One of Slade Chappelle’s most prized possessions cost him only $5 at a Roebuck area yard sale about eight years ago.
The double-page ad poster, which appears to be from a 1940 section of the Birmingham News, notes simply, "$1 membership helps to carry out this great work," referring to that year’s work of the Jefferson County Alabama Sportsman’s Association.
The poster continues, "The Association is but five years old, but in that short time it has established a reservation of 90,000 acres in west Jefferson and has planted thereon some 65 deer, 100 guineas and some turkey.
"The reservation has been guarded by our own warden for five years and will be opened for hunting the latter part of 1941."
The poster goes on to note, "The Association is furnishing the farmers in and near our preserve the necessary seed to plant for winter forage for deer and other game. 20 bird baths have been established.
"More than 2 million fish have been planted in various streams and lakes in Jefferson County and Lake Purdy. The Warrior, Cahaba, Little Cahaba Rivers; Turkey, 5-Mile and Shades Creek have all received fish from us and are receiving more from time to time."
The poster noted the Association was operating several fish hatcheries and raising ponds for bream and bass, and "had the use of" Lane Park, Highland Park Country Club, Avondale and East Lake Parks, and "the industrial water supply in Lake Inman."
(Slade wonders if that is a misprint and instead refers to Inland Lake in Blount County.)
The poster talks of securing fire towers for protection of the preserve and includes a map and photos of several of the areas mentioned. Large black dots on the map show where brown trout, rock bass, largemouth bass and bluegill bream were planted.
"I’ve tried to get more information on this group and the preserve they established, but I’ve come up empty-handed so far," Slade explained. "But I just think the poster about their activities is amazing."
Slade feels almost certain many of the bucks he has harvested in and around Blount County are descendants of the deer established in that World War II-era preserve.
He’s had several of those buck mounted, including one which scored 144 last year.
"I guess you could say I’ve been a conservationist all my life," Slade noted from his farm atop Pine Mountain. "We need to take care of our wildlife and our lands because this is the home we all share. We need to hunt responsibly to control wildlife, but make sure they have adequate habitat as our human population continues increasing.
"Hunters need to be responsible and let those younger bucks mature. Not just shoot at anything they see. It’s important."
The Chappelles’ home sits in St. Clair, the Blount-St. Clair line dissecting their pasture.
While raised in the Pinson area, he and his wife, Amy, bought their current property in 1994 and built their home in 1999. Their three daughters Lily, Ana and Maddy attend the Oneonta City School as out-of-district students.
The Chappelles also own 80 acres in the Village Springs area. While they are cutting timber on about 40 of those acres, tree lovers have no room to dismay. Slade has planted hundreds of sawtooth oaks and other trees on that and his Pine Mountain property as well as more than 100 additional fruit trees (many of which were purchased at the Blount County Farmers Co-op in Oneonta).
A backyard pond provides habitat for both wild and domesticated ducks, whose eggs the family is learning to prize.
While he has worked professionally as a firefighter/paramedic for more than 20 years, and Amy works for long-time Woodlawn veterinarian, Dr. Elliot Martin, who has been a vet since 1958 and is believed to be the longest-serving vet in Alabama.
"She has rehabilitated everything from squirrels to rabbits to deer to, of course, cats and dogs," Slade explained.
Hay for Amy’s seven mostly Rocky Mountain horses is raised on the Pine Mountain farm while the horses are currently living on her parent’s larger farm elsewhere in Blount County.
Slade noted a sawtooth oak, one of many in a line down his farm’s driveway, which he planted as an 18-inch seedling and now rises about 35 feet.
"This provides many of the acorns I now plant. I do a lot of research and I learned on the Internet the period of chilling they need in order to plant them and have them grow successfully. They need to be cold for three to four months to germinate. I think I paid 45 cents for this seedling when I bought it from the state about 15 to 18 years ago. These trees make large acorns wildlife just love."
Likewise Slade was thinking primarily of wildlife when he shopped for his fruit trees, planting hardy trees like Yates apples.
Slade’s "basement domain" (he won’t call it a man cave!) includes a mounted 1929 Auburn letter sweater and a photo of his grandfather, Howard Chappelle, who roomed with Shug Jordan and broke all sorts of football records; he died the year before Slade was born.
Also featured are numerous shadow boxes of points and arrowheads, all gathered within Blount County.
"I have a friend who lives near a river and he gave us permission to search there. We plowed a spot of about 50 yards. Usually you have to wait on a rain to find the arrowheads, but as I was plowing you could see them just rise to the top. It was amazing."
"I just love to do anything outside. My wife is into horses. I grow hay and do the hauling, and in return she lets me fish and hunt," he laughed.
But on a more serious note he concluded, "We just have so many treasures on and in our land. We need to preserve things the best we can. I feel like we have that responsibility. I guess that’s why I like that old poster so well."
Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County. She can be reached through her website at www.suzysfarm.com.