If you’re from the U.S., you probably know that this is the famous hook the comedian Jeff Foxworthy uses in his comedy routine (“If you’ve ever mowed the grass and found your car, you might be a redneck. If you’ve ever taken a beer to a job interview….”)
The kindest definition I’ve found of redneck is “a working-class white person, especially a politically reactionary one from a rural area”. Which is actually the most accurate. But the common usage is from Miriam-Webster, which defines it as “a white person who lives in a small town or in the country, especially in the southern U.S., who typically has a working-class job, and is seen by others as being uneducated and having opinions and attitudes that are offensive”.
I had this conversation today with Yard Guy, who is a certified redneck, only by virtue of being from the South and having a blue-collar job. He has no objectionable opinions, is not a racist, and is one of the most environmentally conscious people I know. He probably has little formal education, but as far as I’m concerned, that makes him smarter than a lot of people who do.
I told him I was going away for the week of Christmas, so he said he’d be sure to ask his Mama to keep an eye on my house (she lives around the corner). Also, my next-door neighbor, Kathy. While we were on the subject, he noted that his Mama and Kathy have become cranky and hard to deal with in their older years (both of them are about my age, and both are widowed). I said that probably they were spending too much time alone. He wanted to know why I’m not like them? I said, because I work. I’m out almost every day. I deal with the public. He said, oh, yeah, well there is that.
While we were on the subject of dogs, he informed me that Mama now has a second dog, which like the first dog does not really belong to her, but to his niece who also owns the first dog. The first dog is a pitbull mix named “Vicious”. I swear I am not making that up. The important thing here is the distinction between “keeping” and “owning” a dog. It’s the same thing as “living” somewhere and “staying” somewhere. You get mail at one place (where you live), but you don’t actually live there. You “stay” somewhere else. Got it?
Yard Guy went on to say that he hates Vicious, who once tried to attack him, and only failed because he happened to see her coming out of the corner of his eye and swung a Weedeater at her. He told Mama that if Vicious ever actually bit him then he’s going to kill her. He said he would patiently go to his truck, get his pistol, and shoot Vicious dead in Mama’s back yard. Just so you know, Mama. She said, oh surely you wouldn’t. He said, surely I would.
And I believe him. And he can legally do it. If I had a gun, I would do the same thing, as much as I love dogs. So you see? Yard Guy and I are simpatico. We think alike.
Yard Guy asked where I was going. I said, North Carolina, where I mostly grew up. He said, you grew up in North Carolina? So you’re a redneck too? (Well, technically, you can’t be a redneck if you’re from North Carolina, you’re a hillbilly). I said, I was born in Tennessee. He was like, well that cinches it. You’re a redneck. Who knew?
Then he was off and running into a story about a friend, originally from the mountains of North Carolina, who hates it here. There are just too many people. The friend has three little daughters, whose favorite food is frog legs, or whatever else Daddy can catch. Yard Guy and I are not that impressed. We’ll eat deer meat (and as far as I know, he’d probably kill it himself), but seriously…feed the girls a Happy Meal once in a while. Branch out.
While we were chatting outside, my dog Pippin was inside whining furiously. He “knows” Yard Guy and wanted to say hello. I let him out and Yard Guy and Pippin spent a little bonding time.
I love the South. The few years I spent outside it, I missed it warts and all.