What being southern means to this ol’ gal

Published 3:00 am Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Johnson Center for the Arts exhibitions, titled “The Art of Being Southern” got me thinking about what being Southern means to this ol’ gal. So here goes.

Being Southern means walking barefoot on sandy roads, through grassy fields and along creek bottoms. Being Southern means white cotton fields as far as you can see and chinaberry trees and outhouse roses along the fencerows. It means dusting your nose with a buttercup, chewing Billy goat grass and sipping nectar from honeysuckle.

Being Southern is making a wish on a dandelion fluff, finding a four-leaf clover and learning who loved you or not by plucking the petals from a Black-eyed Susan.

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Being Southern means digging worms and sitting on a lard can catching shellcrackers on a cane pole. It means watching lightning bugs flicking at night in a Mason jar atop the chester-drawers and making frog house around your foot with damp sand, watching a “lizard” throw its money and counting buzzards –“one for sorrow, two for joy ….”

Being Southern is listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio. It’s Luke the Drifter, Loretta Lynn, Little Jimmy Dickens, gospel music and all night singings.

It’s family reunions, church homecomings, river baptisms, dinners on the ground, foot washings and singing hymns “by heart.”

Being Southern is hog killings, chitlin’ suppers, cane grindings and syrup makings. It’s pulling corn and picking velvet beans. It’s shelling peas on the front porch and drying peaches on the tin roof of the barn. It’s cranking the ice cream freezer and making popsicles in the ice trays in the Frigidaire.

Being Southern is tomato sandwiches with homemade mayonnaise and black pepper and salt. It’s turnip greens, fatback, fried cornbread, sweet tater pie and sweet tea. It’s a cool glass of buttermilk and cold cornbread. It’s a muffin or a jellyroll wrapped in a dishcloth.

It’s clothes hanging on the line. It’s the rooster crowing and the whimpering of mule in the barn.

Being Southern is walking on the railroad tracks and waving to the conductor in the caboose. It’s hayrides and bobbing for apples at the Halloween Carnival. It’s wining a teddy bear at the county fair. It’s reading funny books on raining afternoon, Dagwood and Snuffy Smith in the Sunday funny papers and Bible stories at bedtime.

Being Southern is cutting out paper dolls from the Sears Roebuck catalogue, cooling in front of the oscillating fan and playing in the water hose on hot summer days.

It’s going to a Saturday afternoon shoot’em up at the picture show. It’s listening to ghost stories told on the front porch and playing ain’t no boogers out tonight and hide-and-go- seek while the grownups sit and talk softly on the porch.

It’s frogs croaking and owls hooting at night. It’s summer rains, thunderstorms and falling leaves. It’s the chattering of katydids and the lonesome voice of the mourning dove.

Being Southern is lying on your back in an open pasture and asking God for blessings on the green cheese in the sky and on you. It’s suddenly realizing how small you are in God’s big, dark nighttime world and jumping up and running to the place where your heart is. Be in ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

That’s what being Southern means to me.