I AM a Redneck!
Last week I posted an essay, Dad, Am I a Redneck? The story’s gist was about my oldest son’s quest to out-Redneck a work colleague, John, from Vermont. With pictures from his Mother’s and my early, early years, Christian (my son) rested his case that he was indeed more Redneck than his friend John Toomey.
That exchange initially took place in text messages and pictures between Christian and me and was just too good not to develop as a story for Southern Exposures.
Christian liked the story well enough—I didn’t even know he read my essays—to send the piece to John from Vermont. A couple of days later, I got the email below from John Toomey.
I read and enjoyed your blog on the Redneck pedigree in your family.
I was surprised to see that you and Christian have discussed inclusion criteria into that coveted genus “American Redneck” (rubeus americanus). I sense that Southern upbringing is the major criterion claiming Redneck status. There’s some logic to this, but I just don’t agree that refined folks from Miami, Atlanta, or Augusta can make credible claims to being Rednecks. I’m certain the world is yearning for a rational nexus for fractionation of folks into three classes: 1) Rich Northern Elites, 2) Rednecks, and 3) White Trash.
First, I want to make a distinction. Rednecks and White Trash are not the same, although they may share some traits.
Rednecks work hard, are generally responsible, seem friendly and helpful, and do not rely on others’ work for their sustenance. Rednecks and white trash will both fight, but a Redneck needs a half-way decent reason to engage in fisticuffs.
White trash tend to be belligerent and fight without reason. Further, white trash have a limited ability to accumulate wealth and seem to have very high fertility rates while engaging with multiple partners. I am not saying that Rednecks do not have some moral excursions, but they usually don’t have 12 offspring with four women.
In summary, I believe that Rednecks represent a distinct entity.
Enough philosophy and taxonomy. Now for the criteria and my case for being classified as a Redneck.
1. Dental Status.
Typically, humans have 32 teeth, although it is common for folks to have only 28 as wisdom tooth extraction is widespread. Fighting, dental hygiene, and occupational hazards all take a toll on the Redneck tooth count. My immediate family included five people, but the total number of teeth equaled 56. That’s 11.2 teeth per person or about 40% of normal. The teeth (or tooth) issue speaks for itself.
Weight of Evidence: Strong.
2. Vehicles Owned by Family in Formative Years
Clearly, having a pick-up truck in disrepair confers a strong claim to being a redneck. Add a set of bull nuts to the trailer hitch, and it’s game over. I’ll offer a vehicular alternative: Ramblers, or more specifically, beat-up, used Ramblers with rusted out floorboards and the sweet aroma of Kool cigarettes. I’ve spent countless hours in these little gems, and it wasn’t going to the opera, or soccer practice, or to look at Ivy League colleges.
Weight of Evidence: Moderate.
3. Occupation of Family Members:
In general, you don’t see Rednecks being florists, interior decorators, accountants, or psychotherapists. Curiously, I have met some pretty fair doctors and veterinarians that fall under the Redneck umbrella. My family members enjoyed many prestigious positions such as mill worker (2), correctional officer (2), food service worker, gas station attendant, garbageman, and … earthworm harvester/purveyor (2). The last one, earthworm harvester/purveyor, primarily involved my Mother and me. In New England, large earthworms known as nightcrawlers tend to partially exit their subterranean homes at night after a rain event. My Mother could gather over 1,000 of these things in a single night; I could catch about 500. Secondarily, we would dig smaller earthworms in gardens and manure piles. Our entire cellar was covered in washtubs filled with moss, nightcrawlers, and earthworms. We would sell these things to Rich Northern Elites for about $0.02 each. It sucked, and if these things died, it stunk like you can’t imagine.
Weight of Evidence: Strong
4. Location in Formative Years:
The South is generally considered to be the breeding ground of Rednecks. I respect this but would offer the following: small-time farmers and loggers in northern Vermont and New York are tough, hard-working, no-nonsense guys. They have all of the behavioral traits and experiences of Rednecks but don’t have the proper latitude. I submit that being from a rural setting with limited financial resources represents better criteria.
Weight of Evidence: Moderate Under Adjusted Criteria
I rest my case and seek appropriate classification.
John P. Toomey, PE, | Senior Project Manager
Having thoroughly enjoyed John’s plea to be included in the Ranks of Rednecks, I returned his email asking for his permission to publish his request since it was so articulately composed. He agreed, giving me permission to clean up a few comma splices so frequent to his engineering fraternity members.
BELOW IS AN EXCERPT OF MY EMAIL TO JOHN IN VERMONT
Having lived in Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, and NC, I assure you that Redneck is a state of mind, not a geographic location. I met my first non-Southern Redneck in KY. She was my secretary, Jan, from Indiana. From Jan, I learned that Redneck has nothing to do with location or even education—my son and I are perfect examples! So welcome to the club, brother!
Urban expansion is more and more preventing a country boy with a .22 from going out into the woods and bringing home a mess of squirrels for supper, and thus beginning his journey toward Redneckedness. Therefore, Rednecks must unite as we are the only minority left who can be picked on with impunity by all other members of society.
Excellent thesis on the proud fraternal/sororital (is that a word?) brother/sisterhood of Rednecks. Notice I capitalize the name to properly honor it. John pretty well nails it, especially the differentiation between Rednecks and white trash. In north Alabama where I grew up, we referred to that distinct group as “poor white trash” or simply “sorry folks.” Nothing wrong with being poor, don’t get me wrong – we weren’t exactly Wall Street material. My dad was a brickmason, and my grandmother ran a boarding house. You are right, Mick, we are a dying breed. I must say, John borders on literary genius. The young man should keep writing. Your blogs may be in danger.
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Thanks for reading Phil. Look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks.
Yes you are!
Love the article, and, as I know both John and Christian, I do agree that John is most certainly a Redneck, and fine fellow to boot!
TS from Holly Pond
Thanks Holly. Appreciate the props on the article.