Jason Gallop, standing, shows a group photo to Billy Kirkpatrick from the construction days of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The group of men is meeting at Frisco Park’s pavilion for its afternoon chats on days when weather permits since being displaced from indoor dining venues by the coronavirus pandemic.

AMORY – Most afternoons around 3 o’ clock, a group of retired men gather for coffee and conversation, pandemic or no pandemic. Since coronavirus regulations have forced most fast food restaurant dining rooms to remain closed, the coffee crowd has improvised and found its temporary meeting spot at the Frisco Park pavilion.

After changing locations several times throughout the years, it was anchored at Hardee’s before the pandemic and even absorbed a Smithville coffee crowd years ago displaced by 2011’s EF-5 tornado.

“We don’t take attendance but we miss them if they’re not here,” group member Kermit Nation said of the regulars, as well as irregulars.

He is unofficial custodian of whatever records they keep.

Group members traded tables at Hardee’s for lawn chairs at the pavilion.

“After a while, Van East called me wondering if we could meet at Frisco Park. He was getting cabin fever from the virus. Then, they closed the park, too,” Nation said.

The men, who all pre-date virtual meetings via technology, were happy when the park was opened again for citizens to enjoy.

Changing times have made the meetings a B.Y.O.C. event now, meaning bring your own chair – and coffee, for that matter.

The warmer temperatures have supplanted coffee with cold beverages and even snow cones from nearby Sydney’s Snowflake Snowcones.

Topics of conversation are launched from whatever show-and-tell items are brought along and wander around to subjects such as weather, hobbies, community events and politics, which can result in a few friendly jabs here and there. Comments about spouses at home are rather sparse, for safety’s sake.

Recent summertime weather has been dominated by storms and rainfall, which has either wreaked havoc with gardening or accelerated crop production to record levels. One recent afternoon, the men queried each other to get a consensus of the time of the last major flood. The date they agreed upon was in the early ‘70s.

Lee Miller said unofficial rainfall totals earlier that week exceeding nine inches, depending on whose rain gauge was being monitored.

“Preacher Philip Hathcock brought some mighty fine tomatoes to the Smithville Farmer’s market,” Nation said as part of the small talk on a separate topic.

Conversation at Frisco Park is a challenge, however, with periodic vehicles passing up and down Main Street. Bull horns could help at times to supplement the hearing aids.

A couple of young lads wheeled up on their scooters to check on things one day.

“When you get to be 100 years old, you’ll be sitting around here, too,” said one of the men to the boys.

“Fifty’s more like it,” offered another who didn’t cotton up to exaggeration that much.

Even though the park’s pavilion offers a pleasant place to gather, returning to the closed confines that better provide for creature comforts are no doubt anticipated when the virus is contained, and the season changes.

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