Just as I tore past them, hurrying — always hurrying — into the small general store, I heard the old man speak to the younger one sitting beside him.
Both were relaxing in folding aluminum lawn chairs.
"You might be older than I thinks you is," the older one ventured, uttering his words lazily and letting them hang for a moment in the Mississippi afternoon.
"I’m 43," replied the younger one, a big brawny man who smothered the chair with his girth.
"Well, well, you shore ’nuff is older. Shore ’nuff."
I heard no more as I flew into the store, intent on finding a hair clip to replace the one I had just broken. But I smiled as I paid for the clip and thought about the two men, sitting outside with no place to hurry off to. They were simply visiting. Remember when people used to do that?
I was storming through Mississippi, as fast as the law allows, on my way to Memphis, Tenn., but I took a moment to stop when I came out of the store.
"Y’all brought a smile to my face," I said to the two, who looked a bit surprised by the confession. "Do you just sit around and visit like this often?"
"Well now, I tries to but I works too much," the old man said, shaking his head. "Seems like the older I gets, the more I works. I works a lot over in McGee." He laughed heartily, revealing a set of brilliantly white, straight teeth that flashed against his ebony skin.
I joined his laughter. "Now, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be." Then, against my natural instinct of rushing from hither to yon, I took another lawn chair and plopped down between them. Just like I had nothing else in the whole world to do.
"There you go!" chuckled the younger one. "Just pull up a chair and join us."
So there for the next little bit, we visited, sharing our stories of who we are and from where we come. The old man said he had recently returned from a visit to Chicago and found the folks up there to be a lot different than us in the South. He shook his head.
"I likes it better here. Where you headed?" He asked, shifting in his chair.
"Well, you got a ways to go."
"Your old man ain’t with ya?" asked the younger one.
I laughed and shook my head. "I ain’t got an old man. Ain’t got a young man, ain’t got a no man." I held my hands out, palms up and shrugged.
The whites of his eyes popped big and bright against his brown pupils then, laughing, he covered his mouth with a big, fleshy hand and said, "Whoa. I guess I better hush my mouth!"
A few feet away sat a woman, looking tired, who was selling boiled peanuts. "That’s my old lady," he said, gesturing toward her. She smiled wearily.
"How’s the peanut business today?" I asked.
"Ain’t none too good today." She shrugged and joined in the conversation.
Even good things like leisurely conversations with good people can’t last. So soon, too soon, I pulled myself out of the chair and said, "I sure hate it but I’ve got to leave y’all. Memphis calls."
"Wanna buy some peanuts ’fore you go?" she asked.
I paid her but when she reached for the bag, I stopped her. "Give it to someone else who needs their day brightened."
"You a nice lady," commented her old man, smiling with approval.
I shook my head. "Y’all made me smile today. I just want to pass along."
So, still smiling, I sauntered to the car and, at a more leisurely pace, headed on to Memphis.
Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)."