Country Preacher

His land nestles in the greenery of the foothills. He grew up using a mule to turn dirt fields. He burned up his childhood, tending cotton, cane, and peanuts. But he doesn't call himself a farmer.

Reeltown, Alabama—I don’t know how old he is, but he’s old enough to have white hair and use words like “rye-chonder” when he points.

He and his wife sit in rocking chairs at their vegetable stand. There are flats of tomatoes, peppers, jars of honey.

“‘Ch’all dune?” comes the call from his wife—a sweet woman with a kind face.

I inspect the man’s last batch of summer tomatoes. They look good. And it’s hard to find good fare on the side of the road anymore.

Factories have taken over the world.

There’s a clapboard house behind us. The roof is pure rust. The front porch is made of pure history.

“Grew up in that house,” he said. “My mama grew up in that house. Been farming this land since I’s a boy.”

His land nestles in the greenery of the foothills. He grew up using a mule to turn dirt fields. He burned up his childhood, tending cotton, cane, and peanuts. But he doesn’t call himself a farmer.

“I’m a country preacher,” he goes on. “‘Fore that, we was missionaries.”

Missionaries. But not overseas. To Native Americans. Primitive tribes in the United States which still cooked over fire and lived without electricity.

When they were younger, their missionary work was in Alaska.

“You take a Deep-South boy like me,” he says. “Put me in a poverty-stricken Eskimo tribe for ten years, that’s an education, boy.”

He’s not like many preachers. He has no doctrine to hammer, no book to thump. All he’s ever wanted to do is help people.

And he has a soft spot for Native Americans. He speaks about those he’s helped, with wet eyes. This man is made of Domino sugar.

“We just wanted people to know we loves’em,” he said. “Want my whole life to belong to people who just need to know someone loves’em.”

He’s shows me a wall of license plates. Rusted car tags represent the places his American missionary work has taken him. Arkansas, Missouri, Alaska, Texas, and a cluster of other tags.

His whole life is on that wall.

“I’m so lucky” he says. “Got to know all sorts’a God’s children. Didn’t make no money in my life, we’re kinda poor. That’s sorta why we started selling vegetables, you see.”

I see.

His wife interrupts. “Maybe we didn’t make money, Wallace. But tell him about the email.”

He says they got an email from a Native American man. The man asked if they were the same kindhearted visitors who used to bake cookies for his tribe’s Sunday school class in Alaska when he was a boy.

It made her eyes leak.

That boy is middle-aged today. He’s got a healthy family, and he’s doing well. He just wanted to thank a few missionaries who once showed him kindness.

“That ONE email,” she goes on. “Made our little lives seem worth it. Reckon life really is all about showing people you care.”

Reckon so.

“Was nice meeting you,” the man said. “Hope you come back in the fall for some more vegetables. Or even just to sit’n talk. I kinda like you.”

Mister Wallace. I kind of like you, too.


  1. Kathleen Dempsey - July 31, 2017 1:13 pm

    Gotta love vegetables and Missionary work / ” sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven .”
    Thank you .

  2. Juanita Ruth One - July 31, 2017 1:23 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for starting my every day with a smile in my heart. Your writing is truly a blessing to us readers!

  3. Cathi Russell - July 31, 2017 1:43 pm

    I like you all. Weepy glees here..

  4. Nancy Payne - July 31, 2017 1:44 pm

    Another good one…thank you!

  5. Sharon - July 31, 2017 2:00 pm

    What a powerful way to show the love of Christ. They truly are the embodiment of the Great Commission.

  6. Sam Hunneman - July 31, 2017 2:51 pm

    “…and the greatest of these is love.”
    Nice to run into folks who walk that walk, and yeah, that email made my eyes leak a bit, too.
    Thanks, Sean, for walking the walk, too.

  7. Pat - July 31, 2017 3:16 pm

    Words just escape so this wetness running down my cheeks shall speak for my words.

  8. Susan in Georgia - July 31, 2017 3:22 pm

    After reading your wonderful story this morning, Sean, I do believe there’s a road trip in my near future. Fifty years ago I was a DFACS caseworker out of Dadeville, AL and Reeltown was part of the territory I covered. I need to make my way back over there and find Wallace & his wife and their vegetable stand. Yep, my mouth is watering for summer tomatoes, and my heart is longing to meet up with that kind missionary couple.

  9. paula jones - July 31, 2017 3:25 pm

    Amen, and amen.

  10. Catherine - July 31, 2017 3:32 pm

    What the world needs now…is love and more Wallace’s, his wife, missionaries and more Sean’s to remind us. Thank you.

  11. Paulette Dugan - July 31, 2017 3:49 pm

    And that is what the love of Christ is all about – love unconditionally. Thank you for your essays.

  12. Wendy - July 31, 2017 4:06 pm

    More beautiful words from Sean this morning.

    I apologize for my question to be off topic. But why are the times of my comments incorrect? Last night (due to my insomnia) the comment showed 6:25 a.m. when it was actually 1:30 a.m.. Does anyone know how I can rectify this?

    Thank you again, Sean, for your inspirational writings!

    • Janet Mary Lee - July 31, 2017 4:30 pm

      My times are off too! I wondered the same!! I do not know how to fix it.

      Then I decided….Sean’s post are wonderful… and timeless!!

    • Roger - September 16, 2017 5:34 pm

      My guess on the time difference is the host/server of this site is located across the pond.

    • Carolyn Matjasko - January 16, 2019 6:40 pm

      I think your computer time may be set on a different time zone. A co-worker had this happen to her computer. Hope this helps! :-)!

  13. Carolyn - July 31, 2017 5:03 pm

    Sean, I do hope you’re planning a Fall trip back to Mr. Wallace’s vegetable stand.

  14. Bill King - July 31, 2017 8:14 pm

    I know about Reeltown, and about missions, and about good tomatoes! That was a good one Sean.

  15. Jack Quanstrum - July 31, 2017 10:15 pm

    Precious story!

  16. Michael Saunders - July 31, 2017 11:08 pm

    Good story about good people.

  17. Katy Maddox - August 1, 2017 1:27 am

    Please tell me how to find this couple, Sean – I need to meet them. Katy

  18. Margaret - August 1, 2017 4:51 pm

    Reeltown is my hometown. Wallace and my daddy have been close friends since childhood. I have known this couple since before I can remember. This beautifully written piece only skims the surface of what wonder people they are.

  19. Michael Hawke - August 2, 2017 8:06 pm

    I forwarded this to a friend from Mobile who lives in Independence, MO. I asked if he reads your column. He answered, “I do now.”

  20. Lucretia - August 3, 2017 2:16 am

    . . .beautiful. . .

  21. Darlene Rhodus - August 5, 2017 1:52 pm

    Wallace, you and your missus are not poor at all. You are rich in love. for others and love for Christ. Good Bless You!

  22. Norma Wiser - September 16, 2017 11:19 am

    What a wonderful reminder that “Giving, is the Secret of Living”! Thank You Sean!

  23. Valerie Hardwick - September 16, 2017 2:27 pm

    Reminds me of a Top Board of Cotton Growers, a real gentleman, named Grover.He and his wife took one month a year off to go into hard to reach places.And build a church.I miss him and family.Ozark,Alabama

  24. Sylvia - September 16, 2017 2:29 pm

    “rye-chonder” – oh my how long has it been since I heard that. . . . Thank you Sean, you brought back memories of a more simple time, a more pure time!
    Love your posts. Hope to meet you & your wife if you visit wiregrass area again!

  25. Roger - September 16, 2017 5:31 pm

    As wetness drops upon my tablet as I read this, I must thank God for this story telling gift He has given you.

    • Juanita Ruth One - September 17, 2017 2:27 am

      I so agree. Sean’s column is a highlight of my every day.

  26. Annette Hopper - October 20, 2017 1:45 pm

    Your writings inspire me to be a better and more generous person.

  27. Barbara Bray - January 3, 2019 2:19 pm

    Two of my favorite words are JOY and COZY…….your stories provide both. … ’em.

  28. Debbie Shiflett - January 15, 2019 1:57 pm

    Only a gifted writer can spell rye-chonder! I love you Sean ?

  29. Mary Ann Massey - January 15, 2019 3:12 pm

    What a joy the begin my day with you ….

  30. Janie's Jottings - January 15, 2019 3:41 pm

    To know you touched even one life is a gift beyond compare. God bless this sweet couple and you too Sean. You change lives by making people feel with your writing. I just love that!

  31. Martha Black - January 20, 2020 5:22 am

    “Just wanted to let people know that someone loves them”.
    That pretty much sums up the message of the gospel in one line and to think, he didn’t even go to seminary to learn it.

    When I was child my mother & daddy were much like this man & his wife. You could have been talking about them. No grand titles or degrees, yet they possesed more just good wisdom than you might have ever imagined.

    This reminded me of a little verse they sang to me often…….

    “When your disappointments come and you feel so blue
    There is someone who cares for you
    When you need a friend a friend till the end
    There is someone who’s a friend to you.

    Someone to care
    Someone to share
    All your heart aches
    Like no other can do
    He’ll come down from the skies
    Brush the tears from your eyes
    Your his child & he cares for you”

    Thank you for the reminder of just how simple is the message that we complicate beyond understanding.

    “Tis the gift to be simple
    ‘Tis the gift to be free
    ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
    And when we find ourselves in the place just right
    It will be in the valley of love and delight
    When true simplicity is gained
    To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed
    To turn, turn, will be our delight
    ‘Til by turning, turning, we come round right”

  32. Ella - January 20, 2020 7:51 am


  33. Alesia - January 29, 2020 12:57 pm

    Proof folks just need a bit of Kindess and the feeling of love. That we all matter in this crazy world.


Leave a Comment