I recently had to get my car safety inspected. To do so, I went to a local shop that looks to have been around forever. Though there were only a few cars in the parking lot, the lobby was fairly full. I was greeted warmly and gave my keys and registration to the man at the desk.
“It won’t be long—don’t you worry none, most these folks are just here to shoot the bull.”
“Yup,” another man said. He was old and had very few teeth in his mouth. “When you git to be our age, not much else to do but sit around and talk.”
I smiled at them and took a seat.
“So, as I was telling you, Tommy,” the nearly toothless man said, “Billy Bob was getting’ tired of that woodpecker waking him up in the morning. So, one day he got fed up and took his shotgun to the bird. He unloaded but didn’t hit a feather. His old lady came screamin’ out of the house. ‘Billy Bob! What in tarnation are you doin’? You can’t shoot a gun in town!’ She then saw all the holes in the house caused by the buckshot. Billy Bob knew he was in trouble, so ‘fore she could say anything, he said, ‘I had to do somethin’! Look at all the holes the woodpecker has made in the house!’”
I couldn’t help myself, I started laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Tommy, the man behind the counter asked.
Shrugging my shoulders, I responded, “It was a funny story.”
“It was, wasn’t it?” Tommy then looked me over. “You’re not from around here, are ya?”
“I’ve lived all over the country. I moved here about 4 years ago.”
The nearly toothless man mumbled something under his breath about how all these Yankees were ruining things.
“Now, now there Smoky,” Tommy said to the older man. “This fella ain’t done nothin’ wrong.”
Smoky folded his arms and grunted.
“Don’tcha mind him none,” Tommy said. “Ol’ Smoky is holdin’ a grudge over Tobacco Days.”
“Tobacco Days?” I asked.
“See!” Smoky said, flailing his arms in disgust. “He’s not even heard about ‘em!”
Tommy nodded. “Well, why don’t you fill him in?”
I waited a moment while Smoky seemed to size me up. He then said, “Ever since my Grandpappy was knee high to a tree frog, the town celebrated Tobacco Days. We’d hold in the middle of July. Folks from all over would come to town. All the events were down there at the Masonic Temple Racetrack Park. There’d be a rummage sale, a car show, tobacco plant judgin’, and at night, we’d have live music! It was the biggest event of the year. Ya couldn’t go nowhere without someone smiling and wishing you a ‘Happy Tobacco Days!’"
Smoky started into a fit of coughs before he continued. “It was a wonder to see. There was banners hangin’ from every story front. People would decorate their houses. You couldn’t go nowhere without seeing something about Tobacco Days.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“What happened?” Smoky repeated. “Well, whatcha think happened? We started having all sorts of people move in from up north who looked down their noses at us. Lots of them were shop owners and refused to put up signs for Tobacco Days. Over time, people from different counties would stop comin’ because they didn’t feel welcomed no more. It got so bad, if you wished anyone a ‘Happy Tobacco Days!’ they’d give you the stink eye.”
“So, about what, a dozen or so years ago, we stopped having Tobacco Days.” Tommy said.
“And it’s a terrible shame, too!” Smoky said. “Just because some people don’t want to celebrate it, why did they have to ruin it for the rest of us?”
“Mr. Morgan, your car’s done,” said a man wearing a work shirt that was covered in oil and grease. “It passed.”
I paid Tommy for the inspection and went to leave. For the first time, I noticed a small Christmas tree in the corner of the waiting room. After opening the door, I turned back around.
“Merry Christmas everyone!” I said.
Everyone wished me a Merry Christmas in return, including Smoky.
I caught the eye of the nearly toothless man. I said to him, “And in case I don’t see you in July. Happy Tobacco Days!”