It’s early. We’ve left town before sunrise. We’ve got a long way to go. My wife is driving. My coonhound, Ellie Mae, rides in the backseat.
On long trips, my wife always drives. She’s a natural leader—she could make room-temperature honey walk in a single-file line. And I’m a natural sleeper.
In the backseat: Ellie chews on an empty plastic peanut butter jar. It’s the only thing she’ll chew inearnest. She doesn’t like bones.
I don’t often use the word “beautiful”—it’s overdone. But if I did, I’d use it on Ellie.
We drive past Paxton. Florala. Lockhart. Towns about the size of walk-in closets. I’ve watched a baseball game in Paxton.
I fall asleep. No dreams worth recalling. I wake up. We’re passing the JCPenney in Andalusia. I bought a necktie there once.
It was an engagement party. I arrived with nothing but a golf shirt and jeans. No jacket, no tie. My wife went ballistic.
That day, we stopped at JCPenney. She picked out a crimson tie. I looked like a bloated Baptist usher.
Miles ahead: a sign advertising the Hank Williams Museum in Georgiana. I’ve visited that museum. Miss Margaret—the white-haired tour guide—made Domino sugar seem unsweet.
Interstate 65: the views have changed considerably. Small communities get replaced with fast-rolling pavement. Everyone’s in a hurry. This world moves too fast.
Ellie Mae has destroyed her JIF jar. She paints my upholstery with peanut butter.
We pull over in Camelia City—commonly known as Greenville. Think: sprawling antebellum mansions and the historic Confederate Park. I could live in Greenville.
Here, I buy upholstery-cleaner to scrub peanut butter from my upholstery.
Back on the road.
We approach Priester’s Pecans. I tell Jamie to stop. I go inside, use the little cowboy’s room. I buy a bag of Pecan Fiddlesticks. If you don’t know what those are, don’t start.
More driving. My wife turns on the radio. She sings along. She knows the lyrics to “Watermelon Crawl.” Ellie makes a howling noise when she does. They’re about to injure my eardrums.
During one of my first dates with Jamie, she sang with the radio. She sounded like Elmer Fudd singing Dixie. I laughed so hard I got teary. I would give up breathing for her.
Anyway, I’m falling asleep. Long trips do that to me. When I wake, we’ll probably be in Montgomery.
I see my wife’s profile against the driver’s window.
And, since I already told you I don’t use the word “beautiful,” I don’t know what to call her. I need a word stronger than that one.
And my dog. I need a word for her, too. Ellie is a bucket of slobber, wearing a collar. But God didn’t see fit to give us children, so she’s our daughter.
My family is small, we fit in a single truck cab. We sing with radios, eat Pecan Fiddlesticks, make messes with peanut butter. We don’t photograph well—our family portrait has too few faces in it. But they’re nice faces.