CHEAHA: Page Four

Approaching Ashland, we noticed a small white sign lettered in black with “St. Mark Catholic Church.” As members of St. Mark the Evangelist church in North Shelby County, we were curious to find out what this St. Mark’s looked like, so we turned down Country Club Road, a barely paved thoroughfare that wound past a busy golf course—one of those essential businesses, like liquor stores, allowed to remain open when other establishments have been forced to close because of THE VIRUS.

Just past the golf course, we pulled into the gravel parking lot of St. Mark’s off to the right. The church was small, whitewashed, and one story. No cars in its parking lot this Saturday morning, and probably wouldn’t be on any Sunday this month either. It seemed like a good place to walk Gracie and stretch our own legs before moving on. However, just as I opened the car door, I heard a low growl and looked up to see what appeared to be a pit bull heading straight for us from some overgrown property next to the church. He was tan, mottled with black, red tongue hanging out and white teeth slobbering. I shudder to think how quickly he would have made a meal of Gracie if I’d gotten out of the car with her.

Ashland, Alabama, is named for an estate in Kentucky belonging to 19th century politician and statesman Henry Clay. It’s been on the Alabama map since the late 1860s. I suppose naming the place after Clay’s Kentucky estate makes sense because this tiny town of about 2,000 is the county seat of Clay County, Alabama.

The town has had a roller coaster relationship with commerce. Before WWI, it was home to Alabama’s first graphite mine, but that boom ended when the graphite market dropped drastically after the war. Too bad those mine owners couldn’t hold out for another 100 years because graphite is the key element in today’s lithium batteries.

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