Monday, September 03, 2012

Summer Travels: Stars Fell on Alabama

Every summer the wife and I trot off to a family reunion, usually held somewhere in the Deep South.  Attendees are relatives on my mother's side, though the closest kin to me are descendants of some of my great-great-grandfather's brothers.  So mainly, the people are just long-time friends we've made over the last 33 years, who all just happen to descend from the same German immigrant born in 1758.  Before we left, my wife asked, "isn't this thing ever going to die-out?"  We always enjoy it--once we get there.

The venue this year was a lodge on Lake Eufaula, on the Alabama-Georgia border.  We made a long weekend of it, leaving late Thursday, and coming home Monday.  I tire easily of the interstate, and leave it at the first opportunity.  My doing so made an easy five-hour trip from Jackson into an eight-hour drive.  But I am glad I did.  I turned off I-20 and meandered down through Eutaw, Greensboro and Marion--the heart of what is called the "Black Belt."  These towns get little hype, which make them all the more interesting.  The wife and I enjoy the Deep South, but usually for it's literary connections--Faulker's Oxford, Welty's Jackson, Percy's Greenville, Chopin's Nachitoches, Lee's Monroeville or O'Connor's Milledgville--that sort of thing.  But I also remember the classic line from Stars Fell on Alabama, "For God's sake, get out of here before it's too late."

We always drive around the courthouse squares of these little towns, where my wife is on the look-out for old-time hardware stores.  We hit three of them along the way, picking up a homemade step-ladder in one.  We also stumbled upon this, housed in an old store-front, two blocks off the courthouse square in Greensboro.  Any business with the word "pie" in the advertisement is going to get my attention.  As it turns out, the enterprise is owned and run by young people, with oversight and support from UA.  And yes, the pie was delicious.  On the return trip, we found "Bates' House of Turkey," where you can either have turkey and dressing, or a turkey sandwich.  I appreciate a place that does one thing, but does it very well.   

The reunions are usually an interesting and convivial mix of old-money Mobile azalea-district meets red-clay Georgia back roads double-wides.  There's always a memorable line or story we bring back home.  Saturday afternoon, we were wandering around a thrift store in downtown Eufaula and bumped into a Georgia couple we've known for many years.  The talk turned to my wife's bout with poison ivy after cleaning out around the house in early summer.  The woman suffered from it as well, and told the story of her mother taking her down a back country lane as a child.  Their destination was a "conjurer," a local woman who "conjured" her poison ivy away.  My wife just looked at her, and finally asked, "if she is alive?"  My cousin Selma is always good for a quote.  She is in her mid-50s, unmarried, and lives in her mother's gracious home on a shady, old-money Mobile street.  That description, while accurate, paints the exact wrong impression, however.  She is also an outspoken, firebrand Democratic Party activist and attorney who gravitates towards representing those from the wrong side of the tracks--in other words, an old-school Southern liberal in the very best sense of the word.  A graduate of the University of Alabama, she was shocked to hear that one of her nieces was contemplating Auburn.  "Auburn??  I'd rather hear that she'd become a Republican than go to Auburn!"

Eufaula was a pleasant surprise--a historic downtown complete with good food and drink, but situated (now) on the shores of a large recreational lake.  The city makes good use of both advantages.  As one resident put it, Eufaula was just far enough away from Atlanta, but just close enough to Panama Beach.  The only discordant note was my discovery at the Eufaula Piggly Wiggly that you cannot buy a half-case of Yuengling to carry back home on a Sunday in Barbour County, Alabama.


s-p said...

Blue laws suck. I didn't know they still existed anywhere in the universe.

Joseph said...

blue laws are gradually disappearing here in Alabama. i live in the county just north of where Eufala is, and we recently (last 5 years or so) rescinded that law. beer and wine (not liquor) can be sold on sundays after 12 noon.

part of the problem here is that, for many county ordinances, a statewide referendum is required for any kind of change. our archaic constitution of 1901 requires statewide approval for these, which are actually constitutional amendments. it's silly, but that is also part of the problem. i'm not sure of the process getting an amendment on the ballot, if it's tedious and problematic.