Over the break from school, we made a trip down to Ardmore, Oklahoma to visit my dad’s twin brother’s widow who was in the hospital there. She looks good and has her good mind and has reached the age where people say this about her a lot.
Anyway, we visited with her and then headed back toward El Norte. Just a bit after noon, we had made our way to the intersection of US 377 and IH 40 where one of my favorite restaurants sets on the southeast corner: The Catfish Roundup. I’d driven past it for twenty years before someone told me it served things besides catfish — chicken fried steak to name one thing — which made it a possibility.
It has a pretty distinctive logo. There is a leaping catfish over a sign that reads “Roundup.”
I had no more than pulled into the parking lot before I saw a cherry-sucker red Toyota pickup and getting out of it my dear Aunt Vidalia and her longtime companion, Bum.
Bum and I shook hands and then the rest of us all hugged each other’s necks which is what the natives do when they greet in Oklahoma. We then marvelled at our luck at meeting them. We told them what we had been doing and they said they were on their way up to the Sac & Fox Casino in Stroud, Oklahoma. (The good roads in Oklahoma exist to take you from from casino to casino. Maybe they will improve HW 69 to Pittsburg when they finish the casino south of town.)
Even though it was getting on towards 1pm, there was still a short line waiting to get seated. In front of us in the line were a young mom, her mother, and the young mom’s baby girl. The mom and grandma were dressed modestly in every sense that word can be used, but the baby girl, still in her mother’s arms, was resplendent with a gorgeous pink bow strapped to her almost hairless head.
She was a smart, happy little thing, looking around at the world and everything in it. She examined the faces of we who were in line behind her, and she smiled. She smiled big at each of us, but reserved her biggest for my Aunt Vidalia.
Vidalia smiled back and gave a quiet wave, showing off her cherry-sucker-red fingernails.
The baby and her party were seated in the center of the restaurant and we were seated on the west side of the restaurant with a great view of US 377.
There we talked some more about what we had been doing. Jean and I told them we had been to visit my other aunt.
“She looks really good and she still has her good mind,” I said.
“Well,” Vidalia replied with a grin, “no one has ever said that about me.”
We all laughed. Then the waitress came and took our orders. Everybody got the catfish but me and I got the chicken fried steak. I wasn’t as big as the ones at Jim’s or Big R’s, but it was still enough. Before the entrees arrived, the waitress brought around complimentary apple fritters for all.
As the meal proceeded, I saw Aunt Vidalia glancing over at the table with the baby girl and her mom and grandma. Then I saw a little smile go across her face. The next time the waitress came by, she stopped her, and — uncharacteristically for her — talked low so even we at the table could barely hear.
“When you bring me my check,” Vidalia said, “add the bill for the table with the baby girl to it too.”
The waitress said she would. She then brought us all our checks, and we paid them at the register on the way out.
Vidalia looked back at the three generations of women, the newest one with her bold pink bow, and smiled.
— Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like” the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook.