I meet some tourists on the way back to my room. Selma attracts a lot of tourists because of its role in history.

SELMA—I am watching the sun come up over the downtown skyline. I see the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the distance, arching over the mighty Alabama River.

They say that Selma is the Butterfly Capital of Alabama, I’m not sure why. Though I am told that if you see a black-and-yellow tiger swallowtail butterfly, it’s good luck.

I look for these butterflies, but I don’t find any. All I ever seem to see are various pigeons using my windshield for a public restroom.

Today, I am speaking in schools. This is not something I do very often. Mainly, because kids either like me or they don’t. There is no middle ground with children.

Besides, America’s youth could do a lot better than me, that’s for sure. I don’t have anything special to say. And even if I did have something profound to share, it wouldn’t matter because kids can only maintain focus on the adult monotone voice for 0.008 milliseconds before going slack-jawed and falling into paralyzing REM sleep.

The first place I speak is a school library. I’m not exactly a success, but luck smiles on me. These kids treat me like I’m the greatest guy they have ever met. They laugh at my jokes. They applaud often. I get many hugs.

One fifth-grader tells me he is interested in being my manager. He gives me his business card and tells me to keep in touch.

Between gigs, we drive across Selma’s historic downtown which has been here since the early 1800s. French Colonial architecture mixes with Antebellum homes to make one big enchilada of colors and shapes, topped with Spanish moss.

I see the historic Baptist church on Lauderdale Street. It’s not like any Baptist church I ever saw. It is made of stone, with gargoyles shooting from the eves. These gargoyles have big, dragon-like, ugly faces. The same kinds of facial expressions Baptists often wear when someone sneaks beer into a family reunion.

I take a tour of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, which was erected in 1871 by a group of likeminded individuals who believed very strongly against being Baptist. The stained glass windows date back to the days when our great-great grandparents walked the earth.

I speak at another school. This time in the gymnasium. No air conditioner. No ventilation. I’m lucky again. Because even though I sweat through my shirt and almost lose consciousness from severe dehydration, the kids laugh at my jokes, applaud for me, and most students are kind enough to keep their snoring down.

Next, I have an interview with a reporter from the Selma Times-Journal newspaper about how I like it here. Unlucky for the reporter, he just had to sit through my performance.

“Do you speak at schools a lot?” the reporter asks.

“Not really.”

He nods. After watching my presentation, he is evidently not surprised.

We have a brief conversation, he takes a few notes, we shake hands. Then my chaperone gives me a ride back to my room.

I meet some tourists on the way back to my room. Selma attracts tons of tourists because of its role in history. And there are piles of history all over this town.

The tourists are older ladies wearing sun visors. When they pass me on the sidewalk, I step aside and slightly lift my ball cap the way my mother showed me to do long ago.

“Ladies,” I say.

They exchange funny looks and giggle at me.

“Sorry,” says one woman. “We’re from California, we don’t see many men tip their hats.”

“Yeah,” says another. “Only see that in the movies these days.”

My mother will get a big kick out of this.

The women tell me they are in town to walk the Edmund Pettus Bridge. And they aren’t alone. In my short time here, I have met other tourists from places like Arizona, Oregon, and Virginia. They are all here to touch the iron guard rails, and to walk the same bridge Martin Luther King Jr. once walked.

Most of the bridge-walkers I see are wearing sneakers, carrying bottles of water, and happy. But I meet one woman who has wet eyes.

“This is my fourth time walking the bridge,” the tearful woman says. She says nothing else.

From a distance, I watch a few people walk the unassuming arch. A young man and woman, holding hands. A middle-aged woman, carrying a toddler. An elderly Hispanic couple. A few college kids.

I go to Historic Riverfront Park. I take in the view. There I meet a man who must be on his lunch break. He is eating a sandwich, watching the river. He has cotton-white hair, midnight skin, and wears jeans and a necktie. I ask him about the bridge.

“Oh, man,” he says with a mouthful. “They come from everywhere to walk that thing. Presidents, movie stars, regular people, all kinds. Even Oprah.”

We watch Alabama River roll forward in silence. And it’s hard not to enjoy the beautiful weather today. It’s even harder not to love this river.

Then it happens.

A butterfly lands beside me. Bright yellow and black. A tiger swallowtail. It flutters, then rests on my knee for a moment before taking to the air.

“Do you think a butterfly really means good luck?” I ask the man.

He smiles.

“Yes,” he says.


  1. marisa - October 9, 2019 10:09 am

    Love your writing. I feel like I’m right there with you.

  2. Keloth Anne - October 9, 2019 10:52 am

    What a great place to visit and have time to see and feel the history of that city. Oh how exciting for the students to get to meet you and listen to your wonderful stories 😊😊😊
    How fortunate for all of them!!!!

  3. Meredith Smith - October 9, 2019 11:22 am

    Sean, what a great read! I would love to visit someday, your descriptions make me feel as if I were right along with you. And by the way – bless you for always including your mothers’ teachings! ☺️ What a gentleman you are and obviously your mom is a wonderful woman! ❤️

  4. Karen - October 9, 2019 1:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing Selma with us.

  5. Karen - October 9, 2019 1:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing Selma.

  6. Shelton A. - October 9, 2019 2:10 pm

    Just a great story…touched my heart. We Episcopalians came about because Henry VIII wanted a divorce, the Pope said “No”, so King Henry started his own church. It’s the Anglican Church in England and Episcopal here in the US. We had to be different, I guess.

  7. Charlotte Scarborough - October 9, 2019 2:54 pm

    Only visited Selma once, stayed at the famous St. James Hotel near the Edmund Pettus bridge. Attended a storytelling festival and heard the legendary, Kathryn Tucker Windham tell a mesmerizing ghost story along with other amazing storytellers.There was a street fair and craft booths. A weekend I’ll never forget.

  8. Suzanne - October 9, 2019 3:06 pm

    Is this true? Did you really meet this kind man? Did a butterfly really REALLY land on your knee? I’m a little bit upset at humanity this morning. I merged over in traffic this morning because the right lane was closed ahead and an old man (I’m old, too, BTW) flipped me off. Rudeness really lights my fire.
    Oh, Lord. Sorry for all that. ❤️

  9. Mary Frances Keyes - October 9, 2019 3:36 pm

    Thank you for a beautiful positive story about my hometown. It does seep in history. Once you leave Broad Street going west you will see beautiful homes from Italian, Victorian era , Colonial, and Southern Plantation styles. A must is the Old Live Oak Cemetery, and walk among the graves and read the epitaphs., Beautiful monuments in every description, with the giant Oak Trees covered in hanging moss. Selma was a wonderful place to grow up in and raise your family.

  10. Linda Moon - October 9, 2019 3:57 pm

    Selma. My memories of that time in history are abundant. My hometown, about 90 miles north of Selma, is rich with history, too. I’m so glad that some of America’s youth heard your tales, especially in a school library. Laughter, hugs and applause from kids are wonderful. Kathryn Tucker Windham would be proud of you and happy that you told those tales at her eponymous festival! I bet those kids have read about her Ghosts from books right there in the school’s library!

  11. Rose Koch - October 9, 2019 4:05 pm

    I love Selma it is a wonderful place full of kind loving people and misunderstood by many. A visit there will enlighten you to the real Selma.

  12. Bunny Rittenour - October 9, 2019 6:57 pm

    Selma was the lucky one to have you visit!

  13. Edna B. - October 9, 2019 8:32 pm

    I’ve never been there, but it sounds like a wonderful place. You have a super evening, hugs, Edna B.

  14. Mark Woodson - October 9, 2019 8:48 pm

    I am a new fan of yours. I have lived in Selma all of my life. Everyone has misconceptions and preconceived notions about Selma. I love living here. There is still racism here like any other place in the world. But there is love and admiration and a real kinship of all people who live here. Selma is an amazing town and yes, the people are our treasure along with our history. Everyone should try to visit Selma before they die. Visit the Old Depot Museum and of course the Bridge. Also check out the Tally Ho restaurant i hidden jewel nestled in a quaint neighborhood. And the KFC ain’t bad either.

  15. Caroline R Alexander - October 9, 2019 11:47 pm

    Thank you for coming to Selma and talking to our young people! I have been here all my life,61 blessed years, and I learn something new about our history frequently! It’s a wonderful city!

  16. Jennifer Gordon - October 10, 2019 1:53 am

    My husband will be driving from Freeport to Selma tomorrow. He is going to pick my parents up and take the to the Tale Tellin’. I’m sorry I won’t get to hear you, but I know it’s going to be a special treat for them. Selma is a sweet town with good people! Enjoy your visit Sean!

  17. Kimberly Fondren - October 10, 2019 4:06 am

    Thank you for a story of my home. As a kid I helped plant butterfly bush for the butterflies.It is a good place for a writer to be, and you sir, are one.

  18. Leslie - October 10, 2019 5:03 am

    I am from Selma and my nana lived right down the road from Kathryn Tucker Windham. Her granddaughter was my age and she came to visit in the summers she would always read and share the best stories.

  19. Belinda Bishop Fredd - October 10, 2019 6:03 am

    I love my hometown and you made it sound like a place in one of those books you read about in a great fiction novel. But Selma really does exist and it is as wonderful as it sounds.

  20. Kathy Daum - October 10, 2019 1:00 pm

    Don’t fool yourself; you have a lot to say to all of us. Especially kids. I’m glad they appreciate you.

  21. Clonnie Kujawa - October 10, 2019 2:08 pm

    Reading this makes me anxious to revisit my grandmother’s hometown. I haven’t been there since the late 60’s. Love your stories Sean.

  22. Joe Patterson - October 10, 2019 3:29 pm

    Thanks again


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