I was recently in attendance at a board meeting where we were collectively asked by the Lady In Charge to name some of the strengths of our group and our area. We did that, pretty positively. After several good points had been listed on the flip chart, one director, who ain’t from Down Heah, stood to compliment us: “You all are really proud of where you are from and your heritage, and I admire that.” As he moved to refill his coffee cup, he declared, “Where I’m from, I never heard anyone say, ‘Now, that’s what I like about the north!’ This is great, to be from Down Here now!” It nearly broke up the meeting.
Without being tacky about it, he had a point. Whoever heard of Northern Fried Chicken, Northern Hospitality, Northern Belles, or Northern Drawls? We’re not in the business of running anyone down, and since a self-confessed Northerner made the observation, I can’t legally be accused of prejudice here, can I?
Having said that, may I, as a white Southerner, make the observation that we get stereotyped as being racially prejudiced Down Here, but few words are written about the deep friendships between races. It’s time to lay some burdens down.
When we kept our own Viking for a year, Johan the Norwegian exchange student, he had written us for months before coming to not sweat his understanding of English. His mother taught English in school, he had taken English for nine years, and the family had spoken nothing but English for the whole year, to prepare him for his year in America. He was confident that language would be no problem.
He had never heard a Southern drawl.
Within two weeks, his confidence was shattered, and he was ready to go home to Norway. If Mike Ethridge hadn’t convinced him to try his soccer kicking talent on a never-before-seen football, which made him a jock hero, he’d have run home to Mama. Then when school started, he discovered Southern Belles, and a year later, wanted to take half a dozen girls back to Norway with him! He wrote regularly for years to thank us for our Southern Hospitality, and Betsy sent Ingrid her recipe for Southern Fried Chicken, as well as cornbread.
There was a television show where the now-infamous Bill Cosby interviewed kids. Now and then he’d get a guest who still said “Yes sir,” even in these modern times when children seem to be universally excused from manners. The “Sir-ing” child invariably was from the South. I ain’t throwing rocks: simply making the point that Down Heah, more parents seem to teach respect, manners, please and thanks.
In today’s business world, it’s getting increasingly hard for a Southern Gentleman to get along, opening doors for ladies, holding their chairs, taking their coats, and putting them on the pedestals where Southern Gentlemen are taught to place their ladies. Today’s businesswoman even shakes hands like a man, and woe betide the guy who takes a lady’s hand in the old-fashioned way, as if to kiss it, as we were taught.
The Ex-Tex lived out here at Brownspur for a while, and never ceased to wonder that the driver of every vehicle he passed on the way to town waved at him. Strangers would invite him over for supper and to “pass the time of day.” Elderly ladies offered him cookies or apricot nectar pound cake. It drove him nuts that we never locked the doors back then, or even took the keys out of cars.
They call this part of the country the Bible Belt, and I’m right proud of that. When you justify doing a neighborly good deed as “Cast your bread upon the waters – it may return unto you buttered,” it adds a certain reverence to everyday life. Seeing God act through your friends and neighbors, seeing His magnificence in the stars at night or a beautiful sunset – well, it’s just a better way to live and raise your children. And is there any other part of the country where four-lane traffic grinds to a complete halt for even a small funeral? Where even joggers, Delta Electric linemen, and lawn mowers stop and remove their caps in respect for the family who has just lost a loved one?
Lordee, there’s even a certain pride in being a Redneck nowadays!
Makes you think, doesn’t it? What if we had won the War?