|April 05, 2012||32 Things You Will Not Hear in Cassville, Ga.||no comments|
|March 12, 2012||Misconceptions About the South - Non Political Version||no comments|
|February 16, 2012||no comments|
|January 31, 2012||Solving Problems, One Marlboro at a Time||1 comments|
|January 18, 2012||The Blinking Four Way Stop....God Help Us.||no comments|
|January 11, 2012||Nobody messed with Mama Kim.||1 comments|
|January 04, 2012||Welcome to Northwest Georgia: Cassville, born and raised||3 comments|
|December 22, 2011||Breaking Habits...or, Godspeed Larry Munson||1 comments|
I love Internet epidemics. They have replaced the news as my information highway and window to the outside world. Nothing helps me get through a stressful day like looking at "standing broom" pictures, Twitter controversies, and fake Youtube videos of Sasquatches, killer whales eating people off the beach and the latest "Pants on The Ground" song that people like for about 48 hours. Simon Cowell is having a snarky Twitter fight with Steven Tyler? There's a video of a dog drinking a dry martini? Sold. I need laughs and the American public never fails to amuse me.
One thing that did not amuse me this week was The Fray's rendition of the National Anthem during the Kentucky-Kansas game. I already disliked their music (as I do all modern "rock") but they have elevated themselves into the Kenny Chesney zone with me. Three acoustic guitars, a tambourine and three guys in sweater vests/baby Gap t-shirts massacring a wonderful song by making it sound like something from "Dawson's Creek." Seriously, it was like a talentless high school band playing "Brown Eyed Girl" in a Caribou Coffee somewhere in suburban Hell. I thought about three things as they wailed mercilessly and the Kentucky/Kansas faithful contemplated getting another beverage....
1) I wish one of those Marines would just cleave the lead singer's head off with his sword;
2) The parties responsible for choosing this horrendous abomination need to be busted down to mail room duty;
3) I actually miss Whitney Houston.
This one will become a Youtube sensation, I guarantee it. It was right up there with Roseanne and Carl Lewis.
Ok, back to funny stuff. One of the more recent epidemics that has appeared on Youtube is "Things People Say/Don't Say in _________." That blank can be filled by anything. States, cities, and colleges are the usual culprits. Many of them also incorporate gender/race/social standing into their lists, which makes it completely hilarious. For example, "Things Women Don't Say during Football Season ." See? You are hooked already. It's like watching old people back into a parking space, it's going to be awkward, very amusing and you just can't turn away. This actually happened to me yesterday while I was eating lunch outside. This elderly man in a Ford F-150 pulled into the crowded parking lot, surveyed the open spaces and decided to back into the space that was bordered by a large oak tree on the left and a Dodge Ram 3500 on the right. There were other spaces next to small cars. There were spaces with NO cars next to them. Of course, he picks THE MOST difficult space. I counted eight times that he pulled forward and backed up before he finally turned off the ignition. In the amount of time it took for him to finish, I could have 1) smashed all The Fray's guitars Belushi-style and gone to jail; 2) watched a season of the Sopranos; and 3) counted the number of people who swear they saw an Adam's Apple in Brittney Griner's throat this week.
Northwest Georgia culture, specifically Cassville, has some words, phases, ideas, values and expressions that are used every single day. For example:
"Man, I hope the Braves won last night."
"How's your momma 'n them?"
"Y'all ain't right!"
"That deer had 17 points, I swear!"
"Brad, I would have the money for that credit you gave me last week but Daddy's bond was $750 and we pawned my brother's Playstation and his bird gun but it wasn't enough, sorry."
You will hear that nearly every single day without fail. I got to wondering though, what would you NOT hear in Cassville? What phrases would not be uttered on the benches of Cass Grocery? What ideas are taboo from the Cedar Creek dumpsters to the New Macedonia Holiness Antioch Bread of Life Full Bible Church? I thought long and hard about this, remembering my days of listening to stories about bar fights, fishing at Lake Weiss, who got arrested at Edwards Trailer Park last night, who could pick up bags of horse feed with one hand (my uncle Mark) and what environmental illegality somebody just committed with a car muffler. It has been mulled over and perused more times than the Health Care Reform Act, except this will not cost you anything.
Things You Will Not Hear in Cassville, Georgia (at any time, anywhere)
1) "We just don't need another Waffle House."
2) "I'm just so glad the carpenter bees come back every spring."
3) "Y'alls gas prices are low enough."
4) "You know, I always get the best service at Lowe's. Everybody there knows so much!"
5) "I hate working on cars. I get no joy out of installing lift kits, drive shafts, or rear axles."
6) "I never need plumbing supplies."
7) "Let's go to a Hawks game!"
8) "When I really think about it, Jeff Gordon is pretty good for the diversity of NASCAR. I like what he brings to the table. He is also heterosexual."
9) "No, no, no....it's soda pop."
10) "I really enjoyed La Boheme at the Fox last night."
11) "Let's not put out all these Christmas lights this year."
12) "I don't secretly like to cut my grass because I just bought a $4,000 Ex Mark."
13) "My wife and I really enjoy fishing trips to Allatoona together."
14) "My husband was right."
15) "Cherokee, North Carolina is a place I cannot see myself going."
16) "Killing a deer just does nothing for me."
17) "Put out that cigarette, you know it causes low birth weight!"
18) "You don't like Moon Pies? Cool. Me neither."
19) "Do y'all happen to carry Sweetwater 420 or Terrapin here?"
20) "That song is on my Ipod!"
21) "I don't get into fights at my kid's baseball games. My kid is also not that good, I'm just glad he enjoys the game."
22) "Do you have unsweet tea?"
23) "Bumper Stickers are just car graffiti."
24) "I'm not going to buy a 4-Wheeler with my bonus check."
25) "That Prius I just bought really has done wonders for my gas mileage. I don't miss that Mustang one bit."
26) "I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer little known craft beers made in Europe."
27) "Dale Earnhardt was such a jerk on the track."
28) "I'm happy with the current administration. They seem to operate in an efficient manner and care about the little man. I hope they come by my house to campaign during the next election."
29) "Technically, moonshiners did break the law."
30) "I have never gotten angry for any reason and moved churches. I have also only been saved once."
31) "Hmmm, I'll have a Pepsi."
Those are just a few examples (one for every year of my life) of what you will not hear in the 30123. At least from a native, that is. If somebody asks for Hunt's Ketchup, discusses the speed of their internet, their relative happiness with their pay structure at work or attends sporting events not involving a ball, a car, an animal or punching someone in the face.....they are not from Cassville.
As for The Fray, well, they better not show up in Cassville. Not after what they did. You know why?
32) "We ain't armed, don't worry about it."
As the area of the United States that is the most often discussed, written about, romanticized, demonized, idolized, and analyzed, we are sadly also generalized. Now, I'm not going to discuss all the serious issues that are factually airtight, according to the national media: the racism that just runs rampant in all Southern towns, our destitute education system, our failed dental hygiene, our requited love for our cousins, and our children's permanent Kool-Aid mustaches. They portray us in a light that suits them. They want to interview the fat lady in the mumu and hair curlers after a tornado. They want a Klan rally to occur in downtown Hoot n' Holler, Arkansas (population: 37) so they can say, "See? They are no different!" Just wait for a slow news day, the AP will run a story about the South that is less than flattering every time. Thank God for political disasters, the Occupy people, melting ozone, hurricanes, the Mayan calendar, Snooki and American Idol. If they did not exist, we'd be the topic of the national news every minute.
No, I'm not discussing serious stuff here. Why? I'm not that serious of a person. I happen to believe that God, in His infinite wisdom, made it feel good to laugh for a reason. I've never felt good after a rousing debate about gas prices, school board policy or whether Iraq has 28 WMD's stored under a used camel lot in downtown Basrah. Undoubtedly, I just end up more mad and even further divided from the people I was arguing with. I have my opinions, but I've never seen them directly affect anyone but me. However, I have seen a group of people laugh at something I've said, or get an email from somebody who tells me that I made their day with a Cassville story.....and that's what it's all about. It's the reason I never watch the news, but I watch every Comedy Central Roast. I don't catch the newest presidential debate, but if there's a Three Stooges marathon, I'm in. I'd rather have met Lewis Grizzard than John F. Kennedy (unless he wanted to talk about Marilyn).
So, I'm here to clear up a few misconceptions about the South right here and now. These will be relevant to the modern day South, not the "Gone With the Wind" South. I've never stood in a pasture and screamed "As God as my witness, I'll never go hungry again!!" Sorry. We are just not that dramatic these days. I did scream it in the Waffle House parking lot on Cass-White Road once, but a triple order of hash browns (scattered, smothered, covered, and chunked) took care of that. Now the Waffle House has a "topped" option for hash browns...which means they cover all that goodness with a blanket of sausage gravy. For me, that's akin to walking through the Pearly Gates and my Granddads are both standing there bragging about a bass they just caught. It doesn't get better, really.
#1 We All Think That Larry The Cable Guy is Funny
Nope. He's not, unless you like an hour of toilet humor mixed with a fake Southern accent. He's like the Kenny Chesney of comedy and people down here just go crazy for him. Call up "Larry Whitney" on Youtube and see for yourself. "Git-R-Done" needs to get the hell on. I watch the crowd when he says that tagline and they all let out a big "woooooooo" when he does this. Let it be known right now: only Ric Flair is allowed this response, not some fraudulent hick that put on some flannel, picked 3-4 stereotypes to play with, developed an accent and latched on to Jeff Foxworthy like a chigger on my leg after walking through our old pasture.
#2 Garth Brooks is the Best and Most Popular Country Singer Here
Garth had a ton of hits, of this there is no doubt. The man made millions of dollars singing of Low Places, Bar Associations, Rivers, Fires, and Calling the Old Man Out. However, I can say that he is not held in the same regard as Alan Jackson, George Strait or any of the old school singers. Why? He had a sissy factor. Yep, I said it. We were discussing it at the store once and one man said, "you know, I'd like to have a beer with George Jones. I mean, come on, it's George Jones. But Garth? Man, I don't know. He'd probably start talking about his feelings or how much starch he used in his shirt." Then, he pulled the Chris Gaines debacle that sealed his fate with true Southerners forever. Could you even imagineGeorgeStraitdoing this? I could see his producers now...
(nervously kicking the dirt at his feet) "George, hey, look...um, we need you to connect with a new audience. This generation doesn't want Amarillo By Morning. They want songs about unrequited teenage love coupled with pill addictions, reality TV references, guitar distortion and at least one cameo by Kanye West in a music video. You are gonna need to highlight your hair and lose the hat. I think we will call you Tommy "44" Magnum. Deal?"
"Naw." George then spits Skoal on producer's Gucci loafer, choke slams an Angus Bull just to prove a point and drives off in his pickup, exuding masculinity and discounting any notions of tomfoolery in his countenance. (sorry, had to do the SAT word thing. It's that bad education down here, I'm tellin' you)
#3 Every Lawyer Down Here Wears Seersucker Suits
Speaking from personal experience, I look like a clown in seersucker and a bow tie. I might as well have a hand buzzer and a flower that squirts water pinned to my lapel. It works for some people, like old men with goatees, short guys, plaintiff's attorneys, or Bobby Lee Cook, who can wear whatever he wants. Every time I see somebody other than the aforementioned people in a seersucker suit, I want to say, "Hey, Captain Tryingtoohard, what's up?" Plus, seersucker is not exactly comfortable when its 90 degrees outside with 85% humidity. It's hard to convince a jury of anything with your shirt soaked and hair matted down like Norman Reedus on The Walking Dead.
#4 We Always Want to Hear "Freebird" in Bars or Any Live Music Situation
Undoubtedly, when somebody is playing live music in a bar, "Freebird!" is screamed to the top of somebody's Miller Lite soaked lungs when there is a quiet moment. If the singer asks if anybody has a request, "Freeeeeebiiiiird!!!" is without a doubt going to rattle the rafters. What people tend to forget is that the dang song is about 12 minutes long with no words for about six straight minutes. I know I'm not in the minority when I say that people lose interest in the song after about three or four minutes anyway. Don't get me wrong, I like Freebird, but it's not even close to being my favorite Southern rock song. In fact, it's not even the best song on the album it was recorded for. (Tuesday's Gone...much better if you ask me). So many people believe that Freebird is the quintessential Southern song simply because of the shouting phenomenon. They are wrong. That's like saying people in Cassville like Natural Light better than Budweiser because they buy it twice(d) as much. Nope. If a big bonus check comes in, they will walk out with two cases of Bud Heavy quicker than you can say "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses is my life story."
Just once, I want somebody to shout "Green Grass and High Tides," "Mindbender," or "Blue Jeans Blues." One night, in a smoky bar somewhere in northwestGeorgia, I want a guy to pull out his lighter, start swaying and scream "Highwaaaaaay Saaaaawwwwwwwngggg!!!!" (Highway Song by Blackfoot. Download it, Southern people. Immediately.) Shoot, somebody let me bum a lighter, a Marlboro, a Camaro, and pending assault charge....and I'll have the band play the entire "Mullets Rock" compilation, beginning to end. Just ask the patrons of Wild Wing Cafe in Athens,Georgia, ca. August 2005. I had a live band from Savannah playing Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker Band and Atlanta Rhythm Section all night long and I was wearing a tux. Imagine the damage I could do with an airbrushed "wolf howling over a canyon" t-shirt and a Schlitz 16 oz can.
#5 We Mispronounce the Word "Pen."
Nope. The rest of you are wrong. Get over it.
You are also wrong about other words too (these are two that I've been questioned/chastized about the most):
"Coke" or "Co-Cola" is acceptable for any soft drink. The whole country calls all tissues "Kleenexes" and all adhesive bandages "BandAids." We lay claim to soft drinks. Get over it.
"Fixing to" is an acceptable verb. We are basically informing you that we are arranging our schedules accordingly to effectuate the completion of the pending activity that you are inquiring about. See? That's a mouthful. We are just being efficient. Get over it.
Conclusion: We Ain't Perfect
There are so many more misconceptions about the South out there. It doesn't make us mad, quite frankly, we relish the difference and wallow in it, like a pig in slop. We know we are not perfect. We also misconceive things ourselves. For example, why are there so many girls down here named "Charity" and "Chastity," who are neither charitable nor chaste. Why do we insist on the continuation of the Huddle House? It's not an alternative, it's sacrilege. How do we look in the mirror at ourselves when we let Kenny Chesney continue to make music? And what's with thePanama Cityobsession? I love my people, but dang, if I wanted to hang around thousands of idiots, wait in line to for a club that will be shut down by the cops in the next hour and get overcharged for second hand food...I'd go to a Larry the Cable Guy show.
Have a great week (lighter's up, swaying ensues, ".38 Special!!!" and the crowd at Starbucks goes out the door, thinking I have a gun).
I never thought I would say this, but thank God for rain. After enduring a summer with constant temperatures in the 90's and a drought that turned my grass into dust, this winter has been quite refreshing. Despite the gloomy, overcast skies, I am glad to drag wet leaves in the house with my shoes. I am glad to have the constant dirt stripe on the bottom of my car doors. I am glad that my dogs smell especially ripe these days. I swear, we would have had more rain if Lou Holtz stood on top of the Downtown Atlanta Westin and sang "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia."
I am also glad that I don't stick to my car seat anymore. I advise each and every one of you to forgo black leather interior. It is NOT a perk. However, if you enjoy third degree burns on your hands and an awesome sweat outline on your back and legs, then by all means, get it. You better come up with a good story to explain your appearance, though. I usually go with the trusty "my AC is out" because "I was my feeding my chickens" doesn't work if you live inMarietta.
This weather is also good for watching movies. Nothing makes me happier than taking in a good movie on a gloomy day (ok, that's a lie. Pistachio ice cream, 99 cent Wendy's Double Stack burgers on my "cheat" day, the Marshall Tucker Band and free wi-fi make me happier) Anyhow, I was thinking, as I watched "Necessary Roughness" the other day, what are the BEST movies about the South? As I perused film history, I discount all movies that paint the South in a totally negative light. I know we have a jaded past and it should not be forgotten, however, I think some in the media just love to twist the knife too much. We are aware of our past and many of us (young and old, white and black) make a concerted effort to make it exactly that.....the past. Reopening old wounds at our expense to sell tickets and issues of magazines and newspapers will make you no friends in Cassville, Georgia, nor anywhere else down here.
When I concocted this list, I took into account three factors: 1) accuracy; 2) entertainment value; and 3) the storyline. When you think about it, there are hundreds of movies about us. The South has a mystique that seems to tantalize the rest of the nation. (I used “mystique”and “tantalize” in the same sentence. Sounds like names for X-Rated female American Gladiator contestants.) Maybe it's the live oaks and Spanish moss. Maybe it's our devotion to our music, football, food and our front porches. The South is an attitude, a lifestyle that cannot be emulated by any other region. I think the national media is fascinated by this uniqueness. It reverberates down to the smallest dirt road in the smallest town and no two places are the same. From Kentucky to Florida, from Carolina to Texas, we all share a common bond that other regions can only read about, and few understand.
When I think of the South, I think of so many things. It's a personal thing for me, as it seems to be with most Southerners. The dogwood outside my window, the wind blowing the sweet smell into my room. The midnight train blowing mournfully in the distance. Cass Grocery. My parents dancing to "Can't You See" in the living room. My brother and I pulling up wild onions and building forts. Mama Kim's lemonade. Neen telling me to "watch for Johnny No Shoulders" in the woods and wishing I didn't carry my gun every time. Meemaw's biscuits. Duane Allman. Ronnie Van Zant. Toy and Tommy Caldwell. Singing "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" every Sunday as the benediction. North Campus in Athens, Georgia. Sunset on the Frederica River at St. Simon's Island. People, places and things that cannot be recreated by any form of media. What the media does recreate are generalities that somewhat touch on our roots, our lives and our attitude. Honestly, many of them do a great job of it.
However, I do have one complaint. What happened to Southern actors? James Van Der Beek saying "I don't want your life" in Varsity Blues was the low point. He is from Connecticut. I own Varsity Blues simply for Billy Bob's lines (who is from Acworth, Georgia). It's a travesty throughout. Ali Larter, Scott Caan and Paul Walker bumble through their lines, forcing an accent that makes me more uncomfortable than Hank Williams, Jr at the Democratic National Convention. So, here is my list of the 5 absolute best movies about the South, in no particular order:
1) Smokey and the Bandit: Bootlegging and Burt Reynolds. Jerry Reed. Buford T. Justice. Moronic Georgia State Troopers. Need I say more? The best line ever: "Mr. Trans Ammmmm, what's yo pleasure?" I could watch this movie every day and not get tired of it. Plus, it was filmed inGeorgiain its entirety as far as I know. Just don't bother watching it on TV, because if I hear Jackie Gleason say "scumbum" once more, I'll gouge my eyes out. A comedy with no undertones, just a good time and a shout out to carefree living, fast cars, beer and trucker talk.
2) Coal Miner's Daughter: The main actors were all Southern born and bred. Sissy Spacek won an Oscar. Tommy Lee Jones should have. Levon Helm (the drummer for The Band) was excellent. A great biopic into post World War II Southern living, it does not justify anything, it only tells a story of how a girl from Nowhere, Kentucky overcame life obstacles to become one of the best and most famous country musicians in history. Her inspiration: her Daddy and her hard drinking, hard living former bootlegger husband. There are so many good lines in this movie but the most poignant was this: "When you born in the mountains, you got three choices: coal mine, moonshine or move it on down the line."
3) Mississippi Burning: One of my favorite Gene Hackman movies. It shows the terrible nature of racism in the 60's but also shows that all Southerners were not evil, nor were they a part of the madness. R. Lee Ermey played the mayor of the town, who ended up hanging himself, although he was not part of any murder or a member of the Klan. He did it out of guilt for indifference. It also points out another obvious event: R. Lee Ermey dies in just about every movie he plays in. I thought it was far better than Ghosts of Mississippi, because I cannot take Alec Baldwin seriously as a Southerner. Further, Bobby DeLaughter was recently locked up in federal prison for lying to the FBI.
4) Days of Thunder: Granted, very few of the main actors are Southerners. It's a little hokey and over the top. However, Robert Duvall makes up for all of this and then some. His portrayal of Harry Hogg is money. It also gives a glimpse into NASCAR, which rarely happens at all. "Handsome" Harry Gant makes a cameo. Hardee's is the sponsor of a car, when does that happen anymore? And who can forget that immortal line..."now Cole....tars (tires) is what wins a race." Classic Southern humor with a little wedge taken out (sorry, couldn't resist)
5) Deliverance: All jokes aside, this is one of the greatest movies ever made. Burt is in this one too. Burt is to Southern acting what Robert DeNiro is to mob movies. The man just knows his damn role. This movie is about man fighting nature (Burt and friends vs. the river), nature fighting man (the entire area is being wiped away for a manmade lake), and man fighting man (Burt and friends vs. mountain men). Basically, it's one big fight with a rape, three murders and a chilling scene where James Dickey (the author of the book) plays the town sheriff who tells Jon Voight..."don't ever do anything like this again, and don't come back up here. I'd like to see this town die peaceful." (as the entire town cemetery is being disinterred in anticipation of the lake).
Honorable Mentions: Fried Green Tomatoes, Steel Magnolias, O Brother Where Art Thou, Forrest Gump, A Time to Kill (these are almost interchangeable with the previous 5, depending on my mood)
That's my list and I'm sticking to it. You may disagree or think of one that I totally forgot, but that's the beauty of it. There are so many to choose from. Just remember 1) accuracy (so, The Blind Side is out, as are most football movies); 2) Entertainment Value (goodbye Gone With the Wind, bored me to death) and 3) the storyline (Smokey and the Bandit 2. I'd rather be covered in bees than watch it again).
If you drove by Cass Grocery in the 26 years that my Dad owned it, you know what it looked like on the front. Three gas pumps with areas on both sides to park your car, the ice machine, a Coke machine and the benches on either side of the front door. The benches have been there since anyone can remember. Long before my Dad took over, before my great uncle R.B. owned it, before the Bible was translated out of Hebrew…you get the idea.
Every generation can recall a large group of local men who sat on those benches every morning, drinking coffee, smoking and telling stories or discussing world events. By world events, I mean how many cops got called out to Cedar Creek Road last night or how much copper was stolen at a construction site in Kingston.
As an innocent young bystander, I was not truly included in the group. Although I was welcome to stand and listen, I did not meet the qualifications set forth by the patriarchal society that ruled the roost that was the benches of Cass Grocery.
1) Age and Gender
You must be over 40. That's old enough to have worked a long time, had children that are "growed" and you’ve probably gone through a divorce or two.
No women. No exceptions.
2) The Look
a) wear a John Deere hat; or
b) wear flannel regardless of temperature; or
c) smoke cigarettes; and
d) never wear shorts.
This is very important. The John Deere hat is a badge of honor, to say the least. I'm talking the about the ones that sit tall on your head, not these low riders they make now. (You can see plenty of them on college campuses, worn by suburban kids whose fathers own a John Deere lawnmower.) This hat validates any statement you make on the benches, especially if you are referring to anything regarding construction, farming, car repair or tools. Don't ask these men where they bought their hat, however. This will give you away. John Deere gives away free hats with large purchases, so they'll laugh at you and say, "This dang hat cost me $58,000." Any man worth his salt knows this. You are then branded as "soft" and "don't work for a livin." Or even worse, "I'll bet he puts cream in his coffee."
Flannel is also a sign that you know a little something. Flannel indicates you probably are into construction, farming or car repair, can likely work with your hands, and may have killed a deer or two. These are big ticket items on the benches. You cannot work in an office, wear a tie all day, and watch Entourage or anything like that. You will be ousted before you can say "Dale Earnhardt, Seven Time Winston Cup Champion."
** A deer kill MAY get you included, but it depends on where, how, when and the circumstances. For example, if the pull on your compound bow is less than 80 pounds, then you are disqualified. You are a sissy.
Cigarettes. Almost as validating as the John Deere hat. Nothing puts an exclamation point behind a statement about installing sprinkler pipe in Pine Log quite like a huge drag off a Marlboro Red. You MUST be able to hold it in your mouth without squinting from the smoke. You MUST also have smoked long enough to "try and quit" (not try to quit) but fail miserably (usually due to the aforementioned "growed" kids or divorce). You can get away with 100's or Lights, but it better be a serious brand. No generic crap. The use of smokeless tobacco is also acceptable, if not welcomed.
Shorts. A sure sign that you are a sissy. If you do any kind of hard work, then shorts cannot be worn. There are no exceptions. You better be in jeans, coveralls, overalls, Dickie's work pants or Carhartts.
Personally, I had no John Deere hat and only wore flannel if it was below 40 degrees. I could not smoke because my Dad would have sacrificed me like an Aztec virgin, plus it's hard to run up and down a basketball court hacking up a lung. And I wore shorts all year long with high top Michael Jordan basketball shoes. Cue "The Price is Right" loser music.
3) The Talk
Numerous topics were touched upon out there, from construction and car repair, to politics, the weather, the Braves and women. Now, anybody from anywhere can talk about these topics. What differentiates the men on the benches from everyone else is HOW they talked about it. You must use colloquialisms, hyperbole and swearing.
"If that dang Obama keeps raisin' taxes, I'm gonna be paddlin' to Cuba!"
Everyone nods in agreement. Further discussion ensues. If you had said, "I'm very disappointed in the tax increase this admininstration is proposing, I fear that I may enter a new tax bracket. I need to call my accountant," you would have gotten the bewildered look from everyone. Then they would all look at each other and grunt, sending the message to the others (almost like whales and raptors) that you are not to be included.
4) The Ride
Another extremely important factor in your inclusion is your vehicle. A truck, American made, 4 wheel drive, covered in red clay with various tools in the bed is the ride of choice. If you have a diesel, you are automatically elevated to a higher status. A 2007 F-250 with mud all over the tires, with a coondog cage and three Skilsaws in the bed? You're money. There are certain variations that are acceptable, like if you are driving a car instead of a truck, you need a weedeater to be in the backseat. If your truck is clean, you need to claim that it rained on your way back from south Georgia (I say this because they know the weather within a 50 mile radius, so use south Georgia as your reference point, it throws the dogs off the scent. See? You gotta use your head). If the vehicle is foreign, say it is your brother's, and you had to fix it because he "don't know nothin' about fuel injection."
What It Meant
I watched this subculture for years and picked up on their habits. I listened to stories about bar fights, deer hunting, fishing, work, women, drinking, and stories about people from Cassville who had died years before. Just as with Elvis, these dearly departed citizens were held to a God-like status by those who remained.
"Hell, they weren't nobody tougher than ol' Jack. By God, that man could lay brick in 100 degrees and drink a fifth of whiskey the whole dang time.”
I could not question the truth of such statements (see earlier disqualifications), so I learned to accept them as part of life up there. I actually enjoyed the extremity of it all. In my mind, the toughest, meanest, hardest working people in the world all existed in Bartow County, Georgia. They never took a day off, never lost a fight and never said no to a drink. As I got older, I knew it was not ALL true, but it honestly gave me a ton of pride to call these guys my friends. They had their way of life, like it or not, and they did not ask the world if it was OK. When I passed the Bar, they couldn't have been prouder. When I would come up to the store afterwards, they would all say laughing, "Oh, here he is! Hide your wallets, boys!" They all hated lawyers (a topic of discussion over the years), but I guess they made an exception with me. As I've said before, people in Cassville actually are happy for you when you do well.
So, if you are ever in Cassville, or any small town, and you see a group of men sitting in front of a store, stop by. Stand and listen. Observe them in all their glory. And if you get a chance, put a flannel shirt on and say, "By God, it's hotter than two rabbits fighting in a wool sock out here. I was Bush Hoggin' my field and ran out of cigarettes, must've left my other pack at the VFW bar last night."
For years, Cassville had absolutely no traffic lights. None. In fact, the road I grew up on was not fully paved until I was in 10th grade. We had that bootleg gravel, Sakrete and dirt mix for years, rendering car washes useless and causing some nasty scrapes when Matt and I would fly downhill on our bikes, shooting down imaginary Migs and "breaking hard left" ( 1 for Top Gun reference). I'm not sure who I was, Maverick or Ice Man, but I loved to say, "The plaque for the alternates is in the ladies room" after blowing Russians out the sky. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them crash and burn in Two Run Creek and then celebrating with a milkshake at Neen's.
The road that ran in front of the store, Cassville Road, was paved with actual asphalt. It may have had a thousand potholes, but the citizens living on its frontage enjoyed the perks of pavement. One of the perks of pavement is the speed that you can drive. This stretch of road was like a racetrack to be honest. The speed limit was 35 miles per hour, but it was hardly acknowledged. There were no stop signs, no traffic, no yields, and no police officers, so Cassville natives could travel at warp speed at all times. There were good reasons to be in a hurry up there. You did NOT want to miss the Evening Cash 3 drawing, did you? I think not! There was one sign close to the store indicating that a sharp curve was ahead (which it was), but it did not seem to slow anyone down. Further, somebody spraypainted "No Mercey" on the sign in 1994, so I guess the artist was telling us to put the hammer down. When I left Cassville for Athens in 1999, that sign was still there, a glowing sentiment to the local education system.
For years, the hammer stayed down. Guys in Camaros, fresh off the racks and the removal of the muffler, would fly by the store. For those who are unaware, taking the muffler off made the car louder, plus it's cheaper than Flowmasters. The T-Tops removed, the IROC-Z lettering glistening in the sun, mullet flying like a flag in the wind, Foreigner and /or Journey blaring out of the Kenwood. Nothing punctuates going 75 in a 35 like "Hot Blooded" or "Only the Young." Many guys would slide the transmission in neutral as they passed us, and rev their engine, and shift back into drive as they passed the parking lot. This was a Cassville man's way of saying, "What’s happenin’ y’all?!?” We would always throw up our hands and yell at them.
In the early 2000's, I guess the county had received enough complaints about the speed on Cassville Road to do something about it. Contrary to my personal opinion, no "death quota" had been reached. I've always felt that the DOT waits until 2-3 tragic accidents occur before traffic control is considered. However, as fast as people traveled on Cassville Road, I do not remember any serious accidents happening. I remember one man got his bumper knocked off turning left off Cass-White Road and the bumper skidded down the road, past me with sparks flying, and into the fence next to the store. The guys on the benches went crazy. I think one of them took it home. There was only one wreck I really recall, and it did not result from speed. One morning at about 6:30 AM, I was pumping gas and I was half asleep, when a van pulled up at the stop sign where Cass-White Road intersects Cassville Road. The windows were rolled down and there were two people arguing in the van. A very skinny man and a not-so-skinny woman tucked into this brown Chevy van that was about 37 different shades of brown. Apparently, he had come home a little late the night before and could not explain his whereabouts. "Who was she?!? You tell her anytime she wants some, she knows whar (where) to find me!" exclaimed the woman. As he was turning right, he called the woman a four-letter word that shall not be repeated here. I see the woman's elbow come out of the open window, as she cocked back and hit him with a right jab. He lost control of the van and smashed into a telephone pole. The woman got out (barefoot and only wearing an airbrushed "Gatlinburg 1984" t-shirt of course) and dragged him out of the van, punching and kicking. I was about twenty yards away, watching aghast, along with about ten other men. We all skipped coffee that day because we were wide awake after that.
Anyhow, that particular intersection was the focus of the DOT and the new traffic control device. Since there was already a stop sign on Cass-White and Jo-Ree Road (which both intersected Cassville Road directly across from one another), they decided to affix two new shiny red octagons on Cassville Road, making it a four-way stop. Just for good measure, they also added a blinking red light. This process took about 3 weeks to complete, and it was all the rage in Cassville. "There's our dang tax money at work!" exclaimed the men on the benches. They too noticed that it required 17 men to put a stop sign in the ground and at least 47 to get that red light up. I think between them all, those workers smoked 13,278 cigarettes, took 327 breaks and made 2,908 Nextel calls during that time. Money well spent.
I remember one day after the four-way stop was installed, I was standing out front with Billy, one of our oldest and most loyal customers. Billy had been in Cassville for the majority of his 76 years and had seen it all. He came up there every day and would hang around for hours, keeping us entertained and just generally overseeing everything. "The Mayor of Cassville" is what people called him. This particular day, Billy and I were watching the cars go by, talking about the Braves and how last night's game turned out. Billy had a love/hate relationship with them, and we bet on every game. If the Braves won, he bought me a Mountain Dew. If they lost, I had to buy him a pack of hot peanuts. I notice Billy looking at the four-way stop very intently and I could see his wheels turning. Billy chewed tobacco constantly and he was just standing there, working the wad in his mouth and looking at the "traffic." At the stop, there were a total of five cars waiting their turn to go, with maybe twelve people total sitting in them. Billy gets this disgusted look on his face, shakes his head and spits on the ground. He wipes his mouth, looks at me with his squinty eyes and says, "Good Lord, where'd all these dang people come from?" (edited for coarse profanity)
I don't know, Billy. I truly don't know. The urban sprawl shows us "No Mercey." God help us.
Lucille Kimsey, or “Mama Kim,” was my great grandmother and she lived down the street from us in a house that my great grandfather built with his own two hands in the 1920’s. I’m sure asbestos and lumber were about all that was used to construct this house, but Mama Kim seemed to be just fine. If you ever wondered, all you had to do was ask. This was the spriest 85 year old woman I have ever seen. Mama Kim was short in stature, but long in attitude and always put off the “don’t mess with me” vibe. You know the old gruff Southern woman routine: the hands on the hips, pursed lips and a stare that would burn you to your very soul. Beneath that exterior, she was a kind-hearted, gentle woman who loved all of us very much. My great grandfather, Julius David Kimsey or “Daddy Kim,” died from complications related to a stroke in 1982, so I never knew him. They were married when she was 15 years old. They went down to the Bartow County Courthouse, said their vows, and both returned to their parent’s homes. After a few minutes at the dinner table, Daddy Kim says to his parents, “Well, I married Lucille today.” His mother said, “Well…Dave… go get her!?” So, he drove over to Mama Kim’s house, picked her up and they never parted ways until he died.
When my brother and I were too young to work, we had to stay with our grandmothers. I stayed with Neen (my grandmother and Mama Kim’s daughter) and Matt stayed with Mama Kim. I was always welcome at Mama Kim’s though and I would go down there frequently and see her. She had the best lemonade in the history of Georgia and all you had to do was say “I’m hungr….” and a bowl of chicken and dumplings would suddenly appear before your eyes. This was manna from Heaven. This woman did not believe in fat free, sugar free, or watching carbs. Her babies had to eat.
Mama Kim firmly believed that if it was less than 70 degrees outside, you would get pneumonia if you were not wearing a coat. I swear, it would be March and my poor brother would walk out of her house looking like Ralphie’s little brother from a Christmas Story. You could literally push him down and he would wallow like a turtle on the ground. Nobody dared to complain because nobody messed with Mama Kim.
Mama Kim, as with most octogenarians, needed several medications to treat the usual ailments: arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, you name it, and Mama Kim had a medication for it. From the hours of 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM, her phone would be busy, as she would call the various other women from her church group and they would all discuss their ailments and medications for hours. No, really. It was a predictable circle of women: Mary Frank, Florene, Reba and Myrtice. Every night. I knew this because we all went to church together. Mama Kim sat in the same place every Sunday because there was a memorial plaque with Daddy Kim’s name on her spot. Nobody sat there but her. The best thing about church with Mama Kim was the slices of bologna she had in her purse to give us when we got hungry.
One night, I was eating dinner at Neen’s and her police scanner made the telltale noise that Mama Kim was making a phone call. She had a cheap cordless phone, so any police scanner would pick up her calls. Usually, Neen would turn it off with a groan, because her scanner would be out of commission for the next two hours, drowned in a sea of Plavix, Advil, Bayer, insulin shots and doctor visits. Well, this particular night, Neen just kept eating and the scanner stayed on. Mama Kim called Florene and the conversation began normally. Medicine, pain story, doctor visit, pain story, who did not give when the offering plate came around, pain story. Then Florene interjects….
“Lucille, I got some sad news today.”
“Oh Lord, what is it, Florene?!”
“My niece has colon cancer. Yep. Found out yesterday, they are starting chemo next week. Everybody’s real tore up about it. We are all going to the hospital tomorrow.”
(long silent pause)
“Florene, that is ridiculous. I have never heard of anyone getting colon cancer in their knees.”
Florene corrected her. Neen and I choked on our fries. We never told her about it because, you guessed it, nobody messed with Mama Kim.
The Devil Horse
The best story about Mama Kim happened years before I was born, sometime in the late 1940’s. My great grandfather was working in the mill that day and Mama Kim had the day off. She had just finished lunch at their house and was taking the table scraps outside when a ghastly figure materialized on her screen door. Sitting right in the middle of the door, in a menacing pose, was a praying mantis. “Devil horse” is what Mama Kim called them. She was very superstitious and there was an old legend that if a devil horse spit in your eye, you would go blind. Mama Kim firmly believed this legend and was deathly afraid of devil horses. I’m talking fainting, screaming and sweating bullets running through the house afraid. She retreated back into her living room. With this devil horse laying claim to her front door, she could not leave the house. Who knows? Daddy Kim might come home and it would spit in his eye! She could not call Daddy Kim because he could not afford to take the time off. She calls on a neighbor, Mr. Pickard. Luckily, for Mama Kim, Mr. Pickard believed in the devil horse legend as well.
Bill drives the half mile to Mama Kim’s driveway. He stops in the road and slowly creeps toward the house. You must not startle the devil horse because it could fly on you and spit in your eye. He goes into a crawl and hides behind a bush. He peers over the bush and sees the green spawn of Satan, firmly entrenched on Mama Kim’s door. Bill kneels back down, takes a couple of deep breaths, and stands up to face the demon….with a 12 gauge shotgun. Bill walks within five feet of the door, takes aim and squeezes the trigger. The door and Mama Kim’s front porch explode in a hail of gunfire and the devil horse disintegrates from the point blank blast from the shotgun. Mama Kim comes from her hiding place and surveys the damage.
“Is it dead??” was the first thing out of her mouth.
Bill was happy to report that the devil horse was indeed dead and that her eyesight and the eyesight of the rest of Cassville was safe from this vermin forever. Daddy Kim came home five hours later to find his porch and front door completely destroyed. He ran into the house in a frenzy, thinking the worst.
“Oh God, Dave, there was a devil horse on the door. I couldn’t get out! But Bill Pickard got him. Shot it with his shotgun.”
Daddy Kim did not believe in the devil horse legend. Never did. But he never said a word, and he fixed the porch and door without complaint. Why? Because nobody messed with Mama Kim.
The best compliment I ever heard bestowed on this wonderful woman was at her funeral. Mama Kim left us in 2000 at the ripe old age of 88. We were all sad to see her go but when she looked up at us from her hospital bed and said, “I cannot wait to see Dave again,” we knew it was time. Of the numerous people who came to pay their last respects, a local farmer approached me during the wake. It was the first time I had ever seen him when he wasn’t covered in dirt. This was a guy who had a reputation around town, the kind of reputation that made people think twice about crossing him. He patted me on the back and looked at Mama Kim and said, “That’s my old buddy right there. She was one of a kind, boy. You boys was lucky to have her and I’m sure gonna miss her. I’ll tell you one thing though, if she was a man, I would hate to meet him in a dark alley.” Nobody messed with Mama Kim.
I'm a northwest Georgian, born and raised in Cassville, an unincorporated area 4 miles north of Cartersville. My friends in college simply called it “The Area.” Cassville has changed over the years; it is not quite as small and the novelty of living there has worn off with the influx of subdivisions and strip malls that decorate the landscape now. The Cassville I remember had no stop light. The Cassville I remember had dirt roads (mine was not paved until 1996). The Cassville I remember taught me to appreciate the silence of an early morning cup of coffee as the sun cooked the dew off the grass. I'm not saying this way of life is extinct, but it's like the dinosaurs right before the big meteor hit the Earth: it is on borrowed time. I have done my best to retain all that I could from those years of my life and perpetuate them in all that I do and say.
Dad owned a general store, Cass Grocery, for 26 years. Of those 26, I worked there for 14. It was the only store in Cassville and withstood tornadoes, a wayward Chevy Van and Super Wal-Mart. We were a full service gas station, grocery, hardware and feed supply store. We prided ourselves on service and treating every customer like they were special (which is why Wal-Mart never beat us). I got to know hundreds of people, their families, and everything that I needed or did not need to know about them. We had wooden benches in front of the store and every morning, the men of Cassville would congregate with a cup of coffee and a biscuit and talk about everything from politics to property tax. It was like C-Span, except everybody wore Carhartts, camouflage, and smoked Marlboros. They probably didn't lie as much either. Everybody I grew up with says I have two educations, one in the schools and one from the store. I don't have a degree on the wall from Cass Grocery, but I sure as heck use it way more than calculus.
“How y’all doin?”
This is a phrase that means something in northwest Georgia. It can be spoken to many people, or just one, but it conveys a sentiment that your fellow man cares about you and yours. We used to greet people this way at Cass Grocery. Our customers would respond in many different ways:
“Fine! How y’all?”
“Good! How’s your momma ‘n them?”
“If I was any better, I couldn’t stand it."
The conversation would continue from there. You could find out so much from a person in those few minutes. Add those up over years and years of service and you get to know a lot about somebody. That’s what I loved about being there, the camaraderie of the people and their general kindness toward us and their appreciation. When I won the countywide spelling bee in 5 th grade, I got more pats on the back than I could count.
“That boy right thar….he gonna be somebody,” I heard one man say to his brother.
Unlike many places I have seen, people were actually happy for your success because they took de facto ownership of it. I even find myself claiming others successes. You would not find a happier person for Richard Samuel (Running Back at UGA from Cassville) than I…well, maybe his momma, but I digress. I assume that most small towns in northwestGeorgiaresembled our little hamlet.
What do I mean when I say “northwest Georgia”? In my mind, it is all the counties that border Alabama from Haralson to Dade, from Dade to Murray County, from Murray down to northeast Cherokee County, from there across Bartow and Polk and all that lies in between, with the inclusion of north and west Cobb County. Cobb County, contrary to the opinion of most Georgians, is not all subdivisions and Land Rovers. Trust me.
I speak with authority on these topics because of my years at the store. I was an archaeologist in Air Jordans and I loved every second of it. I am proud of the fact that we were one of the last full service gas stations around. I am also glad because walking out to those gas pumps gave me the first glimpse into life in our little corner of the universe. It was a circus out there. Somebody would pull up and my Dad would holler, “Got one on the front!!” Out I would go into this…
I had people pay me for $5.00 in gas in unrolled pennies. I had a guy pull up one morning at 7:30, still drunk from the night before, and get $0.27 in gas so he could get to Cedar Creek Road two miles away and go to bed. I’ve had people get gas in milk jugs, water bottles, paint cans, and once, in a Thermos. I had a guy get $3.00 in gas, pay with a twenty dollar bill and tell me to keep the change because it was Christmas Eve. There were rags, newspapers, sticks, and grocery bags for gas caps.
There have been wasps (pronounced “waw-st-es” by real Southerners), spiders, dirt daubers and hornets making their home under the gas door. There were Hefty bags, old dresses, plywood and cardboard for various windows on the vehicle. I have seen more mismatched rims, hubcaps and tires than I can count. There were coat hangers holding hoods down, bungee cords keeping hatchbacks from flying open, missing mufflers to make the car sound louder, and some leaked oil so badly that I had to put cat litter down to keep somebody from throwing a cigarette on it and burning the place down. And of course, there were numerous tributes to Dale Earnhardt and Calvin showing his urinary disapproval of everything from Chevrolet to the IRS.
Bumper stickers and personal license plates were an artform. There were airbrushed masterpieces from Panama Cityor Gatlinburg, such as “Southern By the Grace of God” or “Misty and Dwayne 4-Ever.” One of my best gas customers had a mural of a wolf howling over a canyon painted on the side of a 1986 Chevy Van. One day, he pulled up in a Camaro and I asked him where the van was. “I traded it for two car batteries and a shotgun,” he said, nodding his head with confidence. I was in no position to argue. Such is life in Cassville.
As I sit here, listening to the 8 th version of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” that I have downloaded on my Ipod, I realize that I am a creature of habit. I love this song, no matter who plays it. Whether it is Dickie Betts, Duane Allman, Warren Haynes or Derek Trucks, the sounds of the slide guitar and Gregg’s organ playing always seem to captivate me. It has no words, no message, and no help from studio synthesizers or MTV. It is just virtuosity accompanied by inspiration, compliments of a Macon, Georgia cemetery and the imagination of a few twenty-something Southern boys just trying to make a living. My Dad and I used to sit around and listen to Allman Brothers albums when I was a kid and he would always say, “Now, son, this is music. Not that trash y’all have coming out today. Remember that.” Thanks Dad, you were right.
I suppose I can say this about sports as well. I’m a creature of habit. When Saturdays in the Fall roll around, you can bet the farm (or your house in a cul-de-sac for you suburbanites) that I will be in Athens,Georgia supporting my alma mater and our esteemed football program. You can bet that I’ll be loud on third downs, eat fried chicken, memorize the hometowns of every scholarship player in the program and hate Tech with every fiber of my being. You can take all the money you have buried in your mayonnaise jar (or buried in Wall Street nonsense) on put it on me affixing my posterior on the South side of Sanford Stadium regardless of victory or defeat. Why? Because that’s what good Dawgs do.
Good Dawgs are creatures of habit. Every gameday, I rise early and head to the Waffle House. I proceed to annihilate a Fiesta omelet, hash browns, grits and at least a pot of coffee. I love the Waffle House. It is a yellow beacon of light in the darkness of I-75, a light at the end of Atlanta traffic tunnel and near and dear to the hearts of small town Georgians like myself. I play the same songs on the jukebox every Saturday: “Hold on Loosely” by .38 Special, “Come Monday” by Jimmy Buffett, “Hotel California” by the Eagles and “Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson. Why Smokey? Because my Mom loves Motown and we used to dance in the living room while The Temptations, Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose and Smokey would blare in the background. Mom would say, “Now, son, this is music. Not that trash y’all have coming out today. Remember that.” Thanks Mom, you were right too.
There is one habit that I have had to break, sadly. We lost a good Dawg last month, one that cannot be emulated, imitated or replaced. Although he had not broadcast his gravelly voice in quite some time, Larry Munson’s voice still lived on through internet videos, DVD’s, books and the memories of Dawg fans everywhere. Plus, since he was still alive, there was always the tiniest glimmer of hope that he would come back. That familiar voice would say “Get the picture….” and all would be right with the world. It was preposterous to hope for such a thing, but I hoped nonetheless. That is the meaning of “irreplaceable.”
I cannot think of a Saturday in Athens, or one spent at home during away games, where Larry was not scaring us to death with tales of how much bigger, faster and meaner the other team was. Larry was famous for his doomsday approach to loving the Dawgs. He would have you believing that we had no chance, we would be lucky to get within two touchdowns and might as well stay on the bus. Then, he would come out with a “My God, A Freshman” type call that showed you the real Larry. His passion was so deep, that would build up the other team so in case we lost, it would not hurt so bad. Luckily, his fears and ours would be unfounded, and the Dawgs would pull through. That was Larry at his finest.
So, thank you, Larry. Thank you for making every game special. Thank you for "bending girders" and "Sugar falling from the sky." Thank you for magnifying the great career of "that kid out of Johnson County" with your unforgettable calls. Thank you for breaking steel chairs, destroying property, and lighting cigars on the banks of the St. John's. Thank you for getting us through the 90's, I'll never forget Carswell's mobbing in Athens and Quincyleading us to a 29-28 comeback inBaton Rougein '98. Thank you for making my time at UGA that much better. Thank you for "Hobnail Boots," Fred Gibson's "whatchamacallit" and simply, "Massaquoi!" Thank you for the chill down my spine when the Battle Hymn is played and your voice booms, espousing the virtues of what it means to be a Dawg. We Georgians, from Rabun Gap to Bainbridge, from Rome to Augusta, from Dalton to Kingsland, the children of the red clay and the sandy south Georgia soil, are forever in your debt. Go Rest High, old friend, you will not be forgotten.