My wife and I are naturalized residents of the south, having arrived from the north in retirement. Speaking from experience, I can say the area below the Mason-Dixon Line has sure come a long way since my first southern exposure. While in the service and later when vacationing on many southern lakes, it was not uncommon to hear someone yell “Yankee, go home” when my Ohio car tags were spotted. Not so any more! I have since learned all southern states are just about the friendliest places on earth. Why, when we stopped at Winn Dixie before going to our new lake home on arriving in town, the cashier must have recognized our northern look because she insisted we visit her church on Sunday. (Never in the north, I thought). I remember the “good old days,” but I have never looked back with regret about relocating in retirement.
Having come from the city, the rural south was a refreshing change for me. I set about building the garden of my dreams and enjoying every crappie that jumped into my boat. We learned to appreciate biscuits, corn bread, and even collards with red beans and rice. Sad to say, the jury is still out on grits, and I try to avoid saying y’all because it never seems to come out right. Life was really good, but something was missing. We did have a huge satellite dish in the yard, but our house was more than a double wide. I was still fishing from my old Lake Erie boat, and when I needed something hauled for my garden or yard, I had to hire it done. I still felt like a buckeye in a forest of southern pines.
Suddenly things began to change! One of our new friends convinced us we needed to use his two excess 50-yard-line Auburn season tickets. This we did for a few years, still never looking back. Life was good and getting better! Then I traded in my boat on a bass boat. I even learned to say “crappie” as in, well, “crappie” because my young fishing partner repeatedly said “When y’all goin’ to stop saying crawppie like a darn Yankee”? Proudly I have mastered “crappie” quite well. I was on a roll, I thought, wearing orange and blue on football Saturdays and striking fear in all crappies whenever I was on the water.
Still, it wasn’t enough. I felt I was not southern enough to feel like I really belonged. Then one day came the big breakthrough. Tired of hiring someone or depending on a friend to do my hauling, I traded my conversion van for a used pick-up. Little did I realize at the time this was all I needed to put me over the top and truly into the southern way of life. The difference was immediately noticeable when everyone in other pick-ups waved to me when passing on the highway. I remember it like it was yesterday. The day I was born again into the southern way of life was June 21, 1997.
My truck, my boat, my garden and I have been through a lot since that day. Many a crappie have been pulled from my live well, horse manure, chicken litter, top soil, compost, fire wood, concrete blocks, landscape timbers, rocks, and peat moss are only some of the treasures that have known the bed of my truck, and there have been many great garden harvests too. You can’t tell me life isn’t good. It’s funny how I get inspiration and many of my goofy thoughts as I meditate while tooling down the road in my very own pick-up, running around the lake in my very own bass boat or working in my very own garden. These have become almost spiritual events for me. My wife never admitted feeling as I did, but she also enjoyed the garden, fishing, boating or even riding along for a load of one of my treasures in spite of the fact she had to take a running jump in order to make it up to the seat of the truck.
I guess if there is a moral somewhere in all of these wandering thoughts, it must be – Don’t forget where you came from, bloom where you have been planted, and enjoy the wonder of the simple things. Do this while recognizing that even a day in the garden, on the lake or hauling a load of manure can be thought of in inspiring, or even spiritual terms if you let yourself think of them that way. And above all, give thanks. How is it with you?