The line of customers at the counter is the usual crowd. Lanky men with burnt skin and greasy shirts. One man orders three chili dogs. Three.

Things move slow in Fadette, Alabama. This rural community is a fleck of ketchup on the map. Trees. Fields. Farmhouses. Masey Ferguson 8600’s.

I could die happy in Fadette.

The Fadette Convenience Store sits smack-dab on the main drag, between here and nowhere. It’s a Marathon gas station, a country store, and an eatery.

Today, it’s hot as twelve hells outside. A boy is shelling peas out front. Inside the store, there are typical things. Beer coolers, beef jerky, Marlboros, Red Man, five-gallon buckets of heavy-equipment hydraulic fluid.

In the back: a one-room restaurant. The kitchen serves food good enough to make grown men blush. Catfish, ribs, smoked chicken, slaw, hush puppies, and Grandmama’s signature chili dogs.

I order a little of everything.

I sit next to a woman and her son. Her husband is a tractor mechanic, her son raises show cattle.

“We come here to eat all the time,” she says. “Best food around.”

It’s more than that. This is the best food within ten thousand country miles. And it’s perfect.

The line of customers at the counter is the usual crowd. Lanky men with burnt skin and greasy shirts. One man orders three chili dogs. Three.

“When we started this place,” says owner, Ronald Brannon. “My grandmama cooked. She told me, ‘You make MY chili the way I show you, people will come from miles just to eat it.’ And boy, lemme tell you, they sure do.’”

God rest her soul.

Ronald began this place fifteen years ago. Before that, he worked every job in the book.

“I was a cable installer, a landscaper, a paramedic, a farmer,” he says. “I done it all.”

The old building sat vacant for years before he bought it.

“One day,” says Ronald, “I just knew I had to have this place. Not only for me, but for the community.”

Ronald recruited his friends and family to rebuild the structure. They did the entire project with their own hands, their own bulldozers, their own pickups, their own sweat.

“First week we’s open,” says Ronald. “I sat in a lawnchair behind the register. I took naps between customers. I didn’t know if we’s gonna survive.”

The store has done more than survive, it’s thrived. Today, the place has a steady flow of natives circulating through.

I see one man in a booth. He has a dip tucked in his lip, a Styrofoam cup.

He spits and winks. “Howdy.”

Hi there.

There is a woman in her mid-seventies. She uses a cane.

“I live three miles up yonder,” she says. “Ever since my husband died in January, I spend lotta time alone. That’s why I like it here. The company.”

Ronald walks to a pie cooler and hands me a slice of fifty-layer chocolate cake. It’s homemade. And, by God, you can tell it.

“We’re a dying breed,” Ronald says. “We know there ain’t many community stores like ours left. This world has gotten so big and commercial, everyone’s always in a hurry. It’s a shame, really.”

A crying shame.

Thank the Lord things move slow in Fadette.

21 comments

  1. GeeGee Chandler - June 11, 2017 2:07 pm

    I can feel it. I can smell it. I’ve been there a hundred times. For me, it is Bond’s Store, Horseshoe Lake, Arkansas.

    Reply
  2. Bobbie - June 11, 2017 3:18 pm

    Heart strings!

    Reply
  3. Sam Hunneman - June 11, 2017 4:43 pm

    Well damn. It’s (finally) hot as 12 hells in Maine today, and now I want to jump in the car and head for Fadette for a chili dog… and I don’t even like chili dogs all that much! Blessings on all those who realize that the very best things are built more for community than personal gain, and those who sing their praises.

    Reply
    • Lynda - June 11, 2017 11:04 pm

      I like the way you think!

      Reply
  4. Debbie - June 11, 2017 5:16 pm

    I enjoy reading your stories so much!

    Reply
  5. Mary Black - June 11, 2017 6:24 pm

    I enjoy your writings every day because
    You write about real people
    You write about real America
    You write about all humanity
    Your writing always expresses your loving heart
    And touches mine❣️❣️❣️❣️

    Reply
  6. Sharon - June 11, 2017 6:36 pm

    Your appeal and writing stirs the sons and daughters of the South and those above the Mason-Dixon line. As you get older, you hanker for what used to be. Thank you, again, for reminding us.

    Reply
  7. Jack Quanstrum - June 11, 2017 7:49 pm

    Amen! Thank goodness for places like you have written about in your last two posts. I am glad to read about them. I am thankful you are in touch with folks and describe them as you do. It so calming and peaceful to feel as though I am right with you because of your special way of writing. Thank you so much for your posts. Keep them coming. I look forward with exciting anticipation for them every day.

    Reply
  8. Marty - June 11, 2017 10:22 pm

    Fadette sounds like it could be my home town; however, I believe we may have one or maybe two stores more. The feel of Fadette could be the feel of my home town. We want to grow and I hope we do. I don’t want us to grow out of being the town we are and since almost everybody that lives here are here because their great-great-great somebody came here. As far as good living you can’t find it anywhere except towns like Fadette – and my home town.
    Please don’t quit writing!

    Reply
  9. Marty - June 11, 2017 10:24 pm

    I just posted my comment.

    Reply
  10. Lynda - June 11, 2017 11:06 pm

    Does this place also have a screened door that squeaks?

    Reply
  11. Susan in Georgia - June 13, 2017 4:11 am

    I was gonna ask you for driving directions to Ronald’s store/restaurant, but I guess if I get to Fadette, I’ll see it. That fifty-layer chocolate cake is calling my name.

    Reply
  12. Denise Hammond - August 9, 2017 1:08 pm

    I love you stories, first one I read you were in Enterprise, Ala. My mother grew up there, she met my dad while working at the PX at Fort Rooker. My mother took me for a visit with some her old friends and her brothers family. I ask her what that big statue was in the middle of town and she told me the story. Sure brought back memories of that lazy town. I look forward to your stories everyday. Have you been to Palatka, Fla?

    Reply
  13. Mary Anne Tomlinson - August 9, 2017 1:50 pm

    Sean, thank you for taking your readers along with you to all the precious towns and villages that you travel to and giving us a ring-side seat. Your tender stories draw us in, pull us up a chair and hand us a glass of sweet tea as we watch the people, listen to the conversations, see the countryside, feel the air, smell the good food and love the same people that you meet on your journeys.

    Reply
  14. Gena Neely - August 9, 2017 2:36 pm

    I live in McLean Texas. Small town as you get. a little place like that here. I can almost smell the chilli. I enjoy your stories. Thank you for sharing your heart with the rest of us.

    Reply
  15. Sandra Simpson - August 9, 2017 2:47 pm

    I’m sure glad you decided to write! The Lord gave you a real gift being able to touch hearts with you words.
    Thank you for using it.

    Reply
  16. Martha Jo Hurley - August 9, 2017 8:09 pm

    Oh how I wish I had known of your existence back when you wrote about Enterprise, my home town. Maybe you will reminence about your time there again! I grew up not knowing about north, south,east, west….in Enterprise we always went “up town, down or up the road, and over yonder”. Love your writings!

    Reply
  17. Clint Thompson - August 9, 2017 8:33 pm

    Sean, like I’ve commented previously, you’re good. No, “by God” you’re better than good. and you can take that to the bank.

    Reply
  18. Melodie - August 10, 2017 5:05 am

    I want to go to some of these amazing places you write about! 🙂

    Reply
  19. Catherine - August 10, 2017 5:03 pm

    I grew up less then 2 miles from there. The three stores there when grew up are gone. Glad they have been replaced. Will have a chili dog when I am there next time.

    Reply
  20. Paige - August 11, 2017 12:39 am

    I grew up in Fadette in an old farmhouse built by my great-grandfather and shelled many pans of peas and picked many buckets of tomatoes. I live near Nashville, TN now and, although I’m still in the South, people are in such a hurry here all the time. Besides being closer to family, I miss the slower pace probably the most. I will have to check out this store next time I’m down; I haven’t had the pleasure yet.

    Reply

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