Darrell Huckaby: Composing my own song of the South

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

Sweet tea for supper. Grits for breakfast. Homegrown tomatoes sliced over white bread for lunch of a summer's day and fried chicken and catfish whenever I can get it. Yellow-fin tuna in the Florida Keys, Apalachicola oysters in the months that have r's and Po Boy sandwiches on freshly baked French bread. Gumbo in New Orleans and brisket in Texas and four styles of barbecue in North Carolina alone. Pecans and peaches and cornbread and collards. That's what I like about the South.

Church bells on Sunday morning and prayer meeting on Wednesday and camp meeting in the hottest part of the summer. Gospel quartets and country preachers and baptisms at the river -- once in a great while. Billy Graham. That old-time religion and the old rugged cross and "Bringing in the Sheaves" and "Blessed Assurance" and, of course, "Amazing Grace." That's what I like about the South.

Folks bringing comfort food and cars pulling over on the side of the road when the procession passes after a funeral and tears shed over a grave dug from red clay soil while the preacher offers words of comfort and the mourners wail. That's what I like about the South.

The anticipation of a college football season and counting down to kickoff -- beginning as soon as the last bowl game ends. Stories of Herschel Walker and Bear Bryant and Frank Howard and refusing to wear the rival team's colors -- for an entire lifetime. Tailgating with the best-looking women anywhere -- all decked out in the finest fashions and the smell of bourbon whiskey wafting over a college campus on a Saturday noon. That's what I like about the South.

Yellow jonquils pushing through the soil in ugly February. Cherry blossoms holding forth in March and dogwoods in April and magnolia blossoms in May. Fiery red sunsets and rare spring snowfalls and hot humid summer afternoons, interrupted by massive thunderstorms. The cool of the morning, enjoyed over a cup of hot coffee in the front porch rocker -- and that little nip in the air that signals the onset of autumn. Hog plums and blackberries and peaches and tending a garden patch just because all my folks have always tended a garden patch. Watermelons and cantaloupes and okra and squash and silver queen corn freshly pulled from stalks higher than my head. That's what I like about the South.

Simple chords strummed on a guitar in the front porch swing. Jazz that would make the oldest living musician in New Orleans proud and blues right off the Mississippi Delta and rock-and-roll and country. Louis Armstrong and B.B. King and Johnny Cash and Elvis and Loretta Lynn -- and newcomers like Luke Bryan and Zac Brown -- yes, and oldsters like Willie Nelson and George Jones. That's what I like about the South.

Cowboy boots and cut-off jeans and T-shirts and flip-flops and no shoes at all for a large part of the year. Seersucker suits and bow ties and white shoes after Easter and sundresses and big floppy hats on beautiful women. That's what I like about the South.

Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and Alvin York. Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Richard Russell and Sam Nunn and Sam Ervin and George W. Bush. That's what I like about the South.

Richard Petty and Fireball Roberts and Dale Earnhardt and Daytona and Talladega and Darlington.

Bobby Jones and Arnold Palmer and Augusta National on a magnificent spring day. Lake Okeechobee and the Okefenokee Swamp; the Everglades and long trails of Spanish moss hanging over the bike trails at Jekyll Island. The Piedmont Plateau and the Great Smoky Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The Mississippi Delta and the Natchez Trace and the Ozarks and the Texas hill country. That's what I like about the South.

William Faulkner and Roy Blount. Margaret Mitchell and John Grisham. Lewis Grizzard and Furman Bisher and Celestine Sibley and Pat Conroy and Terry Kay -- yes, even me. That's what I like about the South.

Bourbon Street on New Year's Eve and the Sugar Bowl on the day after the night before. The Daytona 500 and The Masters and the Run for the Roses in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. Myrtle Beach and Panama City and Memphis and Nashville and Cade's Cove and Gatlinburg and every other place we rednecks go to party and let off steam.

"Ma'am" and "y'all" and "fixin' to" and "Co-colas" -- with peanuts poured into the bottle. RCs and Moon Pies and Vienna sausages -- seven to a can -- with soda crackers for lunch.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Hosea Williams and Lester Maddox and George Wallace and Selma and Macon and Montgomery and Porterdale and every other little hamlet that is part of our history and thus part of our lives.

All of those things and so much more. That's what I like about the South and that's why I join so many who have gone on before me in proclaiming, "American by birth; Southern by the grace of God."

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck008@gmail.com. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.