Saturday, February 14, 2009

Southern Comfort

Sometimes it still startles me that I live in the South--and by that I mean the true, cliche-heavy South. That's quite silly, of course, since I have lived here my entire life. (Living three and a half years in Kansas City as a tot doesn't exempt me from being a lifelong Southerner, no matter what they tell you.)

I long ago realized that certain aspects of my environment I'd always taken for granted are not universal--for example, the slower pace of life, the simple country fashions, the propensity to deep-fry anything, the potluck culture, the always entertaining array of things on front porches. I could go on and on. Heck, there's probably a whole slew of things I never even think of being different, I'm so used to them. 

Sometimes, though, I'm still taken aback. 

The other day, driving home in my Scion XB from picking up Marlowe at doggie daycare, a pickup--one of the little ones, old and low to the ground--moseyed along the road in front of the intersection where I was stopped, made a slow right turn, and rolled onto the gravel and weeds that made up the front yard directly in front of me. This gave me plenty of time to silently gape at the traveling cliche I was witnessing. 

First, the tiny cab held two skinny passengers--men who looked like they might know their way around a meth lab--and one droopy eared hound dog. This in itself is not unusual, of course. What made me pause was the bed of the truck, which contained not only a crushed velvet, duct-tape-patched gold recliner, but reclining all his mass in said recliner was a huge, tall, heavy man in denim overalls and a flannel shirt, picking at his teeth with a length of straw. Yes, actual straw. He had long, gray scraggly hair, mud on his overalls, and not a care in the world. That man was as content atop his Chevy chariot as any man I have ever seen.

Having reached their destination, he hauled himself out of the recliner, kind of reluctantly, lunged out of the truck over the side with a  big humph. I drove--slowly--past and he gave me a kindly nod of his head as he made his way after the other fellas to have a set on the hardscrabble front porch. I didn't dally to see if they pulled out a fiddle and the 'baccy or just started chewing on some corn on the cob and talking about the ol' fishing hole, but they all looked to be in splendid spirits. 

It really looked comfortable, and at the speeds they were going, about as safe as a parade float. I gotta say, I was a little envious.

For all the times I gripe about what we don't have here, scenes like that make me appreciate all we do. I have to believe that there is a higher-than-average percentage of our population that is almost completely un-self-conscious. They are who they are, and Jesus loves them for it, so why wouldn't everyone else? I love living somewhere so colorful and rich with its own slow-ripened culture. It challenges me and sustains me in ways I don't often notice. For all its problems, this is a good, beautiful place.

Yep, I'm happily a Southerner, through and through. Even without owning overalls. 


Laura said...

hehe...chevy chariot

Anonymous said...

I *love* this! My friends don't believe me when I tell them I used to go to the lake in the back of a pickup loaded with other kids - a lake an hour and a half away - we sat in lawn chairs. Didn't you go on one UMY trip with me to Lake Chicot in Lake Village in the back of a pickup? I seem to remember you getting really sunburned! If only you had had a Lazy Boy!

jennybee said...

I'd forgotten, but I think you're right. I seem to remember Dad flipping his lid when he found out an official church trip involved such un-seatbelted transport.

I always get really sunburned. Man, I haven't been on a lake trip in years. I can smell it now like it was yesterday, though.