CHEAHA: Page Five

Ashland developed a new source of income in the 1920s when the Reverend Secelar Claxton Ray arrived at the county fair with a large batch of day-old chicks and displayed them beneath an oil-burning brooder. He encouraged local farmers to add chickens to their farms so they could supplement their “all cotton” cash crop. Good thing he did, too, because boll weevils invaded Ashland in the 1930s and destroyed the local cotton industry. Fortunately, by then, the good reverend had founded the Goodwill Poultry Farm and Hatchery, bought up vacant houses left behind by graphite miners, and hired his neighbors to work for him in their spare time. Ashland didn’t take a cue from the folks down in Enterprise and erect a boll weevil monument, but the poultry business that saved their economy lives on, as part of Koch (pronounced like “cook”) Foods, a $3 billion dollar chicken empire that employs 130,000 people in 70 countries.

TOR and I love back roads. No cookie cutter scenery for us. Occasionally we end up following a slow-going yellow and green John Deere or one of those rusty Chevys for a few miles on a two lane, but mostly, on this day, we had a pretty steady drive amid greenery and rolling hills. What with everybody supposed to be staying home, the last thing we expected was a traffic jam on Highway 9, but that’s what we got on the other side of Ashland. Apparently state road crews are essential workers, and they were busy repaving a section of the highway, complete with one-lane traffic and a pilot car. At least 20 cars were lined up in each direction, but the weather was gorgeous, so we just rolled the windows down a little farther and went with the slow flow for a while.

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