My wife and I played a game of catch today. We were supposed to be packing because we are in the middle of moving houses. But there we were, lobbing a cowhide ball back and forth in the driveway.

The oldest game known to humankind is the game of catch. Eons ago, Eve took a bite of her apple, tossed it to Adam and said, “Hey, Adam! Catch!” And just like that, the Atlanta Braves were born.

I learned how to catch a baseball when I was 2 years old, sitting on the porch swing with my father. It was summer. I was eating a patriotic-colored popsicle. Witnesses remember my father underhanding the ball to me and saying, “Look alive, son!”

At age 2, I was not known for having feline-like reflexes. In fact, my greatest display of hand-eye coordination was applauding myself for peeing in my own bathwater.

So when the baseball arced through the air I merely drooled at it. The ball hit me squarely in the forehead. I

fell off the swing. My mother heard the thud and tore out of the house in a fury. And that’s how my father lost his front incisors.

Over the years, I studied the basics of my father’s cherished game. Not just the big stuff. I learned little stuff, too.

I learned how to spit sunflower seeds correctly, how to insult the batter’s mother, and how to get pine tar all over our family station-wagon interior.

I learned to keep my eye on the ball, to lift my fingers during a headfirst slide, to crowd the plate, and how to adjust my private regions mid-game for hundreds of spectators, like a professional.

But my most vivid memories are the ones where I’m playing catch.

Catch is its own game. It has its own cadence. There is no scorekeeping. No time limit. No rules. If you close your eyes and listen…

Before sunrise. A major Southern city. It’s your all-American sports bar, a room mostly made of wood and stink.

There is the obligatory Budweiser sign above the lopsided pool table. The crooked dartboard. There is the classic tavern bathroom, a lavatory so unspeakably funk-ridden that if you sat on the toilet you would drop dead from gangrene.

Every morning, while most of America is still asleep, 18 immigrants convene in this empty saloon before work. They are sipping coffee, waiting for Teacher.

Seated in these chairs are non-English-speaking Eastern Europeans, Filipinas, Vietnamese, South Americans, Mexicans, and West Africans. These people have almost nothing in common, except that they are free.

Which is a big deal, because these are former victims of human trafficking.

The teacher arrives. Anna is her name. She is 56 years old and she is also a trafficking survivor. Currently Anna is a hotel maid supervisor, but she is working on her college degree.

“I teach these people English,” says Anna. “But it’s pretty hard because I do not know

many languages. I only speak Spanish, English, Russian, Cezch, a little French, and some Italian.”

A regular underachiever.

Anna has taught, she estimates, 600 people to speak English over the years. Many of whom were victims of trafficking.

Anna’s story is a long one. But then, everyone in this bar has a long story. And they aren’t my stories to tell.

What I will say, however, is this: Human trafficking is a much bigger issue than I thought. The International Labor Organization estimates that 24.9 million people are slaves. One person out of every 100 will be rescued.

I don’t mean to depress you. What I’m simply saying is that the issue of human trafficking takes up about 0.0000005 percent of my American brain. And that makes me feel a little ashamed.

Anna breezes into the pub. She sets up her iPad and goes through a few…

I have received a lot of questions lately. I decided to combine the most frequently asked questions and answer them in the Q-and-A format. Here we go.

Q: Why is your blog/column called “Sean of the South”?

A: When I started writing in earnest, my dear friend, Melissa Wheeler, named this column after one of my favorite songs, “Song of the South,” by the band Alabama. Which is the only song I know that contains flagrant lyrics about sweet potato pie. She is a very smart woman, and one of my dearest pals.

Q: What are some other names you tossed around?

A: Some runners-up were: “Sean of Green Gables,” “Little Orphan Seanie,” “Portrait of the Baptist as a Young Man,” and my personal favorite, “Sean With the Wind.”

Q: Do Southerners really say “bless your heart”?

A: Yes and no. For starters, everyone—and I mean every single person—in my family utters the phrase “bless your heart.” But nobody says this expression in the ridiculous way that faux-Southerners use it on Netflix.

Sadly, Hollywood script writers

have butchered our cherished colloquialism, and now it’s become a painful cliché.

The modern-day Bless Your Heart joke started during the infancy of the Internet, when chain-email forwards were mankind’s only form of digital entertainment.

Back then, whenever your inbox received a chain-email, this message often came from an elderly relative who sent thousands of email forwards each day to innocent family members.

Many of these messages were political, others were urban legends, some emails encouraged readers to send their insulin money to Oral Roberts Ministries Inc.

But whenever these emails were humorous, you would stop what you were doing, gather the whole fam around the PC, and read the email aloud.

Q: Are you going somewhere with this?

A: Yes. One of the popular comical email forwards from the 1990s was the Bless Your Heart email, which suggested that “bless your heart” was…

The email came from someone named Paxton.

“Dear Sean,” the message began, “my dog died today and I feel like I can’t go on. I know you‘ve lost a dog before. How do you go on without them?”

As it happens, I have lost 12 dogs in my life. Twelve sounds like large number and makes me wonder whether it’s time to sign up for AARP. But I’m not very old. The truth is, I am just crazy about dogs. Always have been.

At one time in my life, we had four dogs living in our 900-square-foot house. My shoes all had teeth marks. And all my reading glasses had been semi-digested.

Owning four dogs at once, I must point out, is unwise. Of course, I didn’t set out to own four dogs simultaneously. No sane person would. It all started with one dog.

His name was Squirt. My wife and I adopted Squirt from a local animal shelter long ago. He was part of a litter born at the shelter. The employees named

the puppies after characters from the Disney movie “Finding Nemo.”

I’ll never forget our first meeting. My wife and I were seated on the complimentary sofa in the meet-and-greet room, we were both a little nervous.

The sofa resembled something that had survived an atomic weapons detonation test. The cushions were soaked with drool, the nylon stuffing was removed, and there were fleas on the upholstery roughly the size of Danny Devito.

Squirt entered the room, leapt on my lap, and ruined my shirt with the Weewee of Joy, thereby living up to his name.

And I had to have him.

But here’s the thing. The canine shelter did not make adopting easy. Shelters often require adoptive owners to jump through several bureaucratic hoops before adopting. This is to discourage non-serious pet buyers, which I am in favor of—sort of. Except that some preliminary criteria seemed…

Our story begins about two hours north of the Montana state line in the hamlet of Pense, Saskatchewan, Canada. Population: 532—unless someone just had a baby.

There’s not much happening in Pense. You’re basically looking at grain elevators, prairie, and farmers. Lots and lots of farmers. Saskatchewan prairieland is the world’s third largest exporter of durum wheat. So if you’ve eaten Wonderbread or Wheaties recently, it probably came from a Saskatchewan farmer.

These are hardy people who are used to dealing with Biblical snows and hellishly freezing temperatures. Last week, for example, the lows got down to negative 29 degrees. That’s negative with an N.

Which is probably why Canadian farmers have all sorts of clever names for these brutal snowstorms.

They have the “Alberta clipper,” a machine-gun blizzard that moves across the prairie like a Messerschmitt. They have the “Manitoba mauler,” which drops about 3 inches of snow in the same amount of time it takes to trim your toenails. There’s the “Canadian cyclone,” the “Ontario scary-oh,” the “Alberta low,” and the “omigod

we’re all gonna freaking die.”

And then you have the “Saskatchewan screamer.” A unique storm that comes up quickly and screams like a banshee wind.

A few nights ago, while you were snug on your sofa, a Saskatchewan screamer raked across the prairie of Pense.

And Shannon was out driving in it.

Shannon is a single mom who had just picked up some take-out for her kids and was trying to get home before the big storm hit. She sped toward Pense, her windshield wipers set to high, her hands gripping the wheel tightly.

When pavement turned into gravel, the windspeeds picked up and nearly nudged her car off the road. Visibility was zero. In a few moments, she was driving blind. The snowfall got so bad she had to stop driving and click on her hazards.

This was not good.

She leapt out of her…

I was a kid. My father and I walked into the filling station. The bell above the door dinged.

Daddy was filthy from working under a car. He was always working under cars. He came from a generation of men who were born with Sears, Roebuck & Co. ratcheting wrenches in their hands. These were men who changed their own motor oil, who worked harder on off-days than they did on weekdays.

Old man Peavler stood behind the counter. He was built like a fireplug with ears. He, too, worked on cars all day. Except he did it for a living, so he hated it.

Daddy roamed the aisles looking for lunch among Mister Peavler’s fine curation of top-shelf junk food. In the background, a transistor radio played the poetry of Willie Hugh Nelson.

My father approached the ancient cooler, located beneath the Alberto Vargas calendar my mother warned me not to look at under threat of eternal hellfire.

The white words on the fire-engine-red cooler said DRINK COCA-COLA—ICE COLD. My father removed

the sensuous hour-glass bottle, dripping with condensation. Then he grabbed a plastic sleeve of salt peanuts from the shelf.

We approached the counter.

“Howdy,” said old man Peavler. Only it came out more like “Haddy,” because that is how real people talk.

Old man Peaveler looked at our items, did some mental math, and told us how much we owed by rounding up to the nearest buck. The old man’s cash register hadn’t worked since Herbert Hoover was in the White House.

We exited the store and sat on the curb in the all-consuming sunlight. There, my father and I counted cars. For this is what people did before Olive Gardens and Best Buys ruled the world.

Daddy used his belt buckle to pop open his Coke. He used his teeth to tear open the peanuts. Then he carefully dumped the nuts into the mouth of the…

Welcome to Sweetwater County, Wyoming. You’re looking at 10,500 square miles of deer and antelope playing. Where seldom is heard any cell phone reception. This is God’s country.

Sweetwater lies nestled between Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, clinging to the underbelly of the Cowboy State like a bloated tick. This is some of the most magnificent terrain in the Union.

This isn’t a county you hear talked about often, and with good reason. There’s nothing here. The county itself is larger than nine U.S. states, but the population is barely big enough to form a Methodist choir.

Wild horses thrive in Sweetwater. About 1,500 of them roam across the high desert, cantering among the greasewood, the pepperweed, and the pink hopsage. This is an extremely remote region. In a dire emergency, you’d be hard pressed to find a TJ Maxx.

A few days ago, Ryan was late for work, driving among the miles of sagebrush along Highway 374 when he saw something that caught his eye.

There in the distance, nestled

beneath the shadow of a large rock butte, was an olive-drab house. It was a modest home, with children's toys littering the lawn—that is, if you can call a bunch of dirt a “lawn.”

Ryan saw flames shooting from the windows.

His truck skidded to a stop. He glanced around but saw no emergency lightbars, and heard no sirens.

This is Wyoming. Emergency response time in the Forty-Fourth Sate is not speedy. In most U.S. states, the average emergency response time is 15 minutes, which is about the time it takes to defrost a frozen burrito. Wyoming’s statewide response time, however, is upwards of 35 minutes.

Ryan did not waste time. He hit the brakes, then leapt out of his truck, and approached the two kids standing in the driveway. They were small children, both under age 10. Both scared spitless. Their faces were red from the sub-zero windchills,…