PAXTON—I am driving a U-Haul through the north end of Walton County on the way to Birmingham where we will begin a new chapter in our lives. The sun is setting. The rural parts are covered in tall grass, old trees, and mobile homes.
I lived in this county (past tense) just south of here. When I was a young man, I once got a part-time job helping an elderly preacher 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 titanic 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, and said if my faith was strong, maybe someone would show up to help. Nobody ever did.
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. The same culture I will miss. 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 eighty-year-plus 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…