There is an imaginary line, but very real border, that runs from the Virginia Tidewater to West Texas. Above this line there are “you guys”, below it there are “y’all” and then everything changes. Here is another list of ten things you will miss about the South.
In the South, BBQ means one of the county’s finest critters slowly smoked. Above the “Y’all” line, BBQ means anything cooked on a grill. On a side note: Coke is a brand of cola elsewhere, whereas in the South, “Coke” is any carbonated beverage. To recap, “BBQ” is one thing in the South, while “Coke” could be anything. Word to the wise: when visiting other other parts of the country, it is vital to pay attention to the wording of the invitation. ”Y’all come over for a BBQ”, means that “I’ve sat up all night smoking a whole hog”, while “You guys come over for a BBQ” means “I’m serving tofu and tube steak on a gas grill.”
They are indeed more prevalent in the South. The top ten thunderstorm cities in the US are in a ring around the Gulf of Mexico. In August there is often a procession of thunderheads on a conveyor of cobalt sky headed to the Gulf. Whether you’re in a cotton field or football field, you pray it comes your way. Big, fat, balloon blobs of cold water. Then, just as fast as it arrived, it’s off to the Gulf like a coed on spring break.
3. Southern Hospitality
After 30 years away from Mississippi, I still have this compulsion to set extra plates at dinner, even though the neighbors, or the preacher, have never once dropped by. In the South one doesn’t need an appointment to visit. Unprepared? Send someone to the corner for a bag of ice, add the Southern Trinity (Coke, Sweet Tea, Bourbon), and before you can say “hotty toddy,” you got a party.
They are the water that the thunderstorms left to take the scenic route. Carving out a sandbar here and there, glaring up at those haughty bridges as a temporary annoyance they will surely vanquished in time. Khaled Hosseini wrote “I could wade into this river, let my sins drown to the bottom, let the waters carry me someplace far. Someplace with no ghosts, no memories, and no sins.” Can you wash away your cares tubing down a river? Yep. Don’t forget a tube for the cooler.
There is always “the” church when you were growing up. In my hometown that was Carriage Hills Baptist. All my friends went there. Not me, my family where Methodists. So too were all my teachers and principals. It’s not surprising I was interested in changing sides, but no amount of persuasion could convince my parents to dunk instead of drizzle. Church is a lot more than Sunday in the South. It is all about fellowship. Recently my parents decided dunking was fine. Why? Because their friends all go to Sylva Rena Baptist Church, that’s why.
6. Old menfolk
Day often begins holding court at their traditional breakfast table. If you try to squat in their territory you will be quickly shooed off by the waitress. Don’t feel slighted, try to get a table close enough to casually listen. It is time well spent. Breakfast could take several hours, then it’s off to the town square to swap tall tales, and create new ones, from a wrought-iron bench under an ancient oak.
7. Small towns
In the South you always know where a town begins and ends: between ribbons of blacktop snaking through the pines. The juke joint appears first, then the town’s welcome sign, followed by the water-tower festooned with the school logo, and then the agricultural agent’s office. Next you’ll pass the “new” high school, the Winn-Dixie / Piggy Wiggly, churches, then several original homes with wide porches, and finally the courthouse square with the old men swapping tales. Welcome home.
8. Country Stores
The real ones are not in town, but between town and the juke joint. They have everything from crickets to crawdads. Often serving breakfast, lunch and regular unleaded with local gossip hot off the grill. Through the chiming door awaits bologna and hoop cheese, Coca-cola in bottles and salted peanuts, RC Cola and Moonpies, Flip flops and gimme caps. Coppertone? Yep, on the back wall under the large mouth bass. Goody’s headache powders? Under the eight pointer next to the cane poles. Directions to the Crappie hotspots? Yessir. Fifty minnows should do it – they’ll give you twice that.
Pronounced “praah-leen”, as just as spoken in it’s city of creation, New Orleans. It’s made with “puh-kahns”, not “pee-cans”. Bite into this buttery, brown sugar mixture, and you’re moments away from 5 more miles on the treadmill. The classic version is made with brown sugar, butter, vanilla and puh-kahns. I have yet to see it made with “pee cans.” – and I hope not to. I’m not a candy fan myself, but for pralines I’ll make an exception. And definitely Turtles. Oh, yeah and Goo Goo Clusters too.
10. New Orleans
This city is the South’s exquisite contradictions distilled. Reserved and wild. Friendly and enigmatic. New Orleans is like a lifelong love: the more you know her, the more you realize you don’t. To paraphrase Bob Dylan: “New Orleans is a place to live vicariously. Nothing makes any difference and you never feel hurt. Somebody puts something in front of you here and you might as well drink it. ”
By the way, Bourbon Street is to New Orleans what Southern politicians are to Southerners. If I need to explain that last line, then I’ll be bringing my own plate to your next BBQ, you guys.
Tim Heaton is an Ole Miss Alumnus from Southaven, Mississippi who supports The Flagship in a variety of public relations efforts. He is a contributing writer to HottyToddy.com and actively volunteers his technical, database and social media expertise to several community service organizations in his current home in Morristown, New Jersey and in his home state of Mississippi. He has been awarded over a dozen US Patents in technology and is also a published author, chef and physical fitness enthusiast.