After experiencing the heavenly water at Cypress Spring, we headed back into Vernon. It only took a few minutes to get back to the Circle H Service Station. The Circle H has fried chicken, boiled peanuts and good soda waters.
We took turns changing out of our bathing suits in the restroom, the folks there didn’t seem to mind.
My children and I are “cream soda connoisseurs.” The Circle H had a good selection. My son went with a clear cream soda with a nice aroma. The first thing you do when you open a cream soda is smell it. My daughter and I tried a Frostie Blue Cream Soda. We enjoyed it.
Never drink cream soda from a plastic bottle or a can; it’s just not proper. I prefer drinking all soda waters out of glass bottles. An RC Cola in a can makes about as much sense as wearing a golf shirt and khakis to Cypress Spring on a hot summer day.
When the magazine publisher called me and invited me back to Vernon, she also had some other news that troubled me. Ms. Fannie Lou, the “First Lady of Vernon,” was moving to a retirement home.
The publisher told me that she had heard Ms. Fannie Lou’s house would be sold to the state because of the highway project. She went on to say that Ms. Fannie Lou was selling all the stuff in her house, including the teapots. The only teapot she had decided to keep was the one that played music – the teapot with the tune that Ms. Fannie Lou and I talked about and could never identify.
After hearing about her keeping that one teapot, I couldn’t hold it together. I get emotional over important things like teapots. A picture of that teapot will always be etched in my mind. I still have to know what tune it plays.
Thinking of Vernon, Florida, without Ms. Fannie Lou living there is impossible.
Then, I thought about it and decided that I just wouldn’t. I just wouldn’t think about Vernon without Ms. Fannie Lou, because there was no need to.
They had cut the trees down in the middle of town, but in my mind they are still there.
Papa was not there with me on my last trips to Vernon, but then again he was. There is no way for me to go to Vernon without thinking of Papa and now I feel the same about Ms. Fannie Lou.
I still needed to see her.
Although I had only spent one afternoon with Ms. Fannie Lou about a year ago, she means so much to me. The first time I met her was one of the best days of my life. Talking to her and listening to her humor and wisdom filled my heart. It was a day filled with memories of my Papa, careless weekend trips, hoop cheese and being in love with the best things in life.
The first place my children and I looked for Ms. Fannie Lou was at her house. Her car was not in the garage, so we decided to waste some time and hope that she would be back soon.
There was a good looking vegetable stand just up the road, so we headed back to check it out. They had everything you could imagine.
We started with boiled peanuts and then took our time looking, squeezing and bagging. I was going back and forth to the counter with a twenty dollar bill in one hand and bagged vegetables in the other.
After proclaiming to the lady who owned the stand and my children that I was going to spend exactly twenty dollars, they just kind of stood back and watched me. I think it was entertaining to them.
Each time I would come back to the counter, the lady would give me a new total. Green tomatoes, peaches, okra, I was figuring out what I wanted and trying to hit $20 on the nose. “How about these peas?” I asked. The lady said, “I shelled them myself.” I was getting closer and closer to my mark.
As I got within a few cents, I started going back and forth to the counter trying various sizes of okra pods.
The best I could do was $20.04. I felt good. The nice lady let me have everything for my $20 bill. This was even before I noticed a magazine on the counter that carried my stories.
I opened it up to the page with my picture on it and held it next to my face. I was wearing the same “Lake Wedowee” hat and black glasses I wear in the picture the magazine uses. She called her husband to come look.
They both smiled.
I was in Vernon, Florida, a magical place.
We went back to the car and decided to go across the street to the United Methodist Church. As I pulled in the parking lot, I was pretty sure I saw Ms. Fannie Lou’s car. Some folks were in the parking lot and I rolled down the window and asked them, “Is Ms. Fannie Lou here?” They said that she was in the house in the back of the church eating.
I opened the door of the house without knocking and walked right in. I announced, “I’m looking for Ms. Fannie Lou.”
From a group of women sitting at a table getting ready to eat, I heard a voice say, “I’m sitting right here.”
I laughed and asked, “Do you remember me?”
Ms. Fannie Lou smiled and said without hesitation, “You’re that fellow that writes about me.”
I’ll tell you what she said in the next part of “Postcards from Vernon.” Part 1 of Postcards from Vernon is here.
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I'm BN Heard and I like semicolons, dogs and hot boiled peanuts on a summer day in Vernon, Florida.