Entering Conecuh County. That’s what the little green sign reads, off Highway 31. I’m heading north, passing through a small sliver of the county. I love Alabama.
A few weeks ago, I was driving to Birmingham, I listened to an audio book. The narrator spoke with an accent like a New Jersey paperboy. He pronounced Conecuh as “Koh-NEE-queue.”
Now entering Butler County. Wingard’s Produce Stand. B&H Cafe. Dollar General. There’s the McKenzie water tower.
And God said, “Let there be kudzu.” I also love kudzu.
I once planted some in my backyard in hopes that one day it would swallow my house. Everything looks better when swallowed in kudzu.
Georgiana is eight miles away. If you’re keeping score, I also love Georgiana. I’ve visited the Hank Williams boyhood home in Georgiana too many times.
Anyone who knows me knows I also love Hank Senior. But then who doesn’t? My affection goes back to childhood. My father’s workbench. A radio. Hank, blaring from a small speaker while he changed the oil in our corral of Fords.
My favorite part of the Hank museum tour is the underside of the house. A tour guide named Miss Margaret told me Hank used to practice his guitar there.
“It was cool down there,” said Miss Margaret. “He’d sit on an old car bench-seat to avoid the heat.”
Miss Margaret. I loved her, too. I didn’t know much about her except that when I met her she was elderly. Half her face was paralyzed. Her accent sounded like a Camellia garden on the Fourth of July. I remember wishing she would adopt me.
Georgiana also has Kendall’s Barbecue joint. Love it.
Although “Love” is a weak word for Kendall’s. I would tell you more about this place, but someone wrote me an ugly letter once, saying:
“You talk about Alabama barbecue TOO MUCH! I’m from Texas originally before I moved to Alabama… I KNOW good barbecue, Alabama barbecue SUCKS, man!”
I understand Texas is beautiful this time of year. I’ll bet they’d throw a nice party if you went back, friend.
I’m passing the Greenville and Pine Apple exit. Greenville is a town like Mayberry. Love it. Pine Apple is the size of a master closet. Double love it.
It’s raining, but the sun is still out. I really, really love that. Behind the sunshower I can see blue skies and clouds. I roll down the window to take in the smell.
“The Devil’s beating his wife,” my daddy would’ve said, observing such a nature scene.
Childhood-me would’ve looked at the sky and asked what this phrase meant. Then my pa would’ve given an explanation that would have lead into a ghost story. He always told ghost stories. Oh, and I loved his ghost stories.
I have a friend who grew up in New York. He had never heard the expression before about the Devil. He asked why sunshowers were called that. I told him the rain was supposedly tears from the Devil’s wife.
“Wait,” reasoned my friend, “I thought the Devil lived in Hell, not in the sky.”
Good point. Although you could make a strong case that the Devil lived nearby and worked locally for most of 2020.
Anyway, people talk a lot about things they hate. It’s trendy to do this. They dedicate long, seething, complex paragraphs to things they hate, then turn right around and share a video of a cute cat. It’s enough to make you tired.
Me? I’d rather think about summer rains, Miss Margaret, county tractors, bush-hogging the shoulders of the highways, Fords, the music of the Drifting Cowboys, and crickets.
Or hugs from a child on the last day of Vacation Bible School. Three-legged dogs who love harder than four-legged ones. Truck-stops. Welcome mats. Conecuh Quick Freeze sausage. Long drives. Daddy, changing his oil—listening to a radio. Or the how when my wife opens her mouth nothing but south Alabama comes out. I love these things.
I also love this—whatever “this” is. This thisness. Which is apparently a word because spellcheck didn’t correkt it.
I love writing to you. I’ve been doing it for a long time now. And even though I don’t know which state you call home, I know a few things.
I know that I’m glad we met. I know that Alabama highways are beautiful. And I know that the barbecue found in the Yellowhammer State will blow your pea-picking mind. Even if you come from Texas.