One of the really good guys in Alabama government took over the reigns as President of the Alabama Association of County Commissioners this summer. Henry County Probate Judge and County Commission Chairman, David Money, is an extremely outstanding and quality leader for his beloved Henry County. He is revered by his folks in Abbeville, Headland and throughout his home county.
Henry County is one of the friendliest counties you will ever enter. David Money is their boy or maybe you might say their David. You can see a look of admiration and reverence for their David in the eyes of his people when they look at him. He was raised in Henry County and therefore, he knows most of the folks there. His best buddy is his neighbor and friend, Jimmy Rane, the “Yellow Fella.” Some say this big old Henry County boy is one of the wealthiest men in the state. Jimmy still lives in Abbeville and has his business center there. Jimmy and David visit over coffee several times a week.
To observe the folks and relationships of Henry County, like the David Money and Jimmy Rane story, epitomizes the saying made popular by the late, great, Alabama storyteller, Kathryn Tucker Windham, “Alabama is just a big front porch.”
Having told you about David Money, Jimmy Rane, and Henry County, reminds me of another story about the county which I will share with you. Bill Baxley like most politicians had his favorite stories. One that Baxley told repeatedly throughout the years was about an old guy named Squatlow.
Squatlow was nicknamed that because he would squat down close to the ground whenever he would talk with folks. You have seen old guys who do that, squat down while they talk. Old Squatlow would hunker down with a chew of tobacco in his mouth and gossip and swap stories all day.
Baxley was a young District Attorney for Houston and Henry Counties. Houston is a fairly large county. Dothan is the county seat. Houston had about 90% of the people in the Circuit with Henry County being the home to about 10% of the people in the Circuit. Baxley was a youthful 25-year-old D.A. and would travel to Court on occasion in Henry County to prosecute the few wayward criminals they had in Henry County.
Baxley like most politicians would stop at a country store and drink a coke with the rural folks in the area. Henry County is a very sparsely populated rural county in the Wiregrass with two small towns, Abbeville and Headland. Abbeville happens to be the county seat. This story takes place in the early 1960s about the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Squatlow was a mechanic in a gas station/grocery store in the obscure community of Tumbleton in Henry County. Most folks in that area refer to Tumbleton as “Shelleyville” because most of the people have the surname Shelley. Squatlow’s whole world was no bigger than that county. The biggest places he had ever been were Abbeville and Headland with a population of about 1,000 people each.
Well, they may have been back in the woods, but they sure knew about the Cuban Missile Crisis and the standoff between the United States and Russia. It was a scary situation. I think most people were afraid that a nuclear war was imminent. The whole world was on edge.
During the week of this crisis, Baxley was traveling to court in Henry County. He stopped by Squatlow’s store in Tumbleton. Squatlow and all the folks in the little community were scared. This was obviously the topic of conversation that day.
Old Squatlow sauntered down in his lowest squatting position and just shook his head. “You know, I’ve been thinking about it all night, and I just know those damn Russians are going to bomb Abbeville. Yeah, they gonna drop one of them atom bombs right on Abbeville,” said old Squatlow.
Baxley looked at Squatlow and said, “Squatlow, why in the world would the Russians drop a bomb on Abbeville, Alabama?” Squatlow looked at Baxley like he was the most stupid person he had ever seen. He shook his head at how ignorant this young, 25-year-old lawyer was. He looked at Baxley and said, “Boy, don’t you know nothing? Don’t you know that Abbeville is the County Seat of Henry County?”
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.