Kathleen Smith and I were challenged by Gary Truckey, my friend who lives in Wisconsin, to write a post about what we love about the South. He, on the other hand, is to write one telling us what he loves about living in the North. In truth, there is just not enough space to list all the glories of living in Dixie, but I’ll do my best to narrow it down a bit. This should be quite interesting – and well worth reading the three different points of view. I hope you enjoy reading these, and please, let us know what you think about our choices!
What I Love about the South – from The Farm Wife
Ah, the South. Just two little words can invoke a whirlwind of images in ones’ mind. The hoop skirts, plantation houses, the verandas and a rocking chair or two sitting at the ready for a lively conversation or just a comfortable silence; a debutante ball, with young girls all dressed in white, young gentlemen dressed in tuxedos and the matrons dressed in their finest, including the family jewels which have been taken out of the hidden safe and donned for the special occasion.
We’ve come a long way from the hoop skirts, but it was a slow moving process. It’s that slow pace that mostly attracts me to the South, where people don’t gripe about the long wait in a grocery store line, and instead strike up a conversation with the person in front or behind them. By the time you have checked out, you pretty much know their whole history, and even take the time to let them know you’ll be praying for their Aunt Betty’s upcoming bunion surgery, while they in turn thank you for sharing a recipe handed down from your great-grandmother. And you can bet they’ll be trying that very recipe within the week, and Aunt Betty will have been prayed for multiple times.
With that slower pace you will find that a bit of our history clings to each step. You don’t have to go far in any direction either, to see how that very history is preserved, not only in the plantation homes themselves, but in the 100 year-old trees that spread their limbs protectively over the grounds. The Live Oak, draped in the delicate lace of Spanish moss, and Pecan limbs may be tired, but they continue to proudly watch sentinel over the homes that housed ‘their’ families. The fullness of their leaves in summer offer a bit of cool shade for the porches, as the people rock gently while sipping a frosty glass of sweet tea. In the winter, they dream of the generations of children who have climbed them, tucked safely in the crook of two sturdy limbs, or they stand solid as the children of today build forts among their branches.
I love how people here celebrate the opportunity to restore a bit of history every chance they get. Jacquelyn and her children are diligently working to restore an old Dog Trot, and from what I can tell, give her the chance and she’ll restore every single one remaining in the state, if not the entire South. Her preservation of the old home isn’t just trying to keep history alive, it’s the very essence of who she is. She is putting her entire heart and soul into restoring a piece of history that most people would consider a landmark. In turn, she restores not only a building, but the very life and character of one of the ‘genteel ladies’.
The food is a large part of my love for the South. Any Southern girl worth her salt was learning to make fried chicken and corn fritters at a very early age. And you just aren’t southern if you can’t make a big ol’ batch of fluffy buttermilk biscuits. Got company coming? No problem. A chocolate cake just came out of the oven, and please, help yourself to the pitcher of lemonade in the ice box while I ice the cake.
We proudly wear our history like armor, and don’t even think about keeping skeletons in our closet. More than likely those skeletons are probably a crazy relative, and we have no qualms about discussing them – as a matter of fact, we display them like badges of honor. And if you can tout ‘Bobby’ Lee as one of your ancestors, so much the better. God, Family and Country are our priorities (and in that order), and we parade them all every chance we get. Even in death we abide by the cultural rules, even if most of them are unspoken.
Southern manners and respect are so closely intertwined that they are considered one and the same. This may be part of the reason our speech is slow enough to be considered a ‘drawl’, because we are always thinking about what we want to say, long before the words come out of our mouths. Our children are taught to say ‘Yes Ma’am’ and ‘No Ma’am’, ‘Yes, Sir’ and ‘No, Sir’ immediately after they learn to say Mama and DaDa. We raise our boys to be gentlemen, and as soon as they are able to reach a door handle, they learn to open it for a lady. Our girls are brought up to be ladies, and all children are required to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Mamas and daddies alike will admonish their children to ‘mind your manners’ the second before the kids walk out the door. To not mind your manners, or any display of lack of respect towards an elder constitutes 10 years imprisonment, or being grounded until they are 31 years of age, which ever will be the longer sentence. I even heard it said once, when an unsuspecting ‘Yankee’ made the mistake of telling a Southern judge in a court room that making children say ‘Yes Ma’am’ and ‘No Ma’am’ was a backwoods, redneck, Southern tradition. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a person turn as red as that judge’s face was. Even his black robe was smoldering. By the time he got finished with the witness, even she was saying ‘Yes, Sir’. We all thought she would be spending thirty days in the lock up for that foul offense. Needless to say, even the southern lawyers and everyone else in the courtroom sat up straighter and made good and sure they ‘minded their manners’ after that one.
Regardless of the hot, humid days of the summers for which the South is known, the lack of any true season, and the idea that the weather can change every fifteen minutes or so, to me, there is no other place to call home but the South. As any of us down here can attest, snow is fun for a day or two, as it’s such a novelty. But the very idea of sitting in a rocker on a porch, a paper fan in one hand and a glass of ice cold sweet tea in the other, all the while listening to the bass of the bull frogs and the chirping of the cicadas, (and occasionally shooing a snake or gator off that very same porch), is like a glimpse of Heaven. And as with most folks, that’s the very place they want to spend eternity.
Stay Tuned for Kathleen’s reasons for living in the South
& Gary’s reasons that he loves living in the North!