Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bubbas and Rednecks can be a lot more nuanced... at times.

© 2012 Joshua Stark

The Mallard of Discontent, Chad Love, posted a little piece about a friend of his, a very talented Bubba-type person, complete with music video.  It's not a joke post, it is a great comment on just how ridiculous stereotypes can be, but only obliquely (it's really just a hat-tip to a talented friend).  It bit me, though, in a good way.  It got me thinking about my family, and it got my writing juices going a little bit.  I started to write a comment to his post, but realized I'd gone way off on a tangent and would look like a crazy person, so I figured it'd go better here at my blog, where I'm already known to be crazy and off-focus.  What I wrote:

Bubbas and rednecks, indeed. Working class intellectuals.  My people, I swear.  It made me think about my life and the weird nexus in which I find myself.  At one time, I tried to write poetry and short prose about my family to my then-newborn niece, Dakota, who that morning had been dancing to the rhythms of frying bacon.  I was sitting at a Cafe' in Davis, California, after having heard an interview of Steve Earle by Teri Gross.  I was writing about my Dad's work in the oil fields after getting his EBT M.A. in philosophy of religion; my Mom living in Sunset migrant camp, her skinny little body holding their house down by the tent pole in a wind storm, and me (and sisters) still going back to the migrant camps in Lake County, following the pears, saving money for grad school. I was trying to write a poem giving the feel and rhythm of my Dad and me hunting, walking tiny steps on RR track ties so as not to be loud in the gravel, and walking back in the door at home, skunked, taking those very same, tiny, awkward steps and cackling like fools.  That was also the first time I ever saw a water ouzel.  I knew what it was immediately, just like I know, by smell, the different possible leaks that can spring out of a car.  I also wanted a story about visiting Aunt Carol and Uncle Gerald who lived in one of Merle Haggard's old houses in Bakersfield, and then visiting cousin Burr and Jeri-K: Burr, the card-carrying socialist middle school teacher who married Jeri-K when she was fourteen, and who've been happily married for thirty years; whose eldest daughter is the Dean of Education in Arvin, and youngest got her degree in biology and political science at CSU, Bakersfield, and looks to break into environmental advocacy.  That, or fashion design.

Bubbas and rednecks.  Last year, I high-centered the Prius trying to get it up on a levee where I hunt pheasants.  Earlier, I'd run across a friend in a corn field, a friend I learned had lost half a finger in a pipe threader that year (and yes, we picked on him a bit).  His name?  Bubba.  I kid you not.  Bubba, you know: the Filipino-Mexican-American guy who rode steers as a kid.  I got picked on by a cousin for making a rat-killer out of a chef's knife, an old broom handle and a couple of zip-ties.  My author-friend Hank said, "oh yeah, I forgot you are a redneck" when I said that, after my board meeting with a salmon habitat advocacy group, I was taking the kids to "Mamaw an' Papaw's" house and I could meet up with him to hunt snipe and pick nettles.  I tied flies from my dog's fur.

I also put that same dog to rest after thirteen years and still miss her so very much, a border collie/golden retriever mix who could out-hunt most purebreds.  She could point on quail and retrieve with the softest mouth, and run down cottontails.  She also taught me that both gophers and tules are edible, and if the yellowjackets get after your food, you move your bowl of food to a different place, then eat it. 

She was a working-class intellectual.

(Here's a short list of some online Bubbas and Rednecks you might like to read:
Mallard of Discontent
Suburban Bushwacker
The Rasch Chronicles 
A Hippo on the Lawn 
Please, let me know of any I'm missing) 


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

It the 'student of my own interest' phenomena where people are smart because they want to be, rather than able to recite 'facts' because they were told they should be able to.

I'd love to hear more about the american class system it would seem to be subtly different to ours.

Josh said...

SBW, thanks for dropping a line!

"...where people are smart because they want to be" - I love it. I must admit, though, I love reciting 'facts', too (I'm socially awkward, and often critique myself as too much like Cliff Claven after a party... well, actually, I have self-esteem issues, but really I only have myself to blame for it...)

I only know the British class system from its television portrayal here in the U.S. (Keeping Up Appearances, Fawlty Towers, Titanic, and the like). Thus, I can only glean from context; thank God the context comes from watching the likes of John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson and Patricia Routledge.

If you provide some explanation and anecdote, I might be able to offer examples that compare and contrast.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

"well, actually, I have self-esteem issues, but really I only have myself to blame for it..."

I was going to write a book about unstoppable confidence - but no one would really be interested


The idea you'll get from those shows is perhaps a little outdated but never the less forms the background for the way we roll now. Keeping Up Appearances is only very slightly exaggerated, but in many families is considered a fly on the wall documentary.


Josh said...

SBW, I've been laughing over that documentary line all morning. The Confidence Book crack was nice, too.