Lake Martin

Lake Martin is flat. Mirror flat. It is a perfect evening. The sun is low. The crickets are singing in full stereo. And I’m visiting with old ghosts.

My father would have looked at this calm water and said it was as “flat as a bookkeeper’s bottom.” Only he wouldn’t have used the word “bottom.” He would have opted for a more colloquial expression unfit for mixed company.

Unless, of course, my mother was around. In which case he wouldn’t have opened his mouth at all.

Because he was a man of few words, my father. Which is what I remember about him most. His quietness. My aunt used to say that my father once traveled with the circus, performing as a sideshow act: The World’s Most Quiet Man.

So right now, I’m taking up the family business. I haven’t said a word in a few hours. Mostly, I’ve just sipped my cold glass of Milo’s Famous Tea, and I’m happy in the company of my faded memories.

I am thinking about Granny. Granddaddy. Mama. And the man I once called “Daddy.” I am thinking about what these people would be doing right now, if they were alive.

I know what they would be doing. My Granddaddy would be carving a figurine with his butter-yellow Case knife. My grandmother would be reading the Bible, humming hymns, and chain-smoking Winstons.

My mother would be sewing something with a hoop. My father would be shirtless—he was born shirtless. And he would be drinking something harder than Milo’s.

As it happens, I am a big fan of Milo’s tea. I go through three or four gallons each 60 seconds. And do you know why I like Milo’s?

Because they don’t try to do too much with their tea. They don’t dye it red or add weird ingredients like azodicarbonamide, diacetyl, drywall dust, or rodent excrement. They don’t flavor it with added crapola. It’s just tea, plain and simple. Three basic ingredients. Tea, water, and enough cane sugar to give your pancreas a workout.

Milo’s is the kind of tea your mother made. The kind you used to have in your refrigerator growing up. Homemade. No frills.

Of course, Milo’s isn’t actually homemade. Milo’s Tea Company is a massive corporation. Last year, Milo’s did approximately $445 million dollars in retail sales. That’s million with an M.

Also, each week, the Milo’s Tea Company sends 35 tons of used tea leaves to the Scotts plant in Vance, Alabama, where they manufacture Miracle-Gro garden soil. Thirty-five tons. That’s approximately the same weight of 10 or 12 average-sized Congressmen.

So Milo’s makes huge money. But they deserve to make millions. Because they make delicious tea. And I love Milo’s.

Last year, when the doctors thought I had stomach cancer, I was barred from drinking Milo’s. It broke my heart. Out of all the things I underwent—Test after test, scan after scan—the one thing I missed the most? Milo’s.

And so it is, right now, as I sip my sweet tea; as the sun sets, and the air is becoming stagnant; as the hot and humid air makes me sweat like a Kardashian during an altar call, I am glad.

I see a small fishing boat in the distance. I see a young boy, standing on the bow, making a perfect cast. His father—or a reasonable facsimile thereof—is seated behind him.

I hear them both talking. Their voices are reverberating off the water. I don’t hear their words, exactly, but I can hear their tones. Happy voices. Lots of laughing.

I remember fishing with my own daddy. I remember the tone I used when I was with him.

It was a happy timbre. I also remember that I was the one who did all the talking because he was noiseless.

I remember how he’d frequently reach into his red Coleman cooler. I remember how he’d remove an ice cold can for himself. Then he’d fetch a plastic milk jug full of tea, and pour some into a glass for me. He’d throw a few ice cubes into the cup. He’d hand the glass to me and he’d say, “I love you, boy.”

And I don’t know where I’m going with this. I just felt like putting his words in print.


  1. stephen e acree - July 28, 2023 12:13 pm

    The good memories are what sustain us. Its retrieving them that is hard sometimes. My dad taught all three of us boys to fish. The last few decades we took him fishing. Not enough for him but enough to eat fish pretty often. I can make tea that would make you believe Milos was pond water.

  2. Beckybelle - July 28, 2023 1:42 pm

    Lake Martin is my happy place…. nothing better than on the porch or on the boat, with a sweet tea! And I have to admit, I am actually happy for the Dollar General that sprung up somewhat near us, so not having to go into Dadeville for just a loaf of bread, milk, or the little things. Grateful for those that came before that allow us to have a slice of heaven on earth!

  3. Sheila G - July 28, 2023 3:09 pm

    Sean, your drawing/painting is so beautiful today. I love it!

  4. Bluegill Bill - July 28, 2023 4:06 pm

    i miss my daddy, too.

  5. Becky Souders - July 28, 2023 9:30 pm

    Thanks for bringing up my father… he taught me to fish and hunt and the first swear word I ever heard was when he sheared a pin on his fishing boat motor. Good memories, Sean Dietreich. Again, thanks.

  6. Deborah Estey - July 29, 2023 5:22 pm

    Reading about your father made me think of my husband. When he passed away my grandchhildren wrote about him. Both remembered a” big, strong quiet man who would hold them on his lap as they both read silently. He took them on “adventures” at the creek for hours and sat on the floor coloring with them. He was a gentle man and a great listener”. Loving memories left to our children and grandchildren are priceless. Thanks for sharing yours!

  7. Celia All under - August 2, 2023 4:33 am

    I recall the joy when I saw Milo tea in Aberdeen Washington Wal Mart I worked in Bessemer Alabama for hears

    • Celia Allinder - August 2, 2023 4:34 am



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