As is our traveling habit, we loaded the car and headed out at the crack of dawn to put an hour or so behind us before we stopped for breakfast. We took our break at Ward’s in Magee, a small local chain that started in 1978 with a couple of brothers in Hattiesburg. One took the early shift and one the late shift, leading many to believe there was only one owner. Now, the business is a small franchise with several Mississippi locations, but it’s reputation for homestyle cooking and several specialties persists. The façade’s appearance resembles many of the more famous nationwide chains, but we weren’t there long before the “born in the ‘burg” atmosphere kicked in.
Men, that I took to be local regulars, surrounded several tables. As we approached the counter, the cashier asked a friendly question, “Y’all eating with us?” – none of that, “For here or to go?” The atmosphere made it tempting, but we had almost five hundred miles ahead of us.
She brought Al’s milk out first with a concerned, “Check this out and see if it’s good. It’s my last one and supposed to be good a couple of days past the date. If it’s not, I’ll refund your money.”
Two of the regulars came up for their coffee while we waited for our order. One finished off her pot so she turned to make another. The second guy dropped some coins on the counter behind the register and called, “I’ve paid and will wait for the fresh cup.”
“I’ll bring it out,” she said.
Al’s milk was good, our order of country biscuits came, and we were on our way with a pleasant sensation for the beginning of our trek. But next time we’re through Magee at breakfast time, we may allow time to linger with the locals and give a different answer to “Y’all eating with us?”