Local author writes about boll weevil

Published 4:22 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Rhett Barbaree's novel, "Thank God for Boll Weevils" conveys a history of the boll weevil's destruction as well as paints a vivid picture of what living in the South would have been like during that era.

When author and Clanton resident Rhett Barbaree lacked inspiration for a lesson to teach youth at Talladega Creek Baptist Church, he knew he needed to tell the story of the boll weevil.

“I prayed and asked the Lord to guide me on something to teach and he impressed on me to tell the story of the boll weevil which was the farthest thing from my mind,” Barbaree said. “Then, while putting the lesson together I sensed that I needed to write a book with the understanding that this is a story the world needs to know.”

This was the beginning inspiration for “Thank God for Boll Weevils,” Barbaree’s first novel depicting “the meanest little bug in America” that invaded and destroyed cotton fields and reached southeast Alabama in 1915. The book also gives factual accounts of George Washington Carver and others, who played an important role when faced with the invasion of the crop-eating insect in the early 1900s.

Barbaree’s novel conveys a history of the boll weevil’s destruction as well as paints a vivid picture of what living in the South would have been like during that era.

“I had a chance to write about things throughout the novel that I have always been intrigued with,” Barbaree said. “Southern history is one and then also biblical imagery and the healing of wounded souls. It was great to be able to get these things across to the reader with both my created and historical characters in the book.”

Barbaree said his favorite part of the book was getting to use Southern dialect throughout the novel as well as putting a twist in the final chapter on how something historically came about.

“I wanted the book to teach but also entertain at the same time,” Barbaree said. “Besides the historical and inspirational content, I peppered it along the way with some humorous anecdotes. It is kind of like good cornbread; if you get all of the ingredients and don’t over-cook it, there is nothing better.”

Barbaree said his two favorite characters in the book include the main character Janie due to her weaving the story and the characters together, and George Washington Carver, who is one of Barbaree’s heroes.

Barbaree also points out the more serious side to the novel with a blessing in disguise of the people of Enterprise erecting a monument in 1919 to the insect in appreciation for the changes the boll weevil made to their approach in agriculture.

The monument still stands in Enterprise and is the world’s only monument built to honor an agricultural pest.