Thursday, September 23, 2010

Southern Gentlemen

I’ve heard a lot in the last 20 years about southern culture, much of it uncomplimentary. You’ve heard it too I am sure. Well I’ve got news for Foxworthy and the rest. We ARE NOT REDNECKS!

I’ve known many southern men in my life and the true Southern Gentlemen I speak of is:

A devout man of faith. First and foremost our people (either Jewish, Catholic, or Protestant) are religious people. This man prays often for his family, his community his employees, even his boss. He regularly attends church. He may not be a theologian but he knows what he believes and it impacts his life and his practices. He’s involved and he cares about those in his church.

Full of love. He loves his wife and children. He cares deeply for them. Is involved with them and shows his affection thru his interactions with them. He goes to his girls dance rehearsals and plays. The boys baseball and football games. He stands by and cherishes his wife. He is faithful and loving. Kind and caring. He helps in any way he can.

He has a deep connection to the land. He dreams of one day owning his own version of Tara. Land to love and nurture, Land to provide for his family. Most love to be outside. Most Southerners fish and hunt or at least hike or walk. If he hunts it’s because he loves the sound of the woods in the early morning. Gobblers on the roost in the spring and deer walking thru the leaves in November. Hunting is passed down thru the generations. Father to child, grandfather to grandchild, uncles and best friends. The hunter/gatherer lifestyle is a way to connect to his forefathers. To the grand idea of the early South.

He smells of gun oil, tobacco, and brown liquor. Guns are a part of his daily life. He thinks about them, dreams about them, has strong family connections to them. He hunts with HIS Grandfathers rifle. It connects our day to his. Our adventures to those of his youth. Guns have history, place and meaning. A Southern Gentlemen may often smoke a pipe or cigars. In the old days maybe Bull Durham roll your own cigarettes. The scent clings to his clothes and in his study. He occasionally enjoys a nip or two from a good bottle of bourbon or whiskey. Nothing is finer than a bourbon on the porch on a sunny Sunday afternoon. He might even have a little shine laying around somewhere… It’s good for the soul you know.

He is well dressed. This does not mean the most expensive clothes or accessories. This means he dresses appropriately for the occasion and the place. A Southern Gentlemen does not go out to dinner in a sleeveless t-shirt or cutoffs. He isn’t AT church in ragged jeans and beat up clothes. If poor he wears a sport coat over his overalls to church. His attire Is his way of being respectful to those with whom he comes in contact. He carries with him a handkerchief and a pocket knife (maybe one his grandfather or dad gave him long ago). He is usually OFTEN known to wear one particular item. For instance when I was a young man I knew a man who always wore an ascot. If I came to his house in the middle of the day unexpectedly, he had on an ascot… For me it’s a bow tie. For some it’s a fedora or a panama hat. It’s part of his attire and he wears it well. It is his signature. We are AN eclectic and eccentric people.

This southern man I refer to has a sense of history and place. He may not live in the town of his birth anymore but he identifies strongly with it. He is proudly from there. Social Circle for me was a great place to grow up. Again I find myself living in a small southern town. Some A place where the lady at the post office knows my name and helps with my mail. Southerners connect strongly to our home states and the history they contain. There is no need to re-invent the South as some have done. We are proud of the people we come from no matter what. The soldiers, the statesmen, the lawyers, the preachers, and the crooks and moonshiners. The bible salesman and the fortune teller in my case… They make up who we are today. The stories, the places they lived and died. Fought and loved. Tamed and wandered. We love where we are from.

The Southern Gentlemen is becoming a thing of the past. Kept alive by only a few. You can find them on Sunday’s in the local church. Sitting quietly with their families. Everyone neatly dressed and in line. He’s loved by those who take the time to get to know him. Respected and admired. A pillar of the community.

This to set the record straight as to who we are. This is who I want to be when I grow up. These fine men are the men whom I admire and from whom I am proud to descend.


James Pressley