“Just two good ol’ boys. Never meanin’ no harm.”
Unless you’ve lived under a rock, or maybe in Greenwich Village or San Francisco for the past 40 years, you recognize those lyrics as the opening lines to the iconic television show, Dukes of Hazzard.
With all due respect to Jeff Foxworthy, it was Dukes of Hazzard that brought the rural redneck to the forefront and made him/her trendy. Cousins Bo, Luke and Daisy Duke and their oddball cast of characters turned episodes featuring car chases, white-suited buffoon politicians and very short cutoff jeans into must-see-TV, despite nearly none of the cast members having a real Southern accent.
Indeed, shows like Dukes of Hazzard and comedians like Brother Foxworthy have brought the term “redneck” to the mainstream consciousness.
Of course, when the term is used by certain, shall we say, elitist folks, it’s meant to be derogatory. After all, it originated due to farmers getting sunburned on the back of their necks while working their fields. According to those elitists, nothing good ever came from raggedy-butt farmers. Well, except for every morsel they eat, every fiber that they wear and even every drop of spirits they consume.
The point is, while the word redneck was once used as a slam, nowadays many people around these parts embrace the term as one of endearment.
I’m one of those people.
And before I go on, based on the way I personally define redneck, they come in every creed and color, white, black, brown or yellow.
Being a redneck is an equal opportunity opportunity.
Years ago, when I was a young college student in south Georgia, there was a fundraiser every year, a touch football game between the hippies and the rednecks. Every year I got asked to play on both teams. I had the hair and the beard like the hippies but the Red Man tobacco chaw and the attitude of the rednecks. I relished the confusion.
Recently I was back near that little college town visiting a friend. On a Saturday afternoon we decided to take a drive. I wanted to show her the famous Mayday Bridge that I jumped off of at the end of a river trip back in the 70s. The bridge is at the end of a stretch of the Alapaha
River that has always been a very popular float for canoeists and kayakers. The river is quite scenic and peaceful with frequent sightings of gators and other wildlife.
We drove about an hour through several small towns that brought back many memories of my years down there. When we got to the bridge, I was instantly reminded that the area was quite sandy. My friend warned me that we might get stuck if we got too close to the river. I wasn’t worried since I knew that my truck, with its state-of-the-art four-wheel drive system, could go pretty much anywhere.
The problem was, I had temporarily forgotten that we weren’t in my truck.
We were in a small pick-up without four-wheel drive.
Within minutes I’d gotten us stuck up to the axles.
To her benefit, and to my eternal gratefulness, my friend resisted the temptation to say “I told you so”.
I started making calls to local tow companies but the only one available would take two hours to arrive and would cost $275. With no other option, I agreed.
But then, the rednecks showed up.
A young man who had been fishing with his young nieces came walking up from the river. If you look up redneck in the dictionary, you might see his picture. Tattoos everywhere, cut-off jeans, camo cap and a sleeveless tee shirt.
And a heart of gold.
He let us know right away that he wasn’t going to leave us stranded. He got on his own phone and made a couple of calls.
“My buddy can be here in 15 minutes. Forty dollars.”
I canceled the tow truck.
His buddy was there in 14 minutes. He was a slightly, heavier carbon copy of the first young man. He had fashioned several strong tow straps into a single long one and had us out of the sand five minutes after he arrived.
I gave him sixty dollars and had to nearly force the extra twenty on him.
That day we met two goodhearted young Christian men, archetypical rednecks, on one remote sandbar.
Redneck, a derogatory term?
Not in my book.
By the way, I haven’t had a chew of tobacco for over forty years, but every now and again my redneck side surfaces.
And I’m just fine with that.
Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of several books of Southern Humor. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com.