Pike County

We tour the sleepy community. I see old cotton gins, peanut processing plants, chicken houses, soybeans, cattle, live oaks suffocated in Spanish moss.

Goshen, Alabama—I am on a dirt road. Above me is a canopy of shade oaks, stretching to Beulah Land. I am surrounded by thousands of acres of farmland.

With me is Darren.

Darren is mayor of Goshen. He is young, but he has gray in his sideburns. He is a paramedic, a captain for Troy Fire Department, a volunteer firefighter for Pike County, and he cuts grass for a living.

“This is a tiny town,” says Darren. “You gotta do lotta jobs to make ends meet.”

Town Hall sits off the highway. It’s a brick building—small as a Waffle House. The place doubles as a senior center and cafeteria.

On weekdays, the kitchen serves complimentary country fare: fried chicken, okra, collards, and potato salad.

“Lotta our residents are old,” says Darren. “It’s important for us to take care of our own.”

I meet one such elder. Mister Jimmy—a man with hair like snow and a voice like ribbon cane syrup. He shows me black-and-white photos from Goshen’s glory days. He tells stories.

“Did Darren tell you about Goshen’s claim to fame?”

No sir, not yet.

They show me a ledger book with yellowed pages and loose binding. It contains jail records, dating to the nineteen-hundreds. If anyone ever spent a night in Goshen’s one-room drunk tank, it’s written here.

Darren points to a page. The cursive handwriting reads: “Hank Williams, 1943.”

“Public drunkenness,” remarks Mister Jimmy. “Hank used’a travel with a medicine show, playing music. He was known to have a wild time.”

When Mister Jimmy was freckled and barefoot, he saw Hank several times. The string band would play atop a flatbed trailer. The whole town would turn out.

“Goshen’s always been close-knit,” says Mister Jimmy. “Used’a have street parties. We’d rope off roads, have covered-dish deals, country dances.”

Country dances. Potlucks. Traditions which have faded in parts of the Southeast.

But not here.

Darren takes me for a ride in his truck. His vehicle’s tires are for running across muddy land. Camouflage gear sits on his dashboard, a rifle beneath the backseat.

We tour the sleepy community. I see old cotton gins, peanut processing plants, chicken houses, soybeans, cattle, live oaks suffocated in Spanish moss.

Darren talks about his people. He tells me about the girl who had brain cancer. People in town pooled money for the child to visit Disney World.

He talks about a local farmer, Curtiss—who lost his leg at eighteen. Today, Curtiss is a full-time paramedic and fireman. Exceptional isn’t the word.

Darren talks about growing up, running through creeks, pastures. And about his late daddy.

While he talks, the sun is low. Football practice is almost underway in Eagle Stadium. Adolescent boys walk the bumpy highways, helmets in hand, shoulder-pads on.

We pass a hamlet of double-wides in the woods. Mothers sit on front porches. The marching band rehearses on the school lawn. Kids play in front yards.

“This is home,” says Darren. “We love each other. But don’t get me wrong, now. I know Goshen ain’t perfect.”

Well.

The good mayor and I will have to agree to disagree.

32 comments

  1. Dianne DeVore - August 26, 2017 11:35 am

    I was born in B’ham, AL, but grew up in LaGrange, GA (a small town). I went to Auburn, as did my grandfather (I have one son who graduated from Auburn, and three of five grandchildren). My former in-laws and family were from Headland, AL and nearby “parts”. Your columns remind me of, and make me wish for such a wonderful and simpler time gone by. Your columns bring back many happy memories for me, and they remind me a lot of Lewis Grizzard. I look forward every day to reading your column after I finish my quiet time with the Lord. After those two things, I’m ready to face the day. Thank you!!

    Reply
    • Sandi in FL - August 27, 2017 1:26 pm

      Hi Dianne,
      I grew up in LaGrange too, and lived there until 1966 when I went out of town to college, then married and moved to Delaware, then VA, then FL. We probably know some of the same people in the LaGrange area.
      It was a great place to grow up and I have numerous fond memories that are based there. Hope you read my note here!

      Reply
      • Dianne DeVore - August 28, 2017 3:14 am

        I still have a son and his family who live in LaGrange, as well as numerous childhood friends who never left or have moved back over the years. A wonderful place to raise a family and like you, I have many fond memories of growing up there.

        Reply
      • Sandi in FL - August 28, 2017 3:54 am

        My sister still lives in LaGrange, too. What are your sons’ last names?

        Reply
        • Dianne DeVore - August 28, 2017 11:42 am

          I was Dianne Dougherty before I married. My oldest son’s last name who lives in LaGrange (moved there after he graduated from Auburn) is Brannon…first name Vann. He didn’t move there until the 80s . I graduated from LaGrange High School in 1962.

          Reply
          • Sandi in FL - August 28, 2017 12:32 pm

            My sister Susan graduated from LHS in 1964, and our last name was Hammett. I know who you are, although you were 4 years ahead of me in school! Small world!

          • Dianne DeVore - August 28, 2017 3:28 pm

            Oh, my goodness. Your parents were good friends of my parents. My mother played golf with yours, played bridge with her, and they had a group that played Mah Jong. Our Daddies played golf together. It’s a very small world, isn’t it?

          • Sandi in FL - August 28, 2017 10:13 pm

            Dianne, right you are about our mothers playing golf, bridge and Mah Jong together, plus your daddy and mine also golfed together. I remember his name was Joe, but your mother’s name has slipped my mind. Phoned my sister and she knows Vann … said he is a “very nice young fellow”. God bless you and your fine family. Who would’ve thought that Sean’s blog would be how our paths crossed again all these many years later?

          • Dianne DeVore - August 29, 2017 3:07 am

            Yes, mother’s name was Frances. Vann’s daughter is named for her Mary Frances, which was mother’s full name. God works in amazing ways, and did so here making our paths cross through one of my favorite columnists. So good to connect with you. One other thing about our mothers is that many people thought they were sisters because of their similar looks and coloring.

          • Sandi in FL - August 29, 2017 10:43 pm

            Until you mentioned it, I had not thought about how much our sweet mothers looked alike, but YES! Both were such beautiful southern ladies. Last time I saw your mother was in the late 1960’s or early 70’s.
            BTW Dianne, you were always the LHS cheerleader that I liked to watch at the Granger games because of your high energy and pep!

          • Dianne DeVore - August 30, 2017 1:10 pm

            Thank you for your kind words, Sandi. Praise the Lord, I still have a lot of that energy.

          • Sandi in FL - August 28, 2017 10:18 pm

            Susan called me back after remembering your mother’s name (Frances). As soon as she said it, I remembered, too!

  2. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - August 26, 2017 11:55 am

    I tend to agree with you! Loving your neighbor and caring for each other, isn’t that what life is supposed to be about? I’ve stopped listening to TV news — too depressing. I’d rather hold hands with my Hubby of 47 years and watch those old shows that made some sense. Have a good weekend.

    Reply
  3. Donna Holifield - August 26, 2017 12:36 pm

    Wonderful!

    Reply
  4. Virginia - August 26, 2017 12:58 pm

    And some would say they feel sad to see the poverty in those deprived areas, not knowing that a good life can be had without all the “trappings” of modern life.
    Your writing is wonderful! Are you published? Do you write a column for a newspaper or other?

    Reply
    • Janet Mary Lee - August 26, 2017 4:21 pm

      Virginia, Sean’s books are available on Amazon and you can find some great singing on his website. Sorry I do not know how to transfer the link, but it is pretty easy to find on google or on some of his columns! Have a great day!!

      Reply
  5. Larry McEntire - August 26, 2017 1:05 pm

    So worth reading. Reminds me of who we were and thankfully some of us still are.

    Reply
  6. Jill - August 26, 2017 1:57 pm

    How I crave fried chicken so early this morning. The kindness of small town life.

    Reply
  7. Carl from The Waters - August 26, 2017 2:10 pm

    Really enjoyed seeing you and Miss Jamie last night at the Chapel. Thanks for coming to share your gift.

    Reply
  8. Jack Quanstrum - August 26, 2017 3:29 pm

    I heard that. Your story reminds of yesteryear. Seemed purer than. Knowledge is a good thing but if you receive it before you can emotionally handle it will hinder you. Today’s educational system wants kids to learn all this science, math and to be politically correct. But they can’t learn what you just wrote about in this small town in school or today’s society. I said my peace. Thank you Sean. From my heart. Shalom! P.S Everyone has value, especially little children.

    Reply
  9. Tray Earnest - August 26, 2017 3:32 pm

    And….they have the best Christmas parade in Pike County. With horses.

    Reply
  10. Wendy - August 26, 2017 4:11 pm

    Sigh, my comments disappeared. Too difficult for this old woman to redo on tiny mobile this birthday morning. Will try again another day.
    Love you, Sean!

    Reply
    • Janet Mary Lee - August 26, 2017 4:16 pm

      Happy Birthday, Wendy!! I do that too!! I hope your Birthday is special. Reading Sean’s column always makes a day kind of special, doesn’t it?

      Reply
      • Wendy Boston - August 26, 2017 6:45 pm

        Loved seeing the headline Pike County! Shout out to Brundidge, Alabama where I grew up, specifically Tarentum! Thanks Sean!

        Reply
  11. Karen Thomas - August 26, 2017 8:49 pm

    I love my small hometown of Goshen 😊

    Reply
  12. Nancy Blackmon - August 26, 2017 9:34 pm

    Goshen/Luverne area is the land of lots of my Folmar ancestors. Still have the annual Folmar reunion at the old church in Goshen near the cemetery where many of my distant relatives lie. The town’s home to one of the best restaurants around, The Old Barn. You can find my cousin, Bob, there playing his harmonica most Thursday nights. Thanks for reminding me where I come from and what a blessing it is to still have places like Goshen.

    Reply
  13. Gail Hubbard Traylor - August 26, 2017 10:29 pm

    Sean,
    Thank you so much – this one brought tears to my eyes. Because Goshen, Alabama is my mother’s home. I grew up spending a lot of time at my grandmother’s house and my aunt and uncle’s house there. When I was 16, my steady boyfriend was from Goshen. I met him at the skating rink in Troy one Friday night. We had to wait until he got his driver’s license to go out on a date. He would drive all the way to Ramer to pick me up, then to Montgomery or Troy for our date, and take me back home (by 10:30, of course) and then drive back to Goshen. By the way, Ramer is a lot like Goshen. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I liked him. Gail Traylor

    Reply
  14. Susan Curtis Hunter - August 27, 2017 1:54 am

    My fathers family is from Glenwood. Loved spending time with my grandmother there. I miss the well, grocery and feed store, post office where my dad’s brother was post master. Walked to church on Sunday and all the locals that walked by the house. Wonderful place!!

    Reply
  15. Wendy - August 27, 2017 2:35 am

    1. Does Sean read our comments or is he too busy writing his columns & traveling back roads?

    2. Anyone ever heard of Jericho, AL? My mother was born there before her family moved into the small town of Marion, AL. We’ve lived in cities from Nuremberg, Germany to San Antonio to Atlanta. Finally retired back to small town Alabama, although 50-60,000 population doesn’t feel small enough for this country girl.

    Reply
  16. Judy Riley - August 27, 2017 8:45 pm

    What life is all about……community, family, love, caring, country fried chicken ……..God is Good!!

    Reply
  17. Larry Johnson - October 11, 2017 3:02 am

    I was the Goshen High school principal grades k-12 from 1971 to 1978…I also lived in this same town…I was also school principal at Springhill school from 1968 to 1971 and also lived in this community….wonderful memories !!!

    Reply
  18. Marlo (Howard) Cain - October 16, 2017 11:46 am

    My great grandparents, Harry and Estelle Howard, lived in Goshen most of their lives until age and health took over. Raised their children in Goshen. Can still remember as a kid walking to the store and just looking at the rows of penny candy. Both are buried in the cemetery there. Brings back alot of good memories.

    Reply

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