Aiming for a state title

By Matt Ledger

The undefeated New Hope High School archery team. (L to R) Tyler Brown, Jonathon League, Casey Selvage, Jared Solmon, Adam Reed, Josh Quick, Tyler Williams and Gavin King.

The undefeated New Hope High School archery team. (L to R) Tyler Brown, Jonathon League,
Casey Selvage, Jared Solmon, Adam Reed, Josh Quick, Tyler Williams and Gavin King.

Eight archers at New Hope High School set goals, took aim and hit the bullseye quicker than anyone expected, winning the state championship in their first year.

“This is a brand-new thing that started this year,” says Doug Solmon, the 3D archery team coach.

Archery1116

Jared Solmon sought to start an archery team during his senior year. The inaugural team of eight won all six tournaments on the season and even took home a state championship.

Competitive 3D archery involves aiming at point rings on a foam animal target from distances ranging from 5 to 30 yards. Competitors are awarded points based on the predetermined value of spots on the target — from five points for hitting the foam deer or other animal to 12 points for the smallest ring. Facing 20 targets, New Hope’s top three shooters in each tournament have scored in the 205-212 range, causing lopsided victories by an average of 43 points.

“I’ve got one kid, Adam Reed, who had never shot a bow before,” Solmon says. “During his first year in the sport, he made it into the top ten for shooter-of-the-year points in Alabama.” Four of his teammates also made the list during the inaugural season.

The New Hope High School archery team had their sights set high during its first year competing. The team has practiced twice weekly throughout the year and every night for a week leading up to the Alabama state championships. The team went six-for-six in the regional tournaments and won the state tournament on May 9. Jared Solmon finished second overall at state and had the most points during the season, garnering Alabama shooter-of-the-year honors. His teammates Tyler Brown and Gavin King finished third and fifth place, respectively.

The New Hope High School archery team had their sights set high during its first year competing.

The New Hope High School archery team had their sights set high during its first year competing.

“Their shooting improved all year long,” coach Solmon says. “However, going undefeated and winning the state championship is more than I ever expected.”

A nation divided: 150 years later

Relive history on a tour of these prominent Civil War battlefields

By Robert Thatcher

This year, the country will conclude its 150th anniversary remembrance of the Civil War. But don’t worry if you missed the reenactments and fanfare over the past four years. Take this trip on US Highway 41 from Kentucky through Middle Tennessee to find plenty of history while tracing pivotal battles in America’s most costly war.

Stop #1 – Fort Donelson National Battlefield
Where Ulysses Grant became a household name

Fort Donelson National Battlefield, on the banks of the Cumberland River just south of the Kentucky border, is a natural starting point for a drive through Middle Tennessee. It’s also a good beginning militarily.

Dover Hotel

Dover Hotel

“Almost everything that happened in the state is a sequel to what happened here,” says Doug Richardson, Fort Donelson’s chief of interpretation.

Rivers were arteries of commerce for the South, and the Confederates built Fort Donelson to protect the Cumberland and upstream cities like Clarksville and Nashville

But on Feb. 12, 1862, a little-known Union brigadier general named Ulysses S. Grant set his sights on Fort Donelson. He was confident of victory after his gunboats easily took nearby Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.

Donelson was not so easy. Well-positioned Confederate guns brought victory, setting up a successful “break out” through Union lines. But the victory was short-lived, as the Confederates unwittingly helped Grant by pulling troops back to their original positions. Grant retook the lost ground, and the 12,000-man garrison surrendered unconditionally. The battle made Grant a star and was a catastrophe for the South.

Touring Fort Donelson

The park preserves more than 20 percent of the original battlefield, with several square miles of earthwork fortifications. Don’t miss these highlights:

  • Stand at the gun batteries where Confederate gunners battered Grant’s gunboats.
  • Visit the Dover Hotel where Ulysses S. Grant demanded “unconditional surrender” from his old West Point friend, Confederate Simon Buckner.
  • Pause at Fort Donelson National Cemetery for a reminder of the sacrifices that Americans have made from the Civil War to the present day.
  • While absorbing the history, you may also encounter two notable park residents. “We’ve got two resident bald eagles who live down at the river,” Richardson says. “Our eagles are about as famous as our generals.”

Stop #2 – Stones River National Battlefield
The Fight for the Confederate Heartland

We could follow General Grant to the Mississippi line and Shiloh, where his Army of the Tennessee headed after Donelson, but there’s good reason to drive to Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro.

“When Fort Donelson falls, the Confederates have to give up Nashville,” explains Park Ranger Jim Lewis. “And Nashville becomes the base for the Union Army to launch the campaigns which will lead to Stones River, Chickamauga and Chattanooga.”

For many, Stones River is a quiet retreat from bustling Murfreesboro. But the 6,100 gravestones across from the visitor center are a sober reminder of what took place there. Of the 81,000 who fought here, 23,000 were killed, wounded or went missing in action — the highest percentage of casualties of any Civil War battle.

Early success, then retreat

Cemetery at Stones River

Cemetery at Stones River

On New Year’s Eve 1862, the Southern army under Braxton Bragg attacked first, catching William Rosecrans’ Union troops at breakfast and driving them north. Then on Jan. 2, the Confederates launched another attack along the east bank of the Stones River to drive Union troops off of a high hill.

“In the process of pursuing, those Confederates will come under the fire of 57 Union cannons along the other side of the river and will lose about 1,800 men in 45 minutes,” Lewis says. “That’s a pretty bloody exclamation point.”

The Confederates then retreated.

Touring Stones River

Stones River offers a 12-stop auto tour, including these sights:

  • Walk around The Slaughter Pen, a rock outcropping where Union troops made a stubborn stand.
  • Pay respect at the Hazen Brigade Monument, one of the oldest war monuments in the country.
  • Be awed by Fort Rosecrans, the largest earthworks fortification in North America.

Stop #3 – Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park
The Death Knell of the Confederacy

We’ve followed the Union push to Nashville and Murfreesboro. The next stop is Chattanooga. Actually, we’ll go south of the city to Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.

Re-enactments, like this one near Chickamauga, Ga., can bring history to life, but battlefields throughout the Southeast are interesting places to visit anytime.

Re-enactments, like this one near Chickamauga, Ga., can bring history to life, but battlefields throughout the Southeast are interesting places to visit anytime.

Driving to the park, you’ll cross the mountains that convinced General Rosecrans not to advance directly on Chattanooga. He moved southwest of the city to block supply lines, forcing Confederate troops into Georgia as well. But Chattanooga was the Union goal.

“Chattanooga is a doorway through the southern barrier of the Appalachians,” says Park Historian Jim Ogden.

Driving through the dense woods of the 5,300-acre park, you can see why confusion reigned in the war’s second-bloodiest battle. About 35,000 men were killed, wounded, missing or captured in fighting from Sept. 19-20, 1863. Strategic mistakes led to a Union retreat. The Union troops retreated to Chattanooga, where they withstood a two-month siege before ultimately breaking through in the battle of Chattanooga.

“This allowed the Union drive across Georgia in 1864, from Chattanooga to Atlanta and from Atlanta to Savannah,” Ogden notes.

Touring Chickamauga

Start at the visitor center on Lafayette Road. After touring the park, drive 17 miles to Lookout Mountain Battlefield for views from 1,500 feet above Chattanooga. Other key sites:

  • Stand on Snodgrass Hill where George Thomas became “The Rock of Chickamauga.”
  • Get a general’s view from Orchard Knob, Grant’s command post, and the Bragg Reservation, Confederate headquarters on Missionary Ridge.
  • Watch the conflict electronically at the Battles for Chattanooga Museum on Lookout Mountain.

Chattanooga was a major blow for the Confederacy. But there’s much more to see on the campaign South – Tunnel Hill, Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain all the way to Savannah and then into South Carolina. The war continued on and your trip can too. Visit nps.gov/civilwar for more sites from the War Between the States.

Tech-Savvy Traveler: Charting your course

Point Park Cannon

Point Park Cannon

Robert E. Lee is regarded by many as the most clever battle tactician of the Civil War. Imagine what he could have done with a GPS! Nowadays, it’s easy to come up with a battle plan and map out the route for you and your troops on your next vacation. Apps like Google Earth provide directions for tourists with aerial or street views of those historic sites from Gettysburg to Charleston. For those battling interstate traffic, Road Ninja is an app that will help you find fuel, food and shelter for the evening, keeping your small army on the move.

Perfectly Imperfect

For the everyday home

A Q&A with Shaunna West, a blogger from Troy, Alabama, who writes about everything from painting furniture to decorating to homeschooling. 

Shaunna West

Shaunna West

What will readers find at your blog?
Shaunna West: Perfectly Imperfect is a window into our lives. You’ll find DIY projects, furniture makeovers, before-and-after room makeovers, shop talk, topics on running a creative business and even a few family posts.

Why did you become a blogger, and how has blogging changed your life?
SW: I have been writing since I was a little girl, and in 2009, I needed to write. I began sharing my furniture-painting techniques and the process of our attic renovation, and soon, the blog became a business and a place for people to seek inspiration for their everyday homes. The community and readers at Perfectly Imperfect took me completely by surprise. There is a world of people interested in the same things you are, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even develop relationships with these incredible people. The Internet can be used for such good, and its reach is incredible. I’m grateful for PI, for my readers and for their willingness to listen to what I have to say.

What are some big trends in decorating this spring and summer?
SW: Any time you gear into spring and summer, people are going to be looking to brighten and lighten their homes. There are lots of beautiful metallics out there and lots of blues and golds and greens as far as colors. Anything you can do to try and make your home feel fresh and clean. Spring is the time when we all begin to organize and begin to purge and pare down and only have what’s necessary in the home. Homes should be functional and efficient as well as beautiful.

Check out her blog: www.PerfectlyImperfectBlog.com

Shaunna’s tips for changing your home on a budget

living roomKeep in mind that your home is your sanctuary away from the busyness of the world. Take the time to create spaces you enjoy and that create rest for you and your family.

If you’re feeling like your home has become dark and dreary, give the walls a fresh coat of paint in lighter neutrals. It will instantly brighten your space. My favorites are Benjamin Moore White Diamond, Sherwin Williams Sea Salt, Sherwin Williams Crushed Ice and Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray.

Save and invest in key pieces like your sofa and armchairs, and shop flea markets and antique malls for small end tables and dressers. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll save when you allow time for your space to come together.
Paint everything in sight. Seriously, paint is the cheapest and fastest way to transform your home. Have a coffee table you love, but hate how beaten up it is? Paint it, and you will have a new piece of furniture in a few hours.

Whatever your interest, there is likely an online community of people who share that interest with you. Our “Featured Blogger” series introduces you to people who write websites about a variety of topics. In the May/June issue, we’ll focus on marriage and relationships.

Other home/DIY blogs you might like:

www.TheLetteredCottage.net
Layla shares her love of cottage style with readers.

www.BeneathMyHeart.net
Tracey describes herself striving to create beauty in her heart and in her home.

www.thistlewoodfarms.com
KariAnne shares her transition from the big city to a slower-paced, happier life.

 

Can you hear the music?

You’re only a click away from your favorite tunes

By Cecil H. Yancy Jr.

The Rolling Stones asked, “Can you hear the music?” And the answer is, yes! You can easily listen on your computer or mobile device anytime you like.
Digital music services offer you two ways to listen to old favorites or explore new artists.

A download captures the music on your computer for use in the future — think of being able to burn a CD or play the music by clicking on a file from your computer. On the other hand, music streaming is like having a steady flow of music coming into your computer. Just click and create stations from artists you choose.

While downloads have their advantages, streaming appears to be the wave of the future. By this year, according to a Pew Research Institute study, as many as 80 percent of Americans will listen to audio on digital devices. While 51 percent of all adults say they listen to music on these devices, age makes a big difference in music habits, according to the study. More than 60 percent of millennials and 58 percent of Gen Xers listen to music online compared with 48 percent of younger Boomers. Older Americans tend to prefer the traditional AM/FM radio format. But streaming music is getting so easy, music lovers of all ages can jump on board.

Open the box to music streaming

Woman Listening To Music On Her TabletPandora opened the box with one of the first online Internet radio services. With Pandora, you can listen free for 40 hours per month, with advertisements. Pay $36 a year and get the music without commercials. It’s easy to use. Say you like Johnny Cash: Type in his name and a “radio station” of his songs and those of similar audiences will begin playing. The best part is Pandora gives you background information about the artist as the music is playing. You can even skip a certain number of songs you don’t like.

New releases and exclusives

Spotify is another big player in the music-streaming arena. It has a 20-million-plus song catalog from the major record labels, which can be organized into playlists that allow users to stream their own lists or lists from friends or celebrities. The basic features are free after downloading the application, or the premium version is $9.99 per month. Music on Spotify can be imported from iTunes and synced with a mobile device so you can make your favorite songs available anywhere you go!

Create your own iTunes station

In addition to 25 DJ-curated and genre-based stations, iTunes Radio allows you to create personalized radio stations or follow “guest DJ” stations from famous artists. You can pause, skip and playback with iTunes Radio and even buy the tune you’re currently listening to. If you have an iTunes Match Account for $25 per year, it’s ad-free. iTunes Radio is a great merge between a download provider and a streaming service.

A couple of clicks and no cost

Silver Ear Bud HeadphonesIf you’re leaning toward listening to music online, but a bit overwhelmed by the choices, check out sites that only require a couple of clicks to get started and are designed to be more like your radio.

Sites like Boomerradio.com and Bluegrassmix.com offer an easy way to listen to your favorite tunes, with either stations or DJs that pick the tunes. On the Bluegrass site, DJs host shows. On the Boomer Radio site, users can pick from moods like acoustic café, sweet soul music and classic mix.

Real men do eat quiche

By Anne P. Braly

Anne P. Braly

Food Editor Anne P. Braly is a native of Chattanooga, Tenn. Prior to pursuing a freelance career, she spent 21 years as food editor and feature writer at a regional newspaper.

Bea Salley loves to cook. So much so, in fact, that she says she’d like to own a restaurant in her hometown of Walterboro, South Carolina. But until her ship comes in, she’ll stick to catering for area residents in her spare time. Her forte? Quiche.

“I make potato pies, apple pies, coconut pies and cakes, but quiche is my specialty,” she says. “It’s a good, year-round dish, but particularly in the spring.”

Salley’s mother died when she was 13 years old. So with just her father and no siblings, she would never have learned the intricacies of cooking had women in her community — she grew up in Oakman Branch right outside Walterboro — not intervened, taking her under their wing to teach her and stirring her interest in what would become her passion.

But it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that she realized she wanted to make a difference by catering to her community with more healthful food choices.

A healthy choice — With so many ways to prepare quiche, it can be a healthy choice for any season. Be a Salley likes to use ingredients such as fish and vegetables, while keeping the sodium low.

A healthy choice — With so many ways to prepare quiche, it can be a healthy choice for any season. Be a Salley likes to use ingredients such as fish and vegetables, while keeping the sodium low.

“No one in my household — my husband, Fred, our five kids and 10 grandchildren — ever had any problems with high blood pressure or diabetes, and I know what you cook with makes a difference,” she says.

So almost all of her recipes, particularly her quiches, have healthy ingredients, such as fish and vegetables, and not a lot of sodium. And everyone loves them, she adds.

But there’s a saying that’s become quite familiar: “Real men don’t eat quiche.”
Not so, Salley says.

“There are a lot of men who love my quiche. They say it’s filling, so they don’t have to eat as much.”

David Walton of Summerville is one example. He’s been eating and enjoying Salley’s quiches for at least a dozen years. “‘Real men don’t eat quiche’ simply isn’t true when you have quiche as good as Bea’s!” he says.

And it’s this time of year that Salley’s kitchen heats up with quiches in her oven. People like to be outside in the warm weather and not inside cooking, so Salley does it for them.

“Quiche is a quick, full meal for friends and family,” she says. Serve a slice of quiche with a salad and a basket of bread, and you have a complete, healthy dinner. Leftovers are even better — if there are any to be had.

Whether you’re baking a brunch-friendly bacon-and-egg-filled treat for Easter or an elegant vegetarian dinner served with a healthy lettuce or fruit salad, quiche is extremely easy to adapt in a number of delicious ways. The recipes that follow are some of Salley’s favorites.

Veggie Quiche

1/4 stick (2 tablespoons) butter
Quiche_11611/2 onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 10-ounce bag spinach
1 12-ounce container fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 medium yellow squash, sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice), plus more for
 topping
1/2 cup sour cream
1 9-inch pie crust (store-bought or homemade)

Heat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat; add onions and bell pepper; let simmer. Add spinach, mushrooms, zucchini and squash; cover and saute until softened. Stir in salt and pepper; let cool, then pour in bowl and add eggs, flour and cheese, blending mixture together. Last, add sour cream, blending well. Pour into crust, sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake for 40 minutes or until quiche is set around the edges and still slightly loose in the center. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before cutting.

Salmon and Mushroom Quiche

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup onions, diced
1 16-ounce container fresh
 mushrooms, sliced
1 large can salmon
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 9-inch pie crust
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 400°F. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat; add onions and let simmer for 3 minutes until onions are soft. Add mushrooms, stirring until soft, then add salmon. Blend mixture together, let cool, then add Swiss cheese, eggs, flour, sour cream, salt and pepper. Blend all together, then pour into crust, sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bake for 35 minutes or until quiche is set around the edges and still slightly loose in the center. Remove from oven and let it sit for a few minutes before cutting.

Note: This quiche is also good served “crustless.” Bake in pie pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray using no pie crust. Follow directions as written.

Bea’s Pie Crust

This is the quickest and simplest pastry crust ever, and it tastes great.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening (preferably Crisco)
5 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3-4 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Whisk together flour and salt in medium bowl. Add shortening and butter, tossing with fingers until pieces are well-coated with the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the shortening and butter into the dry ingredients. Drizzle in 3 tablespoons of the ice water and the lemon juice; mix just until the dough comes together, adding the last tablespoon of water if the dough is too dry. Do not overwork the dough or it will become too tough. Pat the dough into a flat disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before rolling out.

Tips to make the perfect quiche

Quiche is a simple idea for brunch or dinner, but getting it right can be difficult. Here are a few key steps to ensure that your quiche will be creamy and your crust will be flaky.

  • The crust: The first step to a good quiche is having a great pastry shell. It will come out better if you parbake (partially bake) it for about 10 minutes so that it’s dry and crisp before adding your filling.
  • Seal it: To avoid a soggy pastry, brush the bottom of the crust with an egg wash (a beaten egg white) right after parbaking it. The warmth of the crust when you remove it from the oven is all you need to “cook” the egg white and seal the shell to help keep it crispy.
  • Say “no” to low-fat: There’s nothing worse than wimpy flavor when you bite into a quiche, so make sure to avoid using low-fat or nonfat ingredients. Their high water content prevents the quiche from setting properly, resulting in a watery finish.
  • Protect the edges: Once in the oven, keep an eye on the shell, and if the edges of the pastry start browning too quickly, wrap them in a little aluminum foil.
  • Loose is a good rule of thumb: Take the quiche out of the oven when the center is still slightly wobbly. This will ensure that it doesn’t over-cook and will still have its creamy custard texture when you cut into it.

Turnaround

The unexpected championship season

By Matt Ledger

For a few crucial seconds, the 2014 New Hope Indians, longtime underdogs of the Tennessee Valley Football League, looked liked their old selves again.

Coach Rodney McGehee congratulates the Indians youth football team after winning their league championship.

Coach Rodney McGehee congratulates the Indians youth football team after winning their league championship.

They were in overtime of their championship game on the 3-yard line and trying for a go-ahead extra point. In the excitement and the pressure of the moment, the center snapped early as quarterback Kolton Acklin yelled “Down!” instead of “Hut.” The pigskin bounced on the ground, coming to rest by pint-sized passer’s feet, with the offensive line still standing in a state of confusion. The opposing Hartselle Tigers defense crashed the line, and the defensive ends charged towards the quarterback as Acklin grabbed the ball from the turf.

“It was our worst play and the worst we have played all year,” defensive line coach Teron Prince says.

The Hartselle squad had already found the end zone in overtime, for a go-ahead score of 19-13, but failed to convert the extra point. The Indians answered back with their own overtime touchdown, tying the score, and coaches had called for a run up the middle for the extra point before the failed snap.

In years past, the game probably would have ended then and there. A few years back, New Hope went two years without winning a game, or even scoring a single point. In 2013, it took six games before the players reached the end zone.

But 2014 was a miraculous kind of year for the Indians, and on that November night, they had one more miracle left. The quarterback managed to curl left out of the chaos, sprinting away from the tacklers and darting into the end zone for the win.

A test of commitment

New Hope’s Kolton Acklin made several quarterback sneaks during their championship win, but the overtime game-winning play was an improvised scramble and a surprise to his teammates.

New Hope’s Kolton Acklin made several quarterback sneaks during their championship win, but the overtime game-winning play was an improvised scramble and a surprise to his teammates.

Losing can reveal character deficiencies or it can build a commitment to try even harder next time. New Hope is a young 3A team, with 7- and 8-year-olds playing a difficult schedule. All opponents were in higher conference classifications with twice the number of players as New Hope. “It’s so hard to beat those big districts,” offensive line coach Rodney McGehee says.

Team members may have felt defeated on the field after 2012 and 2013, but they never let that deter their spirit, and the vast majority of those players returned again in 2014. “Our goal was to win half of our games this year,” Prince says. “Last year, we got a penalty after our first touchdown because we went out there on the field and were hugging the kids.” While the coaches were flagged, a few of the parents were brought to tears upon seeing their kids finally replace the 0 on the scoreboard.

The Indians lacked the speed of other teams, which meant they had to rely on charging up the middle instead of sprinting around the corner to the sidelines like many of their opponents. From July 21 through early November, coaches scheduled three practices a week in addition to the games on Saturdays.

“We made up our mind that we needed to be as tough on those kids as we possibly could to get them ready,” Prince says. “But we had two years’ worth of coaching mistakes to learn from.” Seven of the Indians played offense and defense — not missing a single play for three entire seasons. Coaches rotated nearly all players’ positions to provide new challenges and discover who excelled as the season progressed. “We preached to give 100 percent, no matter what position we had to put them,” McGehee says. “We were in better shape going into the fourth quarter than any other team.” The Indians put in the effort, finishing their eight-game regular season in fifth place of the twelve teams.

A season beyond expectations

The Indians’ first offensive possession of 2014 took more than six minutes of the first quarter to reach the end zone. But this Cinderella season didn’t occur without several challenges, in addition to that frenzied final play of the season. The first loss of the season occurred in Decatur, during their fourth game. After being down  18-0 at halftime, the Indians rallied in the third quarter, scoring 12 points in the first four minutes. Players showed their potential, but could not crawl out of the first-half hole they had dug for themselves. “They never got down on themselves the entire season,” McGehee says.

The New Hope Indians brought an intense focus during their successful playoff run.

The New Hope Indians brought an intense focus during their successful playoff run.

An 18-7 loss against the Monrovia Panthers became a pivotal turning point for the squad. “That was where the team turned it on, and where they made up their minds that they weren’t going to allow that to happen again,” Prince says.

Despite their 5th-place finish, the New Hope boys hit their stride in the postseason, beginning to peak during the third round of the playoffs against first-place Decatur. The play of the game belonged to Nathan Adcock. From the opposite side of the field, he sprinted to make a touchdown-saving tackle on the 2-yard line, stopping a 60-plus yard Decatur gain. The play gave the Indians momentum, and Decatur fumbled the next handoff. The Indians took the ball to their end zone on the following play.

All New Hope coaches had several sleepless nights prior to their next game, a fourth-round playoff clash against that same Monrovia Panther team, with a chance at the championship game on the line. The Indians gave their best performance of the year to beat Monrovia, 19-13, — one of two playoff victories against teams they had lost to during the regular season. “After they had beaten the best team in the league, they knew there were no excuses and the championship was theirs, if they wanted it,” Prince says.

The Indians team and coaching staff gather for a celebratory photo on the field after the game. New Hope Indians Coaching staff (above from left) head coach Rodney McGehee and assistant coaches; Mike Acklin, Mario Duster, Jamey Gordon and Teron Prince.

The Indians team and coaching staff gather for a celebratory photo on the field after the game.
New Hope Indians Coaching staff (above from left) head coach Rodney McGehee and assistant coaches; Mike Acklin, Mario Duster, Jamey Gordon and Teron Prince.

The second meeting with 6A Hartselle Tigers was for the league championship at Madison County High School on Nov. 8. Well before kickoff, the game turned into one of the community’s biggest football events anyone could remember. Decorated vehicles streamed into the parking lot and began tailgating at 9:30 a.m. with fans munching on beans, cheese dips and cookie cakes two hours before the kickoff. Fans young and old — many of whom didn’t have a child on the team — brought homemade shakers and airhorns to cheer on the Indians.

A glimmer of the old Indians appeared on the opening kickoff when New Hope fumbled the ball before they could run their first offensive play. But the team quickly rallied and got the ball back via an interception two plays later, before driving down the field for their first touchdown. For much of the season, the Indians’ best efforts came when they trailed, finding confidence to reverse opponents’ momentum as the game wore on.

“We just prepared the same way that we did all year,” McGehee says. “This year, they just believed in themselves, in each other, and that they were as good as any other team.” The championship victory ended a playoff drought that dates back at least a few decades. In the days and weeks that followed, players and parents exchanged high-fives during grocery shopping trips, and the experience will be a lifetime memory for all involved.

On Dec. 30, the Indians gathered in Nashville for a pregame recognition ceremony at the Music City Bowl. They stayed to watch as Notre Dame beat the LSU Tigers.“I am so proud of every one of them,” McGehee says. “Looking back at it all, a few years from now, the kids will then realize what a big deal this really was.”

Photos by Rick Finch, minister at New Hope Church of Christ

A grateful gathering

By Matt Ledger

Southern culture requires that any holiday meal, sports gathering or Sunday afternoon picnic is met with the largest meal of the week. The mere mention of cornbread dressing, black-eyed peas or a honey-glazed ham conjures the corresponding holiday. For most parties, a dozen or so people will shuffle by the slow cookers and Tupperware, filling their plate a scoop at a time.

The O’Neals decorate their home for the Easter gathering, which includes an Easter egg hunt with hundreds of colorful eggs for the children.

The O’Neals decorate their home for the Easter gathering, which includes an Easter egg hunt with hundreds of colorful eggs for the children.

However, an afternoon Easter celebration for one New Hope couple means two 12-foot rows of tables in the garage, a massive spread of colorful food creations and many … many more guests.

The O’Neals have no children of their own, but realized their yard could hold an Easter egg hunt for a handful of kids, including their two goddaughters. Debbie and Bobby O’Neal originally opened the doors of their home for acquaintances who had no plans for Easter.

In the years that followed, their circle of friends and family brought more people, and it has become the social event of the neighborhood.

Within the first few years, the event grew to nearly 40 people. Those attending enjoyed the quaint backyard atmosphere and delicious food and soon began asking if they could invite others — and the O’Neals always obliged. “We never know who is going to show up,” Debbie O’Neal says. “Every year we have at least two or three people we’ve never seen before.”

Their gathering of family and friends has occurred for 35 of the 39 years they have been married. The afternoon event is now several times larger than when it began, with 150 to 200 people attending.

A Plentiful Potluck

While the kids are geared up for the frenzied egg hunt, the home-cooked specialties on the table are likely the main draw for the adults. “We’ve never been lacking in food,” O’Neal says. “Everybody brings a dish or two and joins in the fun.” A parade of guests arrive after 1 p.m., typically carrying containers or Crock-Pots with a variety of homemade recipes.

Friends and family bring a dish or two for the potluck meal that everyone enjoys during the Easter social.

Friends and family bring a dish or two for the potluck meal that everyone enjoys during the Easter social.

O’Neal makes a coconut cake and a chocolate delight dessert that have been staples since early on. Crock-Pot dressing, Mexican cornbread and barbecue are favorites, while fried okra patties are an unusual recipe that is quite popular at the luncheon.

After the meal, the adults take turns assembling the 1,400 Easter eggs that are scattered about the property. Colorful eggs dot the grass like wildflowers, as three designated areas are used to separate the children by age. After a flurry of small feet and Easter baskets, the youngsters are shaking the eggs and finding the trinkets, gum, balloons, candy and even loose change inside.

Four years ago, O’Neal began wearing a bunny suit, created by her friend Sandy Tucker. “Now the kids know it’s time to go hunt the eggs when I come out wearing the bunny suit,” O’Neal says. She even poses for photos with the children. The afternoon activities typically continue with men engaged in a game of horseshoes as kids bump a volleyball over the net.

Over the decades, many who attended as children have continued to return as adults and are now sharing the experience with their own kids. But children aren’t the only ones wowed by the experience.

One year, the O’Neals invited an elderly German lady, Karla Crum from New Market, to the gathering. “She had never been to an Easter egg hunt before,” O’Neal says. “Karla had a blast, and it felt good to know she came to experience that with us.”

Children wander around the O’Neals’ property seeking the colorful eggs and the treasures hidden within.

Children wander around the O’Neals’ property seeking the colorful eggs and the treasures hidden within.

Shopping for a local cause

By Matt Ledger

The fashionable new shopping experience isn’t at the mall or the big box store, and it may be closer to home than you realize. “We’re all Southern girls here and we love to shop, so to shop and give back, that’s an even better experience,” says Sharon Hicks, the store manager at Pickers on Main. “We want to help people in a dignified way and we just knew this store could do that.”

Store manager Sharon Hicks (right) and consigner Mary Cole standing inside of Pickers on Main.

Store manager Sharon Hicks (right) and consigner Mary Cole standing inside of Pickers on Main.

The shop is the latest mission for the  CARE Center. The center, with the name standing for Community Assistance Resource Effort, began in New Hope during 2000, when 15 churches in southeastern Madison County were approached about contributing toward an emergency food assistance program. “It started out just as a food pantry, but it has been one of the best things to happen to this area,” Mary Cole says, one of the consigners at the store.

With that mission in mind, many community members have stepped up during the past 15 years, expanding the center to address the growing needs of their neighbors. More than two dozen programs are now providing a wide range of resources for the community, with the latest being a community collaboration called Pickers on Main.

Much more than a store

A quick glance in the window, a person might think Pickers on Main is an ordinary boutique, but the quality crafts and designer decor products have a dual purpose much greater than beautifying any living room. “The CARE Center’s mission is to help reduce poverty through education initiatives and influential resources,” Hicks says. The shop provides a bit of the traditional Southern charm that small towns are known for. “We thought Pickers on Main would be a perfect fit for this community,” Hicks says.

Collectors and crafters are finding and creating marvelous merchandise, turning “passions into paychecks” at the store, which opened Nov. 1, 2014. “Many of the kids in the local school are making things within their classroom, then bringing those items here and selling them,” Hicks says. That transaction provides youth an opportunity to learn about the value of community service. A portion of the profits goes toward the general budget for the 501(c)(3) charity.

Products with promise

From farmhouse boutique to shabby chic, Pickers on Main offers home furnishings for those looking to add a traditional flair to their home.

From farmhouse boutique to shabby chic, Pickers on Main offers home furnishings for those looking to add a traditional flair to their home.

Pickers on Main fits the increasingly popular “buy local” principle, helping area shoppers avoid those time-consuming trips to Huntsville. “Just because New Hope is small doesn’t mean it can’t have the same things as the bigger cities have,” Hicks says. “The idea was out there, and then the Communicator ran the story on Mike Wolfe and it talked about how main streets in rural downtown areas are few and far between.”

It’s providing a popular place to shop and keeping the economic impact and tax dollars local. “This store is like Pinterest on Main Street,” Hicks says, laughing.

She also liked how ‘pickin’ can involve the whole family and teach children about pricing, budgeting and even local history. There are more than a dozen regular consigners, called “Partners in Hope,” that pledge to provide toward the program. Hicks finds that a Pablo Picasso quote sums up the core mission for the store: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

 

Pickers on Main  •  5499 Main Drive  •  New Hope, AL  •  256-723-2273  •  www.thecarecenter.us

Logging on to learn

Online classes enable a return to college

By Matt Ledger

Practicing what you preach is great advice for life, as is the case for a local educator who monitors students taking online courses by day, while spending her evenings in front of a computer in her own collegiate-level distance learning program. Jessica Farlow started as a special education aide for a year at New Hope High School in 2012. She has since monitored the computer lab, as students take online course work for credits, including foreign language classes.

After the school day’s final bell, she spends hours on her own computer, completing her own assignments toward becoming a certified elementary and special education teacher. “The older you get, the more responsibility you already have,” Farlow says. She will graduate in Spring 2016 and hopes for a teaching position in Madison County.

Teachers with extra homework

New Hope High School’s computer lab technician Jessica Farlow is seeking a degree through a distance learning program.

New Hope High School’s computer lab technician Jessica Farlow is seeking a degree through a distance learning program.

Farlow attended Calhoun Community College in Huntsville from 2006 to 2009, receiving an associate degree in business. “I enjoyed going to campus, but online classes are much more convenient,” she says. She began classes again in 2013 with online courses through Athens State University.

She’s not the only teacher at New Hope with extra homework. English teacher Lydia Armstrong has taught at the school for five years. She studied online and received her Bachelor of Arts from Athens State in 2010, only attending two courses on campus. Armstrong is now taking online courses, through The University of West Alabama, working toward her master’s in English language arts for secondary education. She ultimately hopes to become a professor at a local college.

Starting on campus, completing online

New Hope Telephone’s Marketing Administrator Christy Nelson grew up hearing her mother’s stories of hardworking days on the assembly line. While working at her own factory job, she began thinking about other career paths. “That was when I decided that I wanted to go back to school,” Nelson says.

She began at Virginia College of Huntsville in 2004, seeking her associate degree in administrative office management. While pursuing her associate degree, she began working as a customer service representative for New Hope Telephone Cooperative.

Nelson continued toward a bachelor’s, but she needed to take one course that was not offered on campus. Reluctantly, she had to try it through the school’s well-known online program. “I was nervous about it, but I went ahead with it, and I actually loved it,” Nelson says. “Initially, I never would have considered it, until I was put in the position where I had to do it to get the credit.”

New Hope High School’s Jessica Farlow helping a student during an online class.

New Hope High School’s Jessica Farlow helping a student during an online class.

Connecting to classes

It can be overwhelming that first semester, as online students must be disciplined enough to stay on schedule, Farlow cautioned. “I figured out quickly that I needed to write a weekly list of assignments,” she says. “That way, I would try to set my own schedule, like I was actually going to classes.”

Farlow, Armstrong and Nelson say self-motivation is key to thriving in an online program. Being computer savvy is also an important factor for those avoiding the classroom.

Distance was the biggest factor for Armstrong — facing a one-hour-and-45-minute drive each way meant more time in the car than she would spend in the classroom. “I lived in Dutton, so driving to Athens for the classes was just an inconvenience,” Armstrong says.

Taking classes from home meant hours that would have been spent in the car would become time for her to study, and money that would have gone for gas went to pay for tuition. The graduate-level online courses she is now taking provide new challenges. “It’s a lot more intense, especially having a full-time job and trying to have a personal life,” she says.

Distance learning programs help family life

Nelson’s determination for a degree was met with new challenges once her sons, Kaleb and Kody arrived. “When I was going to the campus, I would work until 5 p.m., then I would go straight to school, and I was there until almost 10 p.m.,” says Nelson, who made the one-hour roundtrip four nights each week while her boys stayed with their grandparents. “Kaleb would be in bed by the time I got home, so I felt like I was losing out on time with him.”

New Hope Telephone  Cooperative’s Christy Nelson advanced to marketing administrator upon completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees through online courses.

New Hope Telephone Cooperative’s Christy Nelson advanced to marketing administrator upon completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees through online courses.

She met her husband, Jason Steelman, while on the Huntsville campus during a keyboarding class. Both quickly learned that the convenience of online studies helped bring balance to busy schedules and family time. “When you have kids, this is the way to go,” Nelson says.

Nelson’s third child, Celsea, arrived while she and her husband worked toward master’s degrees in business administration. Christy became the NHTC marketing administrator in 2012, in part because her new degrees qualified her for the position. For the past two years, she and other NHTC staffers have helped community members through classes at NHTC’s Digital Literacy Lab. “That was my dream as a child; I wanted my own office,” Nelson says. “I absolutely love it now; there’s never a dull moment, and it’s a dream come true.”

New service offers peace of mind

By Matt Ledger

NHTC’s Security Solutions team can help protect your home or business with state-of-the-art security services.

NHTC’s Security Solutions team can help protect your home or business with state-of-the-art security services.

Another day begins in a flurry. Peaceful sleep interrupted by the alarm. Bright lights making eyes cringe as you wander through the morning maintenance routine that seems to run on autopilot. Most mornings it works well, but every now and then a step is skipped. How many times have you been miles from the driveway, only to question, “Did I really lock the front door? Is the garage door shut?”

Technology can play a role in that peace of mind as a safety net for faulty memories, establishing routines that are truly automatic.

Dave Tandy and his wife, Angie, moved to New Hope four years ago. He owns AG Optical, a business where he crafts high-end telescope systems for astrophotographers. While he monitors the

The Tandys were one of the first families to sign up with NHTC Security. Shown here (from left) Gabe, Angie, Ashley and Dave.

The Tandys were one of the first families to sign up with NHTC Security. Shown here (from left) Gabe, Angie, Ashley and Dave.

constellations and shooting stars above, his personal and business properties are kept under close watch by NHTC Security, New Hope Telephone Cooperative’s brand-new, state-of-the-art security service. The Tandys became one of NHTC Security’s first customers last year.

“While I feel like we live in a safe area, and we really like New Hope, it’s just nice to have that extra sense of security that comes from having an alarm system,” Tandy says. “Having the ability to monitor and control the system through our smartphones is just super convenient.”

For home or business

NHTCSecurityTeam0271Upon moving to the area in 2010, the Tandys started Rooster Run Farm. Aside from his telescope business, Tandy operates AG Composites, which creates carbon fiber components for the outdoor sporting industry. In addition to securing their home, the Tandys found it beneficial to add protective measures around their businesses.

“I find them very responsive, and the installation went smoothly,” Tandy says of NHTC’s security team. “It’s one of the advantages of being in a small town and belonging to a telephone cooperative.” NHTC sent technicians to consult with Tandy as he had very specific requirements for their properties.

“Within two or three days, they were out here installing it,” Tandy says. “The system is very easy to use, and we picked up how to do it really quick.”

The family accidentally caused a false alarm, which inadvertently gave them reassurance in the new product. “The response time was very fast,” he says. “I was pleased in that it tested the system. We’ve had other systems in the past at our previous homes and had the alarm go off. It seemed like a long time before they called. So this system is very reassuring now.”

New technology for NHTC

The touch screen can conveniently display the five-day forecast.

The touch screen can conveniently display the five-day forecast.

Last year, NHTC’s security installers received their level-two security system certifications from state officials.

Ever since the first phone line was installed in 1948, locals have turned to NHTC as a reliable partner for telecommunications and cable TV services. The new service features a two-tiered security system to help safeguard families. Homeowners can start with the traditional basic landline security system, consisting of a motion sensor and window contacts that interact wirelessly with a touch screen terminal. A glass breakage sensor can lessen the number of security devices in any room with numerous windows. The siren will alert owners in the event of an intruder, and the 24/7 monitoring will inform the proper authorities.

NHTC installer Bart Hopkins checks the security system’s touch screen display.

NHTC installer Bart Hopkins checks the security system’s touch screen display.

NHTC installers can customize the system to fit your home and future needs — including those of your four-legged family members.. The Tandys’ dog, Kodiak, a Treeing Tennessee brindle, was the original security for the family. NHTC Security added a pet-immune motion detector that allows Kodiak to freely roam inside the home without causing any false alarms.

For those who have bought new systems with national security providers, NHTC can usually take over the monitoring of qualified equipment, at a lower monthly cost, once that contract has expired. All of the installed equipment can be covered under a lifetime warranty for a small fee and will belong to the homeowner upon completion of the three-year contract.

Expanding the Possibilities

NHTC Security customers can be upgraded to the TotalConnect package, which the Tandys selected, adding cellular and Wi-Fi communicators to the system and giving them the mobility to use a smartphone as a keypad access to the system.

Customer Service Supervisor Kanita Medlen (back) with Billing Coordinator Nikki Dudley can help you decide which security features are right for you.

Customer Service Supervisor Kanita Medlen (back) with Billing Coordinator Nikki Dudley can help you decide which security features are right for you.

When it becomes available later this year, the Tandys, and all other customers, will be able to add Wi-Fi surveillance cameras to remotely monitor their property and keep track of their kids’ activities.

Another convenience to the NHTC system is the weather display from the control panel. A quick tap of the control panel will display a five-day forecast. “One other thing that is very convenient with us being in such a tornado-prone area is that our alarm system will automatically alert us of the warnings that come out,” says Tandy. Within the first month of having the system, the Tandys experienced a late-night alarm that alerted them of a tornado warning. “That’s a real nice feature that we’ve never had in the past,” Tandy says.

NHTC Security can help customize a solution that is just right for your home and budget. Homeowners can save as much as 15 percent on their homeowners insurance rates with qualified security systems, making home security more affordable than you might think. Call 256-723-4211 and schedule a free consultation today!