When you move to a new place, you usually start asking your neighbors, “where’s the grocery store, who can I get to cut my hair, where do you go to get your car fixed?” Naturally, we did the same when we became residents of WearsValley.
I was especially interested in who would repair our cars. My daddy and six brothers were all mechanics. My daddy’s shop, “The West End Garage”, always had the smell of grease, several men hanging around, and yes, there really were large old oak “shade trees.” Leon Thompson (“shade tree mechanic”) was also know around Ruleville, Mississippi, as the best mechanic.
Darryl Huskey recommended a mechanic to me one day, and I went to him have some work done on my car. OMG! “Johnny’s Garage” reminded me so much of my daddy’s shop (also located in the yard of our home). I walked into Johnny’s, sat down and smelled the grease (smells better than freshly baked bread to me!), and relished in the fond memories this shop brought back to me (Daddy’s shop had a 6 cent Coke Machine, though).
Johnny Mills, in his usual friendly way, asked me where I was from. I told him we had moved here from Jacksonville, Florida, but that David and I had met and married in Washington, DC. Before my move to Washington, however, I had grown up in Mississippi.
That piqued Johnny’s interest. He turned around, and asked, “Where in Mississippi?
Now Ruleville, Mississippi, is about like Wears Valley, Tennessee. With that in mind, when someone asks you where you are from, you will usually say, “Near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.” So I answered his question, “Near Cleveland and Greenville, south of Memphis.”
This reply had Johnny put his wrench down and come over and look at me eyeball to eyeball. His next question was, “Where near Cleveland?” and I answered, “Ruleville.”
At that time, Johnny started the next and most important round of questions: “Who’s your daddy? Where’d you go to school? Do you know the Billups Service Station?”
It turns out Johnny and I grew up just a few miles from one another. He worked at the Billups Station through our high school years (BTW, gas was 29 cents a gallon then). The man who ran the Billups station had kids who were in school with me. It is indeed a small world.
Johnny and Peggy Mills are some of my very best all-time friends. Johnny is not only my mechanic, but he and Peggy are “family.” Johnny is just like my six “Bubba” brothers who are scattered all over the Southeast.
He may also the BEST mechanic in SevierCounty…and maybe all of Tennessee! As for Mississippi, my “Bubba” brothers would probably argue with that.