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Rosedale Garden

Are You Smarter Than a Border Collie?

Rosedale GardenAre you smarter than a problem-child, hooligan, border collie? Right now, for me, that answer is a big NO.

Leaving for work once morning, Blackie and Levi were snug as bugs in a rug, each in their own pile of pine needles that I’ve been hauling from a friend’s yard. But as I got to the bridge, there was Problem-Child Patches sitting by the creek.

I backed up the road to my driveway, pulled in, opened the garage door, got out of my truck, and unplugged the underground fence. I went around the corner to the front of the house and called Patches in. She came lopping, and I thought, By the time I get back to plug up the fence, she should be in.

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I plugged up the fence, got in my truck, closed down the door, backed out of the driveway, and started down the road. As I got to the bridge, there was my Patches, sitting by the creek.

I backed up and did it all over again. This time I had to go after her and pull her in. I plugged up the fence, got in my truck, closed down the door, backed out of the driveway, and started down the road. This time she stayed in the yard, so I went to work.

Somewhere, she has found a spot that the radio signal is not working. So that afternoon, I walked the three and a half acres with a break tester. I didn’t find a break. I redid the connections on the several splices along the creek where I had some tornado-damaged trees taken down.

Walking the line again, I noticed an old plant stake that had rusted and was bent over the wire location. I discarded it, smug that I had solved the problem. Patches was sitting there looking at me like, You just think you have me locked in, but you just wait. After that look, I checked her collar; it vibrated ten feet out and shocked as I got within in a few feet of the wire. Now I have her, I said to myself.

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The next morning she was in, and I was really smug. Two days later, my smugness was deflated — she was out again and Levi was out with her. I checked the collars again, and both were working. They either could get out but not back in, or it was just easier to let Mom let them in. Something metal must've been cancelling the signal somewhere. I noticed a bluebird box on a metal post on the inside of the fence just inches from the wire. That had to be it, so I spend an afternoon after a rain digging it out of the ground. There, bet that works.

The next morning, they were out again. So it was back to the drawing board. I vented my frustration to a friend that a dog was smarter than me. She responded, "You are irritated that she’s just out-smarting you right now."

The next day I went and got a new roll of wire to replace a section along the dry creek, from a connection at the bottom to back up near the house. It had several splices in it due to some tornado-damaged tree removal last year. As I got near the end of the roll, I start pulling a section that was buried an inch underground and found the plastic coating corroded off and the bare wire exposed. This will cancel out a radio signal in the area. The next day it’s back for another roll of wire, and I spent the day bypassing that section of wire and connecting it to the connection marked by the bluebird box. I also put the box back up outside of the fence.

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I checked Patches collar, and it was working great. "Now I have her," I chuckle. The next afternoon, there she was, lying on the side of the road, out again. When I got home, I gave Blackie and Levi a biscuit for being home. Problem-Child saw them getting a biscuit, tried a few times, and then just walked across the new wire.

By this time, I was about ready to take her collar off and tell her, "You want out, go find a new home." I did take her collar off, attached the tester to it, and walked along the area she came over. The collar was working until I walked a few times away and back toward the wire. It stops vibrating and shocking for just a little while — just long enough for Problem-Child to make good her escape. I walked back and forth a few times, and it happened again. How in the world did she figure that one out?

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I had a brand-new spare collar, put a new battery in it, and put it on her. So far it’s been a week, and she has been at home each morning when I go to work and every evening when I come home, sacked out in the pile of pine needles I have on the driveway for the new bed I’m working on.

We need to finish the koi pond before planting can take place. I have a solar pump and filter ordered for it. We had to move it a little bit after I chopped up the water line going to the house.

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The temperatures for most of January and February have been extremely warm. Daffodils and star and saucer magnolias are in full bloom. Azaleas and quince are starting to bloom. My two-winged silverbell, lilacs, and maple trees are leafing out. The last time we had a winter like this, we had a hard freeze and snow in April, which killed a lot of my dogwoods and fruit trees. This coming week, the weather folks are predicting our best chance for snow this year. Around these parts, if you don’t like the weather today, wait a day or two and get something you like.

One nice thing about this time of year: the spectacular sunsets.

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The Shoals Celebrates the Christmas Season

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When you live in an area that was the hit recording capital of the world in the sixties, you have a lot of music during Christmas. A lot of the musicians — many in the Hall of Fame — are still belting out the tunes. Some had events that were fundraisers for local charities. This time of year the weather can be hard to keep up with; temperatures can change by thirty degrees or more from one day to the next.

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The Christmas season started off with the Trees of Christmas reception at the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art, accompanied by music played on a baby grand. Twelve trees are creatively decorated by the community and seem to get better each year. This year, antique doors with wreaths were added. I didn’t get to stay too long, as the Tuscumbia Christmas parade was moved to the same night because of bad weather earlier in the week.

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Spring Park in Tuscumbia was full of Christmas decorations. The park train, covered in lights, made trip after trip around the park in the weeks preceding Christmas. Christmas music blared on the park speakers as the lights of dancing waters in the pond changed colors and moved to the music. The courthouse downtown was decorated in lights and ribbons.

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The Alabama Music Hall Of Fame Christmas Concert included songwriters and musicians Mark Narmore, Bobby Tomberline, and Aaron Wilburn. Santa also made an appearance.

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Next it was to Shoals Theater in Florence for a Christmas concert sponsored by designer Billy Reid and presented Rosanne Cash, John Leventhal, and the Secret Sisters.

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Plantation Christmas is a fundraiser for the restoration and upkeep of Belle Mont, a Jeffersonian-inspired home. It laid in ruins for several years until it was donated to the state. The operation of it was turned over to the Colbert County Landmarks a couple of years ago. The mansion is decked in 1800s Christmas decorations using greenery and fruit. Volunteers are dressed in period clothing and give the history of each room in the mansion. A highlight of the event is the North Alabama Dance Club demonstrating period dancing. The pump organ on display in the mansion is played with much exertion, accompanied by a flute. A dulcimer group compliment the afternoon. It's an all-volunteer event, as there are many dedicated volunteers who care for the historic building.

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Dicken’s Christmas Y'all is another many-volunteer event in Tuscumbia. The Dickens feast, complete with characters, takes place the night before the Saturday event downtown. Musicians and the North Alabama Dance Club again perform. Our high school class got together for lunch. It was in the 80s on the first of the week, but temperatures fell rapidly by the weekend and made it Christmas-like. Dickens was finished up with a English-style Ball of Christmas at the Christian home on Tennessee Valley Country Club.

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Between the Dickens and the Ball, I ran over to Florence and caught the boat parade. After an hour along the Tennessee River in 20-degree weather, I was wishing I had dressed a little more warmly.

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Next I was invited to the Cypress Moon Studio’s Christmas Party. Playing was the Decoys, made up of Muscle Shoals All Stars.

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Muscle Shoals to Mistletoe with Will McFarlane and a host of local stars performed in a concert benefiting the Healing Place. It offers support for children, teenagers and families who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

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The local symphony had their usual Christmas concert, which I had to miss for the first time in years as I was trying to find a break in the underground fence at my home.

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Another dulcimer concert after work was at the Florence Tourism by Tennessee Valley Strummers. During a break, they had me playing one in ten minutes.

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The Three Wheel Drive concert reunited two members of Shenandoah, Jim Seales and Mike McGuire, and featured one of the best fiddle players around.

Lastly, my Deshler High School class had a second get-together at Peggy and George’s house to end the year. After all these years, our class still gets together. Somehow the guys ended up in one room and the girls in another.

Christmas Day, Mom and I went to Wheeler State Park in Rogersville for a bodacious meal.

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The day after Christmas, with temperatures near 80, I needed to get back to nature, so I drove over to the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. It was a grey, overcast day. I sat almost an hour at the observation building looking out the window at the bog, waiting for a whooping crane among the sandhills to stand up so I could get a picture. Fifteen of the endangered birds have decided they like North Alabama more than flying all the way down to Florida.

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As 2017 comes over the horizon, I wish you good health, good friends, and good laughter, but most of all I wish you enough.

Merry Christmas 2016

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Six years ago, I had a bright idea of making a nice Christmas card picture with my three Hooligans and their letter to Santa. At the end of the photo shoot, I had over one hundred pictures and not a one suitable for a Christmas card. I came up with the idea of doing a collage of some of the outtakes. Since that day, the Christmas cards have been a collage of the effort to make one, along with a letter to Santa.

This year, a couple of my fur babies have been in and out at the Tennessee Valley Animal Clinic, and I’ve had six weeks of allergic bronchitis, so the pictures weren’t made. Throughout this post, I’ll share Christmas card covers from 2010 and the 2016 cover that I took a couple of summers ago with the three posing nicely.


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The wireless fence apparently had a weak signal that wasn’t sending a zap when the Hooligans got near it, only a vibration. So Levi was following Patches out at night, sneaking over to the neighbor’s house, and eating the cat food. He has two things on his mind — eating and sleeping, in that order. I finally had some daylight on Sunday to work on it and found a connection that I had to replace due to a lightening hit on the neighbors fence. It fell apart when I picked it up. Due to the drought, the wire isn’t back in the ground yet. I cut the section out, stripped the ends of the wires, and redid the connections. Now to I need to get it back in a protective cover and in the ground. I also redid the connections along the creek, broken when I had tornado-damaged trees taken down. The whole section needs to be replaced with new wire.

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Apparently, Levi got zapped when he ventured out alone the next night and couldn’t get back in. Patches is a pro, knowing when it’s on and when it’s not. I didn’t see him that morning and thought he was staying dry in the back garage. Mom called me at work to tell me he was out and she would let him back in after it stopped raining.

She went over, opened my garage door, and turned the fence off. When she went back into her yard and pulled him to my yard, he yelped as he got to the fence and ran across it and around to the front of the house. She turned the fence back on and went home.

She’s been getting a good laugh out of him all day and kept saying I had the fence off. I predict he’ll be home in the morning.

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Dear Santa,

We’ve been very good doggies this year. Mom hurt her knee, and we tried to help her weed by digging holes around the yard. Mom said we dug the holes too deep and also dug up the good plants along with the weeds. She didn’t explain to us the difference between a good weed and a bad one. All plants look the same to us.

We had a big ole groundhog to invade our territory. We quickly dispatched it, but Patches grabbed the wrong end and landed up in the hospital for four days getting patched up. She also had an ear infection a few weeks back that swelled up her ear like a balloon, and she had surgery twice to put drains in them. Blackie has a bad limp from a shotgun blast in the past. One of the pellets is embedded in a joint on her front leg. She’ll get better, and keeps hurting it chasing after Levi. Speaking of Levi, he was sneaking out of the yard and going down to the neighbors, eating their cat food. He’s learned how to make a sound like a woodpecker when he’s trying to get Mom to hurry up and feed us. Mom says he’s been a very bad boy.

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This year, Mom said we weren’t going to make our Christmas card picture, as we are the "walking wounded." We aren’t sure what she means by that. We have so much fun making our pictures each year, tugging and yanking Santa hats off of each other and ripping them to pieces. Mom said something about pulling the drains out of Patches ears. Maybe she’ll let us make one next year.

Santa, we want lots and lots of biscuits and rawhide chews. Mom won't let us have them. And bring us lots and lots of biscuits, not the healthy stuff Mom gets us.

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From all of us:

Wishing you the warmth of home; the love of family and friends. May you have a Blessed and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Veterans Day, Trouble with The Hooligans, and Christmas Events

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The drought continues in our area and the southeast. A huge rain is forecasted for next week, but we’ve heard that before. A few farmers planted wheat in the soybean and corn stubble this past week in anticipation of it; several farmers aren’t planting wheat this fall, as the dry spell is predicted to last through the spring. So far we are over thirteen inches below normal. I have around a hundred pots of daylilies and perennials that need to be planted. Several of my older trees have died.

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Since the ground is hard as concrete, I’ve been spending my spending my spare time photographing the Veterans Day parade and ceremony at the courthouse in Tuscumbia. The 75th Anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor was December 7. It’s important to thank a veteran for the fact that we aren’t part of Japan or Germany.

The first Christmas event, Plantation Christmas at the Belle Mont home, was this past weekend. The various cities' Christmas parades have started. A couple were rained out by the first good rain we’ve had in months. Plus Santa has been making the last rounds, checking out who has been naughty and nice.

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I've also had to spend some free time taking care of The Hooligans. A few days back, I pulled out of the garage and started down the road, going to work a little early as the sunrise looked like it was going to be a pretty one.

Blackie and Levi were snug as bugs in a rug, each in their own pile of pine needles that I’ve been hauling from a friend’s yard. But as I got to the bridge, there was Problem-Child Patches sitting by the creek. 

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I backed up the road to my driveway, pulled in, opened the garage door, got out of my truck, and unplugged the underground fence. I went around the corner to the front of the house and called Patches in. She came lopping, and I thought, By the time I get back to plug up the fence, she should be in.

I plugged up the fence, got in my truck, closed down the door, backed out of the driveway, and started down the road. As I got to the bridge, there was my Patches, sitting by the creek. 

I backed up and did it all over again. This time I had to go after her and pull her in. I plugged up the fence, got in my truck, closed down the door, backed out of the driveway, and started down the road. This time she stayed in the yard, so I went to work. Needless to say, I was late by then and didn't get my sunrise pictures.

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One of Patches' ears was swelled up like a balloon not too long after. She ended up having surgery to insert a drain. And the next Saturday, I had an appointment for Levi and Blackie. Since Patches needed a followup, only Levi went. Last time I took Blackie and Patches together, they got into a fight in the exam room over biscuits. The vets haven't handed them out since then; I wonder if that had something to do with it ...

Levi doesn't do leashes well, so I bought a harness. After working for 15 minutes trying to get it adjusted with him flopping around and still not fitted, we loaded up. Even so, I got a second leash from the office and had both on Levi in case he slipped the halter. Patches' ear was still swelled at the bottom; the vet started her on steroids and oral antibiotic. And getting them back in the car to go home was just as tangled as getting them to the vet's in the first place; I finally got Patches in with Levi, backed up to close the door, and my purse strap was over her head and behind a leg.

On Monday Patches went back for a followup, and the news wasn't good — a second drain was needed. Blackie goes Saturday, I hope, as she is limping and needs her shots.

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Thanks Devin for removing some background clutter on this photo.

With all these medical issues, we won’t try making a Christmas card picture this year; it normally is a collage of outtakes, and they have a lot of fun pulling and wrestling their Christmas gear off of each other. They are working on their letters to Santa, however.

While we are on the subject of Christmas, a childhood memory comes to mind ...

The Christmas we found out how Santa gets into our house:

My siblings and I grew up on an active dairy farm south of Tuscumbia, Alabama. Dad would get up early to milk, bottle it, and then head out on his milk route. In the afternoon he would hit the fields, come home to milk the cows, and come in late, so we didn’t get to see much of my dad. It is rare that Alabama gets snow, much less a white Christmas, but one year in the early sixties we received snow on Christmas Eve!

On Christmas morning we went out to play, and there in the snow were two sled tracks and small hoof prints in between the tracks going across the yard, stopping short of the basement door. We also found Santa’s boot prints going to the door. At last!! We found the answer to how Santa got into our house without a chimney! He came up through the floor furnace!

Many years later, we found out that the boot prints were actually my Dad’s from when he was going to the basement to bring out a hidden merry-go-round. It also explained the sled tracks, as he had to drag it through the snow. The hoof prints turned out to be the dogs following behind Dad. Our parents had spent half the night putting together the merry-go-round in the kitchen. Mom had to get up early and cook Dad breakfast, and then he had to go and milk over a hundred cows.

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A Drought, Tom's Wall, and the Renaissance Faire

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Rosedale GardenThe heat and drought continue in Alabama and other parts of the Southeast. Record high temperatures continued into November. In my backyard in NW Alabama, I’ve had 0.40 inches of rain total for the months of September and October.

There won’t be a fall garden. The Cherokee Purple tomatoes I started in February finally yielded three tomatoes this weekend. I couldn’t get the garden plowed up to plant them, so I put them in large, twenty-gallon containers. With temperatures in the nineties, the black plastic just cooked them. I’ve been trying to redo a couple of beds that trumpet vines have taken over. I thought the best course would be to dig up the daylilies and physically remove the roots. Now I have a large collection of potted plants I can’t get back into the ground.

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With soybean combining, the air is so hazy and the dust stirred up so heavy that you couldn’t see the combines. Little rain is expected for the next month, and many farmers will not be planting winter wheat.

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Not being able to do yard work, I’ve been to Dragon boat races. A team from my hospital came in first this year. I also went to Tom Hendrix’s wall. Tom has been constructing the wall since 1988 as a tribute to his great great-grandmother, who was a 14-year-old Euchee Indian girl forcibly moved to an Oklahoma reservation during the Trail of Tears. She later ran away and traveled alone all the way back to her homeland in north Alabama. So far, the wall contains over 8.5 million pounds of stones and will stretch over one and a quarter mile.

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Afterwards, I went to the Renaissance Faire in Florence. After I came home, I fed the hooligans (my three rescued Border collies) and watered the potted plants. Levi had broken into my compost box again, after some sour dough bread scraps, and had scattered stuff all over the front and back yards. After cleaning up, I went inside for the game.

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Right after Auburn's game with Arkansas started, I heard a bang and the power went out. After calling the power company, I lit some oil lamps. I knocked the chimney off of the one out in the garden room, and it shattered into a bunch of pieces. So then I was barefooted and trying not to step on any glass. I went out in the garage to get the broom, and by flashlight (with shoes on now ) I tried to sweep up the pieces.

After the power came on, I noticed I cut my upper leg somehow. I finally figured out that I scraped it on the trailer hitch when I went out to the garage to get the dustpan. My washer was also going when the power went out, and I found out it would finish up where it left off. Only problem was that it wouldn't unlock no matter how many times I turned it off. I finally turned off the breaker for a while and it finally unlocked.

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Now, to find the repeat of Auburn's game and have some BBQ pig! The neighbors went out to Bob's truck to hear the last four minutes of the 'Bama game during the blackout.

Oh, and with fall migration going on, I had to check out a couple of Alabama's Birding Trails NW loop.

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With fall coming, the mice are looking for a place to spend the winter in my garage again. I put out a few of those sticky traps one night. The next morning, I opened the garage door and Blackie shot around the corner, grabbed the mouse stuck to the pad, and stood there with the pad stuck to her nose. I’m not sure how she knew about the mouse, as I put the pad down after I closed the doors for the night. After I got home late that night and was unloading my camera gear, she managed to pull the mouse off of the pad.

I remember the last time something decided to spend winter in my garage:

It was pouring down rain when I got home, so I let the hooligans into the garage attached to the house and closed the door down to a height where they could get out if they wanted. They have a dog door on the barn and nice beds under the stairs, but they have to sleep out in the front yard no matter what the weather so they can see what’s going on in the neighborhood.

I put my mail on my truck when I went to the barn to feed. Later, I thought about it and knew that I would have confetti in the morning if I didn’t get it. Blackie and Patches kept barking at the door after I went back in the house. Levi was nowhere to be found. That should have given me a little clue that something was wrong.

I finally got tired of listening and went back out to see what the uproar was about. Half of my garage is full of potted plants and hanging baskets brought in for over wintering. Blackie kept lunging at a group of plants. I got closer for a look and told Blackie she was imagining things — Blackie has a mission to eliminate every creepy-crawly critter on the property. I leaned over to right some pots they had overturned and turned my head toward some hanging baskets inches away, and stopped in mid-sentence. There, stretched out across two hanging baskets, was a rat snake.

Now, I had gotten comfortable after feeding the dogs, and — no shoes, just sweatpants and a T-shirt. I put one glove on, grabbed the snake, and tried to get to the opener button and find an umbrella with Blackie jumping up and grabbing the snake’s tail. Did I say it was pouring rain and the umbrella I found only covered one side? So there I was, standing barefooted out in the pouring rain, and the snake was not happy. I was trying to decide where put it so it wouldn’t turn into a tug-of-war rope. I finally decided to put it in the ditch on the other side of the road, since Blackie couldn’t get there because of my underground fence. It would be safe.

Just as I turned it loose, one of the neighbors drove by going home, so my hope for secrecy was dashed. There I was, standing on the side of the road in a pouring rainstorm, one glove on like Michael Jackson, no shoes, only sweat pants and a T-shirt on, holding half an umbrella. He drove by real slow. After getting in the house, I had to call his wife and explain why this crazy woman was out on the road like she was.

Moral of the story: if Blackie and Patches are chasing something and Levi is not around, it’s longer than a mouse.

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The Return to Coldwater

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On September 11, 2001, I was at work teaching a new RN orientation class. The education department supervisor came in and announced that something was happening in New York, and turned on the television. In disbelief, we watched the replay of a plane going into one of the twin towers.

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Fifteen years later, I spent the weekend at Oka Kapasa — Return to Coldwater in Tuscumbia, Alabama, with descendants of those removed from the southeast during the Trail of Tears. They have a reason to protest, but what I saw was the education of local schools about the old ways of doing things to survive every day. I saw people honoring the USA and Alabama flags; I saw them honoring our Vets; I saw the honoring of the citizens of the area. Tuscumbia was the only city along the removal route whose citizens provided food, clothing, and medical care.

I saw USA flags at half-mast all over the Shoals.

Now, contrast this to what I saw on some of the football games during the "Star-Spangled Banner" by the players.

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A little bit of history about our area during the War of 1812:

Native Americans from the north came down to an area in what is now Colbert Ferry on the Natchez Trace, along the Tennessee River, and met with local Native Americans. The North tried to talk the South into supporting the British. The southern Natives decided to side with the Americans. General Andrew Jackson promised that if they helped him in the Battle of New Orleans, they would not be removed. Blacks were promised freedom. Neither promise came to fulfillment. Over four thousand died on the way to Oklahoma.

A large number of Native Americans throughout the southeast were brought through Coldwater (Tuscumbia) and on to Tuscumbia Landing for transport down the Tennessee River. Tuscumbia is the only documented town along the route that provided clothing, blankets, food, and medical care. Chilly McIntosh was quoted in a local newspaper during that time as saying, “As long as our nation remains upon the earth, we will recollect Tuscumbia.”

For an account of the hardships suffered on the way, a friend found this story by one of the soldiers.

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Each year, Native Americans return to Tuscumbia to commemorate the actions the people of the city took when the Native Americans were camped here during their removal. Part of the Oka Kapassa Festival is a reverse walk almost two miles long, taken from Tuscumbia Landing on the river back to the homeland in Tuscumbia.

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One of my friends — whom I first met on the walk as a photographer a few years back — posted this comment on her Facebook page, and I share it with her permission:

"Just got home from Oka Kapassa Festival, and though I am glad to be home, every time I leave that place I leave a small piece of my heart there. Tuscumbia is magical as it's a part of our homelands, but it's made even more special by the people there. The festival committee are the most caring, loving people, who I am honored to call family. The school kids are always so respectful and kind. I have kids who first saw me perform in 2011 who search me out every year, as well as adults who search me out to hug me and thank me for coming. One woman ambled across the grounds to hug me, telling me that she has come to see me for the past three years, that she'd had surgery two days ago, and that I was the reason she got out of the hospital. I was so honored. I was so pleased to be asked to showcase in Florence at a library. The next day back at festival, 10 or more people came up, telling me after seeing me at the library they had to come to the festival to hear more. I was so touched by these people. The festival is a place I can reconnect every year with friends. The friends I have made through the festival bring so much joy and LAUGHTER to my life. Thank you Tuscumbia, your Oka Kapassa gives me more than I could ever repay. There's too many people to tag, but know I love you all!"

—Storyteller: Amy Bruton-Bluemel

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Locally, farmers are finishing up combining corn and preparing the fields for wheat or canola. Despite the drought, hay is being baled. Soybeans are beginning to turn from green to yellow. What little cotton there is in the area is almost ready to pick. Fall is here, but temperatures are still in the nineties. Sunday, with 100 degrees, broke the high-temperature record standing since 1933. Hummingbirds have started their migration back to Central America. I’ve been keeping ten feeders up since the first of August.

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Coon Dogs, Zinnias, Hummingbirds, and Butterflies

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 If the title sounds like you'll be seeing a lot of pictures ...

 

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The summer heat continues in the Tennessee Valley. The Hooligans are spending most of their day in the shade. I’ve been feeding them late, as Blackie thinks it’s too hot to eat. But then again, I found her stash of apples under some of the landscaping that she’s brought up from the lower forty. She loves apples, but they are on her allergy list. That might have something to do with a reluctance to eat all of her food, and also the scratching she’s been doing. When it’s cool enough to feed, the Hooligans get their minds on chasing mice.

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Soybeans are knee high. Some of the earlier-planted fields are beginning to get a yellow cast. Combines are in the corn fields. There’s a haze in the area from all the dust generated in the fields.

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Hummingbirds are beginning to migrate. Sugar is on my grocery list every week. Right now I have ten feeders up, and I’m changing out four to five of them each day.

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Normally I grow profusion zinnias, as they spread out, are low growers, and butterflies like them. This year I added some of the old-fashioned tall zinnias. One variety that I hadn’t tried before is the cactus zinnias. The blooms are fuller, and the irregular edge on the flowers stands out in the garden. They have been very appealing to the butterflies and moths, especially Gulf fritillary. The swallowtail caterpillars have been feasting on the Queen Anne’s lace, and the result has been a multitude of flying flowers.

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Labor Day, the hills and hollers of the Freedom Hills Wildlife Management area will be filled with the sounds of baying coon dogs, bluegrass, and rock and roll. The 79th annual Labor Day celebration at the Key Underwood Memorial Coon Dog Cemetery takes place. The cemetery is the world’s only cemetery exclusively for coonhound burials. The hound must be certified as a coon-treeing dog. Over 300 coon dogs are buried in the cemetery, many of them USA and world champions. Troop, the first dog, was buried on Labor Day in 1937.

The Saturday before Labor Day, volunteers decorate each grave with silk flowers and USA flags. Bluegrass band Southern Strangers and hall-of-famers Travis Wammack and the Snakeman band will play. Travis got the name "Snakeman" from artists coming to Muscle Shoals to record after they were taken on a snake hunt.

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One mystery at the Coon Dog Cemetery on Labor Day was a Phil Robertson look alike. Or maybe he was the real McCoy?

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