Okay I’ll admit it. I am from the Mississippi Delta, after all. Sure, I haven’t actually lived there in thirty years, but it is simply not possible to shake off all of that rich gumbo dirt. Besides, I think the redneck in me is also a family thing. As hard as I have tried at times to suppress it, this redneck will simply not go away.
For instance, in ways hard to explain I find myself drawn to honky tonk songs. And that old possum- George Jones- he can reach right into my soul. Then there’s the fact that I not only know the names of professional wrestlers like Haystack Calhoun, Skandar Akbar, Spider Galento and Hacksaw Jim Dugan, but I also know some of their finishing moves. In another life, Roy D. Mercer would be my hero. I do sometimes mix cornbread with my peas and I like shopping at thrift stores and eating at Sonic. What else explains this?
But I have not embraced total redneckism. I don’t fly a confederate flag. I still have my teeth. No cars are up on blocks in my yard. I never dated a cousin. I don’t spit or chew. I do like to wear shoes. I have never killed a deer while sitting in a vehicle. I do not have a velvet Elvis or a poster of Dale Earnheart above my mantle.
But I do drive a pickup truck. I must have my truck.
For years I denied this redneck in me. I got my college education. I put on the three-piece and polished up my language skills. I read the right books and traveled the world. I can now hold my own in a conversation on a wide variety of socially relevant topics. I have been to the museums, the symphony, the ballet and even the opera. And while I cannot say that I totally immersed myself in finer culture- I have tried.
Dr. Charles F. “Bud” Myer, Jr.- my refined friend and mentor- has tried too. He has worked diligently over the last few years trying to find a diamond in this ole chunk of redneck coal. But while he could get carried away by the classical sounds of a Viennese orchestra in an elegant palace setting, I was wondering how these proper Europeans would react if Hank Jr. played the joint. I can’t seem to help it!
Now, I often find myself when engaged in some culturally enlightening conversation with genuinely sincere and interesting people wanting to blurt out, “How bout them Braves!” But I don’t. Some people just don’t react to redneck very well.
Interestingly enough I do not find many of the current crop of “faux” redneck comedians very funny. When you grow up around the real deal you gain a certain perspective. I mean- once you have been invited to eat in the kitchen of a friend with the skins of dead animals hanging from the ceiling to dry after being caught their traps- some of their jokes fall a little flat.
Yep, I feel at home in Mayberry. I cannot be still or silent when listening to the banjo and fiddle tunes of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Fishing with a cricket for bait is still fun. And “ma’am” and “ya’ll” and “fixin” will always be in my vocabulary.
It has taken me forty-seven years to come to terms with this redneck in me, but I am okay with it. I am no longer embarrassed. I know God loves me “just as I am.” I know my church family loves me and my red neck too.
As the old saying goes, you can take the boy out of the Delta, but you can’t take the Delta out of the boy. When your grandfather was born on the banks of the Quiver River what do you expect?