The Disappearing Footlong Hot Dog

It's hard to find a great footlong hot dog in every Southern town, writer Rick Bragg explains. And this is what he believes is "what's wrong with America."


Hi, I'm Rick Bragg and I'm a writer depending on who you ask, least my momma thinks so. I think if I had to cite one thing as the decline of our civilization it would be the fact that you can no longer get a really, really fine foot long hot dog. Everywhere in every little town in the deep South. The gold standard for foot long's was set by a man in Jacksonville Alabama named Pee Wee Johnson. Who had the most magnificent waxed handle bar moustache I've ever seen. And Pee Wee's daddy actually created the magic in the foot long with the, this thin spicy chili. And, that's about mostly what they sold. You would show up, and they would take a, a, one of those unnaturally red, foot long hot dogs and they would ladle on that chili and yellow mustard and raw onion. And that was it. They'd wrap the whole thing up in this wax paper to where it kinda would just weeped into the paper. And it would get, oh. They'd bring it out the car. It was always a 1963 Biscayne. Or a 1974 Monte Carlo, or a lime green Nova. And they would, my aunts and my mother would bring them out and it was just torture until we could finally get to a place to eat' em. And I, I really do think that's what's wrong with, with, with, with America is we just don't have a good foot-long in every little town anymore. I was at a book signing in my home county and Peewee's daughters came and brought an honest to God, foot long, ready to go and and a, and a quart jar of the famous chili. Same recipe. Years and years and years, decades after Pee Wee had shut down his place. And you know, you get a lot of things at book signings. You, you get some very nice letters, you, you, you get some quilts. You get some you get some pottery. You get some hats. You know, you, you, you get lots of doilies but it, it's magical when someone brings you a foot-long.
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