Thursday, February 08, 2007

My sister, Becky Henry
photos by Buddy Henry

photo courtesy of COTTONWOOD'S NOTORIOUS Buddy Henry


It's been over a week since I left town last Thursday but now I finally got a chance to put down what went down.

On Thursday morning Feb. 1, it were time fo' me to quit bidness and the bloodstained cavalcade of this dynamic & challenging urban envigh-UH-mint & split fo' dah f**kin' coast!!!!

As many of you know I been bad to go off and smell the roses all my damn life.

Occasionally, I dismiss bidniss [ex: 4 trips to the beach in the last 4 months] & begin the pursuit of living. Thursday morning I embarked upon a glorious adventure full of pulse-racing experiments!
For the next five days my nerve fibers tingled joyously in the mere excitement of possessing life.

I wuz keyed to relax but I were mo' VIBRANT DAN DAT!

Like the man said," I'm teasing tan & sweet in the pants with a warm song in my heart!"
THANK THE LLOYD, I was fully prepared to waste time for five days!
So on a cold Alabama February day under Confederate Gray Skies, I took to the road accompanied by flocks of robins & blackbirds stuck on the roadside grounded by the rain.

I had two goals for this trip:

Hit the road on Thursday, February 1 lovin' the church signs:



My mind had been made up since Tuesday morning.

Come hell or high water, I was heading to Dothan on Thursday and then go on to Dauphin Island on Saturday.

"Did you ever see a robin weep when leaves begin to die? That means he's lost the will to live. I'm so lonesome I could cry."

"I'll bet ole Hank wrote that on a cold wet winter day," I thought to myself as I rode south down 82. Every crossroads and open space seemed to be covered with robins weathering the storm on the ground. Even with so many flocks occasionally I'd see a solitary robin and the image brought Hank's haunting lyrics to mind.

The bare trees allowed the landscape to open up so this was the only time of the year one could view some of the vistas. I have had a lifelong hatred of the kudzu vine but now a lot of that hatred is being transferred to another plant: the privet hedge. That evergreen junk is taking over the state! You cut it for 15 minutes with a little chain saw and you're so beat you have to take a break. The stuff is terrible and it takes the place of much nicer native shrubs like laurel oak, gallberry, huckleberry, yaupon and wax myrtle.



Got to Monkey Town and headed to the Archives & History library. Governor Riley really needs to hire some mystery shoppers to report to him how they are treated in state run facilities by our overpaid/fully insured/pensioned "public servants".

From the library, I headed for Old Alabama Town over on North Hull Street to see the Lucas Tavern where LaFayette slept on his trip on the Federal Road back in 1825 when he toured the entire country in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

In Old Alabama Town, I bought Mary Ann Neeley's book on the neighborhood and later contacted her by email. She's been lecturing her class at Huntington about the capture of Aaron Burr so maybe she'll help to get the word out next week about the 200th anniversary of his arrest here in Alabama.

For lunch I ordered the blackened Tilapia plate at The Capitol Oyster Bar on the Southern Bypass. Absolutely the best I've ever had and I order it there about four times a year so I notice. Some screwball at the bar was talking to me while I was eating and I told the waitress,"Hey, don't smoke anything out that dude's bag." She said,"Oh no, I'm smoking out of yours!"

I thought that wuz cute.

Stopped in Pine Level before the intersection with 82 and called Buie to see what he was up to. BAD NEWS. Buddy Buie's close friend, Mike Clark

, had died a couple of hours before I called.

Mike Clark

photo courtesy of
Buie asked me to put something on the Net when I got to Dothan to help him get the word out so I agreed and continued driving down 231 toward Troy.

Made it to Dothan before sundown and spent most of the night going down memory lane with my brother and his wife at the old family homeplace on Mortgage Avenue. It was nice to be back where I belong. Everything in that house conjours up over 45 years of memories so it is THE EARL & KATE REGISTER time capsule. Thank God my brother Bill had the wisdom to preserve it almost like it was when I was growing up there in The Sixties.

Friday morning saw me getting ready for a lunch date with DA QUEEN. We agreed to meet at The Mexican Connection at 11. I made it on time and brought THE HEEY BABY DAYS OF BEACH MUSIC for her to look over. As always, it was a real pleasure to actually encounter someone you met over the Internet. Just making friends with folks who are "ONE OF OUR PEOPLE" is one of the untold benefits of the Internet.[Hey Queenie, I plan to be back in Dothan on Friday, February 23 to see Percy Sledge , the Tams and the Swingin' Medallions at the Civic Center so keep me in mind while making your plans for that night]

Friday afternoon I moved out to my sister Becky and her husband Buddy's farm near Cowarts.

I left there heading to visit Beck & Bud at their house in Cottonwood and spent about an hour driving over to The Hog Farm on Cowarts Creek to see their new lake and then exploring the backroads around the Turkey Pond, Cowarts, Enon and Avon. It was so wild to see open empty fields where once stood the barns, corrals, junk yards, corn cribs, trailers, flower beds and farm houses of my childhood.

Stopped in Efurd's to get a twelve pack of Milwaukee's BEAST and saw my first package of fresh shredded collards for sale. It was a new product to me.

Had a nice visit in Cottonwood with The Henrys. Gave Becky an Otavalo sweater and she appreciated it.

Left Cottonwood and headed for Hunt's for a couple a dozen

After ragging the chief oyster shucker ["Imagine the thousands of helpless little oyster hearts you've stopped beating during your 24 years of shucking"], temptation got the better of me and I pulled into THE PARKING LOT OF BROKEN DREAMS: THE DIRTY BIRD a.k.a. Cowboys!

Pretty good band showed up : Ryan Weaver and The Ryde.

You know how you sit at the bar and start sizing up your barmates. Well I was doing just that when I had the surprise of my life. The club was filled with guys wearing cowboy hats and sporting big belt buckles. I thought it was a bunch of Wiregrass country come to town when Ryan stepped up to the microphone and yelled,"Y'all raise your hands RIGHT NOW if you are ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY!" Man, hands shot up like it was a Hitler rally and I realized why the club was filling up with all these mankiller babes: MOST OF THOSE CATS DUDED UP IN COWBOY OUTFITS WERE FROM RORT FUCKER,uh, Ft. Rucker & those soldiers were damned ready to buy some girls some drinks!

Made it home safely, got a good rest beside the farm's old wood stove and got up Saturday morning ready to head south to the island.

My time in Dothan had been well spent. Saw old friends and family. A couple of observations: It is pitiful how my friends who are my parents age are so scared of using the computer. All they do is gripe about how nobody is preserving their precious memories yet they avoid the one tool that would allow them to preserve and share over 80 years of life experiences with the world. Pitiful. The other observation is related to that old saying "Growing old ain't for sissies." Because I taught Biology for 20 years I get pulled into a lot of health related conversations. Folks, our friends and family are facing overwhelming medical dilemmas and are making bioethical decisions daily in order to deal with the terrible fact that our old bodies are giving out on us and the Good Lord's about to call us all home. I guess the only advice I have is to not jump to conclusions about "the quality of life" for those suffering from chronic illness and get all the information you can get from cyberspace.

Finally got on the road about noon and I rode straight to Graceville's Circle Grill for big platter of fried shrimp and oysters. Absolutely superb as always.

Headed south toward Chipley and stopped at the Kudzu Historic Marker on Highway 90. Buddy Henry wanted me to check it out because he found an old 1929 letter to his grandpa from a nursury in Georgia who wanted to introduce him to kudzu. No dates on the marker but from what I've learned an early Chipley nursury sold a lot of kudzu in the early part of the twentieth century.

A few miles south of Chipley, I passed EL RANCHO HUNTING PRESERVE and I noticed how nice the swamps looked around that property so I looked it up on the Web. Check out this really interesting article about a commercial hunting lodge that's over 50 years old.

Got to Vernon and as I was leaving town I passed by Register's Tire & Lube. When you head south of Vernon, you're getting into a part of the country I like to call FUNKY FLORIDA. New road signs have gone up for all the Choctawhatchee River boat landings so I was curious when I saw the sign to Hightower Springs Landing so I looked that up on the Web. I hope I'm gonna go see all those springs one day and I'll bet Hightower Springs got it's name from the Ebro family mentioned in the News-Herald article.

Saw a lot of beehives ready to collect tupelo honey this spring. Saw a lot of longhorn cattle too. That's getting to be a trend. Saw a sign for Spurling Landing so I wonder if some of Charles' kinfolks from Opp were connected to that name. Climbed the ridge up to New Hope (we always called it NO HOPE & it was one of our favorite places to buy beer back in high school because they NEVER CARDED).
Saw a huge flock of crows flying out in this shortleaf pine pulpwood forest and wondered whether they were fish crows or regular crows. Passed that big firetower and wanted to climb it. Maybe I will some day but I was in a hurry. So much of a hurry I ditched my plan to go to Panama City Beach and decided to take State 20 in Ebro and connect to the road to Grayton Beach in Freeport.
Passed by the funkiest of the funky communities in FUNKY FLORIDA. It's a little village of black folks who live around a church called McQueen's Temple of the First Born Church of The Living God. I'd hate to do a title search on that little piece of FUNKY FLORIDA REAL ESTATE! They got trailers and shacks jammed in there everywhere.
Got to Ebro and saw that the parking lot of the dog track was full. Turned right on State Road 20 and was surprised to see three Bay County Sheriff's cars parked at the intersection. I guess I thought about the Jackson County deputy being killed on Wednesday but I didn't think about it long because I was approaching the gorgeous view on the cypress swamp you get as you pass over it on the new bridge over the Choctawhatchee River. I did my best to find familiar sights and as I left the bridge I decided to turn around and go back over it for a second look. Before slamming on my brakes I checked the rearview and saw one of those Bay County deputies on my tail. Talkin' bout popping a sweat. Looking ahead, I saw I was stuck behind an armored truck so that's the way it stood for almost 20 miles. Here I was in Walton County with a sheriff's deputy right on my ass. It was one of the longest 20 minutes of my life. As we came into Filthy Freeport, absolute dread turned into relief as my tailgating deputy turned into a large group of parked police cars along with a big van labeled FLORIDA ESCAPED INMATE RECOVERY UNIT. My relief didn't last long though because when I got to the main intersection where you turn toward the Choctawhatchee Bay bridge, cop cars were everywhere. Not only that, there were empty cop cars in all the parking lots. Then it dawned on me. The funeral for the murdered Jackson County deputy had been that afternoon. Talkin' about eat up wid cops. Freeport were eat up wid cops!
For the first time in three days the sun peaked out of the clouds as I drove into Grayton Beach with its beautiful groves of dwarf live oaks. I parked near the water and took the boardwalk down to the water and was really surprised by the number of people driving their vehicles on the beach. Someone had chained their kayak to the warning flag pole and I admired it. I'm want to try out one of those little boats this coming summer.
Finally made it to THE RED BAR. Place was packed so I went out on the deck. There was a cool breeze but they had three huge 7 foot tall chrome kerosene heaters cutting the chill. Heard lots of contractors shooting the bull over Happy Hour. Actually overheard this:
"They ain't selling but he's added tons of stone and dozens of palm trees. I don't know how much he put in it but they say he knows what he's doing."
Everyone was already hyping THE RED BAR'S SUPER BOWL PARTY. I met the owner and he invited me and told me about the free food and the celebration of his twelfth anniversary in business. Met a lot of wonderful people, especially a nice couple from Decatur who were about my age.

Left the bar before I started having too much fun and headed north toward Defuniak right as the sun was going down. Basically put the old Exploder on autopilot as I cruised down I-10. The I-10 causeway was lit up beautifully and Old Mobile looked gorgeous as I crossed the water.

Stopped off at the bar at Pelican Reef located on the north side of the Fowl River bridge to Mon Luis Island. The kitchen hadn't closed so I was able to get an order of their delicious sauteed garlic crab claws. Muy sabroso!

I finally got to Archie's duplex on Dauphin Island, cleaned up and headed for the Pelican Pub down by the harbor. Paula was bartending but with only one arm. Her right arm was in a sling. She told me she had read my stories about her and the other girls I posted on "Cuba, Alabama" AND SHE ACTUALLY LIKE WHAT I WROTE! When I asked about her arm, she said,"Oh, we had another fight." Later on Billy told me how he had been awakened by noise and saved the day after Paula challenged a fighting patron and was thrown against the wall but he said Paula hurt her arm lifting cases of beer.

Got up the next morning and headed for Coden and Bayou La Batre. The bare bushes and trees revealed all kinds of bayous and canals, especially near Zirlott's Old Store. Birds were everywhere on the Coden Loop Road and the Shell Bank Road along the Mississippi Sound. I saw about 20 loons as I sat at the mouth of Bayou La Batre eating hot tamales and crawfish I purchased at the bait shop by the harbor. Later I saw all kinds of sparrows, finches, buntings and warblers along the marshes beside the sound.

The filth on the eastern end of Railroad Street between Bayou La Batre and Coden Bayou was awful. So terrible that it made me ashamed to be from Alabama and it takes a whole lot to make me feel like that.

Went into the Food Tiger in Bayley's Corner to get some groceries and as I was leaving the store, I ran into a guy wearing a baseball cap that said DON'T ASK ME 4 SHIT!. He greeted me with a "Hey, how ya doin?" I smiled but I felt like saying,"DON'T ASK ME FOR SHIT!"

On my way back to the island I saw beautiful satsuma orange trees on Mon Luis Island filled with ripe fruit.

I spent the afternoon laying around the beach house reading and watching TV. Before it got too late I went downstairs and cut the grass. It was the first grass I'd cut in 2007 and Archie called me yesterday from the island to tell me I made it look real good. Man, the clover and the dandelions were already over a foot high.

About 5 I started getting ready for the party and by about half-time, I made it to the Pelican Pub to watch Peyton demolish The Bears. Talkin' bout FREE FOOD. I made a pig out of myself because they had all the crawfish and all the boiled shrimp you could eat. The girls had an entire ice chest filled with hot boiled shrimp covered with spices. Truly some of the best shrimp I have ever had in my life so I ate until I was gorged out. MUCHAS PELICAN PUB!!!!

If you really wanna have some fun, click on

and listen to the Heeey Baby Days podcast from THE GEORGIA MUSIC HALL OF FAME!






As I came off the bridge the voice within said, "Hey bro', you gotta go home."

But what's home?

Is it Tus-kee-loose-eeeee?- eat up wid P.C. [any uv y'all in T-town stuck wid excess Confederate swagg, haul it to SOUTH ALABAMA & it will be SOLD!]

Is home down home in Houston County? Of course it is. I can sit in my room which has been my room since 196o & hang out in cyberspace. Ain't dat kewl?!!!!

Or is down home down by the bayou? Sho' nuff enuff work to do but we'll see.

Guess the message here is MY BABY mama NEED$$$$$$$$$$