by Todd Walker
Being raised in the South, these are a few things I’m thankful for today. I’ll bet some of y’all can add to the list.
- A dust trail behind a truck coming down the long dirt driveway meant you had visitors or someone was lost and in need of directions.
- The memory of your first green persimmon when you wiser cousin assured you it was an apple.
- Daddy’s brains and eggs with a side of country ham for breakfast.
- The day Daddy walked me down the church aisle and stood with me as I was “washed in the blood” and later baptized.
- Watching Mama skid the black Pontiac to a stop on the dirt road, wait for the dust to pass, and fetching her snake-killing rock from the boot to dispatch a rattler her tires missed.
- Eating Thanksgiving dinner at Mother Vaughan’s tiny house, where she and Papa Vaughan raised 10 children, followed by pick up football games in her front yard with cousins.
- Feeling the painful pinch of a crawdad on your finger under a rock in the creek.
- Camping beneath the Southern stars on Henry and Randy’s trampoline.
- Watching your line straighten with a speckled trout hooked on the flats of Apalachicola.
- Riding your pony dressed like John Wayne and shooting your cap gun.
- Cane pole fishing in a watering hole in the front pasture.
- Feeling the mud squish between your toes while walking over the freshly plowed bottom field searching for arrowheads after a spring rain.
- Shooting Daddy’s single-shot 20 gauge at a squirrel directly overhead and getting kicked to the floor of the jon boat in the middle of Little Echeconnee Creek.
- The smell of Daddy’s Southern cornbread dressing cooking on Thanksgiving Day.
- Paddling a seasoned fly fisherman all day on the lake just learn his tricks.
- Watching the lukewarm summer rain dance on the lake and listening to the rhythm on the tin roof of the plywood shack we called The Cabin.
- Listening to the grown folk tell family stories which we thought were unbelievable.
- Finding Mama and Aunt Cindy in the hog pen after school, elbow deep in mud, helping a sow in labor.
- Pulling over on the dirt road a mile from the house to eat a watermelon on the tailgate of Daddy’s pickup.
- Building a treehouse with scrap lumber and previously bent nails.
- Eating the first peach of the season straight off the limb.
- Skipping rocks across the Flint River to determine how many children you’ll have one day ~ thankfully, that didn’t come true.
- Riding calves in the pasture in the dark.
- Cow patty fights.
- Swinging over creeks on wild grape vines.
- Scalding hogs and scraping hair in late Autumn.
- Boat (broken sticks) races in ditches during a Summer gully washer.
- Freaking out when a Cottonmouth wants to join you in the jon boat while frog gigging.
- Walking the bottom creek to reach the wooden bridge several miles away.
- Carving our initials on the Beech tree next to the creek feeding the lake.
- Dirt clod battles.
- Listening to Merle Haggard on 8-track on a sleepy Saturday morning.
- Camping on horseback.
- Shooting a real gun for the first time.
- Listening to old timers spin yarns and solve the world’s problems at the Grill.
- Trying to stay vigilant on a 24 hour detail “protecting” our bumper harvest of corn at the big city farmer’s market but falling asleep on burlap sacks anyway.
- Loading hay bails on the trailer in the heat of a Georgia summer.
- Old weathered barns.
- The smell of saddle leather and horses.
- The prick of a catfish fin in your hand.
- The tickle of horse’s lips as she eats sweet feed from your hand.
- Singing “Amazing Grace”, all the verses, in a small town church.
- Riding our bikes seven miles one way to the Hays General Store across the street from the Dickey’s Peach packing shed.
- Sitting in the swivel barber’s chair at Mr. Lindsey’s filling station and sipping on my RC Cola with salted peanuts fizzing and floating inside the bottle.
- Filling your chest waders after stumbling in a beaver pond while duck hunting in February.
- Living in a small town with no red lights, a general store, post office, one church, a cotton gin, and a peach packing shed.
- Riding on the back of a pickup truck on dusty dirt roads.
- Burning household trash in a 55 gallon drum.
- Pronouncing pecan correctly… Pee-can.
- When the judge looks out the courthouse window and asks, “Melvin, those your cows coming down the road?” and dismisses Daddy from jury duty to round ’em up.
- We still called sushi bait.
- Grits. We have grits and redeye gravy!
- When someone says, Fixin‘ to or Piddlin‘, we know what they mean. I reckon so.
- Hauling a load of trash to the dump and shooting bottles Daddy tossed in the air to help my dove shooting skills.
- Chasing fireflies on summer evenings.
If the good Lord made anything better than being raised in the South, He kept it to Himself.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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