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18. Pick-up Trucks: Tonka Toys for Grownups?

29 Jan

One good thing about living in the South is that you always know at least half a dozen folks with pick-up trucks in case you need to haul something somewhere. Even better, most folks are happy to help. I can’t quite explain the popularity of the pick-up because I figure that about 90% of the time 90% of pick-up drivers aren’t hauling anything anywhere. But then again, you can’t have a proper tailgating party without a tail gate, so maybe that’s reason enough. Besides, it’s hard to outfit a Volkswagon Beetle with a gun rack…

These days, my 5-year-old nephew must be properly strapped in his car seat before we leave the driveway, and I’m all the time reminding my sister that when we were five, we rode around in the back of pick-ups on a fairly regular basis. “Yeah, well, that was then, this is now,” she’ll say like an S.E. Hinton novel.

Driving in the South, you’ll see all sorts of things hauled around in pick-ups: firewood, mattresses, watermelons, four wheelers, dogs, whatever. I once worked for a small town newspaper, and during hunting season, folks would drive up wanting me to take a picture of the dead deer in the back of their truck. They figured it was news. And sadly, the town was small enough that sometimes it was.

The weirdest thing I’ve ever seen hauled in a pick-up was a dead Holstein. I had to ask myself 1: Where are they taking a dead dairy cow? And 2: How’d they get it into the back of that pick-up? I still have no answers…

Do you drive a truck? What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had the occasion to haul?

17. Air Conditioning: Don’t Stay Home in August without It

29 Jan

Folks back home are shocked to hear that I (along with most folks and businesses in Seattle) do not have air conditioning. The horror! The horror!

The thing is, Seattle gets unbearably hot for about two or three days a year, but in many parts of the South, the heat starts up in April and sticks around till October. (One of the reasons I love the state fair so much is that it almost always marks the transition into cooler temperatures. Hence the term “fair weather.”)

I am truly a child of the late 20th century and cannot even fathom how folks in the South could tolerate summers without air conditioning. Wearing hoop skirts and petticoats! Heck, I can’t even fathom how folks today go outside in business suits and/or pantyhose anytime after May. (A good argument for self-employment if I’ve ever heard one.)

Southern folks are not known for moving at a particularly rapid pace, but perhaps you’ve never seen them in the summer. It’s always a mad dash from the comfort of an air-conditioned car to the safety of an air-conditioned house. And by “safety” I mean safety. People die out there in the heat. Or wish they would.

One summer I was at my parents’ house when the air conditioner went on the blink. Within minutes, my mom and I were packed and headed to the family’s cabin on the Pearl River. Normally, I wouldn’t be all that enthused about spending time in the cabin, but that day we couldn’t get there quickly enough.

For the first few hours there, my mom and I lay on the bed underneath the air conditioner reveling in the glory of an icy cool breeze. I only wish I’d known at the time how precious that moment was. I’d be willing to endure any number of summers in the South if my mom were there with me. I’d love to hear her just one more time say, “It’s hotter than HELL!” (pronounced “Hey-You’ll.”)

15. Shotguns: For Weddings and Whatnot

12 Jan

While the back window Confederate flag isn’t quite so prevalent these days, it seems that plenty of Southern folks’ pickup trucks are still equipped with gun racks. It’s not often you see a Dixie dweller charged with “carrying a concealed weapon.” In fact, you’ll be informed by bumper sticker which pickups are “protected by Smith & Wesson.”

Why all the shotguns? For one thing, one must be prepared at all times to bag a 10-point buck. And you never know when one will appear in the driveway. This is not hyperbole, people. I’ve seen it happen. Ok, I’ve never actually seen it happen, but I did hear it happen right outside my parent’s house.

While many Southern people enjoy shooting wildlife, many just enjoy shooting in general. Not a Christmas goes by without the men in my family outside trying out their new weaponry. Although I think my dad’s become a bit gun shy since shooting a hole in his dresser years ago.

My most unsettling run in with a shotgun took place when my sister and I were driving to our annual Christmas party. We took a wrong turn in the backwoods and were greeted by two gentlemen packing heat. They asked where we were going and we said, “Uh…Scott’s house?” They said, “Scott Williams?” (This was our first time meeting my friend Karen’s then-boyfriend, now-husband, and we had no idea what his last name was.) We said, “Uh…yeah?” Then they told us which way to go, but never did loosen their grip on said shotguns.

Every Christmas night, we go back to Karen & Scott’s place and are VERY careful not to steer off course. Something tells me those guys don’t believe in second chances.

10. Baseball Caps: The Southern Man’s Toupee

7 Jan

As a general rule, Southerners greatly prefer football to baseball, so what’s with the proliferation of baseball caps? Heck, Southerners wear baseball caps that promote FOOTBALL teams.

Ok, people, contrary to popular belief, there is no hairstyle that can be improved with the addition of a baseball cap. Especially when you consider that you have to take the cap off at some point, and then you’re left with the dreaded hat head. Y’all know what I’m talking about.

Note to women folks: If you wear a baseball cap when you’re having a bad hair day, you will end up with a much worse hair day tomorrow. Ok, maybe not if you’re one of those folks who washes their hair EVERY day, but who has that kind of time?

Southern guys start off wearing baseball caps in high school, but you’ll see them more and more frequently as hairlines begin receding. It’s a vicious circle: you wear a baseball cap, which causes you to lose hair, so you wear caps more frequently, which causes you to lose more hair. In short, I consider the baseball cap to be the Southern man’s toupee. Which works out well seeing as even the spiffiest rug can’t promote your college football team.

4. White Rocking Chairs–Who Needs Picket Fences?

15 Sep

Why is it that the very minute a Southerner acquires a front porch (or reasonable facsimile), she must run to Cracker Barrel and buy a white rocking chair? Visit any Southern neighborhood with a decent concentration of front porches (shouldn’t be too hard to find), and you’ll see what I mean – oodles of white rocking chairs. What you won’t see is anybody actually sitting (much less rocking) in them.

I figure this has to do with the romantic notion that Southern folks sit around on the front porch drinking lemonade or mint juleps 24/7. Sure, they would like to. But they’ve got jobs, soccer games, and dentist appointments just like anybody else.

Maybe the white rocker symbolizes a Southerner’s desire to return to the simpler days. Back when folks talked instead of texting. Before “Gossip Girl” replaced good old-fashioned gossip. When the Black Eyed Peas were something you ate with cornbread.

Do you have white rocking chairs on your porch? And why do they always seem to travel in pairs?

2. Deep Freezers: Like Closets, But Colder

15 Sep

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Everybody I know in the South has a deep freeze. Everybody. Care to guess how many deep freezers I’ve seen between here and L.A.? Yep, that would be none.

So why do Southern folks love deep freezers? Frankly, I don’t really know. I could speculate that they need the extra room to store a hunting season’s worth of venison, but more often, they’re packed with Kid’s Cuisines and Costco bags of chicken breasts. Oh, and ice. You can always use an extra bag or two of ice. Never know when the gas station up the road will run out. And then how will you make margaritas?

My sister asked me a few years back why I didn’t have a deep freezer. I believe I was living in a basement apartment at the time, so I figured the answer was obvious. Anyhow, like the Albert Brooks character in “Mother,” I am of the belief that not everything belongs in the freezer, which is why they make it smaller.

Fast forward a few years to the day I noticed our freezer was on the blink. First hint? Soft-serve ice cream. Geoff and I took a field trip to Lowes and Home Depot in search of a replacement. After great debate (well, not exactly Lincoln and Douglas, but still) we settled on a top-freezer Frigidaire with an Energy Star rating. Imagine my surprise when we got it home and I noticed that the freezer compartment was considerably smaller than our previous model. I must admit, I have begun to reconsider my position on deep freezers.

The other day, as I was attempting to wedge a Costco bag of pecans into the freezer door shelf, I made the executive decision to banish Geoff’s square egg maker (don’t ask) and stainless steel pitcher to the countertop. Upon noticing his exiled stuff, Geoff picked up the pitcher and said, “This is the foamer for my espresso machine.”

WHAT?

“You mean,” I say, “The espresso machine that’s been in the basement since we moved in? I’ve been working around this thing for FIVE YEARS?”

Indeed. And he’d been working around it in his old freezer for countless years before that.

So then I proceed to look for more dead weight in the freezer. I hold up one of those cold pack thingies and say, “What about this? Do you use this?”

“That came with the refrigerator,” he says.

I reckon once I finish tossing the useless crap, I won’t need a deep freeze after all.

What all do you keep in your deep freeze? Could you live without it or even want to?

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