James Satterfield sank into a sofa in the shop of his auto-tech business in Decatur during a noon break Thursday, staring across the floor at a 1940 Ford 9N tractor.
He thought aloud about the hours he operated the antique, clearing brush and undergrowth on 600 acres he leased in Somerville for hunting rights and youth activities.
Then Satterfield, 64, recalling his youth, spoke about the assistance he got from caring adults and his vision for expanding Six Mile Creek Youth Outdoor Activities Inc., which he launched three years ago off Six Mile Creek Road.
In addition to hunting, the spot in Somerville offers a place for children to hike, go on nature walks and play in the creek during warm weather. Satterfield wants to add photography sessions.
“I hope to have chickens out there, and in the spring I plan to grow a community garden,” he said. “This summer I’m going to teach kids to build a functioning windmill that will generate power to keep batteries charged. I just want to pique the children’s interest and get their creative juices flowing in nature.”
Satterfield said he began to develop his business acumen by delivering newspapers on a bike for The Decatur Daily when he was 11.
“I’m dyslexic,” he said. “I couldn’t read throughout school, but did a good job hiding it.”
He attended special education classes at Austin High School, where he said he was “placed out” with a diploma in 1967.
Satterfield said longtime Daily employee Maynard Layman and the “Old Man,” former publisher Barrett C. Shelton, gave him the confidence he needed.
“After being a carrier, I moved to circulation, then the mailroom and worked at The Daily until I was 19,” Satterfield said. “Eight years later, in 1975, dad and I opened our auto-tech business. I feel with the youth camp at Somerville, I’m paying it back.”
Brent Romine, a Rogersville native and Decatur banker, knows the strength of Satterfield’s convictions.
“I’ve been out there at least 25 or 30 times,” Romine said. “I gave James a lot of volunteer time, helping prepare the land to make it more accessible to children and planting food plots for the deer.”
Romine’s children, T.J., 16, and Benjamin, 10, are beneficiaries of all the work.
All of the hunts are by appointment. Before the youngsters can begin stalking deer, they first have to take an Alabama Hunter Education course, which can be done online.
“We don’t just turn them loose,” Satterfield said. “I’m there most of the time, but each child must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. There has to be an adult supervising them at all times.”
Satterfield said “only four or five” children took part during the first hunt, but that the number increased to about 20 this year.
“Until I get more volunteers and funding, I’m limited to how many kids I can help,” Satterfield said. “Everything is free, and all I ask is that everyone follow the rules and that each parent and child donate 40 hours of working on the land.
“My goal in life is to teach kids to respect nature, in return respect themselves and other people, build their morale and see a value they can contribute to society.”
Kristy Liverett, of Warrior, who is a special education teacher at Hayden Middle School, and her family are familiar with the camp. She and her husband, Bryan, who works at 3M in Decatur, grew up in the River City.
She said their sons, Dakota, 16, and Drake, 13, have had successful hunts on the property with their dad.
“It’s beautiful out there,” Kristy Liverett said. “The camp is also a favorite for scheduling family photo sessions. It’s a great place to build memories.”
Ronnie Thomas can be reached at 256-340-2438.
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