Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The Deep South - part 1.2a
The Deep South needs to be discussed. The description of the South, in my opinion, has changed in my lifetime; and I am sure it has changed over the last few generations. I always thought of the Deep South as some movie scene from Gone With The Wind, or an Uncle Remus story. I always wanted to be Brer Rabbit.
The Deep South is not so much a place anymore. It is an ideal, except for several very tangible things. Georgia red clay, Spanish Moss, Nascar, Moon Pies and grits are a few for starters. Someone could spin you around several times, blindfold you, and drop you off somewhere in the Deep South; and you should be able to figure out where you are at after eating one or two meals. Especially if you choose to eat barbecue. I am not talking about barbecue in a chain restaurant. I am talking about a barbecue joint. Chain restaurants avoid at all costs calling themselves, or being called a joint. If you go to a barbecue joint and you get yellow hash on rice, you are in South Carolina. If you go to a barbecue joint and get sliced barbecue you are in Alabama or Northern Florida. Chopped barbecue with a spicy but runny light red sauce the color of Georgia clay places you in, you guessed it, Georgia. If you get chopped barbecue with a deep red smokey and spicy sauce, you are in Mississippi or Tennessee. Barbecue is how southerner's mark their territory. I find it humorous when chain restaurants try to roll out a national barbecue chain with one style of barbecue. Fail.
The Deep South is hot. Several things are created from this heat. Buildings with high ceilings and valances; ceiling fans, fancy fans at funerals, southern belles with fancier fans. I have never seen a Southern Belle for the record, well, never a real one. When I was growing up in the Deep South we did not have air conditioning. No air conditioning in the schools, at home, at church, cars, anywhere. Fans were king; we had a giant five blade attic fan in our house. Every door had a transom above it so you could close your door, but still feel some breeze as the attic fan pulled the air from your windows through to the attic. There is an art to opening your window to maximize the draft. When we did not have a fan we had sweat. When you had sweat, you had to find a swing; thus porch swings were a must. The porch was out of the sun, and when you swung there was a mini breeze. If you were fancy like we were you had a screened porch; that way the mosquitoes did not bite so regularly. Another thing that is created by heat is limbs hanging out of car windows while going down the road. I remember when my father installed an air conditioner in our '69 Pontiac Tempest. It was awesome. We were instant kings and queens rolling down the road with our windows rolled all the way up. It was an awkward air conditioner; it hung way down low under the dash. Our feet were cooler than our heads. Passengers in the front froze, while those of us in the back longed for a ride in the front. We were almost cool on a real sweltering day. Dad put a sticker on the back of the car advertising our coolness, akin to the motels that we passed along the way that advertised color TV and air conditioned rooms with icicle lettering.
Captain William Smith taught us to dip our shirts half way into water then put them back on when we worked at the local camp one summer. He was a Vietnam Veteran genius. He knew hot; he knew muggy, and he never sweat. That summer I learned of different kinds of heat. There is midday heat. This heat is so hot that you are numb to it; you are sweating and evaporating at the same time; so you really do not realize how much you are sweating. This is how sweating was designed to work. The number one combatant against midday heat is sweet iced tea. Now, if you could combine iced tea with a shade tree, then you had dialed in to cool in the middle of the day.
There is morning heat. When you wake up to morning heat you know you are in the Deep South. Morning heat is not available at the beach, nor in the mountains. Morning heat lives on Interstate 20. Boxer underwear was made because of morning heat. Irish Spring soap was made because of morning heat. Cereal with cold milk was invented for morning heat. Morning heat is nasty and vicious, as it quickly can change into late morning heat, then into midday heat. If you drink iced tea in the morning, or better yet, put iced tea into your morning cereal, you can get ahead of morning heat for an hour or so.
Night heat is the worse type of heat. It is the worse because you thought it was going to get cool after the sun went down. Psychological heat it is. There is no breeze; the attic fan pulls hair dryer air over your body as you lay there eyes wide open. This heat is is fought off with clean cotton sheets. That is all you can do with night heat.
Muggy heat is almost as bad as night heat. Sticky, muggy, nasty, unstopping heat. Cotton is a must to wear; the reason that we acquired air conditioning in the '70's was that we started to wear polyester, wide collared, leisure suits. Before then, cold showers were the only way to fight muggy heat. My grandfather Asa Gullett taught me that. When you are in muggy heat, and you take a regular temperature shower, you will sweat within 2.47 seconds when you get out. No one listened to Asa, so we had to air condition the South.
There are some peculiar people in the Deep South. The people we see these days are a mere remnant of the crazy, greedy, messed up people from the past. First there were some industrious-but-greedy people who purchased or stole Africans, and worked them for profit in the above mentioned heat. Unbelievably, there are some people living here who still think that they are better than everyone else. This baffles me because the Union basically decimated the Deep South for being so ignorant and greedy. Therefore, I will describe a ultra basic break down people in the Deep South. You know who is going to be first. Rednecks.
I could describe what rednecks wear and how they act, but that has been done, although poorly, done enough already. Rednecks, disguise themselves these days with money and things. The true redneck is not to be glorified. They are a breed that should just die off. Steeped in bigotry, hate, and ignorance, they just need to go away. Rednecks are parrots. They repeat what is said over and over again without any thought to the words. Rednecks are mostly the remnant of generations of idiots. There are rednecks and there are country folk. Do not confuse the two.
Now I do believe that there is a difference between being a redneck and just being country.
Four wheel drive, muddin', Pabst Blue Ribbon drinkin', country folk just want to have fun. Country people can be poor, middle class, and even rich. There are fake country folk as well. They dress up all country, and buy the right truck, and wear cowboy hats and bandannas. These may be cowboys, but I doubt it. Real country folk like to drink beer while they lean up around the bed of a pick up truck. They always have an old truck or a muscle car that they are "fixin' up". They usually have a four wheeler. They may have missing teeth from fighting at the local bar; this is a badge of honor. Clothing accessories include overalls, shirts with the sleeves ripped off, ball caps, and any type of work book.
Do not confuse rednecks with hunters, farmers, and country boys. These folk hate rednecks. Farmers are the salt of the earth. They breed country boys, who generally are the hunters. These are the people that you want to be near when the crap hits the fan. They will survive any catastrophe. They will have food and supplies when everyone else will not. They will shoot rednecks on sight. They have tractors, guineas, bees, okra, goats, lakes with fish, and boats. You can identify these wonderful group by watching then with animals. They know what every species of animal is; and if you present them with a crazed eyed snake they with say something like: "aw that ain't nuthin' buta hog snake; it's more skared of you that you are of it."
There are a lot of juvenile country folk that think that they are rednecks, but they aren't. They are just proud of where they come from, and happy that they are not city slickers.
I went to school in the Appalachian Mountains. I think it has scarred me for life. In some ways it was very educational and developmental though. I also met plenty of "Mountain People" while I went to school there. I recall on specific basketball game in Rosman N.C.. What an experience it was. First of all, Rosman is located in Transylvania County; exactly. We took the old school bus down the winding two lane roads and after a spell pulled into the Rosman School parking lot. I could hear them already. Thump thump thumping like some ancient tribe. We were lead to the locker rooms where an awful orange paw was painted every three feet or so on the walls. Tiger this and tiger that was painted everywhere. I hate tigers; this has a lot to do with my "home town" being Columbia S.C.. Gamecocks hate Tigers as a general rule. I was in a Tiger hell hole.
We suited up and trudged up to the basketball court. Then I saw them; crazed eyed, moonshine drinkin', teeth missin', orange wearin' Mountain People. They had no where to go, and nothing to do, save stomp on the bleachers with rage in their eyes. The team was playing like they had all been injected with a mixture of moonshine and cocaine. They were everywhere, stealing the balls, and breathing their awful non-Listerined breath on us. Their socks did not match, nor did they stay up; they slid down, with mountain sweat, revealing the pasty white skin neglected of ultraviolet rays. I could not hear myself breath. I could not think. I saw Coach screaming incoherent directions at me. I took the shot. It went into the net with an awkward shudder.
This sent the frothing Mountain People into a rage. They stomped, they yelled; I saw the fire in their eyes. I could not wait for the buzzer to end this battle. We got killed. I scored four points. I was glad to leave the Mountain People to their stomping, and foaming, and incessant chanting of Tigers, Tigers, Tigers....
I will resume my rant about the south at an undisclosed future date. Talk of Tigers has made me ill.
Labels: The Deep South