Somewhere in Alabama. It’s an old cafe. The coffee cups are bottomless. The waitress wears jeans. On the walls are mounted bass and a few buck heads.
There are old men in the corner, seated around a table with mugs. These are rural men with old-world accents like your granddaddy probably had.
They are discussing crucial topics like:
“Hey, Charlie! Got a question for you. What the heck was the guy’s name who used to date Sharon? You know, he had the big ears and always looked like he’d just sucked a lemon?”
They say things like:
“Did you hear Marilyn’s son built his house with the kitchen window facing his mama’s kitchen window so in the mornings they can wave to each other when they make coffee?”
“Looks like Mike is running for mayor again, can you believe it? That streaking thing is gonna come back to bite him, just watch.”
These are the conversations you hear from old men with rural sensibilities.
Their reparte doesn’t follow one line of thought. One man says something. A man across from him says something unrelated. Everyone gets a turn.
Round and round it goes, until you realize they aren’t actually talking to each other. They are simply reporting their random neural firings.
A young couple walks into the restaurant. The young man wears a work jacket and boots. He has a baby-carrier by the handle. The young woman is holding his arm.
They are both so young they still squeak when they walk. They sit in the booth behind mine.
“What time do you have to go back to work?” the girl asks her young man.
“As soon as we’re done eating,” he says. “I’m sorry, I wish I had longer today.”
She seems disappointed. Nobody wants Daddy to work so much.
They order burgers and fries. The waitress doesn’t need a notepad to take their order. She says to the young man. “How’s your mama doing, John?”
John says, “Oh, she has her good days and bad days.”
“I need to stop by and visit her this week,” the waitress says.
It isn’t long before the baby begins to cry. I’m talking a bona fide conniption fit. The baby is flailing arms and screaming loud enough to rattle the ceiling vents.
The mother holds the baby, but can’t seem to get him to quiet. She becomes flustered, she’s embarrassed.
“I’d better take him outside,” the young mother says.
“No,” John says. “Give him to me.”
The mother hands the baby over. I can see she is tired. It’s a deep tiredness. It looks like she could use a massage and a long Carnival cruise ship ride.
The baby is not calming down. So the waitress comes from the kitchen. She makes a beeline for the young man, arms wide open.
“Bless that little heart,” the waitress says, taking the baby from the young man so he can eat his food.
The child stops crying. Our waitress has the touch of a pro. She kisses the baby, and carries the child all over the restaurant.She introduces the newborn to every table of customers, even my table.
The kid’s name is Bradley. That’s a good strong name, if you ask me. You wouldn’t want to fool with a guy named Bradley.
Next, she takes Bradley to the table of old men. Their general conversation fades when the see the child, and the elderly men transform into granddaddies.
An old man in suspenders takes the baby. He is pressing his nose on the newborn’s forehead, and explaining the rules of life.
Then an elderly man in a Bass Pro Shop cap steals Bradley. Now, Bradley is in his arms and he is speaking to the child in a sing-songy voice. “Who’s a good little boy?”
In a few moments, the entire table of men has become enchanted with this infant. They are gathered in a big circle around him as though Bradley was just found lying in a manger.
The waitress refills the young mother’s glass of iced tea. She finds the young woman is sleeping on her young man’s shoulder.
“Bless her,” whispers the waitress to the man.
“Yeah,” the young man says. “This is the first time she’s slept all week.”
The waitress smiles. “Poor thing.”
The young man reaches for his wallet. “I’ll take our bill, I gotta hurry.”
The waitress waves him off. “You’re money’s no good here, sweetie.” She takes his empty plate and heads for the kitchen.
“Seriously?” he says. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me, honey. Thank the old dudes who are trying to kidnap your baby.”
You’re in good hands, Bradley.
Trudy - August 26, 2022 8:39 am
Most people are good people. We just need to cut off the TV and really observe people like you do, Sean. Thanks for seeing things that most of us are too busy to notice.
Ed (Bear) - August 26, 2022 9:09 am
Amen to Trudy’s comment!
Jason - August 26, 2022 9:38 am
That slowed me down. Warmed me up. Reminded me of my town, back in the day. And maybe a tear or two. Thank you for the kindness.
Linda Knight - August 26, 2022 9:52 am
Sean, your work is s good I think reading your column each day should be made mandatory!
Bev - August 26, 2022 10:13 am
May those old men always be part of Bradley’s life. ❤️ Community
Audra S Isenhour - August 26, 2022 10:26 am
And so it goes. Grandpa’s and Grandma’s just seem to have a special touch. We know how to change the tone of our voice to just the right pitch. It works 90% of the time anyway…
Steve - August 26, 2022 10:33 am
Great way to start a Friday. Thanks
Diana - August 26, 2022 10:57 am
Thank you for this heartwarming story to start my day.
Paula - August 26, 2022 11:16 am
So reminds me of my home in Texas.
Patricia Collins - August 26, 2022 11:39 am
gr8ful - August 26, 2022 12:15 pm
Since finding your writing via Instapundit, my morning routine has been something like this:
Read my Bible
Read your post
Get misty eyed, chortle, feel better about my fellow humans, or all three
Get on with my day.
I’m thankful I was led here.
DENISE DeVries - August 26, 2022 12:33 pm
I miss that life!!!
Trent - August 26, 2022 12:54 pm
Sounds like most every day at Curt’s in Columbia, AL. Thanks Sean – could take one of these here stories each and every day.
Mona - August 27, 2022 12:17 pm
I was thinking the exact same thing! I used to live in Columbia, right behind the high school. I remember when I was going through my divorce and my ex had a private investigator asking questions about me and my comings and goings. The PI made the mistake of asking the “coffee crowd” at Curt’s about me, and Mr. Henry Killingsworth jumped outta his seat and told the guy to “get his ass outta there”, said all he was doing was causing trouble …. Lololol! Good people ❤️
Joe - August 26, 2022 12:56 pm
Love your stories
Renee Welton - August 26, 2022 1:01 pm
I just loved that. Can’t imagine it happening in the town I live in….♥️ I miss the south, but I was born and raised in Michigan. (my Mom was from KY, her daddy from TN💙!
Kathy - August 26, 2022 1:06 pm
Oh how I pray for this kind of story to be everywhere
Joyce Bennett - August 26, 2022 1:10 pm
Thank you for starting my day with a sweet story that made me smile!
sjhl7 - August 26, 2022 1:14 pm
Beautiful story! Precious memories! Thank you, Sean.
Richard Owen - August 26, 2022 1:15 pm
Brought tears to this old granddad’s eyes, Sean. Thanks. Such memories are popping up in my head from my youth and my family in Mississippi in the Fifties and Sixties.
Priscilla Rodgers - August 26, 2022 1:29 pm
Thanks Sean for helping us see the real USA, not what the news wants us to see!
Cathy M - August 26, 2022 1:34 pm
God bless us all. Help us be observers who care enough to reach out and offer love to someone who needs it. Sean, you are an excellent observer and then you gift your readers with those observations. You are needed and loved by many. ❤️🙏🏻
Belinda Graham - August 26, 2022 1:47 pm
Bless you! Such a sweet story.
And it’s true somewhere in some lil’ restaurant in some lil’ town cuz people are good.
Charlotte Virginia McCraw - August 26, 2022 1:47 pm
Every morning . . every single morning . . I cannot wait to see the words “Sean of the South” in my inbox. Your writings never ever disappoint. You are in touch with your caring heart, with your very intelligent mind, with your gentle soul. Your words put me in touch with mine. So many feelings happen right here in front of my computer screen as I read your articles. Sometimes, sad tears creep out of my eyes; sometimes the tears are from laughter that will not stop; sometimes, your words evoke memories that were long ago tucked away in the recesses of my being. I don’t leave a comment every day . . maybe, because you receive so many sad stories from those who have such challenges . . and I have only a happy story. Don’t misunderstand, though. Like everyone else, I have experienced loss. My beloved Mother and Daddy live in Heaven now. My special aunt and uncle are gone. My first husband, who was a first-class POS daddy to my first two precious children, is gone . . I suspect he is very warm in his new home. He is joined by my second husband, daddy to my third baby . . who, for reasons that I never figured out, liked to call me names and pull my hair out by the roots. Also gone but probably sitting in Heaven is my third husband, a musician extraordinaire, who grew so distant that I accepted the attention of another. Yes, I was wrong, but he was a wonderful man whose acceptance of me and humor made life feel wonderful for nearly 30 years before kidney disease took him from me. I have no doubt that Jesus put him in a happy place where he can make others laugh. For a year after he left, I tried so hard to bring him back, as though if I really tried, I could make it happen. Heaven would surely put him back in my arms; but, of course, I had to finally accept what was real. Then, one day in October, I took a walk when the sky was blindingly blue with not a cloud anywhere, when the sun was brightly shining and a soft, cool breeze blew against my face. I became aware that I felt happy. My heart felt light. I was no longer crying out loud daily. I had found a place in my heart and mind to store the beautiful memories of my husband and our life together. His spirit will always walk with me, but he no longer has to hurt and live with his own regrets. You’d think that would be the end of my story. After all, this lady will be 81 years old in December. But, no. I met a man, another musician. Yes, I LOVE music and musicians. He sings; he plays piano and guitar, he writes songs for and about me; he is smart; he adores me. Thinking I would never, ever do such a thing as to join a dating site, I joined a dating site out of curiosity. I had expected to spend the rest of my life with my grown children, laughing and talking at cookouts on their patios . . visiting my now-grown grandchildren . . taking my three great-grandchildren to movies, as I had their parents. I was just looking, thinking I might find someone with whom to dance the bop. Some 60 years ago, I was a good dancer . . the bop, the cha cha, an old-fashioned waltz, just hugging to the music . . oh, I could dance all night and ask for more. Then, out of nowhere came this man with blue eyes that cast a spell. When he kissed and hugged me, I knew that I had found a new home. So, you see, Sean, I don’t have a sad story to share . . but, I thought I would share a little piece of my story and let you know that there are old[er] folks out here who have not descended into lives of challenge. I feel sadness for those people, but I am extremely appreciative that, at least at the moment I write this, I am not among them but am happy and blessed. I married this man. I listen to him play his guitar and sing to me every single morning. What a beautiful way to start my day. We are like teenagers in love . . but, without the angst that usually accompanies them. Yes, our families thought we were nuts; we knew better. We end our days sitting in our two-person chair, holding hands, and watching movies. I have a happy life and do so wish that for all others. I didn’t do anything special to receive my beautiful new life; I’m just blessed and lucky. Why am I writing this novelette? I don’t know. This morning, the words were just there and I needed to share them — with Sean.
Cora - September 4, 2022 1:51 pm
Thank you very much for sharing your beautiful life story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your inspiring “novelette” this morning and wish you and your dear husband many more years of love and happiness.
Debbie - September 4, 2022 2:15 pm
Charlotte, what a beautiful person you are! Thank you for the blessings in your story. God bless you and your husband.
Peggy M. Windham - August 26, 2022 1:49 pm
I love this!
Gloria Van Nostrand - August 26, 2022 2:11 pm
What a caring bunch of folks! Does my heart good to read of this. Too much ugliness around, nice to read the heart warming things. You’re a good man Sean.
Anne Arthur - August 26, 2022 2:14 pm
Sweetest story ever.
David Britnell - August 26, 2022 2:41 pm
Glad to be a part of my rural community. Loved this Sean!
Betty Viertel - August 26, 2022 3:12 pm
I came across three women in the grocery store. I lingered to answer a question. Then one lady asked, “Glenda, what’s Linda’s last name?” Glenda replied, “Linda who?” I don’t think they realized what was said until I had to pick myself off the floor laughing.
Patricia Jones - August 26, 2022 3:21 pm
Things like this are what makes living in a small community special. Love your stories.
Cherie - August 26, 2022 3:57 pm
That is the sweetest story ever! I love living in Alabama because there are a million stories here just like that. I grew up in Biden land (Delaware), moved here in my twenties, and nothing could make me leave this state after the 46 years I’ve been here living my best life. Thank you for reminding all of us of the true goodness of people amidst all the chaos of our changing world.
Mary Bartholomew - August 26, 2022 5:21 pm
Thank you! I’m sitting right now in a very similar diner in Gulfport, Mississippi just smiling to myself and looking at that same table of men. I’ve got tickets to see you next month in Mobile and I can’t wait!
Helen De Prima - August 26, 2022 5:28 pm
Country folks are best!
Diana - August 26, 2022 5:36 pm
Thank you for always finding some beauty and love in the small things. Your world is so much nicer than the world depicted on television these days.
Wendy - August 26, 2022 5:50 pm
Loved this so much~ so, so sweet!
pattymack43 - August 26, 2022 6:23 pm
Smiles all around! Thank you, Sean!!
Dede Martin - August 26, 2022 6:41 pm
Thank you for the smile
MAM - August 26, 2022 7:43 pm
I love stories with happy endings that bring happy tears to my eyes. Old dudes are good men. I’m married to one! Thank you, Sean, for the uplifting, happy stories of good people.
Rebecca Souders - August 26, 2022 7:54 pm
What a great offering today, Sean Dietrich! There are hundreds, probably thousands of tables-ful of old men just like that all over this country… all great men and even greater granddads. Thanks for your words!
Darcy Schmidt - August 26, 2022 8:14 pm
This one’s good!
suzi - August 26, 2022 9:10 pm
And I blessed to live in a place just like that!!! I do thank you Lord…
Eileen in Fla. - August 26, 2022 11:08 pm
You’d have to live in a small town now to ever see this happening. While shopping, I’ve often seen children melt down because they had to wake up at 6 a.m. in order to get to daycare in time for Mommy to get to work…and they are tired and hungry. Every family is stressed. But I am afraid to offer help or else get the cops called on me. The best I can offer is “Don’t worry, they do grow up – my baby is now 45 years old.” At least I get her to smile.
Linda Moon - August 27, 2022 12:27 am
Old dudes, waitress and babies…it don’t get much better’n that. I’ve had all three in my family at one time or another!
April McGough - August 27, 2022 2:11 am
I love all your columns but every one makes me cry
WayneGina Yount - August 28, 2022 1:36 pm
Me Too 🥺
Melanie - August 27, 2022 3:42 am
Neck hugs to Charlotte. You made my day. Thank you. And Sean I sure hope the place you wrote about is real. It’s the kind of place I want to live near.
Deborah Blount - August 27, 2022 11:38 am
Small town living is the best. You can always count on your neighbors. Even the ones you don’t personally know.
Patricia Gibson - August 27, 2022 12:07 pm
Christopher Smith - August 27, 2022 12:23 pm
Sean, ya got me again. Thanks for my morning devotion.
Steve McCaleb - August 27, 2022 2:36 pm
The circle of life…..it will be unbroken. Even if several of the spaces around the orb are filled in by old men and a waitress with a heart of gold. Funny how that works out. Bless them all Lord…please.
Mackenzie - August 27, 2022 5:07 pm
Thank you for reminding me of the good in people. God bless you Sean.
WayneGina Yount - August 28, 2022 1:35 pm
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - September 3, 2022 3:37 pm
Roseann Romans - September 7, 2022 3:18 pm
Beautiful small town story. Desperately needed in this world today. Thank you