One scene in A Good Man Is Hard to Find turned me into a lifelong Flannery O’Connor fan. The family takes a break from its ill-fated trip to stop at The Tower, a roadside filling station and dance hall run by a fat man named Red Sammy Butts. Once inside, the family orders barbecue sandwiches and the little girl, June Star, starts to tap dance.
"Ain't she cute?" Red Sam's wife said, leaning over the counter. "Would you like to come be my little girl?"
"No I certainly wouldn't," June Star said. "I wouldn't live in a broken-down place like this for a million bucks!" and she ran back to the table.
"Ain't she cute?" the woman repeated, stretching her mouth politely.
"Aren't you ashamed?" hissed the grandmother.
It sounded exactly like my life.
My family always took the back roads on vacations and ended up in dumps like Red Sam’s. Even more familiar, however, was the fact that I was a poorly behaved child and had three generations of Southern women grab my arm and hiss, “Aren’t you ashamed?” as we shopped in stores in midtown or downtown Atlanta.
For many Southerners of a certain age, reading Flannery O’Connor is like reading the family diary. When the grandmother talks about Edgar Atkins Teagarden, a wealthy man who once wooed her, I recalled a virtually identical conversation with my own grandmother in which she said she had been pursued by a man with Coca-Cola stock but settled instead for my grandfather, a sailor with tattoos who got sick after World War I and spent most of his life in a Veterans Administration hospital.
I guess this feeling of kinship with O’Connor is why I like to visit Andalusia Farm, just four miles from my teaching job at Georgia College and why I make a point of taking my students to the farm on field trips. I explain to them this kinship is why I often hiss, “Aren’t you ashamed?” when they forget to turn in their assignments.
- Doug Monroe, a former Atlanta journalist, teaches at Georgia College and lives in Milledgeville. He often volunteers at Andalusia Farm.