A Matter of Course

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Glynn Wilson by the mythical “meterote” on Audubon Golf Course in New Orleans. It’s really a chunk of iron ore from Alabama, most likely Birmingham’s Red Mountain.

by Glynn Wilson

This may come as a surprise to some, but the so-called meteorite near the No. 8 green at Audubon Park is a chunk of iron ore from Alabama, most likely Birmingham’s Red Mountain. It didn’t drop in from space. It was dropped there by a fool public relations man, and sat there too heavy to move after the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition ended in 1885.

Read more: A Matter of Course

Alabama Prevails Over Texas for National Championship

There’s an empty spot on the walk of fame at Alabama for Nick Saban, who brought Alabama back to the national championship in the Rose Bowl and coached the university’s first Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram

by Glynn Wilson

The University of Alabama Crimson Tide is back on top of the football world, hanging on to prevail over the Texas Longhorns in a game of unexpected twists and turns, including the early hit by Marcel Dareus that knocked Quarterback Colt McCoy out of the national championship game in the first quarter.

Dareus later scored on a 28-yard interception return just before halftime, earning him the award for defensive player of the game.

“I was thinking about grabbing the guy with the ball, but then I said, `Let me just grab this football.’ I wasn’t even thinking about the highlight,” Dareus, a native of Birmingham who played at Huffman High School, said after the game. “I was so excited. My legs were weak, my muscles were crazy, and I made it.”

This Alabama team will go down in football history for going through 14 games undefeated and for Mark Ingram’s Heisman trophy, Alabama’s first. Ingram earned offensive player of the game honors for running for 116 yards and two touchdowns. His roommate, Trent Richardson, ran for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

The No. 1 Crimson Tide held off a rally by second-ranked Texas and beat the Longhorns 37-21 on Thursday night in the BCS title game with help from a late fumble recovery by Courtney Upshaw at the Texas 3-yard line. Ingram scored a clinching touchdown from 1 yard out with just about two minutes left in the game.

The victory makes Alabama head coach Nick Saban, now called Saint Nick in Alabama, the first coach to win BCS titles at two universities, Alabama and LSU.


Note: This post originally appeared in our sister publication, The Locust Fork News-Journal

Tom Campbell: A Witness To History

(Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared in our sister publication, The Locust Fork blog.)

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Guest Column
by Tom Campbell

NEW YORK — Few people ever have a chance to be arms’ length from greatness. As a lifelong fan of Alabama football, I feel lucky to know that I’ve been a witness to an event that will become a part of Alabama’s fabled history.

To have had such an opportunity twice is remarkable. On both occasions, I tried to burn each detail into my memory because I knew the events before me were celebrating a legacy of pride and greatness.

Two celebrations of excellence of historic proportions for the storied University of Alabama football program will endure in my memory.

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Tom Campbell
Mark Ingram will carry the Heisman experience for the rest of his life

Over 25 years ago, as my last official act as student body president at the University of Alabama, I attended the funeral of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. As sad as Bryant’s funeral and grave site procession were, the Alabama family celebrated a man whose impact upon his players, coaches, university and fans proved immeasurable.

Economic times were hard then, and folks rallied around the prowess and class surrounding the football institution Coach Bryant built. During a time when people were losing a lot — jobs, bonuses, homes — Alabama football offered fans in the community something to be proud of and helped people feel like winners. Despite the celebratory remembrance of Bryant’s life and career, this event nevertheless marked an end.

Now, decades later, in the midst of a terrible economic climate, I had the opportunity to observe another event crucial to the history of Alabama’s football program as a special assignment reporter for the Locust Fork News Journal. However, this celebration, at the announcement of the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, marked a new beginning rather than an end.
Before the announcement of the Heisman winner, the press was treated to a banquet dinner in Times Square. Surrounded by the five finalists, their esteemed coaches and a legion of legendary figures from football history, I felt like the room was filled with electricity and promise. Pluck and grit and winning attitudes really had made a difference in the lives of these young men and their proud coaches, and I was inspired to see the culmination of a football season filled with talent, drive and teamwork.

In each of the five young finalists, Tebow, Ingram, McCoy, Gearhardt and Suh, I saw student athletes brought to this level not only by their physical prowess but also by the humility and class that comes with winning character. Each finalist was being celebrated for personal greatness. Each young man was supremely self-confident. But to a man they exuded gratitude for their God-given talent and appreciation for the coaches, programs and teammates who allowed them to shine. None appeared to express an air of entitlement or arrogance.

Of particular interest to me personally, was of course Mark Ingram. The Flint, Michigan, native turned Alabama standout sat before me with poise and polish. This young man had a brilliant turnout in what may well be a National Championship season, and it was easy for me to forget that just a few miles east of Times Square, Ingram’s father awaited transfer to prison — that Ingram achieved this accomplishment amidst personal turmoil and hardship.

Equally hard to believe was the fact that Ingram has achieved this honor as a sophomore. I wondered if he would follow Tim Tebow as the second Heisman winner to earn that distinction as a sophomore.

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Tom Campbell
Alabama’s Nick Saban winks as if he knows a secret after Ingram dodges a question about the Heisman Curse

Before the result was announced, the pride Coach Nick Saban exuded for his player proved infectious, and I found myself forgetting my journalistic objective for attending the Heisman banquet in the first place as I hoped to hear those two words revealed, “Mark Ingram.”

Would this be one more mark of greatness for the University of Alabama football program? Would Ingram prove himself a formidable opponent on the national stage? Would Saban continue to create his own legacy at Bama, marked as much by the quality of the character of his players as their domination on the football field? Would their affiliation with the University of Alabama continue to be a rallying point of pride and celebration for fans in a time of financial difficulty for many in our state?

And the answer was yes.

Mark Ingram was awarded the Heisman — a storybook beginning for what surely will prove to be a heralded football career.

And I was fortunate enough to witness another legendary chapter in the story of the Alabama football program.

Roll Tide!

Eat Southern Foods!

The Southern Food & Beverage Museum declared Sunday, Oct. 11 to be the first Southern Food Heritage Day. (Luckily, I started early by eating fried Oreos from the Arkansas State Fair.) If you don’t have any idea what to make to celebrate this day, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our Southern Compendium entry. Granted, some of the links are toast … but that’s probably keeping some of us healthy! Seriously, I’ll try to update it with some healthy food choices added.

Celebrating National Parks’ Week

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Fall in the Smokies

MONTICELLO, Ark. — All apologies for the lack of posts in September. But as promised, a cross-post from my personal blog when it relates to the South.

For those wondering, this week’s celebrating the U.S. National Parks and Ken Burns’ documentary showing on PBS. After staying West for most of the week, it’s time to turn attention to the Eastern United States.

The Great Smoky Mountains hold a special place in my heart for many reasons, some of which I will describe. I first remember visiting the Smokies at the age of 5, about the time my parents were going through a divorce. Mama and Papa took me on a tour of the Southeast in hopes of getting my mind off the events at home. For the most part, it did.

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First frost, Great Smoky Mountains

It’s amazing that 35 years later, I still remember some of the things I saw, e.g. I remember seeing people outside of their cars trying to get pictures of the black bears. Granted, some of this memory has been muddled as Tanya told me about her dad trying to take a picture of a black bear and getting closer and closer until he realized he was way, way TOO close.

Much clearer, I remember coming into the North Carolina side of the Smokies. A caged bear amused tourists by drinking soda pop from a bottle. I’ll never forget how sad it seemed to see such a magnificent animal behind bars when I’d just seen other bears in the “wild.”

Smokies' Stream -- This picture once appeared in The Southerner as part of our Secret Vistas.
Smokies’ Stream — This picture once appeared in The Southerner as part of our Secret Vistas.

I also remember meeting Chief Fish (at least that’s what he told me his name was) and getting a picture. When I returned to the area a quarter of a century later, I asked about Chief Fish and was told that he had moved away to start a road-paving business. I don’t hold that against him, but I wonder if he got tired of being a curiosity. I know I will never forget him.

I moved to Eastern Tennessee in the late 1990s to work on my doctorate at the University of Tennessee. While there, I took a bunch of trips to the Great Smoky Mountains to clear my mind. It was a special haven, especially after one of the most severe break-ups I encountered in my lifetime. I don’t recommend having personal angst as a reason to see it, but the beauty puts things into perspective.

I turned the camera eye on the Smokies to provide pictures for Scenic Vistas, a special feature in The Southerner online magazine that we started while I was in graduate school. The picture at the bottom of this post and the river picture to the left both came from that period.

One of the best places in the Smokies must be Cades Cove, a nice circular drive that takes you past some of the original settlers’ outposts and pastoral scenes, including this one of deer in the field.

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Cades Cove drive

One of the funniest things about the Great Smoky Mountains that I heard actually came from a conversation with a North Carolina resident while I was visiting Boone. She noted the “Flor-idiots” would come up to see the scenery and stop in the middle of the roads, causing traffic jams (at the very least) and occasionally being a health hazard to those not smart enough to get out of the road.

But really, who can blame them when you see sights such as this (below)? Once again, I plan to add a section to my home page of photos from across the nation … but that takes time and right now, time is taken. Soon? I hope. Until then, hope you enjoy what’s shown here, but better yet, get out and see it for yourself. It makes me proud that our government set land aside for future generations to enjoy without having to be wealthy individuals. Truly, it’s one of the best things our government has ever done.

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NOTE: Updated 22 Feb 13 to fix broken links.

Eureka Springs’ Blues Festival Gives Back

Breathing good, I’m in the yard workin’ but I saw this and though I should pass it on; yes, folks, the following is a press release but ya know …
-rws

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Buy tickets now for the 2009 Eureka Springs Blues Weekend at www.EurekaSpringsBlues.org! This year’s Blues Weekend will be on May 28, 29, 30 & 31, and features a lineup that Blues Festival Guide describes as “a who’s who of the blues”.

Presented by the 1905 Basin Park Hotel, the 2009 Eureka Springs Blues Weekend will feature Guitar ShortyHubert Sumlin & the Buddy Flett Band and Joe Louis Walker headlining evening shows in The Auditorium May 28, 29 & 30 respectively. For acoustic guitar lovers, we have Delta Blues legend David “Honeyboy” Edwards headlining a special “Acoustic Afternoon at The Auditorium” with EG Kight and Mary Flower on Saturday, May 30th. Shows will also be held throughout the weekend in the 1905 Basin Park Hotel’s Barefoot Ballroom and Ozark Room, Basin Spring Park and at various venues around Eureka Springs.

This year’s Blues Weekend will be a fund-raiser for The Blues Foundation’s Handy Artist Relief Trust and Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. The HART Fund provides assistance to musicians in need, including acute, chronic & preventive medical & dental care, as well as funeral expenses. For more information, please visit www.Blues.org.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is located seven miles south of Eureka Springs on Highway 23. It provides lifetime refuge to abandoned, abused, and neglected “Big Cats”, with emphasis on tigers, lions, leopards, and cougars. Natural habitats have been built over the past decade to allow the “Lions, Tigers & Bears” to live in more natural surroundings. For more information, please visit www.TurpentineCreek.org.

During last year’s Eureka Springs Blues Weekend, a pair of cubs were born at Turpentine Creek, one of which, “BB King,” is sponsored by long time supporters of the refuge and producers of Blues Weekend, Lori and Charles “Rags” Ragsdell. Also, Candye Kane could not perform during last year’s Blues Weekend due to illness, and The HART Fund helped pay her medical bills. These two events helped “seal the deal”, and Blues Weekend became one of the few blues festivals in America that dedicates 100 percent of all profits to charity.

Other headliners appearing in The Auditorium and the 1905 Basin Park Hotel Barefoot Ballroom and Ozark Room include EG KightMoreland & ArbuckleCandye Kane, Mary FlowerRJ MischoLee McBee & the ConfessorsDeanna Bogart and John Nemeth. Also, one-man band King Clarentz, International Blues Challenge winner JP Soars & the Red Hots and Ozarks Blues Society Blues Challenge winners Oreo Blue and Kory Montgomery & Isayah Warford will be opening acts.
Read more: Eureka Springs’ Blues Festival Gives Back

State of the Union: Democracy and the Web Press

Connecting the Dots
by Glynn Wilson

I almost lost my breakfast in my plate as I watched CNN’s John King interview Dick Cheney on his “State of the Union” show this Sunday. It made me want to get rid of my television set, reinforcing an idea that seems to be growing among the American population.

As newspaper circulation continues in free fall and as we begin to acknowledge that broadcast news let us down as well as newspaper reporting over the past eight years, more and more I’m hearing people say they would rather have a high speed Internet connection than a cable TV package or a newspaper subscription any day.

I mean who gives a damn what Cheney has to say at this point? Is he the only guest King could get to assess the state of the nation? What a joke.

More and more young people are getting their view of the world from shows such as the Daily Show on Comedy Central, where this week Jon Daily took on Jim Cramer of CNBC for his failed coverage of the economic meltdown. This is a video series worth watching in case you missed it.

Jim Cramer in Daily Show Showdown

It’s no wonder newspapers are dying. As their circulations fall and they lay off more news workers, they become even less interesting.

To read the full column, visit our sister site, The Locust Fork News-Journal.

Secret Vistas: The Great Smoky Mountains

National Park Celebrates 75th Anniversary

A rock tunnel beckons as you enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park…

by Glynn Wilson

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS — When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood at Newfound Gap with one foot in North Carolina and the other in Tennessee on Sept. 2, 1940 at the official opening of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the visibility into the dark blue ridges ranged about 80 miles. By the year 2000, soot and ozone from automobiles and the Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal-fired power plants in East Tennessee had so polluted the air that on a good day, you could only see for about 12 miles.

Due to cleaner cars and smoke stack scrubbers on TVA’s three nearby coal-fired power plants, and a 10 percent drop in the number of people and cars passing through the park over the past decade, perhaps, you can now see for about 14 miles, a slight improvement of a couple of miles, according to park spokesman Bob Miller.

To read the entire few features, with photos, visit our sister site, The Locust Fork News-Journal.

Science Wins Over Religion in Scopes Monkey Trial?

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species Turns 150

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Glynn Wilson
The famous Rhea County Courthouse, where the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial took place

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by Glynn Wilson

DAYTON, Tenn. — Forty-three years after the death of British naturalist Charles Darwin, whose 200th birthday is being celebrated far and wide this year, a few men were sitting around in a Rexall drug store across from the now famous courthouse in this rural Southern town talking politics, science and religion.

In contrast to most of the official accounts of how the so-called “trial of the century” and the “Scopes monkey trial” got started, this was the genesis for an idea for a trial to test the legality of teaching evolution versus creationism in the public schools: A conversation over Coca-Colas at a soda fountain counter. (There’s no official indication whether whiskey was involved).

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Glynn Wilson
A photograph of the drug store where the idea for the Scopes Trial was hatched

You won’t even find this account on the Wikipedia page about the trial, although the evidence is presented in the museum in the basement of the courthouse, and knowledgeable locals know the story.

The way the word got out happened as it often does, with a leak to a newspaper reporter, in this case the old Chattanooga Times.

To read the whole column, visit our sister site, The Locust Fork News-Journal.

TVA to Begin Coal Ash Spill Cleanup March 20

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Glynn Wilson
A coal ash island visible in the Emory River with the smokestacks of TVA’s coal fired power plant at Kingston, Tennessee in the background.

by Glynn Wilson

KINGSTON, Tenn. — Steve Scarborough came to East Tennessee from Georgia for the scenic boating and stayed to raise a family and start his own canoe building company, Dagger Kayaks and Canoes. But on Dec. 22, the longest night of 2008, his world was turned upside down when an embankment wall caved at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal fired power plant here, causing the largest environmental disaster of its kind in U.S. history.

Heavy rains, freezing temperatures, and potentially a minor earthquake a few days before, caused the holding pond for TVA’s coal ash waste to fail, dumping 2.6 million cubic yards of the mildly toxic material into the middle of the scenic Emory River.

Tests of the river water around the spill showed elevated levels of lead and thallium, which can cause birth defects and nervous and reproductive system disorders. But levels of toxicity are not that dangerous and not the main issue, Scarborough said. The event was not just a spill of a hazardous substance, like many environmental disasters in the past, like the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska in 1989.

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Glynn Wilson
A six mile long land mass of coal ash where the most vibrant and biologically diverse stretch of the Emory River used to be.

To read the full investigative news feature with more of the story and videos, visit our sister site, The Locust Fork News-Journal.