October 2013: Red-neck-ed

Ah thank mah kuhn-tri roots r a’showin’, ah rekkn…shaw ’nuff.

(Ahem) Excuse me; I probably don’t sound exactly like the citified, college-educated, academic intellectual you might have been expecting. There’s a reason: location.

Actually, several kinds of locations. First, I live in the United States, famous for not expelling its citizens or making them resent their chosen homeland. This country was built by the adventurous, rugged individualists who were not afraid to made do with the materials close at hand when the fancy stuff was impractical, expensive, or just silly. This applies to language, too. “American” is not the same as English, and every Brit will agree.

Second, I live in Oklahoma, famous for its unusual mix of Southerners, Westerners, Indians, outlaws, and homesteaders. The “Territory” was its unofficial name for decades. It wasn’t because life was easy. Farming in clay, fighting off wild critters, wilder natives, and wily politicians, weathering tornadoes and monumental temperature swings in record time kind of makes a man different than what you find in major urban areas around the world. We speak philosophically, tell stories, and take our time doing both, but we don’t listen to backtalk. Don’t get hung up on conjugating verbs, ’cause you’ll git leff ‘n the dust, pardner.

Third, I live in a small “town”. The largest building in the town is devoted to baseball. Seriously, it’s called the Baseball Academy. We have two restaurants, one of which sells furniture, a gas station, a library, and a post office. We also have softball, wrestling, basketball, cheerleading, football, and track and field, and that’s just at the Middle School. People here may visit larger towns for some shopping and entertainment, but they also mow with their shirts off (women included – sports bra!), drive with their brights on for long distance viewing, and wouldn’t be caught without their camouflage and personal weapons systems during hunting season. Life is just too real to be very formal.

So put yourself in this environment for a few years, and listen to yourself one day as you carry on conversation. It won’t be the same as you sounded before you moved. And it’s not just your language that will change. You’ll begin to find yourself doing odd things, like scheduling events based on the weather, even in the milder times of the year; or deciding that formal sleepwear is just too much bother; or that dirt and pieces of trees carry no germs whatsoever; or how about mowing your driveway? I had to mow mine last week, or the bugs would have taken over. You just might even decide that your riding mower is so much fun to drive that you could even go get the mail from the community row of mailboxes past your neighbor’s house. Yep. Done that.

I’m not sure just how red-neck-ed I am. I wear blue jeans, flannel shirts, and boots. I do own multiple firearms, I do change my own oil…and tires, and suspension, and starter motor, battery, spark plugs, etc. I burn dead wood in large piles, although my wife usually has to start the fire (sigh). We own livestock, trap wildlife, use a riding mower and chainsaw seasonally, see snakes/frogs/turtles every week, and listen to the beautiful medley of owls, cows, and horses of an evening. We go to church reglar (that would be ‘regularly’). We can see most of the stars most nights, and hear the creaking of the wells in the distance.

We live between two one-lane bridges over creeks that used to flood, and reside in a three-story A-frame house that rests on an above-ground basement. Yep. You read that right – above ground. We actually live in the two floors above that, so you have go up 16 steps to our deck to get our front door…after you drive around to the back of our house and go through the gate in the fence. We don’t get many salesmen, and we’ve never seen a Jehovah’s Witness. We do get people whose cars have run out of gas, but that’s about it. The woodland creatures visit more often than strangers.

I don’t own a truck, a four-wheeler, or a trailer…yet. I don’t drink beer, I don’t use tobacco or four-letter words, and I don’t hunt. I just bought a camouflage jacket, my first. And recycling is the fancy Eastern way to say “use it again, a new one is too expensive,” which people around here have been saying for awhile. I’m starting to get the hang of storing piles of odds and ends to use for building projects later, and I’m learning how to slow down and make time for just chatting with people for no reason. So I guess my neck is pink, at least…or maybe that’s from the afternoon sun. Nobody here wears sunscreen, either. They all wear pink, though, for breast cancer awareness, and they had a contest this year to see which class could raise the most money for a football coach’s wife who had cancer…the opposing team’s coach’s wife.

Life is just too real to be too formal…and we like it that way.

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