Friday, January 31, 2014

Does lost gold still rest at the bottom of Shipps Pond in Conecuh County?

(A month or so ago, Sherry Johnston, the staff historian and genealogist at The Evergreen-Conecuh County Public Library tipped me off to an interesting, old newspaper story that was published in the Sept. 21, 1978 edition of The Evergreen Courant newspaper. As it turned out, the story, which was titled “Old Story Relates Legend of Gold in Shipp Pond,” had been originally published the week before in the Sept. 14, 1978 edition of The Brewton Standard newspaper and had been reprinted in The Courant a week later. What follows is the complete story.)


Shipp Pond, a natural lake, is located between Castleberry and Brewton.

According to an article in a 1950 edition of The Brewton Standard, gold is hidden somewhere in Shipp Pond.

The 1950 story, written by the late Edley Franklin, relates much of the history of the pond.


It was the year 1862. The Civil War was being fought, and throughout the South, gold and other valuables were hidden for safekeeping.

Many later reclaimed their treasures. Others are supposed to have died, or some unfortunate occurrence, such as changed landmarks or bad memories kept them from it.

It was supposed to have happened one night during the Civil War. Sheets of gray clouds sliding slowly beneath a quarter moon made slowly-moving ghostly shadows across the still waters of a large pond, surrounded by a sloping ridge of virgin pine.

Out of nowhere, a man driving a buggy appeared in an opening among the trees. Twisting and turning, he made his way between the pines down to the edge of the pond. Getting out of the buggy, he tied the horse. He then took a wooden box or small chest from under the laprobe in the front of the buggy. He placed it on a “billy” which was composed of four short logs dogged together and tied there at the water’s edge.

Untying the billy, the man picked up a long pole lying on top of it and began shoving the raft out in the pond, keeping it headed straight toward a tall dead pine that was skylighted on the other side.

Halfway across the pond, the man stopped. He stood there for several minutes, looking in all directions, first toward the dead pine, then the direction from which he came, then to the opposite sides of the pond. Then picking up the wooden box, he lowered it into the water beside the raft and dropped it.

“Won’t no damn Yankees ever find that gold money!” the man said to himself. He got in the buggy and drove back the way he came.


The man was Henchie Warren, great-grandfather of President Warren G. Harding, and the owner of the Warren plantation in Conecuh County. He is buried on the old plantation, now known as the Jay Villa plantation and owned by (the late) Thomas McMillan of Brewton. The pond is known today as Shipp Pond.

Shipp Pond is a large, wide open, treeless, pine woods pond containing approximately 43 acres and is located between Brooklyn and Castleberry. It is one of the many ponds scattered over a radius of about 10 square miles, all formed, so geologists say, from lime sinks.

The land on which Shipp Pond is located was given by the U.S. government to the Florida and Alabama Railroad to aid in the construction of a railroad from Montgomery to Mobile. In 1900, Cedar Creek Lumber Co., now known as T.R. Miller Co., bought the land from Ransom Shipp, for whom the pond is named. At the time, the pond was open to the public for fishing, but only contained a few black bream, commonly known as branch bream, a few mud-cat, turtles and alligators.

For $1 per year, Cedar Creek Lumber Co. leased the pond to a fellow by the name of Harding who wanted it for a bream pond. And, so the story goes, he wanted to seek Warren’s gold which was believed to still be in the pond.

The bottom of Shipp pond is soft, black, muck mud. Anything heavy will, after a long period of time, gradually sink below the surface of the muck. According to the legend, the reason that Harding never found Warren’s gold was because it has settled into the mud.

Some fellows from Evergreen are said to have stocked Shipp Pond with its first trout. They caught the trout in nearby “Ell” Pond.

Several years later, the late Pete Skinner, local fisherman, was on Shipp Pond and heard what he thought was a trout strike. It was. He caught two and was told by Harding to catch every one in the pond. Pete caught 19 more that afternoon, the 21 weighing 25 pounds.


In 1934, T.R. Miller Mill Co. fenced and stocked Shipp Pond, closing it to the public. In 1935, they started fertilizing it, using from nine to 12 tons a year. Fish grow larger there than in swamp lakes. Shellcrackers have been caught that weighed 2-3/4 pounds, Bluegills 1-3/4 pounds, White Perch or Crappie 2-1/2 pounds. And a record trout weighing 11-3/4 pounds has been caught in the pond.

No gars are found in Shipp Pond. Neither have I ever heard of anyone catching a jackfish there. Occasionally, a mud-cat is caught.

Strange things happen at Shipp Pond. Mrs. Annie Smith, Mrs. Nannie Sowell and myself were fishing in the same boat when we saw a large crane catch a trout and wade out of the water and drop it on the bank. Backing the boat to the bank, we chased the crane away and got the trout. With about 15 people looking on, we weighed the trout. It weighed an even two pounds.

But while we were having our experiences with the crane, Mrs. Ruth Sowell, Malcolm McMillan and Mrs. McMillan were fishing in a boat on the opposite side of the pond. Mrs. Sowell first caught a small trout. Before she could get it out of the water, a larger trout came along and swallowed the small one. With a dip-net, Mr. McMillan landed the whole business up in the boat. The large trout weighed 3-1/2 pounds.

Now, if you are a regular fisherman at Shipp Pond, who knows but what that next fish you catch will be over the spot where Warren’s gold lies buried deep in the mud.

And so, as long as years come and go, and sheets of gray clouds beneath a quarter moon make those same ghostly shadows across Shipp Pond, the legend of Warren’s gold will remain.

Daily Weather Observations from SW Alabama for Fri., Jan. 31, 2014

Temp: 26.8 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 81 percent (High)

Conditions: Clear skies; patches of snow still on the ground; frost on the ground and vehicles; birds audible and visible; security lights still on in the distance.

Wind: Not measured.

Barometric Pressure: 29.71 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.55 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 3.40 inches

Winter to Date Rainfall: 13.70 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 3.40 inches

NOTES: Today is the 31st day of 2014 and the 42nd day of Winter. There are 334 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, January 30, 2014

'Peak Experiences' shows you're never too old to start climbing mountains

If you don’t think a child’s birthday party can change your life forever, then I invite you to read “Peak Experiences” by Manson Boze of Richmond, Va.

Published in June by Dementi Milestone Publishing, this 246-page book details the sport climbing adventures of the author and his young son, Austin. Between its covers, Manson tells of how a chance birthday party at a local climbing gym when his son was six resulted his attempt to climb one of the highest mountains in the world. Thanks to the small taste of climbing he and his son received at a chance birthday party, Manson, who was 43 years old at the time, started climbing because he thought it would be a good way to bond with his young son.

At the time, Manson, who is now in his late 50s, was admittedly a little out of shape, but as he and his son got more involved in the climbing lifestyle, he got in better shape, their skills improved and his son began to grow into one of the nation’s top youth climbers. Not only did they join the local climbing gym, but Manson eventually began teaching classes there and soon became one of the area’s best known climbers. Austin would go on to win a youth climbing national championship, and he competed for many more before entering college at the University of Colorado.

Together, Manson and Austin let their climbing adventures take them all over the U.S. and the world as they participated in climbs in Alaska, California, Colorado, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. Before it was all said and done, Manson joined a group attempting to summit Argentina’s Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the world outside of Asia at 22,837 feet. Along the way, Manson and Austin encounter a wide variety of colorful characters, and they also get into more than a few close calls.

I also enjoyed “Peak Experiences” because it serves as a great primer for readers (like me) who have never rock climbed. In a very conversational way, Manson explains the many aspects of climbing and mountaineering, and when you’re done, you might be ready to climb Mt. Everest, but you’ll be more familiar with such terms as acclimatization, belay, cirques, fourteener, trad routes, pitch and multi-pitch. You’ll definitely finish the book with a better understanding of the basics of climbing and mountaineering.

“Peak Experiences” was so good that I think it deserves serious consideration for this year’s National Outdoor Book Awards. These awards honor the best in outdoor writing and publishing each year, and “Peak Experiences” would be a worthy nominee in a number of categories, especially Outdoor Literature and Works of Significance. When “Peak Experiences” wins a NOBA in November, I’ll try not to act surprised.

In the end, booklovers with a taste for adventure will enjoy this book, and I highly recommend that you check it out if you’re interested in the outdoors, climbing and sport traveling. Copies of the book are available for purchase through Amazon, Barns & Noble, and

Local football fans make their Super Bowl predictions

Super Bowl XLVIII (that’s 48 for all the non-Romans out there) is set for this coming Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. In that game, the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks will take on the AFC Champion Denver Broncos. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:25 p.m. and the game will be televised by FOX.

In an informal survey earlier this week, The Courant poll a number of football fans to see how they thought the game would turn out. Nineteen diehards responded and the vast majority of them (15) felt that Denver would win, and only four predicted that Seattle would carry the day.

Laniebell Johnson, who is arguably the biggest female Alabama fan in the vicinity, was the first to turn in a prediction, and she said Denver would beat Seattle, 21-17. Hillcrest High School assistant coach Arthur Ingram III agreed saying Denver would win, 35-27. Lyeffion resident Jesse Jordan predicted Denver would win, 42-14, and local paramedic Josh Klaetsch chimed in to say that Denver would carry the day, 28-24.

Former Hillcrest sports standout Quentin Simpson was the first to predict that the Seahawks would win, saying Seattle would beat Denver, 24-21. Former Frisco City Whippet Adrian McGinnis fired back, saying Denver would win, 37-34. However, Sparta JV boys basketball coach Detroit Webb disagreed, saying Seattle would win, 31-27.

Robbie Moorer, who is arguably the biggest Auburn fan in Evergreen, said Denver would win the Super Bowl, 31-24. Former Sparta standout athletes Chris Garner and Michael Campbell agreed, saying Denver would win, 35-28 and 31-21, respectively. Rich Hoffman, the head of the Alabama Mutual UFO Network, predicted that Denver would win, 31-28.

Nick Watson, a field staff director with Mississippi Flyway Waterfowlers, said the game was going to be close, and that Denver was going to win, 24-21. Greenville attorney Walton Hickman predicted a 31-17 Denver win, and Monroeville native Sandy Gaddy said the Broncos would win, 28-17.

Derek Watson, the strong-armed security guard at Monroe County Hospital, thinks the Seahawks will win, 20-16. Debbie Thomas of Flomaton’s pulling for the Broncos though, saying they will win, 27-13.  Hillcrest grad Chad Jerkins predicted Seattle would win, 24-13, but Monroeville’s Steve Stacy is calling for a 34-31 Denver win.

Last, but not least, we have local grant writer Cara Stallman, who picked Denver to win, 42-39. When it comes to local sports predictions, Cara’s sort of like E.F. Hutton: When she talks, people listen. Many of you will remember that in November she became somewhat of a local celebrity by most accurately predicting the outcome of this year’s surprising Iron Bowl. Of 116 predictors, Stallman was one of only 24 to pick Auburn to win, and as it turned out, she missed the final score of the game by just one point. She said Auburn would win, 35-28, and they went on to win, 34-28.

As for me, I look for the Broncos to win it all. They’ve played consistently well all season, and they’ve got a veteran quarterback in Peyton Manning. I think it’ll be close, but I look for Denver to come out ahead in the end, 28-24.

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for Jan. 30, 2014

Wendell Hart
JAN. 27, 1972

From “Front Page, Upper Left Corner” by Bob Bozeman – “One of Alabama’s longest coaching careers has ended. Head Coach Wendell Hart of Evergreen High School has resigned and will leave the coaching field, although he will continue as a classroom teacher. His career as a high school coach spanned 26 years, most of them at Evergreen High School with a few years at Luverne and Elba.
“Wendell, who started with the Aggies in 1946, might well have been the state’s senior prep coach. Certainly, he is one of the few who logged over 150 wins in his career. He started out with a winning team his first year and had only a few losing seasons in his long career.
“Although he was a winner, Coach Hart was perhaps best known as a molder of character and firm disciplinarian. His boys always behaved. He had only one undefeated team, the 1949 club that went 8-0-2 with only ties with powerful Andalusia and Greenville marring the record. Over a three-year stretch, 1948-49 and 1950, his Aggies won 24, lost four and tied two.
“A number of his boys went to play college ball. Sam Hanks was the first, playing tackle at Auburn. Wayne Frazier, center and linebacker, starred at Auburn and went on to an outstanding pro career. Once he had two grads playing side by side at Alabama as starters at tackle and guard, Doug Potts and Jeff Moorer. Ward Alexander Jr. earned four letters at Louisiana College. And there were others.
“I’m sure Wendell will miss football, and I know football will miss him, but 26 years of tension and agony on the sidelines is enough for one man, I would imagine. Best of everything, coach.”

JAN. 31, 1957

“Castleberry Five Tops Flomaton Quint 57-31: Brothers Robert and Gene Warr led the Castleberry Blue Devils to their eighth cage win of the season last Friday night as they walloped Flomaton, 57-31, on the Castleberry court.
“Gene Warr hit for 11 points followed closely by brother Robert with 10, Ryals and Castleberry with nine each and Heaton with seven. Sub Uptagraph for the Blue Devils also had nine points.”

“Aggies Top Lyeffion 80 to 42 Tues., Night: The Evergreen Aggies rolled to an easy win over the Lyeffion Yellowjackets 80 to 42 in the Lyeffion gym Tuesday night.
“Big Wayne Frazier almost equaled the entire output of the Lyeffion team as he ripped the cords for 31 points to gain scoring honors for the evening. Jimmy Moorer netted 12 for runner-up honors, followed by Bill Ivey with nine, Mickey Joyner, Paul Pace and Billy Grace with eight each and Buddy Zukowski with four.
“For the Yellowjackets, Riley and Booker had 15 each followed by Salter and Williams with six each to round out the scoring.
“The Aggie B’s notched a 44-19 win over the Lyeffion B’s in the preliminary battle with Robert Ellington and Cleveland Brown leading the scoring with eight points each. Others Aggie scoring was Bell and Pate, six each, Mitchell, Boykin and McKenzie, four each, and Tucker and English, two each.”

JAN. 29, 1942

“Aggies Defeat Lyeffion; Drop One To Greenville: The Evergreen High School cage squad won one and lost one to split this week’s encounters. Thursday night the Aggies defeated Lyeffion here in a tight battle, 23 to 21. Jumping into the lead the Aggies were in front all the way, gaining a 15 to 8 lead at the half. Hanks led the local’s attack with 10, while E. Sanders was the key man in the visitor’s attack. This game ran the local’s win streak to 10 games without a loss.
“The first defeat of the year was handed to the Aggies by a smart Greenville aggregation, 22 to 17. D. Moorer and Johnson led the Aggie’s offensive effort with 9 to 7 points respectively.
“This game hurt, but it won’t be forgotten. It ruined the perfect record of the locals, but it did not down their spirit. They only promise revenge when they meet the Tigers Thursday afternoon. Both games at Greenville.
“Friday night the locals take on Red Level on the local court at 7:30 p.m. The visitors are still smarting from two defeats handed them by last year’s team. So, if you want to see a good game, drop around to the E.H.S. auditorium tomorrow night and see the Aggies go out in an all out effort to get back on the right track again with a win over Red Level.”

JAN. 27, 1927

“CITY SCHOOL CAGERS TO MEET CASTLEBERRY: The boys basketball team of the Evergreen City School is scheduled to meet the Castleberry team on the local court Friday afternoon at three o’clock. Both teams are primed for a real fracas and each hopes to get away with a victory.
“The locals have had a fairly successful season, taking into consideration that this is their first year to play match games. The boys are anxious to have the support of the local people and urge as many as can and will to come up and root for them Friday afternoon.”

“EVERGREEN SPORTSMAN ATTENDS CONFERENCE: Dr. H.C. Fountain has been appointed by Col. E.F. Allison, president of Alabama Wild Life Conservation League, as member of a committee of sportsmen, which will confer with the committee from the legislature on game and fish to ascertain what legislation is needed to further the propagation and conservation of game and fish in Alabama. Dr. Fountain left Tuesday morning for Montgomery to attend this conference.”

“The (Ivey School) girls and boys won the victory over Repton’s junior team. The score being 23 to 9.
“The girls did splendid playing with Repton’s junior team, with two first team players playing. At the close of the first half the game was called off, at that time the score was 22 to 3 in favor of Ivey.
“On Thursday, the boys played basketball with Lenox’s second team. The score was 13 to 3.”

Alabama Sports Writers Association releases latest prep basketball poll

The Alabama Sports Writers Association released its latest statewide high school basketball poll this morning, and more than a few teams from Southwest Alabama made the cut, including three teams from Conecuh County. Sparta Academy's varsity girls were ranked No. 4 among Alabama Independent School Association girls teams, and Hillcrest-Evergreen's varsity boys were ranked No. 6 among Class 4A boys. Sparta Academy's varsity boys were ranked No. 10 among AISA boys teams. The complete poll is as follows:

1. Mountain Brook (25-3)
2. Theodore (18-3)
3. Lee-Huntsville (20-4)
4. Blount (20-3)
5. Carver-Montgomery (18-4)
6. Tuscaloosa County (20-3)
7. Albertville (22-4)
8. Central-Phenix City (21-1)
9. McGill-Toolen (18-6)
10. Gadsden City (18-5)

Others nominated: Bob Jones (16-8), Daphne (17-9), Grissom (17-10), Hazel Green (16-11), Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (19-4), James Clemens (19-7).

1. Faith Academy (23-2)
2. Wenonah (23-7)
3. Athens (21-3)
4. Parker (16-5)
5. Columbia (17-9)
6. Paul Bryant (20-5)
7. Sumter Central (23-6)
8. LeFlore (18-6)
9. Eufaula (17-5)
10. Ramsay (17-12)

Others nominated: Arab (18-8), Cullman (17-7), Etowah (19-3).

1. Dallas County (20-3)
2. Madison County (17-5)
3. J.O. Johnson (18-4)
4. Hokes Bluff (22-5)
5. Bibb County (22-4)
6. Hillcrest-Evergreen (12-3)
7. Guntersville (19-6)
8. Wilcox Central (18-6)
9. Headland (20-4)
10. Butler (10-7)

Others nominated: Brewbaker Tech (17-8), Dora (19-6), Monroe County (12-8).

1. Midfield (19-7)
2. Madison Academy (15-11)
3. Cleveland (18-5)
4. West Morgan (20-6)
5. Holly Pond (18-7)
6. Sipsey Valley (20-6)
7. Hanceville (19-6)
8. Straughn (15-4)
9. American Christian (17-7)
10. Barbour County (16-10)

Others nominated: Colbert County (14-6), Daleville (16-8), Deshler (17-8), Geraldine (16-10), Hamilton (17-4).

1. Washington County (17-1)
2. Luverne (18-2)
3. Lanett (13-2)
4. R.C. Hatch (14-7)
5. Westbrook Christian (19-4)
6. Elba (20-2)
7. Fyffe (19-6)
8. Aliceville (18-3)
9. Montgomery Academy (17-5)
10. Tanner (12-6)

Others nominated: Colbert Heights (16-6), Cold Springs (16-9), Section (17-7).

1. St. Jude (17-5)
2. Sunshine (19-2)
3. Parrish (20-2)
4. Keith (16-6)
5. Brantley (13-6)
6. Shades Mountain Christian (16-5)
7. Phillips-Bear Creek (19-5)
8. South Lamar (19-2)
9. Belgreen (23-3)
10. Autaugaville (16-5)

Others nominated: Collinsville (17-9), Linden (12-5), Sumiton Christian (18-7).

1. Glenwood (24-2)
2. Restoration (23-6)
3. Evangel Christian (20-7)
4. Patrician (18-4)
5. Lee-Scott (14-4)
6. Tuscaloosa Academy (20-4)
7. Chambers Academy (21-1)
8. Kingwood (11-6)
9. Lakeside (18-8)
10. Sparta (12-7)

Others nominated: Fort Dale Academy (13-10), Northside Methodist (15-8).

1. Sparkman (24-2)
2. Blount (25-3)
3. Shades Valley (22-3)
4. Hazel Green (24-4)
5. Huntsville (18-7)
6. Bob Jones (19-7)
7. Lee-Huntsville (17-9)
8. Mountain Brook (19-6)
9. Gadsden City (18-3)
10. Dothan (21-3)

Others nominated: Austin (20-8), Baldwin County (17-4), Enterprise (19-9), Hoover (13-12), Lee-Montgomery (15-7), McGill-Toolen (19-5), Murphy (15-6).

1. Wenonah (20-6)
2. Brewer (20-6)
3. Valley (15-2)
4. Sylacauga (21-3)
5. Faith Academy (18-5)
6. Center Point (16-10)
7. B.C. Rain (21-5)
8. Selma (20-4)
9. Paul Bryant (21-2)
10. Muscle Shoals (19-7)

Others nominated: Athens (14-8), Central-Tuscaloosa (14-7), East Limestone (22-6), LeFlore (15-11), Scottsboro (17-7).

1. Oneonta (24-5)
2. Clarke County (17-2)
3. Brewbaker Tech (19-6)
4. Anniston (18-5)
5. Priceville (20-4)
6. UMS-Wright (16-10)
7. West Limestone (15-8)
8. Madison County (16-9)
9. Hokes Bluff (20-4)
10. Charles Henderson (14-2)

Others nominated: Ashford (17-9), Calera (18-4), Jacksonville (17-7), Locust Fork (16-7), St. James (16-8).

1. Lauderdale County (28-0)
2. Madison Academy (21-7)
3. Straughn (21-1)
4. Holly Pond (23-3)
5. Trinity (19-1)
6. Pisgah (14-7)
7. Winfield (18-2)
8. Brindlee Mountain (20-5)
9. Midfield (15-8)
10. Abbeville (14-5)

Others nominated: Cordova (20-6), Daleville (18-5), Deshler (15-7), Greensboro (19-4), Mars Hill Bible (16-9), Sipsey Valley (17-5).

1. Woodland (25-1)
2. North Sand Mountain (20-1)
3. Cold Springs (22-6)
4. Samson (23-1)
5. Tanner (14-6)
6. Lexington (22-5)
7. Sand Rock (24-2)
8. Red Bay (24-2)
9. Lanett (14-4)
10. Montgomery Academy (17-5)

Others nominated: Luverne (14-8), Prattville Christian (18-6).

1. Covenant Christian (23-1)
2. St. Luke's (16-6)
3. Brantley (18-5)
4. Geneva County (20-4)
5. Spring Garden (20-4)
6. Loachapoka (20-2)
7. Skyline (21-4)
8. Tharptown (15-6)
9. Winterboro (16-7)
10. Lynn (21-2)

Others nominated: Berry (18-5), Holy Spirit (18-5), Keith (17-6), Phil Campbell (14-8), Woodville (18-6).

1. Glenwood (20-1)
2. Lee-Scott (19-2)
3. Evangel Christian (20-4)
4. Sparta Academy (16-2)
5. Marengo Academy (21-0)
6. Patrician Academy (19-4)
7. Lakeside (19-10)
8. Hooper Academy (15-12)
9. Autauga Academy (17-3)
10. Pickens Academy (14-4)

Others nominated: Edgewood Academy (10-6), Fort Dale Academy (12-10), Southern Academy (13-7).

Daily Weather Observations from SW Alabama for Thurs., Jan. 30, 2014

Temp: 18.3 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 60 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Clear skies; snow on the ground; birds audible and visible; security lights still on in the distance.

Wind: Not measured.

Barometric Pressure: 29.82 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.55 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 3.40 inches

Winter to Date Rainfall: 13.70 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 3.40 inches

NOTES: Today is the 30th day of 2014 and the 41st day of Winter. There are 335 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, January 29, 2014

Historical marker tells of Carrollton, Alabama's unique railroad history

'Carrollton Short Line Railroad' Historical Marker
This week’s featured historical marker is the “CARROLLTON SHORT LINE RAILROAD” marker in Carrollton, Ala. The marker is located on the south side of State Highway 86, which is also called Tuscaloosa Street, a short walk from the courthouse square in downtown Carrollton.

This historical marker was erected by the Alabama Historical Association in 2001. There’s text on both sides of this marker, but both sides are the same. What follows is the complete text from the marker.

----- 0 -----

“CARROLLTON SHORT LINE RAILROAD: The Mobile & Ohio Railroad Company in 1897 announced plans to build a line from Artesia, Mississippi through Pickens County to Tuscaloosa and on to Montgomery. Leading citizens in Carrollton sought to persuade the company to bring the line through the county seat, but M&O officials chose a route through Reform and Gordo to ensure faster mail service as required by the U.S. postal service. Led by W.G. Robertson, Judge O.L. McKinstry, E.R. Calhoun and M.L. Stansel, Carrollton residents organized a corporation to build a railroad from their community to Reform to connect there with the M&O. Called the ‘Carrollton Short Line,’ the track eventually was completed by Tuscaloosa entrepreneur John Taylor Cochrane, who brought the first train into Carrollton in 1902. The depot was on this site.
“Cochrane built the line steadily southward, establishing the town of Aliceville (named for his wife, Alyce Searcy) along its route, which eventually extended to Mobile. Rechristened the Alabama, Tennessee & Northern Railroad soon after, Cochrane’s line prompted a social and economic boom for Carrollton and Southwest Alabama. Vast timber holdings were tapped by ‘dummy lines’ connecting to the ‘Carrollton Short Line,’ creating many jobs to boost the local economy. The line operated until June 29, 1976, when the last train made its run.”

----- 0 -----

I encountered this historical marker when I swung through Carrollton a few months ago while on the way to Tuscaloosa. For years, I’d wanted to see Carrollton’s famous “Face in the Court House Window,” and after I saw that attraction, I proceeded on toward Tuscaloosa. A short distance from the courthouse, I spotted the “Carrollton Short Line Railroad” marker, hopped out of the truck and snapped a picture.

If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see the Old Pickens County Courthouse in the background. If you ever find yourself in Carrollton, I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to see the “Face in the Court House Window,” which is easy to find. In fact, if you look at the north side of the building, you’ll see where a white highway sign has been affixed to the building beside the attic window with a black arrow pointing to the exact window pane that contains the ghostly image of a face.

I was actually somewhat shocked to see with the unaided eye the famous ghostly image that I’ve always heard so much about. If you go there and have trouble seeing it for yourself, try using the permanent set of pay binoculars across the street from the courthouse on the northeast corner of Tuscaloosa Street and Phoenix Avenue.

If you’re interested in reading more about this famous courthouse and the “Face in the Courthouse Window,” be sure to check out “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey” by Kathryn Tucker Windham. I’d also direct you to another great book with information on the subject, “Haunted Alabama Black Belt” by David Higdon and Brett Talley. Published in 2013, “Haunted Alabama Black Belt” contains details about the building you won’t find in Windham’s book.

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 'Labor Day' and 'Rush'

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:

- 12 O’Clock Boys (Documentary): Directed by Lotfy Nathan.

- At Middleton (Comedy, Drama, Romance, R): Directed by Adam Rodgers and starring Vera Farmiga, Taissa Farmiga, Andy Garcia, Tom Skerritt and Nicholas Braun.

- Best Night Ever (Comedy, R): Directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer and starring Desiree Hall, Samantha Colburn, Eddie Ritchard, Crista Flanagan and Jenny Lin.

- California Scheming (Drama, Suspense, R): Directed by Marco Weber and starring Gia Mantegna, Devon Werkheiser, Spencer Daniels, Manish Dayal and S.A. Griffin.

- Labor Day (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Jason Reitman and starring Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Tobey Maguire and Maika Monroe.

- Love is in the Air (Comedy, Romance): Directed by Alexandre Castagnetti and starring Ludivine Sagnier, Nicolas Bedos, Jonathan Cohen, Arnaud Ducret and Brigitte Catillon.

- That Awkward Moment (Comedy, Romance, R): Directed by Tom Gormican and starring Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Imogen Poots and Jessica Lucas.

- Tim’s Vermeer (Documentary, PG-13): Directed by Teller and starring Tim Jenison, Penn Jillette, Martin Mull, Philip Steadman and David Hockney.

New DVD releases this week include:

- 1 (Documentary, Sports): Directed by Paul Crowder and starring Michael Fassbender, Niki Lauda, James Hunt, Mario Andretti and Michael Schumacher.

- Bonnie & Clyde (Crime, Drama): Directed by Bruce Beresford and starring Holliday Grainger, Emile Hirsch, Lane Garrison, William Hurt and Holly Hunter.

- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (Comedy, Family, PG): Directed by Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn and starring the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte and Kristen Schaal.

- Concussion (Drama, Romance, R): Directed by Stacie Passon and starring Robin Weigert, Maggie Siff, Johnathan Tchaikovsky, Ben Shenkman and Julie Fain Lawrence.

- The Fifth Estate (Drama, R): Directed by Bill Condon and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Carice Van Houten, Peter Capaldi and Dan Stevens.

- Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Comedy, Reality, R): Directed by Jeff Tremaine and starring Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll.

- Last Vegas (Comedy, PG-13): Directed by Jon Turtletaub and starring Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen.

- Metallica: Through the Never (Action, Music, Mystery, R): Directed by Nimrod Antal and starring Dane DeHaan, James Hefield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo.

- A Perfect Man (Drama, R): Directed by Kees Van Oostrum and starring Liev Schreiber, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Joelle Carter, Louise Fletcher and Renee Soutendijk.

- Rush (Action, Drama, R): Directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara and Stephen Mangan.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Labor Day,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Rush.”

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., Jan. 29, 2014

Temp: 19.0 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): About 0.25 inches (estimated melted sleet and snow in rain gauge)

Humidity: 64 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy skies; snow on the ground, between 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch; birds and cows audible, including rooster.

Wind: Not measured.

Barometric Pressure: 29.86 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.55 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 3.40 inches

Winter to Date Rainfall: 13.70 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 3.40 inches

NOTES: Today is the 29th day of 2014 and the 40th day of Winter. There are 336 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, January 28, 2014

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” graphic novel debuts on best-sellers list

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 no new books at the top of the two major graphic novel lists this week.

“Cemetery Girl, Book 1” by Charlaine Harris remained the No. 1 book on the Hardcover Graphic Books best-sellers list for the second straight week.

“Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi remained the top book on the Paperback Graphic Books best-sellers list for the second straight week.

There were two 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 “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs and Cassandra Jean (6) and “Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists” by Chris Duffy and others (7).

There were four books on this week’s Paperback Graphic Books best-sellers list that wasn’t on that list last week. They included “March: Book One” by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin (4), “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (6), “The Walking Dead, Vol. 1” by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore (7) and “Smile” by Raina Telgemeier (10).

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. “Cemetery Girl, Book 1” by Charlaine Harris
2. “Batman, Vol. 3” by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
3. “Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 1” by Tom Taylor and Jheremy Raapack
4. “The Encyclopedia of Early Earth” by Isabel Greenberg
5. “Batman: The Killing Joke” by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
6. “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs and Cassandra Jean
7. “Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists” by Chris Duffy and others
8. “The Best American Comics 2013” by Jeff Smith and others
9. “The Joker: Death of the Family” by Scott Snyder and various
10. “The Walking Dead, Book 1” by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard

1. “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi
2. “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel
3. “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, Vol. 1” by Art Spiegelman
4. “March: Book One” by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
5. “Blue is the Warmest Color” by Julie Maroh
6. “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
7. “The Walking Dead, Vol. 1” by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore
8. “The Walking Dead, Vol. 19” by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
9. “Saga, Vol. 2” by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
10. “Smile” by Raina Telgemeier

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.

2014 Newberry and Caldecott medal winners announced on Monday

Yesterday in Philadelphia, the American Library Association announced the winners of this year’s Newbery Medal and Caldecott Medal, the top honors for books for children and young adults.

The most prestigious of the two awards, the John Newbery Medal, which is given each year to the book that makes the “most outstanding contribution to children’s literature,” was awarded to "Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures" by Kate DiCamillo.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal is given each year to the “most distinguished American picture book for children." This year’s Caldecott Medal went to "Locomotive," which was written and illustrated by Brian Floca.

Esteemed worldwide for the high quality of books that they recognize, the ALA awards are meant to serve as a guide for parents, educators, librarians and others in selecting the best materials for youth. The award winners are selected by judging committees of librarians and other children’s and young adult experts.

Many of you will be familiar with past Newbery and Caldecott Medal winners. Past winners of the Newbery Medal include the following books:

2014 – Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
2013 – The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
2012 – Dead End In Norvelt by Jack Gantos
2011 – Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

2010 - When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
2009 - The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, illus. by Dave McKean
2008 - Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz
2007 - The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron and illustrated by Matt Phelan
2006 - Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins
2005 - Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
2004 - The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering.
2003 - Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
2002 - A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
2001 - A Year Down Yonder by by Richard Peck

2000 - Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
1999 - Holes by Louis Sachar
1998 - Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
1997 - The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
1996 - The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman
1995 - Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
1994 - The Giver by Lois Lowry
1993 - Missing May by Cynthia Rylant
1992 - Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
1991 - Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

1990 - Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
1989 - Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman
1988 - Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman
1987 - The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
1986 - Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
1985 - The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
1984 - Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
1983 - Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt
1982 - A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard
1981 - Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

1980 - A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-1832 by Joan W. Blos
1979 - The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
1978 - Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
1977 - Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
1976 - The Grey King by Susan Cooper
1975 - M. C. Higgins, the Great by Virginia Hamilton
1974 - The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox (Bradbury)
1973 - Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
1972 - Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
1971 - Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars

1970 - Sounder by William H. Armstrong
1969 - The High King by Lloyd Alexander
1968 - From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
1967 - Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt
1966 - I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
1965 - Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska
1964 - It's Like This, Cat by Emily Neville
1963 - A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
1962 - The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
1961 - Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

1960 - Onion John by Joseph Krumgold
1959 - The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
1958 - Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith
1957 - Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen
1956 - Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
1955 - The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
1954 - ...And Now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold
1953 - Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark
1952 - Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes
1951 - Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates

1950 - The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli
1949 - King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
1948 - The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois
1947 - Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
1946 - Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
1945 - Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson
1944 - Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
1943 - Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray
1942 - The Matchlock Gun by Walter Edmonds
1941 - Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry

1940 - Daniel Boone by James Daugherty
1939 - Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright
1938 - The White Stag by Kate Seredy
1937 - Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer
1936 - Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
1935 - Dobry by Monica Shannon
1934 - Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs
1933 - Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Lewis
1932 - Waterless Mountain by Laura Adams Armer
1931 - The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth

1930 - Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field
1929 - The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
1928 - Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji
1927 - Smoky, the Cowhorse by Will James
1926 - Shen of the Sea by Arthur Bowie Chrisman
1925 - Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger
1924 - The Dark Frigate by Charles Hawes
1923 - The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
1922 - The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon

Past Caldecott Medal winners include the following books:

2014 - Locomotive by Brian Floca.
2013 – This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
2012 – A Ball For Daisy by Chris Raschka
2011 – A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Erin E. Stead

2010 - The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
2009 - The House in the Night, illustrated by Beth Krommes and written by Susan Marie Swanson
2008 - The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
2007 - Flotsam by David Wiesner
2006 - The Hello, Goodbye Window, illustrated by Chris Raschka and written by Norton Juster
2005 - Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
2004 - The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein
2003 - My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann
2002 - The Three Pigs by David Wiesner
2001 - So You Want to Be President? illustrated by David Small with text by Judith St. George

2000 - Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback
1999 - Snowflake Bentley, illustrated by Mary Azarian with text by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
1998 - Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky
1997 - Golem by David Wisniewski
1996 - Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann
1995 - Smoky Night, illustrated by David Diaz with text by Eve Bunting
1994 - Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say with text edited by Walter Lorraine
1993 - Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully
1992 - Tuesday by David Wiesner
1991 - Black and White by David Macaulay

1990 - Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young
1989 - Song and Dance Man, illustrated by Stephen Gammell with text by Karen Ackerman
1988 - Owl Moon, illustrated by John Schoenherr with text by Jane Yolen
1987 - Hey, Al, illustrated by Richard Egielski with text by Arthur Yorinks
1986 - The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
1985 - Saint George and the Dragon, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman with text retold by Margaret Hodges
1984 - The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot by Alice & Martin Provensen
1983 - Shadow, translated and illustrated by Marcia Brown with original text in French by Blaise Cendrars
1982 - Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
1981 - Fables by Arnold Lobel

1980 - Ox-Cart Man, illustrated by Barbara Cooney with text by Donald Hall
1979 - The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble
1978 - Noah's Ark by Peter Spier
1977 - Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions, illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon with text by Margaret Musgrove
1976 - Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears, illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon with text retold by Verna Aardema
1975 - Arrow to the Sun by Gerald McDermott
1974 - Duffy and the Devil, illustrated by Margot Zemach and retold by Harve Zemach
1973 - The Funny Little Woman, illustrated by Blair Lent with text retold by Arlene Mosel
1972 - One Fine Day, retold and illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian
1971 - A Story A Story, retold and illustrated by Gail E. Haley

1970 - Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
1969 - The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, illustrated by Uri Shulevitz with text by retold by Arthur Ransome
1968 - Drummer Hoff, illustrated by Ed Emberley with text adapted by Barbara Emberley
1967 - Sam, Bangs & Moonshine by Evaline Ness
1966 - Always Room for One More, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian with text by Sorche Nic Leodhas
1965 - May I Bring a Friend? illustrated by Beni Montresor with text by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers
1964 - Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
1963 - The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
1962 - Once a Mouse, retold and illustrated by Marcia Brown
1961 - Baboushka and the Three Kings, illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov wiith text by Ruth Robbins

1960 - Nine Days to Christmas, illustrated by Marie Hall Ets with text by Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida
1959 - Chanticleer and the Fox, illustrated by Barbara Cooney with text adapted from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales by Barbara Cooney
1958 - Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
1957 - A Tree Is Nice, illustrated by Marc Simont with text by Janice Udry
1956 - Frog Went A-Courtin', illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky with text retold by John Langstaff
1955 - Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper, illustrated by Marcia Brown with text translated from Charles Perrault by Marcia Brown
1954 - Madeline's Rescue by Ludwig Bemelmans
1953 - The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward
1952 - Finders Keepers, illustrated by Nicholas Mordvinoff with text by William Lipkind
1951 - The Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous

1950 - Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi
1949 - The Big Snow by Berta & Elmer Hader
1948 - White Snow, Bright Snow, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin with text by Alvin Tresselt
1947 - The Little Island, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard with text by Golden MacDonald
1946 - The Rooster Crows by Maud & Miska Petersham
1945 - Prayer for a Child, illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones with text by Rachel Field
1944 - Many Moons, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin with text by James Thurber
1943 - The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
1942 - Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
1941 - They Were Strong and Good by Robert Lawson

1940 - Abraham Lincoln by Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire
1939 - Mei Li by Thomas Handforth
1938 - Animals of the Bible, A Picture Book, illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop with text selected by Helen Dean Fish

The ALA also handed out a number of other awards yesterday. For more information about those awards as well as the finalists for the Newbery and Caldecott medals, visit the ALA’s Web site at

Hank Locklin to be inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Brewton's Hank Locklin
Famed country music singer-songwriter and long time Brewton resident Hank Locklin will be inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame at a black tie induction banquet in Florence on Feb. 28.

Only limited tickets to the banquet remain and are available through Florence/Lauderdale Tourism by calling 256-740-4141, said event planner Judy Hood.  Fans of Locklin who want to attend the banquet need to purchase tickets by Friday, she said.

Brewton died at the age of 91 at his home in Brewton on March 8, 2009. At his death, Locklin was the oldest member of the Grand Ole Opry, where he performed for nearly a half-century.  He recorded 65 albums and had 70 charted singles, including six No.1 songs on the Billboard country chart.  He sold 15 million records worldwide.  His songs were recorded by hundreds of artists, including Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Roy Rogers.

“My family is quite honored that the Alabama Music Hall of Fame will induct my late father,” said Hank Adam Locklin, Jr. “He would have been proud and excited to be among the illustrious group of inductees going in at the induction ceremony.”

The list of inductees were announced last year and also include Candi Staton, Charlie Monk, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham and Sun Ra.

Daily Weather Observations from SW Alabama for Tues., Jan. 28, 2014

Temp: 30.9 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.30 inches

Humidity: 50 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Dark, overcast skies; birds audible (rooster); security light still on in the yard; standing water in the yard from yesterday's rains.

Wind: Not measured.

Barometric Pressure: 29.67 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.30 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 3.15 inches

Winter to Date Rainfall: 13.45 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 3.15 inches

NOTES: Today is the 28th day of 2014 and the 39th day of Winter. There are 337 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, January 27, 2014

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 118: Brew (and drink) homemade beer

There’s nothing wrong with a grown man responsibly enjoying a beer every once in a while, and I have to admit that I enjoy drinking one occasionally myself. Apparently, I’m not by myself either because beer has been around for a long, long time, possibly as far back as nearly 10,000 B.C. Brewing beer is an age old and relatively simple process, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, which is why I added it to my “bucket list” a few years ago.

However, up until last May, home brewing in Alabama was illegal, that is it was until the passage of a new state law that now allows hobbyists in the state to make beer in their homes. Under the new law, Alabama residents can now legally make 15 gallons of beer at home every three months, but they can’t legally sell it. The law does allow home brewers to take their products to tastings and contests.

In December, my wife contributed to my delinquency by buying me a “Mr. Beer Premium Gold Edition Beer Home Brewing Kit," which came with everything I needed to make two different types of beer. The kit only lets you make up to two gallons at a time, which kept me well within the limits of the law, and if nothing else, the experience was very educational. Best of all, the kit included a great set of instructions that not only tells you how to make beer, but also makes the reader familiar with the basic principles of brewing.

For my first venture into brewing, I decided to try to make a couple of gallons of Grand Bohemia Czech Pilsner, a premium all-malt beer with about 3.7 percent alcohol by volume. I followed the instructions and then waited patiently for about three weeks for the process to run its course. After the brewing process was complete, I poured the beer from the two-gallon keg into four one-liter plastic bottles that came with the kit. Over the next week, I waited some more to give the beer time to carbonate.

Curiosity did get the better of me, and I admit to trying some of the beer straight out of the keg and uncarbonated. As you might have imagined, it was flat, but it didn’t taste bad. It sort of reminded me of a strong apple juice, except that it contained alcohol. A week or so later, I tried the carbonated, bottled variety, and it was better than I expected. (Imagine drinking a fresh, regular Coke compared to a flat Coke, and you get the idea.)

Before I wrap this thing up, I want to make it clear that I don’t advocate that anyone drink alcohol. However, if you do, don’t be an idiot. Drink responsibly and only in moderation and never drink and drive. The late Dr. Carl Martens of Monroeville once told me that the average man can drink two beers a day without it having any negative impact on their health, so follow his advice and limit your beer intake to two or fewer a day.

In the end, how many of you have ever tried to brew beer at home? How did it come out? What kind did you try to make? Let us know in the comments section below.

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 117: Listen to Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” from start to finish

Pink Floyd's 'The Dark Side of the Moon'
Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” is one of the most iconic rock albums of all time. Originally released in March 1973, it’s raked in all sorts of honors over the years, including a No. 43 ranking on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”

Despite all of this, I couldn’t honestly say that I’d ever listened to the complete album from start to finish even though I knew I had heard a few of the songs from the album. For that reason, I added this album to my “bucket list” a couple of years ago and finally took the time to listen to it from start to finish on Saturday morning.

“The Dark Side of the Moon” is 42 minutes and 59 seconds long and consists of 10 tracks. Songs on the album include “Speak to Me,” “Breathe,” “On the Run,” “Time,” “The Great Gig in the Sky,” “Money,” “Us and Them,” “Any Colour You Like,” Brain Damage” and “Eclipse.”
Many of you will recognize some of these songs, especially “Money” and “Time.” The other songs on the album are not as well known, and I actually followed along to all of the songs with lyrics that I looked up on the internet. I think I got more out of the experience by doing it this way, following along with the words as the album played out.

As mentioned, this album has collected a long list of honors over the years. In 1987, Rolling Stone published a best-of list called the “Top 100 Albums of the Last 20 Years” and ranked “The Dark Side of the Moon” No. 35 on that list. Later, in 1997, The Guardian ranked the album No. 37 on its list of “100 Best Albums Ever,” and in 2006, The Observer ranked it No. 29 on its list of “The 50 Albums That Changed Music.” Last year, the Library of Congress even selected the album for preservation in the U.S. National Recording Registry because of the album’s cultural and historical significance.

“The Dark Side of the Moon” was one of 14 studio albums recorded by Pink Floyd, a British rock band that formed in 1965. Their other albums included “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” (1967), “A Saucerful of Secrets” (1968), “Soundtrack from the Film More” (1969), “Ummagumma” (1969), “Atom Heart Mother” (1970), “Meddle” (1971), “Obscured by Clouds” (1972), “Wish You Were Here” (1975), “Animals” (1977), “The Wall” (1979), “The Final Cut” (1983), “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” (1987) and “The Division Bell” (1994).

In the end, I enjoyed scratching “The Dark Side of the Moon” off my “bucket list.” How many of you out there have ever listened to “The Dark Side of the Moon” from start to finish? What did you think about it? Which of the songs on the album is your favorite? Which other albums would you recommend listening to from start to finish? Let us know in the comments section below.

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 116: Read the play “Our American Cousin”

You may have never heard of it before, but “Our American Cousin” is arguably one of the most historic stage plays in American history. This three-act play by Tom Taylor debuted in 1858, and is now best known for being the play Abraham Lincoln was watching the night he was assassinated by 26-year-old John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in Civil War history (I’ve even been to Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.), but I’d never read “Our American Cousin.” My interest in the play really ramped up several years ago when I read James L. Swanson’s outstanding book, “Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer,” which heavily detailed the events on the night of Lincoln’s assassination. For that reason, I put “Our American Cousin” on my “bucket list” a while back and finally took the time to read it during the past week.

Aside from its ties to the Lincoln assassination, the play was fun to read. It’s a comedy about a very proper family in England who is paid a visit by a backwoods cousin from Vermont. The American cousin, Asa Trenchard, has been made heir to the family’s valuable aristocratic estate, and he gets into all sorts of comical situations as he interacts with single, gold-digging ladies and a host of reserved, well-to-do English relatives. In the end, the rustic American is shown to be the wisest and best natured of them all.

Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth was one of the most famous actors of his generation, and he was very familiar with “Our American Cousin.” During the performance at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, Booth timed the shot that killed Lincoln to happen during one of the play’s funniest lines, hoping the audience’s laughter would mask the gunshot that killed the president. The shooting occurred around 10:15 p.m., about halfway through the second scene of the play’s third act, and, as you might have imagined, they didn’t finish the play that night.

After the shooting, Booth jumped from Lincoln’s box to the stage, breaking his leg in the process. He fled backstage to a horse he had waiting in the alley and escaped from the city despite the fact that the army had shut down all roads and bridges out of the city. Twelve days later, Union soldiers tracked Booth to a farmhouse near Port Royal, Va., where he was shot and killed.

I did enjoy reading “Our American Cousin,” and I think many of you would enjoy reading it as well. If you’d like to read it for yourself, you can download a free copy of it from the Project Gutenberg Web site. The version I read was free through I download it for my Kindle Fire, and it took a couple of days to read. In all, it’s about 80 pages long.

In the end, how many of you have read “Our American Cousin”? What did you think about it? Did you like it or not? Let us know in the comments section below.

The Evergreen Courant's News Flashback for Jan. 27, 2014

Dr. George H. Denny
JAN. 27, 1972

“John David Wright, 87, former treasurer of Conecuh County, died last Thursday after a long illness.
“Mr. Wright, member of a pioneer Conecuh County family, founded and operated for many years one of the first general insurance agencies in South Alabama.”

“According to a report released today by Dr. J.C. Blair, director of the Division of Instruction, State Department of Education, only one of Conecuh County’s eight schools is fully accredited by the state.
“Evergreen High School, John Floyd, principal, is fully accredited. The school has grades 9 through 12 with 516 students. The report shows a total of 3,528 students enrolled in county schools.”
Other county schools, their principals and enrollments, at that time included Nichburg Junior High School, James A. Stallworth, 206; Conecuh County High School, Wayne Pope, 648; Lyeffion High School, Elbert D. Covin, 507; Marshall Middle School, Walter B. Hudson, 455; Repton High School, Dan R. Mason, 471; Southside Elementary School, Alex Johnson, 297; and Evergreen City School, James M. Cowart, 428.

“Marine Second Lieutenant Osker L. Spicer Jr., the husband of Mrs. Marion Spicer of Route F, Evergreen, was commissioned in his present rank upon completion of the Officer’s Basic School, Marine Corps Development and Education Command, Quantico, Va.”

JAN. 31, 1957

“Castleberry Organizes Ground Observer Post: A Ground Observer Corps post has been organized at Castleberry, according to Sgt. J.D. Reichley, who is in charge of recruiting and training posts in the Southwest Alabama area.
“The post supervisor is Roderick Matthews.
“At a meeting last week of the Castleberry P.T.A., 19 members volunteered for this vital defense post, and 41 have volunteered from the Conecuh County High School, for a total of 60.”

“City, State Engineers Discuss Federal Road Project Effects Here” – ‘The new Federal Aid Project road, to be started in Conecuh County soon, can be compared to a river dividing the county,’ M.M. Cardwell, city engineer, told Rotarians Thursday.
“’The new super, four-lane, 300-foot wide right of way road will split Conecuh County from Deer Range north to the Butler County line and like a river, cannot be crossed except on the ‘bridges,’ which in this case will be under-passes or diamond-shaped interchanges,’ he continued. ‘The building of this road will have a tremendous economic effect on the area, for it will take a lot of land out of circulation just to build it. At the three diamond-shaped interchanges, about 40 acres each will be needed.’”

JAN. 29, 1942

“The first candidate to qualify and make formal announcement of his candidacy in the forthcoming primary is Allen T. Weaver, who has entered the race for Tax Collector.”

“John H. Farnham, youthful leader in civic activities, received recognition as the ‘Outstanding Young Man of 1941’ at the annual Founders Day banquet of the Junior Chamber of Commerce Wednesday night.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Reuben Hyde spent the weekend with their two sons at Camp Blanding.”

“Dr. George H. (Mike) Denny, 71, has been formally and officially named as president of the University of Alabama, to succeed the late Dr. Richard Foster. Dr. Denny, previous to resigning in January 1937, served 25 years as president of the institution.”

“Well Known Citizen Dies Here Monday: Following an illness of about three weeks, Walter Lee, age 73, died at his home Monday morning.
“At the time of his death, he owned one of the largest and best farms in the county. Up until he was taken ill a few weeks ago, he was active in the operation of his farm.”

“A local committee is sponsoring a square dance and cake walk at the Evergreen High School Friday night for the benefit of the Warm Springs Foundation to aid victims of infantile paralysis.”

JAN. 27, 1927

“A school of instruction was held at the Evergreen Masonic Hall Fri., Jan. 21, for the Eastern Star Chapters of Conecuh County.
“Representatives from Repton and Castleberry chapters were in attendance, in addition to a large number of members of the local chapter.”

“Houston Countian To Be First Victim of Electrocution At State Prison: Montgomery, Ala., Jan. 25: The man who is destined to be the first victim of the electric chair in this state under the new law substituting electrocution for hanging is in the death cell at Kilby Prison. He is Virgil Murphy, young ex-service man of Houston County, convicted and sentenced to pay the supreme penalty for the murder of his wife.
“Hitherto, the death sentence has been carried out by hanging in the county of the crime, but under a law passed in 1923, all executions set for any date after Feb. 28, 1927 are to be carried out by electrocution at Kilby prison.”

“During February and March the library (in Evergreen) will be open only one afternoon each week. This will be on Fridays from two to five o’clock.”

“The members of the Orpheus Club enjoyed a program Thursday morning, Jan. 20, on the music of Russia and Poland with Miss Helen Hagood as chairman.”

“Miss Margaret Oliver, who has held a position at the Probate Office for the past three years, has accepted a position with Evergreen Motor Car Co., to begin Feb. 1.”

JAN. 31, 1912

“Local Politics Warming Up: The meeting of the executive committee on Saturday instilled new interest in the local campaign.
“The names of four candidates are this week added to the steadily growing number of announcements. We refer to the names of T.M. Salter Sr. of Mill beat for tax collector, E.D. Mancill of Oldtown beat and Prof. H.T. Lile of Evergreen for Superintendent of Education and C.G. Russell of Evergreen for treasurer.”

“Dr. William Watson Dead: Many friends in Conecuh County will learn with profound regret of the death of Dr. William Watson at his home in Uvalde, Texas on Jan. 20.
“Dr. Watson was a citizen of Repton for many years, removing to Troy. His health becoming impaired, he removed from there to Texas, where he has since resided. He was 50 years old and is survived by his devoted wife, two daughters and one son.”

“A.F. Davis, until recently a citizen of this place, but now of Repton, where he is conducting a mercantile business, was here Monday.”

Daily Weather Observations from SW Alabama for Mon., Jan. 27, 2014

Temp: 52.2 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 84 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy skies; birds audible and visible; security light still on in the yard.

Wind: Not measured.

Barometric Pressure: 29.41 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 2.85 inches

Winter to Date Rainfall: 13.15 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 2.85 inches

NOTES: Today is the 27th day of 2014 and the 38th day of Winter. There are 338 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, January 26, 2014

COMIC BOOK OF THE WEEK – “Dr. Fate” #4 (October 1987)

'Dr. Fate' #4 (October 1987)
“This week’s “Comic Book of the Week” is “Dr. Fate” #4, which was published by DC Comics in October 1987. This issue was titled “Incarnations” and was the fourth installment in a four-issue limited series.

This issue’s creative team included J.M. De Matteis, writer; Keith Giffen, artist; Dave Hunt, inker; Agustin Mas, letterer; Anthony Tollin, colorist; and Denny O’Neil, editor. Giffen and Hunt were the cover artists, and the issue sold for $1.50 at newsstands.

This 32-page issue begins in Egypt at the pyramids at Giza, where Benjamin Stoner has just arrived dressed as Dr. Fate, complete with his Helmet of Fate, Cloak of Destiny and Amulet of Anubis. There’s more to Stoner though than meets the eye because he’s been possessed by the evil entity, Chaos, who is trying to bring about the end of the world. In Egypt, Stoner/Chaos is confronting Kent Nelson, who served as Dr. Fate for over 40 years; Eric Strauss, who was supposed to be Nelson’s successor as Dr. Fate; and Eric’s stepmother, Linda Strauss.

After an exchange of words, Stoner/Chaos blasts Eric’s mind and body, pretty much frying him on the spot and reducing his spirit to a wisp. Nelson’s still inhabited by the spirit of Nabu, aka “The Descended One,” one of the Lords of Order, and Nelson commands Nabu to save Eric. Thanks to Nelson and Nabu, Eric’s body reforms, and Nelson figures out that the Helmet and Amulet belong not only to Eric – but to Linda as well.

Eric charges Stoner/Chaos, and when Stoner/Chaos tries to blast him this time, it doesn’t work because Linda’s presence is sustaining him. With Nabu’s help, Linda’s transformed into pure energy and merges with Eric. In a brilliant flash, they become Dr. Fate in one body, complete with the Helmet, Cloak and Amulet.

Chaos is completely separated from Stoner now and is shown to be a giant, green monster with no eyes but lots of sharp teeth. When Dr. Fate asks about Stoner, Chaos spits out his dead body, which dissolves into a pool of mist and blood, and Chaos disappears.

From there, the scene shifts to the Tower of Fate in Salem, Mass., where Nelson, Eric and Linda lick their wounds. Eric and Linda are pondering their new role as the combined Dr. Fate and ask for Nelson’s wisdom and guidance. Instead, Nelson tells them that everything they need to know is inside them and dies as the spirit of Nabu departs his body.

Later, we find Eric, Linda and Nabu outside in the snow, standing over a gravestone that reads “KENT NELSON, NO MAN GAVE MORE.” As they’re standing there, Nabu disappears, called home to the realm of the Lords of Order, where he has to answer for the recent events involving Dr. Fate. Nabu argues with his superiors, defends mankind and is eventually sent back to Earth “never to return.” He arrives back on Earth like a bolt of lightning and crashes into the Tower of Fate, destroying it.

The story ends in New York City, where Eric and Linda are back at their apartment home. Suddenly, without warning, a reanimated Nelson stands dark and foreboding in the doorway, and it becomes apparent that Nabu has possessed Nelson’s old body, which had been buried outside the Tower of Fate. Nabu explains that he’s there to help Eric and Linda. He also hopes that they’ll be able to help him too.

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.

Edsel's 'The Monuments Men' appears 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 two new books at the top of the four major best-sellers lists this week.

"The Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd remained the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list for the second straight week.

"Big Sky Secrets" by Linda Lael Miller remained the top book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list for the third week in a row.

"Duty" by Robert M. Gates replaced "Super Shred" by Ian K. Smith as the top book on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

"Lone Survivor" by Marcus Luttrell replaced "Eat It to Beat It!" by David Zinczenko 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 "First Love" by James Patterson and Emily Raymond (2), "The Dead in Their Vaulted Arch" by Alan Bradley (10) and "The Longest Ride" by Nicholas Sparks (14).

There were three new books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. Those books included "Duty" by Robert M. Gates (1), "Jim Cramer's Get Rich Carefully" by James J. Cramer (9) and "A Short Guide to a Long Life" by David B. Agus (11).

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 "NYPD Red" by James Patterson and Marshall Karp (3) and "Lone Survivor" by Marcus Luttrell (13).

There were three books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They included "The Monuments Men" by Robert M. Edsel (10), "Four Blood Moons" by John Hagee (11) and "My Beloved World" by Sonia Sotomayor (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. "The Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd
2. "First Love" by James Patterson and Emily Raymond
3. "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt
4. "Sycamore Row" by John Grisham
5. "The First Phone Call from Heaven" by Mitch Albom
6. "Fear Nothing" by Lisa Gardner
7. "Standup Guy" by Stuart Woods
8. "Command Authority" by Tom Clancy
9. "Cross My Heart" by James Patterson
10. "The Dead in Their Vaulted Arch" by Alan Bradley
11. "Dark Wolf" by Christine Feehan
12. "Hazardous Duty" by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV
13. "The Gods of Guilt" by Michael Connelly
14. "The Longest Ride" by Nicholas Sparks
15. "King and Maxwell" by David Baldacci

1. "Duty" by Robert M. Gates
2. "Things That Matter" by Charles Krauthammer
3. "Super Shred" by Ian K. Smith
4. "Killing Jesus" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
5. "The Pound a Day Diet" by Rocco DiSpirito
6. "The Daniel Plan" by Rick Warren
7. "The Body Book" by Cameron Diaz
8. "David and Goliath" by Malcolm Gladwell
9. "Jim Cramer's Get Rich Carefully" by James J. Cramer
10. "Grain Brain" by David Perlmutter
11. "A Short Guide to a Long Life" by David B. Agus
12. "George Washington's Secret Six" by Brian Kilmeade
13. "I Am Malala" by Malala Yousafzai
14. "The Doctor's Diet" by Travis Stork
15. "I Am a Church Member" by Thom S. Rainer

1. "Big Sky Secrets" by Linda Lael Miller
2. "Marriage Between Friends" by Debbie Macomber
3. "NYPD Red" by James Patterson and Marshall Karp
4. "Guilt" by Jonathan Kellerman
5. "The Night Before" by Lisa Jackson
6. "Blindsided" by Fern Michaels
7. "Seaview Inn" by Sherryl Woods
8. "Preacher's Blood Hunt" by William W. Johnstone
9. "Zoo" by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
10. "The King's Deception" by Steve Berry
11. "Montana Bride" by Joan Johnston
12. "Notorious Nineteen" by Janet Evanovich
13. "Lone Survivor" by Marcus Luttrell
14. "The Mackade Brothers" by Nora Roberts
15. "Prodigal Son" by Susan Mallery

1. "Lone Survivor" by Marcus Luttrell
2. "A Week in Winter" by Maeve Binchy
3. "12th of Never" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
4. "Eat It to Beat It!" by David Zinczenko
5. "Life After Life" by Kate Atkinson
6. "Blue Dahlia" by Nora Roberts
7. "Dark Witch" by Nora Roberts
8. "Miss Kay's Duck Commander Kitchen" by Kay Robertson
9. "The Wolf of Wall Street" by Jordan Belfort
10. "The Monuments Men" by Robert M. Edsel
11. "Four Blood Moons" by John Hagee
12. "Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline
13. "Hyperbole and a Half" by Allie Brosh
14. "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed
15. "My Beloved World" by Sonia Sotomayor

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.