With all the hoopla over cultural sensitivity lately, one very distinct cultural group is being left completely left out of this quest for better understanding and empathy – the Redneck.
Now, wait. Before you think this is just another comedy tour, it isn’t. I’ll leave that to the pros. This is a very serious, high-minded cultural discussion that actually started this fall at a gas station in the deepest woods of Maine.
My husband, foggy of mind thanks to some cold medicine he had taken, thought he could make it to Fort Kent and back on a few drops of gas. By the time he finished his job and headed south, a little light came on. (No, not the one in his brain. Well, sort of, but you know what I mean.) His own version of hunting season was officially open.
He was officially on the hunt for some Unleaded No. 2. For someone from away, it sounds simple. But on some sections of Route Eleven it’s easier to find a moose than a gallon of high test. Thankfully, though, his tank of gassy fumes held out and he rolled into a convenience store in the nick of time.
“I felt really out of place, though,” he confessed with a sheepish grin over lunch one day. “Everybody was looking at me. They were all dressed in hunter orange and here I am in my shirt and tie.”
“Of course they were looking at you,” I laughed. “They probably wanted to ask you who you were, where you were from and who your parents are and who your grandparents are.”
That’s when it hit me.
He might have felt awkward, but of all the out-of-the-way gas stations in the world, I say a backwoods store is one of the safest bets when you need a hand.
But I say small towners have more to offer than just another punch line.
They’ve learned how to laugh it off.
They’re OK with all the laughing. Most of the time, they join in. They’re not super sensitive. They don’t buy into the 2017 line that says you have to be so hyper when someone steps on your toes. (Do Rednecks ever get hyper? Well, maybe about hunting season, I guess.)
Basically, don’t take yourself too seriously.
They care about people around them.
Most people call it getting off your phone and actually talking to people. But up here in the boonies where people still actually talk anyway, the conversation goes to a whole different level. New people can be spooked by it, but I promise, it’s perfectly harmless. The gist of it is: they’ll make polite conversation, but eventually small towners, especially older ones, will want to know how you found our little berg, who you’re related to here and it wouldn’t be uncommon for them to ask you to trace your local family tree back several branches, just to prove your pedigree. Trust me. It’s not mean-spirited. But there’s nothing small towners love better than getting the scoop on the who’s living and working around them.
The moral of this story is: talk to the people around you.
They’ve embraced their weirdness.
I know you’re supposed to call it quirky or special and that’s all good. But whatever you call it, don’t let it distract from the point: rednecks seem to have their own special brand of weirdness. (I mean, how else is the mullet still alive?) And they’ve figured out how to march to beat of their own drum no matter what anyone else says. It’s a lesson more than one person is still trying to figure out.
Whatever your makes you you, enjoy the happy it brings you.
On the surface, the whole Redneck story might sound like an ad for noisy trucks and bad hair, but just underneath, it’s learning how to not take yourself too seriously, care about each other and stay just a little bit crazy.
Is my neck a little red? I hope so.