Alabama Highways

“The Devil’s beating his wife,” my daddy would’ve said, observing such a scene. Childhood-me would’ve looked at the sky and asked what he meant. He’d give an explanation that would lead into a ghost story. I loved his ghost stories.

Entering Conecuh County. That’s what the little green sign reads, off Highway 31. I’m going north, passing through a small sliver of the county. I love it here.

A few weeks ago, I was driving to Birmingham, I listened to an audio book. The narrator spoke with an accent like a New Jersey paperboy. He pronounced Conecuh as “Koh-NEE-koo.”

That hurt.

Now entering Butler County. Wingard’s Produce Stand. B&H Cafe. Dollar General. There’s the McKenzie watertower.

And, God said, “Let there be kudzu.” I love kudzu. I planted some in my backyard in hopes that one day it would swallow my house. Everything looks better swallowed in kudzu.

Georgiana is eight miles away. I love it, too. I’ve visited the Hank Williams boyhood home in Georgiana too many times.

Anyone who knows me knows I love Hank. It goes back to childhood.

My father’s workbench. A radio. Hank, blaring from a small speaker while he changed the oil.

My favorite part of the Hank museum tour is the underside of the house. Miss Margaret says Hank used to practice his guitar there.

“It was cool down there,” says Miss Margaret. “He’d sit on an old car bench-seat to avoid the heat.”

Miss Margaret. I love her, too. She is old. Half her face is paralyzed. Her accent sounds like a Camellia garden on the Fourth of July. I wish she would adopt me.

Georgiana also has Kendall’s Barbecue joint. “Love” is a weak word for Kendall’s. I WOULD tell you more about this place, but someone wrote me an ugly letter last week, saying:

“You talk about Kendall’s TOO MUCH! I’m from Texas originally… I KNOW good barbecue, Alabama barbecue SUCKS, man!”

I understand Texas is beautiful this time of year. I’ll bet they’d throw a nice party if you went back.

I’m passing the Greenville and Pine Apple exit. Greenville is a town like Mayberry. I love it. Pine Apple is the size of a master closet. I love it.

It’s raining, but the sun is still out. I really love that. Behind the sunshower, I can see blue skies and clouds. I roll down the window to take in the smell.

“The Devil’s beating his wife,” my daddy would’ve said, observing such a scene.

Childhood-me would’ve looked at the sky and asked what he meant. He’d give an explanation that would lead into a ghost story. I loved his ghost stories.

I have a friend who grew up in New York. He had never heard the expression before. He asked why sunshowers were called that. I told him the rain was supposedly tears from the Devil’s wife.

“Wait,” reasoned my friend. “I thought the Devil lived in Hell, not in the sky.”

Good point. Maybe the Devil is originally from Texas.

Anyway, people talk a lot about things they hate. I don’t care for it. It makes me feel tired. I’d rather think about summer rains, Miss Margaret, county tractors, bush-hogging the shoulders of the highways, and crickets.

Or hugs from a child on the last day of Vacation Bible School. Three-legged dogs. Truck-stops. Welcome mats. Conecuh Quick Freeze sausage. Long drives. Daddy. Changing his oil—listening to a radio.

I love this—whatever this is. Writing to you. And even though I don’t know which state you call home, I know a few things:

I know that I’m glad we met.

And I know that Kendall’s Barbecue will blow your cotton-picking mind.

42 comments

  1. Al - August 13, 2017 2:35 pm

    Kendall’s is, indeed, good stuff, but you must come to Mobile and go to the “Brick Pit”.

    Reply
  2. Mary - August 13, 2017 2:38 pm

    I love that you love to write to us everyday. I look forward to an email in my inbox. I try to hear your voice speaking your words (make more of those videos, will you?). I appreciate them all, even if they do make me sad some days.
    I’m reading one of your books right now and had a laugh last night when you said that Canadians pronounce their words weirder than most.
    You see, I am a Canadian living in the south and I have exchanged many of my Canadian words for southern ones but folks always know where I’m from when I say ‘about’. Happy Sunday!

    Reply
    • Dr. William Watkins - August 13, 2017 2:47 pm

      From which part of Canada are you? I’m a Canadian living in the South, also, and my wife is a Southern belle. We always have a laugh about the words house, route, and about. Happy Sunday to you!

      Reply
      • Dr. William Watkins - August 13, 2017 2:50 pm

        Mary-
        From which part of Canada are you? I’m a Canadian living in the South, also, and my wife is a Southern belle. We always have a laugh about the words house, route, and about. Happy Sunday to you!

        Reply
      • Mary - August 13, 2017 3:17 pm

        My husband and I are from Halifax, living in Georgia. I swear, every time we get together with our closest friends, who are super southern, we always get into the language thing. It’s always funny! Where are you from?

        Reply
  3. Connie - August 13, 2017 2:45 pm

    I was born and raised in a tiny speck of a place in Mobile county, AL about 15 miles from MS. I’ve moved around some, but came back to AL. I live in a small city in Baldwin county, and love driving back roads everywhere. I wish all the people who hate it here would go back where they came from, or get a new perspective. Thank you for seeing the good in every day and every person you write about. You make my day.

    Reply
  4. Jack Nance - August 13, 2017 2:55 pm

    I will have to visit Kendall’s sometime when I’m passing through on the way to visit grandkids in Louisiana, Many of the towns and people you write about could be in North Carolina as well as Alabama. You really should visit the Tarheel state sometime when you have time to explore our BBQ territories, many a squabble has erupted between fans of eastern NC and Lexington, NC BBQ. Jack, Clayton, NC

    Reply
  5. Sara Van Barneveld - August 13, 2017 3:02 pm

    I love reading your stuff. I grew up in Alabama, and your writing makes me so nostalgic. Keep em comin…

    Reply
  6. Carol - August 13, 2017 3:06 pm

    I take those Alabama highways every chance I get. So many memories…good and bad, mostly good. The bad fades away quicker and I love it when “the Devil is beatin’ his wife”. Thanks for taking me home this morning😉

    Reply
  7. Darlene - August 13, 2017 3:17 pm

    Soon my husband and I will make our yearly visit to Texas. We love it there. We love it here in such a different way. I’m a “Southern Belle” and my husband is a Texan who I really think I’ve converted him. Worse than a Baptist converts a Church of Christ! Our home and hearts will always be in New Hope, Alabama! Our bar-b-cue is the best ever, and just so you know my husband cooks the Alabama way. He’s in the process of teaching his brother ( he still lives in Texas). Thanks for writing all you do. I enjoy it dearly!

    Reply
  8. Susan in Georgia - August 13, 2017 3:17 pm

    My mouth’s watering. I got to have me some of that Kendall’s BBQ one of these days. S=em like a lot of us love what you love, the things you write about. Thanks for reminding us about the good points of living in the South.

    Reply
  9. Melodie - August 13, 2017 3:17 pm

    I would LOVE to try Kendall’s BBQ!! I just know it’s bib-wearin’ good!

    As far as Texas goes……Well, I’ve been all over that state. Yes, the folks there are a bit biased, as I guess we all, can be. No excuse for rudeness, ever.

    As I might have mentioned before, I grew up in a town of nearly 200. I, too, knew a 3 legged dog named, Jigs. He could chase us kids pretty good with those 3 legs. AHHhhh….Vacation Bible School, with those Jesus fans, and Jigs hot on our heels when it let out. Life is good.

    Reply
  10. Larry Blumen - August 13, 2017 4:14 pm

    I live in Atlanta, but I’ve been in Texas and I’ve been in North Carolina and had BBQ in both places. It’s a matter of preference—I prefer NC-style dry BBQ that I can put a little sauce on or not, depending. I didn’t care for Texas-style all smothered in sweet sauce when they bring it out.

    Once, I was in D.C. by myself and I asked the cabbie to take me to his favorite BBQ joint. It was NC-style dry and I ordered a sandwich, pulled pork, inside lean, along with a shot of Jim Beam. I don’t know whether it was the sandwich or the Jim Beam, but at the time I thought it was the best I’d ever had. It don’t matter what State you’re in—BBQ is a state of mind.

    Reply
    • Dan Hugghins - August 13, 2017 6:58 pm

      I’m sorry you didn’t get to try real Texas barbecue: dry rubbed, smoky, this-is-the-way-God-would-cook-it deliciousness (with sauce [with a kick, only some sweetness] on the side).
      Next time you’re in our fair state, eschew the extra-territory interlopers. You’ll see what I mean.
      BBQ is exactly that – a state of mind.

      Reply
  11. Harold - August 13, 2017 4:19 pm

    “Good point. Maybe the Devil is originally from Texas”
    You’ve always seemed so nice, why would you get on someone like that? It just seemed strong for a disagreement in BBQ taste

    Reply
  12. Jack Quanstrum - August 13, 2017 4:34 pm

    What a build up. What a finish! Love the whole story but your last two lines blew me away. I will take them with me throughout the day and meditate on them like I do with the Lord’s Prayer. I am now ready to enjoy the simple things in life being grateful for another day and day to grow east and west, if you know what I mean. I am a butterfly and butterflies are free. Shalom!

    Reply
  13. Perri Geaux Tigers Williamson - August 13, 2017 5:26 pm

    Well…NOT Texas. TYJ! Re: Kendall’s…never been there. There is a place just north of the bridge in Ft. Myers that makes baked beans so good that I am brave enough to SAY that I would slap my 82 year old German mother who JUST scored a 100 on an 80 question test so she can be a Hospice volunteer. Then there’s Mission BBQ where everyone rises for the national anthem each Noon. Their brisket and mac and cheese are AhAaaaamazing! There is delicious BBQ everywhere and I hope people keep talking about all of it.

    So Texas boy…we know you’re not from Humble (TX). Misnomer of a ghost town…ain’t it?

    Reply
  14. Clay - August 13, 2017 5:27 pm

    Great post. Conecuh sausage is to die for. Gotta try Kendall’s.

    Reply
  15. Bob McGhee - August 13, 2017 5:48 pm

    Like MOST everyone else, I enjoy your writing.
    I especially like (love) your effective use of safe and gentle sarcastic retorts. They read as though they’re lovingly wrapped with hickory smoked bacon over a rub of sweet mustard and brown sugar. All held in place by Blue Ribbon Tupelo honey. And I’m certain they are.

    What I REALLY love is the included generous portion of famously hot Ghost pepper.

    Reply
  16. Deni Ellis - August 13, 2017 6:04 pm

    And I know that reading your musings on FB & your blog warm my heart, have caused me to both cry & laugh, and I look forward to them every day. And share them with friends! Thank you.

    Reply
  17. Jan - August 13, 2017 6:25 pm

    Amen and Amen!
    I am so glad we met and Kendall’s barbecue will absolutely blow your mind!

    Reply
  18. Maria Delgado Daniels - August 13, 2017 6:53 pm

    I was born in Cuba, came to the US when I was 12, lived in Florida for 52 years and now live in Murphy, NC. And I love what you write. It’s simple but deep. Refreshing and thought provoking. I like your style of writing.

    Reply
  19. Mary Anne Weisiger - August 13, 2017 6:57 pm

    Dear Mr. Sean, I look forward to your e-mail everyday. After I read the Bible, devotionals, and Henri Nouwen , you are dessert ! You bless me in so many ways, but today I’ll share just one. Two of my 3 sons live in south Alabama and you mention places I have driven through or places my ” grands” go to school or places where I have bought really tasty food. It is as close to a visit with loved ones as I can get without a 15 hour drive or if I fly, an hour and a half treck. So thank for a little visit everyday. Blessings, Mary Anne

    Reply
  20. Linda Faust - August 13, 2017 7:20 pm

    My grandmother was born in Pine Apple. Al in 1882. There once was a bank there…Baker Block Museum in NW Fl has a canceled check from the bank. We always just thought it was a wide place in the road. We also thought it was Pineapple.

    Reply
  21. Rhea Wynn - August 13, 2017 9:15 pm

    We stop at Kendall’s every chance we get. Thanks for the reminder that it is time for a barbecue jaunt.

    Reply
  22. Beth - August 13, 2017 9:47 pm

    Would one of you kind Alabama folks please enlighten this Georgia lady as to the correct pronunciation of Conecuh? Sean told us for sure how NOT to say it, but I’d like to be saying it correctly in my head when I read it, since it appears so often in his daily musings.

    Reply
    • Beth - August 14, 2017 12:36 am

      Well, I guess I got impatient and went to my old friend Google to learn that I need to be saying “cah-Neck-ah.” Now to find some of that fine sausage to try. Thanks, Sean, for a daily dose of what’s real.
      Appreciate you!

      Reply
      • Harriet - August 14, 2017 1:48 pm

        Beth, depending on where you live, you might find Conecuh sausage in Walmart. We have it in ours in Southeast Alabama. BTW, my Ohio-born son-in-law likes it so much, he asked us to take him some to Austin, Texas. We froze sixteen pounds and took it on our flight last month. Good luck in your search. It’s worth it.

        Reply
    • Nancy - August 14, 2017 12:49 am

      I’m too old to remember the correct grammatical signs but this is how you pronounce Conecuh.
      Co- Cuh
      Ne- as in neck; emphasis on this syllable
      Cuh- short u as in Cuh/ cut

      Reply
  23. Lloyd Crossman - August 13, 2017 9:50 pm

    I first read your stories from postings on Facebook by some of my friends. I was so moved or whatever the right word is. Your pattern in writing like a stream of consciousness just seems to flow and regardless of the words they all seem to connect to a central theme. So I subscribed to your daily emails and the first thing I do each morning I begin the day with you. I thank you for your insight on life and so real, unblemished and personal.

    Reply
  24. Vicki Palefsky - August 13, 2017 11:11 pm

    If you are ever speaking a group in in Atlanta, I would love to hear you. I am a 70 year old (married to a fabulous Yankee) and was born in Andalusia to a 20 year old mother who was born in Mackensie and who used to party with Hank and Audrey. Her mother grew up on a farm around Opp…anyway, no one else I know writes about stuff that sounds like a family member wrote it and I would love to hear you in person. Love your work!

    Reply
  25. Maura - August 14, 2017 12:03 am

    Damn, but you are one fine writer!

    Reply
  26. Allyson - August 14, 2017 1:33 am

    My granddaddy was from Georgiana. The story goes that he used to hunt Coons with Hank. I always used to make my grandmomma tell me that story. I never met my granddaddy, but that is one of my favorite things about him, I am sure… your stories make me so homesick that sometimes I won’t even read them. But I always come back and do… read them. Then I cry for stories from my grandmomma and the granddaddy I never got to meet.

    Keep writing of all the places I call home. Please. Thank you!!!

    Reply
  27. Chris Robinson - August 14, 2017 1:54 am

    I love your work! I look forward to it every day! Keep up the great work!

    Reply
  28. Marty from Alabama - August 14, 2017 3:07 pm

    I know I love pretty near anything you write.

    Reply
  29. Maxine - August 14, 2017 6:34 pm

    In perusing my daily emails and FB … I love Sean of the South.

    Reply
  30. mmyers - August 15, 2017 2:50 pm

    My favorite line, “I understand Texas is beautiful this time of year. I’ll bet they’d throw a nice party if you went back.” I am g;ad we met, too.

    Reply
  31. Sherry Kughn - August 16, 2017 11:50 am

    My boyfriend is from Georgiana, one of my favorite places. When he talks about the people who once worked in the now suppressed town, I can see it in his eyes. You ought to go into Food Giant and get some of their locally cooked lunches. Oh my. They rival the barbecue place, especially the grilled chicken, turnip greens, and cornbread. I can taste it right now.

    Reply
  32. Fran - August 17, 2017 5:00 pm

    You make me want to move to Alabama even though I’m a Philly native. My mother in law, who was the finest woman in the world, was from Georgia. She said I was a southerner trapped in a Yankee body……sigh….maybe someday. Until then Sean, thanks for keeping the longing alive.

    Reply
  33. Richard in Wilmington - August 17, 2017 5:44 pm

    I live in North Carolina but grew up in a town on the Conecuh River. We (I) pronounce “Conecuh” with less “neck” and more “nake” in the second syllable. Rather like “Cuh-NAKE- uh”. Just don’t drawl out the “nake” too much.

    The other day in an exercise class for senior citizens, I heard a woman who grew up here in North Carolina say “The Devil is beathing his wife.” I knew immediately what she meant and later commented on it. She said “Where are you from?” I said “Alabama”. She said “Well, do you know what a ‘frog strangler’ is?” And I said “Yes, and we’ve had quite a few of those recently, haven’t we?” She laughed and was happy, I think, to have found a kindred spirit. I’ll have to ask her about a “gully washer.”

    I’ve never been to Kendall’s, but Greene’s Barbecue (no longer operating) near Andalusia (at Gantt on the Conecuh) used to have the BEST barbecue ever and, I’ll swanee, I’ve always judged barbecue with Greene’s as the benchmark. Since I can’t go back to Greene’s, I’ll have to see if I can arrange a trip to Georgiana and Kendall’s next time I’m back home.

    Thanks so much for the down home reminders. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  34. Lucretia - August 18, 2017 6:34 am

    I am glad to have met, Sean, even though you don’t know me, I know you and I know that you know me and this makes me happy. I thank you, Sean.

    Reply
  35. Becky - August 22, 2017 4:59 pm

    Thank you….that is all 🙂

    Reply

Leave a Reply