The South

This two-lane highway is more or less empty today. It's a weekend, and people are spending time at family homesteads. That's how things go in this part of the world. Family first. Family second. Family last.

I’m driving. I see old barns outside my window. I counted three in the time it took me to write that.

Also: I see cattle. Pastures—brown from fall weather. A bright sky. An old billboard that reads: “Sinners go to hell.”

Another billboard: “I buy junk, but sell antiques.”

I pulled over to visit this junk shop, which was once an old service station. Because shopping for garbage is my favorite pastime.

The old woman behind the counter has silver hair that hangs down to her hips.

“Anything in ‘ticular you huntin’, hon?”

“You got any old pocket knives?”

“’Course we got’em. ‘Ere’s a passel of’em rye chonder.”

I’ll bet they don’t have passels up north.

This two-lane highway is more or less empty today. It’s a weekend, and people are spending time at family homesteads. That’s how things go in this part of the world. Family first. Family second. Family last.

We pass several houses with herds of cars parked out front. These are old, single-story homes you don’t usually notice when you ride by. They have plank-siding, tin roofs, screen doors, live oaks in the front, tire swings.

I haven’t seen a good tire swing in ages.

My father hung tire swings often. Once, he scaled to the top of an oak to hang one from high branches. He climbed better than any of my pals.

“How’d you learn to climb like that?” one kid asked.

“I’m an iron-worker, son,” said Daddy. “We can climb anything.”

The boys were impressed.

Well, I’ll bet he couldn’t have climbed these trees I’m driving past now. These things are covered in kudzu. You can’t climb anything covered in that. I have tried.

My aunt’s backyard was a kudzu jungle. I decided to conquer one of these trees. And, since I was the son of an iron-worker, I believed genetics were on my side. They weren’t.

Just now, a semi-truck shot by me. He has the rebel flag flying on his radio antenna. He gave me the stink-eye. He thinks I’m driving too slow.

Maybe I am. I don’t like to be in a hurry when I go this way. I enjoy this route too much—which cuts through Georgia, Alabama, and the Panhandle.

I like to watch the trees change from fat ones to skinny longleafs. These are the same kinds of pines that surround our bay.

The north side of the bay is where I learned to drive a boat. Where I caught my first redfish. Where you can hunt duck, spikes, coons, and mullet.

Now I’m on my street.

There’s my house. The grass is long, my siding is moldy in some spots. Over in the tall weeds sits my boat.

At the window is my coonhound. She’s howling, turning circles, slobbering on the glass.

Some folks travel the world over. I never have. Even though it’s none of my business, I suspect they’re looking for their own heaven.

I hope they find it.

I just drove through mine.

2 comments

  1. Kay Keel - November 30, 2016 2:32 pm

    Words like those in this column make me sigh with pleasure and contentment. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Carl Hopson - November 28, 2017 10:53 pm

    I love the South for so many reasons. There is no better phrase than “Sweet Home Alabama.”

    Reply

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