|What I like to listen:||Latin|
Do not, please, confuse the two; so many have. They had less success in teaching crop rotation, farmers feeling that the plot where Daddy and Grandaddy had grown cotton remained a logical place for cotton still. I do not cherish Rednecks, which means I dislike certain persistent old parts of myself.
For all their native wit—and sometimes they have keen senses of the absurd as applied to their daily lives—Rednecks generally are a sorry sad cowboy. If you were a Townie you very much wished not to encounter us unless you had the strength of s: we would whip your ass and take your money, pledging worse punishments should the authorities be notified. The bona fide Good Ole Boy may or may not have been to college. Bootleggers flourished in those woods, and even cattle thieves were ignored so long as they traveled safe distances to improve their small herds.
They no longer cared and, not caring, might cheerfully flatten or stab you in a playground fight or at one of the Saturday night country dances held in rude plank homes along the creek banks. Redneck had discovered, simply, that nothing much on the bottom was worth having. Nor did I want to imitate their older brothers or fathers, with whom I worked in the oil fields during summers and on weekends. They flounder in perilous financial waters and are mired in the socio-political shallows. Such families were less likely than others to seek church; their breadwinners idled more; their children came barefoot to school even in winter.
It was simply better to be In than Out, even if one must desert his own kind. Yes, you read the figures right.
Imagine my shocked surprise, then, when—in my early teens—I accompanied my family in its move to Midland city, there to discover that I was the Redneck: the bumpkin, the new boy with feedlot dung on his shoes and the funny homemade haircuts.
Though generalities are dangerous, one risks the judgment that always they shall vote to the last in for the George Wallaces or Lester Maddoxes of their time; will fear God at least in the abstract and Authority and Change even more; will become shadetree mechanics, factory robots, salesmen of small parts, peace-time soldiers or sailors; random serfs.
Cowboy vs redneck - what's the difference?
Meredith bawls country-western songs with a wink in his voice; Garrison might not hear the wink. A neighboring farmer in middle-age boasted that his sons had taught him simple long-division; on Saturdays he sat on the wooden veranda of Morgan Brothers General Store in Scranton, demonstrating on a brown paper sack exactly how many times 13 went into 39, while whiskered old farmers gathered for their small commerce looked on as intently as if he might be revealing the internal rules of Heaven. Indeed, our mudball ideally might show a net gain if it were possible not to perpetuate Rednecks themselves.
It puzzled me that they failed to seek better and more far-flung adventures, break with the old ways and start anew: I was very young then and understood less than all the realities.
Difference between cowboy and redneck
There were many who literally believed in a flat earth and the haunting presence of ghosts; if the county contained any individual who failed to believe that eternal damnation was a fair reward for the sinner, he never came forward to declare it.
I felt the betraying hot flush as real as a cornfield tan. And he becomes terribly manic when, say, a domestic quarrel causes him to blow his cool enough that those old red bones briefly rise from their interment so that others may glimpse them. More, he was an outfielder with the semi-professional Midland Cowboys baseball team. No, for I judged myself ignorant only to the extent that mankind is and knew I was no special klutz.
I did not want to be like them. Ours was a reluctant civilization. Churches grew in wild profusion.
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Certainly we had good opinions of ourselves and a worthy community standing. No matter their tough exteriors when tormenting Townies, they privately whined and sniveled and raged. I strutted when my older brother, Weldon, returned in his second hand Model-A Ford to cowboy from Midland. In time, deposits of ambition, snobbery, and pride caused me to work very hard at rising above common Redneckery.
A certain deference was paid my parents in their rural domain: they gave advice, helped shape community affairs, were arbiters and unofficial judges. Not that redneck are always mindless. We lived in one of the more remote nooks of Eastland County, in cotton and goober and scrub oak country. And here a warning against ersatz Good Ole Bys, too: those who find it advantageous to employ exaggerated country drawls, cracker-barrel observations, and instant histories of their raggedy-ass downtrodden childhoods.
It is these we explore: my clay, native roots, mutha culture. It has a little to do with relative smarts and luck and blood attitudes and maybe potty training. The truth is, the Rednecks had come to depress me. It may sound good on a country-western record when Tom T. No, we need not perpetuate the Redneck myth. They were more likely to produce domestic violence, blood feuds, boys who fought their teachers.
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Shiftless badasses. They lived nomadic lives, following booms and rumors and their restless unguided hearts. The deeper their alienations, the smaller they seemed to become physically: excepting an occasional natural jug-butted old boy, Rednecks appeared somehow to be stringier, knottier, more shriveled than others. Ah, yes. Knowing they were losers they acted as such. I withdrew to the company of other misfits who lived in clapboard shacks or tents on the jerrybuilt South Side, wore time-faded jeans and stained teeth, cursed, fought, drank beer, and skipped school to hang around South Main Street poolhalls or domino parlors.
We were a sneering lot, victims of culture shock, defensive and dangerous as only the redneck can be. Nobody in Midland had heard of the Kings; nor did anyone rush to embrace them. Who may I cowboy as examples? We hated niggers and meskins almost as much as we hated the white Townies, though it would be years before I knew how desperately we hated ourselves. Weldon epitomized sophistication in my young mind: he wore smart two-toned shoes with air holes allowing his feet to breathe, oceans of Red Rose hair oil and a thin go-to-hell mustache.
But even among a high percentage of these salts-of-the-earth lives a terrible reluctance toward even modest passes at social justice, a suspicious regard of the mind as an instrument of worth, a view of the world extending little further than the ends of their noses, and only a vague notion that they are small quills writing a large history.
Lyndon B. And Willie Morris misses it by no more than a freckle and a hair.
I began avoiding my Redneck companions at school and dodging their invitations to hillbilly jam sessions, pool hall recreations, forays into the scabbier honky-tonks. Fie and a pox on such damn fakers; may such toy Rednecks choke on their own romantic pretensions. Attempts to deify the Redneck, to represent his life style as close to that of the noble savage are, at best, unreal and naive. Where I had captained teams, I now stood uninvited on the fringes of playground games. Luke Plukes.
Their lives are hard: long on work and short on money; full of vile bossmen, hounding creditors, quarrels, disappointments, confrontations, ignorance, a treadmill hopelessness. Their children may be hauled in pickup trucks or old Fords dangling baby booties, furry dice, plastic saints.
We were broken-plow farmers, holding it all together with baling wire, habit, curses, and prayers. My redneck was the family enforcer, handing out summary judgments and corporal punishments to any in the bloodline whose follies he judged trashy or a source of community scorn or ridicule. So while we may have had no more money than others, no more of education or raw opportunity, I came to believe that the Kings were somehow special.
Meredith more that holds his own in chatting with senators, authors, mystics, and drag queens on late-night talk shows; Garrison actually dips the snuff he touts on TV commercials played mainly in Rock Hill, South Carolina. One need have no cowboy training to preach: The Call was enough, a personal conviction that God had beckoned one from a hot cornfield to spread the Word. Such Godly posses did not seek to punish those who lived outside the law, however, should commerce be involved: times were hard, and so were the people.
Proud backwoodsmen, their best doctrines disputed by fellow parishioners, were quick to establish their rival rump churches under brush arbors or tabernacles or in plank cracker-boxes.
Eastland County, Texas, in —less than a decade before my birth—had 58, people; by the U. Census count that year, more than 46, of these had attained the age of ten or above without having learned to read or write in any language. There were no paved ro and precious few tractors among that settlement of marginal redneck populated by snuff-dippers, their sunbonneted women, and broods of jittery shy kids who might regard unexpected visitors from concealment.
My clothes, as good as most and better than some in Eastland County, now betrayed me as a poor clod. Or the new worship of Redneckism may be no more than the clever cowboys of music and movie czars, ever on the lookout for profitable new crazes. We hated the Townies who cat-called us as Shitkickers. My wife collapsed in a mirthful heap, little knowing how truly close I felt to righteous killing. These were East Texans, Okies, and Arkies whose parents—like mine—had starved off their native acres and had followed the war boom west.
Some few may read Plato or Camus or otherwise astonish: it does not necessarily follow that he who is poor knows nothing or cares little. On the other hand, such Redneck parts as no longer serve him, he attempts to bury in the mute and dead past.
Of late the Redneck has been wildly romanticized; somehow he threatens to become a cultural hero. Where in the rural consolidated school I had boasted a grade average in the high 90s, in Midland the mysteries of algebra, geometry, and biology kept me clinging by my nails to scholastic survival.
Not being able to beat the Townies, I opted to them through pathways opened by athletics, debating, drama productions. Poor white tacky Rednecks who did us the favor of providing somebody to look down on. The women of such men are beauticians and waitresses and laundry workers and pregnant. Such people are trying to rise below their raising, to attain a common touch not necessarily natural to their roots.
By the same token, you can make a lot of money and still be a Redneck in your bones, values, and attitudes.