Tears and Laughter: Bunches of banana spiders hanging out in Alabama this year

Just to be clear, I am writing about the banana spiders found in the southeastern region of the United States. They live as far north as North Carolina and as far west as Texas.  

I am not referring to the banana spider of Central and South America that is venomous and will chase people. 

There are those who believe the banana spider arrived to our area aboard banana boats as they docked at the port of Mobile years ago. But experts claim Mobile had banana spiders long before the banana boats sailed. 

The banana spiders we have in Alabama are also called Nephila, or golden silk orb weavers…among other things. 

When the sun is shining right, you can see the yellow hue of their webs. And they don’t build shabby webs. I saw a small limb dangling from one after the last rain. This year they seem to be everywhere. 

I have been keenly aware of one in particular because I had been playing limbo with one of them since early July who had built a face-level web on the porch off the side entrance of the garage. 

I don’t know why I didn’t just get rid of it. But I didn’t, and wouldn’t you know it, an even bigger one built another web higher above the first in the far right corner. They became known as Spider #1 and Spider #2. I would go out just to speak with them and check out their webs. 

Spider #2 must have been from a long line of fine web weavers. She didn’t just build a sturdy flat web. She built lean-tos off each side. This was maybe a way to catch more food, because you could tell by looking at her that she liked to eat.  

I suppose the extra webbing could have also served to protect her center web from the wind, yet what it did not shield her from was certain other predators. I got out of my car one day and Spider #3 had abruptly arrived. I don’t know the full story, but bad things happened. All that was left of Spider #2 were eight legs still floating in her well-built web. 

After that I felt hard toward Spider #3. I wouldn’t even speak. I would walk underneath her stolen web like she wasn’t even up there. I even warned Spider #1 – who I had become friendly with at that point – to be very leery of Spider #3 – especially when she started adding on another addition to the web in #1’s direction. 

Then it happened. I went out to see Spider #1 and she was gone. Just gone. No sign of struggle. No evidence of foul play. No note. 

That is when I really started being more open to getting to know Spider #3. The new routine became for me to walk out to see her, and then I would reach up and tap her web a couple of times. Sometimes she would just keep picking at her weaving, and sometimes she would charge down the web at me and I would run off squealing. 

So really, it doesn’t make any sense at all for me to miss her quite as much as I have noticed I do since I went out Friday morning and found she was gone.  

I feel like Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

PSA: Marengo E-911 urges residents to clearly post addresses

Marengo County E-911 would like to remind the citizens of Marengo County the importance of having your address not only posted but also posted properly. Locating you quickly in your time of emergency without delay is our goal.

When a Marengo County E-911 Telecommunicator dispatches any emergency service unit whether it is Fire, Ambulance, Law Enforcement or First Responders to your residence in your time of need, having your address posted clearly and visibly allows them to find you much quicker. In most of Marengo County, a GPS does not provide accurate directions to an emergency scene and can lead responders to the wrong house address. As a result, responders rely on proper and visible placement of home addresses.  We recommend that you post your address in a minimum of a 4inch reflective numbers.  So that your address may be seen during the day and/or during the night, and will be reflected by headlights as well.

In your time of emergency, the responding units will be trying to locate you near the address of your home and not where you receive your mail.  Having your address displayed on your mailbox for mail purposes is important but may not be enough for us to locate you in an emergency. Therefore, it is recommended that you post your address not only on your mailbox but also on your residence and driveway. Having your address posted in several places in very important.  Mounting your address high enough to avoid weeds is important as well as not being blocked by bushes, flowers or branches.

Your address should be visible from the road coming from either direction as responders could be coming from either direction. Also, remember Script numbers or numbers that are spelled out in words may be aesthetically pleasing but are difficult to read quickly from the street. Brass or bronze numbers are difficult to see. Use numbers that contrast with the background. If you live in an apartment, duplex, or mobile home park your address should also be posted with the street address and the apartment or lot number.  If the numbers on your house are not visible or easy to read, it will take emergency personnel longer to reach you.

Those extra minutes spent trying to locate a property can mean the difference between life and death, so take the time now to be sure your house numbers are able to be seen from the street to help emergency responders find you faster.  If you would like to see an example of the correct way to post your address please visit our website at marengocountye911.org, click on services and then click on addressing.

Letter to the Editor: Marengo Shrine grateful for Langley donation

On Saturday August 12, 2017 the Marengo County Shrine Association had the pleasure of presenting Mr. Rod Langley, of Langley’s Shell, with a plaque expressing our gratitude for his generous donation to the Abba Shrine Transportation Fund in Mobile. This fund provides transportation for Shrine kids and their families to their medical appointments at the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. Shriner’s hospitals provide a “family-centered environment that is focused on maximizing a child’s quality of life, regardless of the families’ ability to pay,” making fundraising and donations of utmost importance. Mr. Rod has issued a challenge to other businesses to continue in this good work and help the Shriners help the kids. Thank you, Mr. Rod Langley and God bless!

If you have any further questions or would like to make a donation, please contact the Marengo County Shrine Association.

 

Charles Wingfield, MCSA President

334-654-0989

MarengoShrine@gmail.com

Tears and Laughter: Irma evacuees welcomed with Alabama heart and hospitality 

If you woke up in Alabama this morning and have a Florida or Georgia tag on your car, God bless you.  

I will venture to guess we’ve probably spent a little more time vacationing in your states than y’all have in ours. And, I’m sure you’ve all heard how we are all rednecks and aren’t good at math, but being Southern neighbors the way we have been all this time makes us somewhat similar by nature one would think.  

Georgia has Six Flags and Callaway Gardens. They have Atlanta and that zoo you can roam through in a car. And Florida is Florida. Everybody loves Florida. But Alabama has some sights too, I assure you.  

And not to get particular right off the bat, but both of you do have those horribly immoral lotteries. Now personally, I drive to Florida usually once a week to buy tickets, but a lot of people think I am likely going to hell. I would drive to Georgia, if it was a closer. I can be in Century, Florida in an hour and 35 minutes. That’s on backroads with no stops. 

Sometimes, I will go to McDavid, Florida to get tickets, because I like to drop by and make a small donation to the Poarch Creek Indians in Atmore. But if I’m craving Fancy Ketchup from Whataburger, then Century wins out.  

As a state though, Alabama does not believe in gambling. It is wrong. We are agriculturally based and have four casinos, and a few dog tracks but we do not believe in casting lots.  

We also have a few schools Georgia would tear down, but still, we choose not to participate in the devil’s silly number games. 

Of course it has been brought up in discussion on the floor of the State House, and it’s a little funny, but our legislator’s cannot decide what to do with the revenue a lottery would generate. But I’ve already mentioned how we are not widely known for our mathematical abilities. We don’t have to be. Our state is good at football, and we have big hearts. 

Our states have hurricanes in common. We know the power they can hold and the destruction they can bring. The havoc and despair they leave in their wake. 

We understand fear, anxiety, and the stress uncertainty can bring. We know what tired means. 

We know how being stressed and tired can wreck a person’s patience. Tempers flare, and words can fly, and tears will spill easy when you wake-up in a place you probably never even intended to visit, worried about the place you call home. 

We understand, and we want to help. Everyone comes together in times like these. There isn’t a town in Alabama that isn’t willing to help evacuees from Hurricane Irma. Schools and churches have opened as shelters. Motels and campground have welcomed people. Communities are planning and cooking hot meals. Alabamians are offering what they have to people who had to evacuate too quickly to remember to pack everything. Sometimes the simplest of needs being met, like being handed fresh towels or a hot cup of coffee, can make grown women weep. 

Neighbors love one another. We are eager to help. Don’t hesitate to ask during your brief stay, and may God comfort and keep each of you as you return safely home.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: School is starting, time to think and be kind 

She says she likes where I live because it’s green and country and different. She says she thinks she wants to live in Florida one day when she is older. She likes palm trees and sunsets and she thinks she remembers being happy there once when she was younger. It was the last time she remembers seeing her dad. And she thinks her mama might have been happy there too…for a little while. 

She has a natural ear for tone and can change pitch effortlessly with her voice. She was singing with my youngest daughter in the backseat of my car. They are both 13, both are about to enter the eighth grade, and they know every song on Sirius. 

She likes to talk about Broadway shows I know nothing about, so I just listen. She does a Donald Trump impersonation about “the wall” and will start an impromptu slogan and commercial over any sign that catches her attention. I told her she should study broadcasting after she graduates. She laughed. She doesn’t take compliments well.  

She is ambitious and expressive and prettier than she can allow herself to accept right now. Prettier than she has been told. She has bright eyes and clear skin – barring a couple of childhood freckles fading fast across the bridge of her nose.  

She makes too many self-deprecating comments. Old words seem to play like a tape in her mind, ruminating. They interrupt her sometimes, even when she is miles away and smiling. She is tenderhearted and will stand-up for others quicker than she will defend herself. 

Our route out of the city took us by her school. It is a magnet school. She starts back in a few days. I asked her if there was anything she needed to do in order to get ready. She said it wasn’t anything you could prepare for. It is just something you have to make yourself do.  

She said she wishes she never ever had to go back. “Not because of the work,” she quickly added. “I can do the work. It’s just the people.” She offered no further explanation.  

We passed a church with a sign out front that read “Black lives matter here” beside a small rainbow flag. “Look at that,” she said. I guess it is okay for anybody to go to church there. I like that. Everybody ought to be able to worship don’t you think?”  

I nodded, although I really hadn’t given it much thought. I was still just listening. We were at a crawl in traffic. There was an accident ahead of us on the Interstate. We were two miles out from our exit. 

“You know my mom has been staying at the women’s shelter, right?” 

I nodded. I did know. 

“Well I hear she has started going to church some too and I figure that can’t hurt, do you?” 

She waited for an answer. A nod wouldn’t do.  

I told her not to worry, that one of the greatest mysteries in life is how God can take the most complicated of problems, even the ones people can’t see any solution to, and working them out for the good. 

Content with my response, she settled back, and they started singing again.  

For her sake…I just pray I’m right.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: If your town is not painting rocks, your community is missing out on the fun 

Often times in downtown Camden, there is no one out. The sidewalks are empty and so are the streets, except for the occasional car passing through.

Of course there are other times when it is busy. Early in the day when people are out running errands and working, and especially at the first of the month. On parade days the sidewalks will be crowded, and again when Santa rolls in on a firetruck during the annual Christmas in Camden festival.

And sometimes the courthouse square looks like a farmer’s market with people milling around. You can’t pick up a bushel of purple hull peas and a couple pounds of shrimp fresh from the gulf for supper when you bail out of most courthouses. But in Wilcox, you can get tomatoes and local honey too. Camden is protective of its farmers. Anyone visiting, or anyone who is lost and finds themselves at the junction of Claiborne Street and Highway 265, is encouraged to stop and thump the watermelons. But often there are just vacant parking spaces and silence under the shade of the old pecan tree.

That was until these last few days when things have started to change. I parked on Claiborne Street beside the Veteran’s Monument Park Friday and immediately a truck pulled in and parallel parked behind me. A young girl jumped out of the passenger side door. She was grinning and started running. I watched her grab a painted rock like it was a baton in a relay race. All in one movement she swooped up the rock and headed back to the truck.

Her mom was smiling as she pulled away, and in seeing them happy I noticed that I was smiling too. I was clutching three painted rocks and had intentionally waited for them to drive away before I got out of the car so as to not give away the locations. I was about to hide one at the Veteran’s Monument and the others across Broad Street at the courthouse and library.

I had seen different articles and news features about the Kindness Rocks Project. I know Andalusia is rocking and Prattville is participating as well as Monroeville. Several towns are, but I thought little of it really…because I live in Camden.

Specifically, I live about eight miles out from Camden in Canton Bend – which adheres to the Alabama River and connects to Possum Bend on one end and Millers Ferry on the other – but we all have Camden addresses.

The creative rock project initially began in Memphis, Tennessee. While the process of painting the rocks as well as finding the rocks can be an introspective process, the goal was simply to inspire others – both through the art on the rock and through the random act of kindness. Anyone who finds a rock is encouraged to share a picture on Facebook, then keep it or hide it again.

The local Alabama Camden Rocks page started on July 5. Within days sidewalks were filled with those young and young at heart. I’ve never witnessed anything so simple and positive bring a community together so quickly.

Neighbors have gathered kids together to paint rocks, along with church youth groups. Even during summer break a crowd of students got together to paint and hide rocks. Creative adults – some hesitant at first thinking they were too old to play – have joined in on the fun too. Toddlers, guided by their mothers and grandmothers holding their chubby hand, have in the other their own creation to hide in exchange for a find.

There have been painted turtles and puppies and lady bugs. There have been signs, scriptures and emojis along with messages and symbols of hope. Several posts of found rocks say, “This made my day!” Or, “I needed to see this today.”

Kindness, it turns out, is contagious. And it can bring joy to the emptiest of places.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: More highs and lows of the healthcare roller coaster 

I seldom bother to toss in my opinion concerning healthcare. I haven’t been to the doctor since Obamacare passed, but of course my family has, especially my husband who is well-documented in the system. It was determined years ago at the emergency room that he has high blood pressure. There was a question as to whether he had actual high blood pressure or if it was high because he had just had his finger squished. But after a couple of weeks of monitoring, it was clear he needed to be on some form of blood pressure medication.

And to begin with, he was like an uncle I had, God rest his soul. He was a fine Christian man. He was respected in the community. He was one of the sweetest people you could ever meet, as long as he took his medicine. Otherwise, he was crazy as hell. Now the whole family knew this as well as he did, but every once in a while he would get it in his head that the Lord had healed him and he didn’t need to take his pills anymore.

He was wrong. And that is how Justin was about blood pressure medicine. He thought if he lost weight and ate healthy and exercised more that he wouldn’t need it. It took him time to accept that he wasn’t overweight or out of shape, but he still had high blood pressure.

So after a couple of misses with different types of blood pressure pills one was found that didn’t turn him beet red or make him pass out. He had been on Azor for years since without any issue until recently when it was placed on the non-preferred list of medications covered by our insurance company – despite the doctor’s recommendation – and the mail order pharmacy service slid in a generic. And these jewels are bad. They are not working properly for him and I think they are going to give me a heart attack, because when his pressure drops and he tells me he is not feeling well, that means he is about to pass out.

I cannot support his weight, and this pressure dropping has become fairly routine. I understand the issue is being looked into, and the emergency room has coached me about how to put pillows under his knees and try and get him awake enough to drink sweet tea. I have to go into a mode of trying to keep him opening his eyes and will constantly be checking his pressure. I’m no nurse, but I know when that bottom number is below 50 it is a problem. Every time, I have to decide whether and at what point to call 911. There was one night when I’m certain I would have before he came to, but he was in the Jacuzzi and I had to hold him up to keep from sliding down into the water. I couldn’t reach a phone. All I could do was pray. He finally opened his eyes and sipped the tea. And no, the water wasn’t overly hot.

I am worried this will happen when he is out alone working and no one will be there to help him. He could fall. There are the elements, like fire ants and heat. I am afraid of it happening in front of the kids. It will scare them. I’m terrified that one of these times I’m not going to be able to keep him coming back awake.

I don’t know if the healthcare plan needs to be fixed, repealed, or replaced, but my husband’s current generic blood pressure medicine – sent to him by the insurance company via their mail order prescription service – is not working. I tend to doubt he is alone in riding this healthcare roller coaster.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: Know what you love, and be willing to run to it

I have written before about teaching writing class and how one of the initial exercises is to have the students write a short, simple essay about their own self.

Five paragraphs.

It is supposed to be easy and serve as a transition into writing about others in second person, but there are always those who seem to draw a bank. They stare into space like they have been asked to describe a stranger.

This is sad to me. One of the many responsibilities we are charged with as parents – and teachers too to some extent – is to help our children to know who they are as individuals.

This is not the same as teaching them. You can’t teach them who they are the same way you can teach concepts. You might be able to teach them who you are, and in that you can influence what they accept or believe, but as for who they are as God naturally made them, it is something they have to discover and allow to develop.

It is why we introduce them to a myriad of books and activities. It is why we take them on trips and encourage them to play sports and take art classes, music classes, and dance.

It is why we let them have hamsters, take them to reptile farms, and start stamp collections we know they will never continue. We do it so they can learn what they like and equally important, what they don’t.

Knowing what they like helps them know what to choose, it helps them know what they want, what suits them, how they tick, how they learn, what they are attracted to and why it is the are drawn to it.

It is how they identify their strengths and weaknesses. Talents, skills, and boundaries. It is how they grow into their purpose, just through knowing who they are and what they like. And writing five paragraphs about it should not draw such a void.

And it is not just children. There are grown people who take six months to pick out a paint color or what dress to wear to the next low country boil because they don’t know what they like. They are too worried about what other people might think or what color their mother would have preferred rather than just walking straight in and saying this it, this is me.

I met a little girl this week who I don’t think is going to have any trouble with the personal essay one day. I say I met her. I never caught her name. She fluttered through our day like a butterfly.

I had taken my youngest daughter to the Tickled Pink Petting Zoo that was visiting Thomasville. She was waiting to hold a python. She is 13. She is shy and creative, smart, and intuitive. She has a heart for animals, all of them, and most small children.

She did not pull away when a little redheaded girl sporting a hot pink tutu ran up to her after recognizing her favorite characters on her shirt. She leaned in, pointing to each with one hand and calling them by name, while holding McKenzie’s long hair out of her way with the other.

She ran back to her mother as quickly as she had appeared, but she left me thinking maybe we should all try and be more like her. Know what you love, and when you see it, run to it.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: The Purse Policy

If there’s anything I sometimes try to be…it’s agreeable. And currently, I’m trying.

It is a personal choice for a woman, the purse she carries. And a girl just knows her bag when she sees it. It is kind of like picking out a pet. There has to be a connection…a certain style or something that looks good being carried and yet still looks good riding shotgun beside us.

There are as many shapes and sizes of purses as there are women. I prefer mine to be, like my car and shoes, black. And maybe women who only want to carry lip gloss and a debit card can manage with the cutest of tiny purses. Something like you would take to a casino where all you need is an ID and a ticket. But usually, women of a certain age need a big-ass purse, and I am one of these people.

It is all very organized and necessary. I know because, as I mentioned, I am trying to be agreeable. I just dumped it all out on my bed and tried to edit it down to fit into something someone in middle school might carry. I stuffed it all in and it was so tight I couldn’t fit anything more in or search for what was already there.

I have bragged before about how Camden is blessed with four dollar stores. If you live here and raise a family here, you may order all of your clothes and shoes and exclusive bedding online and you can buy most everything else out of town when you are on your way home from the doctor or headed to buy lottery tickets, but you will still find yourself frequently shopping in the local dollar stores.

I’m sure the cashier felt obligated to tell regular customers about the new purse policy. She told me she was trying to tell everyone with “big bags” because she was about to hang a sign on the door banning them.

She apologized and seemed to search for an explanation before saying the store’s inventory had been audited and they were within $150 in losses away from every employee being fired.

I told her I understood her position. And I do. But the purse policy causes another set of circumstances for women. Just taking in a wallet causes a problem with break-ins being common. Leaving purses in cars is not recommended, if you intend to keep the purse and your back windshield.

A wallet is easy to grab, and more difficult to keep an eye on than a purse. You can’t sling it over your shoulder and have both hands free to shop with. You either juggle it, or leave it in your shopping cart and gamble with it being stolen when you look away.

It is not just a problem at this one store in Camden. It is a problem plaguing retailers nationwide.

Across the parking lot another store has been remodeled. A customer commented to a cashier there about how the new layout would make it easier to see down the aisles and maybe would deter shoplifters. The cashier quietly replied, “I don’t think there is anything that can stop that.”

Shoplifting overburdens police and weighs down courts. It costs communities the taxes lost, and it costs the store both in retail loss and security expenses, which inevitably costs customers more. And while I am trying to be agreeable, I can’t help but feel as if the thieves are winning.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: Two men in the Black Belt, 2017 

The focal point of my backyard is a ten acre pond. Before it was a pond, it was a cotton field. You can’t tell it just by looking anymore, but through the woods is an antebellum home that once oversaw it. It still stands silent and majestic. Its walls don’t talk at all.

We could ride over to the river. We could be there within five minutes and from a secluded cliff we could look down at the sparkling Alabama that once brought people in and carried away bales of Black Belt cotton. But the proof of it now lies beneath a watery grave and can only be seen in black and white pictures.

It was the black fertile soil that invited in agriculture and helped fuel it. This region was once the wealthiest in the nation. It was home to affluent men and accomplished women. They wore the finest of dresses and slept on the best of linens and furnished their homes with elaborately handsome furniture.

None of this remains. Only in fragments and pieces. In busted-up sets of dishes forgotten about in old china cabinets. What wealth remains in Wilcox County has more to do with pine trees and paper than the cotton plant.

The one way in, one way out road I live on is named after the son of a slave. Perry Johnson is said to have fathered 23 children, though a set of twins passed away at birth. Most of my neighbors, practically without exception are the sons, daughters, and extended relatives of his children.

There is calm here now. You can feel it in the evening shade. Even the spirit in the air seems to whisper peace. But I’m glad the ground can’t talk. I know what was witnessed here and mirrored everywhere. You just would never know by the terrain.

Growing up I didn’t expect that I would ever live on a farm. I was not a member of the FFA. And maybe in retrospect, I should have been. It’s no secret that I have a fair amount of “Green Acres” in me. Usually my responsibility when it comes to farming is to stay out of the way. I’m too sensitive for some parts of it, and other parts can be tedious and unavoidably dangerous.

Such was the case this past Saturday morning, as it became clear that a first time mother cow needed help delivering. She had become panicked and unpredictable. It was more than one man could safely handle.

A neighbor came over and helped. These two men have helped one another many times over the past 25 years. They have prepped gardens that fed their families and other families. They have shared pears, pecans, Catawba worms and catfish. There has been an exchange of a couple of pet kittens and puppies along the way.

After storms they have worked together with other neighbors to cut fallen trees from the one way in, one way out road we all live on. If time allows, they will help one another again, both as neighbors and as friends.

They reminded each other of this assurance as they shook hands Saturday morning.

I don’t think they have ever noticed their hands aren’t the same color. It’s just not something that matters to men in the Black Belt.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist