Navigating The South-Personal History Counts
The cultural differences between far North frontier country and Southern deep roots would throw anybody into shock.
The precipitator of this condition of shock may lie in the fact that many in the North tend to categorize the South. Some dismiss those of the South as the eccentric cousins who aren’t discussed in polite society all that often. After all, they say, Southerners are the ones who brought about that wicked Civil War and all, don’t you know.
Believe it or not, there are those that still think that way. Aside from that, according to others, Southerners are known to be just a hair short on the mental acuity scale. Otherwise they would be out in the world far more and be recognized for their entrepreneurial acumen and social hipness.
Sarcastic? Me? Never!
I can tell you two things for certain sure. I grew up with half my family from the South where I spent as much time as possible, and I lived in the western part of the South for more years than I care to count.
‘Course, living there cured me of one thing–smoking. Couldn’t do it anymore. Didn’t need to be doing it in the first place. Found a way to get rid of the habit for good, and I’ve never been more glad about anything in my life.
Because of my age I remember how the older South used to function. I remember the time before the Civil Rights Movement. I remember watching an older black gentleman step off the sidewalk so that my mother, grandmother, and I could walk past him as he tipped his hat to us. I also remember crying because I thought I’d done something wrong that made him not want to be on the same street as me.
My mother, of course, explained the situation to me right there on the sidewalk. I got indignant (I was very good then at doing indignant) and demanded my grandmother explain why her people would ever do such a thing. All of which upset her no end, as you can imagine. I was very young at the time, challenging an elder about social etiquette. And I did apologize later.
Things settled down a bit during the rest of the visit, but I’ve always been able to close my eyes and see that episode behind the lids anytime I wanted. It was a great social leveler for me.
What else do I remember? I remember catching Grandaddy and my little brother one afternoon, down feeding the hogs (my grandparents were farmers–what were known as sharecroppers, actually.) Indignation swarmed up my backside that afternoon, too.
They were sitting in the back of the big cargo wagon that was heaped with little bitty watermelons about the size of half a soccer ball. Grandaddy would cut a melon in half, hand one half to my brother while keeping one for himself. Each of them would scoop out the heart of the melon, eat it, and then throw the rest to the hogs across the fence before moving on to the next melon.
Now, I knew how those little melons tasted. They were like watermelon flavored honey in a bowl, and I wanted my fair share. Well, wouldn’t you know that the good-old-boys party was just wrapping up when I arrived. I only got the one little melon. –Not that I could have stuffed more than one down my gullet anyway.–
Ever Ride A Cow?
There was a neighbor boy named Hunter who lived down the lane. He used a big Black Angus bull for a horse and rode that animal everywhere. My brother wanted to be just like Hunter, running through the woods barefoot, shooting his .22 and generally running wild.
To that end little bro decided one day, while we were helping my aunt milk the cows, that he wanted to ride one of them. Now, my aunt was raised on a farm and knew how a farm and its animals operated. And she had a really good suspicion what would happen if bro rode milk cow.
She couldn’t talk him out of it, though, so when all the milk was secured and the cows were ready to go back out into the pasture, she asked him which cow he fancied. Being the adventurer that he was, he chose the big Guernsey. Well, my aunt got the cow out into the barn’s center, made sure of the halter rope, and told him to hop right up there on the cow.
I have to admit, he did pretty good. He managed to last almost the entire 8 seconds before hitting the ground with a whoosh. He was a bit stunned. After all, Hunter made it look so easy. But then, Hunter wasn’t trying to ride a milk cow that had never held a rider before. Hurt? Nah, bro wasn’t hurt, except for his pride.
I confess. I laughed my tail off. My good aunt didn’t, bless her heart. That was the last I ever saw of that cow, though.
I remember an ice storm at Thanksgiving one year, which forced us to drive home in it on less-than-new tires and seeing my dad white-knuckled at the wheel, knowing he was silently praying that we made it home one state away before we got killed. I do believe Mom was praying just as hard as Dad.
Personally, I was enjoying the fairy castle quality the ice gave all the trees and undergrowth. I’d never seen the effects of an ice storms before. All these years later, I’ve seen too many years of destruction from Nature’s Ice Queen.
There were so many times back then when fun was had by simply playing Red Rover in my grandparents front yard. Or standing in the stripping shed during our autumn visits, stripping tobacco to put in the drying barns. That time was filled with country music blaring from the radio, listening to my grandmother and aunts relate family history and community news in soft twang that amuses so many not of the South, and just spending time together.
The one thing that the south will never be short of is family solidarity. A family member might bring the wrath of the family down on his/her head by shaming the family name, but before that any member will fight to the death for any other member of that family.
The South is hot, sticky, contrary sometimes, and solidly itself. It doesn’t claim to be anything else and never will. If you want proof of that, go down to South America and into Brazil’s interior and visit the city that our South built from the ashes of the Civil War. They still Fly the Confederate flag as their own. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,965976,00.html
Betcha didn’t know that, huh?
‘Til next time, have a great day, y’all. Catch the last of those lightning bugs and enjoy the homemade ice cream. I’ll have the peach, please.