Editor's note: This is the first installment of a three-part series on Charlie.
There's nothing glamorous about being a farmer, nothing charming, little endearing and certainly few things easy about it. It is either a calling or a curse, depending on how one looks at it. Some are born into it and some just can't find a way to escape it for it's all they've ever known.
Oh, the stories people tell. Not always good ones, mind you, but the kind that will make you fall down on your knees and thank the good Lord up above you don't have a story like that.
Over lunch the other day with friends - all in the newspaper business - I mentioned I occasionally speak at writers' conferences.
Around the corner, out in the country where we live, is a hardware store owned by a guy I have known since the day I was born. Our bassinets were next to each other in the hospital nursery.
It happened in Memphis. A lot of history and interesting stuff occurs in that magical city that sits grandly next to the Mississippi River. Elvis held court there, the blues grew up there and barbecue is queen. Elvis, of course, is still king.
The waitress set down the cup of coffee and I poured cream into the hot, black liquid while quietly reflecting, pondering something.
My parents told great stories.
Just as Tink started up the stairs, stepping slowly and carefully as he balanced a bowl and a cup of coffee to keep them from sloshing, I appeared around the corner. I paused, watched and debated silently as to whether to speak.
When Peggy Sue went away, just fell off the face of the earth with no warning or even a holler, we all wondered where she had gone.
Recently, I was in a bookstore with a friend. We stopped at a table near the front of the store and it was loaded with different books that had such obscene titles that many of the words were expressed as "@?*#."
Mama was stubborn. "Set in her ways," is what country folks call it and boy, was she. When she made up her mind, nothing stopped her. Especially when she set her jaw and punctuated her declaration with a firm nod of her head. If she also threw that crooked forefinger in your direction, you knew it was set in stone. Destined to be.
One day over lunch, my new-to-the-South-but-thoroughly-loving-it husband commented on the choir singing at our church, which is led by my brother-in-law, Rodney.
It seems too many loved ones recently have said goodbye to this vale of grief and sorrow and said hello to sweet eternity. Heaven is blessed, but I am distressed.
In the past several years, I have had as much luck visiting the historically preserved home of iconic Southern writer Eudora Welty as I would have had when she was alive. The front door is always shut to me.
One day during lunch, a friend and I were talking about the murderous felons we know as Tink quietly listened.
More than any other region, Southerners love nicknames.
Back in the autumn as the leaves began to hint of enchanting oranges, yellows and reds to come, we took a Monday off and headed to the state fair.
For at least 20 years, maybe 25, Mama planned her home-going to heaven. Not a week - and sometimes not a day - went by when she did not use her impending date with mortality in some way.
A friend said something the other day that has clung like mist to the crevices of my mind. She's soon to turn 70 and this is what she said:
Here, I'll announce something I've never admitted publicly. I love going barefooted. It's how I was raised.
Many people have crossed the path of my life but only one crossed it from three different directions.
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