Thursday, January 03, 2008

Just back in town from the anti-Vegas

Google map "County Road 518 35610" and click 'Satellite view' (better yet, install and use the free Google Earth).That's where we've been, the northern outskirts of Anderson, Alabama (pop. 354).

My wife's family homeplace (going back to prior to the civil war). We been hangin' with my in-laws in rural northwestern Alabama on the multi-generational family farm. About as rural as it gets. 90 miles south of Nashville, maybe a mile below the Tennessee-Alabama line southwest of Pulaski. Dry county.

Like I said, the anti-Vegas. Serene. I get all narcoleptic when I go there, it's so peaceful.

Got some great thoughts to write about and pics to post, but not tonight. We just got in. Huntsville to Atlanta on Delta, then back to Vegas. Tired.

Above, Cheryl and her Mom at Cracker Barrel in Florence (just across the Tennessee River from Muscle Shoals, home to the venerable FAME Studios) on New Year's Eve (Cheryl's birthday).

More later.


This spring it'll be 34 years since I hooked up with Cheryl at Joe Namath's in Birmingham while touring with Merrilee Rush, and she soon took me home to the farm to meet the family. In 1994 I wrote a goofy Bob-Seger'ish tune about it (I had to update the time span line on the 4th line), LOL:

She’s my Alabama Woman
And I love her so.
Well, I met her down in B’ham
Thirty years ago.
I’m one lucky dawg to hook up
With my Southern Belle,
And it just keeps getting’ better
Since the day I fell

For my Alabama Woman,
She’s a Rollin’ Tide,
Lookin’ mighty good in Crimson
Tuscaloosa pride.
Well, the night that I first met her
She just blew my mind.
How could anyone look so good
And be so smart and kind?

Yeah, my Alabama Woman
Got inside my soul.
Sweet Home Alabama Woman
Put me on a roll.
Red hot Heart of Dixie lover
Make the world all right,
All I ever wanna do
Is Rock with you all night.

Well, she came down off the farm
To take the world by storm.
They ain’t never been a woman
Been in finer form.
I was livin’ kinda lost, but,
Boy, did I get found, and
I Praise The Lord
She keeps my flaky ass around.

Sweet Home Alabama Woman
Got inside my heart.
Yeah, my Alabama Woman
Was my whole new start.
Well, my Sweet Magnolia Honey
Make the world all right,
All I ever wanna do
Is Roll with you all night.

Words & Music by Bobby Gladd
Copyright © 1994, 2008, All Rights Reserved.
I deliberately threw every Deep South cliche I could shoehorn into that one, haha.

Smartest, nicest woman I ever met. Better than I deserve. Great extended family (some of you met the awesome nephew Chasley when he was staying with us). Before we moved to Vegas we used to take the kids and go to Anderson all the time and hang ("...are we there yet?..."). I gotta dig out the old pics of Sissy and Danielle playin' there when they were small.

This was my first time back in many years (too busy lookin' after ailing kin lately). Way overdue.

Poignant, too. The passage of time. I was roaming around taking shots (samples below), and with so much now overgrown, no longer in production, and falling down in decay, I kept hearing the Eagles new "No More Walks In The Woods" in my head (click bar arrow below to play).

At its zenith as a full-blown dairy operation, Uncle Hubert and his hands (which included his sons, Cheryl's cousins Scotty and Michael) managed a herd of more than 200 holsteins. It took them about 7 hours a day just to milk the cows (even with mechanization), in two daily shifts -- every day of the year. They usually had about 125 cows in milk production at a time.

In addition to commodity crops like cotton and soybeans planted on the hundreds of acres they owned and/or leased, they grew and stockpiled their own silage corn for the herd, storing it in large underground "silos" (large pits dug into a hillside, filled with silage and covered with plastic tarps and old tires) for feedlot retrieval with front-end loader tractors.

Cheryl's Mom always planted a personal garden about half the size of a football field. She still gardens, but not as large a plot these days. Hip job and all.

I recall several long rows (about 200 feet or more) of the baddest tomatoes! Her harvests filled three full chest freezers every year. I also recall wearing big blisters on my fingers sitting under a tree shelling crowder peas and butter beans and stuff.

The best eating in the world, man.

I tried to raise gardens a few times. Lotta work, frequently with disappointing or futile outcomes. So, I am always thankful for the farmers. The only reason we now have this advanced technological civilization is that we always have more food on hand than we can consume in one day, so we can do other cool stuff like playing badass funk, or blogging, or sitting and watching bowl games till our eyes bleed (as my Father-in-Law and I just did for several days) etc etc instead of scrounging around hunting and foraging all the time.

Easy to lose sight of that. Unless you live somewhere like Somalia or Darfur. I never stop thinking about stuff like that. Yeah, "self-reliance" has its place. It also has its limits.

Above, the milking house, now abandoned. Used to be, once a day this shiny stainless steel 18-wheel tanker would pull up to load the day's output. Below, the vestigial hay rake once used by Cheryl's grandfather. Behind that is what's left of the old cow barn and feedlot. It was eventually replaced by a million-dollar covered feedlot structure the size of a football field out back of the house across a pasture (I stepped it off while shooting pics, it's 330 feet long).

They had to go with this humongous thing so they could manage the effluent from the herd. Groundwater quality issues.

Then, one day, uncle Hubert fell out of a fully elevated front-end loader while fixing something at the top of a now-gone silo. Broke himself to bits, almost died. He healed up from that, only to come down with terminal cancer. Sucked.

The boys finally ended up selling the herd. That was a very sad day.

Scotty and Michael still farm with a vengeance, though. While the feedlot and milk house sit silent and the old old barn and silos are long gone (along with the pungent cowshit aroma and concomitant ten gazillion flies), huge new silos are up across the road, and the fields remain productive.

Looks like they did a lot of cotton this past growing season. Below, Cheryl's homeplace. Interesting, the passage of time. The tree on the left as you view the pic is one that was planted and grew up after a tornado took out its predecessor early one morning while we were there. The proverbial sound of a freight train, Cheryl and the folks frantically scrambling to get all the kids up and into the bathroom, and -- wham! -- it had passed by in a flash. Came across from the west, ripped off a small chunk of the old barn roof, came across the front yard 30 feet from the house, spun the tree right outa the ground clean (the remaining hole in the ground had almost no dirt disturbed), ripped some limbs off a big tree at the east edge of the yard, and was gone. Yikes.

One reason I like Vegas so much. Weather is illegal here.

Below, Cheryl's great Aunt Tinkie. 94, still lives alone, in the little country house over in Elgin where's she's been for 61 years. Lovely person.

Above, Tinkie's kitchen. Below, Cheryl and her life-long friend and high school classmate Pam.

A different place, 'eh?


Cheryl's Dad O.L. has been a huge sports fan his whole life. We sat together and watched bowl games till we were both stupified.

There're too many of 'em now. Teams with 6-6 records going to bowls? Yeah, and the relentless corporatization is a lame joke, too. The "Meineke Car Care Bowl"? The "Chick-Fil-A Bowl"? The "GMAC Bowl"? The " Bowl"? WTF? LOL!

Of course, we gotta also have the ad nauseum "FlowMax Halftime Report," which just made me wanna get up and go pee.

So, after a while me and Marvin (one of Cheryl's brothers) started goofing on the whole concept, comin' up with stupid stuff like "The Tru-Value Hardware Power Tools Department Black & Decker Cordless 3/8ths-inch Drill Bowl," replete with the "Cialis Pre-Game Show," the "Franklin Mint Coin Toss," whereupon the ball would be placed on the "Bud Lite 35 Yard Line" between the "Pringles Hash Marks" facing the "Avis Rent-a-Car End Zone." First downs would be measured by the "Dell Computer Chains and Down Markers."

I could (and did) keep on. At one point Cheryl said "Bobby, please shut up."

The NASCAR-ization of college football.

1 comment:

Schnitzel_Republic said...

An interesting collection of photos and comments. I grew in Anderson as well. The farm comments are straight to the heart of life.