Sunday, July 26, 2015

Southern Accents, Oklahoma Memories, and Writing Cabins

You know how Americans are a bit too enraptured with all things British?

William and Catherine!
Buckingham Palace!
The accent!
The Queen!

Well.  I am like that about the American South.

The porches!
The accent!
"Yes, Sir," and "No, Ma'am!"
Fried okra!
Black-eyed peas!
The accent!
The chivalry!
The manners!
Fried chicken!
Big brick churches!
And did I mention the accent?!

Last week one day I got a phone call from a truck driver who needed to pick up a load at the warehouse.  Oh. My. Word.  He had the thickest and heaviest Southern accent I've heard in YEARS.  He was from Memphis!  How many truck drivers from Memphis come to the Wilton Smucker Warehouse?  I would have said None, but there he was, with an accent so thick you had to sort out the words one by one because they were stretched out and then glued together with sweet tea and molasses.

Ben came home from sacking that day and told us about this truck driver who came by with this unbelievable Southern accent, so I wasn't the only one who was impressed.

Paul's explanation was that there's a company in Memphis that for some reason decided to send their own trucks for seed rather than having it shipped by rail or some other way.

Just a few days ago it happened again.  The accent wasn't quite as pronounced, but again it was a truck driver and he was traaah-in' to faaahhhnnnd this warehouse, and the G-P-EHHSSS had sent him to the end of Substation, and he couldn't go no further.

Well.  That meant he was right outside our house.

I told him to turn right and go a quarter mile and look for the sign.  Then I looked out the window and there went this big white truck, with the company name on the side.  "Wiley Sanders."  Oh my word.  Could there possibly be a more Southern name than WILEY SANDERS?

My sister Margaret married a guy from Mississippi and is a little less starry-eyed about the South than I am.  It's HOT AND MUGGY, she says, and there are BIG SNAKES in her mother-in-law's attic!

So I guess I will continue to admire the South from afar and hope that lots of Southern farmers will feel compelled to buy grass seed from Oregon and have it shipped by an outfit like Wiley Sanders.  And I guess if my friends in the South want to call me up and just let me listen to them now and then, that would be ok too.

In other news:

Paul is working on prepping the old machine-shed boards for my writing cabin.  He pulled 99 old nails out of one board, he told me, which confirms for us all what a labor of love this is, since this goes entirely against his natural bent of being as efficient as possible.

I stopped by the other day and we evaluated which of those beautiful ancient textured boards should be used for flooring, siding, and so on.

This week I was at the authors' table at the county fair for a few hours and didn't sell many books but as always talked with other authors.

Bill Sullivan the hiking-guide author was stationed next to me.  Some years ago he and his wife built a log cabin way back in along the Siletz River.  They had to haul all their materials in by hand, a mile and a half.  He told me the hilarious story of going to the county office to get a permit for this project.  For one thing, he had drawn up the plans in metric measurements, and the county people just squinted at it, completely confused; for another, the officials were asking about plumbing, electricity, and road frontage, none of which applied, and like so many official paper-filers they didn't know what to do with this.  Finally they gave him one of those yellow papers that you tack up outside when you're doing a building project, indicating that the county has given you permission to work on this.  So Bill tacked the yellow paper up in a prominent place, knowing full well no one would ever check up on him.  The next day a cow ate it.

I knew Bill would understand the charm of a cabin with reclaimed materials, and I told him about our "Acorn Cottage" project and how Paul plans to make it.

He said, "Good.  You need a writing cabin.  I built a cabin for myself at the cabin."


"Yes.  It's 8 by 10 feet.  I have a typewriter there and nothing else.  Well, a typewriter and a table and windows."

He went on, "Especially with writing fiction, you need to be by yourself."

All right then.  Not that I needed affirmation or permission, but it was nice to get it anyhow.
-     -     -

This week I also took Dad to see his cousin Paul Yoder in Eugene.  Both of them lived in Oklahoma, but Dad was eight years older, and Paul's family moved to Oregon when he was twelve.  They had a great time reminiscing and Dad could still reel off the names of all the Indian kids in school without even stopping to think.

I know Indian isn't the most appropriate term any more but that's what Dad called them so I'll keep the term for the sake of the story.

The government at that time was trying to get the Indians --mostly Cherokee and Osage in that area--to be farmers, so they would give each family some land, a plow, and two horses.  In one area near Thomas, Oklahoma, most of the farmers were Amish or Indian.

So that peculiar combination of cultures went to school together, apparently with no dominant-culture American/"Englisch" kids in the mix.  Many of the students got to be friends, and Dad and his brothers went to Indian pow-wows where, Dad says, the drums pounded all night long.

The Indians used to eat turtle soup and also puppy soup, Paul said. I don't know if they shared with the Amish kids or not.

When Paul was quite young, his brother Earl and Earl's friend Elmer decided to dip Julia Big Eagle's ponytail in the inkwell.  Pretty classic behavior of boys in that era, if the books are to be believed, but what happened then wasn't in any children's book that I've read.

Julia went home and told her mom what had happened, and her mom was not happy.  Paul says, "Her mom come to school the next morning, a big Indian woman, with her blanket wrapped around her, and from under the blanket she pulls this big butcher knife, and she took off after Earl and Elmer.  We were scared.  We didn't know what she was going to do."

Earl and Elmer dashed into the outhouse and locked the door.  Mrs. Big Eagle pounded on the door, trying to get in, and the terrified boys kicked out a board in the back of the outhouse, slithered through the hole, and ran off into the cornfield.

"I was just little," Paul said, "and my eyes were this big."

He still looked scared, telling us about it 80 years later.

-     -     -
Quote of the Day:
The dishwasher broke, which means a lot more conversation over dishes:
Emily and Ben get gradually more loud and animated, Smuckerishly, as they discuss a professor at LBCC.
Grandpa: A soft answer turneth away wrath!
Ben and Emily: Huh??!
Jenny: I think he thinks you guys are arguing.
Kids: [howls of laughter]
And we all think: Oh, Grandpa!


  1. Hold the phone: this is most definitely one American family that is decidedly NOT enraptured with all things British! In fact, I think it's pretty safe to say it's the opposite.

    Perhaps you should buy Paul a big butcher's knife for his next birthday? ;-) What a great story!

  2. I've lived in the south for 40+ years and I still love it...Yes it is hot and muggy in July and August,but winters are so nice.Where else can you enjoy camellias that look like roses all winter long ??The people ,the food and the history I love it....

  3. We are Southerners here in South Carolina and my late MIL had a very distinctive Southern accent. One of the grandsons did the funeral when she died and here was his take on it. He said, 'Grandma Jackie is now up in heaven and the angels are saying, 'Can you understand her?' 'No, can you?' 'No, I have no idea what she is saying.' I can't wait to hear her talk again some day. She could put 3 syllables into a one syllable word! My husband Bill's name was 3 syllables all of his life. No one can say it like she did. But, we absolutely abhor those who try to talk like us and make a total mess of it such as in movies. I suspect the British feel the same.

  4. One more Southern comment. My husband's maternal grandfather's given name was Stonewall Jackson Blackmon. He went by Stoney. Our youngest son has a good friend maned Whitney Sanders Jr. Our middle DIL is from the low country of SC down near Charleston. Way more Southern than our part of the state. There were men in seersucker suits at their wedding 3 years ago. I did not know they still made such a thing.

    We spend a lot of time outside in the summer even though it is hot and muggy. Hubby and I often sit out on the porch swing until after dark just watching the lightening bugs in the woods. We often eat all three meals outside in the screen porch. We have a ceiling fan in there that makes it bearable. Like my late MIL always said, 'Y'all Come' if you are ever out our way.

  5. I realize that this doesn't fit the category, but as far as I'm concerned the "Quote of The Day" from this post has got to be this: ". . . but there he was, with an accent so thick you had to sort out the words one by one because they were stretched out and then glued together with sweet tea and molasses." You are so good at your craft!

  6. I so smiled at the same line in your story Ruby liked..and I felt good when reading it. It's an example of why I so enjoy every story! It does something to the heart, which does a little roll or flip and makes the heart smile as well. I'm sentimental and your stories warm me, make me think twice and touch the soul. Thank you. Julie Morris