The Life and Times of J Robert Smith: Prologue
I’ve thought about blogging J Robert stories for a few years now… but the thought has honestly overwhelmed me. It’s such a sacred thing. His life is a tapestry of adventure, loss, love, family, bullies, friends, and it’s woven together with lots of prayin’ and a little bit of drinkin’. He has been knocked in the head, robbed, stranded, and made fun of, but even more than that he has been loved, and taken care of, and secure and taken up for. So where do I even start? I’m going to start with the town…his town…the beautiful and blessed Dallas Georgia. That is the foundation. It makes my butt draw up when I post things on Facebook about J and people say, “oh you are so good to him” or “what would he do without you?” Um no. There is a pile up a mile of good folks that love J as family, right up to the the Mayor himself, everyone looks after him….or maybe it’s actually J looking after us….either way, nowadays J is only in Dallas for the weekends. His sweet niece Kelly looks after him during the week. She is the real unsung hero. She gets the 24/7 show and has to talk him into taking a bath!! But come Friday, he is homeward bound, and Dallas, keeps her watchful eye out, knowing he will be hitting the streets and making his rounds.
He makes his first showing at Henderson Collision, where he will catch up on the latest, most ground breaking news. Then, he will mosey his way across the street to The Been. There he will do a little shopping, but always, always for others. J Robert loves to give gifts. One of my favorite J quotes is when he gives someone a present he will say “the Lord is gonna bless me for giving you this, and it didn’t cost me a thing.”
At Joan’s he will have toast and a big ole glass of buttermilk, then he goes to Davis and Company Hair Designers. He has to deliver the information he got from Henderson Collision, don’t you know. He will have some crackers, Coke, and gossip. Then, he will have a haircut, shave, and a half bottle of Old Spice. (But let me say, nobody shaves J like Tina from the Antique Store. And it’s no wonder. She’s had decades of experience!) After getting his “whiskers” cut, he is shining like a new penny and busts into Sal’s Pizza to fill the room with the smell of Old Spice and to socialize with the good folks there. From Sal’s he heads over to the package store. Not to get him a snoot full mind you, because he give up drinking years ago, but to sit and talk with his buddies and have a bag of popcorn. Now, you need to keep in mind, in these travels he just may haul off and sing you a song, especially if it is your birthday. Usually they are seasonally appropriate songs but there have been occasions that he has entertained us with Blue Christmas and Peter Cottontail both. When he is feeling extra good he does medleys. I’ll tell you this though, you won’t ever hear nothing sweeter than him singing Jesus Loves Me.
You wouldn’t believe J’s memory. It’s better than mine! He doesn’t forget people, birthdays, or anniversaries of any kind, even the dates of people’s funeral. He will go to Browse a Bit for a grave site arrangements and Curls pharmacy for birthday cards. (The sweet folks at Curl’s will write in the cards for him.) He will make these deliveries accordingly. So the next time you see him cruising along with a cemetery arrangement on his walker, you’ll know why. Either it’s for somebody dead, or for one of the pretty girls at The Hickory Hut.
There’s always a visit to The Dallas New Era. Anytime he is feeling especially blessed by the kindness of others, which is practically every Friday, he has those sweet folks do a write up in the paper thanking others for the kind things they have done for him, or he may just want to let everyone know he had a good time at the Rome Braves game with the First Baptist Church Sunday school class. Whatever is on his heart, the sweet folks at The Dallas New Era kindly oblige and do him up a little write up in the paper. If you don’t believe me, look in the newspaper for yourself.
Now in Dallas, we take our barbecue serious, and everybody here knows that Hickory Hut is our Holy Grail of food. If you’re thinking of opening a restaurant, don’t open a barbecue one. We have that covered thank you very much. It’s Hickory Hut or die. I seriously believe J Robert has Hickory Hut and hot sauce coursing through his veins. That man is 77 (78 in August) and walks 10 miles a day, so you can’t tell me Hickory Hut ain’t good for you. They treat him like a king. All that joker has to do is walk through the front door and head to his personal seat and those sweet folks fix his favorite, loaded down with hot sauce, and bring it right to him. I believe with my whole heart when we get to heaven we will feast on our favorite at the marriage supper, and I have no doubt sitting in front of J Robert Smith will be a hotdog and Brunswick stew loaded down with Red Rooster, straight from the Hickory Hut. It does my heart good to think of that, and to think he will have a full set of teeth to eat it with is just an added heavenly bonus.
I ain’t even begin to scratch the surface of all the people…I mean I haven’t even mentioned the families and individuals that love him and are always there for him, but I hope I have been able to give you a small glimpse of the overwhelming beauty of it all. People just don’t talk enough about good stuff nowadays, and there is still plenty of good stuff to be had. I promise. All these stories…they are real and they are good stuff.
So what do I do? Not much. I’m just the story teller. Oh, and the one who introduced him to the awesomeness of Facebook, which might I add, he loves. Every picture I take of him he says, “put that on Facebook, and tag Boyd Austin.” He is all about my telling his stories on Facebook, but I will never be able to do them justice, but y’all just bare with me, and I’ll do the best I can. I think you will love his stories never the less.
I’m gonna tell y’all my very favorite story first. It’s the one about the train car, and y’all, every word of it is true.