There is certainly no shortage of Southern-isms, based on the cards and letters you’ve sent. Here’s the latest batch. Maybe they’ll tickle your innards. Let’s commence.
We’ve already covered two famous folk heroes, Sam Hill and Cooter Brown, but somehow I forgot Chester Drawers. You know, “Where are my over-hauls?” The answer, “Look in them there Chester Drawers.”
“Oh, they were rat-cheer the whole time. I knew they had to be ‘round here summers (somewhere).”
That story reminds me of an ol’ boy. His bread ain’t done. He’s dumb as a box of rocks. Give him two nickels for a dime, and he’ll think he’s rich. He loves his ol’ Shiv-uh-lay (Chevrolet). He orta get shed of that rattle-trap. One day, the po-leece pulled him over, si-reens blaring, and said, “Son, do you have any ID?” He said, “About what?”
I’m a little slow myself. Once I started following the Atlanta Braves, it took me a while to figure out why the guy squatting behind home plate is called a “catcher.” Where I’m from, he’s a “hind-catcher.”
How many times did you hear this exchange when you visited the general store?
“Howdy, can I hep ya?”
“Yeah, where do yuns keep yer bakin’ sodie?”
“It’s right past them cans of Vi-eener sausages.”
In my family’s store, we could always tell if a visitor was from above the Mason-Dixon Line. They would pronounce “salmon” without the “L,” like “sammon.” My wife assures me that is correct, no matter how many times I show her that “L,” staring me in the face.
Ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I was surrounded by candy in that store. It’s a wonder I have any teeth at all. Or lungs for that matter. This was before the “no smoking” era, and we sold a lot of Luckies. Our regulars would stand around, smoke and swap stories.”
“John, why ain’t you workin?”
“Oh, I can’t work no more, ‘cause of back trouble.”
“Do tell? That’s turrible.”
“Yeah, the boss man said, if I ever came back, there’d be trouble.” (Later, his wife would describe him as “triflin’.”)
Here’s another conversation I remember: “Speak of the devil! You still workin’ at the fillin’ station?”
“No, I jest got farred.”
“Whut? You jest got harred last week!”
“Yeah, but they farred me after I started a tar far.” (Think about that one.)
There was one guy who was full of clever sayings. No matter what we were talking about, he would chime in, “Well, like the feller says, don’t count yer chickens afore they hatch!” I always wondered who that “feller” was. Maybe it was Chester Drawers.
These days, kids act up on the school bus. That didn’t happen when I was growing up. Mr. Dewey Cooper was my bus driver, and when some kid got out of line, he’d stare into the rear-view mirror, and say, “Boy, if you don’t sit down, I’ll bend you over my checkered apron.”
We never actually saw his checkered apron, but we lived in fear that one day we would. At least he didn’t say the scariest phrase of all, which was often uttered by our parents: “Go cut me a switch,” which was usually followed by, “Not that one. Go get a bigger one!”
Back then, if you learned something, you “knowed” it. If you got in trouble, your Daddy would look you in the eye and say, “Son, they ain’t no call for that.”
If you took off your stinky shirt after playin’ down by the crick, your Mama would hand it back to you and say, “Son, smell of this! Have you been rollin’ around with a dad-gum pole cat?”
The women’s movement hadn’t yet caught on, so it was not unusual to hear a man refer to his wife as “my old lady,” even if she was 22. And if her husband preceded her in death, she would forever be referred to as a “widder woman.” At least until another man “claimed” her.
Some country families used to have a lots of kids. One day, the census taker was making the rounds. At one house, a man answered the door, and the census taker asked, “How many children do you have?” The man started rattling off their names, and kept on going for a while. The census taker interrupted him.
“I don’t need names, just numbers.” The man paused and said, “Aw, we don’t use numbers. We ain’t run out of names yet.”
We’ll get together again soon, good Lord willing, and the Creek don’t rise.
David Carroll is from Chattanooga, Tenn. You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, Tenn. 37405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.