As American as BBQ

“Forget baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet.  For a Southerner, it is barbeque.”

Let’s clarify immediately and with great fervor, barbeque is not an event; it is a dish. I don’t care what our Northern neighbors say.  It is not a backyard gathering.  You don’t go to a backyard “barbeque.”  You go to the backyard to eat barbeque. Barbeque is a dish created by the soft whispers of the angels who trod before us and is as close to heaven as I wish to get until death.  Good barbeque is a gift from heaven…it is not a place. Be reverent my children.

It is the morning of July 5th and as I write this, I’m in a barbeque coma courtesy of Carolus’ ribs and Jamie’s pulled pork…and potato salad courtesy of Carol Ann.  Other significant coma contributors included blueberry cobbler and brown liquor.  There were many other contributors and only contributions I would have added would have been mayonnaise and vinegar slaw and hash over white rice but that is a personal choice and not a coma breaker.  It is a tip of the hat to my roots where barbeque came with mustard sauce and helpings of hash over rice.

It was the first Bennett family Fourth of July backyard cookout in two years.  The Bennetts are our adopted family and I’m not sure who adopted whom.  It was good to see folk we hadn’t seen in two years even though there was a bit of “post-Covid” trepidation.   Sitting outside under shade trees and swapping stories soon reduced my anxieties…or maybe it was the brown liquor.

Backyard cookout.  See how I said that?  A backyard cookout.  You go to a cookout…not to a barbeque.  You don’t even have to serve barbeque at a cookout, you can grill things like pork, chicken, beef, roadkill, or tofu.  But grillin’ ain’t barbequin’.  Barbeque is slowly cooked animal parts, pork in my part of the world, over wood coals.  Slow-cooked until the meat just gives up and shreds easily with two forks or falls off of the bone without any help from anything other than gravity.  Sometimes eating high on the hog involves parts found low on the hog.

There is a certain barbeque etiquette.  None etched in stone, and it varies from place to place but it would behoove you to learn the area’s rules before attending a cookout serving barbeque.  See how I said that? 

Generally, the rules involve sauces, rubs, or sides.  It can involve the meat, Texas is mainly beef, for instance, other areas might be a goat or lamb, yuck, but here in South Carolina, it is pork.  I reckon we all eat chicken and you can slow cook yard bird.

There are sauces and then there are sauces.  Nothing to argue over.  Pick one or experiment. Sauce varies here in South Carolina.  Vinegar base, pepper base, both together.  Mustard base, light tomato base, heavy tomato base, depending on the area.   In the home of my mother, the general rule was a mustard sauce with pork, tomato sauce with chicken.

The mustard base is considered by many to be truly South Carolina’s sauce…may be.  German immigrants brought it from the Fatherland to the midlands.  Our new visitors told the older inhabitants they were from Deutschland, which was mistaken as Dutchland, and the reason the fork between the Broad and Saluda Rivers became known as the Dutch Fork. Dutch Fork…Deutsch Fork…”You say toe-may-toe, I say toe-mah-toe.”

The mustard sauce changes to vinegar and pepper sauces on the coast, light tomato, which is vinegar and pepper with tomato added, in the Pee Dee area, heavy tomato in the West and Northwest portions of the state…with a bit of brown sugar, root beer, or brown liquor added…sometimes.  People are mostly steadfast in their allegiance to one sauce although I admit to experimentation on occasion.  If a person serves you an exotic barbeque sauce like that Alabama White Sauce, thank them even if you don’t like it.  It is the Southern way and good etiquette.

Steadfast allegiance but I’m not willin’ to fight a Civil War over it.  No one should argue over sauces.  It is almost like arguing about politics except with politics no one wins.  With barbeque, everybody wins.  Just don’t drown the meat in the sauce.    It is meant to enhance the flavor, not cover it up…unless it is bad barbeque.  One rule etched in stone: Never pre-sauce a sandwich.  The amount of sauce is a personal choice.

Sides?  I’m guessing we could argue all day. In the South, potato salad is a must.  Corn on the cob, fried okra, baked beans, and dill pickles are quite acceptable.  I fancy the pickled medley that includes pickled cauliflower and pearl onions.  Just don’t call it giardiniera.  Sounds too fancy for barbeque and you can leave the pickled carrots out of mine.

To slaw or not to slaw, that might be the question?  I think slaw is a genetic thing.  You are born to put slaw on your pulled pork sandwich, or you are not.  Kind of like sugar or vinegar or mayonnaise in your slaw.  Me…vinegar and mayonnaise and yes, I want it on my sandwich.

Hash or Brunswick stew?  It is pretty much Brunswick stew everywhere other than the Carolinas. Once again, everywhere else is wrong.  It’s hash always.  Unrecognizable pig products cooked with potatoes and onions until they meld together with certain spices passed down by the ghostly hands of our past. Served over rice…white rice of course.

What is not up for debate, fellowship.  You shouldn’t eat barbeque with someone you don’t like which brings me back to the Bennett clan.  I like the Bennett clan.  I taught with the patriarch, Carol Ann, and coached and taught her two sons Jamie and Carolus.  Through them, my bride and I have become members of their extended family.  I’m honored to have been invited to their July 4th celebration. Barbeque reminds me of home and the Bennett clan reminds me of family.  It just doesn’t get much better than that.

I need to take a nap.  My barbeque coma is about to win out.

Barbecue or Barbeque.  I spelled it barbeque because it is a bit archaic, like me, and because it was spelled that way where I grew up.

For books by Don Miller https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3xEUv3gUa4wrDNp0oXEa2Rbv1hcunRf64Zlr3wl2hNbsCYZwGlgIDwNqw

Food Should Taste Like the Past

“Ours is a region whose food carries with it the burdens of our past — a history of slavery and racism, long-lasting, outdated stereotypes of our people, and a tenuous political landscape.” -www.thrilist.com  The New Southern Cuisine: Don’t Call It Fusion

Our past IS fraught with burdens when it comes to race…even our present.  Somehow our food rises above it all.  Don’t believe me? Go to a Baptist Church covered dish dinner or a hole in the wall diner named “Momma Ester’s Café”.  European, West African and Native American foodways merge into a superhighway that became known in the Seventies as soul food…one of the few positives of the Columbian Exchange.  It was Southern fusion before the word was cool. 

Over a year ago, before our lives changed with the “corona”, my bride and I sat down at a restaurant for a Sunday brunch to celebrate our wedding anniversary and contemplated our dish selections.  This was before the need for masks, social distancing or arguments over rights and vaccines.

At the urging of my bride, we decided to sit outside in the shade and enjoy the warm breezes along with a Bloody Mary or two.  It was late June.  Even mountain breezes in late June sometimes feel like the blast from a Bessemer furnace.

This was one of those “sometimes”.  Winter had gone straight to full on summer.  The “bacon infused” Bloody Mary with the okra pod garnish had just enough bite to increase the perspiration forming across my nose and to a greater extent, settling into my underwear.   For some reason the hot wind reminded me of the past before air conditioning was cool, when a window fan was an ineffective defense against the hot and humid air.

The restaurant was one of those neo-Southern cookin’ places boasting traditional Southern dishes with a “twist.”  Judging from the prices I worried it might be a nouveau-riche Southern cookin’ place although no one would accuse me of being a member of the nouveau-riche…not near Beverly Hillbillies nouveau-riche but it was my anniversary, and my bride was worth any price.

I was hopeful as I perused their menu.  There were plenty of selections featuring biscuits and deeply fried anything.  There were collards cooked to death with ham and bacon grease, cornbread battered fried green tomatoes, and dishes featuring cracklins’…bacon bits…not the real ones, pig skin fried crisp.

Fried chicken with an acceptable twist, waffles.  Sounded tasty with maple syrup drizzled over it.  What worried me were dishes including fried cauliflower bites or smashed avocado on toast points.  I don’t remember many dishes from the past including cauliflower in any form but right there in the menu was a picture of a vegan taco with both fried cauliflower and avocado wedges.  I figured it looked better than it might taste. I like cauliflower and avocado but I had decided today was not a day to eat healthy.

I saw one immediate positive. No dishes involving kale.

One appetizer piqued my interest.  Deep fried BBQ stuffed egg rolls.  Recipe must be from Southern China.  Didn’t matter where it came from, it was good, but didn’t speak to the ghosts of my past.  Not sure I ate an egg roll until I was out of college.  Now BBQ? That is something else entirely.

Some of  this neo-Southern cuisine is described as fusion cookin’ but it seems to me, the food I consumed as a child was fusion.  We ate what became known as soul food.  Food heavily seasoned with salt pork and bacon grease, the heavy use of starches and cornmeal. We ate soul food before it was cool and before we could be accused of racial appropriation. We ate soul food until our arteries seized up.

I grew up in an area where no one of any race really ate “high on the hog.”  We didn’t know we were poor, and in most ways that counted, we weren’t.  Money was not one of the ways that counted.  Even the “landed rich” didn’t have an extra two nickels to rub together until after harvest season, so most of us ate like we were poor.  Sometimes the poor knew better how to eat than the rich.

Chicken, pork, and fresh caught fish seemed to be staples.  Not much expensive beef unless it was from the “butt end of the cow”, cubed round steak dusted with flour and fried crisp or chicken fried and smothered in milk gravy.  I didn’t know you could order steak anyway but done to death until I graduated from college. That doesn’t mean we didn’t eat well; we just didn’t eat a lot of steak.  Catfish fried with a cornbread batter heavy with black pepper, chicken battered and fried in lard.  The skin crisp and the inside moist and tender. Pork chops fried and smothered with milk gravy, the renderings spooned over biscuits.

Green beans, butter beans, peas, and collard greens cooked forever plus one day, cooked with fat back or bacon  Maybe some unrecognizable pork bits in and amongst it.  Seasoned with a bit of salt and sugar, a finely chopped hot pepper to add a bit of heat and cider vinegar for a little tartness.   Pinto beans simmered all day with hog jowls, ham hocks or neck bones until the meat fell off the bone. Chopped onion and a pone of cornbread to go with it.  Sweet potatoes made sweeter with butter and sugar or syrup. All seasoning guided by the hands of the ghosts of women long dead. 

Simple food seasoned well and prepared in cast iron pots and pans dating from before the First World War and cut up with a knife that had to be seventy years old.  Soul food can’t help but taste of the past.

My grandmother and mother were not known for their culinary abilities.  They did okay, I didn’t starve. My grandmother was more concerned about the great outdoors and growing the food although there were memorable dishes. Her creamed corn, chicken pot pie, “cooter” soup and peanut butter cookies.  

My mother was a textile shift worker and I remember dining on Birdseye TV Dinners and fried bologna sandwiches often.  Mom did cook on weekends, spaghetti on Saturday nights and her own trinity, BBQ chicken, pot roast, or fried chicken on Sunday. 

My grandmother’s sisters and my mother’s sister can put on a spread.  So could their in-laws.

I am reminded of a late summer feast put on by my Uncle James’ wife, Aunt Mary Hannah and their two daughters. She was a slight woman crippled by polio. Braces and crutches did not affect her abilities in her kitchen.  It always amazed me how happy she could be.  Her freckled face always had a smile.

The summer season was drawing to an end, the hayin’ was done and in the barn, corn pulled and stored in the cribs, the tomatoes, squash, and beans almost played out.  Those huge John Deere tractors safely tucked and serviced in their garage.  I was headed back to school and football practice as were my cousins who, with me, provided the summer labor.  We sat under a shade tree in slat backed chairs we moved from her dining room and ate off rough boards set on sawhorses covered with linen tablecloths.

Part of my daily pay was a midday meal which usually consisted of Vienna sausages or deviled ham, maybe sardines and saltine crackers, a “dope”, and a Moon Pie.  But one late summer day, the midday meal was worth the hell of those hay and corn fields.

Pan fried chicken, butter beans cooked with chopped up ham, creamed corn running with home churned butter, corn bread battered okra fried crisp, squash casserole, deviled eggs to die for, potato salad, and biscuits.  All seasoned well, with a smidge of this, a pinch of that, a tad of something else, until it tasted right and the voices from our past whispered, “That will do.”

Every vegetable or starch grown in their garden. The chicken, ham, and eggs from their coop or sty.  The only dishes or ingredients foreign were the sweet tea we washed it down with and the bananas and vanilla wafers in the banana pudding we finished it with.  We could have stayed local and washed it down with buttermilk from their cow and eaten watermelon from their field. It was food fit for fieldworkers or a king. That one meal encompassing all of the different foodways.

Soul food…food with a soul.  Food with a past going back centuries brought from lands far away and land close by, somehow merged in a way the people who brought them should fuse. 

Food should unite us all. Food prepared by hands who were taught by ghostly hands from the past in implements passed down by generations.  Food should taste like the past.

May be an image of text that says 'DON'S DAILY DOSE CONO "Neither sugar nor salt tastes particularly good by itself. Each is at its best when used to season other things. Love is the same way. Use it to "season" people." Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration'

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You Know You Are in the South If…

Some kind soul sent me down a rabbit hole by asking, “If you’ve been away from the South for any length of time, how do you know you are home.” The question had more to do with “state of mind” than location. I took the thought and ran with it like a rabbit being chased by a haint.

I don’t know if all are unique to the South but decided to poke a bit of fun at our Southern peculiarities. Enjoy and don’t judge too harshly.

You know you are in the South if…

Travel a mile in any direction and see multiple Dollar Trees or Dollar Generals and three Baptist Churches on the same stretch of rural road or two liquor stores and two Baptist Churches on adjacent street corners. 

A church member introduces you as the new couple that moved in across from the “so and sos” when you’ve lived here for thirty years and the “so and sos” have been dead for a decade or more.

You can get a hunting license, bait, a tire fixed, a gas fill up, and a hot meal…out of the same building.

Your girlfriend…or wife can field dress and butcher a deer better than you can.

You hear the words “cooter stew” and immediately realize they are talking about a soup made with water turtle, not a woman’s “holiest of holies”.

Finally scoring a parking place at Mom’s Dinner and finding mac ‘n cheese, cheesy grits, and biscuits and gravy are all in the vegetable offerings.

At a wedding on a Saturday during football season you find the groom checking his ESPN App while the service is taking place.  Actually, a wedding during football season is poor planning.

After a funeral, the “Church Ladies” serve a meal consisting of a dozen casseroles and a like number of plates of fried chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs, and banana pudding.

On a two-lane highway to nowhere you see signs saying, “Repent!”…”The”…”Time”…”Is”…”Near” or Bible verses displayed one word per sign.

You pass “Now Entering ……” and “A Thirty-Five Mile per Hour Speed Limit Strictly Enforced” sign five miles from the actual town.

You are introduced to someone’s parents and must explain “where you came from” which has nothing to do with a location but rather with lineage.

Getting or giving directions that don’t involve map directionals but landmarks, “You know where that Jook Joint is, turn left.” or “If you pass the split rail fence you’ve missed it”, “It’s just t a little piece past the Tastee-Freez”, or “We’re right across from the red barn.”

“Over yonder” and “down the road ah piece” are valid directions and you know exactly where they are sending you.   

You use a heater and an air conditioner on the same day or you put up Christmas decorations in shorts and flip flops.

Service stations have overhangs with rocking chairs or benches for old men in overalls, rockin’ and spittin’. Oh, and lyin’.

You are unsure whether the tickle you feel in the small of your back is from perspiration or a mosquito.

When being told what someone is going to do, they use “ah fixin’ to” as in “I’m ah fixin’ to beat your ass.”

You are offered pickled eggs and a beer as a meal.                                               

You must change planes in Atlanta because you can’t get anywhere in the South without going through Atlanta.

The waitress at the Waffle House calls you “Honey, Sweetie, Baby, or Sweet Pea” with a Pall Mall unfiltered stuck to her lower lip.

Your History teacher was also the football coach and you got extra credit for attending the games.

You are having baseball practice but pause so one of the parents can showoff the “trophy” boar hog they just “kilt”.

You see people selling boiled peanuts out of the bed of their truck on the side of the road and drawing a crowd.

When preparing to make a casserole you turn the bowl over and see there is a name on the bottom that is not yours.

You realize there are more restaurants than you can shake a stick at with the word “biscuit” in their name and there seems to be a Cracker Barrell at every interstate exit.

There are more people who say, “can shake a stick at” than you can shake a stick at.

One hears Ma’am and Sir along with “Bless yo heart” a lot.

When you ask directions to the nearest bar, you receive a fisheye look and are told, “Bar?  You’re in the Bible Belt and this here is the Buckle!”

Or, the strip clubs are closed on Sunday so the girls can go to church.

You exclaim “Good Gravy”, and everyone knows it has nothing to do with gravy.

You find “to layer up” means sunscreen, bug spray, and lip balm.

You ask for a coke and the feller behind the counter asks, “What kind…we’s got Pepsi, Coca Cola, Nehi Grape, Sunkist, Mountain Dew?”

You find people will drink water before drinking unsweetened tea and the sweetened tea will set your teeth to hurtin’.

Beginning to say goodbye in the living room and finally finishing in the driveway forty-five minutes later.

Y’all come back real soon, ya hear.

Don Miller is a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, trying to become a successful author. You might help him by going to his author’s site and buying a book. https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR010oCvAXUraE8HYz65Dff8OYPrGxE5zuRZYqEV5U8cV8jCmbiQymwUG5s

Don Miller’s newest fictional offering, “Long Ride to Paradise”, can be purchased or downloaded at https://tinyurl.com/y8gx9q7m

Long Ride to Paradise: Tales of the Drunken Irishman Saloon by [Don Miller]

The map is from Wikipedia.

Spinnin’ in Her Grave

I’m sure my grandmother is looking down from the great beyond and shaking her head.  I’m guessing what is left of her earthly body is spinnin’ in her grave.  As soon as she heard that can opener, I visualize a side eyed look below her furrowed brow.  Not only am I cooking canned black-eyed peas I’m serving canned collards to go with them.  If she were still alive, I’m sure I would be disenfranchised. 

My grandmother, Nannie, was not known for her cooking.  She wasn’t into exotic food…I don’t think I ate a pizza until I went off to college.  Pizza…exotic?  Cooter Stew was about as exotic as she got.  But there were lines she would never cross and peas with collards from a can was a line in concrete. 

Peas and collards fit right in with her idea of utilitarian food, with cornbread and a raw onion of course.  Oh, and some of Aunt Alta’s chow chow. Bless my soul, I had forgotten that. Nannie’s meals were made to fortify you for a long day in the field.  Exotic foods weren’t known to stick to your ribs.

In her small kitchen dried black-eyed peas from her fields would have been put in the Dutch oven to soak the night before, picked over to remove shells or gravel that might have “snuck” in.  Drained and rinsed, they would have returned to the Dutch oven along with onions, ham hocks, and seasonings and allowed to slow simmer in water and get to know each other for the next four or five hours.  When the ham hocks were tender, they would be removed, and the meat picked from the bone and fat and returned to the peas. 

Well before the pickin’, fresh collards from her garden would have been washed and rinsed repeatedly, chopped awaiting placement into another Dutch oven.  There they would join up with sauteed, in bacon grease, onion and chopped ham, some broth, apple cider vinegar, and red pepper flakes.  These would hang together until cooked to death. 

An hour before the meal was ready, a cast iron frying pan with a dollop of Crisco would be placed in the old stove to become screaming hot before corn bread batter was poured into it and put back in the oven to cook and brown.  I can remember the sizzle the batter made when it hit the grease and have a mental vision of a tanned and creased, flour-streaked cheek.  I also remember the corn bread to be a tad dry but something to mop the pot likker from my bowl with. 

Tea so sweet it made your teeth ache or fresh buttermilk would wash down the meal.

All told, she spent the better part of half a day to get the meal on the table…which is why I will open a can.  My bride will cook her special brand of cornbread, better than my grandmothers, moister at least…and I’ll mop up my pot likker with it.  I’ll keep the collards and peas a bit healthier and a lot less tasty, all-in hopes of seeing another New Year’s Day or two. We may oven fry some pork chops…the other white meat.

It is about traditions, I reckon Southern traditions in this case.  It is about honoring the past.  As I have quoted before, William Faulkner’s line, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” 

Peas swelling as they cook for luck, greens for money, pork because hogs are always moving forward as they forage, and cornbread for gold is a long running tradition…as is cornbread running in butter. 

In the South, how the tradition began involves two stories of note. Not sure either is true. According to one, during Sherman’s March to the Sea during the Civil War, “bummers” left behind peas and salt pork thinking it was nothing more than animal feed.  Southerners gave thanks for having even that gracious little to get through the winter.  I have my doubts about the story.  It makes no sense to leave even animal feed behind.  It does make for a good story and a reason to celebrate.

According to the second, and I find this more likely, black-eyed peas were a symbol of emancipation for African Americans who were officially freed on New Year’s Day, 1863 by the Emancipation Proclamation.  As the story goes peas were all they had to eat, and it became a symbol.  Again, I am unsure of the story but know former slaves initiated the idea for adding rice to the peas along with bacon, onion, and spices, giving us Hoppin’ John.  That is a good thing whether the story is true or not and has become a favorite Southern tradition of mine.

Yes, the South does have traditions we are not likely to allow to die.  Some I wish would.  Peas and collards isn’t one of them even from a can.  Be sure and eat your peas and collards. 

I hope you have a healthy and prosperous New Year.

Visit Don Miller’s Author’s Page https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR12bCTU7L4-4kWnHyS1zoacryFywuXQm_mLnMXCkCldT08Goh0UKW8dkZY

Boy! I Say, Boy! You Can’t Quarantine Stupid

 

In 2015 I wrote about our Southern reluctance to embrace change.  In the post, “Sot in our Ways”, using a regional pronunciation of the word set, I chronicled our propensity for looking backward.  The phrase forward-thinking is not a part of the vocabulary for many who surround me.  With the invasion of the Corvid-19 virus, I’ve found we haven’t changed in the five years since the original was published…in fact, we’ve become even more resistant with the current political environment.

Our Foghorn Leghorn sounding “guv’nah” (No insult intended, I like his Southern accent.  One should look for something to like in a person)…our governor, Henry McMaster, seems to be resistant to the idea of issuing a “stay at home” order, making my state, South Carolina, a bastion of coronavirus dissent in the region of the Southeast.  Governor McMaster has instead called on all South Carolinians to “use common sense.”  I am afraid…very afraid.

To his defense, according to Charleston’s Post and Courier, Governor McMaster doesn’t believe he can legally issue a stay at home or shelter-in-place order on what I assume are First Amendment grounds.  Judging from the number of people driving around and on the lakes, I would say a large percentage of his constituents agree with him.

Consequently, at this time, he has issued twelve executive orders, closing schools, and other nonessential businesses…wait, schools aren’t essential? Despite these executive orders, SOME have ignored the orders at worse, or tried to find ways around it at best “cuz yur takin’ way mah rights”.  No, you can’t quarantine stupid.

The governor closed furniture and shoe stores while deciding liquor and gun stores were essential.   I wonder how many spouses of either gender will be drunkenly maimed or killed by newly purchased firearms before the quarantine is over.  “Put on your high heeled sneakers….”   (I heard this morning there has been a spike in domestic crimes.  Who didn’t see this coming?)

Breaking News:  As of 5:00 today, April 7, we will be under a “Home or Work” order which will change little that wasn’t in place at 4:59.  It does limit the number of people who can be inside of businesses at one time.  It does not force church closures but it is suggested.

As a retired history teacher, I am quite familiar with our last major attempt at dissent…that was in December of 1860.  I hope our modern-day dissent doesn’t reap the same outcomes ‘cause the last one didn’t go too well.  South Carolina lost 18,000 to 21,000 men, or one of every fourteen white South Carolinians in the Civil War, due more to disease than by shot, saber or Minié ball.  It seems we didn’t keep very good records concerning our slave or civilian populations but I’m sure you could add a few of them to the overall number.

Sorry, back to modern times.  While the US response to the budding pandemic was slow, a great many states in the South were even slower to react against Corvid-19, not just South Carolina,  There are eight other states reluctant to issue stay at home or shelter-in-place orders, none Southern unless you count Arkansas.  We have a large portion of our population who believes not staying at home is somehow “standing up to tyranny”.  I did not know a virus could be so tyrannical but explains why gun stores are still open.

Southerners just don’t like being told what to do by that damn Yankee “gubment” in Washington or its ‘flunkies’ in Columbia.  It doesn’t matter if sheltering might be a good thing to do, might save lives.  It’s the principle of it all, I guess.  Ain’t nobody tellin’ me what to do no matter how stupid I look or if it kills me.  Remember the famous last words, “Hey Y’all watch dis!”

As I drove through the nearby town of Travelers Rest, my facemask and latex gloves already in place, I noticed the downtown streets were somewhat deserted.  That was because everyone was at Walmart or down the road at Lowes.  Lines to the Chik-fil-a Drive Through stretched out to the street.

I used to like my Walmart; it had a higher class of a redneck than most.  Not sure now.  Social distancing be damned, the parking lot was wall to wall with no one particularly concerned with keeping a six-foot cushion.  When I broke down and grocery shopped this early Sunday morning I saw few wearing gloves and fewer wearing masks.  Social distancing?  Not likely.

I think we are confused by the social part of social distancing.  Our teachers did a great job teaching what it means to be social…not so much on distancing.  It’s the opposite of being social.  We shouldn’t be social.  I’ve heard physical distancing used, maybe Guv’nah  Leghorn should use the term.  “Boy!  I say, Boy! Maintain your physical distancing!”  I don’t think it will matter…someone will hear physical and think it means we should get freaky. 

It’s all a government coverup anyway.  Right?  A test run to sweep away our rights just like when the United Nations was invading us during the Obama years.  They’re here to steal our guns….  They didn’t get yours?  You didn’t see them?

Friends and former student’s social media posts make me wonder how we became so susceptible to conspiracy theories.  I remember intelligent kids…maybe I’m losing my memory or maybe they weren’t as bright as I thought.  They don’t seem to know which is going to kill more of us; the virus, the new 5G network or the Democrats attempt to crash the economy to get at Trump.  Let’s combine a few conspiracy theories, shall we?

You did know the coronavirus was created by the Chinese government to weaken our economy. driving down the stock market so they can purchase what little of the United States they don’t already own?  Or, is it part of a human depopulation scheme by the world-class villain, Microsoft’s Bill Gates?  Or, did it stem from a tainted batch of children’s blood that the world’s liberal celebrities drink to stay young?

None of those are correct and have nothing to do with a tainted, undercooked bat sandwich either.  It is a Turkmenistanian bioweapon transmitted over the airways by the 5G death ray, all financed by George Soros, and genetically engineered by Bill Gates to target conservatives only.  I’m sure there is a counter-theory involving the Koch Brothers and liberal bones being burned and crushed into fertilizer.  

Attempting to be humorous, I posted my theory with a LOL emoji in response to a meme.  I had people agreeing and commenting on what that dastardly George Soros might do next.  “For real?” Mentally I see many nodding their heads in agreement.  I actually saw a similar theory expressed today.

Dammit, folks! Everything is not a conspiracy.  Sometimes things are just…things…a deadly coronavirus is just a deadly coronavirus.  Every attempted change is not a bad thing.  Do you resist changing your underwear?  Don’t answer that, just think about it and if you don’t, do so now.  Personal hygiene is important even if not taking the quarantine seriously.

Six feet, wash your hands, keep your hands out of your nose and mouth, stay at home unless you are an “essential.”  For sweet Baby James’s sake, self-quarantine for the good of mankind.

From a smart former student, something I found hopeful,                                                    “It’s okay to take this Coronavirus pandemic seriously…and still find joy in life.  It’s okay to worry about what will happen next week, next month, or next year…and still, make jokes and laugh with friends.  It’s okay to be fearful… .and still have faith that God’s will is going to be done.”

Be hopeful, just be smart.

Addendum

Before my Southern friends and family tar and feather me, I do know there are idiots and conspiracists in all regions.  It is not just a Southern reaction.  I pick on “us” because I know “us”…and if the shoe fits….

The quote is from Katie Orr, a former Tamassee-Salem student, now a teacher, and mother.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?

The image of Foghorn Leghorn https://www.pinterest.com/susiewjones/foghorn-leghorn-best-cartoon-ever/

If you are interested in reading ”Sot in our Ways”  https://cigarman501.wordpress.com/2015/09/24/sot-in-our-ways/

Etiquette Lost

 

“Yes, ma’am, No, ma’am, Thank you, ma’am, Please!”  The little ditty echos inside of my head like basketballs rebounding off of walls.  We’re tryin’ to help our daughter and son in law teach our grandbabies to consistently say “Yes, ma’am, Yes, sir….”  My bride, Grandmommy Linda, is big on this little saying which is why it is repeating over and over again like a never-ending loop.

In the world we presently live in, the learning process is somewhat tougher than it used to be.

Etiquette is not a Southern exclusive but there was a time when Southerners of any class, race, or religious affiliation displayed good manners.  It was a priority.  Our good manners were a badge of pride.  Remember “Southern Hospitality?”  We seem to be less hospitable these days, displaying poor manners.

I don’t mean knowing which spoon or fork to use, outside in folks, but the polite, “good” manners which seem to be eroding as I write this.  Some folks would ask, “Who died and made you Lord of the Manners?”  It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to.

When I coached, I periodically admonished my charges to “Remember where you come from (your parents), who you are representing (your parents, your school, me), and what you stand for. (Truth, Justice, and the American Way?)”  In other words, “Don’t disappoint your mommas and daddies.”  Disappointing momma was a big deal.  Good behavior was an expectation and most of the time it was realized.  That included baseball caps taken off inside the building and worn with the bill pointing forward.  I am old school.

It seems we have misplaced our manners and please don’t think I’m denigrating today’s generation; I’m not.  They are not the guilty ones.  Erosion takes place over time and today’s generation reflects what they are being taught and those who taught them…or didn’t.  Some of us are failing our charges, failing the next generation, and this has been going on for multiple generations.

Please don’t point a finger, blow out your chest, and pontificate, “Not me!”  We can all do better and there is no one cause.  That being said….

I happened upon an article in Southern Living, “20 Unspoken Rules of Etiquette That Every Southerner Follows.”  Should have said, “used to follow” but to their defense, it was an old article.

Using today’s world view some of these seemed Draconian.  If you read the article one might think most Southern manners revolve around eating and they do.  I learned most of mine while eating fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, and washing it down with sweet tea so sugary it set my teeth on edge.

I’ll come back to the article in a bit, but I just had a thought.  The undermining of Southern manners may have coincided with the rise of fast-food eateries specializing in fried chicken.  KFC, Chick-fil-a, Popeyes, Spinx…wait…Spinx?

Spinx is a glorified gas station founded in South Carolina offering gas, oil and about anything else you might need to outfit a wilderness trek through the Australian Outback.  Offerings also include slow service but pretty good Southern fried chicken.  You know the kind, crisp and greasy at the same time.

The problem is not Spinx but what I call “stand up food”.  The food rests on waxed paper and you stand around eating out of cute little pasteboard “boats” in red and white checkerboard.  Greasy fingers wiped on dirty jeans; baseball caps still perched backward on heads kind of food.  There’s the problem.  There isn’t a table to learn your manners around and the people you are eating with have no better manners than you do.

Once upon a time, Grandmamma went out and chopped the chicken’s head off, gutted it, dipped it in boiling water and plucked it clean.  All before she got around to cutting it up, dipping each individual piece in the batter of her choice and frying it to a golden brown.  You damn well were going to sit at a table, “minding your manners”, while you ate it.

If you didn’t mind your manners, you might find yourself going to bed without your supper instead of waiting for the adults to be served so you could get your chicken wing.  I was twenty-five before I evah got a pully bone.  Manners have eroded with the death of the sit-down, family meal.

Matching the world we live in, we have become grab and go consumers.  I am just as guilty of grabbing a piece of pepperoni pizza after gassing up my truck…having never left the gas station.

Let’s look at the article, shall we?  I won’t hit all the points because I am assuming you can read as well if not better than I can write.  These are just some “manners” that were hammered into my head…or beaten into my backside.

“Never eat with your mouth open or talk with your mouth full”  Son, you are sprayin’ food everywhere!  At least cover your mouth.  Alternative reminder, “Children should be seen and nevah, evah heard.”

“Get your elbows off the table!  If you are that tired you can go on to bed.”  As I stood in line at the local Chick-fil-a, I saw a bunch of folks who needed a nap.

“Never wear a hat to the table…or inside a building.”  This one…!  For some reason this is the pinnacle of rudeness for no other reason than my father, who worked in a greasy, lint filled cotton mill weave room, always removed his hat when he entered the cafeteria.  It was the polite thing to do and if I didn’t remove mine it might be nailed to my head ala Vlad the Impaler.

Addendum, “Always take your hat off in the presence of a lady…and all women are ladies until proven otherwise.”  If the sun was particularly bright and hot, one might get away with a simple tug on the bill or brim and a nod.  Sunstroke and sunburn trumps manners.

“Never sing or whistle at the table or talk about unpleasantries.”  This one was tough if asked, “Did you behave at school today?”  Sometimes the answer might prove to be unpleasant in regard to the response.  I didn’t understand the singin’ or whistlin’ but never did I….

Addendum for the next eight months, “Nevah, evah talk politics at the supper table.”  Definite unpleasantries.

It seems like there are many Southern manners related to gender, doors, and entries…”Ladies and girls first”, “Always open the door for a woman, a girl or your elders”, “Adult ladies first in the food line”, “Always stand when a woman enters the room (and when she sits, stands or leaves the room} and pull out the chair and help her seat herself.”  Not that she needs help, it is just the gentlemanly thing to do.  I think assisted seatings dates from the days of corsets and layer upon layer of petticoats and crinolines.

I ran afoul of the “opening the door” thing back in the late Sixties when I opened the library door for a cute, little coed.  There was an ulterior motive.  This was during the “burn your bra” period of history.  She burned me a new one and it wasn’t a bra.  Turns out she needed no help from a man.  I knew such but old habits are hard to break.  I still open the door for my wife, and she seems to appreciate it.

“Never go to a gathering empty-handed.”  The South is the casserole and banana puddin’ capital of the world for this very reason.  It doesn’t matter if it is a house warmin’ or a funeral, bring something other than yourself.

Politeness, civility, and graciousness seem to be the casualties of today’s war on political correctness.  Bullying, apathy, and indifference have replaced our good manners.  I don’t know we will ever get them back.  In lieu of manners, just be kind.

Please feel free to add any you are enamored with, in the comments section.  I’d love to hear from you.  Y’all hurry back now.

***

The article may be accessed at https://www.southernliving.com/culture/unspoken-etiquette-rules

Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Roots….

As we grow, if we are fortunate, we put our roots deep into the deep, rich soil of life.  We anchor ourselves in the lessons we have learned.  No matter how far away the branches of our limbs reach, we are still anchored, still attached…to home.

As I’ve gotten older, old, I find myself slowly meandering back toward my roots, the memories, the lessons, the people of a place that no longer exists.  Not true, it exists quite clearly in my mind.

I was triggered by a rerun of an episode of The Waltons.  John Boy reads an editorial he had written that spoke to family roots and the destruction of an old home in the name of progress.  Before the quote was completed and fully formed in my mind, I was wondering why progress seems to create so much destruction.

Once more, my broken kaleidoscope of a mind sent me down a pathway toward home, a home that only exists in my mind.  A home that was destroyed in the name of progress.  A dusty dirt road, a white clapboard house with hip roofs sitting on a hill, a wide front porch, gently rolling fields of hay and stands of pine trees, people and places gone but not forgotten.

The often-quoted African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” comes to my mind.  It was true in the 1950s and 1960s as I grew up and may still be true in some isolated areas.  Unfortunately, the villages have been swallowed up by a monster named Urban Sprawl and the changes in the world we live in have destroyed extended and nuclear families and the pearls of wisdom they might have imparted.

Growing up on my particular wide place in the road, I was surrounded by family on all sides…it seemed I was related to everyone.  Aunts, uncles, and cousins from one side of the family on a hill beside us, aunts, uncles, and cousins from the other side of the family on the hill opposite.  My grandparent’s home sat on a hill above us…looking down to protect and teach lessons for a lifetime.

Further on up or down the road, more family.  On a five or six-mile stretch of highway between my grandparent’s home and my great grandparent’s home it seemed every other house was occupied by a family member, some distantly related, others more closely.  Cousins, aunts and uncles, family friends, all intent upon raising all the village children.

As I moved into my dating years a discussion of who might have been on my family tree was a must it seemed.  Even then I sometimes went out with distant female cousins.  The pool of eligible consorts was very, very small.

The area east of a western meander by the Catawba was sprinkled with small villages.  Most took the name of the church that was close by…or maybe the opposite, the church took the village’s name.  Belair, Pleasant Hill or Pleasant Valley, Osceola, Steel Hill.  In addition to the church, usually, there would be a small general store to serve the smattering of homes around it. These communities tended to overlap and were a part of a bigger area named Indian Land.

There were names like Yarbrough Town or Camp Cox and six or seven miles to the southeast, a true village, Van Wyche.  Northeast there was the town of Fort Mill and right across the river, a true city, Rock Hill.  Additional family members had settled there, raising us too.

When I was young, I didn’t appreciate the “village raising the child.”  It seemed any news of trouble I might have gotten into traveled at light speed, alerting my parents or grandparents before I got home.  Punishment would be quick and decisive…more often than not, it was well deserved. “Whatever you get at school, you’ll get double at home.”

I’m sure time has softened the focus of those days…maybe my memories are of a time I wished to be rather than was.  The front porch probably wasn’t quite as big as I remember but the roots of my family tree have dug deeper into the fertile ground I remember.

The villages are gone, and family dynamics have changed.  Monsters and socioeconomics have changed them.  Few parents can make ends meet on a single salary; others find themselves working multiple jobs.  Latch key children and helicopter parents are a rule, no longer the exception.  Child care is expensive and does little for family dynamics.

Grandparents are working longer and can’t provide or are unwilling to provide the safety net my grandparents provided.  We are unable to go back to those “thrilling days of yesteryear” but must somehow realize children don’t raise themselves.

I’ve got to do a better job of imparting my own lessons.  Actions over words, practice what you preach.  I have grandchildren who are growing up too fast.  I feel I have been somewhat absent, an absence they can’t afford…I can’t afford.  I’m not a village but I have lessons to be taught, stories to be told.  I hope there is still time to teach and to tell…time to impart wisdom and lessons.  Past time to help them put roots into fertile ground.

“Work for a cause, not for applause.  Remember to live your life to express, not to impress, don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.”     —Gail Lictenstein

***

Don Miller, a retired teacher, and coach writes on various subjects.  His author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The interesting image is a drawing by Jillian Deluca and may be purchased at https://www.saatchiart.com/print/Drawing-Deep-Roots/985383/3619990/view

 

Viennas, Nabs, and Cherry-Lemon Sundrops

 

Or as is said ’round heah, Vienners…a somewhat heavy accent mark on the “ners”.  “Vi-en-NERS”.  Some of us end words with “er” that don’t require it, like yeller instead of yellow.

If you are North American and happen to find yourself in Germany with an intense hankering for a Vienna sausage…and, if you can actually get a vendor to understand your Southern accent, you’re probably not going to get what you are expecting; a “baker’s” half dozen of two-inch or so sausages in a jelly-like substance, all contained in a small can with a pull tab.  I remember when you had to us a “key“ to open the top of the can by inserting it into a metal band you twisted off.  Lawd have mercy if the little band twisted or broke, you might starve to death.

Image result for sardine can key"

 

Image result for vienna sausages in jelly"

What you’re going to get in Germany is a long, slender sausage that we Nordamerikanisch would call a skinny hot dog wiener.  They are called Wiener Würstchen in the Germanic states.

Image result for vienna sausages pinterst"

I’m sure, by now many who haven’t clicked to a more interesting post are wondering, “What the hell is he babblin’ about.“  A better question might be “Why is he talkin’ about whatever the hell he is babblin’ bout?“  I’m getting there.

Recently, I handed a new friend twenty dollars to tide him over until his “gubmint” check arrived.  We had become friends that very day but that’s another story.  After thanking me he pointed out, “This’ll buy a lot of  Vienners at the Dollar Store.”

I commented, “And some soda crackers, too.”

As I drove home, I thought, “or buy a lot of Spam…or Potted Meat…or Deviled Ham…which might just be disguised potted meat.”  Nope, I just researched potted meat and wish I hadn’t.  Potted meat is not Deviled Ham.

While I haven’t eaten any of the above in decades, they do hold a warm spot in my heart and as my new friend pointed out, “They’ll hep keep the wolves away.”  I’m also sure they contributed to my 2006 heart attack because as a child I ate a great deal of the highly salted and fatted proteins, what I call “mystery meat”  as in it is a mystery as to what meat parts were used to make it.  I suggest you not read the ingredients if you actually like them.  Ignorance is bliss.

During the summer of my twelfth (12) year, I went to work in the fields alongside my cousins and an uncle.  It’s not like I hadn’t been working in the fields before, this work paid money…mullah…greenbacks…two dollars a day, ten dollars for five early thirty to dark thirty days per week.  Cash money every Friday evening.  Ten brand new Silver Certificates.  There was a caveat.  Two bucks a day plus midday meal.

Two bucks a day plus midday meal to load and haul hay, hoe and pull corn, clean out animal stalls and load their leavings into a manure spreader to…what else…spread manure.  Saturdays, I worked alongside another set of cousins on another uncle’s chicken farm.  The two farms were nothing alike except shoveling poop stinks no matter what animal it comes from and two dollars a day ain’t enough even with the midday meal.   Especially when the midday meal usually consisted of Vienna Sausage or Deviled Ham, soda crackers and a MoonPie or pack of nabs…all washed down from a jug of warm water.  Yummy.

Nabs?  For the uninitiated, nabs is Southern lingo for the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) which first produced small sandwich crackers usually filled with cheese or peanut butter.  Here in the South, we ate Lance’s, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, or Tom’s from Columbus, Georgia, but we still called them nabs.

Tom’s was eventually absorbed by Lance’s but still retains its name and is better known for its peanuts, while Lance is better known for its nabs.  Walk into any Southern mercantile and ask for a pack of nabs and a dope, they know exactly what you want.  You do have to provide which one of the gazillion choices you desire.1

Image result for nabs crackers"

That leads me down another rabbit trail.  Tom’s peanuts and Pepsi Cola.  In the afternoons my uncle would head out to the closest mercantile and bring back a Pepsi Cola, still called a “dope” in my neck of the woods, and a pack of Tom’s peanuts.   Any soft drink was called dope because the original Coca-Cola formula contained cocaine.  Back in the day, Southern soda shops were referred to as “hop joints” and Coke delivery trucks as “dope wagons.”2

For some reason, Tom’s peanuts go perfectly with Pepsi Cola.  I should have said goes perfectly IN a Pepsi Cola.  We’d pour our little bag of peanuts into the Pepsi Cola bottle and consume with gusto.  You could put them in any soft drink, but my choice was Pepsi.  A needed jolt of sugar for energy to get you to dark thirty and the salt from the peanuts helped to replenish what your body had lost as you tried not to die from heat castration 3 in a Southern hayfield.  I don’t know if it contained cocaine but it did seem to refresh you.

Image result for peanuts in pepsi bottle"

Another Southern staple was the MoonPie.  MoonPie?  I’ve never been enamored by the MoonPie, two huge graham cracker cookies with a marshmallow filling dipped in chocolate…originally.  You can get a MoonPie in many flavors now…banana, double yuk.  Not being enamored doesn’t mean I haven’t consumed a gracious plenty of them.  You eat what you have and what you can afford.

The MoonPie is truly a Southern creation, born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1907 at a local bakery.  As the story goes, visiting coal miners asked the owner to create a “man-sized” cookie that could serve as a “workingman’s lunch”.  When asked how big, the miner replied, “As big as the moon.”  We know how it got its name but not how MoonPie became associated with RC Cola, but it seems one cannot be consumed without the other.

Image result for moonpie and rc cola"

How RC or Royal Crown Cola, another Southern creation born in Columbus, Georgia became associated with MoonPie is a depression-era story that has been lost in the mists of time.  For a nickel, each, Southern laborers, textile workers or Kentucky coal miners could afford a filling lunch for a dime.  “An RC and a MoonPie” became a part of Southern culture with no help from advertising moguls.4

Flirting with Southern blasphemy, I said earlier I was never enamored with the MoonPie.  Nothing sacrilegious, I don’t like marshmallows and if I wasn’t drinking Pepsi, I might have a Cheerwine rather than an RC.  Cheerwine…I haven’t had one in years.  Honestly, unless Jack Daniels is in the glass I haven’t had any soft drink in years.

Cheerwine is a cherry-flavored cola produced in Salisbury, North Carolina since 1917.  Sweetened with cane syrup and containing a higher percentage of carbonation, a culture of its own sprang up.  Cheerwine cream-filled Krispy Creme donuts, Cheerwine flavored ice cream, Cheerwine pickles, the base for a barbeque sauce, and my favorite, a cherry, lemon, Sun Drop cola made with Cheerwine. 5

Sun Drop? You don’t know about Sun Drop? A citrus-flavored soda made in Missouri which is almost Southern.

Image result for cheerwine old fashioned"

Memories of sitting in the shade of huge water oaks next to the river, the humidity, and heat finding its way into the shade.  Slappin’ to keep the mosquitos from carryin’ you off before you finished your lunch.  At least the Vienna Sausages were warm and the gelatinous gunk has turned into an oily liquid that could be shaken off.  Ooh, I just remembered what the hands holding the sausage looked like.  Well, a bit of dirt or manure never hurt anyone…”ain’t hurt nobody.”

A twelve-year-old doing his first grown-up job, laughing with his cousins, listening to his uncle sing old-timey hymns just before pinning back the twelve-year old’s ears with a language he had never heard before because of something stupid he had done.  Learning lessons needing to be learned.

Learning to drive a tractor and then the big ole flatbed.  Learning you never pick up a bale of hay on the river bottoms without flipping it first.  “How did that moccasin get under there?”

Staring at long rows of corn, hoe in hand.  That sinking feeling that you’re going to be there all day, a long day.

Watching the early morning mist from the river find its way into the bottomland and the sun creep above the water oaks.

The late afternoon thunderheads forming beyond those same water oaks, praying the would wash out the rest of the day…or at least cool it down.

Lessons and memories at the finest…even if the food wasn’t.

Acknowledgment:  I realize Vienna Sausage is not a Southern creation but like all cultures “We ain’t above stealin’ an idea.”

Footnotes:

1 “A Nab is a Nab is a Nab”  Southern Food Ways https://www.southernfoodways.org/a-nab-is-a-nab-is-a-nab/

2 “Is it true Coca-Cola once contained cocaine?”  The Straight Dope https://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/384/is-it-true-coca-cola-once-contained-cocaine/

Heat Castration:  A non-recognized medical affliction caused by heat and humidity resulting in the “Sweating of one’s testicles off.”

4 “A Brief History of Tennessee Moon Pies” The Culture Trip https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/tennessee/articles/a-brief-history-of-tennessee-moon-pies/

5 “Ten things you didn’t know about Cheerwine” Wide Open Country https://www.wideopencountry.com/10-things-didnt-know-cheerwine/

The Illustrating images were all stolen from Pinterest as was the featured image.

Don Miller’s books, fiction, and non-fiction may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

…Than Owl Sh!t?

Image result for Slicker than owl shit"

I stepped out into the cold to check the temperatures in our hothouses and immediately thought, “Its colder than owl sh!t.”  This simple thought took me down a mental path that was “slicker than owl sh!t” and quite soon, I felt “dumber than owl sh!t” as I stepped on an overnight gift left behind by one of my canine children.  I was “luckier than owl sh!t” because the gift was frozen solid.  I avoided a sprained ankle as my foot rolled over the frozen “Baby Ruth” rather than my ankle.  I also avoided the nasty cleanup of my spiffy bunny slippers.

It was colder than owl sh!t and I wished it was hotter than owl sh!t, still.  Twenty-three degrees with a light breeze making me shiver despite my heavy coat.  It’s November 13, still fall, and the morning low for Nome, Alaska is twenty-four.  Crazier than owl sh!t.  I know many of you would have said it was “colder than a titches witty in a brass bra” or “colder than a well digger’s a$$ in January.”  For some reason my mind didn’t go there.

You can tell what has grabbed the attention of my feeble brain.  How did “…than owl sh!t” become such a versatile descriptor and why do I feel the need to insert an exclamation point for the i in sh!t?

I grew up near the sandhills of South Carolina in an area that was cut by red clay and rocky slate.  I lived in a farming area and am as “country as a cow patty.”  I have spent my entire life in the state including the last thirty-two in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.

What little time I have spent out of South Carolina has primarily been spent in other Southern states.  I’ve just had no desire to head any farther north than Maryland.  I did head to Nebraska but that was where the College World Series was held.  A fine South Carolina institution won it that year.  Who am I kidding, I was a Clemson fan and they were there but didn’t win.

I was and am a purebred “country bumpkin”, now hillbilly, with hayseed and lint in his hair and wrapped tightly in kudzu vine.  Maybe more inbred than purebred as I think on it.  You might even use the term, Redneck.

I only bring up the place of my birth because I have heard about every old-time descriptive idiom one might expect to hear in the South…or at least South Carolina.  None work better, in so many ways  than “whatever than owl sh!t.”  Well Found under carnal knowledge” probably has more usage but doesn’t seem to have the flare.

“…hotter than owl sh!t” is more descriptive than “F…ing hot” but as I think on it, “hotter than a Billy goat’s a$$ in a hot pepper patch” gives one a much more interesting mental image than saying “it’s hotter than hell.”    I just thought of randy Billy goat descriptor, “Hornier than a double di@ked Billy goat,” and the cuter, “As happy as a puppy dog with two p@t@rs.”  No more, no more.

Obviously, I’ve slid further down my “slicker than owl sh!t” rabbit hole and it has branched toward more descriptive Southern idioms that come to mind.

An old friend commenting on the current crop of politicians, “My dad always said if you’re going to be stupid, you better be tough.”  Yep, and Lyndon B. Johnson put it a different way, “Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There’s nothing to do but to stand there and take it.”  No, I’m not saying LBJ was stupid and it wasn’t an idiom…maybe.  I wish our current president would stand there and take it and stay off twitter.  No more politics.

My wife’s favorite Southernism describing one of her basketball teams, “You can’t make silk purses out of sow’s ears” shows what a fine lady she is.  I have used a similar description to chronical some of my own teams involving chicken salad and chicken ka ka.  I’m not a fine lady.

She also informed me after I bloodied my thumb doing something stupid, “If you’re looking for sympathy, you can find it in Webster’s.”  I’m guessing she won’t kiss it to make it better and was “madder than a wet hen” as I bled on her floor.

One idiom made me stop and ponder “it was thicker and richer than three feet up a bull’s a$$.”  Interesting considering the Baptist deacon using it was describing fine, thick and rich banana pudding at a church social.  Somehow this is a good thing?  “Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit.”  Some sayings defy all understanding.

I began my morning ramble because of checking hothouse temperatures.  For some reason, my wife has never found a plant she didn’t want to save or overwinter.  It doesn’t keep her from buying more plants in the spring, summer, and fall.  A bit compulsive, she has more plants than “you can shake a stick at” and as I await the delivery of our third hothouse I wonder if we are on our way to “more hot houses than you can shake a stick at.”  As I said, somethings defy all understanding.

“Shaking a stick at” is an interesting saying and as I researched it was surprised to find out it was first used in a damn Yankee newspaper in the early 1800s, the Lancaster (Pa) Journal in 1818.  Well, we certainly kidnapped it.  What does it mean?  I have no clue except shaking a stick at anything is threatening and my wife’s plants are threatening my good nature.  “I’m as anxious as a painted lady in Sunday school.”

Well, I see it is now thirty degrees and today’s temperature is to climb only into the low forties.  I’m going to wait until the red alcohol in my thermometer climbs above thirty-two before I go for my morning walk.  At this rate, it could be an afternoon walk.  I just don’t want to “bust my a$$ because the roads are slicker than owl sh!t.”

***

If any of you have similar idioms, I would appreciate you dropping them in a comment.

***

Further ramblings in book form may be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The startled owl image from The Daily Record https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/weird-news/meet-worlds-most-startled-owl-6266419

Gif from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/best-southern-sayings  Some other good sayings.

As the Word Turns…

 

                        “A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.”                  Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night

I don’t think I’ve ever had an original thought, well there was a quote in the local newspaper after a state championship victory, “I was tighter than a tick on a fat dog.”  Don’t know where my quote came from, I’m sure it wasn’t original even though I created it on the spot.  Later I heard someone say they were “as tight as a flea’s ass over a rain barrel.”

I had been a bit tense before the game, as in “You couldn’t have slammed a twenty-one gauge needle up my ass with a sledgehammer” tense.  Somewhat graphic but you do get the point.  Ouch!

I have taken to sharing daily quotes on social media.  Quotes that I find uplifting or thought-provoking.  Quotes made by other people, smart people, creative people.  Everything I am not.

Like many things I do, these quotes lead to other thoughts, down rabbit holes and pig trails, the piling on effect.  My meanderings led me to the distinct language we Southerners have created from what was once English.  Our slang and sayings we have created from the “King’s English.”

Good Southerner writers seem to have the capacity to turn a word or phrase that means one thing into something else entirely and because I am incapable of original thought, I’ve used many phrases and idioms created by someone else.

I am not only Southern but as “country as a cow patty”.  I grew up “over yonder on the edge of nothin’” and moved to a place that is not quite “the end of the world but you can sure see it from there.”  I tend to “drop my gees” when I talk and sometimes when I write.

“I was as happy as a dead pig in sunshine” might be my favorite saying and I’ve used it often to describe my first true love.  Unfortunately, I was not the little blonde’s first true love…seems she had many true loves, some simultaneously.  “You couldn’t stir ’em with a stick.”  Despite her somewhat crowded pool of suitors, when she finally gave me “the time of day”, I found myself as happy as a “dead pig in sunshine” for most of our relationship.

If a pig were to die and is left in the sunshine for any length of time the skin will dry out…and it will “smell to high heaven”.  As the skin dries, the lips tend to pull away from the pig’s teeth giving the little, porcine feller a smile as if he is quite happy to be dead.  In other words, blissful ignorance of reality…yep that was me, blissfully ignorant she was going to crush my heart flatter than “a toad frog on a country highway”.  Come to think of it I was blissfully ignorant during most of my romantic episodes.

During many occasions chasing true love, I was as “stubborn as an old mud cooter.”  First, the use of the word cooter has nothing to do with its modern-day slang meaning; a woman’s “holiest of holies.”  Cooter is a West African word we Southerners appropriated to describe a water turtle.

If you have ever been unlucky enough to hook a snapping turtle while fishing, you will quickly find out how stubborn they are.  The old mossy back will head to the bottom and dig in.  If they’re big enough you won’t get them off the bottom until they run out of oxygen and come up for air.  If you are willing to wait until that happens and land him without losing a body part, there is the possibility of eating cooter stew, not really “eating high on the hog” but delicious none the less.  If not, you just have to cut your line and move on.  When it came to love, I never really knew how to cut my line…or my loses.  That has nothing to do with “fish or cut bait”, cus it ain’t Southern.

“A blind hog can find an acorn” or “capture lightning in a bottle” as I did when I met Miss Linda thirty-five years ago.  She and I do get “catawampus” on occasion, but mostly I’ve been “sugar in her hand.”  Yep, I have been “sh@#ing in high cotton” nigh on to thirty-two years of matrimony.  Maybe you can make “silk purses out of sow’s ears” after all.

“Bless your (his/her) heart” is a bit more diverse and complicated.  It is a phrase that can be used as sarcasm while gossiping about some unfortunate, “Well bless her heart.  If her brains were gunpowder she couldn’t blow her nose” or face to face, speaking in a slow drawl to a friend, “Bless your heart you are ’bout as smart as a sack of rocks.”  It is rumored to be the Southern Baptist lady’s equivalent of f@#$ you…rumored now, I don’t know for sure.

A major problem with “bless your heart” is it can also be used in a loving and sincere manner.  “Oh, I heard you lost your pet goldfish.  Bless your heart can I bring you a casserole or some potato salad?”  It’s all about inflection and yes, I have heard it directed toward me using every inflection possible.  Being Southern I’ve eaten a lot of casseroles and potato salad too.

“The phrase ‘bless your heart’ is like chicken and waffles.  It can be sweet.  It can be spicy and it’s perfect for any situation.” It’s A Southern Thing https://www.southernthing.com/bless-your-heart-is-all-about-the-tone-2581652582.html?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2

For more musings or a book or five, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from Amazon.com