This is a hole-in-the-wall. They have napkin dispensers on tables, burgers that need warning labels from the surgeon general.
There are deer antlers above the cash register. My waitress has bottle-blonde hair and talks like a pack of Menthol Lights.
I’ve spent the day driving the best parts of America. I passed towns no bigger than bowling alleys. I pumped gas at places that don’t accept credit-cards.
And just this morning, I used an antique Case pocket knife to fix a fuel line in my truck.
It’s the Americanest of pocket knives. I don’t always carry this particular knife—I’m too afraid of losing it.
It belonged to an American man. A dead man. Who, from toddlerhood, was hell-bent on joining the military. Who got rejected because of his bad American ear.
I passed farms. Acres of red rows. I passed hillsides. I saw the foothills. My God. The foothills.
I drove two-lane highways. Old bridges. Township after township. Unincorporated dots on a map.
In one town, I saw a flag hanging from an antebellum house. It was draped over an ornate balcony. I had to pinch myself to make sure the War Between the States was over.
There were kids riding bikes in the street. They were hollering, laughing.
You don’t see as much bike-riding as you used to. One news report claimed the percentage of kids who ride bikes to school is in the point-zero-zero-digits.
Maybe so. But not here. I stopped my truck to let them cross the street. I waved. They waved back.
Outside town, I found this restaurant—if you can call it that. I almost missed it. It was behind a gas station.
There were only three or four folks inside. The waitress asked if I wanted sweet tea—and that’s how she said it.
She didn’t say: “What can I get you to drink?” Or: “What’ll it be?”
She said, “You want sweet tea, darlin’?”
I did. She brought me a glass of brown sugar with an ice cube in it.
I have my laptop. It’s on the table. I’m typing while I eat.
“You some kinda writer or something?” she asks.
I tell her I’m writing about America. A place I am so fond of, I don’t often visit places on the globe whose addresses don’t end in “U.S. Of A.”
This is my heaven. A land of rodeos, crawfish boils, Zydeco, major-league contracts, moonshine, stetson hats, paper-mills, Gideon Bibles, and fatty hamburgers.
My ancestors are cattlemen, steelworkers, washerwomen, hammer-swingers, millworkers, guitar pickers, and dirt farmers. They will lay me down right here.
“You gonna write about me?” my waitress asks.
“You want me to?”
“Might as well, I’m about as American as they come.”
I like this woman. She’s sassy.
“No really,” she says. “My dad was in the Air Force, I grew up on air bases. My brothers were all three in the Army. My husband served two tours in Vietnam, one of my sons is active duty. I’m real proud.”
Yes ma’am. I will most certainly write about you.
In fact, I’ll save you for last.