Ethel married Chester when she was nineteen. He was a hardworking boy who could do just about anything with his hands

Pollard, Alabama—to say the weather is beautiful today would be an understatement. It's magnificent.

Pollard sits off Highway 31, between Flomaton and Brewton. This sleepy place claims just over one hundred residents. With a few more people, you'd have enough for a baseball team.

It's an everyone-knows-your-mama town. The kind where county officials aren't elected, because hardly anyone votes. Men who run for office just show up to work one day.

“Pollard's different,” says one man. “Folks get free water, free garbage pickup, and if your cow dies, call the mayor. He'll haul it away for you. No charge.”

What a deal.

You might think people are the same the world over. Well, I don't. People in towns like Pollard differ from the rest.

Take, for instance, Ethel. She was the Avon Lady. And if you don't know what that is, it's because there aren't many left.

Ethel married Chester when she was nineteen. He was a hardworking boy who could do just about anything with his hands—he even built their farmhouse with those

hands. And inside that home, sitting on top the hill outside Pollard, Ethel and Chester made a family.

Theirs was an ordinary life—at least in these parts. A life revolving around fishing, homegrown turnips, field peas, and peaches so plump they should be rated R.

These were people of their times. Back when men knew how to use axes, and weren't afraid to stain their clothes killing supper. When women fried cornbread, carved meat better than butchers, and still had the gall to sell Avon.

Well.

Ask anyone around, this kind of quiet existence is easy on the body. Folks like Ethel and Chester often lived well into their golden years. They didn't slow down, either—since you can't move much slower. And the years of marriage just kind of lulled by.

At ninety-eight-year-old Ethel's wedding anniversary, a local reporter interviewed her. “Mrs. Turner,” the reporter said.…

I wish you could see this woman beside me. She's eating fried chicken like a starvation victim. And using her whole body to do it.

She takes a large bite, then wipes her chin with her sleeve. She pauses only to sip sweet tea. Then, it's back to destroying more drumsticks.

She stares at my discarded bones and says, “You like it?”

No.

I love it.

Her fried chicken is legendary. Hens everywhere from here to the next county marvel at this woman. That's because you've never seen anyone—not even the Colonel—fry a bird the way she does. Local poultry stand in line, volunteering their lives toward her cause.

It's no exaggeration:

she lives for food.

You'd never know it to look at her, but she plans her life around supper, her summers around vegetables. We once postponed a family vacation because tomato season wasn't yet in full swing.

You ought to travel with her. She hauls ten coolers wherever she goes. They're stocked with things like: buttermilk, eight kinds of cheese—nine counting pimento—chicken salad, tuna salad, coleslaw, potato salad, egg salad, pear salad, fruit salad, cucumber salad, Jell-O salad, and ambrosia.

She believes in the gospel according to whole…

Willie finished the concert by welcoming Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter onto the stage.

Last week, my wife surprised me with tickets to a Willie Nelson concert, saying, "Pack your bags, Miss Daisy."

The next thing I knew, we were sitting four hundred feet away from the redheaded stranger himself.

He played all the classics. One by one. And when he sang, "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys," I cried. Since my mama decidedly failed in this regard.

Willie finished the concert by welcoming Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter onto the stage. Seven thousand of us rose to our feet and nearly tore the place apart. The ninety-one year-old president hugged the eighty-three-year-old cowboy. I couldn't have been happier if I'd seen Bear

Bryant and Jesus shake hands.

Then, Willie sang, "Amazing Grace."

So did Jimmy and Rosalynn.

So did I.

Seven thousand folks set their beers down—since this is what you do while singing hymns. The woman next to me sat down and just stared into the night sky, listening to all the voices.

Willie sang the second verse.

I closed my eyes.

We sang this song at my grandmama's funeral, at my grandaddy's, my uncle's, my cousin's, father-in-law's, and Daddy's. To people of my pedigree, this song is sacred.

It was a small ordeal, I hardly remember anything except the words, “Who gives this woman away?”

My sister's instructions were to wear a nice shirt. Something that didn't look like I'd, “just rolled out of bed.”

I tried to set her mind at ease, assuring her I almost never roll.

That day, I left work early. I changed my shirt in traffic while I sped to the courthouse.

It was a small ordeal, I hardly remember anything except the words, “Who gives this woman away?”

Woman.

I answered for the entirety of my family. They kissed. Mama cried. Everyone shook hands. And then it was over.

No party. No dance bands.

The truth is, she deserved more. A proper ceremony, a dress, photographs, a honeymoon. What she got was

zilch, with a steaming side of jack-squat.

Well, I know that's just the way life goes. I'm not complaining about it. But sometimes, I like to imagine things.

For example: let's imagine I'm walking along a beach. I see a rusty bottle wash ashore. And, let's say I pick the thing up and give it a good scrub.

A genie pops out.

He says in a booming voice, "I am Genie Of The Seven Seas, who hath awakened me from thy slumber?"

And I say, "It is…

I'll probably never venture many miles in my life. I'm like my mother, and the furthest we ever travel is the post office.

"I've never been to Europe, never explored South America. But I've caught more than a few fish.."

You should meet this buddy of mine. He's a loud talker, and will not let anyone fit a word in. He's my age, but we're nothing alike. This man has been everywhere, done everything.

Presently, he's taking a year off to hike across Alaska.

Alaska.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit, I sometimes wonder about my own life. I wonder if I ought to be concerned about how uneventful it's been. After all, I've spent more time around mobile homes than I have around airports.

I've never been to Europe, never explored South America. I have not played tennis, ridden a motorcycle, tasted a martini, nor seen the Northern lights.

But.

That's not to say my life hasn't been interesting. It has, even though my GPS would disagree.

To start with: I have thrice been baptized. Once Methodist, once Baptist, and one Gatorade bucket.

I once worked as a trim-carpenter with a Mexican man named, Jesus. He was about four-foot tall, and he lived in his car in the Walmart parking lot. He would introduce himself using

the American equivalent of his name.

“Hello,” he'd say. “I am Jee-zus, a carpenter. Berry nice to meet choo."

It was a riot.

Let's see. I've owned too many Labradors to count, and one coonhound who knows how to open peanut butter jars with her mouth.

I've floated in the the Gulf of Mexico, just to watch the stars. I've been lost in New Orleans, mugged in Atlanta, left for dead at Disney World. I have owned two single-wide trailers, and one house. My truck smells like a wet dog—so did the trucks before it.

I laugh weird.

I learned to drive a tractor at nine, wrecked one at ten, and spent seven years riding another, until it made me hard of hearing.

I've worked in four churches, three restaurants, two factories, and one janitorial position.

I've known love.

In fact, I…

I want you to know, the first thing I did was bite into one like an apple. It dripped all over, I had to eat it over the sink.

To the person who gave me a basket of plump, homegrown tomatoes:

Right away, I could tell these were not the tasteless aberrations from the supermarkets. Those things aren't fit for hunting dogs. No, these tomatoes are like the kind my mother grew in her garden. Irregular-shaped, multicolored, uneven.

I want you to know, the first thing I did was bite into one like an apple. It dripped all over, I had to eat it over the sink.

I don't love many things as much as tomatoes.

I'm not just saying that. I've done some exciting things in my day. I've watched the sunset on a boat headed for Mexico; I've met the president of the Hair Club For Men; and I attended one Zig Ziglar symposium. Nothing matches fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes.

Save for tomato sandwiches.

Sandwiches made with white bread—the kind doctors tell you not to eat unless you want type-two diabetes. And mayo. I'm not one of those bigots who make ludicrous brand-loyal statements; but

if you don't use Duke's Mayonnaise you're a communist puppy-hater.

A few years ago, I bought homegrown tomatoes outside Tuskegee. I got halfway down the road, and had already polished them off. Thus, I turned back, and bought every basket the man had. I must've had two hundred tomatoes in the passenger seat.

It was impulsive, irrational, there was no way I could ever eat so many. So I stopped at the Tom Thumb for more salt.

The girl behind the counter said, “You been eatin' tomatoes?”

“How'd you know?” I asked.

She pointed to the pink spot on my chest. “Your shirt.”

Sharp as a sickle, this girl. So I left her several ripe ones.

Because everyone knows, when tomatoes are in season, it's time to let down your tailgate a little. Last night, I ate two tomato sandwiches for supper. This morning: tomatoes. Lunch:…

I don't mind heavy traffic, as long as I have something to snack on. Such as M&M's, or boiled peanuts.

I have neither.

So, I'm turning the radio on. I don't recognize modern music these days. Some of it sounds like two lawnmowers engaging in immoral behavior. Radio off.

The car to my right is a group of teenagers. They're playing on smartphones, the kid in the backseat is thumb-typing a novel. I smile at him.

He frowns back.

Up ahead, is a small Chevy truck. Fire-engine red. It's a single cab, like all trucks were once—with a bench-seat. The young man driving has his girl beside him, sitting as close as

she can. She leans on his shoulder. He plants a kiss on her lips.

My grandaddy would've remarked, “Looky there, she's holding that poor fella up so he can drive.” Then, he'd wink and say, "Some things never change."

Well.

The truth is, a lot has changed in this world. You can read the newspaper using one finger, and start cars with your thumbprint. You can flush your home toilet from a gas station in China using a smartphone. You can watch ballgames on your wristwatch from the International…

Here's another suggestion: try snapping pictures with a film-camera sometime. You might have to search antique stores just to find one.

Kids, be good listeners. I don't know much, but I do know that good listeners are few and far between. Sometimes, it seems there too many talking heads, not enough ears. But if you listen, you can figure out nearly anything you want to.

Except politics.

And women.

But otherwise, you'll be all set.

Here's another suggestion: try snapping pictures with a film-camera sometime. You might have to search antique stores just to find one. But you'll discover photographs last longer than computer screens.

We once spent an entire hurricane in a dark bathroom with our wedding album. For hours, we thumbed through pictures by candlelight.

Most fun I've had

in years.

Keep a first-aid kit in your car. You never know when you might need it. Cuts, blisters, scrapes, puncture wounds, rattlesnake bites, disagreements with your spouse. You never know.

I once watched a man drive his Chevy into a tree off the road. It happened right in front of me. The impact made such a loud boom, it sounded like God was bowling.

I hopped out of my car to help. I bandaged his forehead using all the gauze I had. He was as drunk as fish, his…

I know I'm supposed to want to see the world. They tell me to visit Paris or London before I die. Maybe I will. But I'm not saving up for a ticket any time soon.

I need a nap. Maybe it was the drive through Alabama that wore me out. The miles can do that to a man, even when he's only riding shotgun.

I always ride shotgun on these trips. My wife feels most at ease when her hands are on the wheel. She calls me Miss Daisy.

I pretend to hate that name.

Right now, the sun is shining through the truck windshield, burning my thighs. The scenery flying by the windows is stunning. Bright green fields. Lonesome barns. Red dirt roads. Tall pines that look like flagpoles.

I once spent a month in lower

Utah, where all the trees looked dead. The air there was dry enough to turn your face into beef jerky. I've never been so glad to arrive back on Southern soil.

When my plane touched down, the first thing I took pleasure in was our humidity, which saturates your drawers. Also, our local smells. An aroma which primarily consists of mold and sulfur—think old eggs and oyster stew.

I could live on that smell.

I know I'm supposed to want to see the world. They tell me to visit Paris or London before…