I miss barbecue made by granddaddies, Little League uniforms, chores. I miss how my aunt used to get the Saturday Evening Post. Sometimes they reprinted old Rockwell covers.

It’s late. I‘m cutting through Lower Alabama on my way home. I’m the only vehicle on the road. I pass barns that barely stand upright. Hayfields soft enough to sleep in.

Behold, the country at night.

Headlights in the other lane. I turn my brights off. It’s the polite thing to do. It’s how I was raised.

The man keeps his brights on full-blast. They blind me. I flash. He flashes back, but keeps his high-beams on.

God bless you, too, pal.

I flip on the radio because my truck is old. I don’t have a working CD player. Anyway, I’m crazy about radios. I inherited this crazy from my parents, who always had a song playing. It’s just how I was raised.

Static.

Then, talk-radio:

“…NO, YOU LISTEN TO ME, SIR! YOU LISTEN TO ME CAREFULLY, BECAUSE I WANT YOU TO LISTEN TO ME…”

Station change.

A preacher screams, “…All liars shall have thy part in the Lake of Fire…”

Uplifting.

There’s a billboard in the distance, lit from the bottom. “Wind Creek Casino, Atmore.” The sign shows happy people playing slot machines. Platters of Lobster Thermidor.

I’ve been to Wind Creek. It’s nice, but there are no tables, only computer games. If they had roulette tables, I’d renew my wedding vows there.

I’m passing Red Level. Not a porchlight for miles. Nothing but sleeping people. These are rural folk. I too, come from rural people. To stay up late is indulgent.

It’s just how we’re brought up.

1. Early to bed.

2. Always offer to do the dishes.

3. Always let supper guests slurp the tomato water in the bottom of the plate.

More static. Heavy metal music. Static. Rap music. Whatever happened to tender songs?

I drive past mobile homes, peppering the long acres near River Falls—I have a soft-spot for trailers. After all, I live in one.

As a boy, I used to get haircuts in a single-wide beauty salon. Before that, Mama cut my hair.

Her haircuts were disastrous, whenever she finished butchering me, she’d use handfuls of Alberto VO5 to cover her mistakes. My hair would look like it had been dipped in Thousand Island and lit on fire with an acetylene blow torch.

Static.

“…NO! LISTEN TO ME! I WON’T LISTEN TO YOU, YOU LISTEN TO ME LIKE I’M LISTENING TO…”

White noise.

A car in the oncoming lane. His brights are on. Maybe this guy was raised right and will dim his lights.

Nope.

What’s wrong with this world? When did folks quit dimming brights for fellow nighttime travelers?

Static.

“…I AM LISTENING, BUT YOU LISTEN! IF YOU WON’T LISTEN, THEN I WON’T LISTEN BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT ACTUALLY LISTENING TO.…”

Fuzz. Crackle.

In the distance is Andalusia, and I know we’re getting closer to home. I can almost taste the pine trees. I can’t wait to see my dog.

More hissing. Static. Music.

Hey, I know this song.

“In the twilight glow I see her,
“Blue eyes crying in the rain…”

Now we’re talking. Tender music. Gentle music. The kind I was raised on.

I crank the volume until my windows rattle. This song is a time machine. It takes me home. It reminds me of a time when…

Oh, nevermind. Who cares what I think? I’m just missing things tonight.

Barbecue made by granddaddies, Little League uniforms, chores. I miss how my aunt used to get the Saturday Evening Post. Sometimes they reprinted old Rockwell covers.

I suppose I’m no different than any middle-aged idiot. I’m dumb enough to think the Good Old Days were actually good. Maybe I’m delusional.

Either way, when they lay me down my tombstone will read:

“Here lies Sean. Husband. Dog lover. He loved the piece of the world where Alabama kisses the blessed Panhandle of Florida.”

“And he always dimmed his brights when passing cars on highways. Always.”

It’s just how he was raised.

25 comments

  1. Connie Havard Ryland - April 22, 2018 5:38 am

    It’s how I was raised too. Along with stopping for funeral processions. Saying please and thank you and yes ma’am. Being nice to people. Hymnals at church, the kind with beautiful music printed in them. Decent music on the radio. All of that is gone like the dodo birds. Sigh….

    Reply
  2. Amanda Milam - April 22, 2018 6:14 am

    I love this! “I can almost taste the pine trees.”
    Great line…
    Just like knowing it’s coming a rain because you can smell it in the distance….
    And the taste of the earth being turned with a plow driven by my daddy’s weathered hands.
    I come from rural folk as well, and believe that the Good old days were great.

    Reply
  3. Pamela McEachern - April 22, 2018 8:20 am

    By the Grace of God I was born South of the Mason Dixon Line. God is Good and I am grateful for Southern Ways ~

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    Reply
  4. Cathi - April 22, 2018 10:04 am

    Me too, Sean, me too. Everytime I see someone who doesn’t know that rule, I hear my daddy harranging me about the importance of courtesy behind the wheel. I think a lot of people didn’t have a daddy who gave them that particular lecture and more’s the pitty. May your future night driving only include courteous fellow drivers. Happy Sunday. ❤

    Reply
  5. Dennis Lowery - April 22, 2018 11:14 am

    Folks from the west coast L.A. and north east East Coast could never understand this.

    Reply
  6. Xan - April 22, 2018 11:18 am

    Now this was one of my favorites Sean. It didn’t make me cry or laugh, it just made me remember.

    Reply
  7. Kelly - April 22, 2018 11:35 am

    Dear Sean, you’re definitely not the only “middle aged idiot” longing for the good ‘ole days. Nothing like a good song to take you right back! Thank God for music!

    Reply
  8. Dianne - April 22, 2018 11:44 am

    I love the old songs, too. In an instant, I am transported back to a wonderful moment in my life. I was raised just like you………manners, dim your bright lights, being kind to older people (I am one now), treasuring time with family in rocking chairs on the front porch on a summer night. Have a happy and blessed Sunday, Sean!

    Reply
  9. Jon Dragonfly - April 22, 2018 12:09 pm

    Just two days ago, I was getting out of my car at the Dollar Tree.
    Another car pulled in and as soon as it stopped a teenage boy hopped out, ran around the car, and held the driver’s door for his mother.
    I was so charmed to see a kid with good Southern manners, I sought them out in the store and complimented them. Mama replied, “He and his brother always do that, if their Daddy doesn’t beat them to it.”
    Aha! A Southern gentleman passes on the traditions.

    Reply
  10. Annissa Mitchell - April 22, 2018 12:59 pm

    I’m another “middle aged idiot” who loves a good Willie Nelson song to take me back to a less complicated time in childhood. At least it was less complicated for me. I hope to run into you one day around Slocomb, where I now call home. I’ll buy you some tomatoes at White’s Produce!

    Reply
  11. Jan - April 22, 2018 1:47 pm

    Me too! Thank you for being you!

    Reply
  12. Edna B. - April 22, 2018 2:04 pm

    Wonderful story. I’m from the Northeast, and I was raised with good manners, church on Sunday, respect my elders, courteous to other drivers, and good old country music. I grew up in the forties and fifties, and I do believe it was the best time to grow up. There are times when I, too, long for the good old days. You have a fantabulous day. Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  13. John Paschall - April 22, 2018 2:33 pm

    And bless you for it, young man. That’s the way I was raised too.

    Reply
  14. Carol ann ROTHWELL - April 22, 2018 2:38 pm

    I do too Sean…dim my light’s!
    “Happy Trails until we meet again”!
    Love ya.👼!

    Reply
  15. Jean Totten - April 22, 2018 3:30 pm

    Just leaving Robertsdale AL headed for the west to parts unknown. We live in our RV where plans are made of Jello. First time I’ve written you after reading my daily fix of Sean. Love, love, love what you write … your words, your thoughts, your style. A big hug to you and yours; hope you made it home safely.

    Reply
  16. Jack Quanstrum - April 22, 2018 4:10 pm

    I like how you where raised. Perfect!

    Reply
  17. Susie - April 22, 2018 5:51 pm

    Especially on a two lane road at night, not only is dimming your lights polite, but you’d also want the other guy to be able to see you as well as you would like to be able to see him.

    Reply
  18. Steve Maynard - April 22, 2018 8:08 pm

    You gotta love Red Level. I pass through there every time I travel from Knoxville to Destin.

    Reply
  19. Richard Cotton - April 22, 2018 9:36 pm

    Did you get by Florala? How about the Stanley Community 9 miles south of Andalusia, where I grew up on a dirt road. Not many of my family still live on that road (now paved), but they did name it the “Cotton Road” after my Dad, William, his brother, Ollie, and my Ma, Bessie. Thanks for your daily writings.

    Reply
  20. Marcella Messer - April 22, 2018 11:15 pm

    Live in Red Level – outside it actually. We love this area.

    Reply
  21. Betsey Wooten - April 23, 2018 4:26 am

    👍

    Reply
  22. Barbara Schweck - April 23, 2018 5:58 am

    Your momma did indeed raise a good boy to be a very good man! Bless her!

    Reply
  23. Mary Lee - April 23, 2018 6:36 pm

    Love this story. I can close my eyes and see so clearly what you are describing. Thanks.

    Reply
  24. Debbie Reynolds - April 23, 2018 7:40 pm

    An old friend of mine sent me your blog about a month ago and I am so thankful. I so enjoy your writing and how you take us back to the days of our youth in the South!!! Yes, they were the best days ever!!!! Thanks .

    Reply
  25. Jmwmson - April 24, 2018 12:35 am

    My hometown is in the “blessed Panhandle of Florida”…exactly halfway between Tallahassee and Pensacola. Speaking of country music, there are several singers and musicians in my family…I even had a first cousin who could yodel! And, I too learned to dim for oncoming traffic. As kids, my brothers and I used to sit on the hill in front of our house that fronted on Highway 90 and pump our arms to get the long-haul truckers to blow their “fog” horns, as they drove by!

    Reply

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