I stood in line behind a young lady at the “Just Love Coffee Café” in Nolensville, Tennessee, trying to get a better look at the tattoo running down her left forearm… without looking like I was trying to get a better look at the tattoo running down her left forearm!
It was a hunting dog. A Black and Tan hound I believe. But my peeks were hurried and scattered. She ordered a White Chocolate Tiramisu Latte. I had only an inkling that latte is some fancy word for coffee, but I had noticed the holes in her jeans. Maybe I could pay for her drink, you know, help her out a little…
Are you kidding me! I stared at the register in astounded disbelief! She musta ordered the pancakes and bacon when I wasn’t looking.
I would like to be polite, do a good deed, help a young damsel obviously in need of a whole pair of pants… but you never know. She might think me a meddling old man.
I let her pay for her own drink.
And ordered the sausage, egg and cheese biscuit. And a glass of sweet tea. I didn’t figure I could afford the coffee in this place.
I wouldn’t have been here if it weren’t for my mindless son. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and alternate weekends the boy takes after his mother. He bought some steaks off of a guy parked at a service station… Boy howdy, you talk about a sure sign that you are in Tennessee!
Josh had grilled the steaks the night before. They looked fine. Smelled great. But somehow I couldn’t get over how we came by this meat. I didn’t know if it was butchered after dark in somebody’s back pasture or taken out of an Omaha Steaks package on someone’s front steps two months ago. What if these steaks were “picked up” in Texas. Isn’t there some kind of law against eating stolen beef that has been transported across state lines?
As you might well imagine, I ate rather guardedly.
And woke up hungry. And after the grandkids were off to school, I went looking for the Nolensville Cracker Barrel, Bojangles or Mary Lou’s Sweet Down Home Country Cooking Breakfast House.
Failing to find a familiar early morning culinary moniker, I took a chance on the first “café” sign I saw. I was getting desperate. And it’s hard to mess up eggs and sausage.
The only available table was next to the hound dog tattooed girl. At least the place was popular, that was a good omen in any eatery…
“Ma’am?” I don’t hear as well as I used to. And my mind was a thousand miles away…
“His name is Festus.” The young lady was holding up her forearm so I could get a real look at the dog. And she was grinning from ear to ear. “I saw you eyeing him at the counter.”
I leaned in with interest. The hound was leaping over a fallen log, his chest stretched out, his head up, his eyes intent on the prey ahead. Truly a striking animal.
“He’s a Black and Tan.”
“Yes ma’am. Will he tree a raccoon?”
She came alive, and her beautiful grin widened, “Will a mop flop, will a bear run into the woods, will a hundred-pound sack of flour make a big biscuit!”
She was from Wartrace, down in Bedford County. And it took her less than a minute to convince me that Festus was near ’bout the greatest all-purpose hunting dog ever to come out of Middle Tennessee. “He’d also run a fox. Could point birds if the occasion was right. He’d fetch about anything if he was a mind to. And I know he was a tick slow for it, but I tell you mister, he wouldn’t quit for love nor money when that ole boy struck a deer!”
But you don’t tattoo a hound dog on your arm because he could hunt.
“He belonged to my grandfather,” was her answer when I asked. And after a slight pause, a measurable lessening of the smile and a long pull on the latte she continued, “Granddaddy understood me when no one else tried.”
Over a pretty decent sausage, egg and cheese biscuit we discussed life as we both understood it. And you might be amazed at how un-far apart we were. Oh, I was a mite puzzled over holes in brand new jeans and expensive coffee… And she was equally bewildered by an antique still wearing faded Levi’s….. who knew the difference between a Treeing Walker, Bluetick or Redbone… and a Grand Nite Champion Black and Tan!
Neither of us cared to tackle the world’s problems. Or the current political morass. Or waste time on idle chit-chat.
We talked about her future. And a mite about my past. We were definitely two ships heading in opposite directions but we both loved “being” in the moment, appreciated where we had been, hoped things were better around the next corner and saw lots of good in most everybody.
We shared a terrific five minutes in this life together…
One I will never forget. She gave me a last look at Festus and her beautiful grin as we both stood. “I just know you are a wonderful grandfather, too.”
Before I could find my voice she was gone.
She didn’t even wait for her pancakes and bacon…