His era is gone. He knows that. His barefoot childhood is just a memory. The soles of his young feet were like maple. He could walk five miles on those dogs. Today, children wear shoes with lights in them.
Something else about him:
He made fishing rods out of cane stalks. They weren’t like store-bought varieties—they were better. In the afternoons, he’d steal corn from nearby fields, eat it raw, then puff a pipeful of fresh-picked rabbit tobacco.
If you ask me, it sounds like a shoeless fairytale. But it’s not. It’s lower Alabama.
He spent enough time on the Conecuh to be part catfish. In fact, it’s where he took his wife for their honeymoon. She loves him. They get along.
He took up chewing twist tobacco. Nowadays, he has to special order it. Nobody sells twist anymore. It’s a bad habit. At first chewing was something he did infrequently. Then it turned into routine. Now, he couldn’t tell a story without it.
And stories. He spins good ones.
You want comedies? He’ll tell you about when he let a raccoon loose during a revival meeting—eons before they wrote country songs about it. You want mysteries? He’ll tell you about the harlot found dead in a wealthy man’s living room. Dramas? The one about his cousin—who fell in love with his own sister.
Anyway, the old fella has a television. A big one. His kids bought it for his birthday. But it’s still wrapped in a box on the guest bed. He doesn’t want it.
“He used to watch some TV,” his wife said. “Sunday movies, or football, he don’t no more. Sometimes he listens to football on the radio.”
Ask him what’s going on in the world. He’ll tell you about the weather, where So-And-So’s boy goes to college, about the deer the McWhoevers shot last weekend. He doesn’t know what the Zika virus is, doesn’t care who the Kardashians are. He too busy piddling in his workshop, spitting in old coffee cans.
He’s got his share of medical issues. He has back problems, he can’t hear worth a Shinola, he chews too much, and he’s got arthritis in both feet.
The world doesn’t seem to care much for its elders. It’s a shame. This was their world once—before we came along and put blinking lights in our tennis shoes.
But if you sit with an old soul for a while, you might find time slows down. And while they jaw about childhoods and stories they’ve tucked away, maybe you’ll learn something.
Maybe you’ll even try going barefoot.