Say it ain’t so, Debbie and Red!

Published 7:42 pm Friday, June 24, 2022

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No true-blue baseball fan wanted to believe that “Shoeless” Joe Jackson had helped fix the 1919 World Series.

No true-blue connoisseur of old-time country cooking wants to believe that Red’s Little Schoolhouse in Grady is closing its doors on July 3, 2022. So, from now until that ominous day, all roads will lead to Grady, Alabama.

But, take heart, folks.  Like Hank Williams, Jr. said, “Country folks can survive.”

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Pike County has survived closings before. One of the darkest days in the whole of Pike County was the day Wilson’s Barbecue closed. Why, some folks still think Mary Ida Williams could have stopped the closure. They believe she could have voided the sale of the family business and the chop-chop-choppin’ of barbecued pork could be heard throughout the land to this day.

Being one of those who savored a Wilson’s barbecue sandwich on the dark day the barbecue restaurant closed, I saved the paper wrapper for a decade and, every now and then, I would take it out and sniff.  In one whiff I was back at Wilson’s Barbecue and chewing pork in rhythm to the chop-chop-chopping of the little, white-haired ladies at the butcher’s block.

But, we survived the closing of Wilson’s Barbecue. Country folks can survive.

Most all of us who have grown up in Pike County have survived the closing of iconic restaurants.

Pike Countians survived the closing of J.B. Bowden’s Café and Ingram’s Restaurant and The Hut where teens gathered for a slice of lemon pie and an Orange Crush. And it was a sad, sad day when Crowe’s Fried Chicken on 231 ceased to be. Why, we even survived the closing of the Tastee Freeze where Mr. Sims’s fried chicken breast could have put The Colonel out of business. How even connoisseurs of fine hamburgers were able to overcome that dark, dark day when Miss Anderson flipped her last burger and shook salt on its greasy, near meatless bun So, folks, we can overcome the closing of Red’s Little Schoolhouse Restaurant, We are country folks and country folks can survive!

So, thank-you many thousands of times to “Red” and Debbie Deese for feeding folks near and far for nearly 40 years. For frying drumsticks for young’uns to cut their teeth on and chicken livers and gizzards for ol’ geezers to grind and for fresh peas and greens from the garden rather than those fast-frozen and for keeping homemade pies from being on the endangered foods list. And for the cornbread! Oh, the cornbread!!!

After many trips to the food bar, one visitor from north of the Mason-Dixon Line remarked that Southerners cook with flavor. Beggin’ his pardon, Southerners cook with grease. So, as long as there are restaurants where foods come fresh from the garden and are cooked with grease, country folks can … and will survive.