They also have the Dead Lakes—the Eighth Wonder of the Southern World, ranking somewhere between the Everglades and Talladega Speedway. A magnificent lake with two billion swollen cypresses.

It’s beautiful in Gulf County. And I’m lost in a rural place. Another era.

This is small-town living.

A brick courthouse that would make Barney Fife jealous. A small Presbyterian church. No traffic lights in town, not even a caution light. At least, I didn’t see one.

And even if there were any, I don’t see the po po anywhere.

“Oh we got deputies alright,” one local remarks. “Ain’t like when we’s growing up. Back then, we had ONE city cop. His name was Preacher. And he was mean.”

Here, there are three main places to eat: Hungry Howie’s, Subway, and the Corner Cafe. I don’t do Howie’s.

The Corner Cafe is your quintessential local joint. Good breakfast. Burgers fit for self-respecting Southern Baptists. This place doesn’t keep regular hours.

“You never know when he’s open,” someone says. “He only opens when he feels like it.”

I love it here.

There’s an ACE Hardware. It’s small. The sign reads: “Ammo, hay, huntin’ stuff, tupelo honey.”

This is the tupelo honey capital of the world. The honey here is not just a big deal. It’s a denomination. This town has more bees than Birmingham has Polo shirts.

Today, I bought six jars. In fact, I’m chewing honeycomb right now.

They also have the Dead Lakes—the Eighth Wonder of the Southern World, ranking somewhere between the Everglades and Talladega Speedway. A magnificent lake with two billion swollen cypresses.

Downtown has the sheriff’s sub-station. It’s a two-room deal. Years ago, the building was a donut shop.

You might want to read that last sentence again.

There’s the Dixie Dandy—a grocery-store-slash-gas-station which sells anything from hot food to WD-40.

An old woman tells a story.

“Once, there was this gentleman, a’comin’ through town,” she explains. “He was just a’driving to court. His fuel light started a’blinking, had to stop for gas…”

So, he a’stopped at the Dixie Dandy.

She goes on: “BUT his bank card had been a’stolen, he didn’t have no money. No NOTHING.”

The Dixie Dandy let him pay for gas by personal check. That might not sound remarkable, but it is. The last time I bought gas by check, people were still a’using the telegraph.

The IGA is a rural grocery store. You have a few brands of mayo. George Jones on the overhead radio. In the front: fifty-pound sacks of corn, deer feed, and elderly cashiers who say things like, “Y’all just passing through?”

“Sort of,” I answer.

“Glad to have you,” she says, smiling.

And for some reason, I believe her. Her face is sincere. She bears a striking resemblance to my granny, who smoked two packs of Winstons per day for good luck. I miss that woman.

And I’m lost.

Not lost on the map. In my head. Old courthouses and Dixie Dandies do this to me. I miss old America. I miss senior classes not big enough to form a Bible study group.

I miss Christmas parades with homemade floats on flatbeds. Corner cafes. Old men who fish. Boys who say, “Yes ma’am” to girls their own age. I miss Daddy.

I drive past the city-limits. The town’s behind me, I’m already homesick for a place I had never visited before today.

This is the best honey I’ve ever had. And it sure as Shinola ought to be.

It came from Wewahitchka.

36 comments

  1. Susan Hammett Poole - December 18, 2017 7:18 am

    You’ve told a happy tale, and I’m feeling joyful just reading it and thinking about that “chaw” of honeycomb!

    Reply
  2. Jo Grogan - December 18, 2017 8:26 am

    Sean, you nailed it with our little town of Wewa. If you should ever find yourself coming through here again, please feel free to contact me. We will show you a mighty welcome and cook for you. In fact, we would love to have you come and give a little talk at our small, well-loved library (we have a reception room there perfect for it), and an interested patronage who would show up. Our local Woman’s Club also would enjoy having you as a guest speaker – those ladies can cook, and know how to make guest speakers feel welcome. If you would like to attend church services, we would love to have you visit First United Methodist Church of Wewahitchka, and meet one of the community’s most cherished assets, our 92 – year-old retired schoolteacher and retired swim instructor, Mrs. Holloway, who is likely the most beloved person in Wewahitchka. Please come back and be our guest. We will welcome you with open arms!

    Reply
  3. Stanley Dennon Tomlin - December 18, 2017 9:11 am

    Did you do the wewa wiggle while you were there . My favorite place in the world to flyfish !

    Reply
  4. Sharon Reaves - December 18, 2017 11:26 am

    As I read the closing part of this, I was nodding right along. I feel the same way about old Southern towns. I also find my mind lost in places like this, just reminiscing about things that were good during my growing up years. Thanks again for the walk down memory lane.

    Reply
  5. Ruth - December 18, 2017 11:56 am

    No place like Wewa and the Dead Lakes. Fish camps, fog so thick you can’t walk through it, catching channel cats off the bridge at the dam,
    . . . *sigh *

    Reply
  6. Dianne - December 18, 2017 12:46 pm

    I didn’t realize how much I miss the way It used to be in small Southern towns, until I read you blog today. Made me homesick for those days and times.

    Reply
  7. CaroG87 - December 18, 2017 1:23 pm

    Oh my stars, now I want to visit.

    Reply
  8. Kim Williams - December 18, 2017 2:48 pm

    That’s why we travel the gray roads on the maps. I try to stop in the little towns’ mom and pops and buy SOMETHING!

    Reply
  9. Jack - December 18, 2017 2:58 pm

    Sean, hard to believe you’d never been to Wewa! Glad you got there.

    Reply
  10. Carolyn - December 18, 2017 4:32 pm

    Wewa held the title of “the worst speed trap in North Florida” for many years. Must have been during Preacher’s time.

    Reply
  11. maryann fannin - December 18, 2017 4:54 pm

    We were there in September. My husband grew up going to the fishing camp with his Grandfather. It was my first visit. The fishing camp was still there and you described the town perfectly!!!

    Reply
  12. joannie6535 - December 18, 2017 4:57 pm

    I grew up in a small southern town called Rockmart…..just about the same as Wewa…and I miss daddy too.

    Reply
  13. Jayne Holland - December 18, 2017 4:57 pm

    Now you have gone and created a place for “Tourists” to ruin. Everybody forgot this place since the movie. That’s why it was always so special. It was forgotten. We always used to take a trip when we were in Panama City, a Day trip to get honey. Half of the day was spent with my Daddy talking to someone he knew from the Army.
    I love your blog, please keep it up.

    Reply
  14. Jack Darnell - December 18, 2017 5:51 pm

    So, for a fact I don’t thik I have been to Wewa… But now I want to go. You are sorta like a cold, easy to catch up with. Oh and I can handle some honey comb.

    Reply
  15. Marty from Alabama - December 18, 2017 7:31 pm

    Did you say, “Shinola?” Have not heard anybody say that in years. You are my kind of writer – you live in the cyber age but still remember the buggy age! Can’t get better than that.

    Reply
  16. Christine Atchison - December 18, 2017 8:44 pm

    This is my hometown and Im proud of it! Glad you could visit!

    Reply
  17. Laura - December 19, 2017 1:45 am

    You brought back so many memories. My cousin used to live in China Grove and they have 4th of July parades. One day she talked me into dressing up in some costumes to participate in their parade. Until I got there I didn’t realize the “float “ was a decorated pick up truck. It was the most fun I had had in ages. Love you, Sean!!

    Reply
  18. Deena - December 19, 2017 3:40 am

    there is nothing in the world like our old little Southern towns..

    Reply
  19. Teri - December 19, 2017 3:44 am

    Gosh! My husband says Shinola all the time-only person I know that said it until I read this! I’m a new subscriber to your blog-hooked already. Been to Wewa and bought their honey, too. What a trip down memory lane—thank you!

    Reply
  20. Kevin - December 19, 2017 3:58 pm

    Love your story and your stories. Recent replant? back to my roots in rural Middle Tennessee from Atlanta and yours tales help me reconnect. My big black lab Molly and Daisy would get along famously!

    Reply
    • Kevin - December 19, 2017 4:02 pm

      Sorry Ellie May … I should have checked my feeble memory 🙂

      Reply
  21. Bill Brown - December 20, 2017 12:21 am

    When I was the city editor at the Democrat a million years ago, I always wanted to have a Halloween story from Wewa so I could use the headline: Somethin’ will get ya in Wewahitchka.

    Reply
  22. Beverly Pitts - December 20, 2017 10:59 am

    Sean, I own the Subway Restaurant in Wewa, and would love to have you stop in. Been here all my life, and truly love it. Enjoyed your story.

    Reply
  23. Melissa Mikkelsen - December 23, 2017 9:25 am

    The best of Florida doesnt have a mouse it has fly fisherman and honeycomb 🙂

    Reply
  24. Carolyn watson - February 14, 2018 4:52 am

    I loved your story and yes I was born in Dalkeith 8 miles south of Wewa!! That’s what the locals call this amazing town. Left to be with my military husband traveled over the USA and seven countries and came back to retire in the only place he and I wanted to return to. I’m 77 and still go fishing by myself on these beautiful Dead Lakes and rivers and eat TUPELO HONEY EVERY DAY. Come back your always be welcome.

    Reply
  25. Donna - March 21, 2018 12:50 pm

    My aunt lived in Wewa when I was little. My sister and I used to spend a week there in the summer. It’s a lot like my hometown growing up in South Georgia. Your post brought back a lot of happy memories.

    Reply
  26. Gerald - March 21, 2018 1:40 pm

    “Senior classes not big enough to form a Bible study group” hit dead center. I was in one of those classes (Paxton, class of ’61) and those of us that are local still meet every six months, usually at McClains family restaurant in DeFuniak Springs. Paxton and Wewa are similar in a number of ways.

    Reply
  27. Dan Wise - March 21, 2018 1:59 pm

    My Paternal Grandparents had a get-a-way home in ‘WEWA”. Enjoyed some summer breaks walking distance from the Dead Lakes. The movie ‘Sling Blade’ with Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, Robert Deval, and John Ritter filmed here. Best Actor nomination for Billy Bob.

    Reply
    • Mike - March 21, 2018 9:42 pm

      Ya, no. “Sling Blade” was filmed near Thornton’s ancestral home in Malvern, Ark. You might be thinking of the movie “Ulee’s Gold” with Peter Fonda. The website http://www.imdb.com says scenes from that motion picture were shot in Wewahitchka.

      Reply
  28. Gale Smith - March 21, 2018 2:50 pm

    Not many of these places left and most of them are in our little corner of the world.

    Reply
  29. Sam Seetin - March 21, 2018 10:27 pm

    “..Chewing honeycomb right now…” the sweets are going to get you and your little dog too? ( Kansas talk)
    Uncle Sam

    Reply
  30. Pat - March 21, 2018 10:52 pm

    “He doesn’t know sh*t from Shinola” is what my Daddy used to say about a really stupid person. I still don’t know what Shinola is, but I’m not sure I ever want to.

    Reply
    • Fred Meredith Crawford - March 22, 2018 12:56 am

      Shinola was show polish way back when.

      Reply
  31. Pam - March 22, 2018 2:13 am

    Who turned the traffic light off?????

    Reply
  32. Keith Hanlon - March 23, 2018 4:57 am

    Just a bit of history. The Sheriffs sub-station was,as you noted, a donut shop. Before that, it was a Gulf gas station owned by I think Mr. Borders.

    Reply
  33. Smitty Thorne - April 28, 2018 11:57 pm

    Sean, I love your stories. I wanted to let you know that 50 years ago we handled shipments of Tupelo honey in 55 gal drums destined for Europe. Tupelo never granulates and, blended with other honey that won’t granulate either! I believe it is the only honey with that ability. Keep up the great writing!!
    Smitty

    Reply

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