Remember when the Boll Weevil Monument saved Christmas? | Mark Hinson

Don’t tell anyone, but I used to dread the holiday season.

The trouble started Christmas morning when I was 5. One of my three older brothers was putting together his new Lionel train tracks on the living-room floor and I wanted to assist. He got tired of my less-than-helpful help and attempted to nail my left hand to the floor using the pointed, needle-like connector of a toy train track.

I pulled back and he spiked my middle finger, instead. When my parents took off the bandage the next day, my finger throbbed with gangrene. They took me to the hospital where a surgeon cut my digit in half. The amputation left me with an unorthodox typing style and one weird way to flip someone off. Merry Christmas, kid. Enjoy the nub.

The holiday season didn’t get much better. John Milton got cast as Santa Claus in the kindergarten play while I was stuck performing the role of Joseph, despite my soaring body temperature and flu-like symptoms. John got all the kudos for his cute red suit while my green-faced Joseph nearly puked in the manger.

When I was in the first grade, I left ears of corn for Santa’s reindeer. My brothers laughed and told me about the whole Claus con. They wanted to sleep late on Dec. 25. I wondered what kind of cruel world would dream up such an elaborate ruse. Ho, ho, hell.

Holiday hopes run low

My long list of yuletide blunders include: a “liberated” Christmas tree chopped down on a golf course, a gift of a biting Shetland pony who wanted to clothesline any rider and a Christmas trip when my mother went all Rain Man by listing the wintertime takeoff crashes to a rattled cabin crew during takeoff. Who can forget the Christmas season when the man seated across from our table in a seafood restaurant had a lethal heat attack and went face down in his flounder? I did get to use the line during my food order, “I won’t have what he was having.”

No wonder I didn’t get my holiday hopes very high when my family showed up in L.A. (that’s Lower Alabama to the non-Southerners) for a Christmas party. My sister-in-law, Mary, was the designated driver and I brought along two bottles of wine because, well, I am picky about vino. I figured I would add it to the bar in case someone wanted to try my stash.

As it turns out, our host did not stock any hooch, vino or beer. My two bottles of wine were quickly gulped down by a thirsty mob. So much for Christmas cheer. I’m not saying you must have adult beverages to have fun during the most festive time of the year, but it certainly helps. We left early. Another Christmas-time disappointment added to the pile.

With Mary at the wheel, my traveling party included wife, Amy; nephew, Michael; niece, Melissa, and her soon-to-be-betrothed, Scotty.

Boll Weevil monument in Enterprise, Alabama
Boll Weevil monument in Enterprise, Alabama

“Aren’t we close to Enterprise?” Scotty asked. “You know, I have always wanted to see the Boll Weevil Monument.”

The Christmas weevil

We were off to see the weevil.

Boll weevils arrived during 1915 in Enterprise and quickly devoured the cash crop. Say so long to the cotton fields. The economy teetered on collapse. Everyone thought the end had arrived until an in-debt farmer planted peanuts and paid off the bank. Other farmers quickly followed. The Boll Weevil Monument was erected in 1919 as an ironic salute to the pest that made planters change their ways. Just think, there would be no National Peanut Festival in L.A. without that destructive little bug.

Just before we reached Enterprise, we were met with a bright glow coming from a wooded trailer park on the outskirts of town. Either some Alabamans were reenacting the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash, or someone got hit hard over the head by the Christmas spirit. Mary turned into the trailer park and followed the procession of cars filled with other gawkers.

Every object in the trailer park had been covered in electric lights: the tree trunks, the limbs, the bushes, the mailboxes, the carports, the doublewides, the trash cans, you name it. There were lighted effigies of Santas, elves, reindeer, candy canes, snowmen and nativity scenes everywhere I looked. The park was so plastered in holiday cheer, I am surprised someone didn’t hold down a raccoon and slap a red bow on its head. It became impossible not to smile. Everyone’s mood in the van lifted.

Wonder and the weevil

By the time we reached the Boll Weevil Monument in the center of downtown Enterprise, we were feeling downright festive. The statue only added to the wonder and the majesty. Standing nearly 14 feet tall, the tribute featured a classical Grecian-style woman standing on a pedestal and holding a trophy above her head.

The trophy, sort of an elaborate tray, displayed a giant, cotton-munching pest, which is in the beetle family. Talk about making chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what. If the city council marketed a lawn sprinkler version of the Boll Weevil Monument, with water shooting out of the bug’s snoot, I’d buy it.

In the summer of 1998, two Enterprise teens literally ripped off the bug dish – as well as part of the statue’s arms. The severed insect, hands and fingers were later unearthed in a shallow grave at a local country club. Alas, the Boll Weevil Monument had undergone irreplaceable damage. A polymer-resin replica of Venus de Weevil was installed, along with security cameras. Moral of the story: Don’t do evil to the weevil.

After we took photos in front of the landmark, Mary drove us to a strip mall in nearby Dothan where we bought a dozen donuts, a bottle opener and a case of cold Heineken. As Mary drove us back to Florida, I ate a jelly donut and washed it down with beer.

For the first time in a long time, it felt like Christmas.

Former Arts and Entertainment Editor Mark Hinson opens gifts from his colleagues on his last day of work at the Tallahassee Democrat Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019.
Former Arts and Entertainment Editor Mark Hinson opens gifts from his colleagues on his last day of work at the Tallahassee Democrat Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019.

Mark Hinson is a former senior reporter at The Tallahassee Democrat. His email is    

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: How the Boll Weevil Monument saved Christmas | Mark Hinson