Barry Smith: Irrelativity
July 27, 2009
I’ve strayed pretty far from my roots, and nothing reminds me of this more than seeing a pickup truck with a gun rack.
I grew up in Mississippi, and I didn’t leave by choice. Back there all my relatives had pickups with gun racks. I’m pretty sure one of my younger cousins even had a gun rack on his Big Wheel. Had I stuck around in Mis’ippi I’d be driving a pickup with a gun rack. With guns. I’d be hunting and fishing and wearing hats that say “CAT Diesel Power.” I’d dip snuff, eat my weight in catfish on a weekly basis and be a repository of colorful Southern sayings.
But after driving past an old beater pickup with a homemade, welded-on front bumper and a gun rack, it hit me that I long ago passed the point of no return.
I was on my bicycle when I saw this pickup. My “town” bike. As opposed to my “mountain” bike, the one with all the fancy shocks. I was headed to the “club,” where I was going to sit in the “steam room.” Nobody in their right mind in the Mississippi Delta is going to willingly subject themselves to a room full of steam AND pay for the privilege. Not in mid-July. In mid-July, the Mississippi Delta IS a steam room.
To my credit, I do actually have a pickup truck. No gun rack, though. By my Southern childhood standards, it’s not even really a pickup truck. I mean, what’s the last thing I hauled in it? A 12-point buck? A mess of fish? A bale of cotton? No. It was a bunch of branches from a lilac bush that I’d pruned and had to haul to the dump. Lilacs. While at the dump I put the truck in 4WD. Just in case.
I remember my uncles all had these faded, perfect circles in the back pocket of their jeans. These circles were formed by the omnipresence of Skoal tins. I only tried Skoal once as a kid, and I found it so uplifting and refreshing that I hid behind a pecan tree and puked. I’m sure I would have gotten used to it over time, but I never had the chance. I do have a faded pattern worn in my jean pocket, though. But it’s from chapstick. There’s an unmistakable chapstick-tube-shape in that little pocket designed for watches. It’s serious chapstick, though – paraben free. SPF 25! No messin’ around. I like to think of it as the Skoal of lip balm. But I know I’m deluded. Hmmm … can you actually be deluded if you KNOW you’re deluded? Interesting. And yes, I AM just trying to change the subject …
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Where was I? Colorful Southern sayings? Yeah, I’ve got some. But they’re somewhat dated, and I think they probably sound a bit forced. When I say, for example, “Well slap me nekkid and hide my clothes,” it’s not a sincere expression of surprise or delight, it’s really just a lame attention-getting device.
Remember catfish? Well, that’s really more of a question to myself. Remember catfish? Yes I do. My uncles would go out and catch catfish in and around the Mississippi River, then fry ’em up, with hushpuppies, then we’d eat them with ketchup and tarter sauce. And it was good … slap-me-nekkid-and-hide-my-clothes good. Mmmm, mmmm, mmm …
You know what the last fish I cooked was? Ahi. I lightly seared it after marinating it in lemon, extra virgin olive oil and ginger, and I served it with steamed asparagus and quinoa. And yeah, it was good, but back home that kind of behavior would have gotten me punched in the face.
I do have a Caterpillar® hat, though. My friend Dave recently gave me one – he actually owns a piece of Caterpillar® equipment. I wear it all the time these days as a way to stay true to my heritage, but I’m starting to think the chances are pretty slim that I’ll be mistaken for a heavy equipment operator.
Especially if I’m spotted trying, unsuccessfully, to parallel park my pickup truck full of lilacs.
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