Lake Martin

Somewhere near Eclectic. A small A-frame cabin in the chlorophyll-choked woods of Alabama on Lake Martin.

I awoke on America’s 246th birthday. I was lying in a single bed, nestled in an all-wood room with piney walls. The walls were adorned in fishing tackle, and a singular mounted bass about the size of the late Sonny Liston.

I could hear the coffeemaker in the kitchen, gurgling its sunrise anthem.

I staggered out of bed and glanced out my window to greet the day.

The lake outside was the color of a mirror, upturned toward the sky. The pre-sunrise clouds were pink and gray, waiting for dawn.

There was a squirrel outside my window, staring at me with its little shark eyes. Eyes that were saying to me, “If circumstances were different, and if I were a lot bigger, I would eat you.”

I went to the bathroom to see a man about a dog. I played Wordle. I got it in five because I’m an idiot.

I stumbled into the kitchen. I stood before the Mr. Coffee machine, and my attention was diverted.

I saw them.

They were on the counter. Unassuming, little crimson tennis balls, stacked neatly in a pyramid. They looked supple and friendly. Because that’s how Peaches from Chilton County are supposed to look.

I picked one up. I held it in my hands and used my thumb to test its ripeness.

There’s a technique for checking a peach’s edibility. You use your thumb to apply the slightest amount of pressure. Like probing a fresh bruise.

You want the peach’s meat to give a little, but not too much. If your thumb makes a small dent, the peach is ready to eat. If you break your thumbnail, you might want to wait a few days to let it ripen.

This one was just right. Which is why I opted against coffee.

Since I was 9 years old, I have been drinking coffee every blessed morning. I come from evangelicals who were fueled by coffee and puritan moral disapproval. They drank their Folgers weak and black so they could sip it all day long.

Today, however, I got my caffeine from another source.

I poured Milo’s tea into a tall, old-timey, green tinted Coca-Cola glass, filled with crushed ice. The golden sugary drink sloshed around, running over the brim. My cup ranneth all over the place.

I don’t know who Milo is, or where he comes from, but he deserves to be canonized in his own lifetime.

I left the kitchen with a peach in one hand and Milo’s in the other. I stepped outside into the daylight. The sun was hoisting itself over 40,000 acres that is Lake Martin.

Lake Martin is one of the top five cleanest and clearest lakes in the United States. It is like looking into glass. It is a lake so clear you can see all the Natural Light cans on the bottom.

I stared across the lake and I was thinking about my old man.

He’s been dead for most of my life, death by his own choosing. But he loved peaches. He could eat five or six in one sitting. He always said peaches were high in vitamin C, but he was full of beans. Peaches have less vitamin C than a fire hydrant.

I bit into my peach.

The fruit was soft. The skin was a little fuzzy. The flesh was tender without being mushy; somewhere between a new tomato and a ripe pear.

Nectar ran down my chin, dripping along my neck, flowing down the collar of my T-shirt, staining the white fabric. The taste was acidic but not bitter. Sweet but not cloying. Tart but not sharp.

And something primal took over within me. I ate another peach. Then another. And another.

Pretty soon, I had eaten four peaches. I washed down each bite with swigs of ice-cold Milo’s, a drink sweet enough to rot your molars, but refreshing enough to have its own waterpark in Orlando.

And as the sunlight peeked above the treeline, I heard the slaps of distant screen doors reverbing across the smooth lake on a Southern Fourth of July. I heard faraway happy conversations, bouncing off the water. An American flag next door whipped in the easy breeze.

The morning air was immaculate. Birds called to one another. Crickets were already complaining in unison about the heat.

Across the lake, I saw a young man preparing his fishing boat. I waved to him. He did not wave back. But his radio was playing “My Girl,” and I realized there is hope for America’s youth.

“You missed some good peaches,” I whispered to the sky.

And I hope someone heard me.

48 comments

  1. Paula - July 5, 2022 6:15 am

    So powerful! Hugs to you Sean.

    Reply
  2. Ed (Bear) - July 5, 2022 8:02 am

    Another beautiful piece Sean! I enjoyed it very much.
    Happy Day After Independence Day!

    Reply
  3. Ann Thompson - July 5, 2022 9:32 am

    Glad your day started in such a nice way. I’m with you on peaches. The stand over the kitchen sink kind….for us that will be another month. New England. We are eating strawberries that way right now. Bowl after bowl. Freezer is full too. Sunrise this morning was blazing!!! ☀️

    Reply
  4. Harriet White - July 5, 2022 10:18 am

    I agree with Ed(Bear)

    Reply
  5. Judy - July 5, 2022 10:42 am

    Hope you visit Lake Martin again, started camping there in the 60’s. Lots of good memories.

    Reply
  6. Elgin Carver - July 5, 2022 11:01 am

    Milo’s was an entrepreneur from Birmingham that started his business life in my neighborhood with a hamburger shop smaller than most bathrooms; 4 stools against a counter and his griddle on the other side. The popularity of his burgers was such that I am one of the few still living that remember that first shop. Most people think that the one he moved to about 3 blocks away and was about 3 times the size, was his first. They are incorrect. He cooked the burgers with onions on the grill and had a truly secret sauce. He eventually franchised to other locations in Birmingham, of which at least 2 are still operating and 1 in Cullman and 1 in Decatur that I am aware of. He has gone the way of all things but the desire for his burgers lives on. His tea is now sold across the South at least but I think the burgers are relegated to Alabama.

    Reply
  7. Bruce Brand - July 5, 2022 11:06 am

    Thanks for spending the 4th with us on lake Martin! I live in Santuck and have enjoyed it for 73 years! Y’all come again!

    Reply
  8. Lucretia Jones - July 5, 2022 11:57 am

    I heard you. Thank you for today’s journey, Sean.

    Reply
  9. Nancy Shields - July 5, 2022 12:08 pm

    Yesterday’s Wordle took me 5 tries also. You are not alone.

    Reply
  10. Christine - July 5, 2022 12:19 pm

    Alabama peaches are the very best❤️

    Reply
  11. Regina Vanderneut - July 5, 2022 12:20 pm

    All I can say is I live in upstate New York AND I MISS CHILTON COUNTY PEACHES!! I could taste them as I read ur article! I can make tea as good as Milo! With very little sugar!!

    Reply
  12. Anne Arthur - July 5, 2022 12:43 pm

    That’s what I call a perfect morning. Hugs. He heard you.

    Reply
  13. elliemac3 - July 5, 2022 12:52 pm

    I know he heard you! Sean I love your writings and especially your ones about your father. I would love to hear more about your mother though – i feel like know your dad, your wife, your nieces but nothing about your mom. Thank you and God Bless you!!

    Reply
  14. David Britnell - July 5, 2022 1:14 pm

    Brought back so many memories! Thank you!!

    Reply
  15. Jack Marquette - July 5, 2022 1:17 pm

    Sean, when I was stationed at Maxwell AFB in the 70’s we built a lake house on Lake Martin. We leased the land from Alabama Power. It had 225’ of waterfront. I hired an old farmer named Bowen to build a house and dock. We spend the 200 Centennial of our nation there. Our children learned to water ski on Lake Martin. So many wonderful memories. Thank you. Jack Marquette

    Reply
  16. John - July 5, 2022 1:32 pm

    Love the old saying see a man about a dog.

    Reply
    • nancymariedavis - July 5, 2022 5:02 pm

      me too. even though it’s new to me.

      Reply
  17. Lynn B - July 5, 2022 1:40 pm

    Sitting on Lake Martin now. Wondering if we could ever take you out on our boat or have you two over for dinner or just meet you to give you a basket of fresh blueberries. (Can’t give away a peach!) I know everyone must feel like you’re the very close friend they’ve never met. 🇺🇸❤️

    Reply
  18. Steve McCaleb - July 5, 2022 2:12 pm

    A ripe Chilton County Alabama peach is as an elderly man sitting on a park bench in front of the courthouse once told me,”goodern snuff and not half as dusty.” Lordy, the stuff you can hear sittin’ on a bench.

    Reply
  19. DONNA JEAN MAZ - July 5, 2022 2:12 pm

    LOVE STARTING MY DAYS WITH YOUR CONVERSATIONS`

    Reply
  20. Anne Godwin - July 5, 2022 2:32 pm

    We didn’t stop for those peaches on the way home from Kentucky to Mobile. Someone in the car was ready to get home! I was just looking at Airbnbs and wondered where Eclectic was located.

    He’s always with you.

    Thanks for starting my day with good news.

    Reply
  21. Wendy A Oliver - July 5, 2022 2:41 pm

    Ah, I was just transported to a cabin in the woods by a lake in the South. I can taste the tea and peaches. Thanks.
    And, Sean, it’s kind of a blessing when our senses bring us memories of a loved one, isn’t it.

    Reply
  22. Brenda - July 5, 2022 2:44 pm

    Thank you for the reminder that, although they are gone, our fathers (and mothers) are still with us. My father passed in 1971, I was seven. I think of him often, like every day, and know that sometimes bad things have to happen; it is how we choose to move on that determines how we will grow and become contributing members of society. At times, it is hard to recall those precious memories, but they allow us to keep our loved ones with us longer… and I think that is a blessing!

    Reply
  23. Holly Moore - July 5, 2022 2:59 pm

    Once again I am in awe of your way with words. You definitely have a God given talent for the written word! Thank you for this beautiful post. Now, can you make the Real Estate on said Lake come down to a reasonable amount so I can enjoy mornings like the one you described? Doesn’t hurt to ask! Thank you for brightening my in box every morning!

    Reply
  24. Steve McCaleb - July 5, 2022 3:06 pm

    Got so fired up about them Chilton County peaches I completely forgot to comment on your other Alabama staple of southern life…..Milo’s Sweet Tea. Where do I start ? Nectar of the Gods…….alixer of the Heavens…the juice of southern joy ? One of the few PERFECT PRODUCTS ever made. This stuff is made the way we in the south like it…XTRA SWEET! It won’t put you in a diabetic coma but it will put you wobbleheaded for 15-20 minutes. I’m told the quality control people have one simple test…..pour a glass……stick a spoon directly into the center of the glass and if there ain’t enuff sugar in it to hold the spoon upright…..you’ve got a bad batch. More Sugar! If you can’t get this magnificent liquid in your state….COMPLAIN!!! It’s worth it.

    Reply
  25. Pingback: Sean of the South: Lake Martin | The Trussville Tribune

  26. Susie Flick - July 5, 2022 3:59 pm

    Peaches – one of life’s pleasures!

    Reply
  27. Bob Ross - July 5, 2022 4:38 pm

    I particularly liked the comment about Folger’s coffee and moral outrage. Peaches are nature’s perfect fruit, but I don’t get the Milo’s Tea thing. Are people too lazy to make a pitcher of tea?

    Reply
  28. Pyrthroes - July 5, 2022 5:04 pm

    Can’t shake “The Lovesong of J. Alfred PrufrocK” (T.S. Eliot,1915)

    “There will be time, there will be time …
    Time for you and time for me,
    And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
    And for a hundred visions and revisions,
    Before the taking of a toast and tea. …

    “I grow old … I grow old …
    I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. …

    “Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
    I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
    I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. …

    “We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
    By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
    ‘Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”

    Reply
  29. pattymack43 - July 5, 2022 5:04 pm

    I love peaches, too!! 🙂

    Reply
  30. Patricia Gibson - July 5, 2022 5:37 pm

    Sounds wonderful!

    Reply
  31. Joy Dollar - July 5, 2022 5:49 pm

    🥰🇺🇸❤️🎉🌟

    Reply
  32. Jayne Holland - July 5, 2022 7:47 pm

    I live in the Bahamas, but grew up in Fultondale. We had a 15 foot red boat we pulled behind Dads car. I woke him up at 5AM and had the trailer hooked up to the car. I woke Dad up and he got into the back seat with a pillow. I will never forget those days. Smith Lake…

    Reply
  33. Ricky greathouse - July 5, 2022 8:37 pm

    Sean
    I grew up on lake Martin in my youth. It was one of the best times in my life. I learned how to fish, drive a boat, water ski & And lots other stuff too.Thanks to my uncle frank & my cousin Jerry I have not been back in years but those memories will never leave me. After reading this story maybe my next trip will include a trip back to pleasure point. Stand on the pier at my cousins place and relive the memories of a much slower and fascinating time. Thanks for the memories!!!

    Reply
  34. Linda Moon - July 5, 2022 8:54 pm

    My boyfriend and I loved “My Girl” back in the day. I still love sunshine on a cloudy day, sort of like this one is now. There were peaches on my counter earlier today and now they’re gone…a rotten one thrown out and the others gone via delicious Homemade Peach Smoothies!

    Reply
  35. Donna - July 5, 2022 10:11 pm

    Why must you always make me cry?! I think you enjoy it. I should know better than to read you while I’m at work trying to look professional. My fault. I thought I was going to complain about how well your words transport me until I could pretty much FEEL the peach juice traveling down my neck. Gah! But then that last sentence washed away all of the anxiety that was building up about sticky neck and was cleared away by a tear. Or two. 1) I’m deeply sorry. 2) I don’t know you but I love you. And 3) Thank you for the peach juice and tears. I needed both. You are truly amazing, sir. As are we all.

    Reply
  36. Karen - July 5, 2022 10:38 pm

    Not related to today’s brilliant post but urgent. Are you a fan of Davis Sadaris? Possibly your unknown twin from another mother. You’re Welcome. And love ya.

    Reply
  37. Lynn Pappas - July 6, 2022 12:16 am

    I went to see a man about a dog…I’m 75 years old and I haven’t heard that in the last 50 . Thanks for refreshing my memory😅

    Reply
  38. Joann - July 6, 2022 12:47 am

    There’s a company in Nashville that delivers Georgia Peaches to Texas, and other places in between. I have mine pre-ordered, and can’t wait for them to come in. I have one quart left in the freezer from last year which I will turn into a cobbler before the new crop comes in. I’ve always said that whoever decided that Eve ate an apple in the Garden of Eden didn’t know what a Southern peach tastes like. Now that is something to tempt a good woman.

    Reply
  39. Suzanne Dobbs - July 6, 2022 1:26 am

    Thank you so much. I loved your morning story of beautiful Lake Martin.

    Reply
  40. Joe - July 6, 2022 1:59 am

    Thanks. I love peaches. GA peaches are the best. Southern Peaches are a close second. Thanks for your descriptiveness. Keep ‘em coming

    Reply
  41. David S Doom - July 6, 2022 5:46 am

    Now that you live in Birmingham, you should know about Milo and about his tea and hamburgers. You can find many locations to try them. I thought the tea was too sweet and the hamburger sauce was onion juice strong, but I was in the minority.

    Reply
  42. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - July 10, 2022 5:07 am

    ❤️

    Reply
  43. rosemary mize - July 10, 2022 6:11 pm

    A+

    Reply
  44. Billie Garcia - July 11, 2022 12:32 am

    My Girl-one of the best songs ever. Proud that it was a hit when I was young.

    Reply
  45. Christi O'Quinn - July 13, 2022 12:44 pm

    This is the first piece I’ve read from you, and I’m blown away. I presently live on Lake Martin, been here every 4th of July since I was 4 yrs. old. I’m 50 now. The memories of parents, grandparents, family & friends are here, both past & present. The piece was transforming, funny & well, brilliantly expressed. I look forward to reading more of you. Happy Summer, Sir, from a neighbor off Castaway Island Road, Eclectic, Alabama. ♥️

    Reply
  46. Karen Taghi Zoghi - July 13, 2022 7:31 pm

    This is a loving and lovely eulogy.

    Reply
  47. Margo - July 21, 2022 4:00 pm

    Sorry, Sean. We disagree on peaches. I want my peach to crunch.

    Reply

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