When we were growing up several decades ago, fashion, styles or the caste system didn’t matter to any of us. If that high dollar lingo didn’t describe a breed of hogs, cows, watermelons, chickens or skinny dippin’ locations, no one was interested. And we sho’ didn’t care as we just had fun playing as all of us were the same. Just plain “pore!”
All the haircuts were real short since it was easier to wash and “air cure” drip dry. Just a couple of swipes with a thin dish rag and you are ready to run the base ways. This kept down the settin’ on a board for a shearin’ and the lice had no place to play. Country folks are smart and don’t brag much. Naw suhhh, because you ain’t never seen a country redneck try to straddle a mud hole with a loaded wheelbarrow, have you?
Friends, we dressed the same with faded blue jeans that had been patched and the knees replaced several times. Momma’s trusty thread, her sharp needle and the legendary thimble were a lot cheaper than a new pair of Sears jeans. The faded, white T-shirts were in style to all of us. It would be appropriate to say all my friends - Phil, Emerson, Arvis, Don, Wayne, Paul and Lynn never wore an undershirt; those were for grownups which they wore under a freshly Faultless starched, hand ironed Sunday ‘church’ shirt.
Neighbor, we suspected the grown-ups watched us through a huge key hole. Did they have a school board meeting, make up rules and spy on us? There were certain chores we absolutely must finish. The water bucket was positioned on the back porch table and must be close to runneth over at all times. The well was right outside the back saggin’ door but don’t slosh water all over the back porch. Please don’t forget to drape a rag over the bucket to keep the bugs from skinny dippin’. The long handled, silver colored dipper used for slurpin’ was usually dented but its special place was on a big wall nail above the bucket.
There was always a dishpan on the back porch table with a bar of soap usually in a discarded sardine can beside the water pan. A perfect fit! For the hard working farmers to clean their hands, it was necessary to lather with some home-made lye soap or some high priced, store bought red wrappered volcano Lava. That sweet smelling, slickery bar wouldn’t remove any hog lot mud or axle grease from ‘skint’ knuckles.
A flimsy hand rag hung on a sixteen penny nail beside the table, so you could dry your face and hands. Don’t get caught not washing and wiping dirt on the rag or the various mommas in the community would scrape yo’ noggin. A hand rag is for drying, not wipin’ dirt into the cloth!
Once, four or five of my friends were playing in Don’s backyard. Mrs. Jameson called us for dinner, which is high noon in the illustrious South and supper is at night which is country time. Back ’en, wherever you happened to light come feedin’ time, the mommas of the community fed whoever grabbed a plate. Our present day hospitality ain’t like it was!
Mrs. Jameson shouted out the back door to us, “Come in and wash up, it’s time to eat.” Neighbor, hogs don’t have to be called to the trough but one time. If you’re late, all you ‘gonna’ get when you do show up, is the smell! Each had to wash and dry according to the community procedure military regulations. Well, somebody messed up real, real bad. Mrs. Jameson inspected the hand rag and th’owed a Southern hissy fit. Even though the entire congregation was seated, we had to display our hands, tops and palms too. Yep, there was dirt on the hand rag. She methodically marched the whole battalion to the back porch and lined us up military fashion and personally inspected each hand washing and thorough, careful drying. Ain’t gonna’ be no cholera or pink eye on Moose Road.
Beloved, I ain’t saying what is right or wrong in our growing up: “That’s just the way it was.” Manners evidently are a thing of the past. Whether it is bowin’ yo’ head prayin’, salutin’ our precious flag, stoppin’ for a funeral procession, openin’ doors for our beautiful Southern belles or respectin’ our brilliant senior citizens, that made this great nation what it is today. Some folks try to tell me things are better today, than years gone by. What happened?...GLORY!
Griffin is the author of the book “Southern Raisin.” He was born in Charleston, Tenn., and attended Rosemark Grammar School and Bolton High School.