A love story for Jackson County

by Martha Smith I’ve now joined the ranks of folks who can safely say they remember back in the day, way back in the 1900s when they sat at their daddy’s feet and listened to him tell stories about when he was a kid. The thing about these stories of ours that makes them so special is that everyone has a good one. Every one of us has a story, something that no one else knows. Something that sticks with us, changes us and hopefully for the better. I remember sitting on Dad’s knee or at his feet or on the side of the wash sink in our basement in Michigan as he cleaned fish and patiently let me pretend to smoke his cigar as I listened to him tell me stories about taking a bath in the creek and dropping the only bar of soap. Or digging ditches for the city. Or the rock crusher. Or high school football games. Or getting chased by the law in his Roadrunner. Or getting sick on your mama’s lemon pie mix. Or getting chased by Bossy the cow and scarring your back on the barbed wire fence to get away. Or the first time you ever ate pizza in your life, and you were stationed in Thailand, and you were in your early 20s. As I grew up on these tales, we moved and moved and settled into our strange, new places. No matter where I was, the constant in my life was the setting in these stories: Jackson County, Alabama. It became my home a long time ago. Long before the fates convened and decided I’d roamed long enough. New schools and faces were easier to bear because in my heart, I knew there was a sliver of home on the bottom right hand corner of the map in the classroom. A pinging point of reference that I could imagine and feel in my bones, this is where I come from. This is where my people are from. This is where I began. When I turned 11, we moved here for several years, and I was able to graduate with friends I had known the longest I’d ever known anyone outside of my own family. Marriage had me moving again, all over the place, and when that season passed, I started looking at the bottom of that map again. A few years ago, I was able to come home and give my children the gift of this place. The land, the mountains, the meaning, the waters and most importantly, the people. The losses we have sustained the past couple of weeks have been hard on us all because of how we feel for one another. The notion and hope we carry around for those hurting, working and dealing with grief and tragedy is a palpable thing you can feel everywhere you go, and that applies for every situation we have found ourselves in where we have to work together. Where our hearts go out to one another. Where we try to make life better for each other. Those raw and hurting places are the best parts of us. And that is rare and hard-won. And that is something to be proud of. That is something I can tell my sons, and when they’re creeping up in age, and they’re telling stories of their own, they can smile and be proud of where they’re from. They can pass that down and teach a true appreciation for this area, because they have lived it – every day. Because that’s just what we do here.

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