When I was in college up north, I had several pals who were from farther up north. The city. You know the one. If you say you are from Illinois, it’s the city people think of first.
My well-meaning new friends, upon meeting me, asked if I lived on a farm or owned a cow. They weren’t being snarky. They really wondered. It seemed to them that anything south of Chi-town must be a farm.
I didn’t live on a farm, but I grew up around farms and spent enough time at farms that I feel I’m a bit of a farm kid by default. I didn’t milk cows or butcher a hog, but I helped gather eggs and was frequently inside a farrowing house, watching mother pigs getting ready for the birth of piglets.
I got dirty. I rode horses. I hung around my country school girlfriend and watched her sheer sheep, pretending I knew how to do it to look cool.
People from my neck of the woods speak with a sort of Virginia-Northern Kentucky dialect of sorts. It’s hard to explain. Our Ohio cousins wondered why we talked funny. When I moved to Columbia, I was interested to hear the citified accent and how people said the words “corn” and “forty-four.”
And they made fun of MY accent?
Where I come from, you wave and smile at strangers. In the small, affluent communities around these parts, it is common practice among a handful of people not to speak to someone until you are introduced. Even then, you have to jump through a few hoops with people before they are friendly with you.
Trust is an issue. Clannishness is a trait passed down in some families around here.
This was hard for me to understand, and I’m afraid I took it personally. Back in the days when parents could run amuck in the school buildings, there would honestly be people who passed you in the school hallway who said nothing to you. It irked me so much that I began making it into a game, playing a sort of “chicken” game with them to see how long it would take to get them to crack a smile or even grunt.
Where I come from, it would be considered rude if you didn’t at least nod at someone when you passed. If you meet a car on a country road, you wave even if you don’t know the car or the driver.
It’s just what country folks do.
A good friend of mine talks about moving to this small, metro area town in the late 1980s and having the folks hangin’ around the neighborhood meat counter begin talking in German when he approached.
Strange. But maybe they didn’t think it was rude.
Since I’ve lived here over 30 years, I’ve finally gotten past the outsider status. However, I’m still not a “who are you from home” person.
It doesn’t bother me at all, although folks have found reason to point it out over the years. Perhaps it makes them feel better.
I’ve enjoyed watching communities around the city change. In these bedroom communities, many newcomers are replacing the old-timers. The “from home” folk in many ways have become the minority.
Don’t get me wrong; there have been plenty of classy, generous and kind people in that “from home” group who have been welcoming to all of us outsiders. For whatever reason, they are comfortable with new folks, change and just being nice.
I’ve also known some folks around here, including good friends, who know where I’m from and feel the need from time to time to make comments about my hometown and the surrounding counties.
Due to a lot of economic downturn and loss of industry, many of the small towns around my birthplace have suffered and the free lunch program and folks on assistance are more commonplace than it once was.
So, at least a few of my acquaintances have pointed out the opinion that many of those communities are full of “white trash” or a bunch of country hicks.
OK, maybe so. But I still contend many of those folks who have suffered and who are down on their luck are still friendly as all get out. They are good people with a strong sense of what’s right and wrong.
I know people from my hometown who can’t afford insurance, or who have had their homes taken away. Still, they go to work every day, work hard, and are good to their neighbors. They smile, they are honest, and they wouldn’t dream of passing someone on the street without smiling.
I know folks who live in run-down homes who still keep their place looking as nice as possible. They pray at mealtimes, they help others, and they do the best they can. They don’t base a person’s worth on the amount of stuff they have. They have good manners. They don’t talk with their mouths full or sit at the table and lick their fingers.
They share. They aren’t jealous of one another.
People in that neck of the woods, in my opinion, remember how to love. They aren’t part of the entitled “me” generation. Good values, good morals. Passed down. Instilled.
Give me a small town full of “hicks” any day. I’m proud to be from such a place.