Snow! We have snow in the South!! Also: We have a national championship!!! I’m not sure which delights folks more. Oh, wait, of course it’s Auburn winning the national Bowl Championship Series title. I tried to pick out friends who’d made the trip to Arizona as the TV cameras panned over the thousands and thousands of Tigers fans, but all that orange and blue sort of blended together into one. Like the team itself. (And my sports-editor husband doesn’t think I could be a sportswriter!). Back home, far away from the televised football frenzy, the soft fluffy comforter of snow (I refuse to use the “blanket” cliché) still is keeping things quiet. In my town of Corinth, Miss., the square is deserted except for folks like me out walking and snapping shots such as this one of the Fillmore Street Presbyterian Church — and families mounting riotous snowball fights in the streets. In my family, the competition as always centers on art. Older Daughter reported that she started out making a snow-kid for our 2 3/4-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable. It turned into a snow tower, which she felt looked a bit … well … anatomical, so she changed it to something she called a snow bunny by adding ears and arms. Her artist husband, however, created an entire snow train, topped off with actual ashes from their fireplace for the tinder box. Artistry on the football field combined with artistry in a snowy front yard — I love the South!
Now, we here in the mid-South do get freezing temperatures every year or so — for about a day or maybe two or three at the most. Not uncommon at all — we have to have a reason to wear all those scarves and gloves we got for Christmas, you know. But this week-long run of sustained bitter cold we’re in right now is a bit unusual. We’re talking really and truly cold here — pipe-bursting, fountain-freezing, thermal underwear-wearing, do-not-go-outside-without-your coat-and-hat cold. Brrrrrrrr. I was driving through downtown Florence, Alabama, on Monday afternoon and had to look twice at this hotel fountain to realize it was frozen absolutely solid. Younger Daughter just got back from a trip to Portland, Maine, to visit her very cool uncle and aunt (my younger brother and his wife) and except for the snow she said she feels as if she’s still there. Also except for the warming effects of napping with their 125-pound Alaskan malamute, Thule. Although in Maine folks are probably experienced enough to turn their fountains off when freezing weather threatens. I’m just saying.
I don’t know what time it is in your part of the world, but here in northwest Alabama/northeast Mississippi/southern middle Tennessee, it’s cotton-picking time. Cotton is a top crop in Alabama, and the counties in my corner of the state are among the top producers state-wide. (I looked that up at www.alfafarmers.org just to impress you all with my knowledge.) Cotton’s history in the South is a long and at times not an honorable one, but people all over — white, black, rich, poor — still have memories of back-breaking work in late-fall heat. I remember my maternal grandfather reluctantly sharing his less-than-happy cotton-picking experiences as a boy growing up near Jackson, Mississippi. Today, it’s pretty much huge machines that do the work, from what I can tell. And while it’s true that I know next to nothing about the cotton industry, I do think it’s encouraging that in our wireless nano-techno get-it-done yesterday world, sometime’s it still as simple as putting seeds in the ground … and hoping for the best.
Okay, here’s a Friday puzzle for you. Let’s see how well y’all know Southern geography. Recently I was headed to … well, a Southern city … on … well, a Southern interstate … when a wreck stopped traffic completely for about 40 minutes. In true Southern fashion, of course, the delay turned into a party as folks got out of their cars to wander around and share conversation, Diet Mountain Dew and homemade chocolate-chip cookies. Luckily, while this particular interstate is the main football-game route on home weekends, both Alabama teams were away on this day so there were no fuming irate fans trying to circumvent the miles of parked cars. Believe me, you do not want to get between an SEC fan and kick-off. Finally — in the middle of a fascinating story from the guy next to me about how his ex-girlfriend’s cousin’s boss might possibly know my daughter’s friend’s mother-in-law — we started moving and I finally got to where I was going. See if you can identify the city — there’s a huge clue in the photo (click to enlarge) — and the interstate. Your prize? Only the satisfaction of being well-traveled, Southern-wise. And, really, isn’t that reward enough?