Same the whole world over, the universal redneck'
Dec. 17, 2000
On a recent wandering well beyond Meridian and Lauderdale County, I made a startling discovery. One of those "eureka" moments. A first class, "aha." A rediscovered truth. And I was seeking entertainment rather than enlightenment.
But then, insights are where you find them. Even in a very posh restaurant in the Big Apple. But first a bit of background.
In my experience, rednecks and blondes and various ethnic groups are simple targets of convenience for those with a need to exploit others. Don't misunderstand, I am schizoid enough to enjoy Jeff what's his name explaining his south Georgia roots. I am, however, not especially impressed with the unworthy knock-offs. The number of "you might be a redneck if . . ." lines I've heard is beyond counting.
Yes, I know there are real rednecks. In fact, I are one. Went to school barefoot, hoed crops, chased cows, hunted, fished, camped, etc., etc. and etc. Learned to enter the pool hall through the back door to avoid word' reaching my Dad. Pulled more than one draft at the Nest Egg.
My at-home editor reminded me not everyone knows about the now defunct Nest Egg. Replaced by a condo community, it was the tonk of choice in my youth. Small, personal and cheap. Actually the food was fine, the beer was frigid, the regulars were feisty, the fights were few. A cool place to be. All that remains is Nest Egg Road, a short spur off Alternate 27 South immediately adjacent to the village of Highland Park, Fla.
As an additional indicator of my bubba-esque heritage, I attended a land grant college. Even kept my Browning quail gun, my long barreled duck gun, and my squirrel rifle in my dorm room. Tested some other rules about what could and could not be stored in university housing.
Right there in the principal athletic dorm in the shadow of the old gym and Florida Field. Yes, I was in the legion of the uncaught. This was before the University of Florida public relations machine anointed Florida Field as "The Swamp." There were, however, several dirt-floor tonks in Alachua County worthy of that name.
A Florida man …'
One of the recruiting slogans at the University of Florida was "A Florida man needs no introduction." One of my waggish friends always added, "Because of his terrible manners and crude behavior." And while we were employing 1950s norms, much of our conduct would be "inappropriate" even by whatever standards exist today.
So I've played much of the "bubba circuit." Over the years I grew toward describing my youth as blue-collar' rather than red-neck.' The difference? For me blue-collar' connotes the value of work rather than play and team rather than self. In contemporary usage red neck' usually implies a different value set. How about playful self-centeredness?
All this to say, "I have very good credentials as a redneck' or good ole boy' or bubba.'" If, as they say, "it takes one to know one," I qualify. It has often seemed to me that some folks revel in being rednecks and other folks like to revile rednecks. Of course, I go with neither of those groups.
However, one of the many plots of the liberal press in America is the labeling of southern males as "good ole boys" or "rednecks" or "bubbas."
And certainly, too many of us "sons of the south" enjoy playing the "good ole boy." As one who places little value on incivility, I am put off by many of the extreme behaviors of aspiring "rednecks." Loutish behavior is loutish behavior. And contrary to a plethora of misinformation you may have, the prototype redneck is not a creature of the rural south.
Yes, gentle reader, rednecks like jerks are where you find them. And I found at least three or maybe four seated adjacent to our table in one of those top of the line big city eateries. Black-tie waiters with French accents. Cuisine not food. Not upscale, topscale. For the record, my observations were based entirely on their behavior toward each other.
Today's new word is boor.' Unmannerly. Insensitive. Crude. Their party included four couples, seated as we were along one of those space saving banquettes common in big city joints. The ladies, a collection of well tended 50 plusers striving to look thirty-something, assembled in advance. Ladies seated along the wall. The late arriving guys looked less well preserved but were also well tended.
A real dressed-for-success collection of folk. Sleek black dresses. The gals wore very nice throaty ornaments. Jewel incrusted chokers or whatever those necklaces are called. The guys had heavy gold cuff-links and oversized rings.
Usually, I look past appearance to behavior. But on this occasion I was misled a bit by the look of this collection of folk. I expected civility within the party. Wrong. Unmannerly behavior is not a function of appearance.
People with loud, limited vocabularies turn me off. Even when they are talking with each other. Some of the most powerful four letter words lose impact with repeated use. Mix unkindness with crudeness and turn up the volume. Got the idea?
Our meals were excellent, the service outstanding. And as we headed back to our lodgings the "universal redneck" concept oozed into my awareness. Bubba is alive and prospering. Beyond our southland.
Bill Scaggs is president emeritus at Meridian Community College and a senior consulting editor for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.