Monday, July 09, 2007

The Land of the Beast

Ahh, Alabama. Even though I should be familiar with the charm, quirks, and outright offenses of Alabama, sometimes the place surprises me anyway. Well, I have been away for the better part of three years, so bear with me as I expose and revel. The beauty of my home state is often the first thing I notice upon returning. The rolling green hills broken by pine trees, huge oaks, and the lush fields produced by plenty of early summer rain are just gorgeous against the red clay underneath. For the first time in years, my parents' yard was green (as opposed to dry brown) and the heat wasn't too searing. Nighttime brought sitting on the porch with my sister and new brother-in-law and standing in the middle of the driveway, head thrown back, to take in the bright stars that go from horizon to horizon.

Then there are the more harsh social and cultural realities of my stomping grounds. One day while aimlessly riding around with my sister, she took me by an old rural church to show me a road sign. It was one of those small historical markers designating a cemetary, but I could not believe what I read: "Little Rocky Mountain Colored Cemetary". COLORED! and it's a relatively new sign. You see, Little Rocky Mountain is a historically black church, but there's no need to designate the sign as such, and the use of "colored" is backward and offensive and displays a lack of social awareness that plagues my region. Fortunately, everyone I know who's seen the sign is offended, so it's just our county's uninformed historian, Larry Smith who's decidedly out of the cultually/historicaly responsible loop.

In addition to the thinly veiled racism, there's the blatant disregard for the environment. A place that's so concerned with being Christian, one might think that people would also want to protect "creation." It is beautiful, after all, but the notion of recycling or just not throwing beer cans out the window is as foreign as New York City. And to make things worse (or perhaps just predictably), the roadside beer trash is almost always Natural Light or Milwalkee's Best, or "The Beast," as known to tailgate drinkers and frat bros everywhere. For me it's an approprate symbol for the narrow-minded, distasteful, and sometimes horrible behavior thrown into an otherwise lovely landscape.

Ok, now that I've ranted a bit, I'll run through some of the things that I truly love about being at home on the farm.
1. Lots of really nice people who love you or are at least concerned with what you're doing.
2. People who celebrate "crazy" as a regional pastime
3. People who know how to appreciate my firecracker onion rings that I laboriously made in a cast iron pot over a gas flame (yes, it was at a fish fry)
4. Convenience stores (which are combined with gas stations) smell of bacon...comforting
5. Where biscuits are a viable choice for wedding reception food (I learned this while choosing my sister's catering menu)
6. Where people cry when they're happy to see you and tell you that's why they're crying
7. Where things are familiar from store names to clothing styles to accents (this may be my favorite one)