The Shakiest Pen in the South

DEAR SEAN:

Do you think we are going to get through this thing? My dad keeps telling me not to worry, but I can’t help it, I’m honestly scared about this coronavirus thing and of what’s happening to everybody. I wish you and I could hang out, ‘cause I bet you could calm me down.

Thanks,
EIGHTEEN-IN-ATLANTA

DEAR EIGHTEEN:

Listen, I’m flattered. But I don’t think I could make you feel calm. Not because I don’t want to, but because if we did hang out, you’d hear me speak out loud and say to yourself, “Hey, wait a minute, this guy’s a hick!” And I would lose all credibility in your eyes.

This is why all your trustworthy TV experts are Harvard graduates, Yale lawyers, or certified nuclear proctologists. They are smart, well-spoken, and they wear enough hair product to deflect small-caliber bullets. But they are never hicks.

Me? I can’t seem to tame my hair. And believe me, my mother has squandered years of her life trying to get it to stay put.

The reason I tell you this is because if you and I actually met in person, you’d most certainly figure out that I have no idea what I’m talking about. In which case you would start worrying again.

But as it happens, I do know a little about worry. I had a crummy childhood, just like a lot of people. I dealt with stomach ulcers, anxiety, night terrors, and other things that go along with fear.

The fear was because my family went through a lot of trauma surrounding my father’s death. After he died, we all slept in the same bedroom together for a while. That’s how scared we were. Sometimes before turning out the lights, we would use pieces of furniture to barricade the bedroom door because that’s what irrational fear does to people. It makes them a little crazy.

One time when I was a teenager, my mother and sister went out of town. I chose to stay home alone because I lived in a house full of estrogen, and I wanted what all teenage boys want: Peace and Quiet. It had been, literally, years since I’d used the bathroom without having to wait two hours for someone to finish blow-drying her hair so that her feathered bangs looked just so.

But anyway, after a few days, I started to get afraid, being home alone. And it didn’t help that our house was in the middle of the woods, surrounded by millions of questionable hicks.

One night, about midnight, things got worse. A lot worse. I was awoken by a bright light blaring through my bedroom window. It was a spotlight. The light was roaming through our house like a giant white ball. My dog was barking. I heard men’s voices. I sat bolt upright and realized this was no nightmare.

Someone was looking into our house.

My whole body went cold. I started to tremble. What was happening? Was someone robbing us? I heard footsteps on the porch. Heavy ones. Then I heard a knock on the door. Not a soft knock, but a loud BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! And there was that spotlight again.

I stumbled to the phone. I called 911. A lady answered in a beautiful hick voice. “Help,” I said. “There’s someone breaking into my…”

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

I dropped the phone and shut myself in the closet. By now I was in the fetal position. I was a total wreck. I heard movement downstairs on the porch, and I could still hear men’s voices. I was hyperventilating. Getting nauseous. It’s funny how the mind works. You never imagine the best-case scenario. Always Armageddon.

Had they broken in? Why? Were they going to kill me? Perhaps cook me over a campfire with barbecue sauce? I was imagining horrible things, and trembling so badly that I couldn’t swallow.

And I will never forget what happened next. Only a few seconds after my 911 call, I saw red-and-blue lights fill the room.

I peeked out the window and saw a police cruiser pull into our driveway. A deputy approached our house. Three men came striding off our porch.

Soon, I heard everyone laughing. The men all shook hands, smiled, crawled into a pickup truck, and drove away. Then I heard another loud knock.

“Sheriff’s department,” the voice said.

I opened the front door. I was shirtless and barefoot. Trembling and crying. The deputy saw this and pulled me into himself to give me a hug.

He said, “Oh, don’t be scared, nothing to be afraid of. They weren’t dangerous, they were just hunters looking for their dogs, that’s why they had a spotlight.”

But I was already a mess. So we just stood in the darkness while I ruined his clothes with saltwater and snot.

The deputy was wearing a nametag. I’m going to call him, “Lucky.” We sat on the porch swing for a few hours. He talked to me, he calmed me down. He even told a few jokes. When I finally relaxed, he left, and I slept great that night. Mostly because I knew Lucky was out there.

Over the next few days, other officers stopped by to check on me, just to shoot the breeze or see how I was doing. But really, I think Lucky told them to stop by just to let me know they were around. And I can’t tell you how much it meant to me, knowing that Lucky was patrolling the roads, sort of watching out for me.

Well, I want you to know something, darling. There is someone a lot bigger than Lucky out there.

35 comments

  1. Ann - March 22, 2020 8:48 am

    Amen!

    Reply
  2. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - March 22, 2020 9:32 am

    Amen again. This will pass. Soon I hope.
    One thing’s for sure and that is God is looking out for us. I thank him daily for his love & protection and have for many years. That prayer goes for you, your wife, dogs & all your readers. I love you all.

    Reply
  3. Sharon Lawson - March 22, 2020 10:13 am

    Amen!! Great column!!

    Reply
  4. Tammy S. - March 22, 2020 10:42 am

    Love your last line. Even when all does not seem ok, this is still true. Thank you!!

    Reply
  5. Colleen Shabluk - March 22, 2020 11:29 am

    Scary experience for you. I always enjoy your stories. They resonate with all readers. Be safe.

    Reply
  6. Lin Lewis - March 22, 2020 12:02 pm

    Good column. You can calm folks down. By-the-By I am a hick so I hear you with loving friendship. Thanks Buddy.

    Reply
  7. Mary Bales - March 22, 2020 12:05 pm

    Is it dusty in here? Thank you for another great read. You always help remind me of the good in the world.

    Reply
  8. Phil - March 22, 2020 12:08 pm

    Eighteen, Sean is right, as usual. The theme of our church’s Vacation Bible School two summers ago was “Rolling River Run” and the back of the t-shirt reads “Keep Calm and Paddle On.” That’s what we all need to do, remembering that God and other people have our backs. There are plenty of other scared folks in this overloaded canoe with us, but know what? It’s all gonna be OK, because He loves you, me, and yes, even ol’ Sean.

    Reply
  9. carol0goodson - March 22, 2020 12:08 pm

    I realize you do it out of an excess of humility, but you are definitely NOT a hick! Hicks are people who are all bound up in themselves, don’t care a fig about the wider world or anyone else besides themselves and their own families. On the contrary, you are a citizen of the world, sensitive to the plight of people you don’t even know. Thanks for being you, and continuing to write in a way that inspires us.

    Reply
  10. Bernadette Wyckoff - March 22, 2020 12:11 pm

    God bless you Sean morning..noon..and night 🙏💞🙏

    Reply
  11. Steve - March 22, 2020 1:02 pm

    Good words

    Reply
  12. Cynthia Woods - March 22, 2020 1:17 pm

    So much bigger!! Time to keep our eyes open to see how He will bring us all through. He’s got this!! “Fear not, little ones. I Am with you.” 😁

    Reply
  13. SLP - March 22, 2020 1:21 pm

    Your Humor is so refreshing brings laughter which cures all issues 😂🥰 Please keep it coming 🤗😍

    Reply
  14. Cathi Russell - March 22, 2020 1:38 pm

    Faith & laughter will save us all. Thank you Sean!

    Reply
  15. Jan - March 22, 2020 1:41 pm

    Amen! Excellent reminder for us all!

    Reply
  16. Ellen - March 22, 2020 2:32 pm

    I haven’t been able to read your columns until today, and I’m really glad it was this one.

    I’ll catch up too. Lets us both of keep on trusting! In the end, that’s all we have anyway, and He is enough.

    Reply
  17. Pat - March 22, 2020 3:08 pm

    Beautiful!

    Reply
  18. robnrockin - March 22, 2020 3:21 pm

    Eighteen may not be calmed but i am by your words. I know, live and works with hicks. I understand the Tuna Texas folks, if you have heard of them. You are not one…and you are a good picker. Luv the pod casts also. Keep on getting us through these days!

    Reply
  19. Lita - March 22, 2020 3:41 pm

    I’ve been in that state of terror on and off since the age of three. Thank you for this, Sean. Love to you and yours xx

    Reply
  20. Sandi - March 22, 2020 3:51 pm

    Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  21. Jenny Young - March 22, 2020 3:55 pm

    I love this! Yes, we will be alright. We will be different on the other side but it can be a good different if we face it together.

    Reply
  22. Linda Moon - March 22, 2020 4:35 pm

    Don Knotts and Bob Hope had shaky hands and, like you, Sean, each of them had a competent woman to give them some credibility. I’ve met you in person and I never worried about what you talked, wrote, or sang about. Deputy Fife once wisely said to Sheriff Taylor, “We don’t know everything, Andy.” He’s right, and maybe he’s out there along with the Bigger One looking out for us all in this uncertain time.

    Reply
  23. Mary Sue Cronkite - March 22, 2020 4:40 pm

    Yes, and He won’t let us down,

    Reply
  24. Gary - March 22, 2020 4:42 pm

    Amen ! 👍

    Reply
  25. Barbara Dibbern - March 22, 2020 5:18 pm

    Regarding your “hick voice” comment, last week I took a 6 hour road trip from CA to AZ to visit family. Via Audible, I listened to your book, Stars of Alabama, which you narrated. Upon hearing your voice, I was taken aback, which makes it quite difficult to reach the pedals! It took a couple chapters for my ears to sync with your voice. I found you endearing! Loved your book and will happily listen to another. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  26. Sanra Pankey - March 22, 2020 5:30 pm

    And how truly comforting this is>> Thank you Jesus.

    Reply
  27. Nancy M - March 22, 2020 7:06 pm

    There is Someone a lot bigger! Our pastor preached ( by livestream) on Philippians 4:4-8 and Psalm 23. He is our Shepherd. He gives us joy and peace. Amen, Brother!

    Reply
  28. Melanie - March 22, 2020 8:43 pm

    Going to take this moment to thank all law enforcement people past, present and future for the millions of times they have provided comfort to scared souls. 💙💛🖤

    Reply
  29. Sheila - March 23, 2020 1:53 am

    Beautiful Sean. You are so open and honest That’s why lots of young people write to you I’m sure. They know you will be straight up with them.

    Reply
  30. Mary Louise Griffin - March 23, 2020 1:56 am

    Good one Sean. You manage to say more, give us more to think about, in a few paragraphs then many books, essays, commentaries do in far longer pieces. Thanks.

    Reply
  31. M Russell - March 23, 2020 1:35 pm

    This one had me bawling. Literally. Tears rolling down my eyes as I imagined you as that scared kid – terrified that the boogeymen were out there. And crying harder that a lawman saw your fear and comforted you. And then sent another like him to comfort you in the coming days. Reminds me that is sorta how God works. If we open the door and let Him in, He will quiet our fears, even bring us to laughter and then give us Comfort and assure us he is out there. Maybe you meant to Parallel how God works in your story, maybe you didn’t- but that is the message I got – and God works in mysterious ways, Sean. . . even through ‘hicks’.

    Thanks for the Comfort.

    Reply
  32. tammy - March 23, 2020 2:42 pm

    Amen!

    Reply
  33. Margaret Jackson - March 23, 2020 3:31 pm

    I am always blessed by the way you have to calm a young person’s fears. God bless you for this gift.
    . I can imagine how terrified you were to be alone there.

    I didn’t spend a night alone until I was almost 30 years old. That was such an eerie feeling.
    My husband had gone to a conference and I felt brave enough in the daylight. But after dark, every strange noise spooked me.
    And we lived waaay out in the country.
    I have no idea why I didn’t pack a bag and go to my parents’ house. They only lived 5 miles from here!!!!
    But, I braved it out for three nights. Since then, I have been ok to stay alone when I have to.
    Andvthat was 33 years ago.

    Love tour articles. Stay safe.
    Margaret

    Reply
  34. Sharon Lawson - March 24, 2020 10:29 am

    Remarkable! Just remarkable. Thank you

    Reply
  35. Michael - March 24, 2020 4:13 pm

    Hey Sean, fellow non northern speaking fella here. It’s true that when folks hear us speak they look at us like we just escaped from the nervous hospital, which is sad cause as you know we are pretty smart folks. Until we hear ourselves speak, I live on a farm now and decided to make some videos to share with family. I played back one to check sound and other quality issues, but what I heard was, is that me? How did I get there do I really sound like that. I sounded like billy bob in sling blade. So I tried again really concentrated on enunciating property, well then now I sounded just goofy. So I guess it is what it. So I guess we could hang out at least we’d understand each other.

    Reply

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