Of all of the people I have met working at Cracker Barrel, Darla would have to be the most original and the one most worthy of a blog post. Her tickets simply read “The Darla” where it says the server’s name, and that pretty much sums her up. She’s one of a kind, almost indescribable, but I will do my best.
Imagine a woman in her mid-forties, with somehow Farrah Fawcette-esque short brown hair and bright eyes. Now put her in a Cracker Barrel uniform, apron and all. Spin her around thirty times and throw flour all over her until she’s messier than a kindergartener finger-painting. Add to that Michael Jackson’s signature dance moves, and you have a pretty accurate mental image of what she looks like after a hard day’s work.
This visual image of Darla is amazing enough, and it stunned me to meet someone so unique when I first started working there, but it’s nothing compared to the amazing woman she is on the inside.
A typical Sunday morning, the busiest time of the week, is the only day I get to work with Darla. She usually has around ten tables a morning that request her personally, because her wild personality makes her seem like everyone’s best friend. She’s loud and crazy, and doesn’t really think before she speaks, but even when everyone else is frazzled and stressed, she’s still got an amazing attitude and is still singing. My favorite game on mornings like these is to find different songs I think will sound magnificently better in her loud singing voice. Somehow Darla puts a fantastic spin on CCR, Usher, and Lil Jon, and we had a weekend of only Michael Jackson music (and dancing) right after he died. But my all time favorite Darla cover would have to be Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary.” All I have to do is start the “left a good job in the city…,” and she gives the most entertaining version of the song you’ve ever heard. The “rollin’ on the river” part is always the best, and usually all of the people around her join in because the song is contagious.
For most people, Darla is a happy smiling person 100% of the time. But there have been moments I’ve been able to ask her about her past and how she came to be the person that she is, and it’s due to some choices she made during the lowest part of her life. Her husband Rusty, still the love of her life, passed away from a terminal illness. Within a short time of his death, both of her parents passed away, too. During this horrible time, Darla says, “the devil knocked on my door,” and that’s all she has to say. Pieces start falling together and you realize that she stays so incredibly chipper because she’s already used all of the sadness she was allotted in life. She has reached her limit, and from now on she’ll just keep on “rollin’ down the river,” covered in flour and living her best life, enriching the lives of those lucky enough to meet her.