End of Summer 2014 in Northwest Alabama

Reader Contribution by Mary Carton
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War Eagle, Ya’ll. Summer is officially over, Labor Day is here, school and football have started, and the dogwood leaves are turning red much too soon. The hot days of summer with highs in the upper 90s have finally hit the area. Usually I have tomatoes by June, but this year, I’ll get my first fresh Cherokee Purple tomatoes around the middle of September. Having Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever really put a damper in my summer gardening this year. My pickling cucumbers didn’t do well at all, but my salad type cucs produced. My only other garden crops were crooked neck squash and sunflowers. Flocks of goldfinches hit the sunflowers and cleaned them in a week’s time as soon as they bloomed and started drying. My efforts have been focused on cleaning up some of my flower beds that are full of these 12-foot weeds, Chinese privet and hackberries. I wasn’t able to get my melon patch planted last spring, so I scattered some sunflower seeds for a late patch for fall bird migration.

Corn is ready for combining, and a great crop is forecast for this year. Soybeans planted after the wheat harvest finally received rain at the right time. I haven’t seen any cotton this year, but I hear there is some a little piece up the road in Cherokee and Leighton. Up to a few years ago, cotton was king, but is hard to find these days.

I got to see my first rodeo up close and live when I volunteered at the first annual Firefighters Rodeo fundraiser for the Spring Valley Volunteer Fire Department on Labor Day weekend. I’ve seen rodeos on television before, but not live. What was really fascinating to me was the double team roping. It’s really an art to one roping the head, turning the steer around so the second roper can grab both legs. A time penalty is added to the final results for catching one back leg and not both.

They had the usual first year’s learning curve competing against the first night of area high school football, an Auburn football and that school on the other side of the state’s game and rain. I had a learning curve taking photographs also with the lights. There were two different types of lights on each side of the arena. One side the lights and the dust played havoc with the sensor on my camera. A lot of my action shots didn’t turn out well. Photographs taken from the other side with this one type of light behind me turned out better. Next year should be better as the RAM truck series will be involved. I’ll fit right in with my Auburn blue RAM.

Labor Day was spent at the Key Underwood Memorial Coon Dog Cemetery annual celebration. I left early in the morning so I could get photographs of the decorated cemetery before the crowd arrived. Along the way, a barn in a valley with a thin line of fog caught my eye and I just had to pull off and get photos of it.

Key Underwood Coon Dog Cemetery was started on Labor Day September 4, 1937, by Key Underwood when he buried his beloved coon dog Troop and erected a marker in his honor. Troop, a half redbone and half birdsong, was known in the area as the best cold-nosed (meaning he could follow cold coon tracks until they grew fresh) coonhound. Soon other coon hunters started burying their coon dogs in the cemetery. Today, more than 300 coonhounds from all over the USA are buried at the cemetery.

Bluegrass legend Jake Landers and the Southern Strangers played for the 33rd year at the festival. Another popular band called The KGB band also played. A couple of the members donned coon hats for the occasion. Buck dancing and liars contest were also popular. A few suggested that the campaigning politicians in attendance should have been included in the liars contest.

Vendors with homemade crafts were set up at the entrance. The best crowd ever cleaned us out of LO Bishop Bar BBQ and T-shirts specially designed for the occasion. The only thing missing was the moonshine still demonstration. It’s safe to say a good time was had by all except the butterflies. So many were fooled by the artificial flowers.

The Hooligans and Noah the cat next door have been at it again. Each night around 6:30, Noah has been making a trip over to my place to tease the Hooligans from the other side of the underground fence. I’ve foiled Noah’s teasing several days in a row by sitting near the lilies and hummingbird feeders taking photos and caught him sneaking over. One night after feeding, I went to get my mail and caught him on this side of the fence.

All Blackie needed was for me to ask him what do you think you are doing, and she shot over the boundary wire and down the road, across the ditch and into the soybean field. I finally was able to get her to come home after she lost him. Patches and Dixie, the filly next door, continued their love hate feud. Dixie stares at Patches while she barks at her.

Never a dull moment at my place.

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