Southern Highways

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.

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.

My girls.

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.

No.

They’re beautiful.

26 comments

  1. Kathryn - April 18, 2017 1:37 pm

    There is beauty to be found in each and every moment – even those spent just driving along the road. Most people just can’t describe it as well as you.

    Reply
  2. Jessica - April 18, 2017 1:38 pm

    Places I know like the back of my hand. Stops along a long-diatance relationship commute. Every one of them tied to memories. And the pup in tow with each drive. And now we are becoming a similar family, just us and our dogs, and I, too, am the driver…and he, the sleeper. More “beautiful” words have never been penned.

    Reply
  3. Linda Bown - April 18, 2017 1:41 pm

    All our favorite places

    Reply
  4. John Wayne Hickman - April 18, 2017 1:43 pm

    Love the write-up. I now live out in Texas, but love words about my home state. The Camelia City was my home town for 18 years, before I joined the Air Force in 1963. Your words today bring back a flood of Memories. My home town friend Rock Killough wrote a song some years ago called Highway 31 and it also brings back wonderful memories of the late 1950 and early 1960’s.

    Thanks for your work.
    Wayne

    Reply
  5. Sherry Saunders - April 18, 2017 1:57 pm

    Sean, you have done it again! Wonderful story. I grew up just 3 miles from Slapout, AL
    and I love the fact that it was a simple life; no cell phones, computers, etc.; just the smell
    of fresh air and cotton fields everywhere. City folk might not understand how great
    that simplicity is, but I do! Thanks for your writing. Sure gives me something to look
    forward to each day!!! Glad you have those 2 beauties in your life! God Bless!

    Reply
    • Al Haynes - April 18, 2017 7:05 pm

      One of the best hamburgers I’ve ever eaten was at Hungry Horace’s in Slapout.

      Reply
  6. Jan - April 18, 2017 2:08 pm

    I just can’t help it ….. beautiful!

    Reply
  7. Angie - April 18, 2017 2:19 pm

    Love it! Your affection and love for your wife is so precious. Jamie and Ellie are blessed girls.

    Reply
  8. Becky - April 18, 2017 2:55 pm

    Know all these places must but at least 500 trips back and forth to the beach! Bet we have stories to share!

    Reply
  9. Sam Hunneman - April 18, 2017 5:56 pm

    I daresay, hon, your family has grown exponentially since you started sharing your stories with us. Mags and Woodrow send regahds to Ellie. Woodrow is jealous of the peanut butter jar. Mags is gloating ’cause she scored several bites of German chocolate cake frosting off the table this morning, so don’t tell Ellie that or she’ll drool even more.

    Reply
  10. Thomas Harrison - April 18, 2017 6:17 pm

    Sean, you, Jamie and Ellie have become a part of my family….

    Reply
  11. Toots - April 18, 2017 7:44 pm

    So glad you decided to make a side trip by the Butler County Courthouse today! Certainly made my day! Photos on Facebook to prove it. ha!ha!

    Reply
  12. Carolyn Finlayson - April 18, 2017 8:07 pm

    Yours posts feed my soul. Don’t ever stop writing.

    Reply
  13. Michael Hawke - April 19, 2017 2:06 am

    I need to take you to Leary, GA.

    Reply
  14. Susie Munz - April 19, 2017 2:18 am

    When we lived in Destin, and made the trip North to Indiana to see the family, we drove through Andalusia and Georgianna on our way to I-65. We occasionally would stop at Priester’s Pecan place. I love your descriptions and expressions of love.

    Reply
  15. Lilli Ann Snow - April 20, 2017 9:11 pm

    They’re beautiful, alright.
    And delicious.
    Like plastic peanut butter jars.

    Reply
  16. Debbi - June 13, 2017 11:34 am

    Sean of the south and my cup of coffee…….that’s how great days start!

    Reply
  17. Deanna J - June 13, 2017 12:32 pm

    They are beautiful!

    Reply
  18. Trina V. - June 13, 2017 12:58 pm

    Now I want Fiddlesticks from Priester’s!

    Reply
  19. Ann - June 13, 2017 1:24 pm

    My husband and I found that the words of our vocabulary were simply inadequate to describe our love for one another. He invented the word “hooskies”. It means ” anything so strong it could make it to the sun and back without exhibiting any weakness”. We save that word for something really special and profound. It seemed somewhat inadequate when the grandbabies arrived but still serves us well!

    Reply
  20. Marilyn Jordan - June 13, 2017 3:02 pm

    I have read many times about Ellie…but this is the first time I have learned that her full name is Ellie Mae. Too funny…a picture of Ellie Mae’s coon hound immediately popped up in my head. You, your indescribable wife, and slobbery Ellie Mae need an adopted child (we have an adopted grandson). Your family would be a great place to be loved and reared in.

    Reply
  21. Cherry Bruce - June 13, 2017 3:56 pm

    What a perfect name for a coonhound! Must be named for animal lover, Ellie Mae Clampet from the Beverly Hillbillies. Love your writing!

    Reply
  22. Annette Bailey - June 13, 2017 8:40 pm

    I grew up in Georgiana, married someone from Andalusia, and know Greenville and Preisters back and forth. The fiddlesticks are incredible too! What a wonderful way to say “beautiful” to someone you love! You sir, are quite beautiful! Now let me go find a daughter like yours! My husband and I have enough love spilling over for her or him!

    Reply
  23. Kelly D - June 14, 2017 12:48 am

    That… was beautiful!

    Reply
  24. Brenda Gruenewald - June 14, 2017 6:17 am

    I am hooked on your writing. Please don’t stop. I have missed reading Lewis Grizzard; now I have found you. Great job, Sean. I was born and reared in Georgiana. Love my town.👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏

    Reply
  25. Kathy Burgess - June 14, 2017 6:35 am

    I have driven that route many times. If I had a man in my life besides my precious doggie Chewy, I would stop at the JC Penny store and buy him a red tie. Maybe I could just buy precious doggie one. I could just smear a little Jig on it and he would be in Canine Heaven.

    Reply

Leave a Reply