Native pens book on pesky boll weevils

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 8, 2012

When those in South Alabama think about the bug that nearly destroyed a way of life in the early 1900s, the words “Thank God for Boll Weevils” generally don’t come to mind; however, those words did inspire an Andalusia native to put pen to paper and create his first novel.

Rhett Barb-aree, now a resident of Clanton, came up with the book’s premise when inspiration struck for a lesson to teach the youth at Talladega Creek Baptist Church.

“While putting the lesson together, I sensed that I needed to write a book with the understanding that this is a story the world needs to know,” Barbaree said. The result was “Thank God for Boll Weevils,” Barbaree’s first novel about “the meanest little bug in America” that invaded and destroyed cotton fields when it reached Southeast Alabama in 1915, and how it impacted the area’s way of life.

Inside its pages, readers will find a blending of history and fiction as they learn not only how the crop-eating insect invaded the area, but also the impact it had on people’s lives. Told from the perspective of Janie Taylor, a character made memorable for her rich wit and humor and strong sense of family, the book is interwoven with factual accounts of George Washington Carver and others who played an important role in combating the bug.

“I had a chance to write about things throughout the novel that I have always been intrigued with,” Barbaree said. “Southern history is one, and then, also biblical imagery and the healing of wounded souls. It was great to be able to get these things across to the reader with both my created and historical characters in the book.”

Barbaree said his favorite part of the book was introducing readers to the rich Southern dialect throughout the novel, as well as putting a twist in the final chapter on how something historically came about.

“I wanted the book to teach but also entertain at the same time,” Barbaree said. “Besides the historical and inspirational content, I peppered it along the way with some humorous anecdotes. It is kind of like good cornbread; if you get all of the ingredients, and don’t over-cook it, there is nothing better.”

Barbaree will hold a book signing on Tues., Dec. 11, from 3 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the Andalusia Public Library. Copies of the book are available at Christian Book and Gift inside Tabby D’s or on