Two Southern ladies are priceless

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 26, 2006

The dingy white paint is steadily peeling off the sides of the little wooden home that sits on a side street in downtown LaFayette, Ala. Vines are growing up the sides and the front of the little house, and weeds and tall grass have taken over where beautiful hydrangeas and roses use to bloom. The house now sits empty.

Mrs. Mary Fannie Hinkle was one of the most entertaining and inspirational southern ladies one could ever meet. At 92, she would greet you at the front door with a smile and a twinkle in her eyes that said how truly glad she was to see you.

With her curly, gray hair always pulled back in a tight bun and her flowery housedresses, she always welcomed company.

Her extraordinary life included a return to college after she turned 40. She became an elementary school teacher and loved every minute of it. She had even once dated Charles Lindbergh when she was a teenager in the 1920s. She was honest and open about everything.

&#8220My husband hit me one time,” she once told me. &#8220He never did it again because I told him if he did, I'd kill him.”

One of Mary Fannie's best friends was her housekeeper, Mrs. Dorothy Copeland, who, at that time, was 85 years young herself. They had been together for over 50 years and had the kind of relationship where one could say anything to the other without repercussions, or where nothing needed to be said at all.

On any visit, whether expected or not, I could plan to be besieged with hot homemade biscuits and fresh, homemade pepper jelly, fried chicken, turnip greens with hot sauce, black-eyed peas and hot cornbread.

That home was a true haven from the outside world.

The house was always hot in the summertime, with the oscillating fans only pretending to bring any relief from the heat. In the winter, the little gas heater was always lit with the open coffee can filled with water sitting on top of it.

In front of the heater, Mary Fannie kept a wooden cat figurine that had a smiling, contented look on its face. She knew how much I loved that wooden cat.

You never knew what might come out of her mouth at any given moment. On one occasion, somehow or another the subject of menopause and &#8220the change of life” got brought up.

After much laughter, Mary Fannie was asked about her &#8220personal” experiences with the &#8220change of life.”

&#8220Oh, for me, it was over in about 30 minutes,” she said with a serious expression.

&#8220Mrs. Mary Fannie, you shouldn't have said that,” Dorothy scolded.

It was priceless.

Her walls were covered with old pictures, pictures of family members everywhere. In fact, Mary Fannie's home and some of her pictures, including a picture of her mother, can be seen in the movie &#8220Mississippi Burning,” because they did a lot of the filming of the movie in LaFayette.

Today, both southern ladies are gone, and the house sits quiet and still.

Every time I look at that wooden cat figurine, which now sits in my living room, I think of Mary Fannie and Dorothy, and I smile.

Regina Grayson is managing editor of The Luverne Journal. She can be reached at 335-3541 or by email,: