Jeff Foxworthy says that a redneck is someone with a Glorious lack of sophistication. I don’t want to insult or denigrate anyone, because we’re all on the bell-curve somewhere. I just want to write about some people who, while happy and helpful, proud and prosperous, live just a little further off the paved road than most of us. They’re nice folks, but, if it didn’t happen in their back yard, they don’t know about it.
I was a child of my mother’s second marriage. Dad was released from the Armed Services because he contracted chronic bronchitis, caused by damp ocean air and gunnery fumes. Mom was seven years older than Dad. She started collecting government pension before him, and had to wait for him to catch up. When he finally did reach 65, he had that extra disability pension, and felt that cold, damp winters, spent on the shore of Lake Huron, were not good for either of them. They agreed that, going to Florida for some/all of the winter was a great idea.
The first year they went down, Dad towed a little thirteen-foot trailer, and they stayed about a month. Dad had a blind spot in his right eye, because of a ruptured blood-vessel. He misjudged a big-rig, merging from an up-ramp on I-75. It wasn’t quite a collision but, when they got to where they were going, there was no doorknob on the trailer. The second year, Dad had traded up to an eighteen-foot trailer, and they stayed for two months. By the third winter, Dad towed down a twenty-three footer, and they stayed about three months. Then they met the Tylers.
The Tylers owned a 30-acre farm. Half of it was citrus, mostly oranges with a few grapefruit trees. The other half was truck-garden, potatoes, carrots, onions, etc. They had five fully furnished, fifty-five-foot mobile homes, used to house migrant workers during picking season. They were more than willing to rent these out over the winter. The farm was located half-way North to South, and half-way East to West, not close to either coast, but near Baseball World and Epcot for relatives who drove or flew down. They charged rent at a monthly rate, which places near the ocean wanted for a week. The stress of hauling a trailer fourteen hundred miles over three days was gone, and the rent was a lot less than campground rates, so they could stay longer.
Bogey, the husband, was born in Kentucky. He only went to school two days in his life. The first time, the teacher was sick, and the other time was a holiday. He never learned to read and write. If he received a check, he signed it with an X and his wife, Frances, had to witness it. Frances was from Louisiana, and had a grade-eight education. When Bogey wasn’t busy running the farm, he did odd-jobs for the locals. He could do carpentry, plumbing, electrical and concrete work, and, if he couldn’t, he “knew a guy”. Uneducated does not mean stupid or untrained. When Frances wasn’t busy keeping house, raising kids or helping run the farm, she had two part-time jobs. She would get up as early as BrainRants, to drive a bus-full of teenagers to high-school, an hour earlier than most of the rest of the country, because it gets hotter, earlier, in Florida. Then she put in an 11 to 1 lunch shift, as a waitress at a local restaurant, checked out and drove the kids home again.
Of course, they never read newspapers. Dad said that they had a TV, but he never saw the flicker through the windows. Instead, they liked to spend what little free time they had at the end of a busy day with a beer on the back patio, and often invited Mom and Dad to join them. Since Frances was from Louisiana and New Orleans wasn’t that far away, one night Dad asked if they ever got over to Mardi Gras. “What’s Mardi Gras??”, only the biggest, rowdiest party in the country.
The next winter, after the parents arrived, Bogey told them that the farm next door had been sold to some Yankee doctor. Frances jumped in, to tell them, “and they got nine kids. Niiine!!” My mother said it sounded like a good Catholic family….”What’s a Catholic??” Well, if they don’t know what Mardi Gras is, they don’t know what a Catholic is. They’s good Southern Baptists.
The two under-educated parents wanted to ensure that their kids “got their graduations”. I wondered if they stored them in the same box as their diplomas. They had two boys, a year apart, and then, five years later, a daughter, Brenda. The boys both graduated and, with a little financial help from the parents, each managed to buy a small farm fairly nearby.
Brenda worked her way through high-school and graduated one June. By the time Mom and Dad arrived, late in October, she had got a job as a typist/ file clerk, with the local Police department. Dad asked her how she liked the job. The work wasn’t hard and the guys treated her nice but….”They use a lot of funny words.” What kind of words? Well, a bunch of ‘em, but especially, they’s always talkin’ about Caucasians. What’s a Caucasian?? My Mom said, “Well, you’re a Caucasian.” No I’m not! I’m an Amurrican!! This from a nineteen-year-old high-school graduate. That No Shirt, No Shoes rule means they don’t get out much.
There’s no rule that says you have to be worldly-wise to be happy, or successful. I’m a small-town boy. I can appreciate the bucolic peace and serenity of being out of the social rat-race, but I’m glad Al Gore invented the Internet.