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By Mike Cox:
The most versatile word in the English language starts and ends just like fire truck. It just doesn’t include all those unnecessary consonants, spaces, and vowels in the middle. This versatile word can be a noun, a verb, an adverb, adjective, and probably a dangling participle. It can be used in a sentence without any other words and is also an exclamation, a really good one.
That same word is also considered to be the most vulgar of all the vulgar words we recognize … Vice President Joe Biden used it in a whisper to President Barack Obama … He got called “potty mouth” on CNN.
I was sitting in the mall, innocently finishing lunch and reading Cormac McCarthy when I noticed someone walking by. Glancing toward the movement, I was hypnotized. She wore a pair of jeans that were under extreme stress and walked with a motion that was either practiced in a mirror for years or Heaven sent.
I felt a tingle inside and my time clock began spinning in reverse, like the altimeter in a diving WWII airplane. My first thought was Dottie Jean, the one inescapable fantasy girl in my life.
I was nine, maybe ten. My heart was pounding like a sub-woofer and I could barely hold the wheel with my tiny, sweaty, trembling hands. I was driving the family car down Highway 5 outside Centreville, Alabama.
I couldn’t reach the pedals so my dad was helping with those, but I was driving the car. Sitting in his lap, I could smell cigarette smoke and Old Spice, and feel my own excitement. He also had control of the wheel with his right index finger …
Earlier this week, a New York air traffic controller got in trouble for doing virtually the same thing with two of his kids on successive nights.
Sorry I haven’t written anything in a while but I have sluggish cognitive tempo disorder. My dad used to chastise me for being lazy and he nearly destroyed my self esteem before I found help. All it takes is a few sessions on the couch at $300 per and I’m good as new. At least until I have to fight through another outbreak.
The latest edition of the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the psychiatrists’ “bible” is now being publicized. It is the perfect remedy for folks in our current
Satisfaction isn’t my favorite Rolling Stones song. I liked Last Time and Brown Sugar much better. But Satisfaction may be the most popular song by the greatest rock band of all time. It continues to receive more air play and is probably better known than any other tune by the scruffy British band.
As teenagers, we loved the Stones. They were edgy and irreverent, much more dangerous than their more popular counterpart, the Beatles, and grittier than other British bands like Herman’s Hermits and the Dave Clark Five.
There has been a lot of conversation about soul food lately. A school system in Denver is in trouble for trying to honor Dr. Martin Luther King by serving fried chicken and collards. I guess if they had offered watermelon the whole staff would have been shot.
The Dew has featured a few tasty stories about grits and other southern delicacies, most of them waxing poetic about not forgotten old times when the living was easy and cooking took all day. Much of what is defined today as soul food was originally just food for those of us who grew up poor in the South. I would like to weigh in.
I noticed the shoes first. They were fluorescent white, just out of a shoebox, just out of Wal-Mart. The old man wore khaki pants and a plaid shirt under a light jacket. A faded red Farm Supply baseball cap sat on his head.
He could have been anywhere between 65 and 85, depending on how hard his life had been. The old survivor walked slowly toward the entrance of the convenience store, aided by a spiral walking stick.
Just after the door closed behind him, I noticed the dog.
There are few things in modern life as simple and thrilling as a two seat sports car on a winding faded highway. Guys of all ages love this stuff. Women think it is a sign of a mid-life crisis. I remember such a trip that also involved some youthful stupidity.
The car was an MGA, worn out even in 1966. The trip took us from Tuscaloosa to Guin, fifty miles of meandering, mostly forgotten blacktop. The reason was the same as it always was at sixteen.
The phone rang in the late afternoon of October 18, 2003. Alabama had just lost to Ole Miss, 43-28. Dad and I talked about what the team needed to do and how much things had changed since Bear died. Then he told me he thought he had cancer. He brushed it off as something unworthy of concern but said he was ready to die if it came to that.
Fort Brandon Armory was the National Guard facility in Tuscaloosa. One weekend a month the place was filled with guys playing soldier. The rest of the time it sat empty. A local entrepreneur worked out a deal to bring bands to the Fort on those empty weekend nights. The music was top notch and the place was big and roomy; a perfect concert venue.
One day in 1966 we heard about a new band that was scheduled to play. They were named after a candy bar…
My maternal grandmother forbade the use of that word in her presence. She was known to her children’s children by her given name, Estelle. My siblings and I thought she was the coolest person we’d ever met. Kids are not usually insightful about cool people, but in this case we were spot on.
Estelle Gentry lost her husband when her only daughter was eleven. She raised Jean and her four brothers to be strong and positive but not take the world too seriously. I don’t know nearly enough about her early life but the evidence of her strength and will was permanently etched in her children. The three survivors are over eighty and their eyes still sparkle with a tiny bit of the devil.
During my mother’s last year she called to tell me she was worried about my eternal soul. I’m not sure what triggered her concern, but she was concerned. She didn’t want me to miss the family reunion in Heaven. It is hard to have a frank conversation with your mother under any circumstances. If the subject is religion and you are from the South the difficulty increases significantly. Personal faith, along with race, defines most everything below the Mason Dixon Line. I had no intention of telling my mother anything that might bother her. She wasn’t healthy enough to have to worry about my spiritual well being. At the same time I didn’t want to lie to the person who delivered me into the world. I tried to be vague and hoped she would find something else to worry about. That didn’t help. I finally promised to read some material […]
The South Carolina highway between Conway and Marion, like many roads left for dead by interstates in the south, seems lonely and ignored. Few cars travel the faded asphalt anymore, and the shoulders are loose with gravel and overgrown with weeds. The tar filling the cracks in the pavement looks like varicose veins.
I noticed the beat up Buick pulled off the highway from a half mile away and slowed to look for signs of trouble. Instead, something I haven’t seen in a long time slowly materialized.
Three women dressed in bright print dresses were fishing from the bridge. Each of them wore a straw hat; their dark skin glistened in the summer humidity. Simple cane poles baited with night crawlers were resting on the bridge railing.
His name was Roger but we all called him Bubba. Short and stocky, strong as a bull on steroids, and armed with more street smarts than anyone I ever met, Bubba knew how to do everything. He handled himself well in each crisis we found ourselves in and was our unquestioned leader when a battle loomed, whether literal or figurative. He was our alpha warrior, our Achilles. A year after high school I discovered he believed professional wrestling was real. When the rumor was confirmed I lost all respect for him. We still hunted and fished together and would play cards and drink beer on Friday nights. But I never saw him in the same shining light ever again. Today’s equivalents to Bubba are friends who exclusively watch Fox News. They are easily identified. After seeing the deficit climb for eight years they are suddenly worried about the country’s economic […]
Harper Valley PTA accomplished several things when it hit the radio waves in 1968. The catchy tune made a star out of Jeannie C. Riley and was the first song simultaneously at the top of both the country and pop charts. It would take thirteen years and Dolly Parton to replicate that feat. The song also introduced the world to an unknown songwriter named Tom T. Hall. Maybe the royalties kept him from starving until he was able to create The Year That Clayton Delaney Died. If so it was worth it. I hated Harper Valley PTA the first time I heard it and every time after. It was a gimmick song about southern white trash. At eighteen, I wanted my songs to mean something. They had to be pretty, tell a story, or at least have a dance worthy beat. This one had no redeeming qualities. But I was […]
It’s Ralph Nader’s fault. It really is. A classic example of cause and effect. From the cave men up to the mid-Sixties we had a nice little system working. As the human population grew and improved, we always seemed to keep the really stupid people at a minimum.
Since the beginnings of our time on Earth, people have proliferated by a couple of simple principles: We like having sex more than anything else, so we have been constantly reproducing. With smart people running the show civilization kept heading in the right direction. Simultaneously, many idiots did stupid things that killed them and kept their numbers proportionally low. Whether someone pissed off a mastodon or bought a Corvair, nature had a way of weeding out really dumb people.
Recently, I received an email with a link where I could go and find out how Southern I am by how I pronounce certain words. The contestant picks between sack and bag, soda and coke, creek and crick. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that I scored 92% Southern. I feel the other 8% is due to computer error or the survey’s lack of true Deep South credentials. I’m from the Heart of Dixie and can’t hep it. I’m proud of the region of the country I was born in, proud of my heritage. I don’t wave a Confederate flag, but do consider myself a true son of the South. And there aren’t many of us left. Snaggle-toothed racists and politically correct imbeciles have spent the last quarter century trying to make those of us from south of the Mason Dixon line feel ashamed of our birth place, and […]
His name was Ovette. During initial introductions at work he nervously added a syllable. Before meeting most of us he was already known as Overhead Jones. Add a bad eye and what my father called jive and we had a comical, non-threatening caricature that didn’t have a chance.Ovette Jones was stereotyped. In truth, his skin color provided all necessary ammunition for his designated place.
Being black in the South guarantees pigeonholing. Like most humans, we Southerners like things simple.
For people born in the rural South during the first half of the previous century, smoke is the ribbon that ties memories together and the spark that regenerates those memories and makes them vivid again.
Weekly visits to the old home place on Sunday after preaching to visit my grandmother are among my first recollections. The house was a dogtrot structure; separate boxes divided by an open breezeway through the middle. The two front rooms had fireplaces. The kitchen was powered by a wood burning stove with a vent pipe through the roof.
The smoke from the fireplaces smelled different from the stove even though both were fueled by the same woodpile.
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