“I ain’t got no faith, man,” he said. “Ain’t gonna lie to you, I ain’t even a good guy all the time, you know? I’m human.”

“It only takes a little faith, man,” says Mark. “You don’t need much. Just a little.”

There is a feeling you get when you sit in Mark’s back row pew. It’s a special pew.

Mark—which isn’t his real name—leads me through the church aisles, guides me to a pew in the rear of the chapel, and he helps me understand what I’m sitting upon.

“This is where it happened,” he tells me.

“Where what happened?” I ask.

“Where something I done asked for ended up happening.”

He crosses his legs, then places his hands in his lap. Long ago, he used to sit on this pew when he came to church as a little boy.

“I didn’t grow up to be a church guy,” he says. “I mean, I believed in God and everything, but I sure ain’t never seen no real miracles before.”

Until one summer. He was not in a good place at the time.

He snuck into the church on a Thursday, after work. There were no

people in the building. The preacher was gone for the day, so was the secretary. In fact, it was a fluke the church was unlocked.

The maintenance man was in the shed, finishing up projects. He hadn’t locked the sanctuary yet.

Mark turned the knob of the doors and let himself into the chapel. The sun was setting. He sat in the back pew.

He did some crying—for his wife. Only one week before, she was diagnosed with a fatal form of breast cancer. He bowed his head and he whispered a few words on her behalf. He was in this pew for fifteen minutes.

“I ain’t got no faith, man, ain’t gonna lie to you, I ain’t even a good guy all the time, you know? I’m human.”

But when Mark went home that day, he saw his…

I still get ticked off when the keys stick and the paper jams. When the ink ribbon quits turning and I realize my last paragraphs are nothing but invisible braille, I begin to lose my religion.

Yeah, I know the internet rules the world. I’m no dummy.

But there are some things the internet will never replace. Things like: biscuits, the love of a good dog, hugs from your mother, and приклад.

Let me explain:

Right now, I am writing you from a typewriter. It is a Lettera 32. It is old, ugly, and Staph-Infection Green. The thing once sat atop my childhood desk. My mother gave it to me.

Long ago, I used to write tales of the high seas, spy stories, and Westerns. I wanted to become a writer back then. But time moves you forward and you end up becoming things you never thought you would.

I don’t know what I became.

Anyway, in our digital world, it’s not easy writing on a typewriter. For one thing, there’s the problem of getting all these inky words into a computer. It's a real pain

First you have to scan each page of paper—unless you want to retype all your words.

Then, you have to wait fifteen minutes for your

computer to translate typeface into digital text. The software, which was manufactured in a third-world sweatshop, is crummy.

Civilized man can put a fella on the moon, but we are stuck with software that translates the simplest icon within the history of human language, “I,” into “приклад.”

Thusly, wherever the word “I” has appeared in this column, it is because I have physically removed “приклад” and replaced it with “I.”

In spite of the aforementioned, this is a small price to pay for recapturing childhood.

Pressing these keys makes me feel light years younger. Furthermore, there is no internet to distract me, no bright screen, no email alerts involving the prince of Nigeria, no pop-up ads advertising reverse mortgages, no updates on the best-dressed at the Oscars.

This Seafoam Green, non-electric machine takes me back in time.

When I was a boy, I remember writing…

Women to my left. Women to my right. Pastel colors everywhere. Enough conflicting perfume scents to make my head swim. This might be the largest female gathering on planet earth.

And I'm in their hotel lobby.

If you want to know what I'm talking about, visit town during a Mary Kay convention. You'll see women of every shape, size, and hair-color—too many different Southern accents to count.

Such as the eighty-year-old woman who sits next to me while I'm eating a lukewarm complimentary breakfast. Her daughters are with her— granddaughters too.

“We ah from Marietta,” the elderly lady says, using eleven syllables.

Then, instead of shaking my hand, the lady extends her wrist. Kind of like the Queen of England does when she blesses a NASCAR race.

Anyway, I'm not sorry about my strong affections for the women of Dixie. There's something special about them, and I'll die believing that.

They are well-behaved, and unpredictable. Using only one breath, they can cuss you blind, then turn around and preach a full-blown sermon. Sometimes

they do both at once, using so much charm you end up writing them a thank-you card for it.

They dress to the nines, often spending upwards of six hours before a bathroom mirror. Like the lady I saw in the lobby wearing ten-inch heels, a puff-pink suit, and fourteen feet of hairspray. It must've taken her a week to get ready.

Or the young girl in the hoop-skirt and bonnet—it took three grown men to get her out of the hotel elevator.

My tenderness for these females runs deep. This might have a lot to do with the food they make. They can whip up cornbread, crank out biscuits, and deep fry a hundred chicken livers before you've even brushed your teeth. They're not ashamed to eat what they make, and by God, they don't expect you to be either.

They are all beautiful. Short, tall,…

You were my childhood obsession. This began in earnest the week after my father’s funeral. My friend brought me a stack of your comics he’d gotten at a flea market for a few bucks.

Dear Superman,

I awoke way too early this morning. It was still dark. This morning, I was missing my late bloodhound.

Last year around this time, she was still alive, and she would sit beside me while I fiddled with the coffee pot. But she’s not here. Pancreatitis took her.

I’ll never forget it, last year we checked her into the pet hospital, they put her in one of those cones. They locked her in a cage. They shoved needles in her.

I was able to wedge my hand through the kennel door to pet her nose. It was the last time I ever saw her.

My mother always told me, “Don’t just tell someone you love them, write it down for them, then they can remember it always.”

Too bad dogs can’t read.

But then, Mama was full of country wisdom. I think she was a little like your Mama, Clark.

She’s the one who told me: “A bumblebee is faster than a John Deere.”

And: “Never judge a family tree by the nuts falling off it.”

And: “If you ever start to think you’re somebody, try telling a house cat what to do.”

Anyway, the reason I am writing you is because yesterday afternoon I opened the mailbox to find several bills, junk mail, real estate advertisements, and one manila envelope with no return address. Inside was an Action Comics comic book.

“Great Ceasar’s Ghost!” I thought to myself.

It took me back in time. I used to subscribe to Action Comics when I was a boy. I kept my subscription until I was 27 years old.

You were my childhood obsession. This began in earnest the week after my father’s funeral. My friend brought me a stack of your comics he’d gotten at a flea market for a few bucks.

There must’ve been a hundred…

He inspects it. Single cab. Four-wheel drive. Low mileage. The paint is flaking. Rust on the doors. It’s a glorified hunk of metal, but they don’t make them like this anymore.

This story isn’t mine, but I’m going to tell it like I heard it. I first heard it from an old man who drove a Ford. And I have a soft spot for old Ford men.

So there he is. The old man is driving. He sees a car on the side of the highway. A kid stands beside it. Hood open.

The man pulls over.

He’s America’s quintessential old man. He drives a half-ton Ford that he’s been babying since the seventies. He changes the oil regularly, waxes it on weekends. The candy-apple red paint still looks nice.

He looks under the kid’s hood. He can see the problem right away, (a) the transmission is shot, and (b) it’s not a Ford.

Fixing it would cost more than the vehicle.

The kid is in a hurry, and asks, “Can you give me a ride to work? I can’t afford to lose my job.”

So, the old man drives the kid across town. They do some talking.

The man learns that the boy has four children, a young wife, and a disabled mother living with him. The boy works hard for a living. Bills keep piling up.

It rips the man's heart out.

They arrive at a construction site. There are commercial framers in tool belts, operating nail guns. The kid pumps the old man’s hand and thanks him for the ride.

“Take care of yourself,” the man tells the kid.

The kid takes his place among workmen, climbing on pine-framed walls, swinging a hammer.

The old man decides to help the kid. He doesn’t know how. Or why. But it’s a decision that seems to make itself.

That same day, he’s at a stop light. He sees something. An ugly truck, sitting in a supermarket parking lot. A Ford.

A for-sale sign in the window.…

Before they finish the melody, Miss Gina quietly steps into the garage. Miss Gina is married to Martin, the guitarist. She is carrying four Miller High Lifes on a silver tray—and one diet soda for Mister Randy.

I need to be in Montgomery in a few hours, but I have some time to kill. So I’m killing it by sitting in an old man’s garage, watching old men play music.

There is a banjo, a fiddle, a guitar. Behind them is an ‘84 Ford. Before them is an audience of three children. The kids are all ears.

The men play “Turkey in the Straw” and you’d swear they were high-schoolers instead of retirees. It’s all in the way they tap their feet.

Before they finish, Miss Gina quietly steps into the garage. Miss Gina is married to Martin, the guitarist. She is carrying four Miller High Lifes on a silver tray—and one diet soda for Mister Randy.

You don’t see many silver trays anymore.

She makes her delivery, then watches her husband play guitar in earnest. And though she is old, she looks at him the same way a sophomore would look at her high-school sweetheart.

The song ends. The children applaud. The old men take a few

moments to catch their breath.

“Grandpa!” one little boy says. “Can you play that one you played last time, about the fishing guy with the pole?”

The men get right to business. They pluck through a few bars, singing, “You get a line, I’ll get a pole, honey...”

The kids start to dance. And if you’ve ever been lucky enough to see children dance to a song that predates their grandfathers, you’ve been lucky enough.

Miss Gina brings snacks for the children—using another shiny platter. This time, it’s sweet tea and butterscotch cookies that are so good they ought to be outlawed.

Miss Gina whispers to me, “Thanks for coming by today, I know you’re busy, but I thought you’d enjoy seeing Martin play.”

I thank her for inviting me, and for the cookies. I ask her how she met Martin.…

There are forty-two people in this room. Elderly couples, young families, a few high-schoolers, some children. It’s a trip back in time.

Birmingham is sunny. The weather is chilly, but not unpleasant. I am in a tiny church, sitting beside my cousin, his wife, and his three kids. His two girls wear white dresses.

Times have changed. Once upon a time, I remember when all girls wore Sunday dresses. Today, I don’t see more than four or five in the congregation.

Also, I don’t see any penny loafers on the little boys. As a boy, my mother never let me attend church without wearing a pair of god-awful loafers.

There are forty-two people in this room. Elderly couples, young families, a few high-schoolers, some children. It’s a trip back in time. A reminder of the days when Sunday school teachers taught us to say grace by rhyming:

“God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food…”

The congregation sings from hardback hymnals. Then, a sermon from a man with white hair, who pronounces “Lord” as “Lowered.”

The pastor tells us that he and his wife have

been married for fifty-two years. The church applauds. Fifty-two years is a rarity.

He got married in 1967—when Andy Griffith was still on the air. That’s when he inherited his first church, in Tennessee, too.

When the pastor and his wife moved into their first parsonage, his wife placed a large cardboard box beneath her bed, she warned the pastor never to touch it.

“This box is private,” she explained. “Promise me you’ll never open it.”

He crossed his heart and hoped to die. For fifty-two years, the Baptist man honored his word.

Until a week ago. He opened the box and it surprised him. Inside, he found it full of cash and four eggs.

He confessed to his wife what he’d done, then asked her about the box.

“Well,” she explained, “when we married, my mama said, ‘Darling, a preacher’s wife…

I’ll never forget it. I was a boy. An old man visited our house. He was a friend of our family, though I don’t remember how.

“I knew your daddy before he died,” the man told me.

I can hardly remember that man. All I can remember are the colorful socks he wore. They were bright-colored, with pictures of dogs on them.

Before he left, he handed me a book. It was a hardback, entitled: “Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You: A Good Beer Joint is Hard to Find, and Other Facts of Life.”

I read the first page. The words sort of jumped off the page and made me smile.

It’s funny what a few words can do to a boy.

I read the book of humor columns in one sitting. Then, I read it again. The next week, I went to the library and found every book the columnist ever wrote.

I’ve loved him ever since.

After my father’s death,

we lived in Atlanta, briefly, in the upstairs bedroom of my uncle’s house. In the mornings, I would trot to the end of the driveway to retrieve the newspaper before Fifi the Terrorist Pomeranian made her morning rounds.

Often, I would unfold the paper and read my favorite columnist, there in the driveway. Then, I would use scissors to cut out the column for a keepsake.

In the evenings, when my uncle would shake open his paper after a long day at the office, there would be a large hole on page A4. And he would cuss.

I loved everything the columnist wrote, and I read almost every one of his words.

When he wrote about his father, I cried. When he wrote about his dog, I laughed. When he wrote about traveling backroads, I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.…

If you were in a real hurry, you’d probably risk your life on Interstate 65. But if you weren’t, you could take a country road like Highway 31.

I don’t like interstates. Sometimes I have to use them, but not by choice. Today, for instance, I have a long drive ahead of me, I am avoiding the interstate like the plague.

Instead, I take the rural route of my youth, Highway 331. This little gem of a two-lane shoots from the Choctawhatchee Bay, upward into Covington County, Alabama, and straight across God’s country.

It’s an unassuming road that will weave you through Defuniak Springs, Paxton, Florala, Onycha, all the way to Opp.

Opp is the home of the Rattlesnake Rodeo. There, you can see snake races, snake contests, snake comedy acts, snake lectures, and good old-fashioned poisonous snake handling. Fun for the whole family.

Even though the rodeo is only seventy miles from my doorstep, my friends always go without me because I am deathly afraid of snakes.

When I was in first grade, a woman from the zoo visited our classroom. She brought a boa constrictor the size of a sewage pipe. She let it

lick my face.

I lost all control. I screamed, I cried, I couldn’t breathe. Our teacher had to call reinforcements. The next thing I knew, I was going to the school nurse’s office to receive a pair of loaner trousers for the day.

Next comes Brantley, the “Front Porch Capital of the South.” Subsequently, you won’t find better food than Michael’s Southern Foods restaurant, downtown. It will bless your heart.

Then comes Luverne—Pepsi bottling country. Luverne is also the home of the Chicken Shack. If you’ve never been to the Chicken Shack, you need to get right with the Lord.

Highland Home, Alabama. They don’t get too worked up in Highland Home.

Hope Hull is next. My cousin once dated a girl in Hope Hull. They were hot and heavy one summer. My cousin and I went to visit her—he had high hopes of…

A cafe. I’m drinking coffee, typing on a laptop. I am trying do some writing. But it’s hard to concentrate.

Namely, because I am sitting beside a group of middle-aged women who are having a conversation about Tupperware.

“Do you remember my friend Martha?” says one woman. “Martha has a Tupperware container, she got it at Target, she can put anything in it.”

“Anything?”

“Yep, anything she wants, she just puts it in the container.”

“Martha does?”

“She got it at Target.”

“They have good containers at Target.”

“Martha just loves it.”

“I’d love a container like that.”

Shoot me.

Across the cafe, I see an old man. He’s alone, eating a sandwich, sipping coffee. He wears a ratty ball cap and gazes out the window. I have a soft spot for old men who gaze out windows.

Over to my left are teenagers—boys and girls. One boy is wearing a Boy Scout uniform, a girl sits beside him. They are holding hands. These kids are so happy they belong in padded cells.

Also, an elderly couple sits behind me. He’s talking into a cellphone, using a voice loud enough to register on the Richter Scale.

Cellphone man shouts, “My doctor said my heart is looking good, darling! There’s nothing to worry about! I don’t need surgery after all!”

And the woman beside me keeps saying:

“Oh, Martha told me the lid just unscrews off her container.”

“The lid unscrews?”

“On and off, just like this.”

“How does it go back on?”

“When you wanna put the lid on, you screw it on. When you wanna take it off, you unscrew it.”

“Whose container is this again?”

“Martha’s container, she got it at Target.”

For the love of Hank.

The old man in the ratty cap is still looking out the window. He wears…