It’s morning in Alabama. I’m driving. There is green everywhere. Live oaks that are old enough to predate the Stone Age. Tin sheds. Peanut fields with perfect rows that run for miles in straight lines.

American flags are hanging from most mailboxes, horse trailers, workshops, treehouses, and semi-truck garages.

There are plenty of curves ahead, winding through the viridian landscape. They will take you past Faith Chapel Church, Providence Primitive Baptist Church, New Chapel Baptist, First Assembly of God, United Methodist Church. And a heap of other three-room meeting houses with well-kept cemeteries.

There’s the Perry Antique Store—which used to be a gas station one hundred years ago. It sits on approximately thirteen million acres of flat earth. Old men sit on its porch, chewing the fat. Watching traffic.

There are ancient mobile homes with brand new Fords parked out front. There are brand new mobile homes with ancient Fords. I pass red-dirt-road offshoots that lead to God-Knows-Where. Horses in front yards. Cattle in backyards.

Weathered brick chimneys, standing in empty fields.

Telephone poles with fading signs that read: “I buy junk cars.”

I pass small towns, small communities. Brantley. Pine Level. Elba. Kinston is about as big as a minute, but they have a nice baseball field. Baseball is serious business in Kinston.

“Now entering Geneva County.”

I pass bumpy creek bridges—I have to slow down to drive across. There’s a crumbling red house—probably older than the late great Kathryn Tucker Windham.

Bass boats sit by the highway with for-sale signs. Farm-implement graveyards stretch clear to China.I am getting close to home. The county in Northwest Florida that sits sandwiched between the Alabama line and the Choctawhatchee Bay.

There is a man, burning trash in his front lawn. There are man made bass and bream ponds. Dead corn fields. Overgrown yards with rusty swing sets and children’s playhouses, with wood rot.

Rusty mailboxes with flags up. Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church. Lowery Church of Christ. Grain silos. Chicken farms. Cattle farms. Tree farms. Dirt farms.

The yellow line in the center of the highway turns solid. Then dotted again. Then solid.

Duke’s Meat House. I’ll bet old Duke can hickory-smoke the sin out of a shoulder.

Earlytown, Alabama, has seen a lot in its day. So has the abandoned Volkswagen in a hayfield. Round bales of hay. Tall longleaf pines. Tin roofs galore. Corroded fifth-wheels with DIRECTV satellite dishes on top. The Geneva State Forest.

Farmhouses with grandkids sitting on front swings, shirtless. A lonesome cow, standing by a mile marker. Sardis Cemetery, small as it can be.

Hacoda, Alabama. Ponds. Live oaks. Camp Victory. An old, white millhouse with busted windows and mold growing on the siding.

A homemade sign in someone’s garden which reads: “Roll Tide.”

Entering Covington County. There’s a kudzu problem here in Covington. And a sunshine problem. There is a young family walking on the shoulder of the road, pushing a stroller. They wave. So do I.

Because that’s just how we do.

And I still haven’t passed a single vehicle on this entire highway.

I’ve seen a lot of country in my time. I’ve seen the mountains of Colorado, the desolate plains of Texas, the ghost towns of Missouri. I shook hands with editor of the Emporia Gazette at a dog park, I bought a cowboy hat in Amarillo, and lost it in Las Cruces. .

But coming back to the part of the world that reared me is special. The place where the word “chair” has four syllables. The place where my memories are. Where my family is.

Thank you, Heaven, for all you give me. For kindness, white flour, bloodhounds, and people who are brave enough to treat others how they themselves want to be treated. Thank you for Lower Alabama.

And thank you for always bringing me home.

50 comments

  1. Liz Hoyt Eberle - October 12, 2021 6:33 am

    Home. So good to be able to still go home. 😔💕🙏🏻

    Reply
  2. Beth Bryant - October 12, 2021 7:31 am

    Amen!

    Reply
  3. Tammy S. - October 12, 2021 8:51 am

    No place like it!!!

    Reply
  4. Irene Torres - October 12, 2021 9:44 am

    There is no place like home!

    Reply
  5. Dean - October 12, 2021 9:55 am

    Nothing better than coming home after being away for a while. Especially when you have been in the hospital

    Reply
  6. John - October 12, 2021 10:14 am

    After my stint in the Navy, I settled in Pensacola for a couple years. Then I realized that, although it’s geographically part of Florida, culturally it’s plunked down right in the middle of that same Lower Alabama. I wanted more action, so I moved to Miami where I met my wife of 42 years. But I still fondly remember those down to earth folk, even though many of them were dirt poor. Thanks for the memories, Sean!

    Reply
  7. Vanessa - October 12, 2021 10:18 am

    Sean — this is so beautiful! Thank you!!

    Reply
  8. Darlene Meader Riggs - October 12, 2021 10:24 am

    That’s a good ‘Un, Sean! ❤️

    Reply
  9. Ralph Turner - October 12, 2021 10:50 am

    Sean,
    Where is viridian? I’m sure it must be South of Pineapple cause I don’t drive that way often.

    Reply
  10. Tom Baxter - October 12, 2021 11:08 am

    Thanks for the ride home, Sean.

    Reply
  11. Amanda craig - October 12, 2021 11:43 am

    Beautiful.

    Reply
  12. Hawk - October 12, 2021 11:44 am

    Home is in the heart. There is where wealth resides. If you are so happy “that your heart is going to explode”, then you are home. Dirt poor or concrete poor? Easy chose.

    Reply
  13. Sam of the South - October 12, 2021 11:51 am

    We just returned from a two day, mandatory family wedding, literally, a 1,000 miles away. As a transplanted native to South Alabama, with intimate knowledge of the locations Sean described, I scribbled this note to my grown children this morning, hoping, that they too may have the vision to see what most people ignore.

    My Homeward this weekend….
    After a 12 hour marathon with my geriatric band of travelers, while seeing the beautiful rolling
    horse farms of Virginia, the spires of the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, the knotty traffic of Tennessee,
    I find this timely SOS commentary hitting close to home, as I yearned for the green, green towering shoulders and blue blue white puffed sky of Alabama.
    All of you have traveled these described Alabama backward lovely county roads as have I, but did you ever take time to appreciate them for their shear simplicity, and feel your familial roots reach into the red clay, searching for the common bonds that have led and planted you where you are today?

    Reply
  14. Mark Fendley - October 12, 2021 11:54 am

    Those names mean a lot. Over 7 generations of my family have called Clarke county as home. Whatley. Asbury, Sandflat, Grove Hill, Thomasville, and every back road.

    Reply
    • MaryLu - October 12, 2021 5:55 pm

      My mama was raised in the 1920s on a dairy farm in Clarke County, along with seven brothers and sisters. The stories she would tell of Grove Hill and family, the love and reverence and memories echoed throughout my childhood and into adulthood. Oddly we never stopped there though on our car trips from Florida to Tuscaloosa where the family ended up for the 8 kids to go to university, during the Depression. I well recall the kudzu and the red clay, (and the Burma Shave signs!), and so many of the sights Sean writes about. I’ve always thought of Alabama as my spirit home though I never lived there. Sean paints us a word picture as poignant and heartfelt as my old memories do.

      Reply
  15. Susiebelle - October 12, 2021 12:01 pm

    This is my home too although I now live in midstate. And right now, in LA, peanuts are being harvested. Oh, the smell!!! How I miss it.

    Reply
  16. Bob - October 12, 2021 12:02 pm

    I’m with you all the way, especially the part about the blessings of getting home. I live on the course where Bubba W played as a young man and have a mini farm with one of those tin roof pole barns in Allentown. Santa Rosa County is “home.” Nothing like it.

    Reply
  17. Susan A. Royal - October 12, 2021 12:24 pm

    Thank you. As always, your words have taken me along with you.

    Reply
  18. Ray Huckabone - October 12, 2021 12:25 pm

    I never thought much about Alabama until we moved here to the beautiful city of Eufaula almost two years ago. Now there is no where I would rather be.

    Reply
  19. Vivian - October 12, 2021 12:28 pm

    Over here in Arkansas or Tennessee you might have also seen a front yard with a tractor tire painted white and filled with blooming marigolds. Or a “bottle” tree” supplied with empty and upended green, blue, red, amber and clear bottles which formerly contained Worcestershire sauce (pronounced “Wusstersher”), sodas, whiskey/wine/beer, olive oil, etc. The open ends are speared onto small dead trees whose dried, thin limbs are snipped shorter to accommodate the bottles. Cedar tree trunks work best. Kind of like perpetual Christmas trees and also used as landmarks in directions to ol’ Miss Samanthy’s place. The best part is when you meet another driver on the road and he or she waves at you and you wave back, maybe just lifting a thumb and first two fingers off the steering wheel. You could be a bank robber on the lam, but you’ll get the same friendly greeting.

    Reply
  20. Paul McCutchen - October 12, 2021 12:30 pm

    Makes you wish you had ruby slippers and just click the heels.

    Reply
  21. Katie McCarty - October 12, 2021 12:35 pm

    Home Sweet Home! Amen Brother!❤️

    Reply
  22. Robert Johnson - October 12, 2021 12:42 pm

    On our annual trip to Destin last week, we decided not to take I65 because of the traffic and since we are retired now, we are not in such a big hurry as we use to be. We went through many of the little towns you write about so much. You describe the areas perfectly! We did make a stop on the way in Luverne at the Chicken Shack. It was so good that we made the same stop on the way back at the end of the week. On our return trip, we actually got there too early that Saturday and had to wait 30 minutes for them to open. But it was worth the wait! In my humble opinion, they have the best Fried Chicken I have found that actually compares to my grandmother’s fried chicken. And the homemade vegetables are amazing too! Plus we both fell in love with our waitress, Caitlyn! She is such a sweetheart and treated us like long lost family! Anyway, I just thought you might like to hear from one of your readers that actually came through some of your favorite area! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  23. Jan - October 12, 2021 1:00 pm

    Amen. Home is the best place in the world!

    Reply
  24. Mark3:26 - October 12, 2021 1:05 pm

    “Ancient mobile homes with brand new Fords and brand new mobile homes with ancient Fords…”
    That may sum up the American South. We’re all free to decide how we live our life, without Homeowners Associations to tell us what we must do. That may be the basic cultural divide in America right now. Born compliant or born Free.

    Reply
  25. billllly - October 12, 2021 1:19 pm

    Home Sweet Home for 65 of my 76 years!

    Reply
  26. Ellen Garner - October 12, 2021 1:19 pm

    Your column this morming sounded as if you were reading my mind! I was raised in Evergreen, Al schooled at ‘Bama and worked for most of my career in Atlanta. Ga before retiring here on Niceville. FL (Yes, it’s nice here). I still visit my brother, Richard Nix, who is a lawyer in Evergreen, as was my daddy before him. My stepmother stills lives there and we visit her, too. Your column was just recently brought to my attention by my sister-in-law , Richard’s wife. Zebbie. She owns a pool cleaning business that she runs out of Richard’s office building. They love partying, Bear Bryant, ‘Bama football, grillin’ anything out by the pool and the good ‘ole American way. My daddy once had a shrine on their TV to the Bear. We’re talking rral fans! All us kids (6) would never of even imagined going to school anywhere but Alabama. I get you and I. Love you words. Thank you for carrying home.

    Reply
  27. Suellen - October 12, 2021 1:34 pm

    Thanks for taking me along on your drive. We always loved road trips. I don’t drive much anymore and since my husband’s stroke he can’t drive at all. It was one of our favorite things just to hit the back roads and go up one road and down the other. Especially this time of year when the sunshine is golden and the sky so blue and the farmer’s are hurrying to get their crops in the barn.

    Reply
  28. Harriet - October 12, 2021 1:35 pm

    This one is special.

    Reply
  29. Elizabeth - October 12, 2021 2:26 pm

    Enjoyed reading today’s writing! As a lower Alabama (LA, we call it) gal, I am proud of where I come from. Small town, almost poor conditions…didn’t brother me at all. We had loads of fun climbing trees, making ramps & jumping them with our bicycles, going to the local creek on a hot, steamy summer day to cool off (swimming pool?…no one I knew owned one of those!). Time was so much slower back then.
    Wishing you God’s blessings!

    Reply
  30. Sandi G. - October 12, 2021 2:50 pm

    Makes me wish I wasn’t a Yankee – but at least I live here now, and I love it!

    Reply
  31. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - October 12, 2021 2:54 pm

    I felt like I was riding in that car with you. I spent some time in Clio, Alabama where my niece and her family lived. It was different from where I live near Anniston. There are so many wide open spaces in LA!

    Reply
  32. Sandra - October 12, 2021 2:57 pm

    Sweet Home ALABAMA. Roll Tide Roll !!

    Reply
  33. gingie1225 - October 12, 2021 3:13 pm

    Beautiful 😍

    Reply
  34. Steve McCaleb - October 12, 2021 3:42 pm

    God was in a fine mood the day he created Alabama. There’s no place in the world like it. Thank you Lord for putting me here.

    Reply
  35. Brenda - October 12, 2021 4:03 pm

    Chair may have four syllables where you come from and I got you beat because dip has eight syllables where I grew up

    Peace, Love and Joy

    Reply
  36. AlaRedClayGirl - October 12, 2021 4:41 pm

    I do enjoy traveling through lower Alabama and spending time at Fort Morgan or one of the other gorgeous beaches. However, North Alabama has been home for almost my entire life, with the exception of a few years in the “loveliest village on the plains”. WAR EAGLE! Phil Driscoll has a beautiful song titled “God Loves Alabama”. All Alabama lovers need to hear it.

    Reply
  37. Patricia Gibson - October 12, 2021 5:12 pm

    Amen

    Reply
  38. Cathy - October 12, 2021 6:15 pm

    and all of Northwest Florida said, “Amen” 🙂

    Reply
  39. David Proctor - October 12, 2021 7:11 pm

    That’s the route we take from Birmingham to our beach cottage on Santa Rosa Beach. Would love to catch up with you the next time we are there. From your posts, it sounds like you live close to Hogtown Bayou. Really enjoy your columns. Thanks.

    Reply
  40. Linda Moon - October 12, 2021 8:06 pm

    Alabama mornings both in lower and upper mountainous Alabama are beauty for me. So is Ms. Windham, whose spelling of ‘Kathryn’ is the same as my daughter’s, mine, and Aunt Kat’s too. Thanks be to Heaven for all of Alabama, and I’m glad you’re back home with all of us who call this place ‘home’. Y’all come back now!

    Reply
  41. Peggy ALEXANDER - October 12, 2021 9:05 pm

    I took my first breath in Mobile Alabama Been breathing now for 78 years ❤️

    Reply
  42. Pete Tucker - October 12, 2021 10:41 pm

    As Bob Hope would sing, “Thanks for the memories.” Since I grew up in Crenshaw County, many of the places you wrote about, or readers have referenced, are part of my stomping ground. We have eaten at the Chicken Shack several times. I was invited to speak to a civic club, and a couple of reunions were attended there. Good food and great people.

    Reply
  43. Beverly Gillis - October 13, 2021 2:45 am

    I use to say if I had a dollar for every time I drove from Montgomery to DeFuniak Springs, I would be so rich. I left DeFuniak in 1970 and went through all those little towns many times, for many years, to go visit the folks. Now they are gone, but the trip is still beyond special. Always will be. Nothing like it. Thank you.

    Reply
  44. Keloth Anne 💕 - October 13, 2021 4:23 am

    I loved traveling with you as I read this tonight 😊 I’d never heard of Hacoda and had to find it on the map. It’s always a wonderful thing when you travel and are able to arrive home safely ♥️
    I so enjoy your incredible posts and can’t wait to see you and Jamie—I keep hoping it’ll be in the near future 🧐

    Reply
  45. LilaBannister - October 13, 2021 12:26 pm

    Sean, thanks for taking me back home for a few minutes this morning. Been in Yankee land over 20 years but Alabama will always be my home!

    Reply
  46. Gordon - October 13, 2021 2:58 pm

    I especially enjoyed this post, Sean because my “roots” are in Lower Alabama-the Covington County town of Florala. And you are correct-there is plenty of kudzu in Covington County!

    Reply
  47. Pamala Brayton - October 13, 2021 4:08 pm

    Libertyville, just outside Andalusia, Covington County, Alabama, home sweet home! Love your stories.

    Reply
  48. Bruce Crittenden - October 13, 2021 8:18 pm

    And Milton-Freewater ain’t bad either. No need to put the state because there is only one. And yes there is a story behind the name.

    Reply
  49. Tim Wood - October 14, 2021 3:08 pm

    This is where I live, I know all of the places you have mentioned. I live in Geneva the county seat of Geneva County and I love it. I have worked at the same job for the past 38 years and I love it. I loved and lost a wife who was in the local nursing home for the last 4 1/2 years of her life. Coincidently she worked at this nursing home for more than 20 years before taking another job, you might say she went home. She loved this city too. I am only 57 but this is where I want to live and sooner than I want, to eventually die. I found you by mistake one day and have been a follower ever since. Please keep up the great work.

    Reply

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