Fans of storyteller-humorist Lauretta Hannon know her as the Cracker Queen. We’re calling her the funniest woman in Georgia. She published a new memoir this year and counts NPR’s All Things Considered a friend. Now, Lauretta’s traveling the South telling her tales about the best BLT she’s ever had, why women need to calm down, and how bugs can cure Georgia’s woes. And lucky for us, Lauretta's kindly sent us an excerpt. Read on.
MAMA AND THE CHAIN GANG
There wasn’t much to do in
During my preschool days, we tooled around in the butter-colored Cadillac, which was stocked with vodka and orange juice. I sat on the armrest in the front seat, biting at the air rushing from the vents. This was before child seats and air bags, but I had the ultimate protection: the Mama Arm of Steel. At the slightest tap of the brake, her arm would nail me against the seat.
Our greatest adventures involved chain gangs, crews of convicts working by the road. We never slipped anyone a shank in a homemade cake or provided a getaway car, but what we did do was just as thrilling.
When we’d happen upon these crews, we’d rush to the nearest convenience store and buy cartons of cigarettes for ’em. We might have been broke, but Mama was never cheap. She bought the best brands: Marlboros, Kents, and Winstons.
My job was to break up the cartons so that we could hurl the packs out the window. Timing was crucial, as the men had to snatch the cigarettes before the boss man, and his shotgun, could intervene. Not once did we ride by without doing something: Our mission was too important, and way too fun.
The excitement never faded. We didn’t know when or where we’d come upon a chain gang, so it was always a surprise and a call to action—regardless of where we were going or what our plans might have been.
Mama would floor it once we were sure contact had been made. I’d leap over the front seat and press my face against the back window. I loved watching the prisoners smile and hoist the packs high above their heads as we fled in a cloud of red dust. Sometimes one of the men cried, but I knew he wasn’t sad.
As a four-year-old, I saw the radical happiness I had caused. For the first time, I became aware of my own power—and it felt damn good.
I savored the view long into the distance. Once they were out of sight, I’d stretch across the backseat and picture them in my head—the men in stripes, with their wide grins and salty tears.
We chatted with Lauretta and (between laughs) jotted down a few of our questions and her hilarious answers. This gal is a trip.
What three words best describe you?
Exuberant, funny, human-chihuahua.
Who is your favorite person?
My dog Boots.
Who's the funniest person alive?
Mama. She posts original sayings on her fridge. My favorite: "Money isn't everything, but it sure quiets the nerves."
Why do you love living where you do?
Because that's where my man is. I also have a great front porch.
What about men drives you crazy?
Everything about men drives me crazy – in a good way. I had a fantastic relationship with my Daddy.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
I'd rid the world of polyester, bad jazz, and cornbread made with sugar.
What is your perfect meal?
This sounds like a death row inmate's last request: homemade potato chips from the old Crystal Beer Parlor in Savannah; a BLT from Nu-Way in Macon; and sweet tea and lemon icebox pie from the Silver Skillet in Atlanta.
What's your strangest childhood memory?
It's a tie between buying boiled peanuts from a leper and meeting my Uncle Buddy on the chain gang.
What about men drives you crazy?
Everything about men drives me crazy–in a good way. I had a fantastic relationship with my Daddy.
What about women drives you crazy?
Our obsessions with things that don't matter.
Does humor ever get you out of trouble?
Always. A sense of humor saves me every time.
What would you change about your home state?
More lightning bugs, less
A darkly comic novel set in the place that fuels my imagination most: Middle Georgia.
BUY THE BOOK HERE.