It is important to ask of those who feel they have the South neatly bound in easy platitudes of rednecks, bigotry, ignorance and poverty, accompanied readily by the images of wasted lives in rural primitivism, if they might have drifted into a bit of their own bigotry.
Culture is not simply high society, orchestras and ballets. Its normative association is actually with the fabric that makes a culture unique in ways both good and bad. The South has plenty of both, as do all cultures.
A number of salient questions and insights might reasonably be voiced:
• What of the correct pronunciation, origin and verdant viciousness of kudzu? An invasive plant brought from Japan to steady soil from erosion on the highways of the South, /kud-zoo/ was introduced to the United States at the Japanese pavilion in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The Japanese name was Kuzu. Though associated with the South, it has been seen as far north as Canada.
• Why is it that the Maypop is called by such and odd and apt name? Might it be that the hollow green pod lying on the earth along its convoluted vine, when reaching sufficient size and tension in or about the proper month of its maturation (May?), should let out a loud and onomatopoeic pop when stepped upon? Could that knowledge, known to the youngest Southern rural child, be questioned by the cosmopolitan polymath? And, how might one reasonably refer to the Maypop’s extraordinary flower as a delicate ballerina in lilac tutu? Of course the fact that this is passiflora incarnate lends some insight into the associations connected to this common form of passion flower.
• To whom do we owe the description of the aptly named object referred to regionally as a “lighterd knot”? That astonishingly aromatic, indestructible and misshapen growth in many a dead pine log that is so filled with “sap” or “rosin” that it makes perfect kindling. No starter logs from Home Depot necessary.
• Let us hear from those who question the common practice of “rubbing up worms” or “grunting” for fish bait immensely suitable for catfishin’. Such a practice involves only a flat rock or concrete block and a wooden stake or “stob” driven into the ground. Rubbing the rock over the stake causes five to ten inch gray worms to slowly wriggle out of the ground by the dozens for quick picking prior to heading to the “backwater”. Of course, the variations include a handsaw to replace the rock or a twelve-volt battery to save labor, though at considerably greater danger to the potential fisherman. The easiest of all methods is to search while thunder rolls and vibrates the ground making the little elongated oysters arise of a natural accord. Of course, if you know this much, you surely know how to find the right location to most productively drive the stake. (Remember, when baiting the hook with theses creatures, your fingers will vehemently stick together with the slime they extrude. Not a problem when fishing as there is plenty of water to wash it off.)
• If you are that well informed of the slow “sub” culture of the south, you will certainly have hunted the Catawba tree for its large writhing nests of caterpillars that entice a variety of edible fishes. And certainly you’ve managed to dislodge a large wasp nest in order to obtain larval bait for catching those tasty “crappie”, referred to in Louisiana as sac-a-lay (sack of milk).
Less fishing and flowers next time. More little known Southern cultural insights to come.
See y’all later, Bubba