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 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: “Elect Twinkle for governor, for a brighter Alabama.”
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 manmade 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 is doing good business today. 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 is as 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: “Heart of Dixie.”
Entering Covington County. “Elect Blake Turman for Sheriff.” There’s a kudzu problem here in Covington. And a sunshine problem. There is a young family, walking the shoulder of the road, pushing a stroller. They wave. So do I.
That’s how we do, here.
And I still haven’t passed a single vehicle on this entire highway.
I’ve been away for twenty-one days. I’ve seen a lot of country. 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 my father’s Kansas hometown, I met a beautiful cousin I never knew I had.
Then, I aimed our vehicle South, three days ago. Now I’m almost back to the part of the world that reared me. The place where the word “chair” has four syllables. The place where my memories are. Where 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 my new cousin.
Thank you for Lower Alabama.
And thank you for bringing me home.
Reisha Holton - June 16, 2018 6:29 am
I died and went to heaven when I read this: I’ll bet old Duke can hickory-smoke the sin out of a shoulder.
I cried when I got to the end of this: homesick is a real ailment.
Marilyn Vance - June 16, 2018 9:52 am
As a child, we would go on vacation…no air conditioned car, so we drove with the windows down….dirt and hair flying, but when we would top Sand Mountain, over Guntersville, Alabama, my daddy would say..’there ain’t no prettier place in the world’…….that’s where HOME is! Thanks, Sean, for reminding me of my daddy this morning, gone from this world 46 years this month…..
Cynthia Harmon - June 16, 2018 10:37 am
Trite as it is, there’s no place like home. Glad to have you back.
Alison Crosby - June 16, 2018 11:05 am
Welcome Home Sean!
Lucretia - June 16, 2018 11:13 am
Yes, thank you for bringing Sean back home.
Nancy - June 16, 2018 11:23 am
Welcome home Sean and Jamie and Thelma Lou. So glad you took us on this journey with you. We loved every visit!
Jennifer Feist - June 16, 2018 11:30 am
Amazing pilgrimage welcome home
Connie Havard Ryland - June 16, 2018 11:50 am
Welcome home y’all. Glad you had a good trip. Thank you for taking us along with you.
Amanda - June 16, 2018 12:01 pm
Glad y’all made it home safely. And thanks for all
Your stories along the way…
Bobbie - June 16, 2018 12:15 pm
Barbara Pope - June 16, 2018 12:32 pm
Edna B. - June 16, 2018 12:46 pm
I’m glad you made it home safely. What an amazing trip you folks just had. I’ve enjoyed travelling with you. I’ve never been to some of these states, so it has been very enjoyable seeing everything through your eyes and words. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.
Leisa T - June 16, 2018 1:01 pm
❤️ Thank you, once again, for capturing Lower Alabama in words as it really is!
Brad Campbell, Livingston, AL - June 16, 2018 1:10 pm
I really love this one. It perfectly describes our state of Alabama. Thank you once again for such vivid pictures that you paint with your words.
Cat - June 16, 2018 1:29 pm
We are so glad to have y’all back. I loved traveling along with y’all by reading your post each day. I’ve never traveled to that area. Maybe one day! See you soon. I love y’all ❤️ . Aunt Cat
Sue - June 16, 2018 1:37 pm
Welcome home. It’s been a fun trip riding along with you (in my mind). Let’s do another one soon.
Sandy - June 16, 2018 1:42 pm
I have taken this exact trip many times. There is so much excitement in taking off but there is nothing like that warm, familiar feeling of being back home….Alabama The Beautiful.
Charlu Kent - June 16, 2018 1:47 pm
There’s no place like home ??❤️?
Jan - June 16, 2018 1:58 pm
Gordon - June 16, 2018 2:28 pm
Glad you are home safe and sound, Sean and that your long trip was fruitful in many ways. God bless.
Jack Quanstrum - June 16, 2018 2:46 pm
Amen to the ……… degree. Welcome home!
mfontaine2017 - June 16, 2018 3:24 pm
Alabama, my home ! You described it perfectly ! My grandson asked me the other day if Twinkle signs grew on power poles. I told him we get a new crop every 4 years. That’s how we know it election time. By the way, she’s running for LT Gov. this year. Musta been an ole sign !
Pat - June 16, 2018 3:25 pm
And I thank God for bringing you home safe.
Barbara N. Ewell - June 16, 2018 5:14 pm
I think Him, too – – for you and yours.
Jewell Wray - June 16, 2018 7:33 pm
Glad you had a good trip and I am sure you will be stronger for taking this trip it was all in God’s timing I was raised in Hacoda so you came through my stomping grounds God Bless you and your sweet wife keep writing and sharing your heart you encourage me every day ?❤️
Jack Darnell - June 17, 2018 1:21 am
Thanks for inviting us along. I truly enjoyed the trip and wished we had been along instead of preparing for a funeral!
Always a good visit!
Gary - June 17, 2018 1:33 am
I no longer live in Alabama but this story reminds me of everything I miss about that Great State of Alabama. Welcome back, Sean.
Sandi in FL. - June 17, 2018 2:17 am
Glad y’all made it back to Alabama safely, Sean. Sincere thanks for sharing your road trip details with us, your loyal readers! You reminded me that there are good people in every town in every state, and that we reside in a wonderful country where we are free to travel anywhere..
Helen (Dothan, AL) - June 18, 2018 12:24 am
Welcome home! 🙂
Janet Mary Lee - June 21, 2018 5:30 pm
Redundant..But no place like home!!! Glad you are safe!! And thanks for an awesome ride!!
Gale Smith - August 13, 2018 12:56 pm
So glad you are home….safe and sound. You needed to make this trip. Thanx for taking us along. Now you are back and all is right with our world in LA and the tri-States eastern corner.
Barbara Mc - August 13, 2018 1:26 pm
My husband and I have been in Great Britain for the last 21 days. I am so excited to be packing up today because I know what waits at the end of the day tomorrow…home sweet home! Stars do fall on Alabama!?
Mishan Williamson - August 14, 2018 5:51 am
This, like The House of Breath, feeds the soul.
“That people could come into the world in a place they could not at first even name and had never known before; and that out of a nameless and unknown place they could grow and move around in it until its name they knew and called with love, and call it HOME, and put roots there and love others there; so that whenever they left this place they would sing homesick songs about it and write poems of yearning for it, like a lover;…”
Philip Newsome - August 14, 2018 7:33 am
I too missed LA lower Alabama i was in the military and when I retired I told folk where I was going to move back to. Why would you want to live there, because I understand the people here and i am one of them. I am home.
davewri335 - August 14, 2018 5:15 pm
Born in my grandmothers house in Geneva. If you go any lower in Alabama you are in Florida