Archives for March 2015

Tears and Laughter: How to know who should not garden

In west Alabama we are a bit like old Mobile. We still have dinners at noon featuring lots of vegetables and cornbread. We value our front porches. We have supper at twilight, always with sweet tea.

We garden and have animals that we talk to. And most of us believe our old family is still near us in spirit. Or at least we still think they can hear us, and we sometimes we feel them near.

We take naps and watch lightning bugs. We stay up late the night of the full moon. We allow its presence to serve as an acceptable excuse for the occasional unacceptable behavior.

I do all of those, except garden. I have tried, but when I say I am not good at it…I mean I am terrible at it. I do okay at farmer’s markets and with the gardeners who sell at court house square. I like roadside stands on the way to the coast. But I can’t grow things, and I live on a farm. It is not the fertile black belt soil that is the problem I assure you.

It took years for me to accept that I am completely inept at growing things. I think it was the bell peppers I grew three summers ago that finally helped me see.

I had already sensed that it wasn’t my strong suit after years of growing garden plots of weeds and grass.

Anything I ever put in a pot or a container was doomed to drown.

I did have a leftover ivy plant one year that I put at the base of a cedar tree out front that lived. I think it lived because I didn’t bother it. Now I can’t get rid of it. In fact I’m worried it is going to smother the cedar tree.

At one point along the way I thought I had found the solution for all of my gardening inadequacies, the raised bed.

It was built and filled it with soil, and I bought the best tomato and pepper plants I could find in Camden.

My logic was that if I focused solely on growing peppers and tomatoes, maybe it wouldn’t be as disastrous as years past when I had tried to grow several different types of vegetables by planting seeds in rows.

I am from people who took pride in farming. The Orso’s and Huckabee’s, the McClure’s and the Vick’s…they all would have huge gardens they would show off and share from like many people still do.

Most all of my friends have gardens too. They grow all sorts of squash and tall okra plants, even taller stalks of corn, green beans climbing on poles, row after row of purple hulled peas. I thought surely I could grow a few tomatoes and peppers in a wooden box built just for that purpose.

But nope.

I even ordered special, over-priced, organic fertilizer on the Internet, yes, and would you like to know what it produced? Bell peppers the size of a quarter.

I took a picture to remind myself. The quarter may have the pepper beat in size by a bit, but it certainly doesn’t leave any question as to the scale, or my ability to garden.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Al. Watchman,, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era –

Aaron Wayne Salter

Aaron Wayne Salter age 22 of Mount Carmel, IL died March 25, 2015. He was born September 4, 1992 in Grove Hill, AL. He was employed with Fram Filtration. He is survived by his father, Wayne (Tina) Salter of Hurley, MS; mother, Tammy (Kevin) Jordan of Mt. Carmel, IL: sister, Lara (Martin) Baggett of Coffeeville, AL; two step-sisters, Ashley Jordan of Tucson, AZ; and Kalli Bouler of Hurley, MS: step-brother, Eric (Brittney) Jordan of Grove Hill, AL; grandparents, Buddy and Viola Salter of Scottsboro, AL; Brenda Salter of Sumrall, MS; Carolyn Roberts of Grove Hill, AL; and Hazel Morgan of Grove Hill, AL; three nieces, Hadli Baggett, Mylli Baggett, and Paisley Jordan. He was preceded in death by his grandfather, Thomas “Papa” Roberts. Visitation was held at O’Bryant Chapel Funeral Home on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 from 2:00 PM until the 4:00 PM service time with Rev. William Allison officiating. Burial was in the Bassett Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Grove Hill AL. Flowers will be accepted or memorials may be made to the donors favorite charity. Arrangements by O’Bryant Chapel Funeral Home in Thomasville, AL.

All obituaries taken from the website of the corresponding funeral home unless otherwise noted.

Marengo Academy announces 2015-2016 registration

Marengo Academy will begin registration for the 2015-2016 school year Wednesday. Students entering the first through 12th grades can begin registering at the Linden-based private school Wednesday with a fee of $150 per family due at the time of registration.

The registration period closes Wednesday, April 15, at which time the fee will increase to $200 per family.

Marengo Academy Elementary School will hold its pre-registration for K-4 and K-5 Friday, April 10 from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Parents of children entering those grades are asked to register during that time and present a certificate of immunization, a social security card and a birth certificate before entering kindergarten. There is a $150 registration fee due at registration. Students currently enrolled in K-4 and K-5 will not attend school Friday, April 10.

Those with questions are encouraged to call Marengo Academy at 334-295-4151.

Longhorns riding hot streak

Marengo Academy (15-4-1) is on a hot streak that has seen it brutalize most of its recent competition.

The Longhorns took two games over the weekend by a total run differential of 26. Marengo beat South Choctaw 13-2 Saturday behind the strength of a Daniel Pritchett gem. Pritchett (3-0) struck out nine batters over and scattered three walks and four hits.

Pritchett also went 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBIs and a run scored. Kyle Friday went 2-for-4 with one RBI and a run scored. Robert Tutt finished the game 2-for-2 with two doubles, five RBIs and a run scored.

Marengo finished out the day with a 19-4 shellacking of Patrician Academy. The Longhorns saw Carson Huckabee (3-0) give up five hits and four walks while striking out five for the win. Josh Holifield anchored the offense, going 2-for-3 with four RBIs and three runs scored.

The victories came one week after the Longhorns dominated the Macon-East Montgomery tournament.

Marengo downed Wilcox 16-0 in that game behind a perfect game from Pritchett, who struck out three in the contest.

Hayden Hall led the offense, going 4-for-4 with two doubles, five RBIs and two runs scored. Caleb Broadhead finished 2-for-3 with a double, three RBIs and a run scored.

Marengo’s only competitive game of the weekend came in a 5-4 win over Fort Dale Academy. The Longhorns give eight strikeouts from David Dunn (2-2), who walked six and scattered six hits in the win. Hall went 2-for-3 at the plate with two runs scored while Holified was 1-for-3 with a double, three RBIs and a run scored.

Marengo beat Macon-East 9-2 in the third game of the draw as Wallace signee Friday (3-0) struck out seven batters and gave up five walks and seven hits in the win.

Hayden Huckabee went 2-for-3 with a double, one RBI and two runs scored. Hall was 3-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored. Friday finished 2-for-3 with one RBI and a run scored. Dunn went 2-for-3 with a double, three RBIs and a run scored.

Marengo went on to win the championship game by a 7-2 margin over Macon-East. Hayden Huckabee (1-1) struck out four, walked one, plunked three and scattered five hits in the win.

Hayden Huckabee also helped himself at the plate, going 2-for-2 with two doubles, two RBIs and three runs scored. Hall went 2-for-3 with a triple, two RBIs and two runs scored.

Photo of the Day: March 31, 2015

POTD Schroeder-1430

Ryan Schroeder rips one opposite field during recent DHS Tiger baseball action.

‘The Way We Worked’ exhibit, Pilgrimage highlight April events

“The Way We Worked” a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition, will highlight a month of activities sponsored by the Marengo County History and Archives Museum and the Marengo County Historical Society.



The Museum and Historical Society, in cooperation with the Alabama Humanities Foundation, will explore the professions and the people that sustain American society through the exhibit, and the groups have added an exhibit detailing the way Marengo County worked in years past.

The exhibit will be on display at the Marengo County History and Archives Museum – in the Rosenbush Building in downtown Demopolis – from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. from April 6 through May 6. A grand opening reception will be held on Thursday, April 9 at 6 p.m.

Another highlight of the month’s activities will be the Spring Pilgrimage, scheduled for April 11-12. Six historic homes will be a part of this biennial event, including four private residences and two historic house museums – Bluff Hall and Gaineswood. Tours will take place on Saturday, April 11 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, April 12 from 2-5 p.m.

Bluff Hall

Bluff Hall

Gaineswood will be open on Saturday from 10-3 and Sunday from 2-5.



The Pilgrimage will also feature Alabama Humanities Scholar Christopher Long, who will present “Antique Alabama Furniture” at Lyon Hall, 102 S. Main, at 1 p.m. on Saturday. His presentation will focus on Alabama cabinetmaking, and will include a display table with show-and-tell itmes including antique woodworking tools, samples of woods and cabinetmakers’ design books.

Another feature of the Pilgrimage will be an exhibit of agricultural equipment on Saturday, April 11 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The equipment will be on display in the vacant lot catty-cornered from the History and Archives Museum on Walnut Ave.

Tickets for the Pilgrimage are $20 and include access to all six sites. Tickets can be purchased at Bluff Hall, 407 N. Commissioners Ave., leading up to and the day of the event.

Other historical events in coming weeks include (all of the following events are free unless otherwise noted):

  • “Addie Pray”, a discussion with Bert Hitchcock at noon on April 17 at the Demopolis Public Library
  • Alabama Readers Theater, with Don Noble, at the Demopolis High School Theatre at 6:30 p.m. on April 17, followed by a showing of “Paper Moon” at 7:30 at the DHS Theatre
  • “Rock in a Weary Land” presentation/talk with Richard Bailey and Eddie Griffith at 2 p.m. at Morning Star Baptist Church
  • “The Glass Managerie” by Tennessee Williams, presented by the Canebrake Players at the Old School at 7 p.m. on April 24, 25 and 27, and 2 p.m. on April 26. Admission is $10 for adults and $7 for students.
  • “Place In Art and Design: Influences from Home” presentation/talk with Mark Abrams and Carolyn and Rusty Goldsmith at the Marengo County History and Archive Museum at 6 p.m. May 1.

For more information, call 334-289-9644 or e-mail


UPDATED: Demopolis superintendent to retire June 30

DrGriffin PictureDemopolis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Al Griffin will retire effective June 30, one year prior to the conclusion of his current contract.

“The board and I have reached a mutual agreement to terminate the contract a year early,” Griffin said Monday afternoon.

Griffin, 45, will retire from public education and move into the next phase of his career.

“I have accepted a position that’s not in public education,” Griffin said, declining to name the entity for which he will be working. “I want to allow this organization the opportunity to make any formal announcement they want to make.”

Griffin’s early decision allows the Demopolis City Schools Board of Education to have three months to conduct a superintendent search. Demopolis BOE Chairman Jim Stanford declined to comment, citing the fact that the BOE has not formally acted upon Griffin’s retirement.

“A very wise man once told me that there’s five qualities of a good leader,” Griffin said. “One is the ability to do the job. The ability to do it correctly is number two. The ability to do it completely is number three. Number four is leaving the organization in better shape than when you came. I’ve cleared those four. The fifth one is making sure you set your successor up for success.”

Griffin took over as DCS superintendent in June 2010 and remained at the helm during a tenuous time in state education.

“Education completely changed in the state of Alabama starting Oct. 1, 2011. From what I understood the other day is there are 136 superintendents in the state of Alabama and I have more seniority than 115 of them,” Griffin said. “When difficult times arise, as they did in Alabama, either the leaders decide to leave or they take the blame for it all. But it’s unbelievable that after five years, I have that kind of seniority.”

Griffin came to Demopolis after having served as principal at Goshen High School. The professional opportunity, in his estimation, called for continued growth and support from numerous individuals and organizations.

“It’s definitely a growing process. I thank everyone for all the hard work. We’ve definitely had a lot of success, growing our workforce development courses, brining in dual enrollment, the grants we’ve written to offset the loss of funds for arts and other educational areas.,” Griffin said. “The hard work from so many in writing grants has really limited the negative impact Demopolis has felt versus what the state has been doing.”

As he reflects on his tenure atop Demopolis City Schools, Griffin cited academic and technological advances amid a trying financial climate as the two greatest points of achievement during his administration.

“We were struggling academically upon my arrival and during the 12-13 year, our eighth grade on the ARMT-Plus, we were fourth in the state in math and eighth in the state in reading. We reached that level. It’s the commitment of our teachers to give the formative assessments and to participate in the data analysis meetings and to allow data to drive instruction. I know not everyone was a fan of that. I know it was a lot of extra work. But the benefits were amazing,” Griffin said. “When I say academic improvement, that also includes technical education. We were able to achieve this during some of the most difficult financial years Alabama has ever known.”

Griffin also cited a technology upgrade spearheaded by DCS technology coordinator Jeremiah Dial as being a keystone moment for the system.

“When you ask about the things I’m most proud of, there’s also the technology growth. It was almost like we went from the 19th Century to the 21st, Griffin said. “We were way behind the curve.”

Griffin noted that those achievements were not entirely of his doing, but were instead the product of work from a number of individuals both in the arenas of grant writing and local economic growth.

“We really had to absorb some teaching units locally in order to maintain the type of school system people expect in Demopolis. It’s going to be imperative that grant writing continues. Between the grants and increasing the sales tax, that really kept us from experiencing a significant loss,” Griffin said. “I thank all the agencies like the business council and the city council and the chamber of commerce. I had a streak of luck because the sales tax analysis has jumped by about $100,000 a year over the last couple of years.”

Griffin also responded to some of his critics, citing an intense focus on grant writing and financial maneuvering as having taken precedence over community visibility.

“I want my critics to know what I was doing. I was writing grants and diligently working to obtain funds to offset the loss of education trust fund money so there was not a negative impact felt in the classroom of Demopolis City Schools. I apologize if there were some meetings or social events I missed, but I was working,” Griffin said. “We’ve done some remarkable things. I know it hasn’t always been popular, but my commitment was always to the children and what was in their best interest. I didn’t cater to anyone or to any group. I catered to the children. We really did a lot of good things for them during this time. I thank the board, attorney Alec Braswell, all the administrators and the teachers. I thank people out in the community who kept me informed. I’m going to leave June 30 and I’m going to leave with no regrets. And I’m going to make sure my successor is set up for success. My prayers are with the board as they set up for this process for the search to begin. I’m not leaving Demopolis for another position in public ed. This chapter of my life is closed.”

Photo of the Day: March 30, 2015

me bike Giverny for WAW

Demopolis native Jason N. Smith will be at the Demopolis Public Library May 8, 2015 at 5pm for a book signing for his first young adult novel The Blood Rock Prophecy: Awakening.


Smith has spent several summers in France perfecting the art of the French language and is shown here on a bike tour in Giverny, France.

Please look for a more in depth interview with Jason in the coming days.

(Photo courtesy of Jason Smith)

Michael Neal

Mr. Michael Neal of Forkland, Alabama entered into eternal rest March 28,2015 in Forkland, Alabama. Funeral services for Mr. Michael Neal are incomplete, and will be announced at a later date. Larkin and Scott Funeral Directors of Demopolis, Alabama entrusted with all arrangements.

All obituaries taken from the website of the corresponding funeral home unless otherwise noted.

Photo of the Day: March 29, 2015

potd - fishing tournament

Unseasonably cold temperatures didn’t keep fishermen off the waters Saturday, as McNider Marine held the second event of its 2015 tournament trail on Lake Demopolis.