Peanuts and a bottle

[T]here are some things about the South which are strange to people who aren’t accustomed to them. I’ve noticed this on occasion through the years.

One such occasion happened some time ago, when I returned to work after a short trip to Rite Aid.

I sat a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola Classic and two tube-shaped bags of salted peanuts on my desk.

Rather than risk pouring the peanuts onto the office floor, where they would have been lost forever, I asked a coworker to pour them into the bottle.

She said something like, “EWW! REALLY?”

I just sighed.

If you’re one of those people, let me just tell you something right now.

I feel sorry for you.

I won’t try to change your mind about the delectable deliciousness which is salted peanuts in a bottle of Coke.

Instead, I’ll tell you a story.

First, a little background to help set the scene.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the more pungent aspects of agriculture, animals poop.

They poop a lot, in fact, and it turns out their poop is profitable.

Farmers spread it on their fields as fertilizer.

It’s a pretty smelly part of the circle of life.

We sell tons of it by the truckload after it’s cleaned out of our chicken houses when each batch of chickens leaves our farm.

When I was a boy, we also spread it on some farmers’ fields for them.

We had some pretty big trucks equipped with spreaders to do the job.

Daddy would take off toward a field in one of the trucks with a load of what’s politely called chicken litter. I rode with him whenever I could.

Sometimes, on the way to one of the fields, we’d stop at Gladstone’s.

Daddy went in the store and came back in a few minutes with two bottles of Coke and some salted peanuts.

If prepared properly, those are the ingredients for a Dixie delicacy.

You can’t just open the bottle, pour in the peanuts and drink, though.

No, sir.

There are proper steps to best enjoy your bottle of Coke and peanuts, and in the cabs of those spreader trucks I learned my Daddy had the steps down to a science.

First, Daddy said, open the bottle and drink the Coke down to the top of the label.

This step used to be one of the most important because if you didn’t drink enough Coke before you poured peanuts in, the whole bag of peanuts wouldn’t fit into the bottle. This was unacceptable.

These days, neither the Coke bottle nor the bag of peanuts are ever filled to the top anymore so this step has become less important.

I blame progress.

Next, make a funnel with one hand. Put it over the mouth of the bottle and pour the peanuts in through your hand so as not to lose any.

My left hand doesn’t work quite right thanks to cerebral palsy so sometimes I don’t fare too well with this part, which is why I opted not to pour peanuts all over the office floor.

Once the peanuts are in the bottle and the resulting fizzy bubbles subside, you are ready to enjoy one of life’s great joys.

Sean Dietrich, who writes a great daily column on his Sean of the South website, called it “the poor man’s lunchbox.”

I’ve never heard a better description, because one cheap, peanut-filled bottle of Coke quenches both hunger and thirst.

Loads of litter are easier to spread when you’re not hungry and thirsty.

Sometimes, once we were safely in the field, Daddy let me drive.

I got to guide those stick-shift spreaders up and down rows until the load of litter — which looked like a big, brown cloud in the rear-view mirrors — was gone.

Those were great days for a growing boy, and they gave me great memories.

I still love to pour peanuts in a bottle.

I bet you would, too.

Maybe you’re having a bad day. Maybe you’ve had a string of them. Maybe you can’t see the sun for the clouds in your life.

Get a Coke. Open the bottle, pour in some peanuts and think about some good times.

I bet it won’t be long until those clouds are in the rear-view mirror.

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