As a demonstration of his commitment to border security, Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has personally donated to an online campaign to fund the construction of a wall on America’s southern border.
“It is obvious that we cannot rely on politicians in Washington to do their job,” Marsh said in a statement to Yellowhammer News. “I have always believed that controlling our borders and our national security is of the utmost importance which is why I supported immigration reform in Alabama in 2011 and why today, I am putting my money where my mouth is and personally donating to build the wall.”
On Thursday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-5) and House colleagues sent a letter to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proposing the president’s annual State of the Union Address be held in the Senate chamber in light of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s historic move to revoke Trump’s invitation to deliver the address.
In the letter, Brooks and his House colleagues explained, “Holding the State of the Union in the Senate Chamber is the best way to reveal the veracity of Speaker Pelosi’s alleged once-in-history reason for [canceling] or postponing the State of the Union.”
After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) on Wednesday “suggested” to President Donald Trump that America’s annual State of the Union Address either be canceled and replaced by written remarks or postponed until after Washington, D.C. has ended the current partial government shutdown, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-5) slammed Pelosi’s “childish, partisan, political stunt.”
In a statement, Brooks said that Pelosi is using the State of the Union Address as both a political bargaining chip and to muffle the president during the southern border crisis and funding negotiations.
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
Alabama’s AerBetic demonstrates diabetes management device at top consumer tech event
An Alabama company is developing an innovative device to help diabetics better manage their blood sugar, and it is being shown this week at the world’s largest consumer technology event.
Birmingham-based AerBetic Inc. will demonstrate its non-invasive, wearable diabetes alert system at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, which showcases more than 4,500 manufacturers, developers and suppliers of consumer technology hardware, content and delivery systems. CES 2019 is expected to draw more than 180,000 attendees.
The device contains nano-sensors that detect gases, given off through breath or skin, that are symptoms of high or low blood sugar. It will pair with smartphone apps, aiding the ability to push alerts to patients and caregivers.
AerBetic CEO and entrepreneur Arnar Thors said his family pet, a yellow Lab that came from a place that trains alert animals, inspired the device.
“Many diabetics rely on the keen smell of specially trained dogs to detect increases of volatile organic compounds in the exhaled breath of their subjects with diabetes,” Thors said. “We have developed a wearable solution that will detect these same gas patterns.
“The ability to determine a patient’s status without the need for invasive and costly sensors will enable a higher quality of life for diabetes patients and their caregivers worldwide.”
‘Game-changer’ for diabetics
The sensors will use patient data and feedback to improve and fine tune over time, Thors said, using machine learning and artificial intelligence to increase fidelity at the individual user level and network-wide.
“The more a patient uses it, the more attuned to that patient it becomes,” he said.
The tiny sensors used in the device are designed and manufactured by California-based AerNos, which is sharing a booth with AerBetic at CES.
The device is in the final stages of development, with testing to begin early in the first quarter of this year. The first production units are expected to ship late this year or early next year.
It’s being hailed as a “game changer” for diabetics.
“Type 1 diabetics – and caregivers of Type 1 diabetics – have been asking for a non-invasive monitoring solution for some time,” said Kristen Noles, DNP, RN, CNL and nurse leader at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “AerBetic’s vision of incorporating a gas sensor that improves and gets smarter over time will be a game changer. The ability to reliably monitor patients remotely will drastically improve the quality of life for people with diabetes and their caregivers.”
Thors is the co-founder of Bessemer-based Fitz-Thors Engineering Inc., which started in 2007 and specializes in design-build engineering projects, automation and high-precision manufacturing services.
He holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama and worked in several industries before deciding to become an entrepreneur. He has a broad range of experience in areas including crude oil refining, medical product development, race car design and development, and the manufacturing of cast iron pipe, steel pipe and electronics.
Alabama has a healthy pipeline of innovative products that solve problems and offer new alternatives in a number of industries, said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“There’s a vibrant network of entrepreneurs and support programs in communities across Alabama, and we’re excited to see what they come up with next,” Canfield said. “We congratulate AerBetic on the development of this device, and we look forward to the benefits it will provide for people around the world.”
Roby: Congress and the administration are fighting human trafficking
(WhiteHouse.Gov, M. Roby)
In the spirit of welcoming a new year, I have recently spent time reflecting upon the many positive developments we experienced in our district, state, and country in 2018. Unemployment is historically low, our economy is booming, and hardworking Americans are getting to keep more of the money they earn thanks to our tax reform overhaul.
2018 brought many accomplishments that we should absolutely celebrate, but last year also included a devastating statistic that we cannot ignore: In the United States, more than 8,500 human trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH) in the last 12 months alone. According to the NHTH, for the first half of 2018, there were 36 human trafficking cases reported in Alabama. There are nearly 25 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, and until this number is zero, we have work to do.
This problem is out of control, and I am glad to report that President Trump has designated the month of January 2019 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In recent weeks, he has signed into law four bills that demonstrate our commitment to ending human trafficking and bringing these criminals to justice. Most recently, the President signed S. 1862, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which tightens criteria for whether countries are meeting standards for eliminating trafficking.
Last month, President Trump signed into law the Abolish Human Trafficking Act, which strengthens programs supporting survivors and increases resources for combatting this modern-day form of slavery. Here in Alabama, there are several organizations that provide shelter, transitional housing, and other services to individuals who have been trafficked. You can visit here to learn more about these critical resources available to survivors in our state.
The president also recently signed the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act. This legislation authorizes $430 million to fight sex and labor trafficking.
Finally, President Trump signed into law S. 1312, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, to establish new prevention, prosecution, and collaboration initiatives to bring human traffickers to justice swiftly. It is imperative that we hold these criminals responsible for their heinous crimes, and I am proud of this measure to do so.
Human trafficking is plaguing our country, but the underground nature of the problem often makes it difficult for authorities to estimate the full scale of its impact. Still, it happens in our communities every single day in plain sight, and it is our responsibility to tackle the issue head-on. It is especially important that we act quickly when we see these crimes occur. If at any point you have information or believe you see something questionable, immediately call the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation at 334-242-1142, or file a report online. The National Human Trafficking Hotline can be reached by calling 1-888-373-7888.
It’s hard to grasp the severity of a problem that often goes unseen, and it is especially difficult to combat it. That’s why I am very grateful that Congress and the Trump Administration are working together to make real strides towards addressing this crisis. We must continue to make it crystal clear that this horrendous form of modern-day slavery has no place in the United States and that we are committed to fighting it every step of the way.
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is a Republican from Montgomery.
‘Bean Bags’ aim to give UAB Hospital families basic comforts, necessities
After Kim Bean’s husband Jeremy died in November 2012 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital due to complications from esophageal cancer, she wanted to find a way for her and her two young daughters to give back to the place where they felt a deep connection.
In reflecting on their stay in UAB’s Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Bean realized there were basic comforts and necessities many patient families often do not know they need until they begin to spend an extended time in the hospital. With that in mind, Bean and her daughters, Lilly and Olivia, then ages 6 and 3, respectively, came up with the idea to create “Bean Bags” in memory of their father and husband, Jeremy Bean.
“I had gotten so attached to this hospital and everyone here, and my one constant was coming to this place,” Bean said. “We just started making these bags, and it gave me a reason to come back; I felt good about coming back to UAB.
“After you have practically lived in a hospital, you realize there are so many other families who are literally living in waiting rooms, feeling helpless, not wanting to leave their loved one.”
Since 2012, the Bean family has created and donated more than 100 “Bean Bags” to UAB. The bags are full of items they needed during their time in the hospital. It is their way to pay it forward to other families on a similar journey.
“It’s got everything you may need from a comfy pillow and blanket to over-the-counter medicines, basic toiletries and pre-moistened wipes, to quarters to do laundry or get snacks from the vending machine, and even crossword puzzles,” Bean said. “What started as something that we wanted to do to give back has now gotten others in our community involved who want to contribute to the bags, too.”
Bean explained that, while these items seem basic, being able to brush your teeth or use a comfortable pillow can make you feel a little bit better when you are going through a challenging season. Even a simple crossword puzzle can take one’s mind off things for a few moments.
“Many may not realize it, but those additional basic comforts make all the difference in a person’s quality of life when they are in some ways living in a waiting room,” Bean shared. “During those last two weeks of Jeremy’s life, I didn’t want to leave my husband at all, and I benefited from the kind deeds and actions of others. This is how I can help give back.”
While creating “Bean Bags” has been a great way for Bean and her daughters to honor their late husband and father, their mission speaks volumes about finding positive ways to channel grief after the loss of a loved one.
“What healthier response to grief is there and what better way to spread meaning than to help other people and celebrate their person’s life,” said Wendy Walters, clinical ethics consultant at UAB Hospital, about the genesis of the “Bean Bags” and how the Bean family focused their grief. “When you lose somebody you love, you have the opportunity to figure out how to make meaning out of the loss and how to frame it positively. This is what being a part of a healthy society is all about – taking care of each other.”
Now six years after Jeremy’s death, the Bean family still hand-delivers “Bean Bags” stuffed to the brim to families at UAB with the help of Walters, who distributes them to units in the hospital that have a particular need.
The Bean family’s big takeaway? They are lucky to continue Jeremy’s legacy and to help others.
“We want to keep his memory going, and we think he would really like this,” Bean said. “If nothing else, I hope other patients take comfort from the bags and that, whenever they are in a position where they are in a better place, maybe they will want to give back and pay it forward.”
50 Taters in Scottsboro offers casual, comfort-food dining
(Aaron Tanner/Alabama Living)
Among the restaurants in Scottsboro, 50 Taters stands out as a warm, inviting place to dine. The down-home appearance is evident throughout the property, from the rustic water tower and old pickup truck at the front of the place, to walls decorated with old movie posters, to the television that plays classic films from opening until closing time all day – except during Alabama and Auburn football games.
Owners David and Celisa Barclay had a goal of opening a restaurant that would make customers feel like they can take their time and dine in a friendly atmosphere. “Life is too busy,” David Barclay said. “This is a place where you felt at home 20 years ago.” The restaurant’s name comes from its signature dish, which is a 50-count potato stuffed with different types of meats.
Though David Barclay’s family is originally from Scottsboro, he spent most of his childhood in Detroit, where his father worked in the auto industry. After moving to Houston as an adult to start an office supply company, he came to Scottsboro to visit his grandmother in a nursing home. It was there he met his future wife, who happened to be his grandmother’s nursing aide.
He and Celisa married and moved to Houston. The newlyweds felt homesick for Alabama, so David sold his business and they moved to Scottsboro in 2004. The Barclays have owned and operated 50 Taters since 2009, after he learned to barbecue and then turned that passion into a way of making a living.
“I wanted to barbecue for fun, but it quickly became a business,” David said.
Growing with demand
After their first location opened in downtown Scottsboro in 2009, the restaurant exploded in popularity. The Barclays moved to a larger location in a busy shopping center off U.S. 72 in 2012. Customer demand outgrew the second location and they moved to an even larger building in March 2017. They opened a second 50 Taters in Rainsville in 2015.
The design for the current restaurant came about as construction went along. David likes old movies, while Celisa likes a country, rustic look; the couple decided to combine both interests.
“What is seen in the restaurant was not planned,” David said. Longtime customers had input, such as the design of a rock garden by the water tower that pays tribute to first responders and the military. “People will paint rocks and add them to our garden for someone who served,” Celisa said.
From spuds to ‘cue
Although barbecue plates and stuffed potatoes are the restaurant’s biggest sellers, other comfort food staples are on the menu, such as catfish, pot roast, chicken-fried chicken and steak. Also on the menu are large sandwiches, such as the Triple Bypass, which is a hoagie bun stuffed with smoked pork, brisket and sausage and topped with homemade sweet barbecue sauce.
The barbecue is smoked on site daily for 12 hours using hickory and pecan wood. The sweet red barbecue sauce and white sauce are the owners’ recipes. An indecisive diner can try the sampler platter, which features smoked pork, brisket, chicken, sausage, a pork shank, Texas toast and a side.
Daily specials are available for lunch and dinner, such as a meat and two vegetables deal for $6.99, which is popular enough that the restaurant often runs out in the middle of the afternoon. “Come early, because when it’s gone, it’s gone,” David said.
Options to satisfy one’s sweet tooth include sweet potato waffle fries with caramel sauce for a side dish, and various desserts, including hot fudge cake and peach cobbler. For early risers, 50 Taters serves breakfast on weekends, featuring traditional and unique breakfast entrees, including a country spin on eggs Benedict.
Locals enjoy coming back to 50 Taters, no doubt thanks to the affordable prices, consistency of the food and the low staff turnover. Some of the employees who worked at the original downtown location are still with the restaurant almost a decade later.
“Customers who return the next day or a year later will see most of the same staff,” David said. After starting out handling orders, the Barclays now handle the daily operations along with payroll and inventory, while the nearly two dozen staff members are responsible for getting the orders to customers.
The Barclays receive many compliments from people eating there for the first time who are amazed by the atmosphere and service. “We feel honored to hear people tell us where they are from and that they choose to eat with us,” David said. “It is one of our greatest rewards.”
Alabama Public Television is producing a series of videos titled “Alabama Legacy Moments” that offer a quick history of the people, places and stories that have defined Alabama. Done in conjunction with the ongoing bicentennial celebration of the state that concludes in December 2019, the short pieces should inspire you to learn more about the rich history of Alabama. “Alabama Legacy Moments” are sponsored by the Alabama Bicentennial Commission and the Alabama Broadcasters Association.
Once a pioneer staple, Alabama jerky now a popular nutritional snack
While some national brands use humorous commercials to promote their products, jerky is no joke; it’s big business.
Jerky is essentially dried meat; the removal of water and, usually, addition of salt preserves, extending its shelf life. Even though no one knows when the first jerky appeared, most sources believe it has been made and consumed on a large scale for more than 500 years, originating with the Incas in South America as early as the 1500s and traveling up to the culture and customs of North America’s indigenous peoples.
When Europeans came to the New World, they discovered what Native Americans (of both continents) had long known: jerky’s value as a highly nutritious food that is lightweight, doesn’t take up much space, won’t spoil and is therefore perfect for long journeys. It traveled west with pioneers; it gave cowboys energy for wrangling; and it has sustained U.S. soldiers as a part of military rations.
The jerky from centuries ago was made from whatever meat was around and, most often, seasoned with salt only. Through the decades, it has changed to meet increasing consumer demand for a wider range of seasonings to create diverse flavors, and it’s no longer limited to just a few forms of meat.
Today, what was once an important form of sustenance has evolved into a favorite snack as readily available as the nearest convenience store. It’s become so sought after, there are stores selling nothing but jerky. A few of them are in Alabama, including Gulf Coast House of Jerky in Orange Beach, owned by Johnny Wiggins and his wife, Phyllis. When he was introduced to the jerky store idea, he wasn’t a fan of the treat. “It was the business model and how well these stores were doing that sold me,” he said. “We’ve been very successful with lots of repeat clientele.”
Wiggins opened in 2015, has moved to a bigger space and is considering a second store in Chattanooga. He’s surfing the swelling wave of jerky popularity, which itself is being fed by our snack-obsessed society. But even diehard snackers are becoming increasingly health conscious now, and according to Wiggins, his jerky is still a great fit.
“Many jerkies have loads of chemicals in them to preserve them, but not ours,” Wiggins said. His are not made at the store, but at the parent company’s facility in California. “Everyone is so concerned about health out there, and we are finding more and more health-conscious customers here, too,” he said.
The products Wiggins sells have no nitrates, MSG or artificial colors and are low in sodium, using only natural pineapple juice sugar to help maintain freshness. “We are putting out some of the healthiest jerky around,” Wiggins said.
After one bite, they wanted more
You don’t have to rely on the West Coast to create a good-for-you jerky. Russ Robbins is doing it in Eufaula at his Hickory Hollow Jerky company, founded in 2008. “All jerky is high in protein, low in fat, so that’s good,” he said. “And our jerkies don’t contain any artificial flavors or chemicals, no MSG, no sodium nitrate. We are all-natural.”
Hickory Hollow has also enjoyed success, and it came quickly. It was Robbins’ family and friends begging for his homemade jerky that spurred the full-time minister at Eufaula’s First Baptist Church to go commercial. “I’ve always loved jerky and started making it in Boy Scouts and experimented with different spices,” he said. “Those first few batches were not very good.”
He finally found the right recipe, and made it to take on youth mission trips and to give out as gifts. Once people had a bite, they wanted more. “I realized there was a market for it, and with three kids in college, I liked the idea of extra income,” he said. His first month in business he sold 250 bags of jerky; by 2017, that number climbed to 53,381 bags. Sales in 2018 were up by about 10 percent.
Being healthy is not enough to propel a food item to the heights jerky has hit. It must taste good. For jerky, that means strong, concentrated flavor with a chewy, yet not stringy, texture. Judging by sales at House of Jerky and Hickory Hollow, theirs has this aspect in the bag, too.
At Gulf Coast House of Jerky, there’s something for everyone (pet jerky treats, vegan jerky) but the real appeal is the exotic, with jerky offerings running the gamut from python, snapping turtle, camel, wild boar, mako shark, trout, elk, buffalo, salmon and tuna. “It’s so different, and people really like the diversity and, of course, the flavors,” Wiggins said. His store has classic beef jerky, but not just any beef will do. It’s made from three different cuts of grass-fed beef: brisket, top round and tri-tip.
Hickory Hollow stays more traditional with its original version, a hickory-smoked, black-pepper beef jerky that is by far its best-seller. It offers five other beef jerky varieties: Teriyaki, Hot Shot (spicy), Sweet Heat BBQ, Jamaican Jerk and Macho Nacho, which incorporates notes of jalapeno and cheese.
And it’s all about the right ingredients for Robbins, too, plus a time-tested method. “We don’t cut corners and we use American beef, and all of our jerky is hand-sliced with knives, not on equipment,” Robbins said.
Hickory Hollow employees cut about 1,000 pounds of meat a week. After it’s sliced, it gets marinated for 10 to 12 hours and then goes into dehydrators for nine to 12 hours before being bagged to distribute.
For both Wiggins and Robbins, relishing the smiles the jerky puts on others’ faces is as satisfying as anything they sell. “We want to please our customers and try to make the whole experience in the store fun for them,” Wiggins said.
“I love the taste, but I believe whatever you do, do it heartily unto the Lord, so I strive to do this well and love that others get benefit from it,” Robbins said.
One of the state’s oldest dams now features an unusual site sure to draw spectators and photographers alike: an aboveground generating turbine.
The massive motor at Bankhead Lock and Dam on the Black Warrior River was lifted out in April and is on display on the road leading to the facility. And it’s not going anywhere.
“It was cheaper to put it off to the side and let it sit there than pay someone to haul it off,” said John Kirkland, Alabama Power’s Warrior River Hydro manager. “It’s pretty cool. I’ve seen a lot of people on bikes riding by taking pictures.”
A new turbine manufactured in York, Pennsylvania, is scheduled to arrive in February. But there’s more going on at Bankhead than just a new turbine. An extensive $17 million makeover will include a new control room, headgates, stop-logs, wicket gates (which let water flow into the turbine) and other improvements.
“It’s pretty much going to be a new operating unit,” Kirkland said.
Bankhead Lock and Dam, known by locals as simply “Lock 17,” straddles the Warrior River between Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. Built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1915, it went into service a year after Alabama Power’s first hydro facility, Lay Dam.
Fast-forward 48 years when Alabama Power installed a one-turbine generating unit at Bankhead in 1963. It was replaced in 1997 by the turbine that was removed recently.
“It started vibrating badly, and we couldn’t figure out what it was,” Kirkland said. The result: The near-two-decades-old turbine hasn’t turned since 2015.
Unlike the one on display, which was assembled in sections, the new turbine, built by American Hydro, will be a one-piece solid unit, which Kirkland predicts will last 40 years.
Other improvements include:
–Trash racks that keep logs and river refuse from entering the turbine.
–Cooling water piping that supplies the generator coolers and equipment.
–Switchgear that is a combination of switches, fuses, circuit breakers and similar items to control and protect electrical
–Motor control center for all motors in the plant.
In addition, 55-year-old asbestos-lined electrical cables will be replaced.
“The most difficult task for the project was developing the scope of work of things at Bankhead that needed to be included in the modernization effort,” Kirkland said. “It took a great team effort of multiple groups within Southern Company and Alabama Power working together to develop a crucial scope of work for the project.”
“This is a project we’ve wanted to do for a while,” said Herbie Johnson, Alabama Power’s Hydro general manager. “This will get Bankhead modernized and in place to run another 40 or 50 years.”
Bankhead is the northernmost – the 17th and final – lock and dam built by the Corps on the Warrior and Tombigbee rivers, providing navigation for barges between Birmingport and Mobile. Birmingport, 31 miles north of the dam, is an inland port for the Birmingham area.
Most, if not all, of the first 16 dams built from the late 1800s to 1915 along the Warrior and Tombigbee between Bankhead and Mobile were disassembled. The concrete locks were abandoned since they are on the riverbank and don’t impede navigation.
Lock 17 is unique, according to the Corps, in that the original spillway was incorporated into the current spillway. The original lock was then filled and a concrete dam built across its upstream end.
The facility is named for Jasper’s John Hollis Bankhead (1842-1920), a U.S. representative and senator from Alabama appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to the Inland Waterways Commission. Bankhead was a leading supporter of developing navigable waterways.
Bankhead Tunnel on U.S. Highway 98 under the Mobile River is named for him. His granddaughter, Tallulah Bankhead, was a movie and television star.
This story originally appeared in Alabama Power’s Shorelines.
Ivey remains nation’s third most popular governor heading into inauguration
(YHN, Gov. Kay Ivey/Flickr)
New polling released by Morning Consult shows that Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) continues to be the nation’s third most popular chief executive as her Monday inauguration draws near.
For the final quarter of 2018, Ivey’s numbers were strong. With the survey measuring registered voters’ opinions from October 1 -December 31, the governor’s approval ratings were barely scratched by her electoral battle against Democratic gubernatorial nominee Walt Maddox.
The poll showed that 63 percent of Alabamians approve of Ivey’s job performance, while only 19 percent disapprove and 18 percent either do not know or have no opinion. The margin of error in the polling was one percent.
Ivey’s latest numbers reflect a net approval rating drop of only three percent from quarter three of 2018. Quarter four polling occurred in the month leading up to and the immediate aftermath of the November general election.
This is the fifth quarter in a row in which Ivey was listed by Morning Consult as the third most popular governor in America.
Nine out of the top 10 most popular governors in the nation are Republicans.
Ivey’s inauguration will be held at 10:00 a.m. Monday on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol. The inaugural parade throughout downtown Montgomery will follow at noon.
The theme of the inauguration is “Keep Alabama Growing,” and given Ivey’s approval rating, it seems to resonate strongly with Alabamians.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn
Chocolate lab Coco on point in Bobwhite Quail Fields
Without a doubt, the sometimes heated argument of who has the best hunting dog came up during the holidays and almost certainly continues today at hunting camps throughout Alabama.
To Yano Serra of Bayou La Batre, there is no argument. Serra says his chocolate Labrador retriever is a wonder dog that deserves special recognition for what he calls his “universal” hunting companion.
I’d seen numerous photos of Coco on social media with tons of ribbons she’d received during numerous field trials, but her versatility wasn’t evident until Serra called me one day.
“Ever seen a Labrador point a quail?” Serra asked.
“Not lately,” I responded, trying to remember if I had ever seen a Lab point a quail.
I’ve always appreciated a quality pointing dog. My late father was an avid “bird” hunter and always had at least a couple of quality English pointers and/or English setters for his numerous bobwhite excursions back during the days when wild quail were still abundant.
When Serra got Coco from Steve Layton of Brewton, he didn’t know he was getting a pointing dog. He wanted a Lab for his frequent trips to the marshes and brackish water of Mississippi Sound south of Bayou La Batre to hunt ducks, mainly bluebills (scaup), redheads, scoters and an occasional canvasback.
“I knew the mama dog, and I called Steve when I found out she was going to have a litter and told him I wanted the female runt,” said Serra, who guides hunting and fishing trips. “The reason I wanted the runt was I wanted a small dog. I do a lot of duck hunting. I’ve had big Labs in the past. My last one was over 90 pounds. He was a good dog. He’d jump through fire to get a duck, but when you had to get him back in the boat, it would almost take two people to get him in the boat. Then when you got him in the boat, you’d have to turn the bilge pump on.”
Coco weighs in at 52 pounds, which Serra considers the perfect size.
“She can pick up a goose,” he said. “She can pick up a duck, and she can pick up a dove.”
At four months old, Coco’s whistle training started. Serra said Coco went everywhere with him, and he used the whistle to make her stop and come. Retrieving everything from sticks to bedroom slippers followed before Serra got into obedience.
“I would spend from 30 minutes to an hour each day on ‘heel’ and ‘sit’ and ‘stay,’” he said. “Then we got into force fetch (making the dog reliable on bird/bumper handling and retrieve). That took about a month, and then we worked on force-to-pile (bumper). That’s when you teach them to go straight back. They’re not going to go right or left. They’re just going to go.
“Some of my buddies told me I needed to take her to some hunt tests. She blew right through the hunt tests right off the bat. When she was a year old, she already had her (Hunt Retriever Club) senior title.”
Next up for Coco was the AKC (American Kennel Club) Master Hunt test. Coco passed with flying colors again.
After Coco added an Upland title, Serra went in a new direction – finding deer antler sheds. He trained Coco to “find the bone.”
Coco’s quail hunting ability came about quite by accident. Serra’s friend, Keith Walker, owns and operates Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve in south Mobile County. Taylor Creek offers sporting clays, quail hunts and pheasant shoots on acreage not far from Bellingrath Gardens. Serra had been using Walker’s property to train Coco and a couple of other dogs because the ponds on the preserve were perfect for water training. He found out Coco would point a quail quite by accident.
“Keith told me if I wanted that I could come out and he would teach me about guiding quail hunts,” Serra said. “I came out with my pointer and left Coco in the truck. After we did a little training, Keith told me to let Coco out. He said, ‘You’ve already got her trained to sit. See if she’ll do it on a quail.’ She did, and then Keith wanted to see if she would flush. I let her flush the bird, and she chased it. When we came walking out, we looked over on this little hill and there was Coco locked up on full point with her right leg in the air, nose in the air and tail stuck out. There was a quail about 4 feet in front of her. After that, she just started pointing. From then on when she’d get birdy, I’d tell her ‘easy’ to calm her down because she gets so excited.”
Serra has trained Coco to hold birds as well as circle around birds to push them in certain directions to keep them from flushing into thick cover.
“And she loves to duck hunt,” he said. “When you’ve got her in the boat, you won’t even know she’s in the boat. She just lays there. Every duck she picks up is strictly a blind retrieve because I keep her in the boat. She doesn’t see them fall. She’ll go right on through the decoys to the bird, strictly on hand signals.
“She’s great in a dove field. She won’t go after other people’s birds. I take her fishing all the time. She’ll hold a rod and reel in her mouth. If a fish flops off in the boat, I’ll tell her to fetch it up.”
Serra admits the key to a good dog has breeding involved, but a lot of it is in the training. Repetition is the key.
“Some people think it’s hard to train a dog, but it’s really not,” he said. “It’s really fun to me. When you train a dog to really listen to you, you enjoy working with the dog. The first two months is the hardest. Then you start coming down the hill. When you get that force fetch, a lot of the obedience is already there. She’ll tree a squirrel or blood-trail a deer. If I put her on a trail, that’s where she’ll go. Everybody loves that dog. I take her everywhere I go.
“She’s just a universal dog. She just turned four, and she’s getting better and better.”
Go to this link for more information about the full-day and half-day quail hunts and pheasant shoots at Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve. David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Rogers’ report from Washington: Pelosi’s liberal agenda takes shape
(Congressman Mike Rogers/Facebook, Speaker.gov)
On January 3, the 116th Congress convened under the control of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
As folks across East Alabama know, a few days before Christmas, the federal government partially shutdown because of the Senate’s unwillingness to consider House passed legislation that funded the government for the rest of the fiscal year along with over $5 billion for the border wall system.
I, along with many of my House Republican colleagues, stand with President Trump that we need to build the border wall on our Southwest border with Mexico.
Now, we find ourselves in a new year and a new Congress with the federal government partially closed, as of this writing, and the crisis continues unabated at our border.
Thousands of people from Central America continue to make the extremely dangerous journey, putting themselves and their children in harm’s way, drawn here because of our porous Southwest border. The continued availability of this illegal entryway only exacerbates the humanitarian crisis. This is in addition to the national security crisis America faces because of all the things we don’t know about the folks coming here illegally.
As of now, Democrats are coming to the table with no solutions or offers of compromise, but just simple refusal to build a wall.
Nancy Pelosi, who supports open borders and sanctuary cities, has even gone as far as calling a border wall “immoral.”
As if the Democratic shut down wasn’t enough, when Pelosi took control of the House, Democrats hit the ground running to push a liberal agenda from day one.
Our first week back, Democrats voted to raise taxes on working families as well as allow our taxpayer dollars to be used for abortions in foreign countries. Talk about what’s truly immoral.
They also passed what I called in my House Floor speech a “smoke and mirrors” vote to reopen the government without a cent of funding for the border wall.
But of course, instead of staying in town to do their jobs and find a way to reopen the federal government, Democrats blocked that vote and headed home for the weekend.
As the incoming Ranking Member on the House Committee on Homeland Security, securing our borders is a priority for me.
I will continue to stand with President Trump because I know firsthand how dangerous the situation is if we don’t take control of our borders. A sovereign nation is a nation with borders.
As always, I want to hear from you on this or any issue.
Maori Davenport has been ‘consulting with God’ throughout AHSAA ordeal
Throughout USA Basketball and Charles Henderson High School star Maori Davenport’s ongoing saga with the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA), she has leaned on her faith to carry her through and find the silver lining in a trying time.
Davenport’s mother explained in a Facebook post, “I have always told Maori to glorify God with her talents, and she will never go wrong.”
She added, “Even though it seems that her world is turned upside down. She is still consulting with God! What more can a mother ask for!?!”
The basketball phenom’s mother also shared a heartwarming text message exchange between the two.
Circuit Judge Sonny Reagan, who presides over Pike and Coffee Counties, on Friday issued a temporary restraining order against the AHSAA, meaning Davenport will at least temporarily be able to play again.
The TRO came hours after the Davenport family filed a lawsuit against the AHSAA.
Davenport is eligible to play in Friday night’s home game against Ozark’s Carroll High School. She will continue to be eligible to play pending a hearing in Reagan’s courtroom. A hearing date has yet to be set.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn
Alabama Power and B.A.S.S. teamed up to award two Alabama students each a $5,000 scholarship.
“We are proud to partner with Alabama Power to support students who want to further their education in a trade,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO. “And, we’re even more pleased to provide additional scholarship opportunities for students.”
The two scholarship recipients are Brenton Godwin of Stapleton and Grey Terry of Tuscaloosa.
Godwin, who is currently a senior at Baldwin County High School in Bay Minette, AL., plans to attend Coastal Alabama Community College.
“I plan on starting my college career at Coastal Alabama Community College, then transferring to Auburn University to obtain my Bachelor’s Degree in Poultry Science Production,” Godwin said. “While in college, I aspire to fish at Auburn on the collegiate level.”
Godwin has been an active member in school and community organizations, including the Baldwin County Fishing Team, which he has been a part of for three years. He is a member of the Key Club, French Club, Technology Student Association, Future Farmers of America, National Honor Society and the BCHS varsity baseball team.
Terry, who is currently a senior at Northridge High School, has been a student in the welding program at the Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy and also attends Shelton State Community College’s Dual Enrollment Welding class.
“My goal is to complete an Associate’s Degree at Shelton State and pursue a career in welding,” Terry said. “Since I began taking these courses, I have learned so much about the importance of skilled trades.”
“Congratulations to Brenton and Grey for this acknowledgment of their environmental stewardship and hard work in the classroom,” said Zeke Smith, Alabama Power executive vice president of External Affairs. “These scholarships continue to help students develop the high-demand skills needed for a career in the future workforce of Alabama, and we are proud to partner with BASS to make it happen.”
Scholarship winners are allowed to apply the award toward tuition, textbooks or living expenses.
Applications for the 2019-2020 school year will open early this year. For more details, visit Bassmaster.com.
According to the official press release, B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2 and Pursuit Channel), radio show (Bassmaster Radio), social media programs and events. For 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.
Alabama judge rules Maori Davenport can play while lawsuit against AHSAA is reviewed
Circuit Judge Sonny Reagan in Pike County has issued a temporary restraining order against the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA), meaning USA Basketball and Charles Henderson High School star Maori Davenport will at least temporarily be able to play again.
The TRO was first reported by Alabama Daily News and came hours after the Davenport family filed a lawsuit against the AHSAA on Friday.
“We’re aware of the litigation and in discussions to formulate an appropriate response,” AHSAA spokesman Ron Ingram told Alabama Media Group.
After the ruling, Davenport’s mother said, “Thank you, God.”
The star player is eligible to play in Friday night’s home game against Carroll. Davenport will continue to be eligible to play pending a hearing in Reagan’s courtroom. A hearing date has yet to be set.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn
Jones’ current numbers, which cover the final quarter of 2018, stand at 40 percent of Alabamians approving and 35 percent disapproving. 25 percent do not know him or have no opinion. The poll had a margin of error of only one percent, surveying registered voters.
The numbers reflect the first public polling conducted after Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Regarding the difference between the third and fourth quarters of 2018, Morning Consult explained that Jones “saw an 8-point drop in his net approval.”
On the other hand, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) continues to enjoy a low disapproval rating and especially strong net approval rating. Of Alabama’s senior senator, 47 percent of Alabamians approve, only 27 percent disapprove and 25 percent have no opinion.
Jones is expected to face a tough re-election fight in 2020.
Stuart Rothenberg, a prominent national political analyst, wrote for Roll Call this week that Jones starts “as a heavy underdog for re-election.”
He added, “I don’t think Jones has much chance at all of holding on to his seat next year. Simply put, his special election win was a fluke, not likely to be repeated.”
That prediction came with an important caveat: “Obviously, Jones’ prospects would improve if the Republicans select another damaged Senate nominee.”
“Jones’s special election victory was entirely due to Moore’s nomination,” Rothenberg explained.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn
Mo Brooks battles CNN host over Trump border wall emergency authority: ‘How many dead people do you have to have, John, before it’s an emergency?’
Friday on CNN’s “New Day,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) had a heated exchange with show co-host John Berman over whether or not President Donald Trump had the authority to build a border wall without money earmarked explicitly by Congress.
Brooks argued U.S. Code gave Trump the authority to begin wall construction and accused Berman of “misleading the public” on the issue.
Berman questioned the potential use of the categorization of “emergency,” to which Brooks offered statistics of U.S. casualties that could be a result of a U.S.-Mexican porous border.
“With the southern border, we have the loss of at least 15,000 Americans a year. You have 2,000 that are homicides by illegal aliens, according to federal government data. You’ve got another 15,000, 16,000 that die each year from heroin overdoses, 90 percent of which comes across our porous southern border. That’s not counting the 55,000 additional deaths that are caused by overdoses, a significant amount of which comes across the southern border,” Brooks stated. “So, how many dead people do you have to have, John, before you’ll consider it an emergency?”
— Sanders was the top senator for the 11th month in a row with a 64 percent approval rating. Not surprisingly, outgoing Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was the least popular senator in the country, which would explain why he didn’t run for re-election.
— Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Doug Jones (D-AL) both had approval ratings in the 40s, with Shelby’s approval at 45 and Jones at 40 percent respectively.
— President Trump’s former attorney will testify in a public hearing in February before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about his previous lies before Congress in regard to his work for Trump.
— Cohen is expected to testify to issues involving President Trump paying off women and has hinted there might be more for him to tell about the Russia investigation.
— The bills tackle the issue of illegal immigration by allowing donations for the wall, ending catch-and-release programs, ending birthright citizenship, penalizing those who overstay their visas and banning sanctuary cities.
— The bills have very little chance of passing a Democrat-controlled chamber, but Brooks said, “I put the interests of Americans above those of illegal aliens.”
— Senator Jones has finally officially asked for the federal government to investigate Democrat donor dirty tricks, which included “false flag” Facebook campaigns and planting Russian bots on Roy Moore’s social media and then alerting the media to their existence.
— The tactics used during Jones’ campaign were also utilized in the 2018 midterms to suppress Republican votes, which cast doubts on claims that they were just a study and not meant to affect elections by deterring suburban white male voters from casting ballots.
2. Republicans are pushing President Donald Trump to quickly declare a national emergency to build the wall, which would make it our 32nd national emergency we are currently under
— Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says the Democrats’ “refusal to negotiate” has made it clear that “It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier.”
— The Trump White House is still looking into using the power they believe is available to them, with Trump all but telegraphing it by telling reporters, “If we don’t make a deal, I would say it would be very surprising to me that I would not declare a national emergency and just fund it through the various mechanisms.”
— Roughly 800,000 federal employees will not receive their $2.2 billion due to them today. This includes those who have been working since the shutdown started, but Mo Brooks has filed a bill to get those who are working paid.
— A second government union has sued the federal government in attempt to get the government back open, The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which represents 150,000 members at 33 federal agencies, is claiming its employees are illegally being forced to work without pay.
Kobe Bryant on Alabama’s Maori Davenport: ‘Let her play!’
Thursday evening, NBA legend Kobe Bryant came to the defense of Maori Davenport, the USA Basketball and Charles Henderson High School star from Troy who has been deemed ineligible for her senior season by the Alabama High School Athletic Association (ASHAA).
Bryant tweeted, “This #MaoriDavenport situation is just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in youth basketball. Let her play!”
Bryant joins a growing list of national sports and media figures vocally supporting Davenport, who even appeared on Good Morning America this week.
Roby on border security: ‘We are in the midst of a real crisis, and we must act now’
On Thursday, Representative Martha Roby (AL-2) spoke on the House floor to underscore the severity of the situation at the southern border, saying, “We are in the midst of a real crisis, and we must act now.”
Roby highlighted the reality that the conversation surrounding the nation’s illegal immigration problem has been going on for far too long and called for swift action to finally address the issue.
“Here in Congress, my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are talking about this issue as if it’s something new – but this is not a new issue,” Roby outlined. “For the past decade, the people I represent in Southeast Alabama have consistently expressed to me their frustrations with our country’s illegal immigration problem.
She concluded, “We must use every tool available to enhance our border security, and we must do it now. We cannot wait another decade.”
I just spoke on the House floor to underscore the severity of the situation at the southern border. Here in Congress, my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are talking about this issue as if it’s something new – but this is NOT a new issue. pic.twitter.com/MtPvAkRrGT
In his speech, Swinney shared the story of how the two men met and mapped out the connection that has always existed.
“So Woody McCorvey’s from Atmore, Alabama, Highway 31 which runs all the way through the state of Alabama,” Swinney explained. “He’s from Atmore, Alabama. I’m from Pelham, Alabama. Highway 31, that’s the only road I knew my whole life until they built I-65 through Pelham sometime when I was in middle school.”
“Football brought a guy from Atmore, Alabama together with a young guy from Pelham, Alabama and we meet up at the University of Alabama,” continued Swinney. “He came to Alabama with Gene Stallings, and I’m a young sophomore in 1990. He became my position coach and then he is very instrumental in me getting into coaching, he and Coach Stallings.”
When McCorvey became the first African-American offensive coordinator in the history of the University of Alabama, McCorvey elevated Swinney to serve on his staff.
“Fast forward to 1996, and he’s the offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama, broke down a barrier, and he wants me to be his receiver’s coach,” Swinney recalled.
Swinney went to work for McCorvey that year, and the two men have shared a special bond ever since.
“You don’t know how impactful Woody McCorvey has been in my life,” Swinney said. “If you don’t think football matters, are you kidding me? Highway 31 and the little pigskin brought these two men together and he’s been a best friend and a father to me in life.”
Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News.
Coalition forms to support children, parents seeking better schools
A new coalition has formed to support school choice in Alabama.
A statement from the Alabama Policy Institute (API) identified the coalition as “one of the first collaborative efforts among the various stakeholders and advocacy groups in the school choice fight in Alabama.”
The AAA Coalition includes schools, children’s advocacy organizations, scholarship funds and a business organization.
The group’s name is derived from the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA) which is the law put in place to allow children in failing schools to attend better ones.
Phil Williams, API’s Director of Policy Strategy, sees its formation as a way to highlight the initiative’s success.
“By banding together we are able to pool resources and collaborate on messaging in such a way as to maximize the message that the AAA is working and working well,” Williams told Yellowhammer News. “The various stakeholders in the school choice arena in Alabama now have a history of data to rely on that shows how successful the AAA has become. But it is also far more than just data. There are anecdotal success stories at every turn in which parents, students and educators point to life changing events that were precipitated by a scholarship through the AAA.”
Williams also noted that the time is right for the group to come together to show its collective strength on the AAA.
“We’ve also seen unfortunate and misguided action from local school boards calling for such a repeal,” said Williams. “The members of the AAA Coalition chose not to allow the positive impact of the AAA to be overshadowed by those who simply want to maintain the status quo in Alabama’s education environment.”
According to Williams, the AAA Coalition is formed around two fundamental beliefs: education dollars should benefit children rather than systems and parents and guardians should have the greatest say in their children’s education.
“No child should be trapped into a school environment that is not serving their needs simply because of where they live, or the income of their household,” he said. “The AAA affords families the right to have the final word over what is best for their child and what is best for the education of their child.”
More than 4,000 students received AAA scholarships during the 2016-17 school year, according to the coalition’s website.
Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News.
Alabama ranked one of the best states for female entrepreneurs
Alabama has been named to the top ten list of best states for female entrepreneurs, according to a new study from FitSmallBusiness.com.
In ranking each state for its outlook for female entrepreneurs, the study considered several different criteria for each state. Those factors included general business climate/opportunity (25 percent), the number of female-owned businesses (25 percent), economic and financial health (25 percent) and safety and well-being for women (25 percent).
After analyzing the results, the study was able to produce a list of states where women are most likely to succeed in startups and new adventures.
Alabama came in at number five on the list. The study noted the Yellowhammer state’s low cost of living, beautiful beaches, Southern hospitality and hospitable business climate as reasons for being included on the list.
The study also found Alabama to be evolving into a welcoming place for women looking to start businesses. The state’s low tax burden and below average cost of living makes it affordable for female entrepreneurs to launch a startup.
Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.
On Thursday, Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) announced that state Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) has been named majority floor leader for the Republican caucus.
“Senator Chambliss is a proven leader who has a deep grasp of the Senate’s rules and procedures. Most importantly, he has the respect of his Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” Reed said in a press release.
“Senator Chambliss has done an outstanding job as co-chairman of the Joint Legislative Task Force for Budget Reform. As we move forward in this new legislative term, he will help the Republican Caucus and the entire Senate operate efficiently as we continue to reform state government, strengthen education, and improve Alabama’s infrastructure,” Reed added.
Chambliss represents District 30 in the Alabama Senate, which is comprised of all or parts of Autauga, Elmore, Chilton, Coosa and Tallapoosa counties. He was first elected to the state Senate in 2014 and re-elected without opposition in 2018.
“The State Senate is a unique institution, where 35 people have the privilege of representing the views and interests of nearly 5 million Alabamians from 67 counties,” Chambliss said. “Those views and interests must be heard, organized, and delivered to Senate leadership in a timely manner. It is an honor to be named Majority Floor Leader and I look forward to serving my colleagues in this new role.”
Chambliss is a member of the senate’s Committee on Finance & Taxation General Fund, Committee on Government Affairs, Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development and Committee on Children, Youth & Human Services for the 2019-2022 quadrennium. He is also the chair of the three-member Committee on Local Legislation (LL1).
Full senate committee assignments can be found here.
The regular session of the Alabama Legislature begins on March 5.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn