By Gary Lloyd I have stood inside the ropes at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, among the pink azaleas and tall dogwoods, and played for free at the … Continue reading Home on the range
Help One Person At A Time
Words of slain Moody sergeant will live on By Gary Lloyd MOODY — The city I called home for almost five years was dressed up as if it were homecoming … Continue reading Help One Person At A Time
By Gary Lloyd As someone who writes stories, I am conditioned to find the theme, to dig for the hidden meaning like a dog after whatever lies a foot beneath … Continue reading Sandlot Sonny
Governor announces death of state’s ‘first dog’
MONTGOMERY — The Office of the Governor is sad to announce the death of Bear, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s beloved dog, who passed away Friday from ongoing health issues. Bear, a … Continue reading Governor announces death of state’s ‘first dog’
The following story is a chapter in my book, Valley Road: Uplifting Stories from Down South. Get it here. By Gary Lloyd The name of the town is Moody, but … Continue reading Moody
Moody makes national news for right reasons
By Gary Lloyd MOODY – The city I call home has gone viral for the right reason. In a school not a half mile from my house, a beautiful thing … Continue reading Moody makes national news for right reasons
Book of inspiring stories releases Sept. 15
MOODY, Ala. — Gary Lloyd has released his fourth book, Valley Road: Uplifting Stories from Down South.
The book is broken down into three parts: People, Places and Play.
In the People section, Lloyd tells stories of inspirational people, from a BMX stunt team motivating a school of elementary students to a man with severe Alzheimer’s miraculously remembering how to play a specific song on the piano.
In the Places section, Lloyd takes readers on a heartening and descriptive ride through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, to the concrete jungle of New York City, to the Green Monster at Fenway Park, to the azaleas at Augusta National Golf Club, and many places in between.
In the Play section, high school coaches from around the Southeast tell their favorite stories, words that have never made the Sports section of their local newspapers. In exclusive interviews with Lloyd, they talk about why they became coaches, about basketball saving lives, about baseball players gathering for Bible studies, about a serve-others-first mentality.
“This has been a book I wanted to put together for a long time,” Lloyd said. “So much focus these days is on the 24-hour news networks, the horrible things that people say and do. I believe this is a book that many people need to read these days. They need to know that life in the 21st century is about much more than political debates, riots and negativity. This book is a collection of stories about the good in the world, about undisturbed land in Ellijay, Georgia, about ‘Stop For Prayer’ signs in the Wal-Mart parking lot, about a man retiring after more than fifty years in city service pleading for his wife to be thanked publicly for her support.”
Former University of Alabama quarterback Jay Barker, who led the Crimson Tide to the 1992 national championship, praised Valley Road.
“Gary shows in this book how coaches, youth pastors and community leaders truly impact the people around them and in turn impact communities in such a positive way. Each chapter demonstrates the positive impact of such people and reminds me of how such people have impacted my life, and encourages me and others to do the same. This book is a must read and one that hopefully encourages us all to realize the impact we can have on the people around us.”
Sean Dietrich, the author of seven books about life in the American South, also commented on the book.
“Gary Lloyd writes with fervor that leaves the reader feeling something akin to a plate of blackberry cobbler—with vanilla ice cream, of course. This book, and Gary himself, are gems in this world.”
Valley Road was published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing. The book is available on www.Amazon.com for $10 and on Kindle as an e-book for $7.99.
Lloyd is also the author of Trussville, Alabama: A Brief History, published by The History Press in 2014. He has also written two novels, Deep Green and Heart of the Plate, also available on Amazon.com.
Lloyd has been a journalist in Mississippi and Alabama. He grew up in Trussville, Ala., and earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from The University of Alabama in 2009. He lives in Moody, Ala., with his wife, Jessica, and their two dogs, Abby and Sonny.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit www.garylloydbooks.squarespace.com and Like his author page at www.facebook.com/GaryLloydAuthor.
Typical disturbances not in store
I wrote about this shopping center quite a few times. It was never about a new store opening, or a door-buster sale.
It was always about crimes and disturbances.
There was the possible flash mob in the summer of 2011. There was the alleged shoplifter in 2013 who fled from loss prevention authorities and struck an elderly man with his vehicle.
The last quarter of 2014 was full. In October, I wrote about two alleged purse-snatchers at this shopping center. Their M.O. was simple: One suspect would approach the women, loading purchased items into their vehicles, and he would say “Hello.” He would then snatch the purse and jump into a SUV that fled.
The next month, I wrote about shoplifters who crashed into two police cars during their attempt to flee the scene. The driver was caught after the wreck, while the passenger ran but was later apprehended. A responding police officer broke a finger in that ordeal. Luckily, I had the opportunity to also write about the suspects’ arrests.
After I left the daily journalism world, I often read about this shopping center. There was a weekday bomb threat at its anchor store in 2015. The store was evacuated. A year later, there was another bomb threat.
In December 2015, I read again about a shoplifter who fled, made it not even a mile, and wrecked into another vehicle. I read about police having to respond to a large group of loiterers on Christmas night in 2016. This January, I read about two people being arrested for disorderly conduct, and another person with a gun.
These stories make me uneasy. My mom shops there, as does my mother-in-law. Friends shop there. I’m thankful for police presence, but my Lord, it shouldn’t be that much of a necessity.
Today I went to this shopping center to eat lunch with my brother. I have become accustomed to seeing the red and blue lights here, the suspicious people strutting between the cars in the dark. Not today. Today was different. As I made the right turn into the shopping center, I saw a handful of people holding large white signs.
Great, I thought. I have seen photos and videos from the political protests across the nation. I was in Atlanta recently and observed about a hundred people marching in support of Obamacare. I assumed this would be something similar. We are conditioned to believe it is always a protest, these days.
I was dead wrong.
I’m not sure who they were, a family or members of some church group. But printed on their signs in red were “Stop For Prayer” and “Jesus Cares.”
I just hope those past stories, of fleeing thieves and hoax bomb threats, didn’t scare people away and keep them from seeing this today.
In the bleachers
We have lived in this town for more than two years, and we had never set foot in the high school.
That isn’t unusual, considering we are a handful of months past our ten-year reunion from a school in a different county. None of us has a kid that age, yet.
But earlier this month, we decided to go with a couple friends to a Monday night game against our town’s neighbor, separated by a bridge over the interstate. The Blue Devils versus the Green Wave. Where do they come up with these nicknames?
We pulled into a pickup-truck-filled parking lot about a half hour before tipoff. Walking into the gymnasium was like stepping into the past. The smell of cheap popcorn. Black Nikes squealing on a shiny floor. Cheerleaders forming a pyramid.
As a reporter, I grew accustomed to pretty much ignoring all this, and waltzing past the ticket counter, a badge emblazoned with “MEDIA” my key through any door. On Monday, I had to pay.
We sat with our friends in the top corner of the visitor bleachers, above the rickety black handrails, and I got to really take it all in. I did not have to scribble down statistics and Tweet about three-pointers. I just sat and watched.
It was a struggle of a game. The Blue Devils wore the Green Wave down late, winning 39-23 in a 32-minute game. The teams combined for fewer than two points per minute. The motion offense lacked motion at times. The two-three zone had holes. Wide-open shots grazed the side of the backboard. Passes went astray. One team dribbled the ball around for forty-plus seconds without shooting. There really should be a shot clock in high school hoops.
But it was all so beautiful. I was not buried in a notebook or scanning team rosters or shrinking some game information to 140 characters. I got to look up and take note of other things.
I saw the support of other Blue Devils, the students sitting in a circle ten rows up, talking with each other, face to face, instead of through Snapchat or whatever teenagers talk through these days.
I saw navy- and green-clad parents leaned against the wall on the back row, fixated on the flow of the game, some clapping, some with hands clenched tight when the game was close.
I saw tall banners covering the walls behind both basketball goals, each showing posed seniors. There were basketball players, wrestlers, others. How cool, to have your own life-size banner.
I saw a toddler obsessed with Mickey Mouse episodes on an iPhone during timeouts and at halftime, only to look up, hardly blinking, when the ball was being dribbled up and down the court. I saw another toddler, after the game, on a man’s shoulders, trying to throw a basketball through one hoop.
Being in the moment, instead of reaching in your pocket or purse to filter it on Instagram, is far underrated.
So look up.
It is hidden in the heart of town, in plain sight. It is never overcrowded, so we go when it is not too warm, not frigid. Those weather requirements vary from day to day in an Alabama January.
Today was a perfect day to go. We went in a hurry, to beat the forecasted rain. It was cloudy, but the breeze was pleasant. The 1.1-mile walk is not very tiring.
I loaded Sonny in the back of the truck, and we listened to Kane Brown on the five-minute drive over, arriving at 2:40 p.m. We made our way around the soccer and football fields on the paved walking path, reaching the monument on the right that honors the victims of the April 27, 2011 tornado.
Just to the left is a slow creek, which separates the ballfields from an open green lawn, where people hold picnics, where a local church hosts a trunk-or-treat event in October, at which enough Tootsie Rolls and Skittles are handed out to give a toothless man a cavity. There are picnic tables under a metal blue awning, and nearby is a basketball court with two hoops, both with wooden backboards. Old school, like it used to be. There is also a small playground, where moms push their babies on the swings, making them smile.
Back over to the right side, a dad underhands pitches to one of his two sons. The boy manages to make contact with every swing, despite the lime-green bat being almost as tall as him. He will be a good player, someday. His brother chases foul balls, waiting for his turn at the plate.
We pass a middle-aged woman power-walking, and she says hello. The two teenagers we come to also say hi. So does the old man who has to be sweltering in those blue jeans.
We continue our walk, and there is a Little Free Library behind the batting cages, a barn-shaped red mailbox, essentially, where people can place a book they think others may enjoy. You bring a book, you take a book. It is empty for now, but it is new. I think maybe I’ll bring a couple of my books next time.
Over to the left there is a baseball field designed specifically for individuals with mental and/or physical challenges. It is popular here. Beyond its right field fence is a Veterans Memorial Wall, covered in names.
We get past the baseball fields, and there is another open green space. An old man has jabbed a white pole in the soft ground, a light orange flag attached to its top. It appears the flag was likely once red, decades ago. The man is set up about 65 yards away, maybe a dozen golf balls at his feet. He winds up, swings and hits one right on line, just short of the flag. His next shot lands even closer, maybe five feet. I holler that it was a heck of a shot.
“I get one every now and then,” the man cracks.
We pass him, and I turn around to see one more shot. He does the same thing. He is modest.
Now, our walk is almost over. We pass park and recreation workers in a green John Deere 6×4, riding field to field, turning the damp dirt. Both workers wave at me. So does the lady driving away in her SUV.
It takes just 25 minutes for this walk, from start to finish. We left the house at 2:35, back by 3:10. Sonny is tired for now, thank goodness. There were no ringing cellphones on this quick trip, no need to know who just Tweeted what, no Facebook debates about marching women or inauguration populations.
Yeah, I think we will do this again tomorrow.