‘Snowbirds’ leave home for home

Published 7:59 pm Friday, March 12, 2010

Going home or leaving home?

The Snowbirds who have “lighted” in Pike County over the past few months are packed and ready to head back “up north.” But they feel that they are leaving home as well as going home.

Twelve Snowbird couples regularly winter at Deer Run RV Park in northern Pike County, and it didn’t take long for them to feel right at home among Southerners. In fact, it was Southern hospitality that kept Basil and Karen O’Dell out of Florida.

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“We stopped at a convenience store in Ozark, and I was about 40 feet from the door and the man who was coming out stopped and held the door for me,” Basil O’Dell said. “That would never have happened in Michigan. I knew then Alabama was where I wanted to be.”

That was about five years ago, and the O’Dells have been finding their way back to Alabama each year when Old Man Winter puffs his icy cheeks.

“The hospitality of the people of this area is amazing,” O’Dell said. “We love it here and feel like we are part of the South now.”

Dick and Pam Rogers were “blown away” by the people of the South.

“We should have been born here,” Pam said, laughing. “It’s a wonderful place with wonderful people. Everywhere we go, people are warm and friendly. It’s like home away from home.”

Last week, Herb and Dee Advocaat celebrated their 50th anniversary basking in Southern hospitality and among their Snowbird friends and their church family at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, which has welcomed the Snowbirds into their fellowship and into their hearts.

The Snowbird couples come from different denominations however they are now “winter Baptists.”

“At Mt. Moriah, there is such a feeling of love and acceptance,” Basil O’Dell said. “People here are so down to earth. That’s the atmosphere of the entire church. Here, we can be ourselves and know that we will be accepted just as we are. That’s the attitude of Southerners. They are different and we appreciate that difference.”

The Snowbirds quickly became a part of the Deer Run community and Mt. Moriah Baptist Church. The female “birds” join in when a quilt is on the frame at the church. They don’t shy away from the kitchen and from domestic chores that are required of the membership of small country churches.

The male “birds” are involved in the more strenuous tasks at the church and on the grounds. And, they all lend their voices in song. They are supportive of fundraising efforts of the church and generous in their giving.

The Rev. Mack Lowery, church pastor, said that the Snowbirds are a blessing to his church.

“But the church is a blessing to us,” Karen O’Dell said. “What they do for us is overwhelming. It is just a blessing to be a part of a warm, caring and loving church like this. We didn’t expect anything like this when we came.”

The Snowbirds didn’t come to Alabama with any great expectations at all except maybe sunshine and warm breezes.

“We didn’t know much about Alabama, except ‘Bear’ Bryant,” Basil O’Dell said. “But now we sell it as one of the greatest places in the country. But, we don’t sell it too hard. We don’t want it to be overrun by … Yankees.”

The Snowbirds said they could easily make their homes in Alabama but they have families back home in Michigan, so home calls them back “north.”

“Alabama is home, too,” Herb Advocaat said and added laughing. “If I could fix my accent, I could be an honorary ‘Bubba.’”

The stereotypical “Bubbas” portrayed on television and in the movies do a great injustice to true Southerners, the Snowbirds said.

“The people of Alabama are 100 percent genuine,” said Dee Advocaat. “There’s nothing pretentious about them.”

“What you see is what you get,” Pam Rogers said. “Southerners are warm, caring people and, if you don’t feel loved down here, you won’t anywhere.”

The Snowbirds will be leaving for home in the next couple of weeks. They’ll be doing the things that need to be done “up home” and enjoying being back with family and friends. But in those quiet moments, they’ll think of “Sweet Home, Alabama” and their “family” at Mt. Moriah.

“And count the days until we’re back ‘home’ again,” Dick Rogers said.