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.”
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.