Wade Jones lives near Alexander City in a tiny area called Our Town, Alabama.
“Our Town is in a curve on Highway 63, and that’s it,” Jones said Saturday at Bass Pro Shop in Leeds.
In case you don’t know, or haven’t heard, Jones was the winner of CMT’s “Redneck Island” and a $100,000 prize. He and eight other cast members appeared at Bass Pro in Leeds last week, to sign autographs.
Jones beat 13 other competitors to take home the top prize. He was the oldest cast member at age 41.
“When I first signed up, it was a joke because I had never heard of the show,” Jones said. “Then when I got through all the hoops to actually be on the show, I realized I had the wrong game plan. I then wanted to compete against the very best.”
As the oldest, Jones became known as “Paw Paw” on the show.
“Kelly is the one who started calling me that.” Jones said. “I found myself trying to be a friend to all of them. Heather and I had some great conversations.
“Once I got going, I wanted to prove something to myself, seeing I was 10 years older than the others.”
Jones’ story goes back to age 11, working in his dad’s convenience store.
“I loved working in his store,” Jones recalled. “When I got old enough to look for a job, I put on the coat and tie and worked at a bank for seven years. I soon found out that was not for me, so I eventually bought the family business from my dad.”
Jones said things went great until the economy fell, and the housing industry dropped off.
“The busiest traffic into my convenience store was construction workers,” Jones said. “I lost nine years of savings, and was then forced to sell the family business. That was hard.”
Jones said winning the $100,000 would pay off his debt, and help put his son and daughter through college.
“I put myself in a zone, focused and tuned everything out,” Jones said. “It was a blessing to win the $100,000.
“I felt I did my best, and my best came through. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to stay away from the drama and stay true to my word.”
Jones developed a close bond with Justin, Darren and Joe on the show.
“Eliza was the devil on the show,” Jones said. “She played the mental side of the game better than anyone. I wanted her off that island.”
The host of “Redneck Island” was former WWE wrestling superstar Steve Austin. Jones said he grew up watching wrestling and Austin.
“Meeting him was awesome,” Jones said. “He’s a normal guy who loves to hunt and fish. But he is a mountain of a man. I am 6-2 and weigh 256 pounds, and I was looking up to him.”
One of Jones’ closest friends on the show was Ragland native Justin Campbell. At the final competition, it came down to Jones and Campbell.
“If I could not win, I wanted Justin to win,” Jones said.
Campbell felt the same.
“I’m so proud for Wade,” Campbell said. “If I could not win, I was glad Wade did. It was an experience of a lifetime for me.”
Jones will now head back to the curve on Highway 63 known as Our Town. He also knows he is the biggest redneck in that town — a title he is proud of, and a title that made him $100,000 richer.