(Originally posted June 27, 2011)
Living all her life in the small Alabama town of Hanceville, my Granny–Sula Ballard–took great pride in knowing everyone in town. It was a rarity for Granny to not know at least something about most any name you could throw at her. Granny could also recite the family lineage of most any citizen of the town, both paternal and maternal, at least two generations back, with side notes of any scandal or ancestor of note surrounding the family name in question.
Eighty-five years spent in the rural hamlet of Hanceville had given Granny not only a sense of familiarity with local townsfolk, but also a sense of entitlement since my Grandfather served as Mayor of Hanceville for 16 years. Everyone knew Sula Ballard, and if you happened to be new in town, it wouldn’t be long before you at least heard about her. Her personality was in many ways larger than life. Outspoken? You better believe it. Gregarious? You can’t imagine how much! It was fun to see her enjoy life in “her” town so much! However, there were times when a bit of temperance was needed in regard to Granny’s entitlement to the towns services for its citizens. Allow me to explain…
After leaving Hanceville to go away to college, I would make regular phone calls to Granny to keep up to date on all the goings-on about town. If there was a scoop to be had, Granny would know! One particular Thursday morning, I called Granny to get myself up-to-snuff on the Hanceville latest. Perhaps Aunt Addie was found unattended yet again, wandering the dish towel aisle at Wal-Mart. Aunt Maybelle might have had coaxed Uncle Howard out in the cemetery one more time with his trusty tape measure. Under the cloak of darkness, Aunt Maybelle and Uncle Howard made careful measurements of each tombstone to assure that the one marking their future resting spot would be the largest on the cemetery grounds. (Tacky!! So says Granny…) There was no telling what family or neighborhood bit-o-tid Granny would relay to me each week!
“Hey Granny! What’s been going on with you since we talked last?” I said. In a most serious tone, she replied, “Well, let me tell you…for the past several days I’d been working so hard on my Bible lesson for last night’s Bible class. I’d filled out every question, and I was so proud of myself for getting it all finished before class time! Then, when it was time to go to church, Maybelle of all people called, and you KNOW how she just won’t hush when you have to be somewhere, so I finally just told her, ‘Maybelle, I’m going to be late to church, I’ve got to go!’ and I hung up on her! So I grabbed my lesson book and Bible and rushed out to get in the car. Then when I tried to crank it, not a sound!!”
“Lord have mercy! I was already running late, my Bible lesson was ready, and the car won’t start! So I hopped out and dashed back in the house and dialed 911. I told the girl to send one of the boys over to pick me up and take me to church. My Bible lesson is ready and I’m already running late! Tell him to hurry!”
“Whoa!! Granny! You can’t call 911 to get a Policemen to take you to church!” I chastised and told her that 911 was to be used ONLY in an emergency. Granny snipped back, “It was an emergency! I had to get to church and my car wouldn’t start!” “Well, did ‘one of the boys’ come get you?” I asked. “Of course. It wasn’t 5 minutes until Homer Shadinger pulled up the driveway and I hopped in the squad car. I told Homer he better floor it cause I was already late!” “Did he turn on the flashing lights?” I inquired. “No!” Granny said, “that would have been a bit much…”
“But here is the troubling part,” Granny added in a hushed tone. “When I called 911, there was a new girl on the line and I did not know her, or her family! She asked me what was my address. ‘What do you mean ‘what is my address’? The last time I called you knew what my address was!”
“Whoa, hold the phone, Granny” I yelped! “The LAST TIME you called?? How often are you calling 911??”
Granny staunchly replied, “Well, last Friday night I knew it was about time for the high school football game to be over, and since the boys were always over at the stadium, I called 911 and told them to radio over to one of the boys and find out who won the ballgame.”
Visions of my Granny being cited for frivolous usage of the emergency 911 service were twirling through my head…
“…and last summer after your Aunt Connie had that dadblasted new central air-conditioning put in, I called 911 late one night and told them to send one of the boys over and turn that damn thing off! I was about to freeze to death!!” Granny added.
“Oh, Granny…you can’t call 911 for things that aren’t emergencies!” I said. “It WAS and emergency!” she said. “I was about to freeze to death, and surely would have if one of the boys hadn’t come over and shut that thing off!”
So, a belated ‘Thank You’ I extend to the Hanceville Police Department for not giving my sweet Granny a ticket…or tickets…for dialing 911 whenever the whim hit. She was a character, the likes of which I dare say Hanceville will not see again!