Only in the South… | Column

by | March 2, 2019 5:00 pm

Last Updated: February 26, 2019 at 3:22 pm

I’m not what you’d call a globe-trotter, but I’ve seen some of America. You’ll find good people everywhere, but boy, are we different. A rancher in Wyoming doesn’t talk, eat, vote, or socialize the way a florist from Key West does.

Yet we’re alike in fundamental ways: We love our families, respect traditions, pray our kids won’t make the mistakes we did. We like dogs, don’t get enough sleep and want to knock off 10 pounds. Across these United States, more unites us than divides us… but there’s no place more unique than the South.

Southern culture is a real thing, like Yankee ingenuity and Midwestern bluntness. We didn’t launch a chain of coffee shops, we don’t have a huge canyon or movie stars, but we make up for all that in originality.

Only in the South do people brag about their fig preserves the way others might brag about a Ph.D. or in-ground pool.

Only in the South can someone say, “They go together like moonlight and magnolias,” and have everyone within earshot nod knowingly.

Only in the South will you see dogs rolling joyfully in pluff mud, digging their shoulders into the slimy stink.

Only in the South do pet groomers run “pluff mud specials.”

Only in the South will you see grown men fight over who makes the better chicken perlo/catfish stew/pickled shrimp. (We take our food very, very seriously.)

Only in the South do preschoolers understand two languages: English and Mama. English is “Boy, you in trouble now.” Mama is: “You better get right ‘fore I snatch you bald.”

Only in the South do we worship Karo corn syrup. If you belong to the Cult of Karo, no further explanation is needed. If not… well, you can’t make divinity, pralines or peanut brittle without it.

Only in the South will you find four generations of women wearing Easter outfits from Belk. Bonus points for matching mother/daughter dresses.

Only in the South do you hear people say, solemnly, “He was a good ‘un, but bad to drink.”

Only in the South is old, chipped, salvaged brick considered a commodity worth paying top dollar for. We will knock it down, dig it up, drag it off and build patios, walkways and hearths. We love our Southern brick.

Only in the South will you see a middle-aged man call a teen-aged girl ma’am, without irony.

Only in the South are Ritz crackers dipped in Hershey’s chocolate syrup considered an after-dinner delicacy.

Only in the South do we host happy hour on the wraparound porch and welcome all comers. It is entirely possible for a stranger to walk off the street and have a wonderful time.

Only in the South do people eat sardines and a raw onion for lunch. Saltines optional.

Only in the South will sweet, gentle grandmothers go crazy and pour gasoline on a fire ant mound while screaming, “Die, vermin, die!” If you’ve ever met a fire ant up close and personal, you know why this is so.

Only in the South will you hear teachers say, “I taught your mama, son. I’ll rat you out in a heartbeat.”

Only in the South will people suddenly find a reason to leave the conversation/area/zip code when someone they dislike shows up. We will abandon meals, cocktails, even our own parties. That’s how bad we hate confrontation.

Only in the South do drivers still pull off the road and stop to show respect for an approaching funeral procession.  We’ll mow down a mailbox if we have to.

(Julie R. Smith, a seasoned Southerner, can be reached at







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