Merle Haggard recorded a heart snatching, down home country song especially for me, probably twenty years ago. Neither of us knew it at the time. Beloved, hopefully you’ve heard it. “The Roots of My Raisin’ Run Deep.” You have to be ‘dirt pore’ country to understand and appreciate it.
Taking you back in time, it’s nothing more than a ‘fella’ returning to the home place after a long period of time. Driving down the new interstate and turning off into the country and traveling miles over a dirt road, where he grew up. Can you close ‘yo’ eyes and remember? Fifteen years ago, I liked the song, but it wasn’t anything great. However, in the last couple of years, it’ll bring a tear to a glass eye. Why??
I grew up this way. After a little high powered school housing, you can’t wait to leave home, make a fortune and change the world. But, later in life you can’t wait to get back home!!
What stands out?? There is a line in the song that goes like this. “Momma would take off her apron and do the Charleston for us kids.” So!! I have lived it. About 2 years before the Good Lord called Momma home, I got to enjoy something I’ll never and don’t ever want to forget.
The living room was family full one night and Little Richard was banging on his piano, jumping around, howling and squalling on the TV screen. I guess it ran in the family, as all the Faulks loved country music and dancing. In the wonderful South we say, “it’s in the blood”. Aunt Audra had reminded me several years ago with, “ when you don’t have much, you make your own entertainment.” Well, dancing and music on the radio was cheap.
Momma could dance and loved her music, but her health was failing faster than we realized. She was laying on the couch with her little tootsie keeping time with the pounding. My brother, Barry, said, “Momma please get up, as we say in the South, “and cut a rug.” With her ever present sweet little grin, she refused. Then we got to begging her. Come on Momma, “You know, just one time.” Finally she consented.
Even in her tired condition, she slipped off her favorite tattered little white apron of fifty years and folded it over the back of the couch. When Li’l Richard continued, she commenced to dancing the Charleston. Lawdy Miss Clawdy, could she go. For a couple of minutes she flew all over the living room and ended the exhibition with a dance called the ‘Black Bottom’. Elvis would have been proud. I know I was. That was the last time - Momma cut a rug.
Although in this ‘oh so busy’ universe today with all the so called development and changing going on, I wonder just how many true redneck Southerners can go back to the old home place? Is the old home place still there or is it new subdivision? Neighbor, is the old maple tree still there where you could swing on an eight inch plank supported by a plow line with a dozen knots in it?
For you country folks, can you remember where the outhouse was even located? Are you sure? Was second base the bush, or just a bare spot dug out with a stick? Were there eight nails to hang the hams in the smokehouse or were there twelve?
When is the last time you have even seen a bottle of liquid smoke? Can you remember the distinct smell? Nothing even resembles it today. How much did you get for the hand cranked iron tooth corn sheller you let the grandkids sell at the flea market? Just one more time.
Would you like to turn the handle real fast and see how far you could spit the red corn cob toward the nosy chickens?
Is the old hand cranked victrola record player back in the hay loft where it was forty years ago? Friends did you ever wonder if the old 78 record of the Andrews Sisters harmonizing, “Don’t Sit Under the Apple tree with Anyone Else but Me” is still covered with wax paper just like yo’ older sister carefully hid it back then?
Friends, it’s a long time coming, but a short time going, so you’d best grasp what little you can.
Southern Bred-Southern Fed and When I Die-I’ll be Southern Rooted Dead----GLORY!!!
Otis Griffin is the author of the book “Southern Raisin”. He was born in Charleston, Tenn., and attended Rosemark Grammar School and Bolton High School.