PAXTON—I am driving through the north end of Walton County on the way to Birmingham. The sun is setting. The rural parts are covered in tall grass, old trees, and mobile homes.
I live in this county, just south of here. When I was a young man, I once got a part-time job helping an elderly man who was from Paxton. He needed help around his house. He paid twenty bucks for three hours of labor every weekend.
It was decent money until he asked me to clean his garage. His garage was a giant abyss of ancient junk. I told him that I would need some help before I would agree to clean it. So he told me to pray for some.
Paxton is the highest town in Florida. It sits 318 feet above sea level, right on the Alabama line. The highest point in Florida is a couple minutes away. The place is a perfect example of Northwestern Floridian culture. You have Baptists coming out your ears,
and Methodists, and Tongue-Talkers. You see cardboard signs on highway shoulders advertising “free puppies.” A middle-aged man on his porch counting cars.
There are 797 residents in Paxton, unless Sister So-And-So has her baby tonight, then it will be 798.
And do you know what I like about Paxton best? The little country school. They just don’t make them like Paxton School anymore. The school has been here since 1939. In its entire 81-year history a little over 2,000 students have graduated from it. Total. That’s how small we’re talking.
It’s a thirteen-year school. Kids start in kindergarten and attend until they’re seniors. And they are unbeatable, too. The agricultural program churns out prize-winning hogs. The boys and girls basketball program doesn’t just win games, they win seasons, and have players who make it to the WNBA. And don’t even get Paxton started on its baseball.
God, these guys are great.…