriors were Wiley Cobb with seven points, Thomas Nielsen two points and Cole Commander one point.”

28 YEARS AGO
NOV. 29, 1984

“Mike Kline killed this fine turkey on Nov. 20. The turkey weighed 16-1/4 pounds and had a 10-3/4 inch beard and 1-1/2 inch spurs. Mike said it was his first turkey, and he killed the big bird while hunting deer.”

“Quarterback to honor ’84 Aggies: The Evergreen High School Quarterback Club will honor the 1984 Aggie Football Team at a football banquet. It will be held in the school cafeteria at 7:00 o’clock Saturday night, Dec. 8.
“Tickets are $2.50 per person and may be obtained at the EHS office or from any member of the Quarterback Club.”

From “The Colyum” by Bob Bozeman – “It’s ‘Iron Bowl’ time. Auburn and Alabama meet Saturday in Birmingham’s Legion Field. The late Coach Ralph ‘Shug’ Jordan is credited with labeling this season ending game as ‘The Iron Bowl.’
“It will be Alabama’s only ‘bowl game’ as a losing season doesn’t earn bowl bids.
“Auburn, favored Saturday, could play in the Sugar Bowl with a win Saturday. Even if they should be upset by Alabama, the Tigers will still go bowling.
“Alabama set a national record that will probably stand for a long time by appearing in post-season bowls for 25 straight years. Further, the Tide had not had a losing season since 1957.”

43 YEARS AGO
NOV. 27, 1969

“These Evergreen High Varsity cagers will play their first home game of the 69-70 season Friday night, Dec. 5, against Red Level. They are John Earl Skipper, Larry Tranum, John Law Robinson, Charles Strong, Warren Stallworth and Larry Peacock, Jimmy Lee Perryman, Sammy Brown, Bob Jones, Ronald Halford, Richard Wilson and Coach Charles Branum.”

“Atmore bounces Aggies 60-50 in season opener: The Atmore Blue Devils combined strong rebounding and a ‘multitude’ of trips to the free throw line to hand the Evergreen Aggies of Coach Charles Branum their first basketball loss of the 1969-70 season. The game originally scheduled to be played in Evergreen was played in Atmore due to an inoperative clock at the EHS gym.
“Senior John Earl Skipper led the Aggie scorers with 16 points. He was followed closely by play-making guard John Law Robinson and senior center Bob Jones with 13 and 10 points respectively. Senior forward Jimmy Lee Perryman hit for seven and Ronald Halford and Larry Tranum added two each to round out the Aggie scoring.
“Coach Branum stated that ‘the team hustled and played well and with a little more game experience will be a winning ball club.’ Other Aggies not in the scoring column were junior center Sammy Brown, sophomore forward Richard Wilson, senior forward Charles Strong, junior guard Larry Peacock and junior guard Warren Stallworth.
“In the preliminary game, the Atmore Bees stung the Aggie Bees with a 41-26 defeat. Freshman Johnny Andrews led the Aggies scorers with 13 points and Ronald Kervin pulled in 14 rebounds to shine a little light on the otherwise dismal evening for the Aggies.”

58 YEARS AGO
NOV. 25, 1954

“(Conecuh County Training School) Principal O.F. Frazier, along with the faculty, acknowledge with grateful appreciation the many services rendered by the alumni and interested persons toward making the homecoming parade an overwhelming success.
“The parade seemed to have served as a stimulant to the many Eagles fans. Crowds of eager persons filled Brooks Stadium to its capacity to witness the struggle between the Eagles and the Booker Washington eleven of Pensacola, Fla. However, the powerful Booker Washington eleven defeated the Eagles by a score of 27-12.”

“A fired up Georgiana football team took the Evergreen Aggies by complete surprise with an upset 14-13 victory to end the season for both teams in Georgiana last Friday night.
“Evergreen moved 79 yards for their first score in the initial quarter to go in front, 7-0. Ronnie Edson carried the final 10 yards for the score, and Frazier sneaked the extra point.
“(Shortly after a Georgiana touchdown in the third quarter) Evergreen came right back to score on a touchdown by Alexander from two yards out. The play was set up on a pass from Alexander to Eugene Hyde who was downed at the Georgiana two after the play covered 49 yards. Frazier failed to make the point and that was the end of the scoring for the night.”

73 YEARS AGO
NOV. 30, 1939

“(Repton) practice basketball game in Excel on Wednesday night between Repton and Excel teams resulted in victory for Repton.”

Daily Weather Observations for Thurs., Nov. 29, 2012

Temp: 37.4 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.05 inches

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Foggy, visibility less than half a mile; birds audible and visible; dogs and cows audible; frost on the ground; full moon visible down in the west.

Winds: 0.0 mph (No wind)

Barometric Pressure: 29.88 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.25 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.8 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 64.15 inches

NOTES: Today is the 333rd day of 2012 and the 69th day of Fall. There are 32 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

This week's movie picks are 'The Collection' and 'Men In Black 3'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as a list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going on this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this week include:

- California Solo (Drama): Directed by Marshall Lewy and starring Robert Carlyle, Alexia Rasmussen, Danny Masterson, Michael Des Barres and William Russ.

- The Collection (R, Horror): Directed by Marcus Dunstan and starring Emma Fitzpatrick, Josh Stewart and Christopher McDonald.

- Dragon (R, Action): Directed by Peter Chan and starring Kara Hui, Wu Jiang, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Yu Kang and Xiao Ran Li.

- Hecho En Mexico (Documentary, R): Directed by Duncan Bridgeman and starring Adanowsky, Ruben Albarran, Amandititita, Venado Azul and Don Cheto.

- Killing Them Softly (Crime, Action, R): Directed by Andrew Dominik and starring Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Richard Jenkins and Ray Liotta.

- Silent Night (Horror, R): Directed by Steven C. Miller and starring Jaime King, Malcolm McDowell, Ellen Wong, Brendan Fehr and Lisa Marie.

- Universal Solider: Day of Reckoning (Action, Science Fiction, R): Directed by John Hyams and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins, Kristopher Van Varenberg and James Rawlings.

New DVD releases for the week of Nov. 27 include:

- The Apparition (Suspense, PG-13): Directed by Todd Lincoln and starring Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan, Tom Felton, Suzanne Ford and Julianna Guill.

- Cartel War (Action, R): Directed by Jack Lucarelli and starring Jack Lucarelli, Mercedes Brito, Roberto Sanchez, Sandra Luesse and Dwight Hicks.

- The Day (Science Fiction, Drama, R): Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski and starring Shawn Ashmore, Ashley Bell, Michael Eklund, Cory Hardrict and Dominic Monaghan.

- The Greatest Miracle (Family, Special Interest, PG): Directed by Bruce Morris.

- Lawless (Crime, Drama, R): Directed by John Hillcoat and starring Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman and Guy Pearce.

- Men In Black 3 (Comedy, Science Fiction, PG-13): Directed by Barry Sonnenfield and starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson and Alice Eve.

- ParaNorman (Comedy, Suspense, PG): Directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler and starring the voices of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Casey Affleck, Tempestt Bledsoe, Jeff Garlin and John Goodman.

- Sparkle (Drama, Musical, PG-13): Directed by Salim Akil and starring Jordin Sparks, Whitney Houston, Tika Sumpter, Carmen Ejogo and Derek Luke.

- Step Up: Revolution (Drama, Romance, PG-13): Directed by Scott Speer and starring Kathryn McCormick, Ryan Guzman, Stephen Boss, Chadd Smith and Megan Boone.

- 12 Christmas Wishes for My Dog (Family, Comedy, G): Directed by Peter Sullivan and starring Elisa Donovan, Gabrielle Carteris, Fred Willard, David O’Donnell and Sarah Thompson.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “The Collection,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Men In Black 3.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Wed., Nov. 28, 2012

Temp: 44.1 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.2 inches

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast; birds audible; security lights still on in the distance.

Winds: 4.4 mph out of the North.

Barometric Pressure: 29.89 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.2 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.75 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 64.1 inches

NOTES: Today is the 332nd day of 2012 and the 68th day of Fall. There are 33 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

National Outdoor Book Awards winners announced

The National Outdoor Book Awards Foundation, Idaho State University and the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education recently announced the winners of this year’s National Outdoor Book Awards.

A total of 15 books were named either winners or honorable mentions in 10 categories, including Outdoor Literature, Natural History Literature, History/Biography, Design & Artistic Merit, Children’s, Nature and the Environment, Instructional/How-to and Outdoor Adventure Guidebooks and Nature Guidebooks.

Winners of the National Outdoor Book Awards over the years have represented some of the absolute best in outdoor writing, artwork and photography. If you enjoy reading about the outdoors, you probably will not be disappointed by any of the books on this list.

Without further ado, here are the winners of the 2012 National Outdoor Book Awards:

- Outdoor Literature – “Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail” by Suzanne Roberts

- Outdoor Literature – “The Ledge: An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mount Rainier” by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughan

- Natural History Literature – “The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature” by David George Haskell

- History/Biography – “Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Sky” by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan

- History/Biography – “Anything Worth Doing: A True Story of Friendship and Tragedy on the Last of the West’s Great Rivers” by Jo Deurbrouck

- Design and Artistic Merit – “Beneath the Cold Seas: The Underwater Wilderness of the Pacific Northwest” by David Hall

- Children’s – “For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson” by Peggy Thomas and illustrated by Laura Jacques

- Nature and the Environment – “The Melting Edge: Alaska at the Frontier of Climate Change” by Michael Collier

- Instructional/How-to – “AMC Guide to Digital Photography: Creating Great Nature and Adventure Photos” by Jerry Monkman

- Instructional/How-to – “Backpacker Magazine’s Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair: Step by Step Techniques to Maximize Performance and Save Money” by Kristin Hostetter

- Outdoor Adventure Guidebooks – “Grand Canyoneering: Exploring the Rugged Gorges and Secret Slots of the Grand Canyon” by Todd Martin

- Nature Guidebooks – “A Field Guide to the Southeast Coast & Gulf of Mexico” by Noble S. Proctor and Patrick J. Lynch

Honorable mention winners included:

- Outdoor Literature – “Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks” by Michael Lanza

- Nature and the Environment – “Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast: A Natural History” by Carol Gracie

- Nature and the Environment – “Polar Bears: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior” by Andrew E. Derocher with photographs by Wayne Lynch

Complete reviews of these books, as well as the list of past winners, may be found at the National Outdoor Book Award’s Web site at www.noba-web.org.

In the end, let me know if any of you have had a chance to read any of the above books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Tues., Nov. 27, 2012

Temp: 59.2 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 84 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast; birds audible; security lights still on in the distance; spider in rain gauge.

Winds: 0.0 mph (No wind)

Barometric Pressure: 29.63 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.55 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 63.9 inches

NOTES: Today is the 331st day of 2012 and the 67th day of Fall. There are 34 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE

Monday, November 26, 2012

BUCKET LIST UPDATE - double-barreled shotguns, Camden hiking and football

Last week was an eventful week in regard to my bucket list. Over the Thanksgiving holidays, I managed to scratch three more items off of my 2012 bucket list.

Last Thursday, I shot my great-grandfather’s old double-barreled shotgun for the first time. On Friday, my brother-in-law and I hiked the trails at Roland Cooper State Park in Camden and on Saturday I watched the “Iron Bowl” from the press box at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. What follows are a few more details about all three of those experiences.

BUCKET LIST ITEM No. 525: Shoot my great-grandfather’s old double-barreled shotgun

My great-grandfather Sidney Stacey died when I was a small boy and at that time I was his only great-grandchild. He was a lifelong hunter and outdoorsman, and he left his old double-barreled shotgun to me. For most of my life this gun has sat in a closet, unused, and I’d never even fired it until last Thursday.

The shotgun is a 12-guage, side-by-side model manufactured by the Central Arms Co. of St. Louis, Mo. From what I gather, shotguns like this were commonly sold in catalogs and in small town hardware stores across the country. I don’t know how old my shotgun is, but it is stamped with a 1915 patent designation, which indicates that at the most, it’s not yet 100 years old.

This particular shotgun sat in my father’s closet until I moved out on my own, and it had an ominous reputation. My father claimed to have shot it only once years ago and when he accidentally pulled both triggers at once, it bloodied his nose. My brothers had also both shot it and had similar stories to tell about the shotgun’s stout recoil.

I mentioned to my brother John a few weeks ago that I’d never fired the gun and that I might try to shoot it for the first time over the Thanksgiving holidays. John offered to bring a skeet trap to my grandmother’s house, where we planned to have a family get-together for Thanksgiving. He and my cousin Jamie Lowe also supplied boxes of clay skeet for the trap, and almost every male in the family old enough to drive showed up with a shotgun (some with more than one).

In all, I fired 25 shells through the old shotgun, and to me, the gun didn’t kick any harder than any other shotgun I’ve ever fired, even when I pulled both triggers at once. I realize that this has a lot to do with the type shells I was shooting on Thursday, which was a $5.97 box of shells that I bought at the Monroeville Wal-Mart the day before. For the record, I was shooting 2-3/4 inch, 7-1/2 shot Winchester Super Speed XTRA game loads, which have a velocity of 1,350-feet per second.

My young son was most impressed with the skeet shooting last Thursday, and I look forward to the day when I can pass on this old shotgun to him. I like the thought of the gun getting passed down to future generations, and I can only imagine it ending up in the hands of some future Peacock that I’ll never even meet.

No. 485: Hike the trails at Roland Cooper State Park in Camden

On Friday morning, my brother-in-law, Dr. Kenny Day of Athens, and I drove up to Roland Cooper State Park in Camden and hiked the trails there. I’ve wanted to do this ever since I read about them in Joe Cuhaj’s excellent 2007 book, “Hiking Alabama: A Guide to Alabama’s Greatest Hiking Adventures” (3rd Edition).

Roland Cooper State Park is located along the banks of the 22,000-acre William “Bill” Danelly Reservoir, which is formed by a dam on the Alabama River, south of Selma. This reservoir is also commonly referred to as Miller’s Ferry. The park itself consists of 236 acres and includes a nine-hole golf course. In all, the park has two hiking trails – the Chipmunk Trail and the Lakeside Trail – and they’re about two miles long altogether.

We tackled the Chipmunk Trail first because it was closest to where we parked. Even though it was the Friday after Thanksgiving, there were still a fair number of people at the park. In fact, while on the Chipmunk Trail we encountered an older gentleman riding a bike along the trail.

That trail put us out near the clubhouse at the golf course, and we dropped in for directions to the Lakeside Trail’s trailhead. The nice lady inside gave us a map and told us how to get to the trailhead. She also mentioned that the Lakeside Trail isn’t maintained by the park staff any more, but we were welcome to give it a go if we wanted.

We left the clubhouse, where there were already a few early morning golfers on hand, and found the trailhead after a short walk. Like the lady said, this trail isn’t as maintained as the Chipmunk Trail, but it wasn’t impassable. The best thing about it was that it offers hikers a very nice view of the reservoir.

One thing that Kenny and I asked ourselves on the way out of the park was – “Who was Roland Cooper?” According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, the park was named after William Roland Cooper, a politician from Camden who served in the Alabama State Senate. The Danelly Reservoir was named after a former Wilcox County probate judge.

Kenny and I enjoyed our short trip to Roland Cooper. It was easy to get to, the weather was great, and we made it home in time to enjoy a post-Thanksgiving Day lunch with our families.

No. 593: Watch an Iron Bowl from the press box at Bryant-Denny Stadium

In the state of Alabama, there is no bigger sporting event than the annual Iron Bowl, which features the biggest rivalry in all of college football – Alabama vs. Auburn. Saturday’s game, which was played in Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, was the 77th Iron Bowl. Alabama, ranked No. 2 in the nation, went on to win, 49-0, giving Alabama their second-biggest win ever over the Tigers. Alabama now leads the all-time series 42-34-1.

I’ve been to more than a few Iron Bowls. I’ve watched them from the stands as a fan and as a student, and I’ve also shot a number of them as a sideline photographer. This past Saturday though marked the first time that I’d ever gotten a press box pass for an Iron Bowl, and it was a new, fun experience seeing the game from arguably the best seats in the house.

This was kind of a big deal for me because, growing up, I never thought I’d ever see an Iron Bowl anywhere else but on TV. As a youngster growing up in rural Southwest Alabama, my perception was that getting to go to something like go to the Alabama-Auburn game in person was something that rich, important people got to do, certainly not someone like me from Frisco City. Hell, as best as I can remember, I was out of high school the first time that I ever set foot in Tuscaloosa.

In the interest of full disclosure, Saturday wasn’t the first time I’d ever set foot in the press box at Bryant-Denny. When you get a sideline pass as a photographer, you are allowed to go up to take advantage of the food they have set out in the hospitality area, which is right behind the press box seats. I’d been up there looking around a few times in the past, but had never watched an entire game from up there.

Saturday was also the first time I’d been up there since the completion of recent renovations to the stadium. To say that it was nice would be an understatement. There were also a fair number of “celebrities” up there on Saturday, including Alabama’s governor, sports radio personality Paul Finebaum, broadcasters Gary Danielson and Verne Lundquist and radioman Eli Gold, aka, “The Voice of the Crimson Tide.”

The seats in the press box are arranged in three tiers, and your seat is assigned according to who you work for. My seat was in the middle section – Row B, Seat 15 – which put me between reporters from the Northport Gazette and the Wetumpka Herald. Dozens of other newspapers, television and radio stations were represented in the press box as well, and it was interesting to see how they operated during the game.

Another interesting note about Saturday’s game was that it was the last for Gene Chizik as Auburn’s head coach. The following day, on Sunday, Auburn fired Chizik, who lead the Tigers to a 3-9 record this season, including an 0-8 showing in conference play. This year’s performance by Auburn was somewhat surprising. They usually field a competitive team, and they won the BCS national title just two years ago.

Special thanks to the Alabama Press Association, which provided our newspaper with a press box pass to Saturday’s game and to my publisher Robert Bozeman, who allowed me to use the pass. Robert could have used the pass himself, but he let me go instead, which was mighty nice of him.

In the end, I enjoyed scratching three more items off my bucket list. How many of you out there have any interesting shotgun or Iron Bowl stories to tell? How many of you have hiked the trails at Roland Cooper State Park? What did you think about them? Let us know in the comments section below.

News Flashback from The Evergreen Courant for Nov. 26, 2012

13 YEARS AGO
NOV. 25, 1999

“The annual Miss Merry Christmas pageant was held Sat., Nov. 20, at Reid State. The winners were Maegan Jenkins, second runner-up; Jennifer Garrett, Miss Merry Christmas; and Kristie Faulkner, first runner-up.”

“Twin sisters celebrate 80th birthday together: Twins Maxine H. Daniels and Ernestine H. Dunn turned 80 years old on Thurs., Nov. 18, 1999.
“Both reside in Lyeffion community and are active members in the Bowles Assembly of God Church.”

“One hundred fifth grade students, teachers and parents from Robert E. Lee Elementary School from Mobile spent the day Friday at Booker’s Mill for their Fall field trip.”

“Army Pvt. Brian O. Coker has arrived at Fort Knox, Ky. to complete basic training.”

“John Lancaster and his son Steve Lancaster were busy Monday smoking turkeys for the second annual Thanksgiving in Conecuh. The turkeys will be enjoyed by many families in need in Conecuh County on Thanksgiving Day.”

“Heritage Book Deadline Extended: Heritage Publishing Consultants, Inc. has announced that the Heritage of Conecuh County, Alabama deadline has been extended to March 31. Each household is entitled to 500 words and one picture free. This includes those households in Conecuh County or those who have roots in Conecuh County.”

28 YEARS AGO
NOV. 29, 1984

“Earl Windham reports .11 of an inch of rain on Nov. 19.”

“Police Report: On Nov. 26, an unknown subject broke into radio station WEGN and stole all of their FM equipment.”

“Christmas Parade draws large crowd: The weather was perfect for our Christmas parade (Sat., Nov. 24, and we had some beautiful floats this year. The winners were: Farm Bureau’s ‘Visions of Sugar Plums’ – first place; NAACP Youth’s ‘Night Before Christmas’ – second place; and Alabama Forestry Commission – third place. The Marshall Middle School cheerleaders won best car with their ‘Ghost Busters’ theme.
“Judges for the parade were Judge Sue Bell Evans, Mrs. Alice Presley and Mr. Joe Gordy.”

“Mrs. Bettie McMillan, wife of Robert McMillan, Rt. 2, Evergreen is the proud winner of this 1985 LXIII Ford Mustang. Mrs. McMillan is employed at the Lady Arrow Co. on Pecan Street. The Continental Lottery Co. informed her that she won the car about three months ago, but she had to wait until the 1985 model was available. Mrs. McMillan said this is the first thing she has ever won and ‘I’m really happy.’”

“Kiwanian John Bewley welcomed Judge of Probate Frank T. Salter to Tuesday’s meeting of the Evergreen Kiwanis Club. The judge talked to the club on the duties of his office.”

43 YEARS AGO
NOV. 27, 1969

“Evergreen Safety Director Tom P. Melton and Resident State Engineer Ben Kilpatrick announce today that a ‘4-way’ stop has been made at the intersection of Cooper and Martin streets.
“This step was deemed necessary due to the conflict in giving the right-of-way to Highway 83 which turns from Martin into Cooper at this point. Residents are asked to obey this and other traffic signals.”

“Ceylon (Strong) received his Ph.D. Degree in Geology fro the University of Washington in Seattle, Wash. during the past summer and has accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Geology in Mt. Union College in Alliance, Ohio.
“He was graduated from Evergreen High School in 1960 as valedictorian of his class. Then followed four years of splendid academic work at the University of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, where he graduated in 1964.”

“Flxible Southern Co. began moving materials into their No. 2 plant on Rural Street, vacated by Clarke Equipment Co. on Tuesday. Emmett Dale, manager of the Recreation Products Division of the company, said that he hoped the plant could be set up in a week to 10 days and production get underway by the third week of December.”

“The administrative headquarters of the Soil Conservation Service for the 10 southwest Alabama counties (known as the area SCS office for Area No. 6), moved from Evergreen to Grove Hill, Ala. on Nov. 3. This office has been headquartered in the basement of the Evergreen post office building for several years.”

58 YEARS AGO
NOV. 25, 1954

“Discharge of firearms on Sunday is unlawful: Conecuh County Sheriff John Brock this week sternly warned hunters and anyone else using firearms on Sunday that it is unlawful and violators will be prosecuted.
“Sheriff Brock told The Courant that repeated violations of this law have forced him and his deputies to take drastic action. ‘This is a state law and must be enforced,’ said Sheriff Brock. ‘Not only is it against the law to hunt on Sunday, but it is against the law to discharge a firearm of any type on Sunday,’ he concluded.”

“Castleberry Sergeant Assigned to Formosa: Sergeant Willie Garrett of Castleberry has been assigned for duty to the U.S. Army forces in Formosa. He is now home on leave, and will depart for the west coast about Dec. 1.
“During the early months of the Korean War Sgt. Garrett was in Pusan, Korea at the Ordinance Base Depot. He was in Korea for a total of 18 months and had just come from a tour of duty at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.”

“Alabama’s 1955 Maid of Cotton, lovely Hilda Smith of Bessemer, Ala., shown above at the Evergreen Community House, was a visitor to Evergreen last week. She was a guest of honor at a silver tea given by the Helen Keller Club at the Community House on Tuesday afternoon and was honored by the Kiwanis Club at their Ladies Night Banquet Tuesday night. Miss Smith will represent the state of Alabama in the National Cotton Maid Contest in Memphis, Tenn.”

73 YEARS AGO
NOV. 30, 1939

“Ex-Governor Miller Is Recovering From Illness: Camden, Ala., Nov. 28 – B.M. Miller, 75-year-old former Governor of Alabama, was slightly improved today, according to attending physicians. Miller has been confined to his bed since last Friday, and at first it was feared he had suffered a paralysis stroke, but doctors said his illness was due to a ‘toxic condition’ and indicated he would be up soon.”

“Two carloads of hogs were sold here Tuesday at the cooperative sale with number ones selling at 4.75, 25 points above Montgomery market for the same day. Lykes Brothers, Inc. of Tampa, Fla., were the successful bidders.
“A total of 147 head of hogs weighing an aggregate of 21,835 pounds were sold for $890.94.
“The next sale will be held Dec. 12 and another one of Dec. 19.”

“At a meeting of the mayor and city council held this week authority was given J.L. Kelly, city attorney to proceed with attorneys from a number of other South Alabama towns in opposing the proposed establishment of the South Alabama Power Authority which was authorized by the Alabama Public Service Commission last week on the petition of the City of Andalusia.”

“Announcement was made during the past week that J.L. Kelly, local attorney was scheduled for appointment as supervisor of the Second District in taking of the 1940 census. Mr. Kelly is arranging to open an office in Montgomery next week and it is expected that he will be there until about July 1, 1940 or until the work of taking the census is completed.”

Daily Weather Observations for Mon., Nov. 26, 2012

Temp: 39.6 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 85 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Clear skies; birds audible; light frost on the ground and roof.

Winds: 0.0 mph (No wind)

Barometric Pressure: 29.72 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.55 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 63.9 inches

NOTES: Today is the 330th day of 2012 and the 66th day of Fall. There are 35 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Daily Weather Observations for Sun., Nov. 25, 2012

Temp: 32.5 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 77 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Clear skies; birds audible and visible; light frost on the ground and vehicle windshields iced over.

Winds: 0.0 mph (No wind)

Barometric Pressure: 29.74 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.55 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 63.9 inches

NOTES: Today is the 329th day of 2012 and the 65th day of Fall. There are 36 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Posthumous Michael Crichton novel reappears on best-sellers list

Today is Sunday, so that means that it’s time for my weekly breakdown of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Seller List. According to the list, there are three new books at the top of the four major best-sellers lists this week.

"The Last Man: A Novel" by Vince Flynn replaced "The Racketeer" by John Grisham as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list.

"Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly replaced "Barefoot Contessa Foolproof" by Ina Garten as the top book on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

"Jack Reacher: One Shot: A Novel" by Lee Child replaced "Hotel Vendome" by Danielle Steel as the top book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list.

"The Perfect Hope" by Nora Roberts remained the No. 1 book on the trade paperbacks best-sellers list for the second straight week.

There are four books on this week’s hardcover fiction best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They (along with their place on the list) include "The Last Man: A Novel" by Vince Flynn (1), "Merry Christmas, Alex Cross" by James Patterson (2), "Sweet Tooth: A Novel" by Ian McEwan (8) and "Cross Roads" by Wm. Paul Young (11).

There are five books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power" by Jon Meachum (3), "How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed" by Ray Kurzwell (6), "My Year in Meals" by Rachel Ray (7), "Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (8) and "The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage" by Greg Gutfeld (13).

There are two books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "The Prince of Ravenscar" by Catherine Coulter (14) and "Micro: A Novel" by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston (15).

There are two books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Custom Nation: Why Customization Is the Future of Business and How to Profit From It" by Anthony Flynn and Emily Flynn Vencat (12) and "The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that Holds the Secret of America's Future" by Jonathan Cahn (15).

As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. These lists are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com. Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists.

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "The Last Man: A Novel" by Vince Flynn
2. "Merry Christmas, Alex Cross" by James Patterson
3. "The Racketeer" by John Grisham
4. "Poseidon's Arrow" by Clive Cussler
5. "Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver
6. "The Casual Vacancy" by J.K. Rowling
7. "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn
8. "Sweet Tooth: A Novel" by Ian McEwan
9. "The Panther" by Nelson DeMille
10. "The Sins of the Mother" by Danielle Steel
11. "Cross Roads" by Wm. Paul Young
12. "Winter of the World" by Ken Follett
13. "The Bone Bed" by Patricia Cornwell
14. "A Winter Dream" by Richard Paul Evans
15. "The Time Keeper" by Mitch Albom

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly
2. "Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust" by Ina Garten
3. "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power" by Jon Meachum
4. "Guinness World Records 2013" by Guinness World Records
5. "No Easy Day" by Mark Owen
6. "How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed" by Ray Kurzwell
7. "My Year in Meals" by Rachel Ray
8. "Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
9. "I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak" by Joel Osteen
10. "The Signal and the Noise" by Nate Silver
11. "The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook" by Deb Perelman
12. "The Last Lion" by William Manchester
13. "The Joy of Hate" by Greg Gutfeld
14. "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" by Geoff Tibballs
15. "America Again" by Stephen Colbert

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "Jack Reacher: One Shot: A Novel" by Lee Child
2. "Hotel Vendome" by Danielle Steel
3. "V Is for Vengeance" by Sue Grafton
4. "Devil's Gate" by Clive Cussler
5. "Down the Darkest Road" by Tami Hoag
6. "1225 Christmas Tree Lane" by Debbie Macomber
7. "The Drop" by Michael Connelly
8. "My Kind of Christmas" by Robyn Carr
9. "A Winter Wonderland" by Fern Michaels
10. "A Lawman's Christmas" by Linda Lael Miller
11. "Robert Ludlum's The Janson Command" by Paul Garrison
12. "First Impressions" by Nora Roberts
13. "The Litigators" by John Grisham
14. "The Prince of Ravenscar" by Catherine Coulter
15. "Micro: A Novel" by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "The Perfect Hope" by Nora Roberts
2. "Proof of Heaven" by Eben Alexander
3. "Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James
4. "Reflected in You" by Sylvia Day
5. "Fifty Shades Freed" by E.L. James
6. "Fifty Shades Darker" by E.L. James
7. "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel
8. "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin
9. "Lone Wolf" by Jodi Picoult
10. "The Innocent" by David Baldacci
11. "Bared to You" by Sylvia Day
12. "Custom Nation" by Anthony Flynn and Emily Flynn Vencat
13. "To Heaven and Back" by Mary C. Neal
14. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky
15. "The Harbinger" by Jonathan Cahn

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Alabama WWII combat veteran and military author passes away

Richardson, right, receives award.
I learned Thursday morning that 86-year-old World War II combat veteran and military author Stan Richardson passed away just before midnight on Wednesday at Russell Medical Center.

Funeral services for Richardson, who lived in Alexander City, will be held tomorrow (Sunday) at 3 p.m. at Radney Funeral Home in Alexander City. Burial will follow in the Hillview Memorial Park with military honors to be provided by the Alexander City Veterans Honor Guard.

His complete obituary reads as follows:

“Richardson passed away on Wed., Nov. 21, 2012 at Russell Medical Center. He was born on Dec. 2, 1925 in Middlesex City, Massachusetts to Floyd Peter Richardson and Melba Bernice Olson Heaver. He was a member of New Site United Methodist Church. Mr. Richardson worked for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He was also a member of the VFW and authored the book “Growing up in a Fox Hole”. Richardson enjoyed trivia and history, especially war related and loved eating chocolate, telling jokes, and always having fun and smiling. He was an avid New England Patriots fan and loved his family dearly.

“He is survived by his wife of 27 years, Clara 'Chat' Mae East Richardson of Alexander City; daughter, Diane Bishop of Ayer, Mass.; sons, Bruce Richardson and Harry Stephens both of Framingham, Mass. and Randy Voss (Nan) and Lynn Voss (Wendy) all of Alexander City; three grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and six great-great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents and son, George Stephens.

“The family will accept flowers or memorial contributions may be given to United Cerebral Palsy of Mobile, 3058 Dauphin Square Connector, Mobile, AL, 36607 and www.ucpmobile.org, or the New Site United Methodist Church, 108 Church Street, New Site, AL 36256.”

One of the things that Richardson was most proud of took place in September when the nation of France bestowed him with the National Order of the Legion of Honor. He received the honor for his WWII service in France as a 19-year-old private first class in the Army’s 3rd Battalion, 180th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. In all, he spent nine months in France during the war and was wounded in action. He received the National Order of the Legion of Honor on Sept. 27 during a ceremony in Atlanta.

I came to know Richardson in 2005, when he published one of the best personal accounts of WWII that I’ve ever read, a book titled “Growing Up in a Foxhole, 1944-1946: A Foot Soldier Looks Back.” I was working at the newspaper in Monroeville at the time, and we heard about Richardson’s book through the grapevine. I eventually got my hands on a copy, read it from cover to cover and reviewed the book for the paper. Richardson and I began to correspond with each other over his book, and we went on to e-mail each other regularly for a number of years.

In 2011, I finally got to meet him person when he and his wife passed through Evergreen, headed south on I-65. We all met up at the McDonald’s at Exit 96 for a cup of coffee. I enjoyed finally getting to meet Stan and his wife, and we would all meet up again later when they passed through Evergreen earlier this year.

For those of you who haven’t had a chance to read Richardson’s book, I highly recommend it, especially to veterans and individuals interested in first hand accounts of World War II. The back of his book sums up it up nicely:

“From harrowing to hilarious, Richardson’s account takes you through the rigors and ribaldry of basic training to the battlegrounds where one day you’re hiding behind a tree, holding your breath, to avoid some German soldiers close by, and the next day you’re rounding up K-rations to give to hungry German children rummaging through the garbage bins.

"You’ll experience with him (Richardson) those painful moments when he saw his buddies killed before his eyes, and you’ll feel the poignancy of a bunch of GIs singing ‘Lili Marlene’ along with German soldiers across the Saar River at the end of the fighting. All in all, ‘Growing Up in a Foxhole’ is a darned good read from one darned good solider reliving World War II.”

Richardson’s book is dedicated to “all the veterans who fought on the front lines in WWII and especially to those who gave up their lives so that we could live free.”

If you’d like to read or own a copy of “Growing Up in a Foxhole,” you can purchase copies of the book online. They are available through both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. I assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

In the end, I know that Stan will be sorely missed by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him. He was truly a member of the “Greatest Generation.”

Daily Weather Observations for Sat., Nov. 24, 2012

Temp: 40.5 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 78 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Clear skies with a few thin trace clouds in the East; birds, dogs and cows audible.

Winds: 3.3 mph out of the West-Northwest.

Barometric Pressure: 29.78 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.55 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 63.9 inches

NOTES: Today is the 328th day of 2012 and the 64th day of Fall. There are 37 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Is 'Seven Pillars' the greatest military adventure book of all time?

I finished reading a really good adventure book the other day, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” by T.E. Lawrence, who was also known as “Lawrence of Arabia.”

Originally published in 1922, this book has been called the “greatest military adventure story of modern times.” The book is mainly Lawrence’s account of his experiences as a liaison officer between the British army and rebel fighters during the Arab Revolt during World War I. The book is based on extensive notes that Lawrence maintained during his service in Arabia.

I’ve wanted to read this book ever since it appeared on National Geographic’s list of “100 Best Adventure Books.” It was ranked No. 24 on that list, which was released in May 2004. Over the past eight years, I’ve read a number of the books on this list, and I’ve yet to be disappointed by any of them.

You’ll also find “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” on the United States Marine Corps Professional Reading List, and it is especially recommended to master sergeants and first sergeants in that branch of service. Given America’s ongoing involvement in conflicts in the Middle East, I can see where “Seven Pillars” would be of especial value to American service members in that part of the world. If for no other reason, Lawrence gives them a good example of a smart solider who balanced his obligations to his own country against the wants and needs of the native people he encountered.

“Seven Pillars” will also be found on “The 100 Greatest Non-fiction Books” list, which was compiled by the editors of guardian.co.uk, one of the world’s top online newspapers. That list was divided into 17 categories, and “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” was included in the “Memoir” category. “Seven Pillars” is arguably the greatest adventure book on this outstanding list as well.

Many of you will be familiar with many of the events in “Seven Pillars” because of the famous movie based on Lawrence’s adventures, 1962’s “Lawrence of Arabia.” Starring Peter O’Toole as Lawrence, this epic film was named “Best Picture” at the 35th Academy Awards and won six other Oscars. If you’ve never seen this movie, I highly recommend it. It’s not an understatement to say that it’s one of the greatest movies ever made.

I’d actually seen the movie a few times prior to having read the book, but that didn’t ruin it for me, as movies will sometimes do for a book. I do have to admit though that the edition I read – a 1962 Dell paperback edition – was somewhat hard to read. The book was printed in small type with a high word count on each page, which made for slow going. Despite the time that it took me to finish the book, I loved it, and highly recommend it to anyone out there who enjoys reading great adventure stories.

In the end, how many of you have had a chance to read this outstanding book? What did you think about it? Did you like it or not? What was your favorite part? Why? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Fri., Nov. 23, 2012

Temp: 48.9 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 80 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Partly cloudy; birds audible and visible.

Winds: 0.0 mph (No wind)

Barometric Pressure: 29.76 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.55 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 63.9 inches

NOTES: Today is the 327th day of 2012 and the 63rd day of Fall. There are 38 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Unexplained 'mystery booms' began one year ago this week

This past Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the start of one of the most unusual series of events to hit Southwest Alabama in recent memory – the unexplained “mystery booms” of 2011-2012.

At 11:33 p.m. on Fri., Nov. 18, 2011, an extremely loud booming noise was heard over a wide area in western Conecuh County and eastern Monroe County. That “boom” was heard by witnesses from Repton to Monroeville and as far south as the small communities of Goodway and Wildfork in Monroe County.

Margie Peacock of Repton was among one of the first people to say she heard the sound.

“I heard it too,” she said. “All the way over here on Highway 41 in Repton. It wasn’t a sonic boom, sounded more like an explosion.”

Peacock noted that the she believed the sound came from somewhere southwest of Repton.

Michael Brooks of Monroeville said that he heard it when he went outside to check his boat batteries. After hearing the sound, he went inside and turned on his police scanner, but never heard anything about it on his radio. He noted that he thought that he heard a similar sound maybe 20 minutes later.

Monroe Journal reporter Josh Dewberry, who lives in the Wildfork community near Excel, said that he also heard the strange sound and another man, who lives further south in the Goodway community, said that the noise was so loud that he heard it while he was taking a shower.

In a news story in the Dec. 1, 2011 edition of The Monroe Journal newspaper in Monroeville, Dewberry reported that another unexplained explosion occurred on Sat., Nov. 26, at 6 p.m. Witnesses said that it was not as loud as the Nov. 18 explosion.

Later, Stephen Riley, who lives between Evergreen and Lyeffion, reported to The Courant that he heard “two different booms” just before 9 p.m. on Fri., Jan. 6. The noises sounded “like thunder, except there was nothing on radar,” Riley said, noting that the noises seemed to come from the direction of Evergreen.

Riley wasn’t alone in hearing the unexplained noises that night as witness reports flooded in from a number of distant communities, including Repton, Belleville, Lenox, Monroeville, Excel, Halls Crossroads, Frisco City, Sugar Hill and Goodway Junction. The distance from Lyeffion to Goodway Junction, which is between Frisco City and Uriah, is 37-1/2 miles as the crow flies.

Jessica Ozgowicz, who lives in the Excel area, said that the sound “just kind of traveled down one side of my house and was almost like the house settling or some sort of pressure was pushing it.”

Carlton Waters, a former Evergreen mail carrier, said that he was at his sister’s house between Repton and Belleville, when he heard the noise around 8:30 p.m.

“I heard it and thought it was thunder,” Waters said. “I took out my phone to check the weather and there was nothing out there.”

Retired state fire marshal Ken Smith “heard something here” in Monroeville about that same time, but he wasn’t sure what it was, he said. He noted that he didn’t hear any police dispatch traffic about the incident.

Shawn and Jen Partin, who live between Excel and Repton, said that they were outside between 8:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. and heard it. She described the sound as “weird,” noting that it sounded similar to thunder.

Amy Ikner, who also lives in the Excel area, said that the noise occurred “exactly” at 8:30 p.m. because she was texting a friend when she and her husband heard it from inside their home. “He (her husband) went outside to see what it was,” she said.

Repton’s Margie Peacock said that she heard it too and wondered at first if it might be thunder. She thought “the rain was coming in sooner than forecast,” she said. “It was pretty loud too. This time, it sounded like it came from towards Evergreen, which would be northeast of me.”

Former Courant reporter Julie Adams and April Brooks of Monroeville were among those who said they heard similar “booms” earlier that week. Gloria Cole of Excel said that the booms had “been going on since summertime,” saying that she remembers hearing other people talk about the phenomenon.

In mid-January, another round of “mystery booms” were reported in Conecuh, Monroe and Clarke counties. Several witnesses, including Courant employee Kristie Garner, reported hearing an extremely loud, unexplained “boom” on Thurs., Jan. 19, 2012 around 7 p.m.

“It seemed like three separate booms,” Garner said. “When the first one started, I thought, ‘Is that thunder?’ But then it kept going and finally stopped. (It) happened one or two more times. I finally went outside to hear better, but it had stopped. It was creepy.”

Witnesses also heard the noises in Monroe County and as far away as Grove Hill.

Jim Cox, the publisher of the Clarke County Democrat in Grove Hill and South Alabamian newspaper in Jackson, told The Courant that the booms were heard in Clarke County around 6 p.m. on Jan. 19.

“Several long and repeated booms rattled the windows and shook the dishes,” he said. “I opened a yard gate about the time one hit, and my black lab was out the gate and gone. It took an hour to get him back in.”

Numerous theories were offered to explain the unusual noises, but no definite answers were ever found. Theories varied and include the off-burning of oil rigs, pranksters with homemade cannons, seismographic testing, high-speed naval aircraft, UFOs and meteorites. No evidence was found to support any of those theories. One man suggested that the noises were caused by individuals setting off explosives to destroy beaver dams on private property.

Some proposed that the noise was probably a sonic boom caused by an F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet flying out of Pensacola Naval Air Station (NAS).

The Courant contacted officials at Pensacola NAS and Eglin Air Force Base in Niceville, Fla., and officials at Pensacola NAS said that no jets from their facility were in the air in the vicinity of Conecuh or Monroe County at that time of night on Nov. 18, 2011. Navy officials also noted that the airfield at Pensacola NAS closed at 11 p.m. on Fridays and with the exception of a few transport planes, none of their training aircraft were in the air after 11 p.m. A request for information about flight activity near Conecuh County out of Eglin Air Force Base on Nov. 18, 2011 was never answered.

One man suggested that the sound was a land oil crew setting off underground explosions as part of a seismological test. Others say that this is unlikely because these types of tests aren’t typically conducted at that time of night.

One theory suggested that the noises were “brontides,” which are unexplained deep, booming noises that are often associated with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Episodes of these explosive noises of natural origin have been well documented often in association with seismic activity and in a few cases as precursors of major earthquakes.

In the end, the cause of the “mystery booms” remains unknown, and I welcome your thoughts on the subject. Readers with theories, accounts or ideas regarding the “mystery booms” in our area are invited to contact The Courant at 251-578-1492 or by email at courantsports@earthlink.net. To contact The Courant by mail, write The Evergreen Courant, ATTN: Lee Peacock, P.O. Box 440, Evergreen, AL 36401.

Johnny Davis takes lead in local ESPN college football contest

Former Conecuh County Superintendent of Education Walter Hudson dropped by our office last Thursday to show The Courant staff an interesting article that was recently published on ESPN.com.

The article was about Texas A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin, who recently guided the Aggies to a five-point, upset win over then-No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. According to the article, Kevin, 48, was born in Brewton, where his father William “Bill” Sumlin was a coach at Booker T. Washington High School.

Kevin’s father, Bill, grew up in Brewton, where he graduated from Southern Normal High School in 1954. Bill also played football at Southern Normal and went on to play at Kentucky State. He returned to Brewton in 1960 and began coaching at Washington High, which opened in 1959. Sumlin coached at Washington for six years and went undefeated in 1964, the year Kevin was born. Two years later, Kevin and his family moved to Indianapolis, and he went on to play football at Perdue.

One of Bill’s former basketball players, who was quoted in the ESPN article, is retired Brewton police chief, David Lovelace. Woody McCorvey of Atmore, who is now the associate athletic director at Clemson, has fond memories of playing against Sumlin’s tough Washington teams when McCorvey was a student at Escambia County Training School.

The article also mentions the time that Sumlin’s basketball team competed in a 1963 basketball tournament in Evergreen. They won one game on Friday and three on Saturday to capture first place.

Today, the Sumlin family maintains close ties to Brewton and are longtime friends with their old next-door neighbors, the Lewis family, which includes former Alabama quarterback Walter Lewis. Lewis’ claim to fame is that he was Alabama’s first black quarterback and Bear Bryant’s last quarterback. Lewis is no stranger to Conecuh County. During the past year, Lewis has made a number of presentations to the Conecuh County Commission regarding financial bonds held by the county.

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This past Saturday wrapped up the 12th week of our local ESPN College Football Pick ‘Em Contest, and after Saturday’s slate of games, Johnny Davis found himself in sole possession of the No. 1 spot. Aaron Albritton and Jacob Ramer were tied for second place. Hunter Norris was in fourth place.

Sharon Peacock was in the No. 5 spot, and Mark Peacock was in sixth place. Jeremy Matheny was in seventh place, and Travis Presley was in eighth place. David Price and I were tied for ninth place. Justin Jensen was in 11th place.

This year’s contest is winding down. We’ve got two more weeks left to go, so we’re getting down to the short rows. Who will win this year’s “Mr. Football” title? Only time will tell.

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Here are my SEC football picks for this coming week’s slate of games. I like LSU over Arkansas, Vanderbilt over Wake Forest, Georgia over Georgia Tech, Tennessee over Kentucky, Florida over Florida State, Alabama over Auburn, Ole Miss over Mississippi State, Clemson over South Carolina and Texas A&M over Missouri.

Last week: 10-1. So far this season: 83-20.

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for Nov. 22, 2012

FOUR YEARS AGO
NOV. 27, 2008

“The staff at Roberts Clinic in Evergreen got into the spirit of this year’s Alabama-Auburn football game by decorating the office this week in support of their favorite teams. Pictured at the office on Monday afternoon are Kate Tetrault, Aretha Ausby, Monica Hanks, Dr. Mark Roberts, Dr. Maria Cumagun, Brenda Windham, Megan Lowery and Kristle Scott. No. 1-ranked and undefeated Alabama will face Auburn at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Tuscaloosa. The game will be televised by CBS and will feature Evergreen native Drew Davis, who starts at right tackle for the Crimson Tide.”

“Sparta Academy senior wide receiver Cody Baggett has been named to the Alabama Independent School Association’s All-Star West Football Squad.”

“Hillcrest High School’s varsity boys basketball team picked up its first win of the season Saturday night by beating Jackson High School, 48-33, in Jackson.”

“Sparta Academy’s varsity girls team is looking to get back to this year’s state Final Four tournament and improve on last season’s 23-4 record. Members of the team are Ashton Raines, BreAnna Pate, Erica Palmer, Jordan Smith, Morgan Harden, Assistant Coach Joey Rodgers, Shaina Hutcheson, Savannah Brown, Mallory Kendrick, Emily Booker, Madelyn Black, Rebekah Coleman and Head Coach Russ Brown.”

19 YEARS AGO
NOV. 25, 1993

“Nell Stuart, president of the Bank of Evergreen, recently spent an interesting vacation participating in the first Southeastern Women’s Amateur Team Championship at Shoal Creek. Nell’s team paced the Alabama representatives to a first day lead and a second place overall finish.
“’This was the first time this was done with ladies golf,’ said Nell, speaking of the amateur event which featured teams from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi. The event was sponsored by the Women’s Alabama Golf Association.
“Nell and her partner, Claire Kyzar Parker of Andalusia, boosted the Alabama delegation into the first day’s lead, despite falling snow and a wind chill in the teens. The Alabama team’s first day lead was followed by eventual champion, Georgia. At the end of the three-day event, Georgia held a slim three-stroke lead over Alabama.
“’Almost all of the Georgia team had played college golf and the Tennessee team had the U.S. amateur champion,’ said Nell.
“Each state had eight teams members as representatives. Joining Nell and her partner were Virginia Darby, Beth Berry, Sandy Parks, Harriett Cauthen, Chris Spivey, Betty Palmer, Monica Hilger and Judy Taylor, captain. Betty Palmer is the women’s golf coach at the University of Alabama. Virginia Darby is the women’s golf coach at Auburn University, who is also a two-time state amateur champion. Mobile’s Beth Berry is the current state champion and was on the Curtis Cup Team, the women’s amateur golf equivalent to the Ryder Cup.”

34 YEARS AGO
NOV. 23, 1978

“Ronald Fantroy is battling for a starting post with the University of Montevallo Falcons. The 6-5 forward starred at Evergreen High School under Coach Charles Branum and for the last two years played outstanding ball for Alabama Christian College, Montgomery. The Falcons are the host team at the annual Montevallo Lions’ Club-University of Montevallo Tip-Off Tournament which begins this Friday night at Montevallo.”

“The Lyeffion Yellow Jackets opened their 1978-79 basketball season with a 54-46 victory over W.J. Jones High School of Pine Apple.
“The Jackets were led by Adrian Woods who scored 35 points and pulled down 16 rebounds. James Riley added five points and 12 rebounds. Other scorers were Ricky Hall with nine, Ricky Johnson with four and Eric Finklea with three.
“The Lyeffion team held a slim 19-17 lead at the half, but opened up a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter.
“The Jacket B team also won their first contest, 32-24.
“Both teams will travel to Repton to participate in a Tip-Off tourney and will return home Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. with Castleberry.”

“Evergreen Cub Scout Pack 40, Den 2, had a pack meeting and awards presentation ceremony on Nov. 7. Cub Scouts are Donald Jones Jr., Chris Jordan, Trent Elliott, Kenneth Varner, Daniel Wright, Johnny Brock, Scott Adams and Diane Wright, mascot.”

49 YEARS AGO
NOV. 28, 1963

“The rains came, but didn’t do the damage… it was (Louie) Hayles who did in the Aggies in their final game of the season here Friday night. The tilt was played before less than a thousand fans who thought they dodged a soaking when the contest was postponed earlier on the only other rainy weekend South Alabama had had this season.
“The showers came like Hayles, off and on, but weren’t nearly as effective as the senior signal caller of the Monroe County High School Tigers. He struck like lightning the first time he had the pigskin and before the night was over had crossed the goal line four times as Monroeville prevailed 33 to 12.”
Standout Evergreen players in that game included Scott Cook, Paul Deason, Bob Ivey, Mike Mininger and Jimmy Warren. John Law Robinson was Evergreen’s head coach.

“The Lyeffion Yellow Jackets edged past the strong Munson, Fla. cagers 59-54 to successfully open their 1963-64 basketball season. It was a clean sweep for Coach Shirley Frazier’s boys Tuesday night at the Lyeffion gym as the Bees eked out a 25-23 decision over the Florida boys.
“Four Jackets were in double figures as they led their team to victory. Danny Norwood topped the scorers with 15 points while Sammy Williams, Don Garrett and Patten Brown got 12 each. Ronnie Golson chipped in six and Wayne Daniels two to finish up the Lyeffion scoring.
“Stanley Wilson got nine points and Mike Burt six to pace the Jacket Bees to their thrilling win.”

64 YEARS AGO
NOV. 25, 1948

“Semmes Tech-Aggie Game Cancelled Due to Rains: The Evergreen-Semmes Tech game scheduled for Wednesday night has been cancelled due to heavy rains. The field at Brooks Stadium has been under water, and, according to J.J. Finklea, principal of Evergreen High School, could not possibly be in any shape to play on this week. This means that the game will not be played as no suitable date prior to Nov. 30 could be set.
“Mr. Finklea called the Mobile school Tuesday morning and the decision to cancel the game was made at that time by mutual agreement.”

“Miller Tigers Win Over Evergreen in Upset 19-0: Coach Hal Wyatt’s highly keyed T.R. Miller Tigers took advantage of a blocked punt to tally in the first period, and drove on through a disorganized Evergreen team to score again in the second and third quarters and hand the Aggies a 19 to 0 defeat. The game was played on rain soaked Rotary Field in Brewton Friday night.
“Approximately 500 Evergreen fans that made the trip saw the highly favored Aggie eleven battled off its feet and fall in one of the biggest upsets for the local school in many years.
“All-State candidate John Greel Ralls, the Aggies’ chief scoring threat, was completely stymied by the lack of blocking and had his worst night of the season.
“Bruce Johnson played outstanding ball for Evergreen and joined with James Ryan in providing the bulk of the Evergreen defense. The rest of coach Wendell Hart’s crew turned in perhaps their poorest performances of the season.”

Daily Weather Observations for Thurs., Nov. 22, 2012

Temp: 48.0 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 82 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Clear; very light fog visible in the distance, about 1/2-mile away ; birds audible; dew on the ground.

Winds: 0.0 mph (No wind)

Barometric Pressure: 29.74 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.55 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 63.9 inches

NOTES: Today is the 326th day of 2012 and the 62nd day of Fall. There are 39 days left in the year. Today is Thanksgiving Day.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This week's movie picks are 'Red Dawn' and 'The Expendables 2'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as a list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going on this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this week include:

- The Central Park Five (Documentary): Directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon.

- Hitchcock (Drama, Suspense, PG-13): Directed by Sacha Gervasi and starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, James D’Arcy and Jessica Biel.

- Life of Pi (Adventure, Drama, PG): Directed by Ang Lee and starring Suraj Sharma, Tobey Maguire, Irrfan Khan, Gerard Depardieu and Tabu.

- Red Dawn (Action, War, PG-13): Directed by Dan Bradley and starring Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki and Isabel Lucas.

- Rise of the Guardians (Family, Adventure, PG): Directed by Peter Ramsey and starring the voices of Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher and Jude Law.

- Rust and Bone (Drama, Mystery, R): Directed by Jacques Audiard and starring Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure, Celine Sallette and Corinne Masiero.

New DVD releases for the week of Nov. 20 include:

- Alter Egos (Comedy, R): Directed by Jordan Galland and starring Kris Lemche, Brooke Nevin, Joey Kern, Tim Barker and Lou Carbonneau.

- Bringing Up Bobby (Comedy, PG-13): Directed by Famke Janssen and starring Milla Jovovich, Spencer List, Rory Cochrane, Bill Pullman and Marcia Cross.

- The Dead Inside (Horror, Comedy, Not Rated): Directed by Travis Betz and starring Dustin Fasching and Sarah Lassez.

- Doggie B (Family, Comedy, PG): Directed by Romanus Wolter and starring Jesse Draper, Bettina Devin, Jane Wiedlin, Patrick Alan Davis and Scott Cox.

- Dragons: Riders of Berk (Family, Childrens, Not Rated)

- The Expendables 2 (Action, R): Directed by Simon West and starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Chuck Norris.

- A Little Bit of Faith (Drama, Family, PG): Directed by Tiana Hailey and starring Tiana Hailey, Frances Bowman, Kay Dukes, J.D. Roberts and D. Wesson.

- The Obama Effect (Comedy, Drama, PG-13): Directed by Charles S. Dutton and starring Charles S. Dutton, Meagan Bell Calloway, Meagan Good, Zab Judah and Emilio Rivera.

- Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups (Childrens, Family, G): Directed by Robert Vince.

- The Survival Games (Action, R): Directed by Mike Corkle and starring Konrad Case, Mischa McCortney, Andrew Olson and Stephanie Rubin.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Red Dawn,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “The Expendables 2.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Wed., Nov. 21, 2012

Temp: 50.2 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 80 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Partly cloudy; birds and cows audible; light dew on the ground.

Winds: 0.0 mph (No wind)

Barometric Pressure: 29.69 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.55 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 63.9 inches

NOTES: Today is the 325th day of 2012 and the 61st day of Fall. There are 40 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What do YOU think about this year's National Book Award winners?

On Wednesday of last week, the National Book Foundation announced the 2012 National Book Award Winners.

This year’s slate of winners, in four categories, included:

Fiction – “The Round House” by Louise Erdrich

Nonfiction – “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity” by Katherine Boo

Young People’s Literature – “Goblin Secrets” by William Alexander

Poetry – “Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations” by David Ferry

These four books were selected from 1,285 books nominated for the National Book Awards, including 311 in the fiction category, 479 in nonfiction, 181 in poetry and 314 in young people’s literature.

From these books, judges narrowed them down to five finalists in each category. The non-winning finalists in each category included the following books.

Fiction:

- “This Is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz

- “A Hologram for the King” by Dave Eggers

- “Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk” by Ben Fountain

- “The Yellow Birds” by Kevin Powers

Nonfiction:

- “Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956” by Anne Applebaum

- “The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 4” by Robert A. Caro

- “The Boy Kings of Texas” by Domingo Martinez

- “House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East” by Anthony Shadid

Poetry:

- “Heavenly Bodies” by Cynthia Huntington

- “Fast Animal” by Tim Seibles

- “Night of the Republic” by Alan Shapiro

- “Meme” by Susan Wheeler

Young People’s Literature:

- “Out of Reach” by Carrie Arcos

- “Never Fall Down” by Patricia McCormick

- “Endangered” by Eliot Schrefer

- “Bomb: The Race to Build---- and Steal-- - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon” by Steve Sheinkin

Many of you will be familiar with some of the past National Book Award Winners, especially from the fiction category. Past NBA fiction winners include “From Here to Eternity” by James Jones, “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, “The World According to Garp” by John Irving, “Rabbit is Rich” by John Updike, “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, “All the Pretty Horses” by Cormac McCarthy and “Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier.

For more information about the National Book Foundation and the National Book Awards, visit www.nationalbook.org.

Daily Weather Observations for Tues., Nov. 20, 2012

Temp: 46.8 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 82 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly cloudy; birds and cows audible.

Winds: 0.0 mph (No wind)

Barometric Pressure: 29.70 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.55 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 63.9 inches

NOTES: Today is the 324th day of 2012 and the 60th day of Fall. There are 41 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Monday, November 19, 2012

BUCKET LIST UPDATE - No. 514: Eat pecan pralines at Priester’s Pecans in Fort Deposit and No. 475: Eat at Bates House of Turkey in Greenville


I scratched two more items off my bucket list on Saturday when I sampled some of the famous pecan pralines at Priester’s Pecans in Fort Deposit and ate lunch at the Bates House of Turkey restaurant in Greenville.

On the way back from a quick trip to Montgomery on Saturday, my wife and I stopped at Priester’s Pecans, which is located at the intersection of Interstate Highway 65 and U.S. Highway 185 in Fort Deposit. For those of you unfamiliar with Priester’s Pecans, it is Alabama’s largest gourmet handmade candy company and has been around since 1935. They’re open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

I’ve heard about Priester’s all my life, and I’ve driven past the large building, which faces the interstate, countless times, but I’d never visited the place until Saturday. I put Priester’s Pecans on my bucket list earlier this year when I read that their pecan fruitcake and pralines had been placed on the “100 Dishes to Eat In Alabama Before You Die” list by the Alabama Tourism Department. On Saturday, my wife and I sampled our fair share of the tasty pralines that they make available in the building’s “food area,” and those samples alone were well worth the stop.

I scouted around for a few minutes, but I never found any samples of their famous pecan fruitcake. It’s possible that this is a season item and wasn’t available on Saturday. On the other hand, I never asked any of the employees about it, so it's possible that I just overlooked the fruitcake.

After our stop at Priester’s, my wife and I continued down the interstate and got off at Exit 130, the northernmost Greenville exit, to eat at another place I’ve always wanted to visit, the Bates House of Turkey restaurant. This is another restaurant that I’ve driven past countless times, but for whatever reason, I’d never stopped in for a meal.

Founded in 1923, the Bates House of Turkey restaurant specializes in all foods turkey, including roast turkey dinners, open face turkey sandwiches, turkey salad plates, turkey chili taco salads, eight different types of traditional turkey sandwiches (including “The Gobbler”) as well as homemade casseroles and soups.

I put Bates House of Turkey on my bucket list a while back when I saw that their hickory-smoked turkey sandwich had also been placed on the state tourism department’s list of “100 Dishes to Eat In Alabama Before You Die.” That’s what my wife and I ordered on Saturday and to say that it was the finest turkey sandwich that I’ve ever eaten would not be an exaggeration. It was well worth the stop and best of all, it wasn’t that expensive. My wife and I ate an outstanding lunch for around $16.

In the end, I enjoyed not only eating at both of these fine establishments, but I also enjoyed scratching two more items off of my bucket list. How many of you have ever eaten at Priester’s Pecans and the Bates House of Turkey restaurant? What do you think about them? What items do you order when you go there? Let us know in the comments section below.

News Flashback from The Evergreen Courant for Nov. 19, 2012

FOUR YEARS AGO
NOV. 27, 2008

“Joe Faulk, the Chairman of the Elmore County Commission and the President of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, visited the Conecuh County Commission Monday morning. Faulk succeeded Conecuh County Commission Jerold Dean as the ACCA’s president in August.”

“Evergreen Mayor Larry Fluker signed a proclamation last Thursday morning making the month of November “American Music Month” in the City of Evergreen.”

“Conecuh County firefighters from departments across the county spent much of the last week dealing with a rash of brush and woods fires in a variety of locations.”

“Conecuh County’s E911 dispatchers are set to receive additional training after the first of the year, according to a report given by County E911 Director Johnny Brock on Monday.”

“Five motorists were injured in three separate automobile accidents during the past week on area roadways.”

“The Conecuh County Board of Education recognized three individuals and two media outlets for their contributions to local schools during a meeting last week.
“During a school board meeting last Thursday in Evergreen, the board recognized long-time school supporter Willie Crutchfield, WPPG 101.1 FM station manager Gary Downs and Evergreen Courant reporter Lee Peacock.”

19 YEARS AGO
NOV. 25, 1993

“Brigadier General John Watkins was honored for his accomplishments last Saturday night during the NAACP’s 17th Annual Freedom Awards dinner at Hillcrest High School. Gen. Watkins, a native of Conecuh County, is pictured with Bill Bundy of the Alabama National Guard and Freddie Stallworth, Conecuh County Commissioner.”

“A decision was made by the Conecuh County Board of Education, which along with the juvenile court, hopes to seek assistance for a 14-year-old local youth who admitted making false reports for bombs at two area schools.”

“Annie Jo Baggett, custodian of school funds for the Conecuh County Public School System for 24 years, was recently honored by fellow workers and school administrators with reception.”

“The ‘anti-business’ climate of California has economic developers watering at the mouth over the possibility of a mass exodus of industries to other parts of the nation and world, bringing more jobs to starving work forces. Rosalyn Skipper, economic development director for Conecuh County, recently returned from a trip to the west coast in an attempt to lure these companies to Alabama. She said her trip may prove successful.”

“Workers at Poole Truck Line stand by as Mike McKenzie ties a ribbon on a company truck in support of Poole’s joining the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) campaign for a safer holiday season on the nation’s roads and highways.”

34 YEARS AGO
NOV. 23, 1978

“Earl Windham, bent-but-not-broke by earlier predictions of rain, reports no rainfall during the week and his weak comment was: ‘Sorry, Old Bob, we did not have any rain. Maybe next time.’”

“Staff Sgt. Frank Murphy was promoted to his present rank on Oct. 14. He is stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., but is being reassigned to the Panama Canal Zone.”

“State Representative James E. ‘Jimmy’ Warren was administered the oath of office for another term by Judge of Probate Frank T. Salter recently. Looking on were Rep. Warren’s wife, Betty, and children, Shannon and Keith. The Castleberry legislator was re-elected to a third term of office on Nov. 7. He won the Democratic nomination in September and in so doing also received the highest number of votes ever given an Alabama State Representative since the Legislature was re-districted.”

“Cathy Johnston, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Wayne E. Johnston, was named Miss Congeniality at Sparta Academy’s Miss Alpha Contest held Thursday night in the school gymnatorium.”

“Mayor O.B. ‘Bert’ Tuggle was among those paying tribute to Evergreen native Joe Louis Reed at the Joe Louis Reed Jubilee Day Celebration held here Saturday under sponsorship of the Conecuh County Branch NAACP.”

49 YEARS AGO
NOV. 28, 1963

“Thousands jam city for Christmas parade: Queen Joy Margaret Hagood of Evergreen High School reigned over the 1963 Conecuh County Christmas Carnival here Wednesday. Already the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce production is being hailed as the biggest and best in history.
“A tremendous crowd estimated to be several thousand strong thronged the downtown streets. The parade was long, beautiful and entertaining.
“A brief program at the bandstand emceed by Chamber of Commerce President Blake Campbell featured the introduction of the queen, princess and honor court, presentation of the key to the city to Santa Claus by Mayor Pro Tem Henry Sessions and Santa’s proclamation that the holiday season was now open in Conecuh County to last through Jan. 1.
“Immediately after the program, the city’s decorative lights were turned on to burn through the season.”

“From one truck to major industry: When Walter Poole drove off with his first flatbed trailer-load of cotton, hauling for Kendall & Kendall, in 1946 neither he nor anyone else even dreamed that one of Evergreen and Conecuh County’s major industries had been born.
“Poole had just that trailer and just the truck pulling it, no money and a lot of courage and faith.
“Today, he owns and operates Poole Truck Line, employer of 65 persons with an annual payroll of over $300,000.”

64 YEARS AGO
NOV. 25, 1948

“Conecuh Reports No Polio During 1948: During approximately the first 10 and one-half months of this year (through Nov. 13) 193 Alabama cases of Poliomylitis (infantile paralysis) were reported to the State Health Department’s Bureau of Preventable Diseases. This total included none occurring in Conecuh County, the department announced today.”

“On Tuesday afternoon from four to six the Evergreen Study Club entertained at a tea. The occasion was a double celebration, this being the 25th anniversary of the club and the opening of the library.”

From “The Week’s Wash” by Bob Bozeman – “The boss and I attended what Dr. W.R. Carter called a ‘shindig’ at Repton High School last Thursday night. The ‘shindig,’ and I believe that’s a good name, was held in Repton High’s beautiful auditorium-gymnasium, and the purpose was to raise funds so that a new curtain might be placed on the stage of the auditorium.”

“W.E. Brooks Jr., Editor of the Brewton Standard, was the guest speaker at the regular meeting of the Evergreen Junior Chamber of Commerce Monday night. Mr. Brooks spoke on ‘Two Party Politics In The South.’”

“The Maggie Dunn Sewing Circle will meet Friday afternoon at three o’clock with Mrs. Percy Brantley with Mrs. B.A. Herbert co-hostess.”