The Capital of the South

The exhibit is bare-bones, no digital displays like in a modern Smithsonian. The place resembles an antique store. His suits, his Stetsons, and the blue ‘52 Cadillac he died in—which is smaller than I thought.

It’s a nice day in the Capital of the South. The sun warms the brick buildings downtown, making an urban place feel almost country.

I can’t do big cities. But I can do Montgomery. It feels small—sort of.

There’s a bearded man on the sidewalk, collecting cans. Businessmen eat lunch at an overpriced outdoor restaurant, playing on cellphones.

And Hank Williams.

I see him. He’s staring through the window of his museum on Commerce Street. We’ve been friends for a long time. He hasn’t aged a day.

The first song I listened to after Daddy’s funeral was “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” I laid face down on the floor and sobbed until I had a headache.

A boy will do anything to remember his daddy.

This museum is small. They have T-shirts, stationery, and a towering wooden Indian, standing by the door.

The exhibit is bare-bones, no digital displays like in a modern Smithsonian. The place resembles an antique store. His suits, his Stetsons, and the blue ‘52 Cadillac he died in—which is smaller than I thought.

“No photos allowed,” the woman tells a kid behind me.

The boy puts his phone away and complains under his breath to his girlfriend, “They let us take all the pictures we wanted in Nashville.”

This isn’t Nashville, kid. I’ve visited the Country Music Hall of Fame. I could give a cuss which rhinestone tuxes Kenny Rogers wore on his ’83 Japan tour. Today, I’m a boy trying to remember his daddy.

Hank is on the jukebox. He wails. I remember things. Like when Mama got trapped in the chicken coop and almost passed out from heat exhaustion. I recall old men in suspenders. Alfalfa bales.

I can see the morning of my father’s funeral. I was supposed to be getting dressed, but sat on the bed in my underwear, wearing over-sized boots.

Only one day earlier, I’d found Daddy at his workbench. He had a brand new boot slid over his hand. He was polishing the leather with a handful of red clay dirt.

I asked why he’d do such a thing.

“Can’t wear NEW boots to work,” he said. “Fellas would all make fun of me.” Then, he turned up the radio to hear Hank singing.

“Have you ever felt so lonesome you could cry?” he added.

“No,” I answered.

Ignorant boy. Twenty-four hours thereafter, I would feel that lonesome. And I guess that’s when Hank and I got to know each other.

After the tour, I bought a T-shirt with Hiram King Williams’ face on it. It was expensive. I’ll probably never wear the thing. But it reminds me of someone I once knew.

A fella who looked a lot like me. A man who is the reason I still shine new boots with mud and sand.

Maybe he’s even the reason why I write.

A boy will do anything to remember his daddy.

20 comments

  1. Cherryl Shiver - March 7, 2017 11:27 am

    And so will a girl……Daddy’s are like that,..Yes, they are.

    As a Momma, I carried my sons inside my body, gave natural birth to both of them. Put food in the top side, and washed and cleaned the bottom side. I was at every Doctor, Teacher, School appointment or event they went to. I made sure they had clothes, clean folded, and right there at their reach… Until this day, they think their Daddy can still walk on water, and you know what? I have done my very best to make life that way, and I would not change one moment of it. That is one of the best parts of being a wife and a Momma.

    Reply
    • sherry k. - March 7, 2017 1:59 pm

      I agree it is a credit to your Mom you are so bonded to your Dad. Other things you have written already told of her courage…but only a great loving heart tries so hard as the woman you write about.
      Also I suspect you have your own perspective now on what can break a strong man…same thing now as then. The silence.
      Your writing is a beautiful rebellion. I’m certain your parents are proud.

      Reply
  2. Karen Erwin-Brown - March 7, 2017 12:08 pm

    More beautiful words. Thanks.

    Reply
  3. Nona Fox - March 7, 2017 12:27 pm

    And girls will to.

    Reply
  4. Sandra Marrar - March 7, 2017 12:47 pm

    And a girl…

    Reply
  5. Fredda Shutes - March 7, 2017 12:49 pm

    How well I remember my daddy. He left us much to soon at the age of 55. We buried him on the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Don’t remember his listening to country music, but he sang songs like “In the Garden” when we traveled in the car. He also sang a silly song that he waswas about my mama – “I’ve got a gal six feet tall” – actually she was only 5’ll”. The two of them loved to argue politics but never got mad with each other. Mama didn’t drive so daddy took me to the places I had to go – piano lessons, friends’ houses, out of town school functions, and so often to my grandparents’ who lived 4 1/2 hours away. He, like yours, was a good daddy and I will miss him forever.

    Reply
  6. Bonnie Blaylock - March 7, 2017 1:04 pm

    Your words tug a handful of strings. My mother was a straight up red clay Alabama girl who, like your daddy, left us too soon. Didn’t think about it til you said so but, of course, that is also the reason I write. Of course.

    Reply
  7. Sam Hunneman - March 7, 2017 4:56 pm

    Kaw-liga and I are remembering in Maine. Thanks.

    Reply
  8. Nancy Segovia - March 7, 2017 7:14 pm

    Not Just boys, girls do it too.

    Reply
  9. marcia whiting - March 7, 2017 10:47 pm

    I wish you would publish so I can hold the essence of your writings in my hand and ruminate over your wisdom.

    Reply
  10. Michael Hawke - March 8, 2017 3:26 am

    My Dad had a boxed set of Hank Williams 78’s. He bought them in New York when he came back from his Army days in Germany. He loved those records.

    Reply
  11. Jim Crapia - March 8, 2017 4:00 am

    Dammit, now I got some of that Clay county red grit in my eye.

    Reply
  12. Robbie - March 8, 2017 2:40 pm

    Best one.

    Reply
  13. Calista - March 8, 2017 7:52 pm

    And a girl will do anything to remember her momma ❤19 years ago on March 4th and I still dread the month of March each year

    Reply
  14. Thressa - March 9, 2017 2:13 pm

    I feel the pain if your dad’s passing in many of your essays. Writing is your catharsis, it seems.
    A former pastor of mine claimed he was Hank’s cousin (2 or 3 removed.). He said that Hank had written his song “Jambalaya” while in the hospital in Defuniak Springs.
    Have you ever been to the Hank Williams celebration in Georgiana?
    I really enjoy your writing. Have a good day!

    Reply
  15. Constance Ridgway - March 13, 2017 12:32 am

    This girl from Philly and then KC had a Daddy from Tenn who introduced me to Hank and many others. Miss him…

    Reply
  16. Rebecca King - May 5, 2017 12:03 pm

    My cup runneth over after reading your work…many memories we share.

    Reply
  17. Nancy Kane - May 9, 2017 10:18 am

    The very moment I cranked my car, leaving the hospital, Daddy had just left this earth…… no words from the DJ’s, just the first note of Unchained Melody, (The Righteous Brothers). Couldn’t drive until it finished, then I turned off the radio, never hearing a human voice, and drove the rest of the way home, with that song, and what just took place in that hospital, replaying all the way. That was 27 years ago, still happens when I hear that song. I hear ya man!

    Reply
  18. George - May 9, 2017 8:46 pm

    You are so right – a boy will do anything to remember his Daddy!

    Reply
  19. Dora Huelsbeck - May 11, 2017 3:58 am

    My daddy died 40 years ago. I try to always remember the good. I was a daddy’s girl. Thanks for sharing your memories.

    Reply

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