Category Archives: Central Alabama

I Love the Landscape Because It Is So Sincere. It Never Cheats Me.

“I love nature, I love the landscape, because it is so sincere. It never cheats me. It never jests. ~ Henry David Thoreau ~


Taken between Townsend, TN and Cades Cove, TN

Most of you know me as the BamaSteelMagnolia. And, there is a reason for that. For most of my life I’ve lived in Sweet Home Alabama, a state I love from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.

I’ve gone to school here, married one guy from here (big mistake, but not because he was from Alabama), birthed a child here, divorced here, remarried a Tall & Handsome southwestern cowboy here and battle twice non-smoking lung cancer here. I’ve lived more decades than I care to share here in this state I am passionate about.

In other words, I’ve done a lot of living, losing, loving and everything in between in this place I call home – Alabama.

What you may not know: on a cold January morning I was born to two young people in an East Tennessee hospital as the Great Smoky Mountains stood silently in the background, an ever present sentinel in my early life and childhood.


I’m the little head peaking out in the crook of Momma’s arm. My gorgeous parents.

So, what does that mean and why am I telling you this?

Well, it’s been a rough week for me and my family as we’ve watched the Smokies and Gatlinburg burn.

I don’t care how long you’ve been gone, it’s not easy to watch the places of your childhood and childhood memories, and the places of your ancestry go up in smoke. It’s a helpless feeling. And, if you still have family living in those parts, the helpless feeling is compounded. I can’t even begin to tell you what I feel to know these fires were started by arsonists.

I spent about the first 12 years of my life in or around East Tennessee with the exception of a year or so when I was two. My daddy worked in the engineering department of an aircraft company in the Dallas area at that time. But, you just don’t take a mountain boy out of the mountains and put him on the flat plains of Texas, and, so, back to Tennessee we went.

We eventually ended up in the central Alabama area and I think it stuck for a couple of reasons. Daddy worked for an engineering company started by brothers who were University of Tennessee grads (where Daddy started his college career), the terrain is similar to East Tennessee – we all ended up living on this little mountain top in Alabama because it reminded us of our roots – and the people here in Alabama are 24K gold.

But, oh, the childhood memories I have of those times and places in East Tennessee.

Walks with my Papaw as he pointed out the name of each tree. Watching him have his faithful hunting dog do all kinds of tricks for cornbread. MaMaw and Papaw letting us dig up peanuts or pick some cotton from the garden. This gal from the burbs thought she was a real farm hand then.

Weekend trips to the mountains taking in the fall colors, wading in the cold mountain streams, picnics with the grandparents, and my Aunt Ruthie’s house in Kinzel Springs. You had to walk over a swinging foot bridge to get to her house. It sat backed up against the mountain and even in the summer time, that house never seemed hot. As a matter of fact, back then, those mountains always seemed like the coolest place on earth to be.

It was just a “hop, skip and a jump” over twisting, hairpin two lane mountain roads to Cherokee, NC where we could see a Cherokee chief. My paternal grandmother was originally from Western North Carolina and it was said she was part Cherokee. She looked the part, but we’ve never confirmed the ancestry.

My PaPaw worked at the Little River Lumber Company back in the day. He was a clerk in the company store. My cousins tell me there’s a picture of him in the train museum in Townsend. He was also the fill-in mail carrier for Cades Cove and Daddy went on that route a time or two with PaPaw.

That’s my roots on the “quiet side of the Smokies”, my Daddy’s side. My little Momma is a different story.

Several years ago I started the journey into genealogy and it’s a journey I’ve loved and wished I had started sooner. Once I jokingly told Momma she was a half-breed. She was startled at first and then I laughed and explained.

Tennessee is divided into West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee. Any good Tennessean knows that. Mom’s ancestry is Middle Tennessee/East Tennessee (on her mother’s side). Half and half.

And, it is that East Tennessee ancestry on Momma’s side that carries me back to Gatlinburg.

You see William Ogle and Martha Jane Huskey Ogle are my 5th great-grandparents. Martha Jane Huskey Ogle’s cabin was the first house built in what is now known as Gatlinburg. William and Martha had 7 children and I descend through two of their sons, William “Black Bill” Ogle and Isaac “Shucky” Ogle.

A few years back I went to Edgefield, SC to get a copy of William Ogle, the father’s will. That type of documentation is like the holy grail for a genealogist. The Ogle family was living in Edgefield and William went to Tennessee to prepare for the family to move. He laid up provisions and he cut and notched timbers to build a log cabin for his family. He went back to Edgefield to get his family for the move back to Tennessee, but before they could leave South Carolina, William fell ill and died.

Martha Jane didn’t go to Tennessee at first, but she eventually did and family members helped raise the cabin using the timbers William had prepared.

It was the first house built in White Oak Flats, a place that would become known as Gatlinburg. Over time other families moved in. You saw the formations of clans with names that pop up in my family tree. If you throw a rock into a crowd of locals there’s a good chance I’m distantly related to them – including a famous country songbird who shares a common ancestor with me named Henry Bohannon, my 5th great grand-father.

My family was founding fathers of an area I watched decimated by a historical fire this past week. I never thought I would live to see anything like this. I hope I never have to see anything like this again and I pray for more rain to come their way.

I listened and watched as I saw names like Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Chimney Tops, Clingman’s Dome, Newfound Gap, Wear’s Valley and others threatened and burned. And, each time my heart broke.

For me, it’s not only pride in the pioneer spirit of my ancestors, but it’s also love of the location and area. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth. When I go into the mountains, my heart sings and my spirit is refreshed. I feel at home.

Just like the people, this area is resilient. They survived the Great Depression and floods after floods before TVA. It will come back and they will come back. There will be regrowth and rebirth. Mountain folk are good strong people, just like the land around them. They have learned from the land. They need our continued support and prayers.

Thoreau said it best, “I love nature, I love the landscape, because it is so sincere. It never cheats me. It never jests.”

My birthplace is sincerely hurting right now, but it will be a beautiful landscape once again – and the people will be there with it – rejoicing.

© 2016 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.



Leave a comment

Filed under Alabama, Birth, Cades Cove, Central Alabama, Daddy, East Tennessee, East Tennessee Fire, East Tennessee Heritage, Family, Gatlinburg, Gatlinburg Fire, genealogy, Grief, Home, Memories, Momma, Mountains, Nature, Ogle, Photography, Picture of the Day, Quote of the Day

Like Stars that Cling to Fairies Wands, by Beverly Hicks Burch

“There is a Music of Immaculate love, That breathes within the virginal veins of Spring; And trillium blossoms, like stars that cling To Fairies wands…” ~ Madison Julius Cawein ~

backyard trillium april 2013

Immaculate love. You might be asking what is that exactly? Well, simply put it means love without stain or without blemish. You might go a step further and say it is unconditional love. Quite simply it is pure, perfect love.

In today’s world, it might be hard to imagine that kind of love. It’s so easy to be cynical and skeptical when we take a look around us and see what’s going on in the world. We see selfishness, cruelty, danger, bullies, arrogance and yes, even evil. For me pure evil is anyone that would harm an innocent child in any form or fashion. Over the last few years, here in the South it seems like even Mother Nature has turned her wrath upon us as we’ve been racked with one storm after another, one tornado after another, one hurricane after another. We’re not feeling much love coming our way when a F5 tornado is bearing down on us…

So, it would be easy to harden your heart…and erect walls around your heart for protection…

But, in doing so, what would you miss? Love, joy, wonder and those wonderful “ah ha” moments in life.

Tall & Handsome and I have gone through our fair share of trials over the years. It’s like my Aunt LaRue said to me on more than one occasion, “Honey, if you didn’t have bad luck, you wouldn’t have any luck at all.”

My health has declined as fast as a melting snowman on a hot day in July. T & H has seen his field of profession suffer through terrible downturns because of the economy and off-shoring of jobs. Personal finances have suffered like millions of others around the globe.

It is a tumultuous time for everyone in some form or fashion…

So, what sustains you? Gets you through?


And, yes, you can still find pure, simple love all around you.

There is nothing as sweet and pure and delightful as a child’s laugh. It delights me to hears my nieces’ laugh. A merry heart doeth good like medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17:22 Their laughter is like a big old dose of medicine for this smitten aunt. Any, laughter does my heart good…it is one of the things I love about T & H…we laugh…

I see love pure and simple when I look at my two Miniature Schnauzer, Watson and Baby Girl, and ask, “Do you want a biscuit?” If I ask, “Who wants a marshmallow?” well, the loving cup in overflowing. It is something we have discovered that delights our little rescued, damaged, and broken Baby Girl to the point of bravery and spastic delight. She would walk over hot coals for a marshmallow…

I’ve seen unconditional, pure, simple and lasting love between two people who have been married for over 60 years. They have been through tests and trials, seen history made and raised three daughters. Those three girls were raised during a time when most women were demanding equal rights yet, they were bewildered because they never had anything to be “delivered from”. They were raised to believe they could be anything that wanted to be. Those two people also raise the youngest special needs daughter for 50+ years at home with dedication and immaculate love. Why? Because, it is what you do. Those two people are my momma and daddy.

I see love in a man who chose to love a woman with so many health problems her medical history could be case study. Yet, he does not see her that way. He sees her as his “beautiful wife”. That is my T & H.

It is no secret I live to see the trillium bloom in the Spring. It is a privilege to see them in my own backyard. They usually grow in secluded forested areas, yet there they are in my own back yard. What a special gift! I can’t help but think: “Let the Heavens rejoice; let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.” Psalm 96:11-12 NIV

So when I look back and I examine all the little bright spot in life, I pretty soon begin to realize that they all come together and are like those wonderful trillium blossoms. Yes, they are all there like bright stars clinging to the end of a fairy’s wand sprinkling stardust of love, relief, calm and comfort in our lives…

I can hardly wait to find more trilliums and more stars at the end of the wand…

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.



Filed under Alabama, Birmingham AL, Central Alabama, Horticulture, Life, Love, Photography, Picture of the Day, Quote of the Day, Tall & Handsome, Trilliums

Forest Primeval, by Beverly Hicks Burch

"This is forest primeval” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow~

Sometime back I shared a photograph with you I had taken on a stroll down the path on the property at the back of my parent’s home. They own a few acres and Mom has a little path she has kept down just for that purpose…strolling and communing with Nature and God’s beauty.

I’ve walked that path many times, at different times of the year and under different conditions.

I took today’s picture of the day after a particularly damp period. It was like the floor of the forest were replete with blooming fungi. It was totally fascinating…and primeval…

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alabama, Central Alabama, Horticulture, Mushrooms, Photography, Picture of the Day

Perfect Soul Mates, by Beverly Hicks Burch

“How coffee and cold winter mornings are two of the best soul mates who ever did find each other.” ~ Terrie Guillmets ~

the burden of cold

How do 70 degrees December days sound to you? Well, we’ve had a few of them lately, but never fear they are not for these climes for long. Our top notch meteorologist is promising the coldest weather of the season is headed this way and will be pushing into this area by Monday.

Oh, goodie…

No, really, I mean it because you know how I feel about hot weather (I hate it) and warm weather at Christmas is just wrong!

Two years ago we had what has been called a “generational event” for this area. That was a White Christmas in 2010. Can we shoot for two?! I mean the Crimson Tide is going for its third National Championship, so what would be so bad with two White Christmas in the life of kids in the South? It would probably give birth to the next generation of Tennessee Williams, Harper Lees and the next great Southern writer…

This picture was taken of a shrub at the end of the house under the burden of snow and ice during the “Snowpocalypse – Jan. 2011” right after our White Christmas.

It was awesome Winking smile

And, yes, it was then I discovered that cold mornings and hot coffee (or even hot tea) are perfect soul mates…the best in the world…

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

Leave a comment

Filed under Alabama, Central Alabama, Photography, Picture of the Day, Snow, Snow in AL, Winter

Autumn Burned Brightly, by Beverly Hicks Burch

“Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.” ~ Faith Baldwin ~

Washington Valley F 11-12

My Tall & Handsome took today’s picture the other day on our drive through Washington Valley. It had been a drizzly, overcast day. A few areas actually had sleet that day. A perfect day for a drive to take in the glorious colors of autumn.

This picture also serves to show why Washington Valley is indeed a valley…it IS a little valley nestled by mountains on either side.

And, Autumn is burning brightly…

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

Leave a comment

Filed under Alabama, Autumn, Central Alabama, Faith Baldwin, Fall, Fall Color, Photography, Picture of the Day, Tall & Handsome, Washington Valley Alabama

It Speaks Bliss to Me, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Every leaf speaks bliss to me, Fluttering from the autumn tree” ~ Emily Bronte ~

Washington Valley D 11-12

There is a place very close to where I live called Washington Valley. I had never taken Tall & Handsome to this favorite spot of mine, so while we were out the other day we ventured that way.

It was on our drive through Washington Valley that the three white tail deer scampered across the road in front of use. It was an experience you would expect to have in Cades Cove near the Smoky Mountains and not just a few miles north of the largest city in Alabama.

I love this little spot…especially in the fall…because it speaks bliss to me…

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

Leave a comment

Filed under Alabama, Central Alabama, Emily Bronte, Fall, Fall Color, Nature, Photography, Picture of the Day, Washington Valley Alabama

One Autumnal Face, by Beverly Hicks Burch

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace ; As I have seen in one autumnal face.” ~ John Donne ~

Simmons Mnt fall 11-12 B

It may just be me, but fall has been spectacular and brilliant this year!

In this season of thankfulness, here is but one reason I am content and happy to live where I live. While we were out driving amongst the serene beauty of nature Wednesday, three deer scampered out of the woods and across the road in front of us. They quickly disappeared into the forest on the other side of the road.

Amongst all of this, it was so easy to forget the worries on the mind and just how close to a bustling metropolis we really live. It was also easy to be transported in time to another place and time.

Courtesy of one autumnal face…

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

Leave a comment

Filed under Alabama, Central Alabama, Fall, Fall Color, John Donne, Photography, Picture of the Day

Welcome to Fall, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Welcome to fall 11-12

It’s been a very busy time around our household. And, we’re entering a time of the year when things get even busier. This week in particular we’ve been as busy as a one armed wall paper hanger (as the old timer use to say).

But, I just so happened to have my camera with me yesterday and I made a point of taking some time to take some pictures of the glorious colors blessing our surroundings at the moment. This particular picture was taken at the entrance of an “estate” near where my folks live.

Yesterday was cloudy, drizzling and cold! There were actually some places here in central Alabama that saw sleet yesterday. In my humble opinion, it was the perfect fall day…

“It was one of those perfect…autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.” ~ P. D. James ~

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

Leave a comment

Filed under Alabama, Autumn, Central Alabama, Fall, Fall Color, Photography, Picture of the Day

Summer in the South and a Big Ol’ Shady Porch, by Beverly Hicks Burch

summertime porch

Does anything say summer in the South like a big ol’ shady front porch? Add to that a bright sunny day and red, white and blue and you’ve just got an all American day.

We were glad to be able to finally recapture this half of the porch back. The barn swallows finally hatched (all five of them) and left the nest. Tall & Handsome took the nest down Saturday and washed the porch down.

You’d be amazed at how much poop baby birds can manufacture! The little rascals will have to find a new place to nest next year, but they seem very partial to our front porch. They keep flying into the porch, up to the corner to where the nest once was and it’s like “Oh, wow, it’s gone!” They hover a moment then perch on a ledge up next to the ceiling. If they had a face their expression would be stunned. I know they’re trying to figure out this new situation. Hopefully by next breeding season we’ll finally have our feeding stations set up in the back and they’ll find a more appropriate place to nest.

For now, we’ll just sit and rock out on the front porch and watch as the swallows settle their dilemma…it’s kind of like watching 45 year old kids who are still living at home and we’re ready for an empty nest…

We anticipate rocking and watching the leaves change when autumn rolls around…have I mentioned I love where I live?

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved


Leave a comment

Filed under Alabama, Central Alabama, Flags, Front Porches, Home, Photography, Picture of the Day, Summer in the South, Tall & Handsome, The South

Dappled Lane, by Beverly Hicks Burch

light and shadows c

My parents live on the same little mountain top in Alabama that I do. As a matter of fact we all moved up here several years ago because it reminded us of our roots back in East Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains.

You know that old saying “you can take the boy out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the boy”? Well, it holds true for the mountains. If you have them in your heritage then you are pretty much guaranteed to be lured back to them time and time again, all of your life no matter where you may physically be.

Daddy and Momma have a couple of acres or so behind their house and the right side of the property runs along a steep bluff overlooking a valley and large ancient outcroppings of rock. This little path…almost an old country lane…runs along side of that bluff. Today I took a stroll down that path enjoying some of the last cool and comfortable weather before we get blasted with the sauna heat of summer.

It’s just a tiny speck of the beauty of this state and why I call Alabama…sweet home Alabama…

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved


Leave a comment

Filed under Alabama, Central Alabama, Home, Nature, Photography, Picture of the Day, South, Sweet Home Alabama