Out of the Ashes

Demopolis, Ala. - 1-6-2015 - Arthur Ogden surveys the damage from the fire that destroyed part of the Ogden's home on Monday, January 4, 2015.

Demopolis, Ala. – 1-6-2015 – Arthur Ogden surveys the damage from the fire that destroyed part of the Ogden’s home on Monday, January 4, 2015.

I’m legendary for my status as “not a morning person.” It takes an atomic bomb to wake me up and at least two cups of coffee before anyone should ask me what my name is. But it’s amazing what adrenaline can do.

In the wee hours of Monday, January the 4th, before the sun had even begun to color the sky, my husband’s career as a football coach, his legendary status as a light sleeper and that booming coach’s voice saved us all.

He tells me that it was the 6th time he screamed my name before I answered him but the next thing he yelled was “Fire!”

I was still addled, and not thinking clearly as I ran from our bedroom to the upstairs foyer to find him beating on a tiny flicker of flame on our oldest child’s bedroom door…with his bare hand.

The bedroom door was slightly opened and my first question was where India was. My brain wasn’t all the way on but I could tell that there was light coming from her room that was surely from fire but I have a tendency to never think it’s as bad as it is. After all, he was standing there trying to extinguish flames with his bare hand…how bad could it be?

He told me she had already left for work and he began yelling the other children’s names. I too started yelling, “Up, Up, Up…let’s go.”

While I made what seemed at the time to be the logical decision to get a towel from the laundry room because you don’t beat flames with bare hands…you beat them with towels… men are so silly thinking you can battle flames with sheer force of will…towels are what are needed. Do you see why I need coffee in the morning?

By the time I returned to the foyer (no more than 10 or 15 seconds) I realized from the looks of things that I was significantly under armed with the bath towel and it was time to make sure the kids were really truly getting out of the house and not just standing around in shock.

Demopolis, Ala. - 1-6-2015 - This is a view from the staircase, up toward the second floor foyer.

Demopolis, Ala. – 1-6-2015 – This is a view from the staircase, up toward the second floor foyer.

Arthur got the girls from their bedroom, that coach’s voice never fails to generate quick action, and down the front stairs. At least I think that’s how they got downstairs. All I knew was that I had seen that my girls were safe in his care and I was going after my boys.

I headed down the back hall for the boys screaming “Up, up, up” and “Move, move,move.” I found my boys both bewildered and out of bed.. I ushered the boys down the back stairs in their bedroom and shooed them toward their Papa and sisters heading out via Arthur’s office.

Again, a testimony to lack of coffee and brilliant morning emergency thinking. I had seen the mop bucket on my way through the kitchen with the boys. I told Arthur, “I’ll get a bucket.” as he called 911 and kept the children safe.

I filled a small bucket with water in the downstairs bath tub and ran upstairs via the back hall. Barefoot, as I ran onto the wooden floor of the foyer I could feel the heat in the floor itself. I hurled the water at the now flaming door and nothing noticeable happened. I said something in my head that is not fit for print and realized it was futile. The only thing to do was get out.

I’d been working with a kind of tunnel vision, where I was only seeing the most important thing in front of me at the time. Arthur’s face, flickers of fire, buckets, towels, Nathan, Benjamin, Savannah and Zarah. I looked at India’s room burning and brief flash of “what if he was wrong…what if she wasn’t at work?” went through my mind. Everything was happening so quickly. All the thoughts and actions that had already happened couldn’t have even taken more than seven or eight minutes. But I remembered that he’d told me twice already that she was not in there and I trusted him.

A few seconds is a long time in a fire, I’m sure the brave men of the Demopolis Fire Department can tell you that. It seems like I remember every bit of what my eyes glanced over as I turned to run. The arch way leading to my room beginning to be touched by flame, India’s door putting off flames so big I could feel the hot air being pushed on my face five or six feet away, the stair rail marking the place I needed to run , the reflection of orange light being thrown off the bathroom mirror , and the escalating heat under my feet. Then I saw the doorway to the back hall that was right then free from all but a faint bit of smoke.

And I remembered the shawl. It had belonged to my great great grandmother. According to family lore she wore it on her wedding day in 1861. It had been a wedding gift from her uncle. (I’ll have to check the year, those records are in a box in my closet…who knows if it’s still there.) I had worn it myself on the day that Arthur and I took our vows in The Church.

So I chose to run out the back. I had bolted not even 10 feet when I got to the open hallway closet where I had purposefully kept the shawl to grab in case of some horrific emergency. By the time I was reaching for the satin pillow case it had always lived in I could not see nor breathe and I was surrounded by thick, hot black smoke. I thought to myself “You are a fool, run.”

Demopolis, Ala. - 1-6-2015 - The Ogden's lost much of the second floor of their home to fire on Monday. This is the room where the fire is believed to have started.

Demopolis, Ala. – 1-6-2015 – The Ogden’s lost much of the second floor of their home to fire on Monday. This is the room where the fire is believed to have started.

And blindly I took off through the boys room, down the spiral stairs and felt my way through the rec room calling for Arthur and the children. Somewhere along the way I remember hitting my foot on something but decided that I would think about that later.

By the time I found them in his office the smoke had cleared from one eye and I could see them all enough to count heads. I made him stop telling someone on the phone that our house was on fire to tell me one more time that India was at work and not upstairs.

My hero looked at his idiot wife holding a soot-stained pillow case and I asked him one more time to tell me where India was. “She’s at work, the car is gone, I promise.”

It was all I needed to hear. I’m not ashamed that at that point I went back for another great great grandmother’s butter knives that Arthur had shadowboxed for me that hung on the dining room wall while he herded the children out the door.

And we ran to Miss Vickie and Mr. Robert’s house. We’ve often said that the Taylor’s are the best neighbors we’ve ever had. True to form Vickie and Robert began being Vickie and Robert and they swung into action.

The Demopolis Fire Department’s response was quick, but Vickie had socks and shoes on us all and jackets and blankets wrapped around us before I could even wash the soot off my face. Thank goodness Robert had already started some coffee because Vickie can’t make coffee….don’t tell her I told you that.

I joke frequently about my husband’s stubborn streak. I poke fun and am sometimes irritated about all that administrating he did in academics and athletics over the years that led to him thinking that his natural born delegating and administrative skills makes him think he’s always in charge. The entire family complains about having to be sensitive to his light sleeping. It’s no fun to have to turn your music way down on the other side of the house because Papa turned in early.

Demopolis, Ala. - 1-6-2015 - This is a view from the upstairs hallway, back the the second floor foyer.

Demopolis, Ala. – 1-6-2015 – This is a view from the upstairs hallway, back toward the second floor foyer.

The running joke about him is that he can “hear smoke.” Thank God that he can. Thank God for that booming voice. Thank God for that will of iron that sometimes makes him think he can battle a house fire with his bare hands but also lets him slip effortlessly into the man you know you can count on to get your children out of a house fire.

It’s no joke, who he is, with ever fiber of his being saved us. I’ve never been so glad in my life that he was in charge and on watch. It’s not every woman who get’s to be married to her hero. I am a very lucky girl.

I can not even begin to describe the immediate and enormous outpouring of love and aid from the community. I didn’t want to watch my house burn, I had not the stomach. But I’m pretty sure the fire wasn’t all the way out when Kaye Evans appeared and the next thing I knew she was back with clothes.

I tried to alert my parents out of town to what was going on and when I finally got through to Daddy I had to tell him, “I don’t know…I have no answers yet. The house is still smoldering and I need to get off the phone because half of Demopolis has just come through Vickie’s front door and they’re all here to help.”

And since Monday morning we have received such a flood of love that it is overwhelming. I simply cannot name everyone. Our dearest friends have shown not only how much they love us but also how well they know us. Our neighbors across the street and all across town have shown the heart of this community. Our Church has stepped up so that we may lean on them. The school teachers have reached out to let us know our children will be covered when they go back to school.

I know I saw a lot of faces that morning and into the afternoon and every day since. That administrator I am married to has a list and in the near future a far more thorough thanks will come but for now I want to thank: Vickie and Robert Taylor for being who they are in general and the innumerable thoughtful and practical things they did for us and are still doing for us. John Wallace who came instantly with such kindness. The Brookers, and I’ll leave it at that because I don’t think anyone can name all of the Brookers and how awesome they are in one paragraph. Lynda Ray for knowing which of us needs what. Kaye and Arthur Evans for things large and small. Jay and Rosemary Shows for putting a roof over our heads.

Our dear friends Michael and Laura Clements get their own paragraph as thanks and as an explanation for why readers are getting this first person account. Michael left work and was in Vickie’s living room so fast I couldn’t even understand how he got there so quickly. Laura showed up and immediately stepped up to organize and shield me from having too great a load. I was back in my uniform of yoga pants, cami-tank, cardigan and signature hair clippy before noon and she didn’t even have to ask what I needed. Because it’s the South, she also brought me a brand new bag of make up…she probably color matched me better than I could have done myself. She even fussed at me until I went to the doctor and got my foot looked at. (I win the most damaged award as I broke my pinky toe in the escape, Arthur has a few burns on his feet and some singed hair…but he needed a haircut anyway.)

It was Laura who said I should write this. She knows me enough to know that I needed to do the writing. I told her I would do the telling but only if Michael used that camera of his to do the showing.

I’m incapable of being brief. But I usually can tell when I’m about to devolve into rambling. So I’ll end this by saying that 2016 is going to be a very hard year. While we look to rebuild our lives, our home and our collection of things we know it won’t be easy. The one thing we know for sure is that if this had to happen to us there’s no place we’d rather it happen. This city is a wonderment. It really and truly is The City of the People…and what people they are. We are so blessed.

Demopolis, Ala. - 1-6-2015 - This is a view of the upstairs foyer from the fire that destroyed part of the Ogden's home on Monday, January 4, 2015.

Demopolis, Ala. – 1-6-2015 – This is a view of the upstairs foyer from the fire that destroyed part of the Ogden’s home on Monday, Jan. 4, 2015.

The Canebrake Players: Return to Forbidden Planet

The Canebrake Players are back with their Summer Musical. August 16th-19th. The theater group’s upcoming production of Bob Carlton’s raucous camp fest, Return to Forbidden Planet, is counting down to launch.Canebrake Return to Forbidden Planet_5487

The production is sure to be out of this world as well as a pop culture delight. The musical is based on a Golden Age of Science Fiction movie Forbidden Planet (1956) which itself was loosely based on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Shakespeare in space…does it get any better than that? It sure does.

Captain Tempest and his merry band of space explorers only think they are on a routine surveying mission. There is, however, nothing routine about what they find deep in space. The final frontier holds all sorts of dangers. Yet, no matter how far humanity strays from home…meteor showers, mad scientists, robots and bug-eyed -monsters pale in comparison to human foibles and matters of the heart.

Canebrake Players President Laurie Willingham is serving as director for the show. It’s not her first time in the Canebrake directing chair but it is her first time directing a musical for The Canebrake Players and she’s delighted with the choice of musical.

“We were ready to do something different and out there for The Canebrake Players and Return to Forbidden Planet fits the bill. The audience is going to love it. The music is so fun and we’ve got some exciting things planned.”

Willingham is learning about the challenges of directing a musical. The score arrived not yet polished and putting together a live band for the show.

It’s not just the story line that’s classic, the music is too…classic rock, that is. Propelling the plotline is a musical score straight off a Mid Century juke box.

Under the musical direction of Frank Calloway audiences will be treated to a wide variety of songs from the 1950’s and 60’s. From Great Balls of Fire to The Shoop Shoop Song, Calloway notes of the classics “I grew up with these songs on the radio and even though the songs precede the cast they are all familiar with them.”

With 25 years of musical direction experience (First Baptist Church of Demopolis, First Baptist Church of Butler and Demopolis High School) Calloway knows how music can drive a show, “The songs aren’t just familiar, they add humor to the play and in places are the humor. Even though the cast knows all the songs, it’s a challenge with the speaking parts intertwined.”

Both directors are thrilled with the ensemble cast that draws talent from all over the region not just the City of Demopolis.

Portraying the merry band of space explorers is:

James Robinson – Captain Tempest

James Burden – Cookie

Andi Turberville – Miranda

Laura Clements – Science Officer/Gloria

Patrick George – Prospero

Donna Bishop – Aerial

Katherine Oakes – Bosun

Kelley Mullins – Navigation Officer #1

Bethany Fields – Navigation Officer #2

Susanna Naisbett – Navigation Officer #3

Jennifer Roemen – Navigation Officer #4

Waverly Brace– Ensign #1

Christy George – Ensign #3

Deborah Truelove – Ensign #4

Newscaster – Johnny Johnston

Newscaster – Cyd Boland

Flight Attendant – Donna Hoven

Flight Attendant – Kim Townsend

Performance are set for The Old School On Main Friday August 16th, Saturday August 17th and Monday August 19th show time at 7 pm and Sunday August 18th matinee performance at 2 pm. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for children and toddlers and infants are free.Return to Forbidden Planet_5532

They Haven’t Beet Me Yet

After an auspicious start in February my ambitious garden took several faltering turns this year. While I wasn’t nearly as plagued by the dreaded and creepy Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (those post-apocalyptic looking, massive, multi-colored eating machines) this year as I was last year, I had plenty of other pest problems this go round.

The birds and I fought over tomatoes and as per usual children playing football in the yard led to some serious losses.  Add life getting in the way, I had a good three weeks of just throwing my hands up and pretending that the garden didn’t exist.

But the real culprit behind the weed covered patch of yard I refer to as my vegetable garden was the outrageous infestation of fire ants that I dealt with along with the scorching heat and lack of rain fall. At a certain point I decided that if I was attacked by those tiny devils one more time I was either going to go into anaphylactic shock or sprout mandibles and become the new queen of the colony.

I yielded entire sections of tilled ground to the beasts. Had I been really clever I would have rigged my garden with cameras to capture on video how I reacted to several of the worst attacks upon my person. I could have won prize money on America’s Funniest Home Videos as I swatted, danced and turned the garden hose on myself.

It wasn’t all bad. I had plenty of tomatoes, more than we could eat actually and more still coming in. I have a freezer full of crook neck squash, a pantry full of pickles and my eggplants and peppers are just hitting their prime.  I was also very pleased with the new variety of heirloom sunflowers that I tried this year, Giant Mongolian Sunflowers.

However, those ants were the bane of my summer and part of the reason that I decided on a strategic retreat until time to plant the fall garden and after I had Lewis Pest Control treat the yard. I’m happy to say that I’ve spent a full day presiding over the forced labor of my children and while the garden isn’t entirely weed free yet, the ant population has dwindled to the point that the idea of starting another round of plants seems like a good one as opposed to another round of torture.

It’s early August and it’s still hot but now is exactly the time that you should be thinking about cool weather crops for your home garden. If you were wise you should already have started a second round of tomatoes and it’s just past time to have started a second round of summer squash. But it’s not too late for cabbages, collards, lettuce and a few others and I won’t tell if you won’t that I’m going to try and squeak some pumpkins in well past deadline.

What I’m most looking forward to getting in the grown in the coming weeks is a repeat of a surprising favorite from my February planting, Detroit Dark Red Beets.

This was my first time growing beets and I wasn’t sure how they would do or even if we would eat them. Not only did my first attempt work out quite nicely, my plans of pickling jars and jars of beets didn’t pan out because we ate them (roasted) almost as fast as they came out of the ground. We even continually dined on the foliage that the entire family declared much better than spinach ever could hope to be.

I did make a rookie mistake with my first crop of beets. I planted the seeds too close together because I assumed one “seed” would be one beet. Not so, a beet “seed” is really a cluster of as many as six seeds per prickly looking seed ball. This led to more thinning than should have been necessary but since you can cook the tender greens or serve them as a fresh salad, all’s well that ends well.

Some recommend soaking the seed cluster in water before planting so as to aid in germination. I didn’t do that and had no problems with germination.

Beets are a root crop and therefore favor well drained soil free of anything that would impede root development such as rocks or hunks of clay. Another thing to keep in mind when growing beets is that too much nitrogen in the soil leads to lots of leafy greens and tiny beet roots.

If you lack a large enough space for a full-fledged garden, beets are ideal for container growing. The compact nature of their growth pattern means that you can grow them in potting soil wherever you can catch some sun. Just make sure the container drains well but also keep in mind that all container growing means more frequent watering.

If you plan on eating as you thin, beet greens are most tender when they are less than six inches high. The beet roots are ready for harvest when they hit one and a half to two inches in diameter. Much bigger and they get stringy and tough.

For other heirloom gardeners out there who save their own seed, be advised that beets are biennial and won’t flower and put off seed until the following year. I held back some seed for new planting and made sure to add the beets to my perennial bed in anticipation of seed coming from those at the end of next year.

And should anyone happen to see me in the yard armed with a flame thrower….don’t worry it’s more than likely just the ants I’ve not really lost my mind.

The Canebrake Players’ Oliver!

Cast members of The Canebrake Player’s production of Oliver.

Mistreated malnourished child labor, kidnapping, thieving for a living on the mean streets of Victorian London and not one but two on stage deaths should have the average theater goer leaving in tears…but with The Canebrake Player’s summer production of Oliver! audiences left the building laughing and humming show tunes.

If a consistently packed house and two sold out performances are any indication, the production was a resounding success.  Local audiences turned out in droves to see the musical, some being asked to return for another showing as the theater had been seated to capacity.

Local artist Lynda Ray did a spectacular job with the set decoration, creating a back drop mural of the city of London that set the gritty tone of the play.

The Children’s Chorus of work house boys with their smudged faces and drab attire were a delightful treat as they opened the show streaming on stage through the audience singing joyfully of the gruel they were about to receive.

Jones Colgrove, cast in the production’s title role, was the picture of the pining waif when he plaintively and sweetly sang “Where is love”, Oliver’s signature song.  Colgrove also played quite the imp against Tristian Mullen’s imperious know it all Noah Claypole.

Cooper Boggs was dashing and more than sufficiently dodgy as The Artful Dodger and most likely could have charmed half the audience into joining him in a life of pick pocket crime.

John Brown’s Mr. Bumble was authoritative and hilariously haughty until rendered low by Laurie Willingham’s wile and cunning Widow Corney.  Brown’s professional singing experience was evident throughout the play and his comic timing was impeccable.

Drew Tucker and Gillian Walters were delightful as the wacky undertaker and his even wackier wife.

The role of Nancy was played by two area actresses, Kelley Jordan of Livingston and Laura Clements of Demopolis, both ladies gave stellar performances. Jordan nailed a streetwise Nancy with a heart of gold, doing her best to do right in spite of her circumstances.  Clements’ vocals were remarkable, showing an exceptional range from the sad strains of “As Long As He Needs Me” to the bawdy “Oom-Pah-Pah” and not missing a beat in between.

Garrett Baker’s choice to play Bill Sykes with a Scottish brogue was spot on.  He oozed menace and Baker’s Sykes is no man you’d want to meet in a dark London alley way.

Mike Baker and Cyd Boland were perfect pillars of calm stability in the storm of Oliver’s adventures as Mr. Brownlow and Mrs. Bedwin and Johnny Johnston’s Dr. Grimwig was the proper prescription for a chuckle.

Fagin, played by Charles Walters, and his band of sneak thieves and pick pockets were a crowd favorite.  Walters’ Fagin was a special blend of comically creepy nefariousness and endearing whimsy and the band of children playing Fagin’s boys were lovable in their mischief.

The chorus was seamlessly integrated into the principal players’ action and broke down the 4th wall to move amongst the crowd during “Consider Yourself”, encouraging the audience to join in with the song.

All in all, a job well done by The Canebrake Players under the direction of Jody Tartt, who rose to the task of coordinating an unprecedented cast and creating a production of grand scope.

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