IF YOU’RE A HILLBILLY
Excerpt from one of my manuscripts. If you’re a hillbilly.
You’d never be able to guess from laying your eyes on us, or hearing me talk, but I was born in Arkansas. Just like my daddy and his daddy before him… I’d be the last. It took a while, but I finally figured out that you can take the hillbillies out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the hillbillies. That takes generations.
My dad and his siblings were born to a half breed American Indian man who was a cotton picking sharecropper. He ran moonshine to put beans on the table and for the spirited perks. Theirs was more like a prison sentence than a childhood. Folks reared in those harsh times lived by the unspoken oath to teach kids to be tough for fear that otherwise it could mean certain death. Or worse, disgracing the family name and tarnishing the only thing they ever owned outright; their pride.
The brood born in the struggling south couldn’t trade that pride for milk, a chicken, tobacco, tomatoes, okra, or a swallow of shine, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t valuable. They couldn’t trade any of those luxury items for any leather bound copy of the Good Book neither, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t worth more than silver or gold. It’s just that everybody they knew already had one—even if they couldn’t read it or never did. That was the job of the preacher man I suppose. One thing they learned good and fast was to quote the parts of the Good Book that justified their lives and actions, but that’s not an art practiced only in the South, maybe just perfected there.
My dad’s oldest brother, my Uncle Buck, swore it was Troy and Leatha dropping him in a gunnysack and nailing him to the wall of the shack that made him so damn mean. That shack they called home was more like a shelter than a house, and if it happened to snow outside, a fair amount ended up inside.
The nail they used to hang Buck on the wall of the shack was a lot like them, and all of us really. You push and beat on a person enough, whether it be mentally or physically or both, and pretty soon the weak part shows up where we bend just like it does in a nail.
There’s a place in all of us that is softer than the rest of us, a place that is apt to bend first. It’s our weak spot, like the weakest link in a chain. And once we bend in a particular way and place, we’re prone to bend there over and over… even after meticulous re-straightening.
A bent nail is close to useless… not suited for the job it was designed for. It almost takes a miracle to drive a bent nail. I suppose that’s why all of us, just like the nail, try to keep our loved ones on the straight and narrow… but the paths of this life are beset with detours.
If you wanna make a boy tough, you take him into the cotton fields. You wanna make a boy mean, you trap him in a sack like an animal and pin him to a wall with a good and straight nail until he thinks like a badger. Or, if you’re a hillbilly, you do both.
Sunday, March 25, 2018 @ 10:24 am
Great post. I get so much enjoyment from them
Sunday, March 25, 2018 @ 5:27 pm
I declare, your family reminds me so much of my Daddy’s family from the hills of Tennessee. He even had a “Buck” in this family, too…he used to talk about him often and how he came to live with them and he always called him “muscle-bound” and said what a big guy he was. Hearing your stories reminds me of when my Daddy used to talk about how they could feed the chickens under the house from the inside through the cracks in the floor and how cold they would be in the winter, etc. Some of the things they did to those kids would surely be considered child abuse today, but it sure made them tough as nails, which served them well in the military and later in life. You are so right that you can take the boy out of the country, but never the country out of the boy. We are who we are, no matter where we are placed in life, and it is always good to remember our roots. I love reading your stories…they always take me back and make me think. God bless you, brother. Praying often for you!
Sunday, March 25, 2018 @ 6:37 pm
Wow, that really paints a picture, Floyd! I’m glad I didn’t grow up as a hillbilly. 🙂 Although I did hear similar stories from my dad who grew up in Alberta, Canada. 🙂
Sunday, March 25, 2018 @ 7:19 pm
Sounds like much of my family too, Floyd. This: “You can take the hillbillies out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the hillbillies. That takes generations.” Your writing is so good!
Monday, March 26, 2018 @ 4:13 am
Your description keeps me riveted to the page, Floyd. So vivid I can hear the twang in the narrator’s voice in my head!
Monday, March 26, 2018 @ 5:32 am
I could almost hear the drawl as you wrote…I reckon.
Monday, March 26, 2018 @ 5:59 am
Wow! One of your best, Floyd. If this is part of one of your manuscripts, I’d love to read the rest!
Monday, March 26, 2018 @ 1:13 pm
Superbly written, Floyd! Can I just say I can’t wait to read your book???
Monday, March 26, 2018 @ 2:36 pm
My dad and his 12 siblings were born in Tennessee. Grandma looked like a Cherokee Indian, and she would make me a treat of a piece of white bread with real butter. Grandpa cut poles for fences but that was long before I came along. They moved their family to Arizona and then to California when their oldest son a veteran from WW I, gave them a house to live in when they began to draw the “old age pension.” I was born on Grandma’s 60th birthday, so we always shared that day. My dad had very few stories to tell of his childhood, except him learning to smoke under the porch steps and one of his sisters stuffing beans up her nose and hiding under the bed when she couldn’t get them out. I am glad you can tell stories, Floyd, they are no doubt side by side some that my dad never told me.