There was probably no person in Oglethorpe, Ga., more well known than Grover Hobbs. His constant smile, hearty laugh and storytelling magic were well known back when he was a mere master of the backhoe.
Then came the biscuits.
And Grover, the entrepreneur, made the leap from the ranks of the merely well known to bona fide local legend.
In a land where biscuits and grits power a way of life, Grover was a true power broker through Grover’s Grits, a small but bustling operation in downtown Oglethorpe.
Every morning — except Sundays, of course — there was a small gathering outside Grover’s Grits, housed in a tiny shack next door to his sister’s hair salon. Black and white. Young and old. Men and women. Folks on the go and folks killing time with old stories. Strangers in town and everyday customers from down the street.
It wasn’t so much that the biscuits were hearty — I can verify that just one of Grover’s biscuits could get you all the way from Oglethorpe to Orlando. Nor was it that you could fill up on just a couple of bucks.
It was that man smiling and laughing under that straw hat in the back, the same man who’d been up since the wee hours of the morning on a mission to get a community’s day started on the right foot. It was a labor of love, and you could taste the love in the biscuits.
Few people possess Grover’s self-deprecating charm, a charm that may have been born of necessity with 11 brothers and sisters.
Before I’d tried one of Grover’s biscuits, I had my doubts that such a funny guy could whip up a serious biscuit. While working the backhoe on a project for my dad, Grover touted his breakfast joint. He told me he did it up right, but there was one little problem:
“Sometimes we get the orders a little wrong,” he admitted, still smiling. “But I tell them, ‘Just eat whatever’s in that bag because whatever I put in that bag is good.’ ”
I found that funny but not all that reassuring as a potential customer. The sign where you place your order didn’t reassure me, either: “Order what you want. Eat what you get.” Only Grover could turn such a “problem” into a chuckle.
But one bite and I was hooked, making me one of many. I also found he was stretching the truth a bit (as we Oglethorpe folks are prone to do), for not once did I get a wrong order and have to “eat what you get.”
Grover died unexpectedly on June 5 at the age of 64. He was laid to rest on Monday. It was his second burial. The first one, back in the ’70s, didn’t take. (He was briefly buried in a ditch.)
It was the first time I’d walked into a funeral, saw the deceased and wanted to smile. It’s an involuntary reaction upon seeing Grover. And it’s a hard instinct to suppress, especially through a service with more laughs than tears.
When people recall Grover, forever more, they will picture him with a smile on his face.
If only we could all leave that impression.
ContactChris Johnsonat firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-320-4403.