This week I've got a very special guest who is doing my post for me. His name is Michael Harling and he's the author of Postcards from Across the Pond. Michael is currently on his whirlwind virtual tour across America and today offers his own version of life in a small town...
21 June 2009
It's good to be down in the south, and in a place I've never been before. I drove through Arkansas once a long time ago, but that's all, so I've never formed an impression of the place. Until now.
I was raised in the country and, as such, I'm more comfortable in small towns--the smaller, the better--and Wendy's place suits me just fine. She's been quite hospitable, as well, has Wendy, showing me around, introducing me to folks, taking me down to Archey Creek where we caught some craw-daddies and threw rocks at the water moccasins just to see them get annoyed. It was a real fine day, even if I did make the whole thing up.
It could have happened, though. In my day, I used to go down to the creek and fish out snapping turtles for my mom to make into soup. Sometimes we'd gather black caps and dandelion greens to have with dinner, or go into Ray Meyer's field to glean for potatoes that the 'tater digger missed. Those, too, were some fine days, and I didn't make them up. On the other hand, I do point out to my incredulous acquaintances--after assuring then that, yes, I really did grow up that way--that we stopped living like The Waltons as soon as they built the big supermarket in Greenport. Living off the land doesn't necessarily make you noble or mean you're trying to save the planet, sometimes it just means you have no other choice.
Still, it's nice to sit here on the porch with Wendy and Rob and Blogger the cat, feeling the breeze from the electric fan, talking of days gone by and exchanging recipes for dandelion wine and possum pie. And Rob makes a mean mint julep, I can tell you.
It's strange about the south, how the laid-back ways get to you almost before the heat and humidity does. Whenever I venture below the Mason-Dixon line for more than 12 hours, I start saying things like, "Y'all fixin' ta go down to the Winn Dixie?" Whereas I've been in England for seven years and I still speak like a Yankee. That'd be a Yankee by Wendy's definition--anybody north of Kentucky, and we're not sure too sure about them--not by the world's definition, meaning anyone from North America. (I've always wondered how offended a Southerner must feel when he's called a Yankee by some twit in a tweed coat and a clipped accent.)
In the southern states, there's a palpable sense of hospitality, something I sorely miss in this reserved and overcast land I now inhabit. Those times I did visit Dixie for an extended period, I felt as if I was being sucked into a vast vat of warm molasses, and I just wanted to melt and become part of it. That's how strong the feeling of friendship and hospitality is down here. They're all such wonderful people. No really, I mean that. I love you guys!
I'm okay; a gnat just flew into my eye, that's all.
Sorry, I guess it could be the humidity, or the mint juleps. Why, sure, Rob, I would like another. Thanks for asking.
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2009 KINDNESS of STRANGERS TOUR?
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Michael Harling is an American author living in the UK,
touring the blog-world via the kindness of strangers.
[photo credit: minuk (mint julep), and Scott Abelman (snapping turtle)]