Southern Hospitality consists of two things: food and stories. Both are done slowly, sometimes over a whole day, smoked, boiled, marinated in something, and dripping with something else. My Americus is the menu and table of contents for both and from what I understand, has been for years.
In my first post, I mentioned the barber shop, Kellette’s, inside the store where I work, Center Stage Market. Kellette knows how to be a barber in this town and it has relatively little to do with cutting hair, although he’s good at it. He is a collector of stories. Kellette’s stories aren’t written in novels or blogs, but in the Americus High School yearbooks he has on display in his shop from the 1960s. Narratives flow from the pictures of UGA’s football teams from even longer ago. The looped blue thread of the letter “A” from some Americus letterman’s jacket invites conjecture: who’s was it? Kellette will let you wonder for awhile, but then he’ll figure out a way to connect you to the story. “You ever hear about so-and-so (#1)? Well her daddy’s farm was in Desoto. I think he lost the farm before she was born, but I don’t know for sure. Now, you remember hearin’ about so-and-so (#2)? His daddy’s farm was out in Preston County. His first child I think was a girl, but his second child was a boy and he was the one who married so-and-so (#1). This (points at photo) was their farm when they first got married. And riiiiight there is where they built their first house. And their son was the first track coach at the high school.” (He puts the yearbook down, resting his case.) It’s an incredibly convoluted story, but that’s what they’re like at Kellette’s Barber Shop. Long, sweet, with seemingly endless rising action, with a “gotcha” moment where you make the connection that allows you to be part of the denouement. And I daresay, it will lead to another story. Kellette loses his keys on a weekly basis, but he can remember every freaking detail from the half-time marching band’s performance in 1972. Oh, did you want to hear that one? Come by for a haircut sometime. Or just come by.