Tears and Laughter: Riding back to church with Mrs. Calhoun

Sometimes, when the air begins to grow cold and pecans begin to crack under my tires as I pull out of my driveway, I think about going back to find her. We attended the same church services every week in Mobile. Most of the time she would ride with another family, but if they were sick or had a change in their regular routine, Mrs. Calhoun would ride with us.

It was 1981 when we met. I was almost 10 and she was almost 80. She lived on the far side of Jackson. The first time she rode with us Mama got cranked up as soon as we turned off of Highway 43 to find her house. “Be sweet, and act right. And don’t forget to say yes ma’am and no ma’am. Don’t make any smart remarks and don’t roll your eyes.” She turned around and looked at my brother and me in the backseat to make sure we were listening. “Be nice,” she said, and we nodded.

Since I was the youngest, I would slide over in the middle so she could get in. She would slowly lock the door behind her and make her way down the sidewalk before climbing in the car.

She was not a woman you would describe as being small. She had a quick warm smile and alert eyes. When she grinned, her gold tooth sparkled.

Talk was easy and usually church related or about family, her children – what they had been doing, what they had said when they called, when they would be visiting. She looked forward to Thanksgiving so she could see them all.

To pass time, I would have a word search puzzle book open. Without saying a word, she would reach over and touch the first letter of a word and slide her finger to the last. I would circle it.

Somewhere between McIntosh and Creola, both going and returning, it was my practice, no matter where we had lunch and supper, to have a snack. I would have planned it beforehand. It was always something simple. Candy usually, M&M’s or Lifesavers. Sometimes a pack of Toastchee crackers, but whatever I had, I would share it with her.

We would snack, and then she would talk again with my parents. Mama would sometimes read Lewis Grizzard’s column out loud to us from the Mobile Press Register. Other weeks she would read it silently and snicker while Daddy would tell us stories about growing up in Mobile and all that had changed.

In the fall, when the days were short, it would be dark before we could make it back to her house in Jackson. Usually by then I would be slumped against her sleeping , my head resting on her shoulder.

She would wake me up to get out of the car. She would tell me bye and laugh, joking with me saying that if she ever got kidnapped she wanted me to be with her so she wouldn’t have to worry about going hungry. She said she knew I would have snacks in my purse.

Daddy would shine the headlights on her sidewalk as she made her way to the front door. He would not leave until she disappeared inside and we saw a light come on through the window. Pecans would crack under the tires as he backed out of her driveway.

I know she is not on the other side of Jackson anymore. I know there is no reason to go try and find her. Her memory still visits with me though sometimes…when the wind begins to blow cold.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.

9-25-15 DHS vs Jackson gallery

Local armories slated to close due to budget deficit

According to a release from the National Guard on Wednesday, the armory located in Demopolis, Ala., is slated to close by 2017.

The Alabama National Guard facilities master plan originally called for the closing and consolidation of 15 armories before fiscal year 2017 due to budget constraints. Now, a $200,000 reduction to the National Guard budget for fiscal year 2016 has resulted in the slated closure of six additional facilities, including the armory located in Demopolis.

As of now, armories located in Albertville and Monroeville have already been closed. Of the original 15 to close, 13 remain, plus the additional six announced in Wednesday’s release.

The closure of the armories comes amid numerous closures statewide as a result of the $82 million deficit in the general fund budget approved by lawmakers earlier this month. In addition to the armories, 31 driver license satellite offices and five state parks are scheduled to close. The new fiscal year begins Thursday.


The complete list of armories slated to close is listed below:

  • Aliceville
  • Brantley
  • Camden
  • Elba
  • Fort Deposit
  • Geneva
  • Hartford
  • Jackson
  • Jasper
  • Scottsboro
  • Sheffield
  • Sylacauga
  • Vernon

Additional closures include:

  • Alexander City
  • Demopolis
  • Eufaula
  • Huntsville
  • Marion
  • Winfield


The Alabama National Guard released the following statement on the closures:

Years of sustained funding shortfalls for the Alabama National Guard operations and maintenance budget have reached a critical juncture. The State of Alabama and the Federal government operate the National Guard on a Master Cooperative Agreement (MCA), which obligates a cost-sharing framework for National Guard Armories throughout the state. The typical cost sharing relationship in armories requires a 50/50 share between State and Federal funds. The Alabama National Guard “Twenty Five Year Master Plan” defines the objective number, size, and location of armories throughout the state to meet current and future requirements for the Guard. This master plan in coordination with National Guard Bureau is dependent upon a state budget that is consistent and funded to an adequate level for investment to construct new facilities and sustain, restore and modernize existing facilities to Army standards.

Over the past six years, the Alabama National Guard has identified over $100 million dollars of deferred maintenance, repair, and modernization requirements for facilities constructed from 1950 to 1990 that fail to meet the Army’s mission requirements of quality, quantity and mission support. In the past six years the Alabama Army National Guard has received over $126 million Federal dollars for the MCA Federal share obligation of which only $16 million was provided by the State budget to match these federal funds. The lack of state matching funds resulted in investment of Federal match funds to be allocated to lower priority and fully federal funded facilities rather than armories. This funding shortfall in deferred investment also forces the deliberate closure and consolidation of armories until a consistent and adequate long term funding solution can be achieved, allowing the state to meet its minimum obligations to the MCA.

The Alabama National Guard facilities Master Plan includes closing and consolidation of 15 armories between fiscal years 2014 to 2017. The $200,000 reduction to the NG budget for fiscal year 2016 forced a corresponding reduction in the only place the NG can reduce expenses without incurring unacceptable risk in fiscal oversight and property accountability; facilities operations and maintenance. By reducing six additional armories, we effectively reduce the facility operations and maintenance costs to meet the State budget we are given by the Legislature for 2016.

The National Guard Twenty Five Year Master Plan is to close the first 15 armories of which two have been closed to date in Albertville and Monroeville. The 13 remaining armories are located in the following cities: Sheffield, Scottsboro, Vernon, Jasper, Aliceville, Sylacauga, Camden, Fort Deposit, Jackson, Brantley, Elba, Geneva and Hartford. The six additional armories that will close are: Huntsville, Winfield, Alexander City, Demopolis, Marion, and Eufaula. The criteria used to select these locations was the cost to operate and maintain the armory, condition of the armory and the armories ability to meet mission support (i.e.; recruiting, equipment storage, force structure accommodation) currently and in the future. The plan prioritizes the facilities that can be economically sustained within budget and scheduled those that cannot for closure. Closure of armories in the National Guard is not an instantaneous action and will require up to 24 months to complete. Drilling guardsmen and full time service members are our number one priority. Units affected by these closures will be relocated to other Guard facilities with accommodations made to continue their current mission with as little turbulence as possible.




Keen Chiropractic Postgame Report: DHS vs Jackson – 9/25/2015

Photo of the Day: January 27, 2015

POTD Jackson_1289

DHS boys basketball coach Rodney Jackson discusses strategy between free throws.

Photo of the Day: September 22, 2014

POTD Jackson and James-0267

Even though they play for different teams now, former DHS teammates Martaze Jackson (left) and DaMarcus James (right) show that friendship transcends sports rivalries as they stop for a photo after James’ Jacksonville State University Gamecocks defeated Jackson’s University of West Alabama Tigers Saturday.

Jackson survives Demopolis effort

Bobby Taylor brings down an Aggie receiver behind the line during the Tigers' game against Jackson.

Bobby Taylor brings down an Aggie receiver behind the line during the Tigers’ game against Jackson.

Demopolis saw a gritty effort end in defeat Thursday as Jackson quarterback Matthew Jordan punched in a two-point conversion run to give the Aggies a 22-21 win.

With 40 seconds remaining in the game, Jordan stuck an out route throw in the hands of receiver Marcuz Gilmore in the end zone to put the Aggies down 21-20. Jackson took a timeout and elected to go for the win on a two-point conversion play. Whatever the call was, it mattered little as Jordan turned a busted play into a 3-yard run to put his team up 22-21.

Logan McVay breaks up a pass during the Tigers' game against Jackson.

Logan McVay breaks up a pass during the Tigers’ game against Jackson.

“Jordan’s our team leader. He’s just gimme the ball, gimme the ball, gimme the ball,” Jackson coach Danny Powell said. “Of course, the two-point conversion was just a broken play that he made on his own. It was a poor call on my part I reckon.”

Gilmore’s catch capped an 11-play, 65-yard drive and was one of three grabs by the receiver during the march.

Jackson needed drive to answer a Demopolis possession that saw the Tigers go 91 yards in nine plays to take the lead.

Demopolis quarterback Tyler Oates broke off runs of 12 and 10 yards before taking a hit that sent him out of the game. Three plays later, the senior signal-caller returned to action to hand the ball to Roderick Davis for a 14-yard run before unleashing a 24-yard scamper of his own. The run set up a 20-yard touchdown sprint from Davis to put Demopolis up 19-14 with 2:49 to play. Oates then rolled out and threw to Peyton Pearson for the two-point conversion to give the Tigers a 21-14 lead.

Tyler Merriweather (40) ad Rahmeel Cook (88) bring down a Jackson runner as Jacquan Lawson (52) closes in.

Tyler Merriweather (40) ad Rahmeel Cook (88) bring down a Jackson runner as Jacquan Lawson (52) closes in.

“I’m really proud of our guys. They played their tails off tonight. (Jackson) made one more play tonight and the clock really ran out on us,” Demopolis coach Tom Causey said. “I thought our kids executed the game plan to a tee. Credit Jackson right there for making plays to win the ball game.”

“Coach Causey had them ready to play as always. He’s a great football coach and his kids played their tail off,” Powell said of the Tigers.

Roderick Davis (6) breaks into the open as Heath Stanford (79) looks to block and Tyler Oates (10) watches the play develop.

Roderick Davis (6) breaks into the open as Heath Stanford (79) looks to block and Tyler Oates (10) watches the play develop.

Jackson had previously taken a 14-13 lead with 9:34 left in the game when Jordan scored on a 4-yard run to punctuate a 13-play drive that covered 90 yards. Jordan added his own conversion run in that instance as well after a play in which a bad snap and a desperation heave on an extra point call drew a pass interference penalty against Demopolis.

The Tigers took their first lead of the game with 3:15 to play in the third quarter when Oates hit Cortez Lewis on a post that went 50 yards for a score.

Demopolis trailed 6-0 with 9:54 to play in the second when Jordan hit Antonio Fox for a 23-yard score. The point-after failed, allowing Demopolis to tie the game with a pair of Leif Midgorden field goals.

Leif Midgorden kicks his first field goal of the night against Jackson.

Leif Midgorden kicks his first field goal of the night against Jackson.

The first kick came from 38 yards out with 3:59 to go in the quarter and was set up by a 50-yard interception return from Demetrius Kemp.

The second kick was of the 27-yard variety and followed a Logan McVay interception. Midgorden’s second 3-pointer of the night sent the game to the half at 6-6.

Jordan ran for 100 yards on 23 carries to lead the Aggies. Oates matched his counterpart with 100 yards on 18 carries for Demopolis. Davis added 104 yards on 17 carries.

Gilmore led all receivers with 83 yards on seven catches.

Cortez Lewis looks down field after catching a pass from Tyler Oates.

Cortez Lewis looks down field after catching a pass from Tyler Oates.

Kemp led the defense for Demopolis with nine total tackles to go along with a forced fumble, a blocked punt and an interception.

Tyler Perkins recovered a fumble for Demopolis. Gavin Bryant intercepted a pass for Jackson while Tycorey Sims recovered a fumble for the Aggies.

Jackson (9-0, 7-0) plays Thomasville next while Demopolis (6-3, 4-3) needs a win over Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa next week to break a three-way tie for the No. 3 seed in Region 3 and clinch a playoff berth.

Demopolis eyes showdown with Jackson

DHS vs Satsuma-9350Demopolis (6-2, 4-2) will round out Region 3 play Thursday night when it hosts Class 5A’s No. 3 team, Jackson.

In the Aggies, Demopolis finds a team that has outscored opponents 375-74 while not tallying less than 34 points or surrendering more than 21 in a game all season to this point.

“I think they’re probably a little better than they were last year. They seem to be playing together as a group and are a little more balanced than they were on offense,” Demopolis coach Tom Causey said of the Aggies. “Defensively, believe it or not, they run to the ball a little faster than they did last year.”

The Aggie defense is run by former Demopolis High assistant coach Jeremy Sullivan while the offense is overseen by head coach Danny Powell.

“Jeremy Sullivan runs their defense and I think the world of Coach Sullivan for what he does on the field and as a man,” Causey said. “Coach Powell, obviously, is very successful and has been. He’s a dang good man.”

The Aggie offense is triggered by signal-caller Matthew Jordan, a dual-threat Georgia Tech commit.

DHS vs Satsuma-9302“Don’t miss tackles. When you get a chance to tackle him, you’ve got to tackle him,” Causey said of the key to defending Jordan. “We’ve got to not make alignment mistakes and give them big plays based off alignment. If they get a big play, they’ve got to earn it. We’ve just got to make sure when we get a hat on him, we’ve got to get him down. We can’t let him keep running.”

Jordan is not Jackson’s only Division I prospect as the defense is anchored by an Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game selection and a Tennessee commit in middle linebacker Gavin Bryant.

“Gavin Bryant, he’s in the all-star game, committed to Tennessee. I think he has gotten better from last year. When he sees (the ball), he’s gone,” Causey said. “He’s big and he’s physical and he’s extremely fast. He’ll be the best inside backer we’ve seen this year.”

And while Jackson has talent among their starters, Causey believes the real difference between the Aggies and many other teams comes when those starters are off the field.

DHS vs Satsuma-9156“They’ve got depth. A lot of times when twos come in the game, you notice a significant difference. With them, not so much,” Causey said.

For Demopolis, meeting the challenge presented by Jackson will mandate building off of the successes it found last week in a 49-7 win over Satsuma.

“I thought we played better team football. We eliminated a lot of sill mistakes. We were more consistent with what we were doing,” Causey said. “You knew where guys were going to be and it makes play calling a little easier. I think, defensively, other than one drive, we did what we were supposed to do. I’m really proud of what our twos did when they went into the game on both sides of the football.”

The Satsuma game marked one of the few times this season Demopolis has played with most of its starters and key reserves healthy and available.

“It was good to have most of our guys back last week. Hopefully we can keep it together the last couple of games and then head into the playoffs,” Causey said.

While the visiting Aggies have already sewn up the Region 3 championship, Demopolis is still fighting for a playoff berth. A win over Jackson would clinch the No. 3 seed for the Tigers while a loss would send Demopolis to a non-region week 10 contest with Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa in need of a victory to clinch a tie-breaker over Selma and Greenville.

Demopolis, Jackson game moved to Thursday night

Demopolis High’s week nine home contest against Class 5A, Region 3 foe Jackson has officially been moved to Thursday, Oct. 24.

The game, which had been scheduled to take place Friday, Oct. 25, will now give the Tigers a full week of preparation as they look ahead to a week 10 clash with Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, which is set to take place Thursday, Oct. 31 in Tuscaloosa.

The Tigers, who will host Satsuma for Homecoming Friday, Oct. 18 after traveling to Sumter-Central this week, are currently 4-2 overall and 2-2 in region play. Demopolis will need to string together at least two victories in order to put itself in position to qualify for the state playoffs, which are set to begin Nov. 8.

9-16-2013 DMS vs Jackson (gallery)