Beating a Dead HorseI’m probably flailing a dead horse, but is it not true that Southerners, far more than our neighbors from other regions, decorate their cars with bumper stickers, decals, emblems and other items proclaiming some sort of statement, political, philosophical or sports-related?

It used to be, in my days of growing up in the distant 1960s and 1970s, that a bumper sticker was a bold thing. In Tuscaloosa, most of those stickers proclaimed the glories of the Crimson Tide football team, and most were admittedly boastful but at least decorous.

Now you go to a game and thousands of cars have far more than bumper stickers. My least favorite are those little flags that clip onto the roof or at the top of a window and flap like banshees as the Gator or Vol or Dawgs fans blast down the freeway at 80 hoping to get to the stadium early enough to secure a good parking spot for the tail-gating hoedown.

But I have to admit I hate those flags worse when they fly the colors of a team that has just beaten ‘Bama.

I’ll forgo a long discussion of stickers depicting the Stars and Bars and the ones showing a little figure resembling Calvin from the much missed “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip, the little figure grinning devilishly as he holds his hands below his waist and spouts a distinct stream that splashes on top of the emblem of a Chevy, if the driver likes Fords, or vice-versa.

I’m sure some psychology student has written this up for a dissertation, finding that these drivers are revealing resentment, male ego, a cussed desire to gloat and confront or maladies far worse.

But the car decoration that I think wins hands-down in the tasteless category is one I’ve spotted a few times, most frequently on a huge 4X4 truck jacked up with chromed lift kits and tires the size of small sedans. These items hang from the two small eyelets on the trailer hitch housing beneath the rear bumper. They are far more elaborate than a sticker or even a colorful flag flapping from a plastic clip in
the window.

I’m willing to wager this emblem has never been seen on the streets of Berkeley, and likely not Boston, either. And maybe residents of those fair places are missing something.

But if you haven’t seen them, I’m not sure I should be telling you to be on the lookout for them. I find it remarkable that a driver would want to hang the likeness of a bull scrotum and testes off his truck.

But that’s the South for you.

Mike Williams

Mike Williams

With roots in Mississippi and Alabama, Mike Williams worked for newspapers across the South for 27 years. After earning a degree in American Studies at Amherst College, he worked for Alabama newspapers in Baldwin County, Montgomery and Birmingham, followed by stints at the Miami Herald and The Atlanta Constitution. His last job was as a foreign correspondent for the Cox Newspaper chain. He now splits his time between Florida and the North Carolina mountains. His interests include race relations, history, Southern folk culture and the environment.