Middle of Nowhere

One woman embraces me, then says I’m welcome in her guestroom any time I visit. Another man invites me fishing tomorrow. A six-year-old girl insists I take her fidget spinner as a gift.

A church lawn. The middle of nowhere.

He’s old. He’s wearing high-waisted trousers, a pressed shirt, and a fedora. So help me, a fedora. Seeing him is like seeing nineteen hundred and fifty-two.

My dog, Ellie Mae, follows this man.

There aren’t many folks here, maybe fifty. Kids are playing with fidget spinners. Girls wear summer dresses. Young men wear boots. Middle-aged men in khakis.

This is dinner on the church grounds.

Behind the building is a hayfield, recently scalped. A few boys hop the fence.

Tables are lined with casserole dishes. Plastic pitchers of tea. Behind the church is a grill. It’s the sturdy kind made from a two-ton iron pipe.

The smell of pecan smoke makes the world seem happy.

Abe is cooking ribs and chicken. His name isn’t really Abe, he admits. It’s Danny. He was the youngest of eight brothers and sisters. He was an incurable tattle-butt. His mother nicknamed him “Honest Abe” to cure him of his habit.

The name stuck.

“Any hotdogs?” asks a kid.

“You want HOTDOGS?” Abe remarks. “Instead of RIBS? What’s wrong with you, child?”

I’m next in line. I ask for a little of everything.

Honest Abe tells me greediness is a vice worse than gluttony.

The evening kicks off with a gospel quartet. The high-tenor is outstanding. He sings notes only Gabriel could reach.

On our blanket: two adults and ten empty plates. My coonhound is nowhere in sight. She has made friends with the old man in the fedora. They are across the lawn.

The unfaithful animal.

The quartet sings “Moving Up To Gloryland.” The baritone is singing so low, it looks like he’s about to lose consciousness.

The adults finish eating. The sun is almost gone. Kids are in the hayfield. And it looks like—if my eyes are correct—they’re playing Red Rover.

As I live and breathe.

I haven’t played Red Rover since fourth grade. Greg Campbell popped a rotator cuff when his big brother plowed into him.

The kids are a nearly a half mile away, unsupervised. The parents aren’t worried. This is rural America.

The sun is down. The gnats will not quit. If I’ve swatted one, I’ve swatted every gnat in South Alabama.

The quartet is still at it. The grand finale is a big finish. The high-tenor is going to need an IV drip when he’s through.

Applause. Standing ovation. Time to clean up and go home.

One woman embraces me, then says I’m welcome in her guestroom any time I visit. Another man invites me fishing tomorrow. A six-year-old girl insists I take her fidget spinner as a gift.

The old man in the fedora kisses my dog on the snout before bringing her to me. He tells me to take care of his new girlfriend.

Yeah. I know.

The world is a mess. People are angry, and the cost of living is up. But when folks tell me this world has gone to hell, I think about what I saw here.


I just don’t buy it.


  1. LeAnne Storey - May 24, 2017 12:34 pm

    Enjoyed this, it took me back. Nice to know it still happens.

  2. Candy Clark - May 24, 2017 12:58 pm

    AMEN!! I’m with ya. I live in rural Idaho and it’s not only a blessing but heaven! Keep writing, please.

  3. Debbie - May 24, 2017 1:03 pm

    Loved this one. Have experienced this but could not put it into words. Love you.

  4. J V Pittman - May 24, 2017 1:04 pm

    Sean….I drive a truck for a living, mostly in the midwest and south. I see good everyday and in almost every place that I go. I strive to see the positive and tune out all of the negativity that we are bombarded with each day. Thank you for writing about common humanity… ..especially from a southerners point of view. P.S. I had a wonderful companion dog for 14 years that I had adopted out of a shelter….her name was Jessie Mae. I wanted her to have a good ole southern name. Thanks again Sean and keep em coming…

  5. Phil Benton - May 24, 2017 1:26 pm

    GREAT , as usual . A poet / songwriter from the 60’s, Rod McKuen , who became somewhat famous as some of his poems / songs were recorded by Glen Yarbrough of the Limelighters , said that to be a great writer and poet you have , like any discipline , to do it everyday to ” get the bad stuff out of the way” , Sean you seemed to have mastered that technique. thanks

  6. Paula Link - May 24, 2017 2:14 pm

    Thank you for reminding us.

  7. Lindsey Ingram - May 24, 2017 2:21 pm

    This struck me so perfectly this morning that I had to jot down my own thoughts. Thank you for making me fall back in love with the south every single morning.

  8. Janet Mary Lee - May 24, 2017 6:52 pm

    Oh but this would reign over God’s green earth!
    Thank you for the reminder!

  9. Laura Young - May 24, 2017 8:13 pm

    Me neither! There is a lot of good out there. Young men brought up right who hold doors open at stores and restaurants for old ladies with walkers and men who make a point of coming up to Mother at church to get a hug from their 92 year old “girlfriend” not because they get pleasure from it (thought they might) but because it makes her grin from ear to ear, turning to me to ask if I am jealous. I love seeing children who sit on the front row at church and interact with the preacher when he calls them by name and interacts with them (rather than seeing them with their phone in their hands instead). Yea, we have a lot of good down here in the south (other places, too but especially here)! I agree with Phil Benton about Rod McKuen’s quote and his comments about you!

  10. Peggy Lee - May 24, 2017 10:26 pm

    I was introduced to your talent and gift 2 days ago by a mutual friend, Steve Latham. Loving to read both of you. Thanks for the memories here. I could see myself in those images you painted ’cause I was raised a country girl, dinner on the church grounds, listening to Grand Ole Opry Saturday nights on radio long before television, annual reunions and gospel singing on Friday nights. Blessed to have a new friend who appreciates the simple things in life as Steve and I do. Keep it up!

  11. Michael Hawke - May 25, 2017 3:02 am

    Thank you sir. You are a gentleman and a scholar.

  12. Ruth Otwell - May 25, 2017 2:00 pm

    So familiar. And ya know – not putting a name to this place makes it all the more relatable. Thanks.

  13. Patricia Gibson - May 29, 2017 12:31 am

    Me either!

  14. Timo Haapanen - May 30, 2017 6:44 pm

    Thank you so much for writing something so positive to see is an e-mail.
    I read a lot of them thorough the day and yours is bny far my favorite.
    Again I say “Thank You”.

  15. Sandra Marrar - July 18, 2017 1:34 pm

    Reminds me of my childhood! Thanks for the memories.

  16. Melvin Register,sr. - July 18, 2017 2:55 pm

    Reminds me of my child hood times at church and the sings and dinner on the ground.be blessed: enjoyed the story.

  17. D L - July 18, 2017 3:05 pm

    Thank You AGAIN, for another well told story of “Life in the South”…

  18. Patricia Terrell - July 18, 2017 11:01 pm

    Special recall memories of “dinner on the ground” and all of the delicious food, hospitality and reunions of friends and family that go with it. Best of everything still exists if we could could only hear more about it. Thank you, Sean, for the awesome and heart-felt American heartbeat, from a bona fide South Alabama gal.

  19. Ben smith - July 19, 2017 11:50 am

    Awesome. Thanks for another great day. God Bless America and my old friend we must but to rest today. A great story thanks for all you write this is a great world.


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