I was maybe 5 years old when I had my first encounter with an ice cream truck.

It was a late 70s model Chevy Step-Van, rolling through our neighborhood like the U.S.S. Wisconsin. The music on the truck’s loudspeaker was a slow rendition of “Pop Goes the Weasel.”

The guy behind the wheel was Mister Jimmy. Jimmy always wore a white peaked cap, he had a five o’clock shadow, and he smelled like unfiltered Camels. He bought the ice cream truck after he’d made parole.

Mister Jimmy was a mythical hero within kiddom. To us children, Mister Jimmy was somewhere on par with Superman, Captain Kangaroo, and Charles Bronson.

Which is why whenever the ice cream truck came around it was a national event. Your entire life stopped.

“ICE CREAM!” one of your friends would shout.

It didn’t matter what you were busy doing. It didn’t matter whether you were cleaning your cap guns, damming the creek, or climbing the branches of a 65-foot oak, studying the complex physics of falling spit.

When you heard the

ice-cream man music box playing, you dropped what you were doing and followed the noise unto salvation.

My chubby legs carried me across an open field where I joined two million kids who were all chasing the truck. One boy was clutching the bumper, his body dragging on the pavement like a rag doll. Little girls were openly weeping like it was a Donny Osmond concert.

The large vehicle finally pulled over, and We the People rejoiced.

All across the neighborhood you could see boys and girls emerging from homes, joining the multitude of seekers.

The ice cream truck was the only attraction in our world which could draw the children like gnats to a pile of organic fertilizer.

Mister Jimmy would pull to the curb, slide open the service window, and say, “Alright now! One at a time! No pushing! Quit kicking! Gimme…

Sixty-eight years ago Miss Ann Elizabeth Fowler Hodges was napping on her sofa when a meteorite the size of a grapefruit crashed through her ceiling and struck her on the side.

She was severely injured. She could walk, but not without shouting unchristian expletives with each step.

This happened outside Sylacauga, Alabama. The year was 1954. Reportedly, witnesses from three states saw a streak of fire in the sky and heard loud booms. Later that afternoon, when Ann’s husband, Eugene, got home from work he asked how her day had gone. She told him there had been, quote, “a little excitement.”

“A little excitement” is exactly how I would describe living in Alabama. Especially when it comes to things careening from the sky.

Because in the two weeks I’ve been an official resident of the Yellowhammer State, it has already snowed, sleeted, flooded, hailed, and today they’re calling for tornadoes. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow a meteor the size of Lebron James crashed through my roof, followed by a category-three hurricane.


morning, I awoke to read my newspaper amidst a Biblical downpour. The first news headline I read said: “Tornadoes, damaging winds, and hail will all be possible today.”

It was like the fortune cookie from hell.

All this weather business got me thinking. What kind of weather am I to expect now that we’re living in Alabama? To learn more about this pressing issue, I contacted one of my friends in town who is a local weather buff.

My friend, Bucky, is one of those guys who has high-tech meteorological equipment mounted on his roof and knows everything about weather. He carries a picture of James Spann in his wallet.

“Alabama is unusual, meteorologically,” said Bucky. “It’s one of the only states with both a spring and autumn tornado season.”

Simply put, Alabama has a reputation for bizarre weather. If hurricanes, tornadoes, or flash floods don’t…

My wife and I lived in a 28-foot camper. We were parked on a vacant lot on a rundown street. Our neighbors’ homes were mildewed doublewides. Each trailer’s front yard featured a fashionable Pontiac sitting on concrete blocks.

It was raining. And it wasn’t just a storm. This was a West Floridian squall. Hurricane season in Florida lasts from June until the following June. It was June 1, 2016.

Tropical Storm Bonnie was making its way up into Carolinas like a runaway boxcar. We were getting the outer bands of rain.

I looked out our camper windows it was flooding. Our bedroom window was leaking like a screen door on the Titanic. One of our windows had shattered earlier that night, I had fixed it with duct tape and aluminum foil, but a miniature Niagara was spewing in.

The Atlanta Braves were on the TV, locked in a battle against the Padres. The game had gone into extra innings. I am a diligent Braves fan, I rarely miss games.

When I used to work in a

restaurant as a dishwasher, I carried a transistor radio with me. I listened to games while I was elbow deep in hotel pans caked with burnt cheese, scrubbing like a maniac.

When I played music in beer joints for a living, I kept a radio earpiece in my ear, tuned to the games while I played piano for line-dancers who had consumed too many five-dollar pitchers.

On the screen in our camper was Number Five, our first baseman, Frederick Charles Freeman, exiting the dugout. He was everyone’s favorite. He was the all-American poster child of Atlanta. He’d been with the Bravos since before his voice dropped.

“C’mon, Freddie,” I said. “You can do it.”

I always talk to ballplayers on TV. It helps them.

“C’mon, Freddie,” said my wife.

Freddie took strike one.

My wife cussed openly for morale.

Before we were married my…

Hi there. This is that Little Voice inside your head speaking. Yeah, I know. It’s been a while. But how are you? How’s life? How’s the fam? You still doing keto?

Listen, I know we haven’t talked in a long time, but technically, that’s not my fault. You probably don’t remember this, but you quit listening to your inner voice just as soon as you hit the fourth stage of puberty.

The moment you developed armpit hair, you became a lot more concerned with getting a driver’s license, French kissing, and eradicating zits.

So over time that voice inside you got quieter. Oh, sure, every now and then you’d hear me droning in the background like Charlie Brown’s teacher. But you never actually listened.

Although there were a few times...

Remember that rude waiter a few weeks ago? When the meal was over, you almost stiffed him with the tip. But then, you dug into your wallet and gave him a ridiculously generous gratuity.

Did you ever stop to wonder why you did this? Well, I’ll tell you

why. Because the teeny, tiny voice reminded you that being generous was not just kind, it was right. That Little Voice was me.

There was that other time, when you gave a ride to two Mexican young women who didn’t speak English. Their car broke down in the Walmart parking lot, and they were crying. You helped them out because that faint voice would not shut up.

Also me.

And let’s not forget about the time you almost got into that fatal car wreck.

No, wait. You never knew about that one. You never did know how close you came to the end. Because the Little Voice told you to pull off the interstate immediately before the disaster happened. And you actually listened. In a few seconds there was a ten-car pile up on I-65, and four people were killed.

Still, most…

It’s raining in central Alabama. I am on my porch, barefoot, watching the rainfall, hypnotized by the sound.

Rain can do strange things to a man.

I come from a long line of rain-watchers, horse thieves, and used car salesmen. We are a barefoot people.

And although my wife keeps telling me to put on shoes because it’s so cold outside that ketchup takes a week just to come out of the bottle, I am a Florida man. Shoes are for going to town.

There is a specific cadence to Alabamian rain. The tone is wholly unlike the rain from my home state. This is the kind of thundershower you can only get in the foothills. There’s a different ring to it. It’s similar to the difference between a clarinet and a kazoo.

Birmingham is in the mountains. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. People from more precipitous states such as, say, Colorado, will outright laugh when you suggest that Birmingham has actual mountains.

“Those aren’t real mountains!” Colorado people will say while chewing their

gluten-free granola. But don’t listen to these people. Their brains have been pickled by generations of Coors abuse.

This city definitely has mountains. They might not be the huge peaks of Wyoming, but they could inspire American hymns nonetheless.

Birmingham lives in the Jones Valley, flanked by parallel ridges which run northeast to southwest. These iron-ore hills are the tails of the mighty Appalachians. They are short. They are the Danny Devitos of the alpine world.

Still, to a guy from Florida, they are Mount Kilimanjaro.

I come from a long, flat, state, also known as the Tourism State. Our main crop each year is Midwesterners. There are no mountains in Florida. Even our singing is flat.

The highest point in the whole state is located in my home county. Britton Hill. Britton Hill’s summit is 345 feet above sea level, slightly higher than a…

The white tent with Auburn University markings was set up outside an automotive garage. There were a couple grills beneath the tent, spewing blue smoke into the air. A sign out front read: BBQ.

It was a sleepy afternoon and business was apparently slow at the garage. The mechanics were all sitting outside, relaxing on the axis of the Wheel of Life. Chain smoking.

At the grill was a young man, working the coals. He was well over six-foot eight. Maybe seven feet. He had a frame like an F-150. His hair was in cornrows, his shoulders were the width of a Steinway. He was smothering pork ribs with a paintbrush that had been dipped in what was either barbecue sauce or 10W-30.

I ordered a full rack because I have a sixth sense when it comes to barbecue. My father before me also had a great nose for barbecue.

And I am a chip off the old block.

My old man could procure the greatest smoked nourishment from side-of-the-road places that

most people would overlook. He once bought barbecue in a Mexican man’s backyard, a man who was cooking a goat in a giant hole in the ground.

When the man asked my father how it tasted, my father forced himself to swallow a mouthful and answered, “It definitely tastes like goat.”

The kid at the grill was loading my to-go box when he looked at me and said something. He was unable to articulate words, it sounded more like moaning than talking. Although his tone had the ring of a question.

An older woman was supervising him. His mother maybe. She was smoking a Black & Mild, seated in a folding lawn chair, serving as his interpreter.

“You want your ribs wet or dry?” she asked me.

“Wet, please,” said I.

The young man made another moaning sound, but I could not understand his question to me. I…

I am on a radio show. I’m sitting in a studio, waiting to talk about my most recent book, like real authors do. I am wearing headphones. There is a microphone in front of me. The producer gives us the count down:

“Aaaannnd we’re on in five, four, three, two...”

He points.


RADIO HOST: Hi, you’re listening to WKXPRHZBXC, your home for soft rock favorites and non-stop continuous Michael Bolton ballads. I’m your highly caffeinated morning-show host, Morning Man Larry, and I’m crazy! With a capital K! Our guest today is author Shane Deeters. Shane, thanks for being with us.

ME: My name’s actually Sean Dietrich. But thank you for having me, Larry.

HOST: Don’t mention it. Now, I’m holding a copy of my guest’s newest book, and I wanna tell you, folks, this looks exactly like a real book. It has an actual spine and a dust cover and pages and everything. Trust me. I have seen some books in my day, but this is definitely one of them. Please, tell our listeners a little bit about your book,


ME: Well, as I say, my name is Sean, and the book is a story about my—

HOST: How long did it take to write this particular book?

ME: I was trying to answer your first question—

HOST: And how many years, approximately, have you been writing books?

ME: Well, I—

HOST: How many books do you have?

ME: Uh, let’s see—

HOST: When did you first fall in love? What’s your middle name? Where is Fiji? What is a granivorous ornithologist?

ME: I’m sorry, which question am I supposed to be answering?

HOST: So anyway, you know what I think? I think writing is a very noble process. Don’t you agree, Shane? Can I call you Shane?

ME: I don’t know why anyone would.

HOST: Funny story, Shane, I wrote a book…