Thoughts from the official state columnist
Leada Gore, Editor
Driving through rural Mississippi last week, Greg's mom pointed out a leafy green bush already sprouting pink flowers thanks to the unusually warm weather.
"It's a camellia," she said.
"And what's important about the camellia?" I asked, seizing one of those teachable moments.
"It's the state flower of Alabama," Greg said. "I took Alabama history, too."
Just about every school child in the state can name the State Flower or the State Bird (Yellowhammer, as in ramma, jamma for University of Alabama fans). But I bet few can name the State Amphibian (it's the Red Hills Salamander for those of you who didn't know).
Years ago, I covered the story of naming the State Amphibian and the uproar that can come from selecting one slimy, gross creature over another slimy, gross creature to represent your state. And then, just last year, Gov. Bob Riley created an uproar when he named Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey as the State's Official Spirit, prompting temperance cries from throughout the state. Incidentally, drinking too much fine whiskey can leave your tongue feeling like a slimy, gross creature, but that's a different column.
Alabama has lots of strange things we've chosen to represent us in one way or the other.
We have an Official State Barbecue Championship (Demopolis Christmas on the River Cook-off); an Official Horseshoe Tournament (The Stockton Fall Horseshoe Tournament); and an Official Agricultural Museum (Dothan Landmark Park).
For outdoor lovers, we have you covered, too. Our Official Tree is the Southern Longleaf Pine. Our Official Soil is the aptly named Bama Soil Series (it would have been hard to choose, say, the Tennessee Soil Series, after all). Our Official Wildflower is the Oak-Leaf Hydrangea and our Official Fruit is the Blackberry, something I find a bit suspect as I have yet to see a water tower anywhere in the state that looks like a blackberry, but Clanton's Peach Water Tower on Interstate 65 is rather famous.
We have an Official State Quilt, the Pine Burr Quilt; an Official State Gemstone, the Star Blue Quartz; and two Official State Fish, one saltwater (the Fighting Tarpon) the other freshwater (Big Mouth Bass). We even have an Official State Folk Dance (square dancing).
The one thing missing from the exhaustive list? An Official State Newspaper Columnist. Therefore, I would like to declare my candidacy for this position. I hear I will have competition, however. The Official State Reptile (the Alabama Red-Bellied Turtle) is looking to move up to a new post.