Monday, March 31, 2014

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 139: Visit the Sulphur Creek Trestle near Athens, Ala.

Sulphur Creek Testle near Athens, Ala.
My brother-in-law, Dr. Kenny Day, moved to Athens, Ala. with my sister, Devin, several years ago, which sparked this particular bucket list item. Kenny and I both enjoy hiking, and after he got the lay of the land in Limestone County, he told me about a cool Civil War site, the Sulphur Creek Trestle, located on a hiking trail near his home. I added this location to my bucket list a few years ago, and last Thursday, Kenny and I set off to see this place for ourselves.

Located about 1.3 miles south of Elkmont on the Richard Martin Trail, a rails-to-trails project that was completed in October 2008, you’ll find this famous railroad trestle, which was the site of Alabama’s bloodiest Civil War land battle. When we arrived, we found a marker that provided lots of details about the site. What follows is the complete text from that marker.

“The Battle of Sulphur Creek Trestle: Sept. 25, 1964: Look out across the tree-filled valleys and hills. Be aware of the silence, broken only by a woodland birdsong. Imagine it is 1864. Imagine you hear voices inside the fort directly to your front. A sergeant’s booming shout calls the soldiers of the Union infantry to formation. Others call out cannon drill routines. A guard scans the horizon as a piercing train whistle echoes through the forest. A federal military transport is coming down the track from Nashville. It is bringing soldiers and supplies bound for General Sherman near Atlanta. The soldier behind the parapet waves to the engineer, signaling ‘all is clear’ as the train rolls on.”

“From the forest beyond the garrison on a hill higher than the fort itself, two cannon blasts pierce through the crisp air. A staccato of gunfire breaks through the woods. A bugler inside the fort sounds the alert. Voices cry out, ‘Battle positions!’ Now shells slam into the fort interior. Soldiers scream as hot shrapnel flies in all directions. More cannons find their marks inside the walls. Commands are cut short as flashing shell shards kill another officer. Increasing gunfire and curses punctuate the smoke and haze. And then the weird wail of the ‘Rebel Yell’ resounds from the forest gloom. A sergeant shouts, ‘Get ready, men! Here they come!’”

“Now ever shell bursts in the fort. Death mows down any Union movement. The Stars and Strips fall over on a pole now shot to splinters. Command has fallen through the Union ranks as one leader after another is stunned, shot or killed. Waves of gunfire sweep across the embrasures, answered by desperate, well-aimed shots. Then, from amidst the surrounding Confederate soldiers, a treaty flag appears. The shooting stops. General Forrest offers to talk to the beleaguered Union commander. Forrest demands ‘Surrender!’ This was the bloodiest land battle on Alabama soil. Over 200 American soldiers died where you are now standing.”

If you visit the Sulphur Creek Trestle today, you’ll see that the original trestle no longer remains. Instead, years ago, workers filled in the original trestle, leaving only a stone tunnel that allows the creek to flow beneath the old trestle site. I’m guessing that by filling in the trestle, the railroad lowered maintenance costs over time.

Also if you decide to pay a visit to the Sulphur Creek Trestle, be aware that the site is supposedly haunted. In his book “Haunted Alabama Battlefields,” author Dale Langella devotes an entire chapter to the Sack of Athens, the Battle of Athens and Sulphur Creek Trestle. Also, members of the Alabama Paranormal Association reported visiting the site late one night in 2013 and recorded disembodied whispers and what sounded like someone saying “Help.”  

In the end, how many of you have ever visited the Sulphur Creek Trestle near Athens, Ala.? What did you think about it? What other interesting Civil War sites would you recommend visiting? Let us know in the comments section below.

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 138: Eat peach ice cream at the Durbin Farms Market in Clanton

Peach ice cream at Durbin Farms Market.
Several years ago, the Alabama Tourism Department produced a great “best of” list called “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.” This list of outstanding dishes to eat in outstanding restaurants across the state, including an item that immediately caught my eye and immediately went on my bucket list – peach ice cream at Durbin Farms Market in Clanton. I’m happy to say that I officially scratched this item off my bucket list Wednesday of last week.

Clanton, which is located off Interstate Highway 65 between Montgomery and Birmingham, is known for its annual peach crop. In fact, the city’s water tower is shaped like a giant peach, and they’ve been holding a peach festival each year in Clanton since 1952. Durbin Farms Market is one of the premiere sellers of Chilton County peaches and is known far and wide for its famous peach ice cream.

On Wednesday of last week, I found myself headed up I-65 with my family on the way to visit my sister in Athens. We approached Clanton around bathroom break time, and that’s when I heard peach ice cream opportunity knocking. A few minutes later, we took Exit 205, crossed back over the interstate and pulled into Durbin Farms Market, which is located at 2130 7th Street South in Clanton, right off the interstate.

Once out of the car, we made a beeline for the ice cream counter, which featured peach ice cream and a number of other flavors. Our server was a good-natured young man named Dustin, who fixed us up with four ice creams. My wife and I got cup-sized servings of peach ice cream while the kids got cone servings of other flavors. Grand total was $10.25.

Durbin Farms Market includes a large area for patrons to sit and enjoy their purchases, so we grabbed a table. I took my time and ate my peach ice cream slowly with a black plastic spoon, trying to savor each and every bite. To say that it was the best serving of ice cream I’ve ever eaten in my entire life wouldn’t be an understatement, and I’m nearly 40 years old and have eaten my fair share of ice cream.

My wife didn’t complain either. She seemed to relish her peach ice cream, and said that she could see why it made the Alabama’s Tourism Department’s “best of” list. The kids didn’t complain about their other varieties either.

If you’re interested in learning more about Durbin Farms Market, visit their Web site at In addition to peach ice cream, they also sell bread, butter, cider, honey, jam, jelly, whole peaches and dozens of other items. Better yet, if you find yourself traveling on I-65 between Montgomery and Birmingham, take the time to stop and sample some of their outstanding peach ice cream. You won’t be disappointed.

In the end, how many of you have ever eaten peach ice cream from Durbin Farms Market in Clanton? What did you think about it? Did you like it or not? Let us know in the comments section below. 

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 137: Visit the highest point in Florida

Highest Natural Point in Florida.
This highest natural point in Florida is in a place called Britton Hill, which is near the town of Lakewood in Walton County, just over the state line from Florala in Covington County, Ala. I forget when I first heard about this unusual location, but I added it to my bucket list a couple of years ago because it sounded like a cool place to visit. I finally took the time to ride down there and see it for myself on Tuesday of last week.

With a “summit” of 345 feet above sea level, Florida’s highest natural point is the lowest state highpoint in the United States. By way of comparison, Alabama’s highest point is at Mount Cheaha and has an elevation of 2,413 feet. While Britton Hill is no Mount Everest, it’s still a unique place to visit.

If you travel to Britton Hill today, you’ll find a small park called Lakewood Park, which is located off of Walton County Road 285, about two miles southeast of Florala, Ala. The park includes a nice parking area and once you get out on foot, you’ll notice a large stone marker on the north side of the park, near the entrance. This marker features a map of Florida and simply reads, “LAKEWOOD PARK, FLORIDA’S HIGHEST POINT, ELEVATION 345 FT.”

Near this marker, you’ll find a building with restrooms and encased displays with lots of information. In the display you'll find a detailed map of the park’s trail system, which begins with a trailhead behind the stone marker mentioned above. The park’s trail system consists of three trails – Yellow, Blue and Red – and is a total of 1-3/4 miles long. The Yellow Trail is .45 miles long, and the Blue Trail is .59 miles long. The Red Trail is longest at .71 miles long.

The display also contains information about an organization called the Highpointers Club, an organization for people dedicated to visiting highpoints in states across the nation. According to a brochure I picked up, “Highpointing is an ideal way of seeing these United States and a lot of America as you travel to each particular point. This is one way of fine tuning a sport to yourself, your family and your lifestyle. After each highpointing trip, there will be many good memories, many great stories and many new ideas for your next trip.” Membership dues are $20 per year, and more information about the organization is available at

Also, if you visit Britton Hill and enjoy geocaching, be sure to find the two geocaches that are in the park. One is a pretty straightforward cache off one of the park’s trails, but the other is a unique type of cache that will require some thinking on your part. I don’t want to say too much about it because it might spoil the fun.

In the end, how many of you have been to the highest point in Florida? Have you been to the highest points in any other states? What did you think about them? Which would you recommend visiting? Let us know in the comments section below.

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 136: Visit the “Bear Man” grave at New Hope Baptist Church at Natchez

The 'Bear Man' Grave at Natchez.
If memory serves me correctly, the first time that I can remember ever hearing anything about the “Bear Man” grave was several years ago when award-winning writer and photographer Josh Dewberry mentioned it in The Monroe Journal newspaper. Dewberry was writing an eight-part series about the oldest churches in Monroe County, and the first installment in the series was about New Hope Baptist Church at Natchez.

In that story, Dewberry detailed the church’s history, but his mention of the “Bear Man” is what I remember most about the story. According to Dewberry, “local legend tells that in the early 1890s a man traveling with a trained bear was mauled and killed by his bear and is buried in the church cemetery. A simple wooden cross marks his grave, and a local resident is said to have killed the bear.”

Fast forward a few years, and my memory of this unusual grave was jogged once again when the Web site featured New Hope Baptist Church and mentioned the “Bear Man” grave as well. According to that Web site, “in the far corner of the cemetery there is a simple wooden cross with ‘The Bear Man’ marked on it. According to local tradition, a Frenchman traveling through the area in 1891-1892 with his trained bear was killed when his bear turned on him. The bear was then shot and killed by observers, and both the man and bear were buried in this grave. The wooden cross with ‘The Bear Man’ marks the grave.”

I later heard that more details about the “Bear Man” were included in The Monroe Journal’s second “Centennial Edition,” which was published on May 15, 1969. Sure enough, on Page 75 of that publication, in a story titled “Natchez Was Once Known As ‘The Fork’,” you’ll find where it says that “an incident happened in Natchez that probably has not occurred in any other in the United States. A Frenchman came to our school in Buena Vista leading a bear. Our teacher, Prof. Claude Hardy, paid him to have the bear act; so he put a little boy’s hat on the bear’s head and the bear would stand on his hind legs and dance, then he would have the bear climb a tree. This man went on to Natchez where the bear threw him down and began to eat him alive and would not allow anyone to come near. The man yell, “Oh, Jimbo, don’t do that please.” Mr. Bill Reaves shot and killed the bear with his rifle. The ‘Bear Man,’ as he was called, is buried in Natchez Cemetery. This happened in the year 1891-92.”

Knowing all this, I couldn’t honestly say that I’d ever been to New Hope Baptist Church at Natchez, and I was sure that I’d never seen the “Bear Man” grave in person, which is why I put this little field trip on my “bucket list” a few years ago. On Monday of last week, I took the time to ride up to the old church, and it didn’t take long to find the grave of the “Bear Man.” It’s marked with a wooden cross and sits in the far back corner of the cemetery, away from the road that runs in front of the church. If you look closely, you’ll even see the faded letters across the marker that reads “The Bear Man.”

In the end, how many of you have seen the “Bear Man” grave at Natchez? Do you know exactly when this incident took place? Do you know any more details about the incident? Let us know in the comments section below.

The Evergreen Courant's News Flashback for March 31, 2014

MARCH 29, 2001

“Work is underway to repair buildings that were damaged by a recent storm. Local construction crews have more than their fair share of work and are trying to get everyone ‘dry’ before the next big rains. Covin Roofing and Construction is shown in the above photo replacing the roof on the Village Plaza building and in the photo at right Skipper’s General Contractors are shown hanging steel to replace the wall that had to be torn down at The Evergreen Courant.”

“Stanley Guy Busby, 75, of Repton died Tues., March 27, 2001 in a Monroeville hospital. Mr. Busby ran a dairy for many years. He was a driver for Poole Truck Line and retired CDL instructor from Reid State Technical College. He was a member of the Annunciation Catholic Church of Monroeville. He was a veteran and served in the Marines during World War II and the Korean War.”

“The Conecuh County Children’s Foundation, Thurgood Marshall Middle School, Lyeffion Junior High School and the Evergreen-Conecuh Chamber of Commerce invites everyone out to the airport at Middleton Field for the annual children’s carnival. Carnival rides will provide fun and excitement for the whole family. Also on Saturday, the Collard Green Festival, Extension Petting Zoo, Firemen’s Contest and Chili Cookoff will be featured as well as vendors, country music and many other interesting activities. Citizens are encouraged to attend and support the Conecuh County Children’s Foundation. Pictured at the recent ribbon cutting on Mon., March 28, are Eric Basinger, Nell Stuart, Kim George, Geneva Lyons, Joey Varner, Homer Lyons and Emily Brogden.”

MARCH 27, 1986

“Ole Earl Windham reports .10 of an inch of rain on March 16, 2.41 inches on March 19 and .46 on March 20.”

“Johnny Grace of Lyeffion High School exhibited the Grand Champion of the 41st Annual Conecuh County 4-H and FFA Steer Show held Monday at the Evergreen Livestock Arena. The 1,250-pound steer brought 95 cents per pound with Southern Pine Electric Cooperative, represented by Manager Tom Perry, paying the premium price.”

“John Shepherd Salter, 89, of 318 Perryman St., Evergreen, died Sat., March 22, in the Veterans Administration Hospital, Montgomery, after a long illness. He was a member of a pioneer county family and a veteran of World War I and a retired employee of the City of Evergreen.”

“415 marijuana plants were confiscated near Travis Bridge on March 14 by Deputy Sheriff Jimmy Lambert. Plants were found by alert citizens who immediately called the Conecuh County Sheriff’s Office.”

“State Representative J.E. (Jimmy) Warren of Castleberry has qualified to seek re-election to the Alabama House of Representatives. The veteran legislator, first elected in 1970, is asking for a fifth term of office. He represented District 64, composed of Conecuh and Monroe counties.”

MARCH 25, 1971

“Ewing Baxter McRady, 80, of Evergreen died Sat., March 20, in Montgomery hospital after a long illness. He was a retired hardwareman who was well known throughout this area.
“A native of Tennessee, Mr. McRady was associated with Luttrell Hardware in Brewton for a short time before becoming associated with Wild Bros. Hardware Co. here some 55 years ago. He worked with Wild Bros. for 40 years until retiring 15 years ago and was generally recognized as one of the most knowledgeable men in his field in this area.”

“A Civitan Club may be organized in Evergreen. A breakfast meeting is set for 6:30 o’clock Tuesday morning at Jimmie’s Restaurant to put organizational procedures in motion.
“Civitan International is a service club for men and has been in existence for 51 years. They are ‘Builders of Good Citizenship.’
“Any man interested is invited to attend the breakfast Tuesday morning as a guest of the Andalusia Civitan Club which is sponsoring the new club here.”

“Dean Masonic Lodge No. 112 will sponsor a special program on Drug Abuse at the Brooklyn Baptist Church March 27 at 7 p.m.
“Rev. H.C. Botts from Milton, Fla. will be guest speaker. Films from Whiting Field on Drug Abuse will be shown.
“The public is invited to attend this special program.”

MARCH 29, 1956

“Tuesday morning, the U.S. Navy began using Middleton Field, Evergreen’s airport, as a training field again.”

“James Richard Merritt, 23, Cincinnati, Ohio, who was a prisoner in the Conecuh County Jail made a unique escape here last Thursday night. It was the first escape made from the Conecuh County Jail in about six years and one of the few in its history.
“According to Sheriff James Brock, Merritt gained his escape by tearing apart a small radio and obtaining a magnet from inside. He attached the magnet to a long strip of molding torn from the window and reached a file which was laying a short distance from the window. The file had been used to clean some stove parts on the outside of the building. Merritt filed out one bar on the window and made his way out through the small opening, approximately six inches in width. Merritt is of a very small build being about five-foot, six-inches tall and weighing only about 120 pounds.
“Three other prisoners who were in the cell with Merritt refused to attempt to escape along with him. The escape was made sometime between 12 midnight and early Friday morning. Merritt was being held in jail on charges of robbing the London Store, Castleberry, Rte. 2 on Jan. 2 of this year. The robbery netted approximately $200 for him and three companions. Two others are still in the Conecuh County Jail for the crime and one other has not yet been apprehended.”

MARCH 27, 1941

“An advance trainer, piloted by J.D. Eiland Jr., Flying Cadet of Maxwell Field, was damaged to such an extent about 10:30 Wednesday night in a forced landing at the local airport it was found necessary to send a maintenance crew from Maxwell Field to dismantle the plane and truck it to Montgomery for repairs. The left wheel was broken off, propeller bent and the left wing slightly damaged. As soon as the employee on duty at the station saw what had happened, he summoned an ambulance but the pilot was found to be uninjured.
“According to the information given The Courant, Cadet Eiland had made only one cross-country night flight before his flight Wednesday, and had become lost some time before reaching Evergreen. Upon discovering he was over Evergreen, it is said he found that his gas was low and headed for the airport to land.
“It is not known how the accident occurred but it is surmised the pilot misjudged his altitude, being lower than he thought and sat the ship down hard enough to break off the left wheel. Due to the fact the ship finally came to rest several yards from where the wheel was found it is believed he then gunned the motor to right the ship and then made a perfect three-point landing – right wheel, left wing and tail skid – which, according to those who know how to fly, is quite an achievement for a cadet.”

“Robert James McCreary, prominent lumberman of Montgomery, died at his home on Lexington Road early Saturday morning after a brief illness. A native of Evergreen, Mr. McCreary had engaged in the wholesale lumber business for many years. He had made his home in Montgomery since 1927, operating the R.J. McCreary Lumber Co.”

Daily Weather Observations from SW Alabama for Mon., March 31, 2014

Temp: 42.8 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 79 percent (High)

Conditions: Clear skies; standing water on ground; birds and dogs audible; security lights  on in the distance; jet contrails visible; small patches of frost on the ground.

Barometric Pressure: 29.64 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.55 inches

Spring to Date Rainfall: 3.35 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 16.95 inches

NOTES: Today is the 90th day of 2014 and the 12th day of Spring. There are 275 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, March 30, 2014

COMIC BOOK OF THE WEEK – “Legends of the Dark Knight” #22 (Sept. 1991)

'Legends of the Dark Knight' #22
This week’s “Comic Book of the Week” is “Legends of the Dark Knight” #22, which was published by DC Comics in September 1991. This issue was the second installment in a three-part series titled “Faith.”

This issue’s creative team included Mike W. Barr, writer; Bart Sears, penciller; Randy Elliott, letterer; Steve Oliff, colorist; and Kevin Dooley, Margaret Clark and Andrew Helfer, editors. Sears was the cover artist for this issue, which sold for $1.75 at newsstands.

This 32-page issue begins at night in the home of Dr. Leslie Thompkins. Bruce Wayne has been paying Thompkins a visit, and they’re both watching from an upstairs window as two groups of men fight down in the street. The fight involves a street gang called the “Pushers” and a group of vigilantes called the “Bat-Men.”

As they watch, bullets riddle the window that Wayne and Thompkins are standing in front of, and Wayne pushes Thompkins out of the way just in time to avoid being struck by gunfire. Shortly thereafter, the police, dressed in full riot gear, arrive and begin rounding up the men on the street. Surprisingly, a number of citizens take to the streets and begin to heckle the police in defense of the “Bat-Men.”

Thompkins decides to head to the hospital to help with the wounded men from the fight, and Wayne and his chauffeur, Alfred, give her a ride in Wayne’s limo. Not long after Thompkins enters the hospital, Wayne changes into his Batman costume and gives Alfred the rest of the night off.

Batman’s first stop is the home of Gotham City Police Capt. Jim Gordon. They get into an argument of the “Bat-Men” after Gordon asks Batman if he’s sponsoring the group. Gordon also informs Batman that the police will be raiding the home of a crime boss named “Costas” later that night and tells Batman that they don’t want any interference from him or the “Bat-Men.”

Batman then goes to the headquarters of the “Bat-Men,” where their leader, John Ackers, is having a nightmare about Batman in his upstairs apartment bedroom. Batman wakes the startled Ackers and tells him that he wants them to stay away from the Costas police raid. Ackers agrees, but as soon as Batman leaves, it becomes apparent that Ackers and his men will be visiting Costas later, and Ackers will be carrying a gun.

In the next scene, Gordon and his men arrive as Costas’ huge, gated mansion. Gordon, standing in the driveway outside the front gate, shouts that they are there to serve a search warrant and also have a warrant for Costas’ arrest. Gordon can’t even finish the sentence before he takes a bullet to the chest. If not for his bulletproof vest, he would have been killed.

The police move in with guns blazing, as Batman slips in through a large drain in Costas’ swimming pool. As if they were waiting on him, Costas’ henchmen riddle the pool with bullets as soon as Batman pokes his head up out of the water. Using smoke bombs, Batman takes out the five bad guys, knocks them out, ties them up and throws their guns in the pool. In the distance, the sun begins to rise in the east.

The police learn that Batman’s on the scene when he saves a SWAT team member from getting shot by one of Costas’ men. Meanwhile, Costas’ men, realizing that they’re not the main target of the raid, turn on Costas, and one of them, Pauly, shoots Costas in the right upper arm. As Pauly and his cohorts begin to move Costas upstairs, they discover Batman lurking in the shadows, and a huge fight ensues.

Batman cuts the power, killing the lights, but while he’s busy with Costas’ men, Costas jumps into an armored limo and begins to make his escape. Costas drives through a garage door with Batman on top of the car. Police riddle the car with bullets, with little effect, and Batman eventually smashes through the windshield to get at Costas.

At that last moment, Batman and Costas roll out of the car just before it crashes into a brick wall and explodes. Police fan out and find Costas unconscious on the ground. A note from Batman’s been tacked to his chest that reads, “You Can Take It From Here.”

In the next scene, we see Ackers loading his pistol while a female member of the “Bat-Men” calls him from a payphone outside Gotham General Hospital. She informs Ackers that Costas has just been brought into the hospital, and Ackers begins to move that way with a sizeable group. Upstairs at the hospital, Dr. Thompkins informs Gordon that Costas will eventually recover.

Outside, Batman arrives on the roof about the same time that the “Bat-Men” enter the hospital through a delivery entrance in the back of the building. The “Bat-Men” get the drop on the uniformed officer that’s been posted outside Costas’ door. As they’re making their way to Costas’ room, Batman enters through a window and comes face to face with Thompkins, who doesn’t know it's Bruce Wayne beneath the mask.

Batman explains that he’s not there to kill Costas. Batman only wants information about his drug distribution network. Just then, Ackers, who has his gun out, and his men enter the room, and Batman tries to prevent Ackers from shooting Costas, who is unconscious in the bed.

A free-for-all ensues, and Thompkins even holds her own as she knocks out a female member of the “Bat-Men.” Batman appears to be getting the better of the “Bat-Men,” but the tide turns when Ackers shoots Batman three times in the back. With Batman out of action, Thompkins pleads for Costas’ life, and Ackers decides at the last minute not to kill him then and there. Instead, they take him captive and depart, leaving Thompkins tied up on the floor.

Thompkins frees one of her hands and manages to call for help. Batman is barely conscious and tries to stop her from calling the police. The issue ends when Thompkins gets the shock of her life when she removes Batman’s mask to find that it’s been Bruce Wayne all along.

This comic (unless I’ve sold it) and others are available for purchase through Peacock’s Books on If you’re interested in buying it, search for it there by title, issue number and date of publication.

Harlan Coben's 'Missing You' takes No. 1 spot on best-sellers list this week

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

"Missing You" by Harlan Coben replaced “Power Play” by Danielle Steel as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list.

"The Body Book" by Cameron Diaz replaced "The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet" by Mark Hyman as the top book on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

"Daddy's Gone A Hunting" by Mary Higgins Clark replaced "Alex Cross, Run" by James Patterson as the top book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list.

"Mistress" by James Patterson and David Ellis replaced “Afterburn/Aftershock” by Sylvia Day as the top book on the trade paperbacks best-sellers list.

There were three new books on this week’s hardcover fiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. Those books (and their places on the list) included "Missing You" by Harlan Coben (1), "Raising Steam" by Terry Pratchett (4) and "The Auschwitz Escape" by Joel C. Rosenberg (7).

There were five new books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that wasn’t on the list last week. Those books included "The Promise of a Pencil" by Adam Braun (4), "Not Cool" by Greg Gutfield (5), "William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh..." by Ian Doescher (10), "Making Sense of the Bible" by Adam Hamilton (11) and "The Future of the Mind" by Michio Kaku (14).

There were two new books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. Those books included "Daddy's Gone A Hunting" by Mary Higgins Clark (1) and "The Ophelia Cut" by John Lescroat (13).

There were two books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They included "Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster" by BradyGames (5) and "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg (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 Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists.

1. "Missing You" by Harlan Coben
2. "Power Play" by Danielle Steel
3. "The Bootlegger" by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott
4. "Raising Steam" by Terry Pratchett
5. "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt
6. "The Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd
7. "The Auschwitz Escape" by Joel C. Rosenberg
8. "Private L.A." by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan
9. "Be Careful What You Wish For" by Jeffrey Archer
10. "The Chase" by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
11. "Night Broken" by Patricia Briggs
12. "Words of Radiance" by Brandon Sanderson
13. "Concealed in Death" by J.D. Robb
14. "Stone Cold" by C.J. Box
15. "Sycamore Row" by John Grisham

1. "The Body Book" by Cameron Diaz
2. "The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet" by Mark Hyman
3. "Grain Brain" by David Perlmutter
4. "The Promise of a Pencil" by Adam Braun
5. "Not Cool" by Greg Gutfield
6. "Uganda Be Kidding Me" by Chelsea Handler
7. "Killing Jesus" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
8. "10 Percent Happier" by Dan Harris
9. "Things That Matter" by Charles Krauthammer
10. "William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh..." by Ian Doescher
11. "Making Sense of the Bible" by Adam Hamilton
12. "David and Goliath" by Malcolm Gladwell
13. "Dark Souls II Collector's Ed. Strategy Guide" by Future Press
14. "The Future of the Mind" by Michio Kaku
15. "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg

1. "Daddy's Gone A Hunting" by Mary Higgins Clark
2. "Alex Cross, Run" by James Patterson
3. "The Hit" by David Baldacci
4. "The Heist" by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
5. "Tell Me" by Lisa Jackson
6. "Thankless in Death" by J.D. Robb
7. "North to Alaska" by Debbie Macomber
8. "The Striker" by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott
9. "The Chance" by Robyn Carr
10. "Six Years" by Harlan Coben
11. "The Witness" by Nora Roberts
12. "Girl Missing" by Tess Gerritsen
13. "The Ophelia Cut" by John Lescroat
14. "The English Girl" by Daniel Silva
15. "Until the End of Time" by Danielle Steel

1. "Mistress" by James Patterson and David Ellis
2. "Afterburn/Aftershock" by Sylvia Day
3. "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo
4. "Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline
5. "Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster" by BradyGames
6. "Beautiful Day" by Elin Hilderbrand
7. "Four Blood Moons" by John Hagee
8. "Don't Go" by Lisa Scottoline
9. "Twelve Years a Slave" by Solomon Northup
10. "The How Can It Be Gluten Free" by America's Test Kitchen
11. "Second Honeymoon" by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
12. "Lone Survivor" by Marcus Luttrell
13. "Brain on Fire" by Susannah Cahalan
14. "Red Lily" by Nora Roberts
15. "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg

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.

Daily Weather Observations from SW Alabama for Sun., March 30, 2014

Temp: 41.4 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 83 percent (High)

Conditions: Clear skies; standing water on ground; birds audible and visible; dogs audible; security lights  on in the distance.

Barometric Pressure: 29.70 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 3.35 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.55 inches

Spring to Date Rainfall: 3.35 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 16.95 inches

NOTES: Today is the 89th day of 2014 and the 11th day of Spring. There are 276 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. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Singleton was 'addicted' to hunting for artifacts in Monroe County

George 'Buster' Singleton
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Addicted to hunting artifacts,” was originally published in the March 27, 1997 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

As I have stated many times, Monroe County is a great place to be. There are many things here to interest the majority of the citizens in the form of recreation and relaxation. Such pastimes as boating, hunting, fishing, golfing and many, many more. But, the one that I will try to write about today is one to be aware of unless one wants to become obsessed with it.

I have never been addicted to any habits to speak of except the two that I will confess to in this article. Both go hand in hand with each other. One is fuel for the fire of the other. I have never had the smoking habit, nor have I ever been addicted to the use of alcohol. But when you mix trail riding on a motorcycle and the hunting of early Indian artifacts, you are hooked in the worst manner.

First, one must get a good trail bike, just as one would own a good trusted horse, as in the olden days. This will enable one to get to those hard to reach places where artifacts are most likely to be found. (Should any of my readers become addicted, these instructions will help ease the burden when you approach your dear wife concerning the price of a new trail bike.)

Tell her that the trail bike is highly maneuverable. And you can tell her that the trail bike is much cheaper than a four-wheel drive vehicle, and they use much less gas. In discussing the gas mileage, tell her that a good trail bike will get around 60 miles to the gallon. That might be stretching it just a little, but bear in mind that you are trying to make a point. And, also tell her, with good care, a trail bike will last a lifetime.

The next step is to go forth and find a place where artifacts are to be found. After you find the first spear point, arrowhead, or piece of broken pottery, you are hooked; life will never be the same. Ideas will begin to pass through your mind, such as quitting your job that takes up all your time. Or perhaps, getting your dear wife another part-time job to help pay for the new trail bike. You will also give thought to finding a way to extend daylight savings time for a longer day. Remember, an extra hour will do wonders when searching for artifacts.

Along about now, after the artifacts fever had settled within your system, you feel that everyone is following you, hoping to find that special place where they too can bring out the goodies. Even though you might only be going to the post office, you keep an eye to the rear and go everywhere with great caution. Once you have found that special spot, you dare not trust anyone. You don’t even tell your dear wife, even though she is helping pay for that new trail bike. You fear that if she knows of this special place, she might, in a careless moment, tell the next door neighbor and the news of your find will spread over town life wildfire. You even become concerned that you might talk in your sleep and give the secret of the location away.

When you leave on your way to that top secret spot, you always ride off in the opposite direction. This maneuver is designed to throw off any scoundrel that might be trying to follow your trail, and horn in on your top secret find.

After much dodging and looking to the rear, you arrive at this special place. You hide your transportation back up the trail aways to throw off any tracker that might have been smart enough to follow your tracks. One should know by now that an unattended motorcycle covered with brush way back in the woods is a common occurrence.

In your hurry to leave the house, so as not to be noticed, you forgot to bring along something to dig with. After digging with your fingernails, and sorting every grain of dirt (the find is always in the dirtiest places) you discover that much sought after arrowhead or spear point.

By now, you are filthy from your ears down. The pestering insects have caused you to scratch your face with your dirty hands. And, too, you have ruined the knees of your best pair of blue jeans, and you are the victim of 1,001 mosquito bites, not to mention the ticks and red bugs that are chewing away all over your body.

But, after you discover that piece of pottery or that arrowhead, you have forgotten about the insects and all else. You pocket your find and begin to sneak back to where your trail bike is hidden. You consider dragging a brush behind you to cover your tracks. You also wonder if you covered the spot where you dug well enough.

The trip home is glorious. Many visions form around the imagined battles that might have been fought there where the relic was discovered. You ride forth to face the music as to why you are dirty and late for supper. And, you have yet to come up with a reason why the grass hasn’t been cut as you promised last week.

But you are not dismayed. You have returned from somewhere in time. You are now a self-taught and fully qualified archeologist. And, you are hooked. Life will never be the same again. I know. I’ve been there. I suffer from this addiction. I am a victim.

(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

Friday, March 28, 2014

March 28 marks 139th anniversary of Evergreen's official incorporation

City of Evergreen historical marker at the L&N Depot.
Today - March 28 - is a significant day in the history of Evergreen in that it marks the 139th anniversary of the City of Evergreen's official incorporation. In other words, it’s the city’s birthday.

According to the historical marker that was placed in front of the Old L&N Depot in downtown Evergreen by the city and the Alabama Tourism Department in October 2010, the City of Evergreen was officially incorporated as a municipality on March 28, 1875. However, the marker also mentions that what is now called Evergreen was originally settled in 1819 by James Cosey, George Andrews and the Clough (or “Cluff”) brothers. At that time, Evergreen was known as “Cosey’s Old Field.”

According to B.F. Riley’s 1881 book, “History of Conecuh County, Alabama,” what is now Evergreen was a “tangled wildwood, reveling in dense thickets of briar and cane, with the jungles infested by the native deer, wolf, bear and wildcat. The tiny streams, that still wind their way through different portions of the village, were then strongly barricaded on either side, with impenetrable brakes of cane. And such was the nature of the soil, which skirted the streams, that it was peril to man or beast to tread upon it.”

When Cosey, an old soldier from Georgia who’d been wounded in the Revolutionary War, and the Cluff brothers, also from Georgia, first arrived they located within what’s now Evergreen’s city limits, but Andrews, who was from South Carolina, pitched a tent on a hill beyond a small branch west of Evergreen. Other settlers soon followed with their families, including William Jones Sr. of Georgia and George Foote of South Carolina.

“Living contiguous to the vast swamps which border Murder Creek, this settlement was peculiarly exposed to the inroads of the bear, the wildcat, the deer and turkey,” Riley wrote in his book. “The bear and wildcat preying upon the pigs, and the less offensive deer and turkey riotously assailing the ripening grain of autumn.”

Conditions began to improve in the young town as more settlers moved in, including Blanton P. Box, Chesley Crosby, John Crosby, Benjamin Hart, Nathan Godbold, Garland Goode, Churchill Jones, Jephtha V. Perryman, James Tomlinson, Nicholas Stallworth and the Reverend Alexander Travis, who was the uncle of William Barrett Travis, from the famous Battle of the Alamo.

Rev. Alexander Travis is credited with changing the name from Cosey’s Old Field to Evergreen. Early citizens wanted to name the town after Perryman, but he declined the honor and Travis recommended that they call the town Evergreen because the “verdant foliage that abounded.”

In those days, Sparta was the county seat, but the county seat was moved to Evergreen in 1866 after much of Sparta was burned during the Civil War. Prior to the Civil War, Belleville and Sparta were both larger than Evergreen, but the completion of the Mobile & Montgomery Railroad, which later became the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, changed all that.

It goes without saying that much has changed in Evergreen since those early days, but the city has managed to maintain much of its early charm. Its residents still enjoy a laid back atmosphere, and, for the most part, folks get along just fine. Only time will tell if the city will hold a special event in 2019 to mark the 200th anniversary of Evergreen’s first settlement or if they’ll have something in 2025 to mark the 150th anniversary of the city’s incorporation.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wendell Hart deserves spot in Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame

Wendell Hart
The Alabama High School Athletic Association inducted its 24th group of honorees into the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame Monday of last week in Montgomery.

This year’s group included 12 outstanding individuals who have gone above and beyond in their contributions to high school athletics in Alabama over the years. This year’s class included Mike Battles, Larry Morris, Richard “Dickie” Brown, James “Jim” Garner, Donnie Roberts, Mike Smith, Major Lane, Alvin Moore, Tony Stallworth, Nancy Shoquist, Dr. James “Jimmy” Robinson and Eugene Weatherly.

Weatherly, a native of Gadsden and one of the most dominant high school basketball coaches in the South, is deceased and was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame this year in the “Old Timer” Category. Each year since the AHSAA inducted its first class into the Sports Hall of Fame in 1991, they have inducted an “Old Timer” for accomplishments prior to 1991. More often than not, this inductee has already passed away.
When it comes to Conecuh County and the “Old Timer” category, I’m convinced that former Evergreen High School coach Wendell Hart more than deserves a place in the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame.
Hart’s sports life in Conecuh County spanned decades. Anyone who’s read our regular Sports Flashback feature over the past several years will have seen that Hart was not only a successful football, basketball and baseball coach, but he also excelled in those sports as a player. Hart touched many lives, and there are still many of Hart’s former players and teammates in the community and elsewhere who have fond memories of Hart.

Hart passed away at the age of 60 on Nov. 26, 1977, well before the first class was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991. Known as “Coach Hart” to hundreds of former students and players, he served as a head coach at Evergreen High School for 20 years. He also coached at Luverne, Elba and Lyeffion. In his heyday, he was one of the state’s most successful coaches and the coach with the most senior years of service in the state.

He was also a graduate of Evergreen High School, where he was an outstanding athlete before going on to play at Sunflower Junior College in Moorehead, Miss. and Millsap College in Jackson, Miss. In both high school and in college, Hart lettered in football, baseball and basketball. He went on to graduate from Troy State University.

After serving in World War II, he was named the head coach at Evergreen in 1946 and successfully coached football, basketball and baseball. In 1949, he coached the only undefeated football team in Evergreen High School history, going 8-0-2. His teams in 1949 and 1950, had a combined record of 17-1-2.

Later, he left Evergreen to coach at Luverne and Elba and had success at both of those schools. He eventually returned to Evergreen as a head coach and teacher, and later coached at Lyeffion. His health eventually forced him to give up coaching.

When you take into account his entire career and the impact he had on so many young people, he more than deserves inclusion in the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame in the “Old Timer” category. 

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for March 27, 2014

MARCH 23, 2006

“Celebration for Jaguars basketball team March 25: Hillcrest High School in Evergreen has planned a day of activities to congratulate the Hillcrest High School men’s basketball team for winning the 4A state championship title.
“The Jag’s championship parade will be held on Sat., March 25, at 11 a.m. in downtown Evergreen.
“Immediately following the parade, the players will be stationed outside of city hall for a meet and greet session. Autographs, t-shirts and other souvenirs will be available.”

“Rhonda Ness of Evergreen killed her first turkey on Wed., March 15. The gobbler had a nine-inch beard, 7/8 of an inch spurs and weighed 20 pounds. Rhonda stated she killed the big bird ‘in the woods.’”

“Sparta Academy senior Will Ivey recorded a hit in each of the Warriors three games last week to extend his hit streak to six straight games.
“In the team’s 8-2 loss to Crenshaw Christian Academy in Luverne Tuesday of last week, Ivey went one for two at the plate with a double and a RBI.
“In Sparta’s 11-1 loss to Monroe Academy last Thursday in Evergreen, Ivey went one for three with a RBI and two stolen bases. He scored the Warriors’ only run when he stole home against the Volunteers.
“Ivey went one for two and drove in three runs in the team’s 9-4 loss to Wilcox Academy last Friday in Camden.”

MARCH 28, 1991

“Eddie Salter of Evergreen is congratulated by his daughter, Mallory, after he was selected the State Turkey Calling Champion during the 22nd Annual Alabama State Turkey Calling Contest held March 26 at McCorquodale Auditorium in Jackson. Salter beat out 26 other contestants including third place winner Seaborn Hicks of Coffeeville and second place contestant Larry Norton of Pennington. Salter, who manufactures and sells his own turkey calls, is a previous winner of the Jackson contest. The annual event was sponsored by the Clarke County Wildlife Association.”

“Gary Hanks of Evergreen was the top junior (15 and under) turkey caller at the 22nd Annual Alabama State Turkey Calling Contest held March 16 in Jackson. He beat out his cousin, Steve Hanks of Autaugaville, who placed second, and Billy Williams of Bay Minette.”

MARCH 25, 1976

“Ronald Fantroy ends super cage career at EHS: Ronald Fantroy closed out a superb basketball career at Evergreen High School by representing the 3A schools of Region One in the 3A and 4A All-Star Game at the University of Alabama Memorial Coliseum on March 12.
“Ronald, one of eight 3A players chosen for the game, scored eight points and pulled down 12 rebounds, according to Evergreen High Coach Charles Branum, in the contest even though his South team lost to the North Squad.
“Fantroy, a 6-foot-6 senior, averaged 19 points and 16 rebounds a game this season. He made the All State Team, 3A, for two straight years, and also earned All Region and All County honors. He was selected the Most Valuable Player in the Southwest Conference this season.
“Coach Branum says that Ronald is not only an outstanding athlete, but also a fine student and Christian youth. He is the son of Mrs. Matilda Fantroy of the Fairview community and an active member of the Evergreen Church of Christ. He is a member of the Beta Club and will graduate with honors in May.”

“Mrs. Matilda Fantroy looks on as her son, Ronald, signs a grant-in-aid scholarship with Alabama Christian College, Montgomery. Ronald was an outstanding basketball player at Evergreen High School under Coach Charles Branum and the Montgomery college feels fortunate that it will have him on the court in coming years.”

“Warriors host ‘Jamboree’ Saturday 7:30: The Sparta Academy Warriors will host a spring football practice game here Saturday night at Stuart-McGehee Field. Only two teams will be involved, Sparta and Escambia Academy, with the kickoff set at 7:30.
“Sparta headmaster and coach Richard Brown listed the following young men who will compete for the Warriors: Bobby Johnson, Andy Skipper, John Cook, Kent Cook, Jerry Peacock, Hugh Bradford, Steve Debose, Joey Rayfield, David Sabino, Gray Stevens, Harry Crabtree, Jamie McKenzie, Tony Baggett, Tony Raines, Tommy Hutcheson, Bill Cope, Jimmy Ellis, Ronny Taylor, John McKenzie, Ronny McKenzie and Terry Peacock.”

MARCH 23, 1961

From “Front Page, Upper Left Corner” by Bob Bozeman – “I know you aren’t supposed to report on turkey hunters as they like to keep their kills out of print, but I think I ought to tell you that Dr. Joe Hagood is putting most of the other local hunters to shame. Monday, first day of the gobbling season, he brought in one that went better than 21 pounds. Wednesday he repeated with another almost the same size.
“Some other hunters, Mayor Zell Murphy, Dr. Rob Stallworth, Aren Bolton, to name a few, have gotten nothing out of it so far but early rising and loss of sleep… although I did hear a report from Check Ellis that the mayor got off a couple of shots the first morning… but no bird.”

“Relatives and friends of Homer Deuel, a former Castleberry boy and Conecuh High School graduate, and who is now coach at the high school in Malone, Fla., will be pleased to know that his team there has just won the state B basketball championship in the state finals. It was the fourth crown for Coach Homer Deuel’s Tigers. He was assistant coach when they won the first time in 1952, but the next three wins he was coach.
“He is the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Homer Deuel Sr., of this place (Castleberry).”

MARCH 28, 1946

“Local Golf Course Is Being Improved: With Spring upon us and Summer just around the corner local golf enthusiasm is rising with the thermometer. Good turnouts have been present on recent Thursday and Sunday afternoons with a fair sprinkling of players on other days.
“The local course is well known in south Alabama golfing circles as combining an attractive layout with a thorough test of golf. During the war, in common with most other small town courses, the local layout suffered from lack of attention. This was due to the shortage of labor and materials rather than negligence. As a result of the good work of Mr. Tatum, who is now caretaker, much improvement has been made. Although the greens require considerable further attention the course as a whole is being greatly improved.
“In the near future a membership committee will make an effort to renew all old memberships and obtain as many new ones as possible. Membership is open to any residents of Evergreen without invitation and includes the use of the locker room and showers. No initiation fee is charged, dues being payable monthly to the city clerk.
“Out-of-town players and returning servicemen are especially urged to join the local club. Mr. John Holland of Castleberry has stimulated considerable interest among players there, several of who have played the local course recently. A large number of out of town members is hoped for.

“Prospective members should see one of the members of the committee, whose names will be announced shortly, the city clerk or Mayor Robison.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Covington County historical marker describes past of Sanford, Alabama

Town of Sanford, Ala. Historical Marker
This week’s featured historical marker is the “Town of Sanford” marker in Covington County, Ala. The marker is located on the north side of U.S. Highway 84 in front of the Sanford Town Hall & Volunteer Fire Station, east of Andalusia.

This historical marker was erected by the Alabama Tourism Department and the Town of Sanford in 2010. There’s text on both sides of this marker, and both sides are unique. What follows is the complete text from the marker.

----- 0 -----

“TOWN OF SANFORD: Sanford first came into being as a community post office which was established on May 19, 1879. Around the turn of the century, Sanford had a period of progress that lasted for several years. The L&N Railroad had come through in 1901 on its way to Graceville, Fla., and in 1902, the Henderson-Waits Lumber Company began operations with a huge lumber mill. At that time, the town had several other business establishments including Woodham and Langston, S.D. Wiggins and Son, Jenkins Company, W.D. Day and a large commissary run by the lumber company. It was in this year, 1902,  that the town was incorporated. (Continued on other side.)”

“TOWN OF SANFORD: (Continued from other side.) The original Sanford School building was a two-story wood frame structure that stood a short distance from this site. This old building burned in 1929. The next year a new five-room building was constructed on this location. Lon Cobb and Bob Wiggins secured the notes for the materials and local peopled donated the labor. John J. Wilson Sr. was principal at the time. In 1932, an auditorium was added. In 1947, a cafeteria was added. This addition was made possible through the efforts of the Sanford P.T.A. The school building was torn down in 1984 at which time construction began on the Sanford Town Hall/Sanford Volunteer Fire Department building.”

----- 0 -----

In the end, visit this site next Wednesday to learn about another historical marker. I’m also taking suggestions from the reading audience, so if you know of an interesting historical marker that you’d like me to feature, let me know in the comments section below.

This week's movie picks are 'Noah' and 'The Wolf of Wall Street'

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 or pick up at the local Redbox.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this week include:

- Breathe In (Drama, R): Directed by Drake Doremus and starring Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones, Amy Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan and Alexandra Wentworth.

- Cesar Chavez (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Diego Luna and starring Michael Pena, John Malkovich, America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson and Wes Bentley.

- Finding Vivian Maier (Documentary): Directed by Charlie Siskel and John Maloof.

- Hide Your Smiling Faces (Drama): Directed by Daniel Patrick Carbone and starring Ryan Jones, Nathan Varnson, Colm O’Leary, Thomas Cruz and Christina Starbuck.

- Leave the World Behind (Music, Documentary): Directed by Christian Larson.

- Mistaken for Strangers (Documentary, Music): Directed by Tom Berninger and starring Tom Berninger and Matt Berninger.

- Noah (Adventure, Drama, PG-13): Directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone.

- No God, No Master (Crime, Drama, Suspense, PG-13): Directed by Terry Green and starring David Strathairn, Same Witwer, Alessandro Mario, Edoardo Ballerini and Mike Bacarella.

- The Raid 2 (Action, R): Directed by Gareth Evans and starring Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo, Oka Antara and Julie Etelle.

- Sabotage (Action, Crime, Drama, R): Directed by David Ayer and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joe Manganiello, Olivia Williams, Mireille Enos and Sam Worthington.

New DVD releases this week include:

Chinese Zodiac (Action, Adventure, PG-13): Directed by Jackie Chan and starring Chan, Oliver Platt, Oi Shu, Daniel Wu and Laura Weissbecker.

Delivery Man (Comedy, Drama, PG-13): Directed by Ken Scott and starring Vince Vaughn, Cobie Smulders, Chris Pratt, Britt Robertson and Amos VanderPoel.

Free Ride (Crime, Drama): Directed by Shana Betz and starring Anna Paquin, Cam Gigandet, Liana Liberato, Drea de Matteo and Yvette Yates.

The Great Beauty (Comedy, Drama): Directed by Paolo Sorrentino and starring Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli and Carlo Buccirosso.

Odd Thomas (Drama, Fantasy, Suspense): Directed by Stephen Sommers and starring Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin, Willem Dafoe, Patton Oswalt and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

The Past (Drama, Mystery, PG-13): Directed by Asghar Farhadi and starring Berenice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Pauline Burlet and Elyes Aguis.

The Truth About Emmanuel (Drama, Suspense): Directed by Francesca Gregorini and starring Kaya Scodelario, Jessica Biel, Alfred Molina, Frances O’Connor and Aneurin Barnard.

Walking With Dinosaurs (Adventure, Family, PG): Directed by Neil Nightingale and Barry Cook and starring the voices of Justin Long, Tiya Sircar, John Leguizamo and Skyler Stone.

Welcome to the Jungle (Adventure, Comedy): Directed by Rob Meltzer and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Adam Brody, Megan Boone, Kristen Schaal and Dennis Haysbert.

The Wolf of Wall Street (Comedy, Crime, Drama, R): Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujardin and Rob Reiner.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Noah,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

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 from SW Alabama for Wed., March 26, 2014

Temp: 33.8 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 73 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Clear skies; light frost on the ground and vehicles; a little standing water on ground; birds audible and visible; dogs audible; security lights  on in the distance.

Barometric Pressure: 29.84 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.15 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 3.35 inches

Spring to Date Rainfall: 0.15 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 13.65 inches

NOTES: Today is the 85th day of 2014 and the seventh day of Spring. There are 280 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, March 25, 2014

'Game of Thrones' graphic novel tops best-sellers list this week

Today is Tuesday, so that means it’s time for my weekly breakdown of this week’s New York Times lists of best-selling graphic novels. According to those lists, there are two new books at the top of the two major graphic novel lists this week.

“A Game of Thrones, Vol. 3” by Daniel Abraham and Tommy Patterson replaced “Beautiful Darkness” by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet as the No. 1 book on the Hardcover Graphic Books best-sellers list.

“The Walking Dead, Vol. 20” by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard replaced “Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Rift, Part 1” by Gene Luen Yang, Gurihiru and others as the top book on the Paperback Graphic Books best-sellers list.

There were four books on this week’s Hardcover Graphic Books best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They (and their places on the list) included “A Game of Thrones, Vol. 3” by Daniel Abraham and Tommy Patterson (3), “Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search” by Gene Luen Yang and others (4), “Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time” by Hope Larson (6) and “Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 1” by Tom Taylor and Jheremy Raapack (9).

There were four books on this week’s Paperback Graphic Books best-sellers list that wasn’t on that list last week. They included “The Walking Dead, Vol. 20” by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (1), “Pearls Falls Fast” by Stephan Pastis (4), “Hip Hop Family Tree: Book 1, 1975-1981” by Ed Piskor (7) and “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier (9).

As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Tuesday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. These lists are initially released each week on Sunday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit The New York Times’ Web site at Below you’ll find both of this week’s best-seller lists.

1. “A Game of Thrones, Vol. 3” by Daniel Abraham and Tommy Patterson
2. “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs and Cassandra Jean
3. “Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy” by Nathan Hale
4. “Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search” by Gene Luen Yang and others
5. “Locke & Key, Vol. 6” by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
6. “Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time” by Hope Larson
7. “Beautiful Darkness” by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet
8. “The Joker: Death of the Family” by Scott Snyder and various
9. “Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 1” by Tom Taylor and Jheremy Raapack
10. “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1” by Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven

1. “The Walking Dead, Vol. 20” by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
2. “Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Rift, Part 1” by Gene Luen Yang, Gurihiru and others
3. “The Walking Dead Compendium, Vol. 1” by Robert Kirkman and others
4. “Pearls Falls Fast” by Stephan Pastis
5. “The Walking Dead Compendium, Vol. 2” by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
6. “The Walking Dead, Vol. 19” by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
7. “Hip Hop Family Tree: Book 1, 1975-1981” by Ed Piskor
8. “Smile” by Raina Telgemeier
9. “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier
10. “Saga, Vol. 1” by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

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.