The Peanut Capital

The little lady hugged me so hard I felt her tremble. She delivered a whispered message. Then, she planted a shaky kiss on me.

I’m in Dothan, Alabama, eating at Annie Pearl’s Home Cooking Restaurant. They tell me this is the only spot in town where you can get a decent liver covered in respectable gravy.

They were right.

I’m in a good mood. Not just because of the liver. But because earlier today, an eighty-six-year-old woman with Parkinson’s hugged my neck. She said in a weak voice, “Your daddy sure is proud of you, young man.”

It unsettled me.

Daddy’s been dead for two thirds of my life. Nobody’s ever told me that.

Let alone a stranger.

So we went out for smother-fried liver. I’ve already eaten fifty pounds of the stuff. Also: butter beans, turnip greens, and enough biscuits to qualify as a misdemeanor.

This restaurant is empty, except for a few camouflage hats and their wives.

Our waitress is Kendall. She’s a breath of fresh air. She visits every table, speaking to customers as friendly you’d talk to your cousins.

I overhear her say things like: “How’s your sister doin’ after her divorce?” Or: “Lordy, girl, did you see So-And-So’s engagement ring?”

Or: “Congratulations, Dalene, I heard your nephew made bail last week.”

People say sweet things in this town.

It’s not a small place—this is the New York City of lower Alabama. But it’s rural.

There’s a Feed and Seed next to the Piggly Wiggly, muddy trucks in the movie-theater parking lot. At gas stations: old men in ten-gallon hats who can’t figure out pump card-readers.

I spoke at the Houston County Library today. It was a small crowd. I met good people. Men like Fletcher Moore—an old man who talks so loud it makes you grin.

I got introduced to white-haired women who grew up barefoot, who still remember handpumps on kitchen sinks. I met ladies with antique names like Delphinia, Eugenia, Thomisina, Betty Sue, and Viola Ann.

I shook hands with a man in a neon orange cap who gave me a frozen Ziplock bag of venison. I met a handful of teachers, a few Auburn fans, one horse farrier.

And an eighty-six-year-old woman.

The little lady hugged me so hard I felt her tremble. She delivered a whispered message. Then, she planted a shaky kiss on me.

I won’t lie, I’ve lived most of my life wishing things had turned out another way. I’ve spent too much time wondering if the dead fella whose name I share would be proud of me.

Not today.

Today, I ate liver for supper and smiled. Today, my waitress refilled my sweet tea and called me, “baby.” Today, an eighty-six-year-old Alabamian, who shakes like an oak leaf, gave some kid a message from the Other Side.

I never even caught her name.

But I’m sure as hell glad I came to Dothan, or I might’ve missed it.


  1. Diane Enloe - January 29, 2017 4:04 pm

    We loved you and your pretty wife being in Dothan! You were just great! Thank you so very much for coming! I recently had lower back surgery, so my dear friend, Cheryl Richardson, brought me so I could hear you. I truly loved being out and being able to enjoy your music and stories! I so thank Melinda McClendon for introducing you and your writing to me and for being responsible for your coming to Dothan, AL.!!! You were a blessing!

    Diane Enloe

  2. Gayle Dawkins - January 29, 2017 4:10 pm

    Do you do speaking engagements often Sean? Would love to come hear you sometime.

  3. Susan Victoria - January 29, 2017 4:18 pm

    My Great Grandmother’s name was Anna Pearl. She was a farm lady from Middle Georgia and raised nine kids. Married at 13 and passed away at 94. Her last words to me in her last days were “Remember, love don’t ever die.”. And she made great liver and onions smothered in brown gravy. .

  4. Carol DeLater - January 29, 2017 4:31 pm

    Miss Diane Enloe said it all. She just reinforced what that little old lady knew.
    Xx, Carol

  5. Betty Kelly - January 29, 2017 4:40 pm

    You were such a delight to see and hear today in Dothan. My daughter introduced me to your stories and I must say it was a welcomed introduction. She was so jealous that she couldn’t be there but she lives in Cumming, Ga just north of Atlanta. Bought her a book which you signed and one for my husband. He was at home trying to deliver a kidney stone. He’s the reason I asked to touch ( and pull) your beard. He didn’t think it was real. Bless his heart.

  6. Eddie Lanham - January 29, 2017 5:12 pm

    Hummmm…. Never stopped in Dothan. Always took that by-pass to the left going south. Maybe we should. Soon, and eat.
    I to wonder if my father would be proud of me. Dad left this earth when I was near 16, a long long long time ago. He always told me, “Son, if anyone asks where you are from, never answer with the word Atlanta, even though we live 40 miles due south. You tell them we are from Griffin, 40 miles south of the “occupied” city. Most Southerners and intelligent people will understand.”

    • Kathy Burgess - March 15, 2017 2:40 am

      I certainly understand.

  7. Elaine - January 29, 2017 8:04 pm

    Well, I’m with you except for the turnip greens. For me, they are how you spell ‘hate.’
    So I married a Yankee. Safe!

    • Kathy Burgess - March 15, 2017 2:45 am

      I would rather have a bowl of turnip greens with pot licker and cornbread any day than a Yankee. Now darlin, you know I am just fooling. lol

  8. Deborah - January 29, 2017 8:08 pm

    The lunch sounds delicious, but the people you met sound even better.

  9. Heather - January 30, 2017 2:02 am

    Dothan is my hometown and I lived there about 40 years of my life. I miss it at times even though I’m in another state south of the mason dixon line now, it’s not home here. You make me proud of my hometown and honestly I’m a bit homesick now. Thank you for sharing a taste of my upbringing in a new light.

  10. Susie Munz - January 31, 2017 4:59 pm

    That was a sweet story. I’m glad you were there, too. And, I’m sure he is proud of you!

  11. Beverly - March 13, 2017 3:14 pm

    Loved this one, too! How can we find out where you’ll be speaking?

  12. Sharon - March 13, 2017 3:19 pm

    I happened on your website via facebook. I am part of the generation that saw the civil rights movement and later witnessed (and wore) hideous fashion and hairstyles. I lost my Momma and Daddy 11 years ago.. I miss them every day. Your writings help me realize what is good about the South. Sweet Home, Alabama. Roll Tide!

  13. Tommy Simmons - March 13, 2017 3:50 pm

    My wife had two sets of twins in her family, aunts and uncles. Their names lie, Arley and Farley and Reenie and Deani. I have an uncle named Burble and and grand daddy who was named Byrd. Strangely enough on my mommas side. I read your stuff and often it takes me back to Bessemer picking up coke bottles out of ditches. Or listening to pappa’s (Byrd) fox hounds braying in Pleasant Grove. So much has changed, your writing does much more than you may think.

  14. Annie - March 13, 2017 4:25 pm

    Please let me know your speaking schedule. Or as we say in Safford, AL, when will you be picking and grinning.

    • Diane Enloe - March 13, 2017 4:31 pm

      Love that expression!! ?. Never heard it before!!

  15. Linda Perry - March 13, 2017 4:30 pm

    I love your stories, I can hear an see people in them that I have known all my life .
    I hope that next time your in Dothan that we all know your here, an can go hear your wonderful stories. Thank you

  16. Karen Bethea - March 13, 2017 4:55 pm

    Ahhhh….Dothan…going to Dothan to eat lunch after church and go to the movies with Mama…the bar-b-que place at the corner of Ross Clark Circle and Hwy 231S….weekends at the Skyview Drive-In in Dothan, sneaking in a few beers one of the four of us had been brave enough to buy (that is a story in itself)…working my first job in Dothan…the Peanut Festival AND the Peanut Festivl Parade……5 years old sitting on the corner across from Bloombergs and in front of Woolworth’s… Johnnie Mack Brown rides by and I am lifted onto his horse and placed in front of him in the saddle…for the rest of the parade…falling in love with the big cowboy AND his horse… waiting every year to go to my grandmother’s house in Campbellton knowing we would go to Dothan…shopping at Bloombergs- MY parade…my memories….sweet memories

  17. JoAnne - March 13, 2017 9:09 pm

    I just found this on Facebook and it makes me soon homesick.

  18. Paula Link - March 14, 2017 12:07 am

    I spent most of my growing up years in Ozark, so Dothan was “town”. My mother, aunt, sister and I had a regular circuit we made whenever we spent a Saturday shopping in Dothan. It included 3 dime stores, Blumberg’s, Moore’s, and usually lunch at either the Woolworth counter or a restaurant nearby. I marched in the Peanut Festival Parade in the Pride of the Wiregrass band from Ozark, and my son and his family live in Malvern – so I drive past Pearl’s Restaurant to get to their house. Love those Dothan memories!

  19. June RouLaine Phillips - March 15, 2017 2:56 am

    You’re like a cool breeze on a hot day in the heart of bama.

  20. Melissa Songer - March 13, 2018 11:30 pm

    The name Viola really struck me out of the blue! I had a Great Aunt Viola, whose home I loved to visit! I always enjoy reading your pieces!

  21. Charaleen Wright - March 24, 2019 4:45 am


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