My father was in the Navy, and his ship was in the Boston Navy Yard for refit and modernization. This was 1940 and such was in great demand for the US Navy. He himself was a Floridian, but that's of no account to the "Yankee!" yellers.
I have lived 'up there' for a while, on one job or another and find I have no attachment for the place, the people, or their ways. I have never missed New England. Not one bit. But this is not to be a tirade against that place or people.
Rather I'd like to speak about the South . . . my South. I've lived and worked in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, and now these past 35 years, Texas. My heart, indeed my soul, is embedded in the red clay and black sandy loam of South Carolina, the Caliche of Texas, I am bound to Old Dixie by the very fibre of my being. The sound of a Red Bone at a distance, the 'chop' of a good Walker at a hard run; the scent of a pot of beans properly prepared; deer meat and rice in an iron kettle in the damp woods on a cold November day in the Low Country. Hot Cornbread 'n Coffee of a mornin', maybe a dollop of honey on the bread.
The tall pines rising up to the stars, soft needle bed underfoot, heavy oaks draped with Spanish Moss in the moonlight.The sudden breath of warm air deep in the woods on a frosty February night late. That scent tells you to holler, real quick and real loud, "We're just gonna call the dogs and go home now!" and that deep, deep voice from out of the blackness, "That's a good Idea, boys!" So the horn blows, once, twice, and we don't breathe until we hear the dogs coming. "Thankee, Lord, Thankee!"
Moving through the thick tangles of Low Country summertime jungle, `hot and humid ain't in it . . . swimming more like it. So thick you have to go single file and dodge the 'slap' of the branch ahead. 'Hold Up' vines every where. Bugs as big as Beagles. The thrill of fear that the next step might fall on a big Copperhead, or Pineland Rattler, or even a Cottonmouth. Come dark, hearing the 'Gators out beyond the light, red eyes sometimes visible.
And then there's the hogs, big brutes, vicious, fearless, run right over you and tear you up a bunch! Yassah! Dey some fierce, dey is, fo' sho'. Uncle Charlie with his single barrel 12 gauge J C Higgins thirty inch full choke, he can shoot quicker than me with my pump gun. "Got 'free shells r'at y'ere", stuck through his fingers like cigars. Double Ought Buck. "Yassah, d'em woirks jus' fine on dem deer an' dem hog." No fancy camo, no tree stands or ladders, Bib Overhauls, old street shoes, well washed Khaki shirt buttoned all the way up, sleeves down and buttoned, too. Bag o' Red Man and a drink bottle of tea . . . I think.
Gordonton, North Carolina.
Saturday night at Junior's store, Ryan's Well, Mississippi. Warm, sultry Mizzippi summer night. Crowd of folks gathered around the big ol' Oak out front, pickups backed in, tailgates down. A bunch of guys 'tunin' up and pretty soon somebody runs a riff and some real, honest to god Mizzippi blues drifts through the leaves and branches of that old tree. "Nuthin' wrote down, nuthin recorded. We jus' plays!" No CD's for sale, no Tee Shirts. There's chicken and catfish plates, slaw and 'tater salad, beans an' biscuit. Woodrow has some 'likker' in his trunk, if you wants some.
Kids runnin' around, dogs chasin' em. Men, Women, Black and White, enjoy the evening, share Chocolate pie, a few beers - names no one's likely ever heard of outside Itawamba County. Sure as hell ain't Michelob or Corona. Somebody starts a Country tune and everybody plays and sings. Big Redneck yells do some 'Gatemouth'! and they do. Come mornin' they'll all be at Church, Bethel AME; Missionary Baptist down by Redbud Creek, Next Saturday, they'll all be back here,
That's a glimpse of my South. No Bill Clintons, no Atlanta beehive congestion, no Charlotte glass towers.
There's more, the hills of Western Carolina, Mount Skyuka, the backroads through the mountains and along the ridges; icy cold, fast water, the Chauga, Chatuga and quiet little villages way off the interstate. I remember all this and I love all this, and I love the people who lived there, and who 'done right' 'cause it was right! God never made a better country.