Madison County Opinion...

JULY 31, 2002


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
July 31, 2002

Frankly Speaking

‘Redneck Games’ more than just country hicks
A number of TV programs and supermarket tabloids have recently reported the existence of the Redneck Games, taking place around the South this summer. These games include such events as Toilet Seat Tossing, Mud Hole Belly Flop, Bobbing for Pigs Feet and the old favorite, Watermelon Seed Spitting. These reports were accompanied in amused commentary about rural southerners having fun. None of them displayed any understanding of the true nature of these games.
Traditional Southerners, those of us who are derisively referred to as “rednecks,” have a unique way of combating the insults the rest of America heaps on our heads. We don’t complain, we don’t riot and burn down our own communities. We don’t file lawsuits demanding financial compensation for the damage to our egos. We laugh at our tormenters by creating the very stereotypes they assign to us. We have so much fun being rednecks that we don’t have time to get mad, to hate our enemies or engage in the kinds of protest and litigation usually found on the other side.
Why do we react this way? Why don’t we organize protest and boycotts when we are confronted with real or imagined insults? Why do we greet mean-spirited attacks with humor and satire? The answer is simple. We know and like who and what we are. We are supremely self confident. We know we can take care of ourselves and our communities. We know that accumulating vast amounts of money, political power or fame is not the source of our happiness. One of the key abilities of a true redneck is the ability to make the best possible use of what every resource we have, then be content with the results. We were taught by our grandparents that living on other people’s money was a personal insult. Those of us who live in mobile homes are made content knowing that WE own them. We are not living in housing provided by the government. We dine on simple foods, often from our own gardens, or harvested from the wild by hunting and fishing. We take pride in not being fed by the government with food stamps.
It is that very independence that others find so threatening. Far too many Americans have learned to depend on big government, big business, big churches or any other source for their needs. The presence of a group that rejects all forms of welfare in favor of an “inferior lifestyle” is a threat to their dependency. So they attack and ridicule those of us who defend our freedom by being self sufficient. We, in turn, throw their attacks back in their faces by playing up to the stereotypes they create for us.
The Redneck Games are more than just a bunch of country hicks having fun. They are a message to those who would challenge our way of life. They declare that we are happy with who we are and their attacks will never change our way of life.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

Column
By Jana Adams
The Madison County Journal
July 31, 2002

A Few Words From Me

On the party line
Short-short, long-long or short-long — did you have your own ring on the party line?
That’s a thing of the past, right?
Caller i.d., voice mail, call waiting, wireless phones, Internet access...and telephone party lines. That lineup just doesn’t seem to work.
And in fact, it doesn’t work. I read an article recently about how party telephone lines in rural Vermont are on their way out because they just aren’t compatible with new phone gadgets and services.
First of all, who knew there were still party lines up and running, anywhere?
And second of all, in case you don’t know what a party line is — they date back a few years, in rural Georgia, anyway — it’s simply a shared phone line between several families, with each home having its “own ring” — short-short, short-long, one long, two longs, etc.
But, according to this article – “Turn out the lights, the party’s over” — on Prime Times, an online publication of the Mail Tribune in Oregon, party lines were disconnected in the not-so-distant past in parts of rural Oregon and they can still be found in Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.
(Huh, and I thought party lines were just a thing of my early childhood.)
Today I am just as likely to not pick up the phone as I am to answer it, but that’s because I have caller i.d. and don’t really want to talk to “unknown caller” seven times in five hours (I know, I know, I’ve already written that column). But when I was a child, the reason for not answering the phone was a little different – the call might not be for our family.
You really had to concentrate. I don’t remember what “our ring” was — double-long or single-short? — but I do remember on occasion picking up the phone to call my cousin about all-important matters of our two-member girls’ club, only to find that some neighbor was already occupying the line. There was an unspoken code of conduct up and down the dirt road (no road name at that time, we were just Rural Route 2, Commerce).... you don’t listen in on someone else’s conversations. Whether that held true or not is a different matter.
In 1950, some 75 percent of all telephone lines were party lines, nationwide. But by the 1970s, at least in rural Jackson County, they were on their way out. Soon after the dissolution of our party line, it was no longer long distance to call my cousin at her Center home. Freedom!
Strange to learn, then, that rural party lines as I knew them are still around.
Now “party line” also has a whole new meaning, apparently. Out of curiosity, I did a search on the Internet and learned all about services that offer “488 callers per party line” and “30 party line rooms” where online users can access a main menu and then work their way to bulletin boards, “personals” and virtual chats on a topic-related, city-by-city or nationwide basis.
Of course there is the disclaimer about not meeting in person someone you meet through a “party line.” It’s not really a neighborhood or community thing anymore, I guess.
Still, it’s funny to see. Sometimes something old really does become something new, given a little time. Recycled and rejuvenated.
Jana Adams is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers and a Madison County resident.

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