Tears and Laughter: Life in such a place as Wilcox County

I was in Thomasville one afternoon last week and saw an old friend who asked me how in the world I can stand to live over here in such a place as Wilcox County. She said she just does not understand it, that she has a son who lives over here too and he just loves it – loves it so much he is considering buying a place in Coy, but for herself she just could not tolerate it.

She thinks Wilcox County is backwards and appears trapped in 1973. And it is not as if I could disagree with her too strongly, all things considered. We are, as a county, what failed leadership looks like.

Self-proclaimed leaders can’t profess to be setting an example for the community, while at the same time breaking the law. At some point the right to efficiently lead is forfeited. Real leaders think and have some degree of wisdom. They don’t react emotionally or consider themselves above the law.

Wilcox County has been stalled economically for over 30 years. Downtown Camden reflects this stagnation. If you don’t know anything any different though, you will not know to even notice.

School enrollment, in both the public and private school systems, show the decline in the county’s population.

Granted there were several characters from the past that helped bring us to where we are today in Wilcox County, whether they were legends, fakes, or fools. And their spirits still linger, but only in stories at high noon and shadows in the night. Their examples may have helped paved the way, but the current train wreck of leadership continues to follow suit by their own choosing. No reputable business or industry is going to locate in a place where “leaders” attempt to initiate boycotts against other local businesses. An outlaw or two might move here, but no families.

Most people who live here do not care how the county government operates because they assume it is above a certain level of competency. Average people from normal places have never seen anywhere that operates quite like Wilcox County, and as a result we are used to being the last in all that is good and leading in all that is bad, in a state that mirrors the same pattern nationally.

But from where I write this today, with the air conditioning pumping, I have a window opened just enough to let in the sounds of the South.

I can hear what seems to be a multitude of different birds chirping and singing and calling to one another. They will do this, hidden away within the canopy of trees that pretty much stretches countywide, from just before daybreak until twilight, when a symphony of frogs, crickets, and whippoorwills takes the stage.

There is a calm that exists that people both of here and not can feel when they cross the river. It is another world. Similar in ways I suppose to crossing the salt line down in Mobile. We too seem to live closer to the Caribbean than Montgomery. Attitudes are more relaxed. Both the climate and culture are different. Most days unfold like a Friday, and ice takes its sweet time melting in glasses of tea. And that is why people come here I guess…and also why we stay.

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.