Today is National Redhead Day. I’ll bet you didn’t know we redheads have our own holiday, but we do. And it’s an important day.

Because countless redheads throughout history fought so that we, as a nation, could observe this holiday in freedom. Our ginger ancestors died protecting precious rights that many of us redheads enjoy today.

Such as the right to wear orange or burgundy; the right to be cast as the little orphan Annie in the school musical production of “Annie”; and the right to get free beer on Saint Patrick’s Day.

You probably know a redhead in your life. And speaking as a genetic minority, we ruddy complected persons could use your support right now.

Because redheads are disappearing.

That’s right. Modern research shows that the number of those carrying the recessive gene causing red hair are declining.

The percentage of redheads has dropped steeply within the last few years. At one time, the earth’s population of redheads was about 19 percent. Today it’s down to 2 percent. That’s barely enough to

form a jayvee basketball team.

We are diminishing in huge numbers each year. And each time we die, we take our genetics with us.

If this trend continues, by the year 2100 there will be approximately 3 redheads left including Willie Nelson.

I am a longtime redhead. My hair turned strawberry in my teens, but I was born with hair the color of Ronald McDonald.

I was also a jaundice baby, which means my skin was the color of sickly urine. My mother said I was also born with a pointy head. “You looked like a No. 2 pencil,” my mother recalls.

My mop of hair, however, was the main attraction in the delivery room. The first words of the nurse who delivered me were, “You know what they say about redheads and preachers…”

Unfortunately, nobody ever learned what they say about redheads and preachers because…

One of the first official dates with my wife took place at her parents’ house. That night, her extremely nosy parents promised not to eavesdrop, nor bother us, nor hide behind the sofa and wait for us to kiss.

Her parents agreed to let us have the entire downstairs to ourselves. And I was nervous. What would we talk about? What would we do? Would her parents leave us alone, or spy on us?

My story takes place in an era when VHS cassettes still roamed the earth. My date and I decided to rent a VHS movie. Although as it turned out, we were so timid we couldn’t actually decide on a movie.

HER: Which movie do you want?

ME: Oh, anything you want.

HER: I don’t care, I’ll watch anything you wanna watch.

ME: Makes no difference. What do you wanna see?

HER: Whatever you wanna see.

ME: I don’t care.

HER: Neither do I, you choose.

ME: No, you.

HER: It’s up to you.

ME: No, it’s your call.

And so it went. Because all young lovers are afraid

to come right out and say something like, “Darling, I do believe I’d prefer to watch something produced by the genius that is Monty Python.”

We had the same hem-hawing conversation about which restaurant to choose for dinner. And in the end, we went hungry because we never settled on a place. We ended up driving in circles for three hours constantly saying, “Where do you wanna eat?” “I don’t care, where do YOU wanna eat?”

Eventually we returned to her parents’ house and spent the rest of the evening trying not to exhibit symptoms of dangerously low blood-sugar.

As it happened, our date night got worse. Because the movie we rented turned out to be the foulest, most inappropriate skin-flick Hollywood ever released. It was so bad we could not watch it.

Five minutes into the film…

First off, I’m thankful for long drives in the country.

If there is anything better than a leisurely drive through America’s hay bales and cotton rows, I don’t care to know what it is.

When I was a kid, we used to take Sunday drives. Around sunset, we’d all pile into the family Ford and drive. Windows down. Shoes off. Farmland whipping by our windows at 45 mph.

Mama sat up front, reading “Good Housekeeping.” Daddy spit sunflower seeds. “Unchained Melody” played on the radio. My sister and I counted cattle.

Times have changed. Today’s families don’t take many leisurely drives. When they do, the kids are busy checking TikTok while Mama keeps one finger on the wheel and snaps selfies.

I’m also thankful for Smucker's peanut butter, 22-year-old F-150s, Levi’s, Folgers, East Bay oysters, national parks, onion rings and stop signs.

I’m thankful for babies, who erase sadness from our world. For clean public bathrooms. I’m even thankful for fools. Without them, the rest of us would never succeed.

I’m particularly thankful for old churches. I love old

churches with old preachers and elderly congregations.

If you’ve ever felt like the world is turning to rotgut; if you’ve ever lost faith in your fellow human, go visit an old church. It will change your mind.

I’m thankful for animal rescues. Approximately 4.1 million dogs and cats are rescued each year in the U.S. And each year, approximately 810,000 strays who enter American shelters are reunited with their owners. Say what you will about this nation, but we rescue more animals than Europe, Asia, or any other continent.

I’m grateful for Pepé the horse. Pepé’s previous owner beat him and dragged him behind a vehicle for several miles. He is missing part of his face, and he’s mostly blind. He was rescued by a 26-year-old woman who adopted him, who sleeps beside his stall each night, lying in a cot,…

I am not sure whether you understand English, but I’d like to think you do.

I’d like to think that you know exactly what I’m saying to you. I’d like to think I speak fluent dog.

Heaven knows, I speak to you non-stop. Because you’re blind. Because you need me to keep talking. When I talk to you, you don’t feel so disconnected. That way you’re always part of what’s going on.

So I’ve been talking a lot since I brought you home. I say anything and everything to you, so you feel involved.

I tell you when I’m going to the bathroom. When I read a book, I read aloud. When we go for walks, I describe what I’m seeing. I talk to you about the green crabgrass, the particular shade of blue in the sky.

Yeah, I know it’s silly. You probably can’t understand me. Although sometimes I’m not sure.

Sometimes I think you actually know what I’m saying. Because there are occasions when I tell you how much I love you. And when you hear this, you sort of

lean into me like you know precisely what “I love you” means.

Other times, when I tell you “It’s going to be okay,” after something frightens you, you tuck your head into my chest because I think that, on some level, you know. You know what I mean.

I can only imagine how scared you get when a loud sound occurs nearby. I can only guess at how disoriented you feel when you stumble off the curb.

I owe you an apology. I’m sorry. I don’t know how to teach a blind dog. I am learning as I go. I have so much more to learn. I’m reading books. I’m watching videos. I’m trying. I promise you, I am. But I am an inadequate trainer.

Any troublesome issues lie within me, not you. You’re doing perfectly. You have…

I don’t engage in controversy. But sometimes I have to. And this is one of those have-to moments.

Namely, because I feel it’s my duty as a citizen of this country to bring important matters to the forefront of a national discussion. And by “important matters,” I am, of course, talking about putting sugar in cornbread.

The other day I was reading one of my mother’s favorite magazines. This magazine is a respected publication. A standard in homes across the southeast.

I speak of a magazine which my mother reveres. She used to read this magazine aloud at Bible studies, baby christenings and baptisms. A periodical which shall remain nameless, but whose title rhymes with “Louthern Siving.”

The article stated, quote, “...The cornbread we consider our best, includes fine yellow cornmeal, butter, and a touch of sugar.”

I read this recipe aloud to my mother. My mother nearly choked on her dentures.

“Sugar in cornbread?” she gasped. “What’s this world coming to?”

Mama had to be calmed with cream cheese and pepper jelly.

Listen. I don’t like to

cause problems, and these are only my opinions, but putting sugar in cornbread is a lot like going to church naked. Sure, it can be done. But don’t expect anyone to ask you over for dinner.

Cornbread is a sacrament to my people, often served with fried chicken, pintos, collards, hocks and greens, or stew. It is a savory dish. It’s not supposed to taste like purple Skittles.

If the good Lord had intended for humankind to eat sweet cornbread, he would have given us all insulin pumps.

And yet this problem persists in America.

Only a few days ago, I visited a restaurant in Franklin, Tennessee. It was one of those fancy joints where waiters and waitresses walk like they’re in need of fiber supplementation. The waitress brought me a hot basket of sweet cornbread.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” I said to…

The man had a dream. In this dream, he died. It happened so quickly he almost didn’t know life was over. One minute he was alive; the next, poof, he was organic fertilizer.

He went to Beulah Land. And it was the whole heavenly enchilada. Everything you’d expect. Mother-of-pearl gates. Twenty-four-carat streets. Greenery everywhere. Like the opening scenes of “The Sound of Music” minus the twirling nun.

The first to approach him was an old man. “We’ve been expecting you,” said the oldster. “There are a lot of excited souls waiting for you.”

“There are?”

“Oh, yes.”

The gates opened. The first soul to come barreling out of the gate was four-legged. Blonde. Slender. Like a pixie. She was the man’s first dog, a long time ago.

“Goldy!” the man shouted. And he was 10 years old again.

This was the dog that raised him. He got her when he was a boy. He picked her out of a cardboard box. She peed on him. She chewed everything he owned.

She was his best friend. Not metaphorically.

Goldy was

with him during the suicide of his father. She was with him through the growing pains of adolescence. Through voice changes. Bad grades. Middle-school crushes.

She was with him until her little body gave out. The boy buried her beneath a cedar tree. He didn’t eat for three days.

Next out of the gate came a chocolate Lab. She was sprinting toward him. Tongue flapping in the wind.

Cody. She had originally been his father’s dog. But after his father’s untimely death, the boy inherited this dog. That’s just how it works.

She was a tender animal. A country dog. And a survivor. She survived copperhead bites, arsenic poisonings from cattle farmers, near drownings, and the one time the boy’s little sister made the poor dog wear a tutu.

But no dog can survive old age. Every dog must fall. Every…

It was late. Her name was Lacy. She jumped out of her car and walked into work, wearing her food-service uniform. Visor on her head. Tired eyes. Slumped posture.

Lacy had been working herself silly to support her two children. This was her second job.

A man approached her. He pretended to ask for directions. He was carrying a knife. A big one. The kind of blade you’d used to clean a boar hog. He backed her against a wall. He told Lacy to get on the ground.

Then, another man appeared. He was wearing a plain T-shirt. Jeans. And he was barefoot. Also, he was roughly nine feet tall. At least that’s how Lacy remembers it from her position, lying on the ground.

The man with the knife took one look at Barefoot Guy and sprinted for parts unknown.

Lacy was going to thank her rescuer, but by the time she got to her feet, he was gone. Nobody nearby recalled seeing a barefoot man.

“I know what I saw,” Lacy says. “I ain’t


A truck driver. The rural parts. He was driving a backroad. It was late. There were no other vehicles in sight. The roads were poorly marked. He was lost.

It gets dark in the country. City mice aren’t ready for the kind of blackness found out in the sticks. He drove through the inky dark, hoping to get a sense of where he was. Hoping to figure out how to get back to civilization. But he only grew more lost.

Then. He saw a figure on the side of the road. Flagging him down.

It was a boy. He was maybe 19. The kid looked like he was hitchhiking. Except he wasn’t. The young guy refused to get in the truck. The young man instead told the trucker he had been sent to deliver a message.

“A message?” the trucker asked.

“The road’s washed…