Just when I thought the country was ready to unite as one and put our differences behind us, it happened. A total stranger came up to me in the grocery store - while I was filling my buggy with items to help spread Christmas cheer, understand (yes, I said "buggy) and began her conversation with "You people just don't know ..."
I didn't let her get to the part where she told me what "we people" don't know. I never do.
"You people." What an ignorant indictment that term is, no matter what group of people you happen to be referring to. (And, yes, I do know you shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition. I just don't give a darn - and you all know that a "darn" isn't what I really don't give.
In case you are wondering, the "you people" in question during this woman's diatribe happen to be Southerners. This lady had apparently been forced at gunpoint to pick up, part and parcel, and move south of the Mason-Dixon line to this despicable and backward world where none of us wear shoes or are smart enough to realize why we should be so miserable in our bleak existence. She had read something that I had written at some point that had apparently alerted her to the depravity of my simple Southern mind and then decided that it was her duty to approach me and set me straight about the perceived shortcomings of our entire region.
Yankees in Georgia! How did they ever get in?
After this brief encounter, which upset me so much that I forgot to pick up the grits and Dixie Crystal sugar that I had come to the store to buy, I spent a little time thinking about what we Southerners know that others might not know we know.
For instance, I know how long a jiffy is. If someone tells me they will be "done in a jiffy" I know how long it will be before it is my turn. I bet the all-knowing woman at the Publix store has no clue.
I also know where "over yonder" is and when to expect someone who promises to be there "terrectly" and how many fish make up a "mess."
I also know that a little boy can be a "mess" and that it has nothing to do with his appearance.
They call it Southern speak - those words and terms that we were brought up with; the ones that too many of us - homogenized as we are by exposure to too much television and too many Yankee interlopers - have abandoned, in favor of more socially acceptable terms.
I still ask certain folks how their mama and 'em are doing without getting a blank stare, but the number of people who can accurately interpret the phrase "mama and 'em" to mean your parents, other relatives, and anyone else we might remotely know in common, are becoming fewer and fewer with each passing season.
I haven't had anybody send me to a "filling station' in years - or even a gas station. Everything is a convenience store nowadays, although most of them are anything but convenient, and it's likewise been a long time since I ran into anyone who knew how much larger a whole heap of collards is than just a heap of collards.
But I still know. Just like I still know that if I haven't heard from someone in a coon's age that is longer than not having heard from them since the woods burned over and that if something tastes so good my tongue almost beat my brains out, then that particular concoction is beyond delicious.
It is not more delicious, however, than a dish that would make a blind dog jump off a gut wagon.
I'm glad God let me be born in the American South. I have travelled all over this great land of ours, from sea to shining sea and to just about every nook and cranny of the country - and I have seen beautiful sights and met wonderful people everywhere I have been. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. But I haven't found a place that I would trade home for. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart, too. Back when I was little, before political correctness began to run amok in this nation, we used to sing a song in school that contained the phrase, "in Dixie Land I'll take my stand, to live and die in Dixie."
I've been out of school a long time now, and I've been a lot of places and done a lot of things - but I am still just fine with taking my stand right here in Dixie. And whatever it is that "we people" don't know - well that Yankee lady can just keep that to herself. I've gotten along OK without knowing it so far, and I suppose I can get along without knowing it a little while longer.
Or maybe I'll find it out terrectly. You reckon?
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.