Public & Civic Club Talks
[Talk given by Judge John E. Enslen at the Boys Club of Eclectic, Alabama, on February 5, 2014.]
The recent special election results were broadcast in real time. We are the first county in the state to do that. Anyone watch? Don’t know last night’s results, but there were 750 who watched over the Internet on December 3, 2013.
I am grateful for good people who will offer themselves as candidates for public service. It is emotionally risky and takes a considerable amount of courage. A candidate sacrifices time, effort, money, resources, and their most passionate emotions. They are invested in a very personal way in the American political experience, a way in which only those who have been candidates can truly feel and appreciate.
Crazy things happen every election day. Most of them happen within the first 15 minutes of trying to get the 29 polling places open. The calls start coming early: “Our voting machine won’t work.” So we ask: “Is it plugged in?” If they say yes, then we ask, “Is the switch on your power strip on?” That takes care of more than half of the problems. One poll inspector yesterday put the key to turn on the machine in a keyhole that unlocks a side compartment that has nothing to do with turning on the machine.
And then I start getting the phone calls from irate voters who for some legitimate reason were not allowed to vote. Sometimes they are convicted felons. For whatever the reason, these potential voters are not happy with me when they call. Let me tell you about one call I received yesterday from a distinguished lady in our county who will remain anonymous. To understand this call, you need to understand something about this particular special election.
Due to an early retirement from office, we had a special election for House District 31. This was old House District 3—filling the last few months of an unexpired term. Due to reapportionment, the district boundaries changed the day after the election. The complaining voter did not live in the old District 31 and therefore could not legally vote in the election. She does live in the new District 31 and will be allowed to vote in the next election cycle for that legislative spot.
So I carefully explained it to her this way. You have not done anything wrong. Here’s the problem that messed you up. It was one of two things, and it’s not your fault. Either the wrong legislator resigned, or we held the election one day too soon. She finally understood what I was saying and said everything was “copasetic,” which I took to be something positive by the way she said it.
Times have really changed. If someone had told me growing up in the 1950’s that Elmore County is going to have an Indian gambling casino and 8 Mexican restaurants, I would have considered them just as certifiable as any of the 60 people that we committed for mental illness treatment in the year 2013. The number of funny-talking, birthplace-challenged Yankees who are invading our homeland has been steadily increasing. They don’t understand some of the cultural norms and more prominent habits of us southerners, who are Americans by birth, yet southerners by the grace of God.
When I say Southerner, what I am really talking about is indigenous native southerners, sometimes referred to by the world using the nickname “Rednecks,” a term that the liberal social media most often uses in a derogative sense. As you well know, there is a certain amount of prejudice that exists against those who are stereotyped with this nickname. The word prejudice comes from the word “pre-judge,” which is the root cause of an uninformed, or worse, a misinformed opinion.
Now, I can safely talk about Rednecks because I am a 7th generation Redneck. I directly descend from Abraham G. Estes of Eclectic who has thousands of descendants and collateral relatives living in Elmore County, most of whom do not know it. Well, they know they live in Elmore County, but they don’t know they are related to Abraham. Further, I have at least a dozen direct lineal ancestors buried in Bullock cemetery, and the oldest grave in Sheppard Cemetery is another direct lineal ancestor.
But beware, Rednecks don’t like it when non-Rednecks comment on their culture, especially by putting Rednecks in some fabricated negative light. And one other thing along those lines, Rednecks are very proud of their southern heritage. In fact, there is nothing more southern than being obsessed about being southern.
Since we all live and work here in the South, and know the importance of understanding history, I will start with the history of Rednecks. Long before the first pop-top bracelet was ever invented, even before the first pickup truck sported mud flaps, a pair of fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror, and a deer rifle in a back-window gun rack, yes, even before Hank Williams invented country music, Rednecks roamed the Deep South at will. Nobody knows exactly where they came from, or who the first one was, but they have proven to be very durable characters, adapting well to hot climates with high humidity.
Now there are certain fundamental early childhood Redneck experiences. In the culinary category, I suggest for breakfast some grits, which can actually be eaten at any meal and at any time. Now just because a Yankee thinks he doesn’t like grits doesn’t mean it’s a sin to eat grits. They shouldn’t be like Bob Hope who went to a southern restaurant and ordered one grit. They shouldn’t judge grits by the saltless product that is produced by McDonald’s. Yankees should not put sugar on those grits. Grit puddin’ ain’t in no southern cookbook. They should, however, allow some cheese to melt in the grits, then they would have some gourmet grits. The law ought to require the following official FDA label warning before you can eat the grits: “Grits, eaten after being properly cooked, are more addictive than cocaine.”
There is an old poem about grits: “Grits are good; grits are cheap; that’s why we eat grits a heap.”
Now for “dinner,” a term which should not be used to refer to “supper,” I suggest some potted meat spread lightly across the top of a saltine cracker, a type of Redneck hors d’oeuvre, followed by a main course of anything that is deep fried, including deep fried butter. Add to that some fried green tomaters, poke salad, and hickory smoked pork BBQ, topped off with some hot cornbread crumbled up in your cold buttermilk. Now I assure you that Rednecks can count, but one thing that they don’t count is calories.
Now I want to mention Vienna (pronounced Vie-ene’-ah, and not Vee-in’-ah), sausages. They come eight to the little can. You have less trouble if you will remove the center Vienna first. When you are very hungry, the first one is absolutely outstanding, even relishing. The second one is quite good, the third one is all right, the fourth one is edible, the fifth one is not tasty at all. The sixth one turns your stomach. The seventh one you mostly spit out. The eighth one you try to feed to the cat if he will eat it.
Back in my day, by the time a pure-blooded Redneck of the male gender reached puberty, he was a self-proclaimed expert on 10 very important subjects:
1. Arm rasslin’
2. Frog giggin’
3. Catchin’ crawdads
4. Buck dancin’
5. Whittlin’ with a good pocket knife
6. Skinnin’ catfish
7. Spittin’ watermelon seeds
8. Cookin’ hushpuppies
9. Tellin lies about fishin’, and
10. Tellin’ lies about huntin’
Now, admittedly, it is true that young adult Rednecks tend to have very erratic and unstable courtships, but that can be attributed entirely to the country music to which they listen. On the same music CD, you can hear the now departed George Jones sing “He Stopped Lovin’ Her Today,” immediately followed by “Today, I Started Lovin’ You Agin.”
In many ways, a Redneck’s life is simpler and easier than other less normal people. For instance, we can do 90% of all our Christmas shopping at one store—a truck stop. And there’s no skimping when it comes to buying one important, major budgetary item—belt buckles.
Now a Redneck’s family tree might not fork as often as yours, but he does have a wide range of kinfolk, both known and unknown. A lingering legal question remains: If two Rednecks get divorced, are they still cousins?
The boys have “good ole boy” masculine double names like Billy Joe, Jimmy Lee, Tommy Joe, and Bobby Lee. Southerners have beautiful southern belle daughters with feminine double names just like my three daughters: Georgia Brown, Jessie Lou, and Jenny Sue.
The extended family normally includes at least a couple of male cousins named either “Bubba” or “Junior,” and in some cases a second-generation cousin named, “Bubba, Jr.”
The most popular location for our extended family reunions is at the stock car races.
We love less government and hail from small unincorporated communities, like some of those in Elmore County called Possum Trot, Slapout, Fleahop, and Frog Level.
Now in Redneck country, if we really cut out all the hypocrisy, the closest thing to true religious fervor and devotion is one’s allegiance to his college football team, regardless of whether or not you actually ever attended college. Now there is indeed a certain type of genuine religious fervor that can sometimes show up in the strangest places. For instance, you might see a hand painted sign in the window of a nearly extinct Mom and Pop Convenience Store that reads: “Repent Now! Cold Beer To Go—$1.00.”
Here is a short, 10 question pop quiz to see if you might be blessed with some Redneckitis in your bloodlines:
1. Have you ever watched on TV more than 5 consecutive minutes of either (a) professional wrestlin’ or (b) tractor pullin’?
2. This is a two-part question: If your front porch collapsed, would it kill more than three dogs? Part two: Would all of the dogs be of highly questionable pedigree?
3. Have you ever worn cowboy boots to church?
4. Have you ever wanted to plan a vacation around a visit to Graceland?
5. Have you ever stolen a watermelon at night, and I don’t mean from Winn Dixie?
6. Another two-part question: Have you ever picked your teeth in public? Part Two: Were you using your pocket knife?
7. Have you ever called a Coca-Cola a “Co-coler”?
8. Do you own more white socks than any other color?
9. Would you appreciate a bumper sticker on a pickup that said: “My kid beat up your all A honor student.”
10. This is the most important question: Do you have a short fuse temper which is inseparably connected to a very fixed, narrow-minded, illogical opinion that you doggedly cling to on some subject of your whimsical choice?
If there is a Yankee among us today, are you beginning to see the shocking truth? You might not be bright red, and you might not know the difference between a “cook out” and a “barbeque,” but all of us have at least a little reddish tint around the collar. You should not be offended by this. It is actually a compliment.
You see, “Redneck” is not truly a term of derision. It simply describes a state of mind that ranges from being just plain laid back to having that short fused temper which is inseparably connected to a very fixed, narrow-minded, illogical opinion that you doggedly cling to on some subject of your whimsical choice. I guarantee you that each one of us has our own little Redneck tendencies.
So here’s my concluding point. Redneckhood is not restricted to Anglo Americans from the Deep South. It is an inseparable ingredient to pure humanity. There are actually Native American Rednecks, Hispanic American Rednecks, Oriental American Rednecks, African American Rednecks, Israeli American Rednecks, and Yankee American Rednecks. If we just take the time to know and understand each other a little better, we would realize that we are all pretty much the same people, with the same basic desires, looking for the same happiness in life, and we don’t need to be bad-mouthing each other about our cultural idiosyncrasies.