By Coulter Fussell
I’m doing exactly what Alexe van Beuren wants right now. I’m writing one more article about the B.T.C.! Alexe’s been complaining to me lately that there’s just not enough press about her store.
Of course, I’m kidding. Alexe, whose grocery store is 20 feet from my gallery and whom I talk to no less than 20 million times a day, says quite the opposite. While very grateful for the press she’s received she is very much wanting the story to move on to all the other deserving people that make up Water Valley’s on-going success story. But not quite yet, Alexe. While the national media gets teary-eyed and nostalgic over one version of the Alexe/Dixie phenomenon, I know another version of the Alexe/Dixie phenomenon. How do I know? Because I am in the Water Valley Women’s Margarita Club with them, that’s why. And I shall now tell you what I really know about these two. ( Alexe just read that last sentence and started to sweat. Relax, Alexe. No tequila-tales in the paper …this time.)
The first time I saw Alexe was about 8 years ago. I was behind her at a stop light. She was driving a huge pick-up truck, leaning way over the steering wheel like somebody’s Memaw. There was a homemade bumper sticker on the back of her truck that said “DON’T KILL WHALES! They are beautiful and endangered.” Um…no problem, lady. I’m done killing whales. There is far too much whale-killing happening in Yalobusha County and enough is enough!
I can’t remember the first time I saw Dixie. But I vividly remember the first time I smelled Dixie. There was something permeating through the cinder block wall that separates my studio from the grocery’s kitchen. It was a smell like nothing I’d ever smelled in Water Valley. It didn’t smell like the chicken plant or my boy children or the sewage lagoon or my dog after he swims in the sewage lagoon. It didn’t smell like cigarettes, a bucket of fish, gasoline, pizza sticks, tater tots, cotton defoliant, the fog of church perfume that settles in the Valley on Sunday mornings or my exercise shoes after my run through that fog on Sunday mornings. It smelled like roasting red peppers. That’s it. Just roasting peppers. Dixie had arrived.
About a month into this new partnership Alexe started to refer to Dixie as “The Bear.” If I wanted something special on an order Alexe would sometimes whisper to me, “Please, for the love of God. Don’t poke The Bear.” Then came Lori, Bear-in-Training. She’s basically at Full Bear status by now. And then Kristie, a sarcastic and hard-working girl of many hair colors. And then Danielle who seriously told me one day that The Big Yank Sandwich was named for Alexe “because she’s a Yankee.” And Justin who remains mannerly and mentally intact despite working with all women. And quiet, hometown Cora who I can hear laughing through the cinderblock wall way louder than anyone else. She’s like a hyena. And newly-hired vivacious Rachel. If you don’t know her yet, just wait…you will! And then there’s people who are there so much that I’m not really sure if they work there or not. Like myself and Danny Edwards. Do we work there, Danny? I think we do.
Admittedly, I find Alexe’s relationship with produce disturbing and unnatural ( is ‘sexy’ really an appropriate way to describe lettuce?) But we all have our quirks. And, despite the fact that we will never see a Whale Burger on the menu, I’m very thankful that the endearingly hodge-podge family at the B.T.C. has decided to be quirky here with the rest of us.