South Is Round: Contemplations of a 21st Century Redneckby David Magee
A satirical play on the bestselling book The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman, this book takes a humorous approach to social issues facing the conflicted, contemporary south. Tackling everything from crystal meth abuse and obesity to sexual misconduct, it blends sarcasm with outspoken insight that will make readers laugh in spite of it all. This/i>
A satirical play on the bestselling book The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman, this book takes a humorous approach to social issues facing the conflicted, contemporary south. Tackling everything from crystal meth abuse and obesity to sexual misconduct, it blends sarcasm with outspoken insight that will make readers laugh in spite of it all. This unrestrained, humorous take on life in the 21st-century south will delight both native southerners and those who simply love the land below the Mason-Dixon Line.
- Jefferson Press, LLC
- Publication date:
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- 6.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.56(d)
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The South is RoundContemplations of a Twenty-first Century Redneck
By David Magee
Jefferson PressCopyright © 2007 David Magee
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWe're All Still Rednecks at Heart
When I was a child growing up in the South in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was a certain understanding among most people living in the region that a dividing line existed between us and the somewhat-progressive rest of the world. It didn't matter that I lived in a small college town where half of the population possessed a college degree and perhaps one-third at least knew who Charles Bukowski was. We were no different in Oxford, Mississippi than residents of Itta Bena, Mississippi; Americus, Georgia or Bogalusa, Louisiana.
Most automobiles did not have air-conditioning, the nation's interstate system was still under development, and seat-belts were a nuisance that had to be removed by scissors. These, among other reasons, made travel and exploration difficult and kept our small, rural worlds generally closed off from the fad movements in taste and culture sweeping from California to New York. Ranch dressing, for example, was revered in the Golden State for 10 years or more after its creation in Hidden Valley before Southerners caught on, slathering the new, creamy ketchup over everything from salads to baked potatoes as well as each other.
Ourclothes were mostly ordered from Sears or J.C. Penney catalogues-and I'd still wear those Toughskin jeans today, but give me one each in red, green and blue-because getting to a metropolitan mall was too much of a chore. Even if we did manage a trip, the choices were more along the lines of Fred Rogers' taste than Paul McCartney's, keeping a thin, denim line of distinction between backwoods dwellers and sophisticates of the South. As a result, about the only difference between Billy Bob and Bobby Sue Have and Bobby Bill and Sue Bobby Have Not, is that the Haves drove a big, new Buick and possessed a fondue pot and skewers. The Have Nots, on the other hand, drove an older model car and had little more to show for modern times than a shellacking kit and a needle and thread for macramé.
"That's a beautiful purse you've made, babe. How'd you get that hard, shiny finish?"
But along with the approach of the 21st century came the fluid movement of people. Due to better roads and transportation as well as the increase of wealth in the region, Southerners began to peek beyond their previously limited horizons just as Northern savants began to look for opportunities among our fertile grounds. The outcome was that by the time I was a 30-something, professional father of three at the turn of the century, I had joined hordes of others in believing we had left our rural and backwards beginnings behind.
There were rednecks, and then, there were the rest of us.
They continued to dine on potted meat, while our attention was focused on places like a favorite groovy, bamboo-fortified dive where patrons nibbled on salted edamame and chatted above loud, funky beats, while waiting on orders of fresh sashimi and designer rolls. Sure, we all shopped at the same Wal-Mart together, by necessity, but that's as far as interaction went. We, on the other hand, jetted to New York for long weekends of shopping. Yes, that woman strolling through the store while holding her Prada bag and wearing her Gucci sunglasses and Juicy Couture jeans is actually from Paducah, Kentucky.
"Ya'll can't touch this," she's thinking to herself.
Life has a way of bringing us back to reality, however, and it was during a particularly odd set of events in my life a few years ago that prompted me to theorize that, while it seemed everything about the South had changed; in reality, it was nothing more than a wrinkle in the Toughskin fabric of our region.
The first of these measures began on a gray January day in northern Mississippi, with air cold enough to make the tips of uncovered fingers hurt, but just warm enough so that light drops of falling moisture reached the ground as rain, not sleet. My friend, Bart, had been back at work for just long enough after New Year's Day that all of his guilt for pre-holiday blow off had evaporated, and the realization of the long and arduous tasks ahead had sunk in. It was after lunch on a Tuesday when the telephone rang.
"You want to go hunting?" Bart said.
"I'll pick you up in 30 minutes."
"I can't. I've got stuff to do."
"Like what?" he said. "Listen, you haven't killed a deer yet this season. I'm going to take you out and let you do all the shooting. I'll just watch 'cause I don't care anything about killing a deer today."
With three bucks already in the freezer and considering that he did not much like the taste of venison anyway, my friend said he was merely looking for something to occupy the time of his goof from work. Besides, he said, he would be in his work clothes and car and didn't want to have anything to do with a deer himself. A territorial salesman, he almost always dressed casual enough so that any canceled appointment or sudden bout of boredom could be parlayed into a round of golf or an armed jaunt through the woods on a moment's notice.
"Fine," I said, relenting. "Pick me up."
From the front window of my house, I saw Bart's company, gray Ford Taurus pull up the driveway. I meandered out the door-blaze orange hat on my head, a loaded .270 rifle in one hand, soft drink in the other. At the car, I placed the rifle on the roof, cracking open the door.
"I forgot to tell you," I told him. "I've got a meeting tonight and have to be back home by 5:00."
"Just throw your shit in the backseat and get in before somebody sees us," Bart barked.
We drove fifteen minutes on a four-lane highway, heading east from downtown Oxford. It was misting lightly when we pulled off the road and arrived at the entrance to the hunting spot. As we stepped out of the car, our feet sank in the soft, old logging road, becoming caked with mud. Realizing he would need to return home in the appearance of having had a day's work, Bart walked to the rear of the Taurus, popped the trunk, and pulled the appropriate boots from a pile of clutter that looked mostly like sales brochures and order forms. He put on the boots, grabbed a rifle, loaded it, and closed the trunk.
"Let's go," he said.
Together, we began our march into the hunting grounds, which promised to take 20 minutes or more on foot. With my hat pulled down low to shield the cold spray that, more than rain, looked like remnants of an aerosol can being discharged from in the sky, I watched the ground as we proceeded ... one step, two steps, three steps. However, before my foot hit the ground on the fourth, I was frozen by an ear-splitting shot.
Startled and momentarily disoriented, I raised my head to see my friend, standing not more than three feet away, still poised in the shooting position like a golfer staring down a well-struck seven iron. A glance toward his feet revealed the spent cartridge.
"What the hell was that?"
"That, my friend, was an eight-point buck hitting the ground."
"What?" I said, keeping my voice two octaves higher than normal. "You just killed a buck? I thought I was going to shoot the deer."
"You were," Bart said, "but I couldn't help it. I looked over in that tall grass, and his horns were sticking up. It was just instinct, ya know?"
We walked over to the deer and stood over it a few minutes. My friend prodded it a few times with his gun barrel to make sure it was dead. Then he waited for a moment and nudged it again, amply satisfied that the buck had died completely and wasn't going to get away. The light mist turned to steady rain. We grabbed the buck by its horns, dragging it less than 60 yards to the car. There, my friend assessed his options.
Pulling keys from his pocket, he stroked the button which opens the trunk on the keyless pad.
Bart walked over and looked inside the trunk, before shoving boxes of sales brochures and materials back and to the left.
"Guess it is going to have to go in here."
Without a blanket to cover the interior of the trunk, he grabbed some three-paneled sales brochures from one box and spread them out, hoping they would prevent the blood dripping from the deer's bulleted neck from staining the car. We grabbed the buck by its legs, hoisting it into the trunk. The hind quarter wouldn't fit, so my friend placed his back on it and shoved, grinding with power from his thighs, until the deer was encapsulated safely and presumably comfortable in the Taurus.
After snickering all along the way back down the highway at the thought of having an eight-point buck in the trunk of the company car in the middle of a work day, we arrived at a small, somewhat-dilapidated trailer that had a sign out front fashioned from cut ply board and red spray paint, pronouncing, "WE CLEAN DEER." Standing in front of the trailer was a large man, obviously the proprietor. He had a scruffy beard and wore overalls covered with a red-stained white apron. He peered at the now-parked car.
"Roll down the window and tell the man we've got a deer over here," Bart said.
"Oh, I get it. You're embarrassed you've got a buck in the trunk, right?"
"Look at that big Man Mountain Link-looking motherfucker," Bart said, raising his voice. "I'm not telling that redneck to come to over to my Taurus to get a deer. What's he going to think?"
Exasperated and ready to get back home in plenty of time for my meeting, I opened the door and approached the man.
"Sir, we've got a deer that needs cleaning."
"Awwight. Where is it?" he asked.
I motioned to Bart to pop the trunk. He did, and I escorted Man Mountain Link over. He took a deep look into the back of the Taurus, scratching his head.
"I spec it'll be about $50 dollars to clean this buck and make your sausage, hamburger and steaks. I'll just pull the loin off straight. It'll be ready by next Wednesday to the noon hour. We take cash only."
"Okay," I told him.
Man Mountain Link grabbed the deer by its front legs and gave a mighty pull, easily removing it from the car, but spreading blood on the interior of the trunk as thickly as I imagined he buttered the inside of his biscuits. But the deer was out of our hands now and into his, so we headed on our way home.
"What did he say about that?" Bart inquired.
"Nothing," I said. "Absolutely nothing. And that's a problem."
"Because," I said, "that wasn't the first deer in the trunk of a company car that man has seen."
Before the events of this day, I had already begun to theorize on the notion that, no matter how much culture we Southerners believe we have acquired, we are all still rednecks at heart. It was a supposition along the lines of, you can take the boy from among the rednecks, but you will never be able to take the redneck from the boys.
After being exposed by Man Mountain Link that we were more common than ingenious, I was moving ever-closer to the conclusion that we are all rednecks after all. Still, I was holding onto to the outside hope that some of us could escape the clutches of the white, roughneck heritage that clings through generations like eggs to an ungreased, black-iron skillet. However, one hot day on a golf course just south of Memphis, some six months after having helped place a deer in the trunk of a company-owned Taurus, my hypothesis that an innate redneckedness exists in all Southerners was put to a serious, discerning test.
The same friend who had called in January to take me hunting called again in July to see if I wanted to play golf in a two-man scramble tournament, to be held in Memphis the next day. Bart had signed up to play with someone else, but that person could no longer get off work and play. My handicap was double digits, but due to a lifestyle as a fulltime writer, my work-day commitment calendar was clear, making me the ideal fill-in candidate.
"Great," he said, "I'll pick you up at 7:00 a.m."
An hour drive from Oxford and located on the east side of Memphis, the course we were to play was relatively new but had a layout that promised quality play. We arrived in time to warm up, hitting balls on the range among the more than 70 golfers participating. While attempting to properly strike two dozen or so balls, a sharply-dressed, middle-aged man, who professed to be a Tennessee lawyer by trade and a golfer by passion, warmed up on my left.
Wearing a white ball cap with a Titleist logo, a white, sleeveless sweater pulled over a silky blue shirt, soft, khaki slacks and a thick copper bracelet clasped tightly around his right wrist, he smoothly swatted one ball after another, oblivious to the heat which was already pushing toward the upper 90s.
"I love this game," he said. "It's the purest sport man ever invented."
To my right was a young man who appeared to be in his early 20s. Wearing wrap-around, designer sunglasses, an Auburn University cap, a collar-less golf shirt and baggy shorts, he ripped one 300-yard drive after another, leaving every club but his driver untouched during practice. Upon noticing that I was more concerned watching him from the corner of my eye than I was with my own shots, the young man reached out to me in words.
"You the Magee team?" he inquired.
"Yep. That's me."
"Cool," he said. "They told me that we were paired with you. That's my dad, there, right beside you.
"What's your handicap?" he asked.
I didn't have the heart to tell him the truth-that I had no idea, and that an educated guess would place it at 20 or more.
"Cool," he said. "I'm a six. Dad's a four. He gets to play more than I do."
Great. Bart was a scratch, but golf is pretty much a stand alone game, even in a team format. A pairing with Slick and Super-Slick spelled misery for me all day long. But, I was in Memphis, on the course and fully warmed up. Unable to turn back, I shuffled into the cart just before 9:30 a.m. and rode to the second hole, our starting point for the shotgun format. Waiting at the tee upon our arrival was the father and son, our playing partners.
"You boys like to have fun?" the man inquired. "I hope so, 'cause I plan on having some fun today. I'm out of the office and my motto is, 'screw everything else.' You know what I mean?
"Today, it's all about birdies 'n beer. You know what I'm saying?"
He reached into his cart and removed a can, pulling the tab.
Gulp, gulp, gulp.
"Let's play some golf, boys."
The man was not that much older than my friend and I, really. At the most, he had 12 years on us, and many of my friends were his age or older, but I yielded in the beginning to his take-charge, parental style because it seemed he liked it best that way. The longer we played, however, the more difficult this became.
Before finishing our seventh hole of play we had been approached a couple of times already by two blonde, 20-something flirtatious girls driving the beer cart. Each time they stopped, the man and his son grabbed an armload of beers. By the completion of our ninth hole and still before noon central daylight time, the man had consumed nine beers by my count; same for the son. But it was Daddy doing all the talking.
To the beer girls, he made suggestive small talk each time they visited, uttering such phrases as, "ya'll sure are cute" and, "sure, you can help me, any time you want." To my friend and me, he unleashed from tee box to fairway to green an increasingly steady stream of male-centric questions.
"You boys like (vagina), don't ya?" he asked.
"Uh, yes sir," I said feebly, nodding toward Bart. "We like (vagina). Sure do."
Of course, the more beer the man and the boy drank, the worse their golf became. Our team was four shots under par after the first nine holes, while they were just one under, despite having started with three birdies in the first three holes. In the sweltering summer heat, hovering in the high 90s, and halfway through the round of golf, all the beer the father and son had consumed started talking loud and clear in regards to their game.
The man chunked into the ground a six-iron, one of the clubs that he had struck so effortlessly on the practice range. Instead of lifting off, the ball only hopped and skidded along, but kept rolling nonetheless, finding its way, somehow, to the edge of the green.
"I call that a vagina shot," the man slurred. "You know, it looks awful, but leaves you feeling pretty damn good."
At the 12th hole, the beer cart girls met up with our foursome once again, waiting for us all to hit tee shots before initiating discussion.
"Can we get you anything?" the girl driving asked.
"Yeah, baby," the man responded, while looking at us and capping it with a slight wink. "You can get me something. How about a peek at those breasts of yours?"
Excerpted from The South is Round by David Magee Copyright © 2007 by David Magee. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
David Magee is an award-winning columnist for the Chattanooga Times Free Press and author of several books, including The John Deere Way, MoonPie, and Turnaround. He lives in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.
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