October 2016
Homeplace & Community

Just Call Him Bubba

Remembering a Local Legend

Bubba Spivey and a buck he killed (1981).

 

His given name was Allen Wood Spivey, but everybody just called him Bubba or Bubber, depending on pronunciation preferences.

If ever there was a living legend in Alabama where Dallas and Lowndes counties meet, it has to be Bubba Spivey because he seemed to roam the region as a Jack of all trades when it came to farming and agriculture.

Many who knew him referred to Bubba as an Alabama version of John Wayne, a giant of a man who, in real life, resembled the mythical Paul Bunyan in the eyes of those who knew him.

Cancer got the Duke at 72, the same age as Bubba whose life ended working on his farm as he graded a road next to his house in the little community of Tyler not far from Selma.

He had planted hundreds of watermelons and was digging a trench to hold water for the melons to grow. That’s where and how he lost his life.

His road grader didn’t have any brakes, but Bubba could maneuver it the way he wanted by using clutch action. He had done it time and again without a problem, except for one disastrous moment.

Sgt. Mark Green of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office said Bubba’s grader was on soft ground atop a hill and it apparently gave way over the cliff area.

"He tried to dismount and, when he did, it apparently got stuck and he ended up underneath the grader," Green explained.

Fatal farm accidents often occur across America, but it was hard for Bubba’s friends to believe his could have died the way he did – a country boy who knew his way around forests, fields and all kinds of complicated equipment.

The accident that claimed his life happened in June 2015. Now, more than a year later, his memory is as strong as ever, evidenced by continued admiration for a man who let his deeds do the talking.

The Rev. Lee Tate delivered one of three sermons during the funeral service for Bubba. It took that many to adequately honor his memory.

Tate, as big and strong as the man he eulogized, said Bubba lived life on his own terms and died doing exactly what he wanted to do.

"To call him ‘stubborn’ would be like calling the Grand Canyon a ‘ditch,’" Tate said.

The pastor compares the end of Bubba’s seven decade journey through life with one of California’s imposing redwood trees – toppled when it didn’t seem possible it could happen.

"He was such a big personality, a force of nature," the preacher said. "When the big oaks fall, they aren’t replaced quickly."

 

Beth and Wood Spivey on top of the dozer with their father Bubba driving (1974).

Those who grew up with Bubba or got to know and respect him still find it difficult to accept the fact that he’s gone. They aren’t alone.

Johnny Traylor of Selma said Bubba was a gentle giant with a heart as big as the outdoors where he loved to work.

Staying inside was, for Bubba, a waste of valuable time because he could be working in the fields or building something.

Van Carter and Bubba bonded from the time they first met in school. They spent much of their time riding horses when they had the opportunity.

Carter recalled the time Judy Spivey wanted her husband to build a place for her to park her car. By the time Bubba finished it, Carter said, "You could have parked four buses under it and still had room for more."

"He was a perfectionist from start to finish," Carter recalled. "His father was a gentleman farmer, but not Bubba. All he cared about was his land and his cattle. He wasn’t really into politics or sports. His way of relaxing was working."

Bubba and daughter Beth always had a special link between them, a silent communication that needed no explanation.

It was rare, indeed, when father had a problem with daughter, but he had a special way of letting her know when he wasn’t pleased. It was all in the eyes.

"He didn’t have to say anything," she said. "All he had to do was give me that look and I knew how he felt."

Bubba went to the Selma Country Club once and wasn’t particularly taken by it. He told friends that he didn’t like the atmosphere and would rather be home working in the fields.

When it came to friendships and relationships, Bubba expected some give and take, but he wasn’t going to forget it if anybody disappointed him or let him down when it counted.

Cousin Steve Spivey said Bubba may have been viewed by some as a bit of an eccentric, but he could keep a grudge for a long time.

"He could be your best friend in the world or not," he said. "One thing he wouldn’t do, though, was take revenge against anyone who might have upset him."

Bubba was cremated. Friends said he let it be known that in the event of his death, he didn’t want to be buried. They said he didn’t want a big fuss made over him.

That’s already happened, beginning with the accident that claimed his life last year. For some, the mourning period may continue for a long time and Tate believes Bubba’s demise isn’t something that will be easily forgotten.

"It has left a big gap for a lot of people and will for a long time to come," said Bubba’s buddy and pastor.

 

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.