A couple of weeks ago, we took the kids up to my in-laws’ hunting camp in beautiful and gloriously rural Choctaw County for a family weekend with the grandparents, an aunt, a couple of uncles and some cousins.
It was that last cool weekend we usually get treated to once more each spring, the one before the oppressive Lower Alabama summer heat moves in on you like an unemployed cousin down on his luck, who of course brings his third wife, Humidity, along with him for a long and unwelcome stay. You are only able to get rid of him once Humidity finally flees in mid-October and he chases after her. Good riddance to you both!
So as we were sitting out by the fire pit enjoying the last cool breezes and some vino, we could hear the very loud and persistent calls of a whip-poor-will, who had also made his presence known the night before as he chanted seemingly non-stop right outside our window.
My husband made jokes about him obviously wanting some action from the whip-poor-Wil-heminas (my stupid joke, not his) and also how he needed to be silenced by whatever means necessary. I said, “You can’t shoot a whip-poor-will, it’s the state bird of Alabama.”
I was instantly greeted with a chorus louder than the whip-poor-will’s cries from my family of fellow Alabama natives of “No, it isn’t!”
“Oh yeah, yeah, that’s right,” I quickly corrected myself. “It’s the Yellowhammer. I don’t know what I was thinking.” I’m sure my fourth-grade Alabama history teacher would send me outside to clean the erasers if she had heard that egregious mistake.
And I had it relatively easy. I only remember having to learn the bird, the flower (camellia) and the song.
“Alabama, Alabama, we will aye be true to thee!” Thanks Julia Tutwiler!
But the fourth graders of today have a lot more studying to do, as we pretty much have an official “everything” in this great state, from state nut (it’s the pecan, though I’m sure we all have some other “nuts” in mind) to the official state rock (marble).
While some of these animals, cultural institutions, events, foods, etc., got their designations long ago, this trend seems fairly recent, with around 20 new “honorees” since 1990.
For instance, were you aware the official “Outdoor Drama” of Alabama is “The Miracle Worker,” which details the life of state legend Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan? OK, I guess that makes sense, but we also have an official state “Outdoor Musical Drama,” which is “The Incident at Looney’s Tavern.” The “incident” being when the Union-sympathizing residents of Winston County decided to secede from the state of Alabama after it seceded from their beloved Union.
OK fine, but my question: Why do they have to be performed outdoors?
We also have an official state Barbecue Competition (Alabama Barbecue Competition), horse show (AOHA Alabama State Championship Horse Show), horseshoe tournament (Stockton Fall Horseshoe Tournament) and an official agricultural museum (Dothan Landmark Park). So I’m thinking we may have a good shot at the official maritime museum if we could ever get ‘er open!
We somehow have an official Renaissance Fair (The Florence, Alabama, Renaissance Fair), but no official Carnival or Mardi Gras Celebration? WTH?
Come on, local delegation, get to drafting some self-serving designations for us! I have some ideas: Official City Music Festival (BayFest), Official Beach Music Festival (Hangout) and of course, the Official Crustacean Festival (Shrimp Festival), which could really gain some legs, or shall I say “pereopods,” as soon as the “brown shrimp” becomes the Official Crustacean of Alabama, which oh yes, is about to happen. The Farfantepenaeus aztecus has already made its way through the House and Senate this session and just has to be signed into law by the governor, so the shrimpy-shrimp should feel pretty good about his chances, though I hear the lobbyists for blue crabs and crawfish are forces to be reckoned with. (And I think that’s a joke, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the governor got a letter next week from Goat Hill’s preeminent mudbug lobbyist stating how he feels strongly that his client should be the official crustacean. I mean, can you suck the head of a brown shrimp, Gov. Bentley? I think not!)
And that even isn’t the most ridiculous thing becoming an official state something this session. The Lane Cake looks like it will become the official state cake, which was actually a great compromise (much like the one of 1787) among legislators with differing sweet tooths, or I guess sweet teeth. It was originally proposed as the official state dessert. I am not even sure what a Lane Cake is but, luckily, I suppose pie, pudding, cobbler and ice cream are all still up for grabs.
And most likely this isn’t something the parents of fourth graders will have to quiz their kids on, but if it makes it through the Senate this session, the official state font — yes font — to be used on all official state documents will be Garamond. Isn’t it lovely? This is it. (Hey Courier. Bye Felicia!)
I feel like this list is likely to keep growing, as there are just too many ways remaining for self-serving politicos to throw their folks back at home a bone. So by the time my oldest child takes Alabama History in 2019 I’m afraid we will have to spend an entire semester on this. (“No son, the official soil of Alabama is ‘Bama soil!’ How many times do we have to go over this?!?”).
The thought of it makes me want a strong shot of the official “spirit” of the state, Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey, which, by the way, is now owned by a Texas company and distilled in Kentucky.