Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Rednecks, White Socks, and Blue Ribbon Beer

Writing about the Scotch-Irish reminded me of the term "redneck," which is supposed to be a slur against this ethnic group.

Why "redneck"?

Because (as was handed down to me) the Scotch-Irish are generally very light-skinned, so the back of their necks below the hairline and above their shirts gets burned red by the sun as they work in their fields. Thus "redneck."

"Wait a minute?" I hear someone ask. "You mean that rednecks work?"

Good question. I recall reading a fascinating article titled "Rednecks," by V. S. Naipaul, in the December 22, 1988 issue (Vol. 35, Nr. 20) of The New York Review of Books.

Naipaul had been speaking with a Southerner who was pushing for a New South of business, energy, opportunity, development -- all those good things -- and thus for the need to change the Old South's culture.

So, Naipaul asked him, "What is a redneck?"

The man, Naipaul recalled, "was transformed." What followed was a very funny but insightful depiction of rednecks by a man who admitted, "I'm half redneck myself." I don't have access to the article since I'd have to subscribe or purchase it without subscription, but I recall the man telling Naipaul:

The wife works. She's got some old piddly job that pays the rent and keeps food on the table. The man don't work. He'll get up in the mornin' and tell his wife, "I'm goin' to work." But he ain't goin' to work 'cause he ain't got no job.

Or words to that effect. To me, this sounds like a subset of the larger Scotch-Irish population since I've always found the Scotch-Irish to be hard workers. McDougall, however, makes a similar point:
The border folk (i.e., the Scotch-Irish) brought with them a customary division of labor whereby men fought and women worked. (154)
That might explain why so many of the Scotch-Irish joined the military. James Webb, in his book Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America (which I haven't read), emphasizes this side of the Scotch-Irish story. For those of you interested in the discrepancy between "Scotch-Irish" and "Scots-Irish," go to the Wikipedia site on the Scots-Irish, where all is revealed.

So . . . what are the Scotch-Irish rednecks doing when they're not fighting? They're out drinking in a honky-tonk:

There's no place that I'd rather be than right here
With my rednecks, white socks, and
Blue Ribbon beer.
The barmaid is mad cause some guy made a pass
The jukebox is playin "
There Stands the Glass"
The cigarette smoke kinda hangs in the air
Rednecks, white socks, and Blue Ribbon beer.

A cowboy is cussin' the
pinball machine
A drunk at the bar is gettin' noisy and mean
And a guy on the phone says "I'll be home soon, dear"
Rednecks, white socks, and Blue Ribbon beer.

No we don't blend with that white collar crowd
We're a little too rowdy, and a little too loud
But there's no place that I'd rather be than right here
With my rednecks, white socks, and Blue Ribbon beer.

semi's are passin' on the highway outside
The four-thirty crowd is about to arrive
The sun's goin' down and we'll all soon be here
Rednecks, white socks, and Blue Ribbon beer.

The song, of course, is "Rednecks, White Socks, and Blue Ribbon Beer," written by Wayland Holyfield (an Arkansawyer), Bob McDill (a Texan), and Chuck Neese (um . . . an American [Update: Born in Paris, Tennessee]) and originally sung way back in 1973 by Johnny Russell (a Tennessean [Correction: Born in Sunflower Co., Mississippi]).

I especially like the line "And a guy on the phone says 'I'll be home soon, dear'" because you know it ain't true. But he'll have a good excuse:

"I had to work late."



At 5:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI...Rednecks White Socks & Blue Ribbon Beer co-writer Chuck Neese was born in Paris Tennessee, Johnny Russell was born in Sunflower Co. Mississippi

At 6:03 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, thanks for the information about Chuck Neese and the correction on Johnny Russell (which was my own error since the link that I'd provided had the correct details).

I hope that my blog entry was entertaining despite the flaws.

Thanks for stopping by.

Jeffery Hodges

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