10 Steps To Understanding The South
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10 Steps To Understanding The South

10 Steps To Understanding The South
Portraits of America

During my internship this summer, I have realized that the lyrics of Brad Paisley's song "Southern Comfort Zone" are very real to me:

Not everybody drives a truck, not everybody drinks sweet tea
Not everybody owns a gun, wears a ball cap, boots, and jeans
Not everybody goes to church or watches every NASCAR race
Not everybody knows the words to "Ring Of Fire" or "Amazing Grace"

I met people this summer who had never been south of the Ohio River, or if they had, never really experienced the South like I have. I grew up down here, but when I tried to explain experiences from my childhood, or even recent ones, most of them just didn't understand what I was talking about. Maybe this list will help, but if not, hopefully it will serve as a nostalgic reminder of how great it is below the Mason Dixon Line. Here are 10 southern elements that just can't be completely explained:

1. Fishin' at dusk

Fishin' at dusk is magical. The quiet water, lightnin' bugs, and tree frog chirps give you peace of mind and serenity. The hope of catching a fish makes it worth the mosquito bites. Although this is mainly a summer activity, people in the south fish all year round, especially in Florida like my Papaw does. Fishing at dusk is probably one of the most calming southern pastimes you can find, but "fishin' in the dark" is a whole different story...

2. Muddin'

This one is a tad bit harder to get across to people. Mudding is fun. It's grand. It's glorious. Getting "in touch with nature" by way of "motorized vehicles in the wilderness," (as one person described it) is great. I think it's fun because of the fear of getting stuck, working one's way out of being stuck, and then analyzing how muddy one is. Knowing that the purpose of the adventure was to end up as muddy as possible also diminishes the worry of ruining clothes or valuables. I always take a change of clothes and a Ziplock bag for my phone just in case I'm covered from head to toe in mud by the time I'm done.

3. Cruisin' Town

What do all the cool kids do on weekend nights? Why, cruise around the court square of course! Come on, like there's a whole lot to do in the rural south... Cruisin' town allows kids to connect with one another outside the context of work or school, and heck, you might even meet someone new while doing it.

(P.s. it's how my parents who've been married 25 years first met!)

4. Festivals and County Fairs

Down South, festivals are a huge deal. In my hometown of Barbourville, the Daniel Boone Festival occurs during the first full week of October. There are people who prepare for it all year, and the fried food, carnival games, carnival rides, bluegrass bands, and parade make all their work worth it. Sure, it gets old once you're not a kid anymore, but only for a while. Festivals and fairs stand for everything the South is known for: fried food, parades, and country music. Festivals and fairs allow people to see one another and have high spirits about our little town, where most of nothing happens any other time of year.

5. Guns, Shooting Ranges, Skeet Shooting

This one is a bit controversial right now, but I'll just tell you, Southern people like their guns because we use them to hunt, go skeet shooting (which is a sport), knock mistletoe out of trees, protect our land, and deter our enemies. Josh Thompson has a song called Way Out Here and the opening line is:

"Our houses are protected by the good Lord and a gun
And you might meet 'em both if you show up here not welcome, son"

6. Camouflage Apparel

Hunters wear it to not be seen, rednecks wear it to be rednecks, a lot of people wear it for Spirit Day at school. That doesn't save them for all the "invisible" or "not found" jokes that ensue, though.

7. Church

Mostly everyone down here is related to, friends with, or knows a preacher. Most grandmas encourage regular church attendance. The Good Lord is present around these parts, but church isn't a mandatory activity. Church is just big down South, and almost every business in the rural south is closed on Sundays for the Holy Day. People in the South enjoy church because not only is it a time to connect with the Lord, but it's also a social gathering. If you go by the local Mexican restaurants after church on Sundays, 2 Amigos and El Mariachi, it's like a family reunion for the entire town.

8. Frog Giggin'

I personally do not partake in this activity, but since it's so out-there, I thought it was worth explaining. Frog gigging is where you stab frogs with a gigging pole, which is a fork-like instrument about the size of your hand attached to an extendable pole. The frogs then go in a sack to remove their legs later for frying.

Funny story: My dad once went frog gigging with some friends and brought cleaned frog legs home for my mom to cook. Mom can cook almost anything, so she was confident in her frog leg frying abilities. However, Dad didn't tell her that to cut the leader tendon in the center of the frog legs. This tendon makes frog legs twitch when slated or heated. The frog legs started jerking and jumping out of the pan and my mom squalled! My dad only laughed and laughed at her.

9. Southern Sayings

I own a book titled "Butter My Butt and Call Me a Biscuit!" Within this book, hundreds of southern sayings are listed and therein defined (click the image to check out the book). Not only do southern sayings, most often analogies, confuse northerners, but they are quite accurate. Southern dialect is like a language of its own, and the sayings add to its complexity. Southerners enjoy sayings because it's a way to effectively communicate with one another without all that there a fancy talkin'. For example, to describe being in a confused state, one might say, "I'm lost like a ball in high weeds."

10. Good Ol' Southern Hospitality

It's hard to explain Southern Hospitality to a lot of people because it literally just means being nice. I don't know how else to put it. People in the south are welcoming and want you to stay and are considerate and want you to have a full tummy and a warm place to sleep (just ask my Mamaw and Nanny). It's the way we were raised and the way that we'll stay.

Y'all come back now, ya hear?

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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