The Crooked Tree Cafe
 
The Crooked Tree Cafe was a cozy little restaurant and socialization spot for folks in the  country side. My father being single, spent many nights there  drinking, fellow-shipping with friends, and we would have supper there  as well. These were the days where dad would say “Just put it on the  tab” and would pay once a week on payday. I can remember during the  summers saddling-up Peanut, riding down to Crooked Tree, having lunch  and sharing a mountain dew with my noble stead.  
 Dad loved the  ham-n-cheese hoagie with tater tots and cheese. I would order the  grilled cheese, french fries and a side of pickles. Lilly was an amazing  cook, she had owned the restaurant for 17 years, she helped me learn to  make homemade gravy and other delicious dishes to make for my father  and I. She had horses, a beautiful pond behind the store and we all  attended chapel together on Sundays. Growing up in the rural part of  Mississippi, rope swings, pond swimming, horse back riding, and tree  climbing, were regular play activities. All of which, I would  participate in at Crooked Tree.  
 Lilly had a granddaughter about  my same age, Mandy. Mandy and I would work the restaurant during the  summer months for $5 an hour. In Mississippi, summers are hot,  especially when working in a kitchen, so during our two hour break we  would run down the pier and jump in the pond out back for a swim.  
  Being a frequent flyer at The Crooked Tree Cafe, we were familiar with  all the regulars. I would play games of darts, shoot pool and pick out  songs on the juke box. As a kid, The Crooked Tree was like an adventure  park, just the down home version. I would always love to go visit Lilly,  play and have fun. That’s also how I learned to drive. Since the cafe  was just two and a half miles down the same gravel road we lived on, dad  would have too many drinks and have me drive home.  
 The normal  patrons became our community, our village, our extended family. We would  be invited to Lilly’s Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas events with  her family. We would celebrate along with them on birthdays,  anniversaries and other events. A couple older guys, around my father’s  age would pick the guitar and sing for us. Sometimes on colder nights,  after the kitchen closed, we gather around a campfire out back and  listen to the hum of the outdoors.  
 I can remember numerous nights  spent at The Crooked Tree Cafe. Lilly was as a grandmother to me, as  neither of my grandmothers were able to be fully present in my life. One  was banned from seeing me at age twelve, for sneaking me to see my  mother and the other lived several states away. Although eventually  Lilly had to retire and the cafe closed down, I will always treasure the  memories made.