Tears and Laughter: The freedom and economics of American stay-at-home moms

An Australian columnist, Sarrah Le Marquand, penned an article last week that has caused a worldwide discussion about stay-at-home mothers. In the United States we tend to respect and value all mothers whether they work full-time, part-time, or not at all.

Not so much so in Australia apparently. At least not according to Ms. Marquand who believes it should be illegal for a woman to be a stay-at-home mom once her children reach school age. She claims it doesn’t help anybody – not husbands, children, bosses, or other women – and they should be forced to go to work like everybody else. Her opinion was based upon a study by the Australian Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development which found stay-at-home moms represent large losses to their economy.

Things really are different here. Stay-at-home moms help the American economy if through nothing more than their frequent use of Amazon.com and eBay. Moms stay in a constant state of shopping for shoes big enough to fit one, jeans long enough to fit another, and birthday presents. They all drive full size SUV’s or minivans. What they spend on fuel to get everybody back and forth on time to ball practice, dance, church, art, the orthodontist, and piano lessons should mean something. Plus there is the fact that almost every single one of them makes plans every summer to go help stimulate Florida’s economy too.

And let us not pretend that this particular faction of society doesn’t like to eat. Have you ever seen a group of these sweet mamas gathered at a Mexican restaurant for girl’s night out? It’s remarkable from appetizers through desert. Not to mention how they have spent more money than any of them care to recall on Happy Meals and Sonic dogs. Grocery store owners just love to see a stay-at-home mom dragging in pushing a buggy and holding a list – especially if she has all of her kids swarming around begging, and fighting, and complaining, and crying. This is why some stay-at-home moms sometimes buy wine, but still, they contribute to the economy.

In her column that has offended all of Australia and most of the free world, Marquand wrote, “Only when the female population is expected to hold down a job and earn money to pay the bills in the same way that men are routinely expected to do will we see things change for the better for wither gender.” She also added, “Feminism is about equality, not freedom of choice.”

I was listening to a group of girls last Tuesday in a writing class. The lesson was personal essays and the exercise to help them focus was a “heart map.” This can be as simple or as creatively elaborate as students wish, but the point is to list the people, experiences, and memories that have shaped their lives. It serves as a visual starting point for the personal essay.

Just like little American women they were quietly talking among themselves, their eyes and colored pencils never leaving their work. One of them asked another what she wanted to do when she grew up. She answered, “Well…I will to go to college and get an education. And you know I like to sing, and I want to do some mission work, but then…I believe I just want to get married and be a stay-at-home mom.” The other girl agreed, “Yeah… me too.”

They are young. They have time to change those plans, before changing them yet again. America was founded on principles that protect our children’s freedom to do just that.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

In Memoriam: Thomaston loses hidden gem in William Gebhardt

By Bruce Gwin

William Gebhardt.

Many people won’t recognize that name. Some knew his face and never knew exactly who he was or what he did.

Pool table man. Rock-Ola man, or machine man was what some called him. Many would say he was a recluse since he didn’t mingle with the Thomaston locals, or any locals, for that matter.

At age 13, he stopped me as I was walking home from school one day in the one-stoplight town of Thomaston. He said he’d seen me around town doing my odd-jobs…delivering papers, cutting grass, really anything I could find to do to make a dime. He told me he needed some help and of course I was willing since I needed money, being an ambitious teen.

My job would be the real work—unloading and loading Pac-Man machines, moving equipment, assembling new machines—all the stuff he didn’t want to do. We would make rounds to the locations where he had machines in the juke joints of Marengo, Greene, Perry, and Sumter Counties to count coins, refill cigarette machines, fix pool tables, and put the latest 45s on the jukebox…and sometimes, we wouldn’t roll back into Thomaston until 2 a.m.

I soon learned William was not only a shrewd businessman, but an electronics genius. Often, he’d get a call from the Rock-Ola factory technician to find solutions for a problem they couldn’t fix, and William not only knew the problem, but knew exactly how to fix it.

He was raised in Orrville by his grandparents and quit school in the 10th grade to become the local TV repairman as a teen.

Rumor has it that he accidentally set his grandparents’ porch on fire while making fireworks.

He told me his teacher sent him home early one day because he wasn’t paying attention in class. When she asked him why, he told her he already knew everything she was lecturing on—and truthfully, as we all learned, he probably did.

William was a walking encyclopedia, had a photographic memory, and still managed to stay current on modern technology till his death.

While he was a relatively unknown law-abiding citizen of Thomason, Gebhardt’s expert knowledge and keen mind will be missed by all those who were fortunate enough to know him.

Tears and Laughter: Remembering Lewis Grizzard

If Lewis Grizzard had lived, he would be 70. But he didn’t. He died from complications after his fourth heart surgery at Emory Hospital in Atlanta on March 20, 1994. The next day newspapers kept printing, but I don’t know that they have ever been quite the same.

It was said that he had wanted somebody – “preferably Willie Nelson” – to sing “Precious Memories” at his funeral. His ashes are buried by his mother’s grave in Moreland, Georgia where he grew up. The Washington Post wrote, “He compared every woman to his mother, who spoiled him rotten.” He wrote about her with reverence, but also wrote with moving adoration about his father, a highly decorated veteran of World War II and the Korean War. He was open about his dad’s struggles with alcohol after returning from service, and also about his own fear of never measuring up to him, no matter what he ever achieved in his own right.

He had early success in the newspaper business. During his first year at his beloved University of Georgia, he was a feature writer for the Newnan Times-Herald. By 1975 he had become an assistant city editor at The Atlanta Journal. It was a position he would quickly leave, and was then named executive sports editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. But he loathed Chicago. Being homesick for the south, he returned in 1977, taking a job as a sports columnist with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In early 1978, his thrice-weekly column was moved to the news section.

By the time of his early death at 47, he was planning his 21st book. He also gained fame through his stand-up speaking engagements, but most people knew him through his column that ran in over 450 papers. He became a voice of the South, writing about what he knew and loved – Southern ways, Southern women, Georgia football, barbecue, home-grown tomatoes, and the kind of corned beef that comes in a can. He would often lend his platform to victims of crimes or causes he supported. His work was frequently laced with warm humor and nostalgia for a way and time we drift back to in our minds, but a place to which few would return.

He would take aim at Yankees, politicians, his three ex-wives, television evangelists, and Georgia Tech, but seldom was he mean-spirited. Supporters felt some of his more controversial topics – such as homophobia and feminism – were his way of starting conversations most conservative-minded people weren’t comfortable with having yet. He served as a divide between the old south and the new, seldom responding to even the harshest of his critics, including the late, great Southern author, Pat Conroy, who once said, “Grizzard represented mostly what was wrong with the South.” It was an opinion not shared by many.

Today marks 23 years since he left. A few months back all of the little writers in the state, along with all the big ones, and famous ones, with their editors, publishers, competitors, and colleagues gathered at the Bryant Conference Center in Tuscaloosa for the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame gala. As everyone took their seats prior to the ceremony starting, the conversation at our table turned to how much everyone still misses Lewis Grizzard. So much so, that for a moment we fell silent. Having been such a UGA fan, he would have probably gotten a kick out of being a topic of conversation at The University of Alabama that particular night. Then again, he was a man of the South. He knew how we like to keep our best here with us and never let them go.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.

Tears and Laughter: The endless art of Alabama writing

Writing, for the most part, is a solo sport. You can only talk about it for so long before eventually having to go into the back room and write. Writing classes won’t make you write if you aren’t already compelled, but they do serve as a good way to learn techniques for when an idea or inspirations strikes.

I have had the opportunity over the past few months to teach creative writing in Monroeville, and if you teach writing in Monroeville, the natural starting point is somewhat set. In 1997, by a joint proclamation of the Alabama House and Senate, Monroeville was declared the “Literary Capital of Alabama.” The town was given the title because of the many famous authors that have called Monroeville home including Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Mike Stewart, Cynthia Tucker, and Mark Childress.

Most widely known of them are Harper Lee and Truman Capote who were friends and neighbors during the 1930’s. It was interesting to hear kids from the Monroeville area talk about the town from their perspective. Some of them were fully aware of who each author was while others had never considered why there are mockingbirds painted on the sides of building.

As it happens, the class takes place within the shadows practically of the old courthouse. Even the youngest of children can appreciate the significance of learning about the craft of writing in a setting where a young Harper Lee and Truman once played.

To further the point, I told them how if they could talk their mamas into taking them to Mel’s Dairy Dream to get a hamburger sometime, that they could have lunch with what is left of where Harper Lee and Truman used to be. The small drive-in restaurant is located in the spot where Lee’s childhood home stood, and next door are the remains of Truman’s. It’s not much in one respect. No one can run through the halls. But their spirit is strong, and the energy is there both on sunny days, and when rain is falling. And I also explained that while things have changed over time, the chances of seeing either of the two great authors remains about the same as always.

It isn’t just Monroeville that produces writers. It seems the state itself has an endless list of famous writers. Winston Groom grew up in Mobile, and is best known for Forrest Gump. Rick Bragg, from Piedmont, is a current Professor of Writing at the University of Alabama and is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist as well as the author of several books. Fannie Flagg was born in Birmingham and is most well-known for, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. Wayne Flint has written over a dozen books focused mostly on the historical, economic and social fabric of Alabama. Kathryn Tucker Windham grew up in Thomasville and considered herself a storyteller as much as a writer. And author and screenwriter, Eugene Walter, took a shoebox of Alabama red clay with him to Paris to remind him of home.

There is an ongoing conversation between writer types about what it is in Alabama that helps produce so many writers. Some say it is elements in the soil and water, possibly the air too. Others will say it is history blended with a culture of storytelling. I don’t know. Maybe it takes a little of it all, but for sure the only way it continues is through our young writers.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.

Tears and Laughter: How divided do we want our children to become?

If you missed the story that has been circulating about the five-year-old boys in Kentucky, maybe take the time to look it up. It will make your day. Jax and Reddy are classmates and best friends. Jax is white and Reddy is black. When it came time for Jax to get a haircut he wanted it cut just like Reddy’s. He thought this would be fun because then their friends and teacher wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.

Children are such gifts of innocence and sweetness. We enter the world with the capacity to love one another. I don’t know what happens. These two little boys are good examples to all of us, but what kind of example are we setting for them?

We spend a fair amount of money and strength trying to drown out the uncertainty of time held in tension against the certainty of death. We build houses like we will be here forever, but we won’t. None of us will be here all that long. It is temporary. Whether black or white or both, whether Hispanic or Latina or foreign or illegal, no matter who you know or love or what you do, accomplish, or achieve. Whether you are religious, or consider yourself more spiritual, or if you believe you want nothing to do with deity – life doesn’t last. Even if you are right and those you perceive as being on the other side are wrong, it won’t last. Not here in the earth school.

I will turn 45 in a couple of months. When I was growing up in Sandflat I never thought about turning 45. Even after moving to Chilton County, the only age I could see was 18. I thought 18 came with a freedom to live. At 45, it is natural to start thinking the opposite. I am still free to live, but most likely, I am also over half finished with my life too. And the persistent AARP isn’t doing me any favors sending reminders twice a month.

Having been born in 1972, George Wallace had just been shot. Race relations were tense. There were culture clashes all across the country, but not any more intensely than they are now. Back then, nobody in rural Marengo County knew much about what was happening elsewhere. They were just neighbors, black and white alike. If a family needed help, the community helped.

The Huckabee well was struck by lightning once. My granddaddy asked Mose Lofton, who lived down the road, if he could get water from his well until the repairs were complete. Mr. Loftin told him, “Mr. Mack, that water belongs to the Lord. You get all of it you want.” I heard Granddaddy repeat that over time to other neighbors when their wells would be out.

There was a habitual exchange of ripe tomatoes or peaches in their seasons – watermelons in the summer, pecans in the fall. There were pound cakes after funerals and homemade dumplings when babies were born. And it continues still, even now 45 years later. I send my son with bags of pears for my neighbor, and she sends her son with a bushel of purple hull peas.

Maybe an often overlooked secret of the Black Belt is that we care about one another, regardless of the history of this fertile land we share, individual circumstances, or political leanings. I think sometimes we just forget it feels better to get along than it does to feel our beliefs are right. I’m not saying we could fool our friends by looking alike the way Jax and Reddy do, but if judged on heart and spirit alone…couldn’t we at least try? Our children are watching us. How divided do we want them to become?

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.

Tears and Laughter: Influence works in mysterious ways

One reason marriage continues to be popular is so there will be someone to drive the other home after dental procedures and medical tests that require anesthesia.

The waiting room in East Montgomery was full, and I had already checked email, read all the headlines on Twitter, and sent several texts. I was in a corner, with a wall to my left, after changing seats with a lovely couple – “the preacher and his wife” – so they could sit across from another delightful couple already waiting.

They exchanged small talk about the number of new members that have joined the church this year – on top of the new members that had joined last year. They agreed God is blessing the congregation with growth. I wanted to nod in agreement, but I wasn’t a part of the conversation. I was just beside them close enough that I had no trouble hearing how they wish they could get the point across to certain parents that they shouldn’t skip Wednesday night church services for ball practice. Evidently, we will not be spending eternity at the ballfield.

About then the preacher suggested they go ahead and engage in a prayer before “things got rolling.” They all joined hands and bowed their heads and I just sat there feeling a little more anxious than I had previously. There was a window in the wall beside me, but it was too high for me act like I was staring out lost in a daydream. Since I hadn’t thought to invite a preacher, I went ahead and bowed my head, hoping for inclusion by proximity.

I’m not the type of person to gossip much. I mean I can. I can be very good at it. I had a couple of aunts who could have entered competitions, bless their sweet souls. At the same time, they took a few secrets to their graves with them. I guess I got a little bit of that trait too. I have the ability to shut-up, but when I do choose to gossip, it is usually with select confidants who have proven themselves able to identify what is private, as private, and keep it so. It takes a close, true friendship to allow the provision of talking freely without the worry of weighing words.

And all I can figure is that these were the type of friends these four were to each other, because once they had chimed Amen and patted each other on the shoulder, the gossip session got fully underway. It was in a positive manner, of course. The patient-to-be lady we had prayed for said she had recently noticed one of the other ladies at church seems to be coming out from the shadows of divorce, because she has started wearing bright lipstick and trying to look nice.

The preacher leaned in again and quietly said that he would still rather kiss a match. His wife didn’t seem to notice or care or change expressions. She was scrolling on her phone. But the husband of the patient suggested they devise a plan and work together to get the lady wearing the lipstick hooked-up with a certain single Mr. Lonely Deacon. He said he had witnessed just this past Sunday morning the deacon’s ears perk-up “like a Doberman Pinscher’s” when another recently divorced woman entered the church. He said the deacon had asked her out in a round-about way, but unfortunately she had not seemed that interested. She was younger, and there was no word from the preacher on whether he would kiss her over a match or not.

By the time my name was called I was feeling a better about my own spiritual walk. They didn’t invite me to church or offer a brochure, but influence works in mysterious ways.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.

Tears and Laughter: Get your heart in Alabama, or get out

Most everybody I know lives in Alabama. My family has been here for over 200 years and I’ve made it about 30 miles from where they first settled. Knowing I can go stand on land they once stood on holds meaning to me. They never had to have any great achievements or walk any particular line. All they had to do was be, and I love them. That’s the same way I feel about Alabama. I felt it last week after receiving a message from a producer with The Daily Show saying they are working on a couple of pieces here and asking if I had time to chat about Alabama – “in general.”

I have time. And all I know is Alabama, but The Daily Show portrayed Jeff Sessions as a barefooted lumberjack-looking character. Their features about Alabama might be funny, but would no doubt have a demeaning slant.

We keep family with us here long after they are gone. We name our babies after them and pass down their pocket knives. We restore their old houses so we can still sit on their porches. We pick flowers from bushes they planted and put them in vases as centerpieces on our tables. We weave their memories into this life as if we expect them to show up for Sunday dinner. And in ways, they do when scattered family gathers. They return in mannerisms and expressions, in gestures and tones…just as Alabama culture mirrors and reflect some of what it has always been.

Not too far past the “coon meat for sale” sign in Uriah, there is a man that sits in an easy-chair on the side of Highway 21 in Atmore. The chair is in line with a row of small mobile homes. There is no porch. The chair is out in the weather with the mailboxes and his yellow dog – a friendly cur and bulldog mix, who according to his master “has never caused any trouble.”

The chair, not unlike the dog, looks like someone might have thrown it out before Will Amos claimed it. But it stays there now, and if it is daytime, and it’s not raining, he is usually in it, with his yellow dog nearby. He has lived in Atmore all of his life. He can no longer hear well, and a stroke has left his right arm useless, but he stood the afternoon I stopped to meet him. He stepped toward me and extended his left hand with a smile as I introduced myself.

Driving to Florida, you won’t notice him. Not unless you happen to glance over and see him. I don’t know if he is waiting on someone, or just sifting through his memories as the cars go by.

There is a sad layer of Alabama. It’s the only layer some see. Poor has been popular for so long that there are people who live their whole lives without ever having any expectations. When life is a struggle, just having a good day is good enough. And a good day can be as simple as retelling stories about the way days were once spent when the fish wouldn’t bite.

The rest of us rednecks are protective of these people. Because some of us were raised right, and the rest of us know we aren’t too many generations or paychecks away from poor. We tend to count our blessings. We don’t all wear camouflage on Saturday nights, and while we might be better off for it if we would, we don’t all go out dancing in work boots either. But from the most northern point, where the Alabama line kisses Tennessee, all the way down below the salt line to the Mobile Bay, and along every street and gravel road in between…we agree on one thing. Get your heart in Alabama, or get your question-asking ass out.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.

Tears and Laughter: It’s not pearls spilling off a string, but it’s broken nonetheless

I was a regular Pollyanna when I first moved to Camden. I thought if we could all just get along, and be kind to one another, have positive attitudes and say our prayers, everything would change for the better. That was before I spent a few years following and studying Wilcox County politics, which does not yield itself to much positive energy. It doesn’t factor out to equal hope.

I understand that not everyone appreciates my sometimes describing certain failures in Wilcox, especially since I have also professed my love for this area. And it is true that more than once I have cooed over the beauty. Every season offers a new palette of color – fresh hues in the mornings and cool shadows in the afternoon. Visitors are drawn to what remains untouched…the river and the woods – to the sounds, scents, and mysteries of both. Most people who live here appreciate it for the same reasons, or else are trapped by their circumstances or heredity.

Newspapers and news outlets aren’t allowed the luxury of publishing many articles that read like a novel, mainly because their purpose is to deliver news, inform readers, and hold paid public officials accountable. They raise awareness about issues and problems. Solutions are not so much the responsibility of newspapers or their writers. Solutions usually boil down to money and elections. But if I were to venture out and suggest a solution, it would be that voters maybe not copy the sample ballot New South hands out at the polls every election anymore. They no longer need to steer voters. Their picks have not proven to be fruitful over the past 40 years. Wrong tends to be frequently reelected. Voters today are capable of looking at a candidate’s past and knowing if a person has failed at everything they ever attempted, then not to vote for that person. And if they have been disqualified from their original profession due to misconduct, then the likelihood of that person being an effective leader is slim.  It is a slow process, but voters alone hold the power to change the continuing line of poor leaders who try and make what amounts to nothing seem like opportunity. The Wilcox Commission chair traveling to Washington D.C. with a list of needs for the county in an effort to meet with not yet confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an example of such manipulation.

Mr. Sessions is well aware of the struggles this county faces. This is where he was raised and he has been active in politics for decades. If his wink and nod could provide for Wilcox County, help would have long since arrived. The Department of Justice has a division that offers grants for specific aspects of law enforcement. There is a process through which they can be applied for that does not require anyone going to lobby or beg. Kissing Mr. Session’s rings won’t accomplish anything but costs. And it is quite telling, considering all the vile things the commission chair has said about President Trump, weighed further against the fact that Sessions was the first senator to come out wearing one of those red hats. It was Senator Session’s loyalty that helped him to be chosen to become Attorney General.

You can say it as diplomatically and professionally as you would like, but anytime a county becomes so heavily dependent upon federal funding and the unemployment remains so high for so long, where political corruption and barely getting by become the normal way of life…it doesn’t come across as pretty. It’s not pearls spilling off a string, but it’s broken nonetheless.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.

Tears and Laughter: The right to pursue happiness comes with no guarantees

Like life and liberty, all of us – men and women alike – have the unalienable right to pursue happiness. It is given to us by our creator, protected by our government, and stated in the Declaration of Independence.

People are born into the world with the natural desire to find more around the next bend. America was founded by people who were focused on finding contentment through moving forward with a purpose and goals. Documenting it as a national mandate is what helps make us uniquely American.

Freedom to pursue our individual definitions of happiness should in itself ensure joy. But even declared and protected and blended with our countless other rights, happiness is not guaranteed.

Our modern world is equipped with snares like stress, worry and distraction that trap the motivation to pursue happiness. And there are thieves, such as addiction, abuse, or poverty that can steal the wherewithal from many to even try.

Science points to part of the problem possibly lying within the makeup of the brain and the way it processes happiness. One part balances empathy for others while another attempts to hold attention on what makes us genuinely happy. For some this produces energy, for others angst.

A thriving industry has formed selling self-help merchandise and tools aimed at helping secure happiness. There are books, apps, life coaches, and yoga instructors. Americans have also learned to supplement any gaps in happiness with prescribed antidepressants, or to self-medicate using alcohol or food. Even children are often diagnosed with depression, sometimes as a result of bullying, sometimes in reaction to their parent’s inability to find and maintain happiness.

It is likely that most people, when asked, would say they are happy. A smile though, can serve as a disguise.

Last Sunday afternoon in sunny Florida, a 14-year-old foster child, Nakia Venant, livestreamed her death of Facebook. She made a noose from a scarf and broadcast on social media for two hours before a friend saw her body hanging, and called the police. The post was quickly removed, and the headline of her death streamed through newsfeeds virtually unnoticed for days.

Last Tuesday, co-founder of the Allman Brother’s Band, Butch Trucks, held a pistol to his head inside his West Palm Beach condo, and pulled the trigger. He was 69.

Two mothers in a community just south of Wilcox County have taken their own lives in recent weeks. One was found in her car in a Walmart parking lot. The other took a handful of pills and intentionally drowned herself in her bathtub.

Suicide rates continue to climb, especially in women, and in children between 10 and 14. There is an average of 121 suicide deaths per day in America.

Be open, if you feel the conviction, to people near you. Be aware of someone placed in your path who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. Sometimes just kindly listening nonjudgmentally to someone can start them on a path toward healing.  The 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Any doctor, hospital, teacher, or church will gladly offer assistance, and if a person is in immediate danger, call 911.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.

Tears and Laughter: Chicken shortage causes concern in Wilcox County

Attendants at the Chick-fil-A Eastchase location in Montgomery intercept customers and take their order before they even get to the drive-thru microphone. At another station, before the pay window, another employee makes change, presents extra condiments, and bids everyone a good day. Most of them would probably offer a prayer if asked, and if they somehow ever ran low on chicken, a company representative would forge an ax over a flame in the kitchen then run to the nearest farm just to keep customers supplied and happy.

Do not expect this kind of service in Camden. It may be comparing apples to oranges, but chicken is chicken. I have had the opportunity to write about the chicken situation in Wilcox County on several occasions, and a chicken shortage is sure to cause concern.

On Sunday, at almost noon, I entered the Piggly Wiggly in Camden. I successfully gathered everything on my list as I do several times a week. I have only been shopping at this same store for over 20 years. I feed my family with food purchased primarily from the Camden Piggly Wiggly. My devotion has remained constant, mainly because it is the only grocery store in town, but constant nonetheless. The nearest big grocery is at least 30 miles away.

Camden does have a smaller store, Mr. Henry’s Red and White that has been open downtown on Broad Street for decades. And of course there is McDonald’s Grocery on the far end of town, but it might be described as more of a service station that has some grocery items than a full service grocery store. I hope everybody in town supports every single store in town, but if you have a family to take care of in Camden you most likely shop at the Pig to some extent.

So Sunday, I thought since it was lunchtime, and since the Piggly Wiggly has a deli that serves fried chicken as their main entrée, I would take chicken home. I didn’t consider this a novel idea, having fried chicken for Sunday dinner in Alabama. The guy in front of me in line, who happened to be a neighbor of mine, also ordered fried chicken. The woman behind the counter boxed his breast and two legs right up without hesitation.

But when I stepped up and ordered an eight piece mix I practically shut down the kitchen. I was told several large orders had been placed earlier, and because of that they were limiting the amount of chicken they were selling per customer. She said they were selling small portions, like two or three pieces at a time, but no eight piece boxes because then they wouldn’t have enough left for others. They were trying to stretch what they had so they wouldn’t run out. The truck wasn’t due to deliver more until later in the week.

I paused. I just stopped cold and was speechless, because I have recently been to the Chick-fil-A in Eastchase. I am familiar with how customer service is supposed to work. A grocery store that sells chicken in their meat market should never run so low in their deli that employees are told to ration out chicken to select customers.

It may be spelled out on the menu board above their heads, but they do not mean it. I dare anyone from anywhere, whether a regular customer for years on end or a first-time shopper, to go in just for kicks and order the 16 piece box. They would probably run someone out of the store entirely over that.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.