Of late, I have been wrestling over a potential move from the heart of Dixie back to the big city – D.C. particularly.
Whether or not I’ll go, I don’t know. But what I do know is that there is no place quite like the South. It feels comfortable; it feels like home. I’m not sure I’m ready to be comfortable or feel at home quite yet hence the possible relocation. Nonetheless, it has a certain something about it, a je na sais quoi, if you will.
For the Yankee critics out there—yes, I just said that South has an aura so alluring it eludes description. And, no, this aura is not a result of shoeless cousins marrying one another at a Nascar event while eating barbecue and drinking sweet tea. It may come, however, from crawdad fighting and squirrel hunting.
I realized this yesterday as I was enjoying an afternoon out with a few southern female friends at a botanical garden. As we girlishly ooh-ed and aah-ed over the flowers, one of my friends pointed at a vine and remarked how, as a child, she would swing from one before dropping into a “swimming hole.” (Actually, I think she said “creek,” but the moral of the story is it tweren’t one of those newfangled cement ponds that I grew up with in Californy.)
In response, they began relaying their childhood escapades. The conversation went something like this (to get the full effect, remember that these ladies are the perfect picture of decorum, femininity, and grace):
Friend 1: “We used to swing from the vines, too, but that wasn’t as good as squirrel huntin'. We would shake the trees until they ran out, and then we would shoot ‘em.
Friend 2: “One of our favorite things was huntin' crawdads.”
Friend 3: “Oh yes! After we collected some, we'd put them together and watch 'em fight. When they were done, we'd line them up and smash ‘em with a hammer.”
At first, it seemed incongruous to hear defenseless delicate creatures (my friends) talking so cheerfully about destroying other defenseless delicate creatures (squirrels and crawdads, respectively). Then, it struck me that that may be part of the South’s charm.
More than anywhere else I’ve lived – and I’ve lived a lot of places – rules of polite behavior and social graces still apply in the South. Yet, in the midst of all this sweetness, there’s a snakebite edge that keeps it from cloying. Undoubtedly, that is what I got a glimpse of in the gardens and what contributes to that indescribable allure.
And, if you don't think that women shooting squirrels and smashing crawdads earns the South some je na sais quoi, my friends and I may put you in a tree or line you up to fight. You know what happens next: it's shootin' and smashin' time, y'all!