Tears and Laughter: Get yourself ready girls, it’s time to let your inner redneck shine 

Prepare yourselves ladies, auditions will be held August 5 at the Elks Lodge in Huntsville for a new reality show, “Redneck Housewives of Alabama.” Seldom have I been more excited or overqualified.

The casting call is open to women over 21 who are housewives in Alabama. It is acceptable to have a part time job or “somewhat” of a career.

It is in your favor, it seems, if your social circle includes other housewives who enjoy gossiping, backstabbing, and overreacting. Who go to church twice a week and know how to cuss well. It also helps apparently if you are full-on crazy, openly dysfunctional, and drink too much both publicly and privately.

Not that the show will be all fun and games and thrift shops. According to the website, redneckhousewivesofalabama.com, “if you or your friends are battling with suicide, divorce, broken relationships, bankruptcy, infidelity, family feuding, alcoholism, deadbeat dads, and foreclosures and you are a true southerner then this may be the show for you.

I don’t want to be picky, but redneck women prefer the word Southerner to always be capitalized. It just allows a wink of respect toward the Southland and looks better on paper. Besides, it’s not unusual for the average redneck housewife to be juggling a handful of issues on that list at any given time and nobody will ever know anything about any of it. She’ll just keep right on bouncing the baby and planning a beach trip without ever skipping a beat because that’s what strong Southern women do.

Women interested in applying for the show should make a video and upload it to Youtube. Include the link to your video in the online application, along with your resume, photo, and a paragraph explaining what makes you more of a redneck than your neighbor lady with all the cats, or the woman down the road that is fond of raising chickens and making her own beer.

In the video, you should look the way you want to appear during filming. Wear the clothes, make-up, and hairstyle that you would wear if you were to be chosen to be a part of the show. Clothing needs to be “appropriate,” so you will want to make sure and have the proper balance between eye liner and cleavage.

As for serious competitors, I would suggest taking it a step further. If you own your own bass boat, hunt hogs on a regular basis, carry a pistol in your purse, or have a coon hound as a house dog, don’t be shy about it.

Cast members will be paid and the pay will vary based upon roles. Filming is scheduled to begin in September and will run through October, falling right in the heart of college football season.

The Huntsville based producer of the series, Helen Evans LLC, has not yet secured a network deal for the show, but hopes one will follow once the series is filmed.

Many television viewers have questioned what show, if any, could fill the vacancy left in prime time ratings since the exit of Bill O’Reilly from Fox News. I think we may have just found the answer.

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

Tears and Laughter: What your mom wants this Mother’s Day 

This is the week for mothers. Those of us still fortunate enough to have our mothers will search for just the right gift to show her how much we love and appreciate her.

We will try and find perfectly worded cards that tell her how very much she means to us. We will send fresh cut flowers, make calls, and visit.

Those without their mothers anymore will spend the week missing them while wishing they could shop for a gift. They would say the words the card would say, and take the time to personally deliver the flowers.

But this year don’t knock yourself out trying to find the illusive perfect Mother’s Day gift. Your mom wouldn’t want you to worry over it, and besides, it is true what they say. Whatever you give her will make her happy. It doesn’t even have to be a gift. All you have to do to make your mom happy is be you.

Let your mother see you enjoying your life. Follow your passions, find your purpose. Go seek your destiny. That is what she wants. Because she knows life is fleeting and temporary, yet so full of mystery, wonder, and meaning.

My first two daughters were delivered at Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa. My son and third daughter were born at Baptist South in Montgomery. With each I remember thinking this physical life could offer no greater gift or happiness. Women share the stories between themselves for a lifetime, these memories of meeting new little lives entering the world.  Motherhood is a heartstring that connects us.

It’s like a baptism in a sense. When a woman emerges from a hospital with a newborn in her arms she is not the same person she was before. She is equipped with a new strength no one can see, and she will hurt you over that baby.

This protective motherly love does not end when they make it out of the crib either. If you doubt this, go to any little league game in the state and watch the mamas. We defend our children, be they right or wrong, as long as we have breath within us.

I guess that’s just how God made mothers. It is the weakness that balances the strength. If they hurt, we hurt. If they experience loss, we experience loss. Our joy is contingent upon theirs.

I first realized I wanted to be a mother when the absence of a child felt like a ghost around me. It was as if a space had appeared in my life that needed to be filled.

Being a mother can be spiritually healing. It restored my faith in many ways. Prior, I might have confessed that I believed, but my heart had questions. The love I felt for my children changed that uncertainty in me.

Other mothers might describe their experiences differently, but most would likely agree that God would not allow such a powerful bond to exist in this life that doesn’t expand and continue on into the next.

And that is the gift.

You were the gift.

To your mother…you still are.

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

Tears and Laughter: Let’s not mess with Alabama swamp people

At some point this attraction, or jealousy, The Daily Show has toward the state of Alabama is necessarily going to have to be addressed. I don’t know if it’s healthy anymore.

I think they want to be more like us. We seem to know how to have more fun than they do. We are happy and content and comfortable with Jesus while they are stuck up in New York City polishing their big apples and wishing they were down in Dixieland.

Like most Alabamians, I don’t typically watch The Daily Show. The fact that Alabamians don’t watch the show is what made them to decide to produce this whole “Alabama Week” series in the first place. They claim they want to get to know us better, but that’s not it. They were just put off because we would rather watch sharp dressed men squawking for ducks on Duck Dynasty than The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

Maybe Trevor Noah should host the show from a duck blind. It might help ratings. Then again, people in Alabama tend to value their 10 o’clock time slot, so it would need to be seriously entertaining to compete.

I have followed the first two nights of the “Alabama Week” series and have been neither impressed nor repelled. It is difficult for correspondents unfamiliar with Alabama to accurately portray our culture, the issues we find important, or who we are as people. It’s as if they are coming in wanting to dislike us, but once here they are realizing they don’t hate us after all.

At the end of the first or the four-part series, correspondent Desi Lydic offered a half-ass prayer asking God to help her with her struggle to believe in Alabama. She admitted she had held a lot of preconceived notions about people here. She thought we were all real “swamp people.”

I take it that correlation refers back again to the ratings between Duck Dynasty and The Daily Show, but what’s wrong with swamp people? Come to Alabama. Conduct your interviews. As far as politics go, hey – there are no holds barred. It’s pretty much the same with religion, because we know God has got us. But…don’t make light of Alabama swamp people. They are some of the best of us.

Those overpriced, ridiculous jeans at Nordstrom’s designed to look muddy are probably trying to emulate swamp people. If things turn stormy, if the situation suddenly shifts and reality gets really real – if the power goes and cell batteries die and no one can post prayer requests on Facebook. If destruction surrounds and strength and perseverance are required to start again, it will be swamp people who rise like a phoenix out of the wetlands. Swamp people are survivors. They know how to live off the land and water, and most of them tell better stories than The Daily Show.

The Mobile-Tensaw River Delta consists of almost 260,000 acres of swampland making it second in size only to the Mississippi River Delta. The Daily Show crew should go have supper with some of these characters of the swamp. Catch a sunset. Listen to the hush between day surrendering to night. Chirping birds and daytime buzzing subside to silence before a cadence of frogs and crickets play against a damp breeze, drowning out all but nature.

Alabama has its problems. Our swamp people aren’t one of them.

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

Tears and Laughter: Why Governor Ivey still calls Camden home

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (Alabama.Gov)

Within minutes of Kay Ivey’s being sworn-in as Governor last week, there were requests for comments out of Wilcox County.

Ivey was raised in Camden. She graduated from Camden High School before attending Auburn and launching herself into a life that has included many successes. She was a high school teacher, bank officer, and state treasurer before becoming the first Republican woman in Alabama history to hold the office of Lieutenant Governor. She won re-election in 2014.

She is only the second woman to serve as Governor of Alabama, and the first to rise through the political ranks on her own. Yet no matter when or where along her life’s path, Kay Ivey has never been shy about calling Camden home.

She knows Wilcox County is not without its challenges. It competes back and forth with Sumter on being the poorest county in the state. Wilcox has always held the highest unemployment rate in the state. And the public school system has a record of graduating too many students who are not prepared for even entry-level position with the lowest of skill requirements.

Few counties more thoroughly represent the natural beauty Alabama has to offer. Wilcox’s agricultural roots gravitated out from the majestic Alabama River, but not everything here is beautiful. Headlines out of Wilcox are often critical and riddled with crime and corruption. The crime is usually domestic related. The corruption is so common it is easily ignored.

Being a quiet, rural community has not made Wilcox immune to societal issues. Substance abuse is a problem, as are broken homes, poverty, and hopelessness. They seem to progressively connect and have become a subculture present in the shadows.

Outsiders have long questioned why even the smallest of populations choose to stay in a place haunted by its past, while forgotten by time. But if you are of here or from here, you feel a connection to land and place. It is a lot like loving a person. You begin to understand why the weaknesses exist, you learn to accept aspects you can’t understand, and you value what remains. The energy that holds people here, is the same spirit that compels visitors to stay, and convinces those whose life’s work has taken them away to forever call it home.

Kay Ivey knows there are rare flowers still blooming in lonely yards along Broad Street. She knows garden spots where there are no longer gardens. She remembers people’s pets by name, and can practically recite the menu at both GainesRidge Dinner Club and Larry’s Drive In.

The kind of governor she becomes will be determined in time. We will leave that for the historians and critic to debate at a later date. They can one day word it however they will, and Wilcox County will still be proud of Kay Ivey. We appreciate that when we hear her speak publically, we can recognize snippets and syllables spoken in our own distinct dialect.

It reminds us. And it reassures our children that even with the challenges rural Alabama communities face, there is no bounds holding anyone back at the county line.

I guess it is fairly simple for everyone to understand why the residents of Wilcox County are proud of Governor Ivey. What may be more remarkable is how she continues to be so proud of us.

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

Tears and Laughter: Other reasons Alabama may be the most stressed state in the nation

The personal finance site, Wallethub, has found Alabama to be the most stressed-out state in the nation. Being defensive about Alabama the way I am my first impulse was to try and disagree with the study’s findings. They claim Alabamians are stressed because we don’t have easy access to mental health care, have – on average – lower credit scores, and don’t get enough sleep at night.

Alabama hasn’t had all that much money since cotton was king, so I can’t imagine that people’s credit scores are keeping them awake at night. But in regards to our mental health I am going to have to unfortunately beg Wallethub’s pardon. Exactly what are they implying by reporting that a majority of people in Alabama need mental help? Because I think it comes across a touch strong.

Just because it has been well-documented and reported that our governor has frequently in the recent past few years taken leave of his senses doesn’t mean the rest of us need professional help. Unless you consider the fact that the majority of us voted his craziness into office, twice.

I guess we do have every right and excuse in the world to be a little stressed. We are a little angry too. What should have been the best of us, has failed us. Our leadership has been embarrassingly corrupt. We are all capable of accepting that this is not the first time there has been some physical action take place in the governor’s office. Many rumors of adultery have breezed through the halls of the capitol building before during previous administrations. But some of the details that have emerged from the Bentley-Mason affair have made even the most seasoned and worldliest of us either blush, or cringe.

And it wasn’t even so much about the affair. It was what it took to facilitate it. It was accusations of using public office for personal gain, violating the Ethics Code, and misusing campaign funds that made an investigation to prove the affair necessary.

It is abundantly clear now. To repeat it in detail would be redundant, but an enormous amount of time, resources, and energy were spent serving and protecting a relationship that never should have been allowed to evolve into what it became. All of that money, time, and effort should have been channeled toward the problems facing this state and the issues directly affecting the quality of life for Alabamians.

He seemed very sincere and comfortable lying to everyone – his wife, his family, her, her family, us, our families. He spoke calmly and reassuringly. He had learned the skill of making eye contact while lying. He was convincing and confident, and rightly so I suppose. For so long, it worked

Governor Bentley’s impeachment proceedings were cut short Monday by his resignation, Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey was dutifully sworn-in as Governor, and Easter Sunday is waiting to greet us at the end of the week. Maybe through grace we as a state will somehow find hope within all of the disappointment. Maybe this public shame will serve as a reminder as to why not to make certain choices. Otherwise, Wallethub could be right, most of us are going to need mental health help if we want to ever trust again. Or is the stressful part…that we did.

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.comor athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

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.